The Age of Quality

Or is it?

In a time where the prices are rising, DLC is proliferating the market at a staggering rate and the quality of games is seemingly going down.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t great games coming out. I would be wrong in saying that. With new IPs like Horizon: Zero Dawn coming out and selling millions of copies and of course perennial favourites like Zelda, one would say my argument falls flat on its face. But, let’s look at things in a little more general light.

There are tons of games coming out from the big studios: EA, Ubisoft, etc that are coming out to infamy, rather than renown.

For example: Mass Effect: Andromeda. Granted, ME3 did leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths due to the poorly thought out ending. But it was a series that, for the most part, was beyond reproach. It’s one of those series, like Uncharted, that no one would dare question the quality and notoriety of. But here comes the latest installment and man, I haven’t seen anyone turn on a series so quickly or thoroughly in all of my life. It would be like if all of a sudden someone tried to tell you that Mario sucks. It seemed as likely as that.

Halo 5 is another one of those AAA entries that just bombed. It’s rare to see an big titles that go on sale as fast as it did (save for the big Ubisoft titles…but I’ll get to that). They were practically giving away the Halo 5 limited edition after a while.

Then there’s Ubisoft…Oh how the mighty have fallen! I remember when AC2 was rocketing in sales and everyone was looking at Ubi like it was the company of the future. And now? Now we get games like Unity, Wildlands, For Honor which get big sales numbers because people want to believe that the series has the potential for greatness. But they just flop. And then when they come out with new IPs, people want to buy into the possibility of how great it’s going to be. Then games like For Honor have their fan base setting a day of protest so that the company will listen to them. I mean, really Ubisoft? Is this what you’ve become? Is it only a matter of time before we end up with landfills like this:

119122_146_news_hub_111872_677x251

Only, piled high with Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy games.

With that said – Is this the age of the decline?

I worry that the great games coming out now are just the diamonds in the rough. The few and far between. I can say for myself that I was very excited for all of the Tom Clancy games coming out this year. Each one of them ended up more disappointing than the last. And then I had high hopes for the new ME, and I can say I’m glad I cancelled my pre-order.

Of course I still have high hopes for the industry as a whole. I know it doesn’t seem like it. I just worry that if the big companies let the quality slide, and they continue to buy up all of the small studios, it creates a dark cloud over the industry for me. One would assume that things should only be getting better with improvements in technology and people more willing to take chances on creating different styles of games, and the consumer willing to go along with them on an adventure.

But then why do we have so many bad games? Is it because the large studios are so set in their ways that they just produce garbage and assume people will buy it? There is definitely a symptom of complicity among the fans. Obviously, to some extent, to problem is that this has simply become a business. I don’t know that there’s one answer. I guess only time will tell whether or not things will get better, or crash.

– The Ego

 

Advertisements

For Honor…or something

So I participated in the For Honor closed beta test over the last few days. Now, I went into this pretty pumped. The concept to the game is pretty awesome. Some personal info about me: As a kid I was obsessed with medieval times because my fourth and fifth grade teacher did units about it that included projects like building an ideal castle for defense out of whatever materials we could find (mine was made out of old cracker boxes and paper towel tubes and had bitching arrowslits and battlements) paiting murals of medieval battles as a class and being knighted. And as an adult I’ve always had an affinity for the culture and concept of samurais.

Now, I’m glad Ubisoft has given us the chance to play this ahead of time, because lately (like many) I’ve had a much more wait-and-see attitude towards their games. Especially something that is pre-dominantly online (cough Division).

Here are my thoughts about it:

So, the graphics look good. I think they did a good job creating a convincing, well thought out environment. The characters themselves look good as well. The armour and weapons of each faction and class look interesting and relatively historically accurate.

Unfortunately, that’s about where my compliments end. Ubisoft has once again dropped the ball. This game is another Division or Rainbow Six: Siege. Great in concept, but failing in practical application.

First thing that struck me was how confusing the explanation is as to the larger picture of the game. I mean, I got it. It’s not that hard to comprehend. But you get a lot of information thrown at you very quickly. I guess the idea of territories being based on season outcomes is something new, that could end up being fun. But, right now, I’m not convinced. The other problem is that taking territories forces you into specific types of matches – like 1v1 brawls. Which, from experience this weekend, didn’t do a whole lot for me.

Speaking of game modes – I expected the whole thing to be massive battles with players functioning as some sort of hero.

for_honor_orochi_and_warden

Well, it’s like that and it’s not. Two of three game modes are duels. And they’re exactly what they sound like. It is just a couple of people smashing blades and hoping the other team dies first. Now, some people might like this kind of mode – not me.

The part of the game I had the hardest time with was definitely the controls. While the tutorial gave me all of the skills I needed to succeed in the game, it is a hell of a lot easier learning against a dummy that moves slow and predictably. When you get into it with other people – it isn’t as easy. A quick rundown for those who haven’t played it, you have two types of attacks – light and heavy and you can attack from three directions: left, right and top. To block, you need have your weapon on the same side. Now, I’m no button masher (though one does almost want to do that with the way this game feels, rather than how it actually plays), but I had a really hard time getting used to the way the controls work. During duels, I did poorly. It feels like playing a third person fighting game, in a 3D environment. You’re expected to make quick movements to block and attack, varying them to oppose your defense and protect yourself. Honestly, I’ve never been great at fighting games, maybe that’s why I found the game difficult to play. But, in all honesty, I think the game just plays really clunky. Everything is slow and hard to maneuver and it really shouldn’t be considering how reliant on those controls the game is.

Anyway, this is all conjecture. I didn’t like it. I won’t be keeping my preorder. But that’s me. You read this, so I assume you care what I think.

Remember to comment, e-mail, tweet or post on Facebook.

– The Ego

To be(ta) or not to be(ta)

Let’s begin class.

I generally prefer not to take part in betas. Having spent some time working on game testing, I know what a game before release looks like. Something unfinished is never what you want it to be when you try it out. But, what can I say: Someone e-mails me a code to a closed beta and I say “what the hell?”.

Today, we’ll be talking about The Division.

I’ve been sitting on the game since release. I wasn’t sure when or if I’d actually play it. Why? Because I played the beta. Now, I’m not saying that the beta was bad. Well, actually, I am saying that. I can’t believe how boring it was. The cover system, the game play, all of it. All of the things that they tried to show off as the crowning achievements of the game. But when I tried to check everything out – closed for beta, closed for beta, closed for beta. Yup. I ran around, and there were moments where I was having fun. And, in the games defense, I didn’t really have time to make it into the Dark Zone. So, maybe that’s what I really missed out on? What I did learn from the beta was that the highly-anticipated Division, played poorly. The controls were janky, the enemies were bullet sponges and there didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on. I honestly didn’t expect a lot story wise from the beta.

snowdropqa_2_123439

I clearly missed out on something. Because when the people who I generally play games with played the open beta, all I heard was how amazing the game really was. So I didn’t cancel my pre-order. The urging of the people around me is the main reason I kept it.

So my first impressions of the game (well, first since the game went gold, anyway) is that I wasn’t wrong. Now, that’s not to say the game doesn’t have some aspects that aren’t enjoyable.

I didn’t think, coming out of the beta, that there would be any redeemable aspects to the game. Maybe I just didn’t do enough, maybe there wasn’t enough access, but it didn’t do it for me

Going into the live game, I didn’t know what to expect. But here’s what I think so far:

Mechanics: It’s not Destiny solid, but it’s good. The game handles better. It doesn’t offer a lot of variety. Stats differ from gun to gun, but the feel is similar. It is also a little ridiculous that I can pour boxes of bullets into someone’s head and watch them walk away.

Story: So, I’m not all the way through, and I’ll reserve full judgement until I see how it all plays out, but it’s kind of bizarre. Sleeper agents among the populous, but instead of the usual terrorist fare, they’re actually secret agents? Um, okay.

Gameplay: Again, I’m not top end, I haven’t done any of the Dark Zone PvP, so I’m reserving full comments until I get through it all, but…if I’m the last line of defense keeping society from totally falling apart and devouring itself, why am I shooting and looting the people who are doing the initial shooting and looting? I know this is a common complaint, but, yea. It makes sense. Lastly: Upgrades. The choices for what one can upgrade in terms of gear slots defy usual RPG choices, and are quite odd. Scarf slot? Holster? Yea…Upgrading both your base and your character also seem to lack imagination.

I think, and I’ve said so from the beginning, that this is probably one of those games that requires friends. Failing that, there isn’t much exciting about it. When I cap out, I’ll get back to you.

On a side note, I have to say: The Tom Clancy releases were the games I was most excited about during the E word, so far they’ve been pretty disappointing. Let’s hope Ghost Recon has something to offer…well, next year.

– The Ego

 

Double dare

I defy you to check out this video and tell me Mad Max isn’t going to be a contender for the title this year.

Yup. I went there.

So, I’m slightly ashamed to admit it, but I missed seeing Mad Max: Fury Road in theatres. I can also, safely, admit that I haven’t seen the original. Frankly, never caught my eye. Mel Gibson being incredibly terrible in, well, basically everything. The only time I got excited when I saw him on screen was at the end of Braveheart when he’s being drawn and quartered. I kind of hoped someone had actually tied him to the horse for real, and they had a set “accident” like Bruce or Brandon Lee. No such luck.

Sorry, not relevant to my posting at all. Though I do smile when I think about it.

Business at hand: I try really hard when I see new games that I am really excited about coming out to keep myself as pure as possible. Same with movies. So I try not to watch trailers or gameplay videos. But it’s also a new IP. That makes it a bit harder for me to not make a judgement call about the game’s quality. And, not having played any of the Just Cause games, I don’t know what to expect out of Avalanche Studios. So I’ve been checking out a bit here and there. Man – choice is the word of the year for Q4 2015 and 2016 in general.

I think that it’s amazing that devs are starting to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry. For a long time, new IPs – see something along the lines of Assassin’s Creed 1 – where the games, not able to predict how fans will react, or what they’ll find to be the best part of the game, take the player by the wrist and drag them through the game kicking and screaming through the game.

Instead, this year we’re getting games where completing the tasks, or matches, put in front of us in whichever way we see fit. Want to play noisy? Want to play Dirty? It’s 100% up to you to do what you think is best, most fun or best choice for a situation – do it.

Seriously though, how cool is that? It’s such a small freedom. But that freedom is paramount. I see it every time I watch a review, read Metacritic or any forum like playstationtrophies.org, the number one thing people complain about is that the game is on rails, or doesn’t allow the player to impact the world or make the choices to take the game off of the pre-destined linear path. I see games like Assassin’s Creed trying to branch out that way. The other (potentially amazing) line-up they’re putting out as proof in the pudding. That’s enough about Ubisoft for now, though.

I really do think that Mad Max is going to be the game to watch. It’s almost too bad that the game is coming out in the same year as Fallout 4. I only say that because the game that is taking that award is definitely Bethesda’s big gun. That certainly won’t detract from the quality of Mad Max, but it’s Fallout’s GOTY award to lose.

If you can handle it, check out some more of the gameplay videos posted on IGN. The commentary on some of them (as a general rule) can get pretty tedious, but there is some extremely cool footage to work through.

I think the saddest part of the game is it’s going to just be showing up on my doorstep in time for me to go on vacation. Thankfully, that is going to be so cool and immersive, that I probably won’t even remember that it’s sitting there waiting to be played.

For the time being, I think that video is going to be the last one I watch before the release date. I’ll just have to avoid the internet. That shouldn’t be too hard right? Right?

– The Ego

Not going to lie

I’m kind of regretting not pre-ordering Rainbow Six: Siege.

What’s funny, if you knew how I generally pick up my games, you wouldn’t think this is an issue I would have.

The way I’ve done things, at least for the last last couple of years, is the old throw the spaghetti at the wall trick. I basically pre-order everything that piques my interest even the least little bit and what I don’t want, I return. This year’s tally was somewhere around the 18 game mark. Frankly, some of those games, I don’t know how they’ll turn out, but I’ll burn that bridge when I cross it.

I’m not sure how it happened either. Missing R6: Siege. It’s something to say that a game that looks this awesome slipped through the cracks for me. I know that the E word can be a tumultuous time for gamers. There is a lot going on and a lot of new things being shown, so, I guess I’ll have to chalk that up to my being overwhelmed. Not too big of a shock, I suppose. There were so many big announcements that it was tough to keep everything straight. And, like I said in my earlier blogs, there ended up being quite a few games that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Plus, well, Fallout 4. Yea. Don’t think I need to say more than that.

I guess, in the end, the Tom Clancy games ended up being the biggest shocker for me. I’d never considered any of the games as something I would have picked up in the past. Especially a Rainbow Six game. I remember playing it on the PS1 way back when. Didn’t strike me as something that would be able to hold my interest for more than a demo run. And Splinter Cell? Well, it wasn’t doing stealth the way anyone really hoped it would. I know there are a lot of fans of the Tom Clancy games, and I’m probably forsaking some kind of holy gamer covenant (of which I guess would be my second major transgression – the first being that I’ve never played FF7). That being said, please hold the  torches and pitchforks till the end.

Like I said, shame on me. But now I’m thinking: This might end up being one of those games I break my rule for and buy day one. Time will tell whether or not the game will be worth the price of admission, but I have high hopes. Of course, the part that’s yet to be field tested is: How good will the game be when you factor out the communication? We all know that that system is going to break down almost immediately. It will, however, definitely be one of those games that playing with your friends will be the gamer equivalent of gathering around the water-cooler.

I just wonder whether or not this will be a game that will end up horribly frustrating when you try and play online alone and everyone thinks that they’re Stalone. Honestly, I think there is enough substance that even if you do get those players, and you’re losing online, that it will likely be pretty fun.

Looking back at that, and the other Tom Clancy games that got me all hot and bothered, the reason comes down to choice. Being able to approach a situation in any way is pretty appealing. It leaves a lot up to the gamer to build on tactics and strategy. It’s not one of those games that you need to sit and read a walkthrough, or post on playstationtrophies.org. Want to blow in through the roof? Or, repel in through a window? Sounds good.

One can only hope that it builds up from there. Ubisoft does have a tendency to oversell features in their games, and come up short on launch day. I guess, worst case scenario, I’ll pick it up after the first month, when the end user has found all of the un-fixed bugs.

– The Ego