Overwatch: Blizzards Newest Gem

Overwatch

Overwatch is Blizzards first new series in 17 years, which is astonishing given the quality of games that blizzard is known for. I suppose when you have been managing the growth of mammoth series like Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo, there isn’t a lot of time left for developing totally different ideas.

In this case Blizzard has managed to hit it out of the park, Overwatch is fantastic and it already feels so well polished and complete, even while still being in closed beta. That isn’t to say things haven’t changed a lot over the beta process Blizzard is still pushing to make sure that their newest game is the best it can be before it launches.

Since Overwatch was announced, Blizzard has been doing a fantastic job at getting people invested in their newest universe. This is evident from the announcement trailer for the game, which amazed people with the Pixar quality of its animation. It was amazing to watch this new world unfold in front of my eyes, and already be intrigued by who these characters are and what their stories will be.

Blizzard has continued to build excitement for this new universe by releasing two more high quality animated shorts that focus on particular characters, giving us a further glimpse into the stories this new world has to tell.

The first of these shorts is “Recall” which focuses on the gorilla scientist Winston, and shows a bit more of the mysterious character Reaper, who also appeared alongside Winston in the announcement cinematic for Overwatch.  Second to be released is the short titled “Alive” which focuses on the assassin named Widowmaker and her conflict with Overwatch’s mascot character Tracer.

These cinematics provide small glimpses into the world of Overwatch, but they give just enough information to make you interested in the stories of these characters. At this point I can’t wait to see what Blizzard has in store for us with the rest of the content they have planned for Overwatch.

All of this talk about story and setting is important, because it flows so well into the gameplay itself. Every playable character feels unique, interesting, and full of life, and most characters are easy to jump in and start to play with. This is an important factor as it shows Blizzard is interested in applying the idea of “easy to learn, hard to master,” which is something they have taken from the success of Hearthstone.

Take Overwatch’s mascot Tracer for example, she is able to warp around the map at high speeds dealing damage then warping away to safety. However she doesn’t have a large health pool, and as such she can’t take a lot of damage, but once a person masters Tracer they are very hard to deal with. She will constantly warp in behind you and take you out before you have time to blink, and even if you do manage to start putting damage on her a good player will have timed her recall ability properly and have warped back in time, and now be at full health and far out of your reach.

Overwatch sets itself apart, by adding the gameplay hook that whenever you are in your team’s base you are able to switch to any character you want, this leads to some interesting strategies, as teams will alter their make ups at different points in a match. This also means that some characters are more useful in certain situations. Mei for example is excellent at control point matches as you are able to wall off routes for a short while, as well as slow down and freeze enemies allowing your team to make quick work of them.

As the game evolves it will be interesting to watch different strategies evolve as people figure out which characters are the best to play at certain points in a match. It is also good to note that Blizzard has done a good job of making characters for every type of player. Do you want to heal and have the ability to resurrect your team? If so use Mercy. Or do you want to protect your team from incoming damage? If so use Reinhardt and his massive shield. You could also use Pharah and her jump jets to rain rockets from upon your enemies.

The personalities of these characters shine through into gameplay, as they are constantly chatting with each other, and as you play the game more you grow fearful of hearing the voice lines that announce an enemies ultimate ability is on the way. Such terrifying lines as “Its high noon,” “Justice rains from above,” or “I’ve got you in my sights.” Not to mention characters talking to each other before a match starts, like Mercy mentioning to Pharah how proud her mother must be of her.

It is all of these elements being brought together that make Overwatch such a great game, and at this point I can’t wait for the game to have its full release so I can have even more people to play this fantastic game with. Overwatch release on the 24 of May this year, so if you like multiplayer online shooters with interesting characters and a fascinating world, then pick it up. I know I will.

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Destiny: The April Update

Taken King

After having the chance to play through the newest addition to Destiny, I have to say I am quite impressed. There isn’t a lot of new content but the things that have been added are fun and have improved the quality of life in the game quite nicely.

In this update is the new three player Blighted Chalice strike, a new story mission that leads through to the new strike, the update of the Prison of Elders to level 41, and the new Challenge of the Elders.

The Challenge of the Elders is probably the most fun piece of content added in this update, it’s a boss rush mode crossed with a score attack mode set within the prison of elders. The aim is to acquire a high score of 30,000 points in a single run which will get you a new weapon, and then to also get a cumulative score of 90,000 over the week which will get you a new piece of armor. Points are gained by killing enemies in various different ways, such as grenade, melee, or super kills. In this first week for example, the modifier is for precision shots so you get more points for downing enemies with precision kills.

You get the most fun out of this mode by trying to get as many points as possible in a single run. When taking my third character through I was able to get the cumulative score of 90,000 in just two runs, with about 43,000 in the first run and about 47,000 in the second. Although it wasn’t my first time through the two people I ran the challenge with were running it for the first time, so you can see that it isn’t a very difficult mode.

Although there is very little difficulty in this new update, there were also a large number of quality of life updates that have improved the general gameplay of Destiny. The first of these is the fact that when infusing gear (essentially adding the attack or defense value of one item into second) you now get one to one conversion, for example a 330 chest piece being infused into a 280 chest piece will now guarantee that the 280 piece becomes a 330 piece, whereas before it may have only become a 320 item.

This new infusion system means that people are no longer carrying around large numbers of items with middling light levels just to make sure they have the stepping-stones to completely infuse new items. Added to this Bungie has also given Destiny players more vault space (item storage) in the form of a third page for weapons, armor, and general items, which means at least for now people have all the vault space they could ever need.

Finally Bungie has overhauled the loot system, where now item drops from the raid, challenge of elders, faction rank up packages, the nightfall strike, and exotic engrams will now have higher light values than your current light level, meaning you are always progressing to the maximum light level of 335. This is great as before you were simply stuck waiting for that single piece of gear you needed to drop, and then hoping that gear dropped at a higher light level than the piece you already had.

All of my characters started this new update at around 316 light, and after running the Challenge of Elders, the Raid, and the Nightfall strike on each character in turn, I have managed to progress them all through to at least 325 light. So if I am lucky and get the right drops this coming week I will be very close to or sitting at 335.

Unfortunately this is where I begin to worry, because although this new content is great I don’t think there is enough here to carry Destiny through to the next big content drop. Of course I hope I am wrong, but would love for there to be things hidden within this update that will give me more to do over the coming months.

These could be quest lines that give exotic items, like the Sleeper Simulant fusion rifle, the No Time to Explain pulse rifle, or heroic mission secrets like the one that gives you the Black Spindle sniper rifle. I would love to see the return of the sparrow racing league, as I had a lot of fun playing that while it was around.

All in all this April update has been great, and I hope that Bungie can continue to give us content to keep us involved in the world of Destiny.

 

 

 

 

Final Fantasy XV: Excitement

Noctis-Final-Fantasy-XV

Though I have only finished a few of the Final Fantasy games I love what they do. If I had to choose a favourite Final Fantasy IV would be it, followed closely by the much-loved Final Fantasy VII. I’m also one of those crazy people who finished Final Fantasy XIII and I have to say I didn’t hate the time I spent playing it.

And as most should know Final Fantasy XIII is where Final Fantasy XV’s journey begins. When Square-Enix announced XIII they also announced two other games in their Fabula Nova Crystalis series, which was supposed to be a shared universe that connected all three of these games together.

The initial announcement was Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and Xbox, a PSP game called of Agito-XIII, and another Xbox/PS3 game called FF Versus-XII. Then in famous Square-Enix fashion we heard almost to nothing about Agito-XIII and Versus-XIII for the next few years, even though it was one of the games that the makers of Final Fantasy would always be asked about in interviews

Personally I was more exited for the PSP game of the series, as I had played a number of RPGs on my PSP already and I was exited to have a new one to play. I also didn’t have a PS3 or Xbox 360 at the time so those parts of the series weren’t even on my radar, but I have a friend who was loosing his mind over XIII and especially Versus-XIII and couldn’t wait for them to come out.

When Agito-XIII next appeared it was as Final Fantasy Type-0, which was still a PSP game, though it was only released on PSP in Japan. It wasn’t until early 2015 that the west got access to Type-0 as a next generation HD port to Xbox One and PS4. Type-0 HD also brought with it the publics first taste of what Versus XIII had become.

In 2013 it was announced that Versus-XII had grown to become the next numbered installment, as Final Fantasy XV. With Type-0’s release Square-Enix included a demo titled Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae, which was designed to give the fans a taste of what the final version of XV would be. The setting of the demo was a valley somewhere in the world of XV where the main character Noctis’ car breaks down and he and his friends have to hunt down a behemoth to earn the repair money for their car. Duscae gave people a look at the game’s systems and let them spend a couple of hours fighting and running around this new world.

I was super exited to finally get my hands on Type-0 as it was the game from the Fabula Nova Crystalis series that I had been looking forward to the most. So for me it was a bonus that Type-0’s HD release was going to come with a little something extra, even if at the time that part of the series wasn’t really on my radar.

When I had the chance to play through this demo I played it on my Xbox One as that was the only one of the new consoles that I owned at the time and therefore the console that I had bought Type-0 for.

My first impressions with this demo weren’t very good, I didn’t think that the game looked good enough or ran good enough for a game that had been in development for almost 10 years. It also didn’t help that the combat system felt punishing to me. This is because it felt like all your special abilities depleted your MP gauge which when empty would stun your character for a short period, and it felt like I was being stunned constantly. As such I began to avoid using any special abilities and simply beat monsters down with basic attacks, as you can imagine this takes a great deal of the fun out of the gameplay, as you are supposed to be warping to a monster killing it then immediately warping to the next monster that shows up. So for me Episode Duscae managed to make me even less interested in Final Fantasy XV than I already was.

However in the recent Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event, which was hosted by Greg Miller and Tim Gettys of Kinda Funny. Square-Enix has announced a number of properties that have succeeded in finally making me exited for the release of FFXV. In fact it was the Platinum demo which showcases the updated combat system that has made me the most excited, but we will get to that later.

Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV announced the release date of September 30 2016 for the game, but alongside this Square-Enix announced Kingsglaive a fully CG animated film set parallel to the events of FFXV, and a 6 part anime called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV that leads up to the events of the main game, the first five episodes of which will be free to watch on YouTube and other streaming sites, while the sixth episode is included with the limited edition version of the game.

Announced alongside Kingsglaive was the inclusion of three big name actors, Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) as King Regis, Lena Headey, (Game of Thrones, Dredd) as Lunafreya, and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) as Nyx.

Although Square-Enix doesn’t have a great history when it comes to releasing animated films, as Final Fantasy Spirits Within almost bankrupted the company. I am excited to see that Square-Enix is willing to put this much money and effort into Final Fantasy XV. Hopefully this means they are confident that Final Fantasy XV is going to be a good enough game to warrant such spending, especially as the only other Final Fantasy game to be given a similar treatment was Final Fantasy VII, which many fans see as the best game in the series

Though as I mentioned before the thing that has me excited for FFXV was the Platinum Demo that was made available shortly after the reveal event. It is a short demo but it fulfils the purpose of showing people how the game will work when it releases later this year. In fact it is almost more of a tech demo, as in the demo you have the opportunity to play with the weather and time of day to see how the game will look at release.

The thing makes me happiest is the new combat system, it reminds me of the fast paced combat of Kingdom Hearts, which is another Square-Enix series that I love. The best thing for me to see is that the combat from Episode Duscae that I hated has been altered so it works well now. You can still warp around which uses MP, your special abilities still use MP, and you still get stunned if you use it all up, but the numbers have been adjusted enough so that it doesn’t feel like you are being punished all the time.

They have also adjusted weapon selection and made it far more user-friendly. In Episode Duscae you could tell the game when to use certain weapons, and which order weapons would be used in a combo, such as starting with a fast dagger strike, following up with a medium speed spear thrust and finishing with a slow smash with a two-handed sword, and you could adjust this order to suit your play style.

However the new system in the Platinum demo allows you to set weapons and magic to the directional buttons on a controllers D-pad, which allows you to switch between different weapons and magic at will. For example you can start of with a series of fast sword strikes that take half a monsters health and slightly staggers them, then finish the monster of with a powerful hammer smash. Or cast a massive meteor spell that kills all monsters in the area, in the demo this looks gorgeous as it is a rain of orange orbs that damage anything they touch as they bounce around the map.

Above everything, it is this new demo that has sold me on Final Fantasy XV. I love how the game plays now; it feels fast and fluid, while not losing the quirks that make it a final fantasy game. It stays true to the trailers and visuals that we have seen over the years since FFXV was announced as Versus-XIII. All in all I now can’t wait for this game to finally come out. I hope that this iteration will be the game that brings the Final Fantasy series back into the limelight.