Fall Guys Season 1 Thoughts

I wasn’t planning on “reviewing” Fall Guys, but after finally hitting level 40, almost a month before the season ended, I felt that there were certain things about the game that I needed to say. So let’s not consider this a review as much as a progress report with the hope that improvements and changes are made for season 2 that help shape the game into a better, more accessible, and ultimately more sustainable long term game.

Let me start off by saying that I really like Fall Guys. I knew it would be successful from the very first E3 announcement back in like 2019. A lot of people don’t actually know much about the history behind the game. Or more importantly, the history behind the television show that inspired the game. Fall Guys was directly inspired by an old Japanese game show called Takeshi’s Castle. It aired from 1986 to 1990. Many people watched this, but even more people today probably watched a show called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC), which ran from 2003 to 2007. This was a joke show that took footage from the original Takeshi’s Castle and dubbed over it with creative reedits and additional fake footage in order to fabricate a hilarious made up gameshow. It was a brilliant experiment that in many ways inspired most of the wacky real physical challenge game shows we see today. Shows like American Gladiator, Ninja Warrior, Wipeout, and so on were all directly inspired by Takeshi’s Castle and/or MXC.

I loved watching MXC, and shows that came after it like Ninja Warrior. Me, and many other children like me, used to dream of competing in these shows. Many people still do which is why shows like this still exist today. Takeshi’s Castle was the direct inspiration for Fall Guys. This has been stated multiple times by members of the development studio, Mediatonic. They even stated that gifs from the show were used in the pitch deck to Devolver Digital and PlayStation when trying to get the game published. I saw the Takeshi’s Castle influences in the very first announcement trailer and it was my own love of the show, or more accurately its dubbed variant, that made me want to play the game. Obviously I was not alone in this. The idea for Fall Guys seems fairly obvious now. People love platforming, competition, and gameshows. Making those concepts into a singular game should have been a no brainer. But now we have Fall Guys and that’s great. I have some issues with the game though.

One of my favorite games in Fall Guys is Door Dash. But that’s not really an accurate statement. A more accurate statement is that I’m really happy Door Dash is in the game because it’s a direct reference to the opening game of every episode of MXC. Every episode started with the real life version of Door Dash. That’s why it’s in Fall Guys. And even though I find many aspects of the game annoying from a gameplay standpoint, it’s without a doubt a perfect recreation of the experience of watching the real life version all those years ago. I’m extremely fond of its presence in the game for reasons of nostalgia and I absolutely don’t want it removed. The problem is the experience of Door Dash was then applied to just about every other game in Fall Guys and that is probably my main issue with the game.

Takeshi’s Castle was not a battle royale style competitive gameshow. Only the Door Dash game worked like that. All the other games were single contestant physical challenges. Each contestant waited their turn and lived or died based on their own performance. Basically like any other legitimate gameshow of this type. And that was why I wanted to be on the show. I wanted to know if I was physically capable enough to complete the obstacle courses. That’s also why I wanted to play Fall Guys. I wanted to know if I was capable of completing the obstacle courses. My main problem with Fall Guys is the multiplayer aspect.

The worst thing about Fall Guys is other players. More specifically the other players who aren’t trying to actively reach the finish line in an honest manner. The term commonly used for these players is griefers. I assume it’s because of all the grief they cause honest players. The intent of the game is to reach the finish line and claim the crown. That’s the point of every show. Get the crown. And the point of every round is to get to the finish line or objective completion in order to make your way towards the crown. But the purpose of the rounds is to weed out the weakest/least skilled players by measuring their ability. Griefers exploit this situation by working to remove players inorganically. It’s one thing to fall off an edge, say in Slime Climb, because too many people were jumping at the same time and you got boxed out. That is an unfortunate repercussion of not being able to build the game to host 60 different obstacle courses simultaneously in the way that the game should actually work to be authentic. The Tetris 99 model, minus the attacking, would be the proper way for Fall Guys to work. Every player would only have to tackle their own obstacle course and you would play until the group is whittled down to one final survivor. But that’s asking way too much of an indie studio with current server and bandwidth limitations to boot. That’s the only reason we’re playing this awkward battle royale version of the gameshow. And yes it is a gameshow. Mediatonic has stated outright that you are playing a gameshow when you play Fall Guys. Thus the logical conclusion is that the rules and etiquette of a gameshow should be applied.

It would not be acceptable conduct if you were watching Ninja Warrior and someone pushed another contestant off a ledge. Because that’s not a measurement of who the best contestant is. It’s a measurement of who the most dishonest contestant is. No one wants to see that. Griefers take away from the game because they are objectively playing the game outside of its intended practice. The fact that they are allowed to do so shouldn’t be viewed as license or encouragement to exercise such poor sportsmanship. It’s simply the result of a technological limitation. The crown should always go to the person who is best at completing the challenges in the show in an honest manner.

There are ways to correct the griefing issues, but they would also take away from the game. Griefing is accomplished in two main ways in Fall Guys. The first is by grabbing people unnecessarily and the second is by standing in the way of others trying to make it to the finish line. The second tactic really only happens in a few specific games in specific locations. The yellow cylinders in Slime Climb being the most common example. Griefers just stand on those cylinders preventing people from moving forward towards the goal. This is bad conduct because all players should be constantly moving towards the goal at all times. Any time you are not progressing, or at least trying to progress, towards the goal, you are objectively playing the game incorrectly because it goes against the game’s intended conduct. An easy fix for this would be to institute an AFK type system that eliminates players who don’t move a specific distance for an extended period of time. Say you didn’t move more than whatever the length of one to two cylinders was for a period of five seconds in a race game as an example. Griefers would just be eliminated for not actively pursuing the goal. This is a solution, but it’s not the best solution because it makes assumptions about the movement of noobs. Some players are moving that slowly unintentionally. They’re just bad at that game. They’re never going to win the crown at that point, but they shouldn’t be knocked out prematurely when not intentionally trying to play incorrectly. Something does need to be done to combat this issue though.

Wrongfully grabbing other players is a much bigger issue, but in my opinion it’s actually way easier to solve. Grabbing shouldn’t be in the game at all. We don’t know how season 2 will be yet, but in season one there are a number of games that involve grabbing. Literally none of them need grabbing except one. That one is Egg Scramble. All the other games that involve grabbing in any way include the tail games, the cooties game, and Fall Mountain. Literally none of those games require grabbing to work. In fact, I’d argue all of them would play better if they were contact based rather than grabbing based because the grabbing is inconsistent, glitchy trash in Fall Guys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed the crown first and not gotten credit for it in Fall Mountain. And we’ve all had our tail grabbed from a mile away. The grabbing mechanics don’t work. They can also be used for climbing but, in season 1 at least, not a single game actually requires climbing to reach the finish line. The only game that absolutely requires grabbing to work is Egg Scramble. Now they could just turn off grabbing for all games except Egg Scramble. But honestly I don’t think anyone would mind if they just got rid of it altogether. It’s a terrible game. Really all team games in Fall Guys are terrible and I wish there was a single player events only mode, but that’s a different issue. Removing grabbing would reduce griefing by probably 75% or more and the only consequence would be losing a game that maybe an infinitesimal number of players would actually miss. What I truly want is a proper Fall Guys experience where everyone’s only concern was/is reaching the goal. This is how it was in the beta and it was great.

My other main issue with Fall Guys is motivation. Fall Guys is fun. But you can’t really keep a game running on fun alone in 2020. There are just too many games to play. And let’s be completely honest. Unless you just love something specific about Fall Guys that you can’t get anywhere else, there are objectively better games to play and pretty much everyone has a backlog as well. The only reason to keep playing any game, Fall Guys or other, is some sort of motivation which goes past fun. I don’t really know what that is for Fall Guys in its current form. It has trophies but most people will never get them all because one of them is nearly impossible for more than 95% of players. No matter how good you are, the amount of luck you need to win five rounds in a row is just too high. A team game can screw you over and then all your progress is lost. I think it’s a bad trophy to begin with. It should have been combined with the total wins trophy so that either win x number of times total or winning five shows in a row got the trophy. That’s considerably more accessible and fair to demand from players. So assume you get all the trophies you want and then what’s your motivation? You can get every trophy in a single season. I have all the ones I care about except the 20 wins one. But that comes back to the same issue. Winning is difficult and not accessible to every player. Some players just never will be winners. I’ve only won six times and I’m a fairly advanced player. I get to the final round more than 80% of the time. But a bad placement in Fall Mountain or a bad camera angle in Jump Showdown, not to mention server errors and glitches, can screw you over again and again. But even without those issues, some players will just never get good enough to win in a competitive game of this nature. And that’s fine. What’s not fine is locking cosmetic items behind multiple wins.

The only real motivating factor currently in the game, other than trophies most people probably don’t care about, is cosmetics. The game has a vast collection of cool cosmetics. The problem is that all the best ones require you to win up to 10 times in a limited period of time. This is a bad system. A game is supposed to reward players for the time they put in. That’s standard fare in 2020. That’s why so many games/franchises have taken on RPG elements. No matter how trash you are at a game, you can slowly but surely build up enough XP to get the things you ultimately want. Whether it’s better armor in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, new skills in Ghost of Tsushima, or more damage in God of War (2018), any player can over time build towards that goal no matter how rubbish they are. If you can kill just one enemy, run away, save, and repeat that process, then eventually you can get whatever you want from all those games and most others in 2020. Fall Guys doesn’t have this. Fall Guys doesn’t reward players for their time. It only rewards them for winning or for having real world currency to spend in the DLC Store. There are of course rewards you can buy with kudos, but the bulk of them are fairly boring. It’s the crown rewards that players actually want. And most players, as in a majority of the several million people playing on Steam and PS4,simply won’t ever get enough wins to get all the cosmetics they want.

In my opinion, exclusivity is harmful to a player base of casuals. People who aren’t hardcore don’t like seeing stuff they can’t eventually get as a result of time put in. Performance based rewards are not appealing in a game that relies so heavily on luck. In the long run, I think this will turn a lot of people off Fall Guys if not changed. A simple solution would be to make kudos exchangeable for crowns. Say 500 or 1000 kudos to 1 crown. Allowing this conversion would still require players to put in a large amount of effort or time but would reward them with things they actually want in the long run. No matter how garbage you are at the game, knowing you can eventually unlock the Portal costume would motivate many players to keep playing. Currently no such motivation exists. Once a player accepts that they simply won’t win 10 games, they have no reason to keep playing once fun stops being enough of a draw. The way it should work, in order to preserve a level of exclusivity, is that items are locked behind a single win wall. Meaning that all special cosmetic items should only be available to users that have won at least one show. But once this condition is met, they should be able to convert kudos to crowns and buy whatever they want regardless of how many times, above the required one, they’ve won. Initiating a system like this works to the advantage of all players while still requiring a minimum level of accomplishment. It’s the perfect compromise.

In its current form, Fall Guys appears to be a causal game but was clearly built for the top players. That’s the second worst way to build and manage an online multiplayer game. You don’t build for the top of the player base. You build for the middle. The bottom of the player base requires no attention. They will either stop playing because they can’t get better or keep playing because they just enjoy the game with no need for motivation. The top will keep playing because they’re the top and their vanity will keep them plugged in. People like excelling and rarely choose to leave something they’re already good at as long as it keeps feeling rewarding to win. But the middle of the player base, which also happens to be the biggest, requires actual management to keep their attention. If things are too easy, they get bored and leave. If things are too hard, they get irritated and leave. If rewards aren’t accessible, they get irritated and leave. But a game needs them. The top players are nothing without the middle players, because they need someone to dominate. The opposite is not true though. The middle players don’t need top players. They want to win so they can become those top players. The fewer top players present, the more motivated the middle players are to take that spot. Keeping the middle tier players happy and motivated to keep playing is the only way a game like Fall Guys remains successful in the long term. Currently it doesn’t have that.

Fall Guys has literally millions of players. I don’t know the exact number, but let’s say it has 15 million players. It sold 7 million copies on Steam and it was free for PS+ owners on PS4, topping the charts as the most downloaded free game. So I don’t think 15 million is an inflated number. If anything it’s too low. If I had to make an estimate, I’d say maybe 5% of players have won 5 times. I based this on the fact that the PSN trophy called “Top Tier” requires 7 wins and only has a 4% completion rate. So if only 5% of players have won 5 times, that’s a measly 750,000 of 15 million players. And 5 wins is only half a special cosmetic set. You need 10 wins to get both pieces. Not even 4% of players have gotten more than 7 wins. It’s likely that maybe only 3% of players have won enough times to buy a full special cosmetic set. Let’s also not forget that there have been multiple high demand special cosmetic sets. Yet only 1.1% of players have achieved the “Golden Guy” trophy, meaning they won a total of at least 20 times. So few players have actually been able to get the cosmetic items they want in a game that has no motivations to keep playing other than cosmetics. That is not a sustainable model in the long term. People will soon tire of the idea of seeing a few players, many of which are also griefers, wearing the cosmetics they want with absolutely no chance of ever unlocking them for themselves. People will only put up with that for so long. A time based work around for this issue would do wonders for millions of players desperate to get costumes referencing other games they like, such as the My Friend Pedro skin.

There are a number of other things I’d personally like to see added to the game, but I wouldn’t argue that they are necessary to make the game more appealing and sustainable for a majority of players. For instance, I’d like a single player mode with challenges. Like imagine a version of the game that actually runs like the TV show. You play the courses solo and get rewarded in crowns for completing certain tasks like “finish Slime Climb in under 60 seconds”. That kind of thing would be way more appealing to me than the battle royale experience the game currently offers. I’d probably stop playing the multiplayer mode completely unless my friends were online. I’d also love a speed mode where there is only 1 round and all 60 players go for the crown in a single game. I imagine something like a 360 degree Fall Mountain map where all 60 players start equidistant from the crown and rush towards the center. Or you could just do Fall Mountain and other regular final games in lobbies of only 5 to 10 people. I think this mode would be very popular for people and would be an additional method of making crowns and by extension special cosmetics more accessible to a majority of players. You could even set a limit on it like you can only win 5 – 10 crowns a day in that mode. It would definitely help with that “Infallible” trophy as well.

As I said early on in this post, I like Fall Guys. I’ve played it for way too many hours. At the time of writing this, I’m one of only 1.3% of players to reach level 40 in the first season. I want to see the game continue and thrive for many seasons. But in its current form I can’t see this happening. Severe changes need to be made in order to keep the average players motivated. Most of them will probably return for season 2, but if things go much the same then I predict the player base will decline significantly for season 3. I can say personally that once I hit level 40 I was done. My win percentage was simply too low to motivate me want to keep playing these same games with no time contingent rewards that actually mattered to me. I have more than 20K kudos and nothing I actually want to spend them on. But if I could convert them to crowns then that would change instantly. I’ll definitely return for season 2, but if the games aren’t super fun and I can’t see myself winning shows consistently, then there’s really no reason to keep playing. I definitely don’t see myself hitting level 40 again.

Mediatonic has done something great here. They should be proud of the success and I’m sure it has been very profitable. But now is the time to decide what type of game this will be. Is Fall Guys going to be a long term project that lasts for years and becomes a cultural staple like Fortnite, to my disappointment, has become. Or will it just be something that happened in 2020 that we all remember fondly but move past to the next trend just as quickly as the last thing we all tried and got bored with. I hope for the former, but that won’t happen organically or accidentally. The game needs to be managed and altered properly in order for that to happen. Only time will tell.

As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Marvel’s Avengers Beta Review

I went into the Marvel’s Avengers open beta genuinely excited. I tried the alpha back in 2019 at Gamescom and I really enjoyed it. There are things about the alpha that were specific, intentional, and effective at drawing my attention and long term interest. Specifically, it only featured the opening sequence ending with Captain America’s death. Essentially the first third/half of the beta’s tutorial. This portion of the game is an effective demo experience, which is why they used it in the alpha and so much in the trailers. But honestly it’s not indicative of the long term experience of playing the game. Or at least it wasn’t indicative of the long term experience of playing the beta.

Sadly, I did not leave the beta enthusiastic about this game. I saw many people online during the pre-order beta, which I didn’t participate in, complaining that the game wasn’t good. I assumed they were just being whiny because it wasn’t as good as Marvel’s Spider-Man, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone because the scope of Marvel’s Avengers is much larger and harder to manage than a single player, solo character, open world story focused game set in one map. It would be genuinely surprising if Avengers was as good as Spider-Man. Anyone who expected it to be needs to learn more about how games and game development actually works. So I ignored these nay-sayers. I would play the beta myself and form my own opinion. Now that I’ve done that, I sadly have to agree with them.

Episode - Screenshot 2018-09-08 00-55-37Let me be crystal clear at the start of this review. Marvel’s Avengers (beta) is not a bad game. It’s a boring one. It had many issues, but with the exception of many server errors, it had few objective problems. Rather it’s just not a well-paced and exciting game. From a design standpoint, I certainly had some complaints about menus, UI, and character development/RPG elements, but nothing I could definitively say made it a bad game. But what I can say is that the beta did not leave me excited to play the full game the way it should have.

Let’s get the foundational development stuff out of the way quickly, because that’s not where this game has issues. The graphics are fine. I’m tired of reading stupid complaints from misinformed people about the fact that the characters don’t look like the ones in the movies. I’ve written and tweeted about that a lot already. Basically, these characters are all 40+ years old with several iterations that have existed long before the MCU. Your lack of knowledge of this history is not the fault or responsibility of Crystal Dynamics. They are not making MCU movies and thus have no obligation to make the characters look like Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and so on. To clarify, the graphics aren’t necessarily impressive. Spider-Man is a much more impressive looking game. But Avengers doesn’t look bad. It looks fine. And, when the server was working, it played smoothly. I didn’t have issues with lag or any sort of performance based problems during gameplay.

Marvels Avengers GameThe audio was fine as well. I honestly can’t say a single bad thing about it. The voice acting worked effectively. Hearing Hulk say “Hulk Smash” for certain attacks is a nice effect. You also have different Avengers saying stuff as you play in order to build the atmosphere. The sound effects also worked well. Thor’s hammer specifically stood out to me because it has that heavy impact sound that you would want. In terms of fundamentals, Marvel’s Avengers delivers. It’s the finer details that ultimately leave this game lacking.

Writing is really tough to judge based on the beta. This is for two main reasons. The first is that the game is not structured in a clear linear fashion. Or at least the beta didn’t appear to be. It’s a mission based game, which is fine. But usually mission based games have a clear track for story based missions. I couldn’t figure out if that’s how Avengers will work based on the beta. Though it may very well have been that they didn’t include any additional story missions once you completed the tutorial. I actually enjoyed the story sequences a lot. There were boss fights, character development via conversations, and a traditional single player game structure. I’m all but certain there will be more missions like this in the full game, but the overall structure of how the plot is presented was unclear. The other problem, and I pray this was because the beta was intentionally built to skip over things, was that there were serious continuity errors. The small number of story sequences at the beginning of the beta jumped around so much that I thought I was just not paying attention closely enough. I assume this will not be the case in the full game. I was interested in the plot, but I can’t speak to the quality of the writing at this time.

AbominationThe game is built on replayability so that’s kind of a no brainer. They want you to replay the same missions and new missions continuously using different characters and collecting different gear. The question isn’t whether or not the game has replayability but whether or not it’s worth replaying. I happen to hate replaying things. Especially when the replay experience is much the same. I have to say that a lot of the replay value in this game is cheap replay value. You replay for the sake of loot and XP. Not meaningful development of the experience or to gain new insight into the plot. Loot is character specific, meaning that each time you play a level you will only get loot for the character you’re using at the time. In a way this is good because you can prioritize your characters and make sure you’re getting gear for the ones you want. But it also means that you will eventually hit a gear wall with any character and start getting stuff you already have rather than gear for other characters in your roster.

The game also doesn’t have shared XP. This is my biggest peeve about games with large rosters. When you play as Iron Man, you’re only developing Iron Man. So if you get to level 10 with Iron Man and decide to switch to Hulk, you now have to go back to level one stats and trash gear. Then you gotta replay the same missions and upgrade Hulk. That might be OK with one or two characters. But Avengers has already confirmed like 20. I don’t want to replay the missions from scratch 20+ times. The characters are different but not that different. Pooled XP would make this game way more manageable.

Iron Man CostumesThe game definitely has replay value, and a lot of it at that. There are at least 40 levels of rewards for every character. The rewards include costumes, emotes, name plates, and items. But to have to hit level 40 20 or more individual times replaying the same 10 missions would be annoying. The game implies that playing through missions with different characters is a different experience with access to different areas and secrets, but from what was shown in the beta it’s not nearly that complicated or intricate. I was able to get to most places with the characters I was using. Only occasionally did a wall appear that couldn’t be broken by my current character. And those moments were really annoying because the AI doesn’t help and you can’t take control of AI party members.

Now let’s actually talk about the gameplay. The fact is that while the gameplay mechanics are fairly good, the game as a whole is repetitive and boring. It’s for the most part a button mash fest with open area maps and loot chest collecting. There is some nuance to the gameplay in the form or special moves and certain enemies with special abilities or conditions that have to be dealt with in non-straight forward ways. But for the most part you’re just mashing square and triangle. Which usually I don’t have a problem with. But in this case it’s so generic. You’re just fighting faceless soldiers or robots. And most of the time you’re just fighting them to fight them. The missions are mostly devoid of purpose other than get loot. Only a few had any real story or reason behind them. The rest were just there to be there.  This made the entire experience boring unless I was playing with friends. Co-op was fun, but more because of my friends than the gameplay being entertaining. It’s a game you don’t have to think too much about so you can talk to your friends. You can zone out and totally ignore what’s happening in many of the missions. That makes for great multiplayer, but terrible single player.

4 ManYou can use AI companions in place of real people in your four man team. They work in some ways but in others they just remind you that the game was meant to be played with other people. For instance, there are lots of soft puzzles that involve hitting multiple switches, sometimes within a time limit. The puzzles are not hard. In fact, calling them puzzles is an exaggeration. They’re just tasks that force you to look around the nearby environment. AI won’t help with these. They can all be done as a solo player, but you will have to waste your time looking for all the switches and “racing” to hit them all before the time runs out. But if you had a team this would be much easier and more engaging as you compete with your friends to find a switch first. That’s how most of the game is structured. Lots of moments where it’s clear that it would be more entertaining and engaging if you had real players rather than AI companions. You see this in the combat too.

There are ways to work together as a team in combat. I’m not talking about official team attacks/combos. I’m talking about strategy. For example, there was a moment where I was using Kamila Khan and had Hulk as an AI companion during a fight against a shielded enemy. Shielded enemies are annoying because you can’t attack them from the front without special abilities. You have to get behind them. There are multiple ways to do this. Few of them are convenient. In this instance I had an AI Hulk companion fighting right behind this enemy. He was engaged with other enemies but easily could have attacked this shielded enemy I was engaged with. A single attack to its back would have thrown it off balance and allowed me to make short work of it. But I couldn’t communicate with AI Hulk and AI characters don’t actually care about you as the player. They fight in an effective but ultimately random manner. They aren’t there to support you. They’re simply there to help deal with the large groups of enemies. They can’t be used for any higher levels of strategy. But if that AI Hulk had been a real person I could have told him to punch that shielded enemy in the back to create an opening for me. That pretty much sums up the single player experience, unless you’re playing without AI companions. A constant reminder of how much better things could be if you were playing with friends.

 

Kamila KhanThe combat is different for different characters, but it’s not equally satisfying for all characters. For some characters, the combat feels great. Surprisingly, my favorite character to use in the beta was Kamila Khan. I would not have guessed that going in. Her combat feels good. The stretching and growing powers work in an almost Luffy (One Piece) fashion. You are limited in what you can do of course. But the combat feels satisfying. Bounding through the maps to quickly close distances feels good with her as well. Her legs constantly stretching and contracting to cover more ground. A big part of the combat feeling satisfying comes down to perceived impact. Thor’s combat feels good as well. When you hit something with that hammer, you feel the impact. The controller vibrates in such a way and the audio generates a sound effect in such a way that you feel happy with that hammer hit. This is not the case for all characters. Somehow they screwed up the Hulk. When you hit something with Hulk’s giant fist, it rings hollow. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I think it’s the vibration, or lack thereof. For some reason they didn’t give Hulk’s punches the haptic feedback they deserve. It’s like they’re trying to say that the Hulk feels nothing with each punch. He’s so strong that hitting things doesn’t even register for him. That may be good from a character development standpoint but from a gameplay standpoint it’s terrible. When you’re playing as the Hulk you want to FEEL the power. You can see the power happening on screen but you can’t feel it and that’s really disappointing.

HulkThe game also lacks a number of UI, quality of life features. For instance, there’s no mini-map. The maps aren’t huge but they are open and have plenty of useless places you can explore. By useless I mean they don’t contain useful content such as enemies or chests. They’re there for atmosphere. This is a good thing. But not having a map to quickly and easily be able to determine where you actually need to go is troublesome. You can temporarily scan for points of interest, which causes them all to appear on screen. But they don’t stay on screen so you have to keep rescanning. Chests are hidden throughout the maps. JARVIS will notify you when chests are nearby. But that doesn’t tell you how nearby. And there’s no guide to finding them. So you wander around aimlessly hoping to find a chest. Just show me where the chests are with waypoints, Crystal Dynamics. I’m not playing this game to search for loot. Lean on the combat. That’s the only part of the game that people care about outside of the story.

Missions can feel aimless at times but that’s not technically ever the case. There is a main objective and a number of additional points of interest. But the value in doing them always feels a bit hollow. You’re basically just roaming around farming XP and hoping to get superior gear drops. Enemies can also be found randomly throughout the maps without official points of interest. So you just kind of explore hoping to find something until you get bored and go to the nearest point of interest. Then after you get bored with points of interest you just go finish the mission’s main objective. In a way the game can feel like a chore. But even worse, it often just feels boring. I even nodded off while playing solo a few times.

Bounding KhanI found the combat to be challenging but fair in most cases. I died a few times, but I never felt like the game was particularly unbalanced. I can at least say that the AI will revive you. The game also has an effective respawn system for when you fail. You are put right back where you were when you died but you have to restart the current objective. This works exactly the way it should.

For all the issues with the gameplay, there’s still charm in playing an Avengers game. It’s nice to be able to choose one of your favorite heroes, team up with your other favorite heroes, and fight bad guys with signature moves. One of the features I really liked is the companion request feature. When going into a mission, you choose your character and select the heroes you want as companions. As there were only four options in the beta, you always played as Black Widow, Iron-Man, Hulk, or Kamila Khan and chose the other three as your companions. But the mechanic implied that you could customize your team however you wanted, even in multiplayer. So for example, once there’s say 10 characters available, you’ll be able to choose what companions you want specifically. If I want Ant-Man, Hulk, and Captain America to be my companions then I can request that and the match making will only allow people playing as those characters to join my team. And if no one is available using those characters for the mission I want to play, then it will give me AI companions. I liked having that level of control over my squad.  But in general the matchmaking and setup system needs a lot of work.

Marvels+Avengers+Online+LobbyStarting a mission is unruly and unnecessarily complicated, as is general character management. For some stupid reason, you can only deal with character customization while playing as the character. This means that if you are currently Black Widow and you want to customize your Hulk, you can’t. You have to wait for the next time you’re playing as Hulk. As in you’ve already selected Hulk for a mission. This is even true when in the hub area outside of missions. You can’t just customize characters available in your roster whenever you want. Starting a mission is convoluted and troublesome. Picking your character seems easy but the game needs a clearer UI showing the selection has been confirmed. Starting a mission is convoluted. You press start and then it doesn’t always initiate the start sequence. Then sometimes it does and during the countdown it just randomly ends and you have to restart it. The countdown for single player with AI is 4 seconds. The countdown for multiplayer is 60 seconds. Why such a huge gap? Going into a mission should be way more streamlined and simple, multiplayer or not. There’s also no real direction in choosing missions. There’s just a map full of them with no seemingly defined reason to differentiate them other than rewards. I was just randomly picking them.

GoldChestsInAvengersYou can set the difficulty between four difficulty levels per mission, which I liked. But the scaling of missions was fairly annoying. By focusing on Kamila Khan, I got her power level up to 16. But then when I wanted to play as Hulk, who at the time only had a power level or 8, all the missions were scaled to 16. I found this super annoying and unbalanced. There needs to be committed power level requirements for each mission, depending on the difficulty level selected.

Ultimately I’m still on the fence about buying Marvel’s Avengers. I want to like the game. I want to enjoy a game starring the Avengers with a large roster of playable characters, multiplayer, and a constant stream of new content. But they have not built a game that I would call enjoyable. Or at least the beta did not confirm that they built such a game. What it comes down to for me is friends. If my friends buy the game then I guess I’ll jump in. But if they don’t then I can’t justify spending the money.

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Do You Really Want to Play as Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers?

Hot Take: Spider-Man is an overrated Marvel character. The character is quite good and very relatable. My best memories of the character are watching reruns of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and Spider-Man: The Animated Series as a kid. I remember when Tobey Maguire, still my favorite Peter Parker, showed us what a live action Spider-Man could be. I had Spider-Man themed birthdays as a kid. I know and love Spider-Man. But you know what; he’s not the best Marvel character by a fairly wide margin.

Spider-Man is a good character because he’s relatable . . . sort of. People relate to Spider-Man because Peter Parker comes off as a nerd with a heart of gold and family problems who often fails but never gives up. He’s pretty much the Marvel comics version of Luke Skywalker (pre-Episode VIII of course). But really that’s a misconception of who Peter Parker actually is. Peter Parker, long before being bitten by the spider, is a brilliant scientist. He’s no Reed Richards, but he’s much smarter than your average Joe. He’s also fairly snarky and great at making witty, funny comments and comebacks off the cuff. He’s also not really a loser the way many people make him out to be. Remember that he landed both Gwen Stacey and Mary Jane Watson. A hot blonde nerdy girl and a hot red head popular girl. What about this character is so relatable to the general public? In my more than 30 years on this planet, I’ve met a fair number of people. Some are smart, but most aren’t brilliant. Some are funny, but most aren’t that funny all the time. And some are good at charming certain types of women/people but not all types at all times. I don’t know anyone who is brilliant, hilarious, and charming, while also being poor and having confidence issues. Those five characteristics don’t actually appear concurrently within one person commonly, if at all. That is to say, YOU ARE NOT PETER PARKER!

Episode - Screenshot 2018-09-18 22-31-21The arrogance a person has to have to relate to Peter Parker is astounding. I’d say it’s easier to relate to the Hulk than it is to relate to Peter Parker. Because Bruce Banner is a brilliant scientist who has anger issues and is terrible at romantic relationships because of insecurities brought on by his anger issues and physical appearance. That’s a real person. I know plenty of people who can relate to the Hulk. Hell I can relate to the Hulk at times. No one can actually relate to Peter Parker. I tried to think of a famous person that might be able to relate to Peter Parker and I couldn’t. I kept coming back to Elon Musk, but then I remembered he was raised rich from an Apartheid Diamond mine fortune. No one has all five of the main features of Peter Parker. Some might have three. Essentially people are misidentifying with Peter Parker. And I want to address the fact that I’m intentionally focusing on Peter Parker because Spider-Man was a fan favorite long before Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, or any of the other modern Spider totems that people outside of straight white males latch onto due to a lack of identifiable options. Most likely because of the mask, which allowed for everyone to pretend to be Spider-Man without having to deal with the cosplay color barrier. But at the end of the day the character is an OK player in the Marvel power tiers and in reality most people shouldn’t even be able to relate to Peter Parker, even before he got his powers. Though I will accept the counter argument that he was only able to land M.J. because he got his powers. But still I say Spider-Man is overrated.

MJ WatsonWhy does this matter? Why is a post on a gaming blog discussing the merits of Spider-Man? Obviously it’s because Spider-Man has been a part of gaming for multiple generations and its once again a current topic of discussion in reference to gaming. Specifically the announcement that Spider-Man will be a PlayStation exclusive character in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers.

Marvel’s Avengers is a game where you get to play as Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and several other characters yet to be introduced. I tried the game last year at Gamescom 2019. It’s an action game with cooperative elements. It plays well enough, but probably won’t revolutionize action games that much. And that’s fine. I don’t need every game to change the game. I just need them to be fun and ideally well written. It’s certainly better than any other Marvel collection of heroes game I’ve ever played. Shots fired Marvel Ultimate Alliance. The point is we’re getting a cooperative Avengers third person 3D action game made at AAA quality. That’s awesome. Forget everything else you know or think you know and just take a second to appreciate the fact that we’re finally getting the game we’ve been waiting for since the first Avengers movie back in 2012. If nothing else, we can be thankful for that. Now let’s get back to Spider-Man.

marvel-ultimate-alliance-3-the-black-order-switchRecently it was announced that Spider-Man will be a PlayStation exclusive playable character in Marvel’s Avengers. Let’s start by quickly summarizing why that is. IT’S BUSINESS! SONY owns the rights to Spider-Man in high concept console games because of their contract with Marvel’s Spider-Man. There is much more nuance to it than that but pretty much any new AAA Marvel game can’t feature Spider-Man unless it’s on PlayStation and SONY has the legal ability to make it exclusive, probably with some additional payments made for the privilege. Spider-Man appears in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order because Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a Switch exclusive. If it wasn’t then Spider-Man wouldn’t be in the Switch or XBOX ONE versions of the game. Meaning it’s an apples and oranges situation when compared to Marvel’s Avengers.

Is it right that exclusive content exists? Depends on the project, funding, and a host of other factors. But is it common in the gaming industry? Absolutely. Acting like this is surprising or unprecedented is like being surprised that Anthem flopped. I think a better question is why do I as a PlayStation user care?

PS5 VersionExclusives are an interesting topic. Especially at the end of a console generation. No one is buying a PS4 in late 2020. There’s no reason to. You’re either not buying a PlayStation console or you’re waiting and buying a PS5. That’s 90% of the market. Sure a few people will pick up budget pricing PS4s on Black Friday and visit the fairly impressive library after a generation of being disappointed by their XBOX ONE. But that’s a very small portion of the market. 100 million PS4s have already been sold. So there’s not really anyone buying a PS4 at this point just to use Spider-Man in an Avengers game. But maybe this will sell some PS5s, I guess. Really it’s more a slap in the face to XBOX users than it is a boon to PlayStation users at this point in the generation. Especially when you consider that probably 100% of players who are considering buying Marvel’s Avengers on PS4 have already played Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4.

I don’t want to play as Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers, as a PS4 owner. Precisely because I’ve already played Marvel’s Spider-Man. Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man game is objectively the best Spider-Man game ever made by a wide margin. I won’t even debate the statement with anyone. No better Spider-Man gameplay experience currently exists. And I platinumed that game, like many other players did. So first we need to deal with Spider-Man fatigue, which apparently no one other than me gets. But also we have to deal with the issue of lower quality gameplay. I know beyond a reasonable doubt that piloting Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers will not feel as good as piloting Spider-Man in Marvel’s Spider-Man. I am sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the gameplay will not be better in a collection of characters game than that perfectly crafted PlayStation exclusive masterpiece. I don’t think anyone who has actually played Marvel’s Spider-Man would disagree with that statement. I can’t prove it as of yet, but I know it’s true. So the question is why would you want to play inferior Spider-Man gameplay after having already experienced the pinnacle of Spider-Man gameplay? If you had the best burger you’ve ever tasted you wouldn’t then turn to eating an inferior burger. If you found a beer you really liked you wouldn’t then turn to drinking Budweiser. So why after having the In-N-Out of Spider-Man gameplay would you want to go back to McDonald’s?

Episode - Screenshot 2018-09-08 00-55-37Let me be clear. I’m not saying the gameplay for Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers will be bad. I’m just saying it won’t hold a candle to Marvel’s Spider-Man. So why is it a selling point for you as a PS4 owner? This game will offer some of, if not, the best gameplay for other characters that you’ve ever seen. It will probably be the best Thor gameplay you’ve ever played. It might be the best Hulk gameplay you’ve ever played. It will absolutely be the best Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Ms. Marvel gameplay you’ve ever played. So why do you want to waste your time playing inferior Spider-Man gameplay when you can player superior gameplay of just about any other character that will appear in the game? It doesn’t make any sense. I get being a Spider-Man fanboy. I’m a Kratos fanboy. But I wouldn’t play a lackluster God of War game because of it. Not intentionally anyway. I just don’t see the logic in caring about Spider-Man in this particular game following a much better game with hopefully another great Spider-Man game on its way; Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5. I can’t wait to play Marvel’s Avengers. And I will absolutely play a Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. But I have no interest in playing as Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers. I get why XBOX ONE players would want Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers. They didn’t get to play Marvel’s Spider-Man. If anything, it would be better business for SONY to make Spider-Man paid DLC on XBOX ONE for a cut of the profits. Better business for them, not the consumers.

Marvels Avengers GameUltimately I think all characters should be available on all platforms for free. But I understand how Spider-Man has become a PlayStation exclusive. I just don’t get why most PlayStation users care. I’ll be busy using Hulk and Thor. Maybe even Kamala Khan, because rubber powers are awesome. But I have no interest in playing an inferior Spider-Man game less than a year before another superior Spider-Man game will release. I have to many other games to play to waste my time with that. And hopefully I’ll have too many other characters to use in Marvel’s Avengers as well.

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State of Play (8/6/2020) Review

I hadn’t planned on doing a review of this latest State of Play episode. When they said it would be mostly third party stuff, I thought of that last Nintendo Direct and was like I’ll watch it but not waste my time writing a blog post. I was also really unhappy with the last State of Play because they completed abandoned the format. You can read my thoughts on that in a previous blog post. Then I watched it and had to take the time to push my blog post schedule back a week and write this post. The first thing that needs to be said is that this last State of Play was great. Probably the best non-first party games presentation I’ve seen this gen. It’s proof that third party and indie presentations don’t have to suck. They just need to pick the right games and provide meaningful information about them.

What was impressive about this State of Play was that not only did they stick to the formula, but they did it with only third party titles while still managing to present a large number of games I will almost certainly play. As I’ve said many times, I love the State of Play format. It’s straight forward, time efficient, and devoid of industry/media bullshit. No influencers, no “hi I’m Bob” moments, and for the most part no gimmicks. It’s just straight to the games at a fairly rapid pace. But the formula wasn’t the only part about the presentation that was impressive. The quality was there as well. They showed 16 games in about 46 minutes. I will absolutely play five of them. If I had PSVR, I’d absolutely play a sixth one. Of the remaining 10, I’m very interested in playing four more of them. That’s 10/16 games presented that I’m genuinely interested in after a single trailer. That’s more than 50% of the content doing its job. For a presentation of non-first party titles, I’d say that’s really good. And I wouldn’t say the presentations of the other six games were bad or even boring. They just weren’t games I’m interested in playing. This is the standard that all presentations of this nature should be trying to hit. The last Nintendo Direct (Mini) did not manage to hit even 50% interest from me.

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Now let’s talk about the games.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time

The presentation opened with Crash 4. Before even officially starting the presentation, they just went right into the game. I like this approach because it sets the tone for the entire presentation. What you’re about to watch is about games and games alone.

My opinion of Crash 4 is that it’s an unnecessary sequel that people will play but nobody asked for. I wrote a blog post saying as much a few weeks ago. But just because we didn’t need or ask for a sequel doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be made. It just means it has to go out of its way to be worth our time. And after this presentation I have to say that Crash 4 appears to have achieved that.

The gameplay and graphics both look awesome. There are several costumes, all of which are earned via gameplay with no microtransactions in the game. There are new playable characters, new world concepts, a list of new powers, and a ton of replayability. They have certainly put in the work to justify this game getting released. I’ll definitely be playing it after what I saw in this presentation.

Hitman III VR Mode

I’m not a fan of the Hitman series. I’ve only finished Absolution and no that’s not the reason I don’t like Hitman games. I’ve tried the other ones and was unable to finish them because I found the gameplay a combination of dated and boring while the story was lacking considerably. Absolution is the only one that played like a modern single player game. And I actually liked that one. But I was very intrigued by the idea of playing a Hitman game in VR. That could be really fun. What I’m not into though is the idea of using a controller to play a VR Hitman game. That just sounds disappointing. Like you know the game could be way more fun but it isn’t. I also don’t want to play it with PS Move controllers either. If ever there was a game that would be at its best with VR power gloves, it’s a game about detail oriented assassinations.

Braid Anniversary Edition

For whatever reason, I’ve never heard of Braid before. I did have an XBOX 360 for several years, but I never had an XBOX Live Gold membership. I don’t think that should have mattered though because you could still access the online store with a silver account. But for whatever reason I’ve never heard of this neat looking little game. The trailer, even though it’s just a remaster of a tiny indie platformer, was very charming. The art style looks nice and quite improved. After doing more research on the original game, I’m definitely interested in playing this, provided it’s not over priced.

My one issue with the trailer was that there was text appearing all over the game but it was flipping by too fast to read. Apparently this is in game commentary for the Anniversary Edition, but I had to do outside research to find that out. As far as presentations go, that shouldn’t have been included in the way it was without a clear explanation.

The Pathless

I was so impressed with this presentation. I liked Abzu. It’s a solid indie game. But it wasn’t anything to write home about. One of the things I liked most about this presentation was the clear evolution of the studio in terms of scope, gameplay, and overall quality. They are evolving, as all indie devs should. This reminds me of Naughty Dog. They started out with very simple education software and then moved on to bigger projects that weren’t all winners but all showed their potential as a studio. Then they made Crash Bandicoot. Then they evolved past Crash and made Jak & Daxter, which I would argue is just a next gen version of Crash Bandicoot style game development. Then they evolved past that and made Uncharted. Now they’re one of the most highly celebrated developers in the industry with record breaking games like The Last of Us Part II. That’s the potential I now see with Giant Squid in the move from Abzu to The Pathless. In 10 – 20 years, provided they continue this level of progression and evolution as a studio, I can see them being the next generation of Naughty Dog level studio.

The Pathless looks beautiful. It gave me Journey vibes but with much more interesting gameplay. The idea of making a timing based archery game rather than an aiming based one and then fusing that with fluid motion sounds phenomenal from a gameplay standpoint. I am really excited for this game.

Spelunky 2

I never got into Spelunky. I have a copy of it on some platform, but I don’t think I’ve played a single round of it. I’m just not into games that don’t have a clear end goal. Maybe if I had other people to play it with I would have, but as a predominantly solo gamer, it never appealed to me. That being said, Spelunky 2 looks like a very well made sequel. I’m not interested in playing it, but the presentation made me feel like the Spelunky community will be happy with the new game. The developer spoke with passion and reverence for the community that has built up his game and by extension his career. It was a good presentation of what I have always considered a passable indie game.

Genshin Impact

I don’t particularly like reveal trailers like this. I understand the point of them, but I find them lazy and uninformative. They don’t show actual gameplay. It’s just a fancy display of graphics and voice acting meant to lure people in with no real substance. It’s a basic marketing tactic that honestly we should be past for games in 2020, even at reveal. But here we are. Genshin Impact appears to be your standard soft weebo anime JRPG with lots of characters and combat styles. How the combat actually works though, I can’t say based on the trailer. What I was able to find out via Google search is that it’s a free to play open world action RPG. The fact that I had to take the time to Google that because the trailer didn’t tell me anything is exactly what I hate about reveal trailers.

Aeon Must Die!

This is basically the same problem as the Genshin Impact trailer but cranked up to 11. This trailer looks and sounds insane. It looks like playing a Dark Horse comic or a punk anime. The music was riveting, the voice acting was intense, and the graphics are awesome. But I couldn’t understand how the game actually worked at all from that trailer. And with that much production value from a small studio making their first game, I’m inclined to believe this could end up being mediocre gameplay because everything went into production value rather than substance. It has happened numerous times before. Hopefully I’m wrong. The Steam page says it’s a “unique beat-em-up” with “innovative tactical fighting” and an “RPG alignment system”. To me this all sounds like marketing speak for gameplay you’ve not seen before that hopefully won’t be too convoluted or confusing in an attempt to be original at the expense of fun. Game looks great visually but I will go over the gameplay with a fine toothed comb before I invest.

ANNO: Mutationem

This is a really solid looking indie game. I really like the mixture of 2D and 3D graphic elements. The action gameplay looks fast paced and smooth. It has a cyberpunk feel, which may be a bit overdone at this point, but I won’t fault the game for that since everyone is trying to ride the pre-release coattails of Cyberpunk 2077. For what this game appears to be, I’m very impressed and exited. But I won’t be surprised if the price ends up being higher than it should be in the current market.

Bugsnax

I really love how the marketing for this game is just leaning into the criticism. The trailer’s opening is so ironic in an almost Deadpool way. But what I liked about this trailer was that it actually started to give us an idea of what the gameplay really looks like. It’s a first person adventure that has you complete tasks for characters in order to get them to join/rejoin a community. You play as a journalist documenting the events of the island and village. Now people actually have a reason to consider playing and the game can be discussed in more serious terms. Whether or not I’m excited for the game, I really liked the direction they went with this trailer.

Vader Immortal

It’s accurate to say that I’ve waited my entire life for an interactive, motion controlled light saber game. It’s also accurate to say that VR is the best thing for this experience. But this game isn’t just about wielding a light saber. You also have Force powers. But in a way, that’s a problem given current control mechanisms for PSVR and VR in general. The PS Move is actually perfect for light saber gameplay. I can’t actually think of a better controller for that. But it’s terrible for Force powers. Just like with Hitman, this is a game that needs as new type of VR control mechanism. Something like power gloves. I do not want to wave a PS Move controller around to Force push things. And I certainly don’t want to play a light saber game with a DualShock 4. This is a prime example of a game being held back by current hardware conventions and why VR continues to be niche.

Control Expansion: AWE

The trailer didn’t say much because it’s an announcement trailer for an expansion that was already expected for a game that has already established itself.  This trailer accomplished what it needed to because all it needed to do was give logistics information to potential customers. I have no complaints or praises to give.

Auto Chess

I appreciated this trailer. It was gameplay focused and very direct in showing exactly what you would be buying. I wish more trailers were this honest from the start. That being said, this is not a game for me. I love chess, but turning it into an RTS is a big turnoff for me. And somehow it looks like they’ve managed to make a game as complicated as chess even more complicated. That trailer had so much going on at once while appearing not to have much need for player input at all. Thus the name Auto Chess.  I’d try a demo but I don’t think I’d enjoy it based on the trailer. Also, further research shows that this is actually a free to play mobile game already so you can technically download it today on your phone, but the Google Play Store reviews say it’s extremely buggy.

The Pedestrian

This game looks so cool to me. The concept is original but also reminds me a lot of old flash games I used to play as a kid. It had a sort of Astro Bot Rescue Mission feel to it where you seem to be helping the protagonist rather than controlling the protagonist, which I like for this type of game. It’s also really creative on a visual level by how it strings together the real world as one continuous path. It’s one of the only games in the presentation that I had never heard of and absolutely want to buy after just the one trailer.

Hood: Outlaws & Legends

This trailer was able to garner my interest but I wasn’t exactly sure what I was watching. It was actually not even the first Focus Home Interactive trailer in this presentation. It gave me vibes of a medieval Assassin’s Creed with a co-op component but then there also seemed to be PVP elements. So I’m not really sure what the game is or isn’t. Further research suggests that it’s a cooperative heist game with a PVP component.   So like imagine Payday 2 if you had multiple crews going for the same score at the same time. You have the option to stealth your way through or bash your way through. It’s an interesting concept for sure but my gripe with most heist games is they rarely play the way you want a heist game to actually play. I feel like that genre needs to be improved considerably before you can really start effectively playing around with it by adding a PVP element. Payday 2 was certainly a good attempt at heists, as was GTAV. But there are things about both of those games that always irritated me when it came to execution.

Temtem

This Pokemon clone has actually been in early access on Steam for a while. It’s already got an established user base on PC. I would hope that it has crossplay with PS5 or the value of a Pokemon clone MMO drops considerably when you already have to compete with Pokemon holding so much of that market on Switch.

Godfall

I was already excited about this game. This presentation, which I almost feel like it wasn’t fair to include next to most of the other projects in this State of Play, just confirmed what I already knew. I’m definitely going to buy this game. I don’t necessarily like the term “looter, hack-n-slash” but the gameplay looks and sounds great. And there’s no microtransactions or waiting for content. You just buy a complete game and can play it with two friends cooperatively. It’s exactly what I want and I already know who I’ll play it with. This is the sort of game presentation that all games need. A technical, but not too in depth look at the actual gameplay with important key details given in very straight forward terms.

As I said already, I was really impressed with this State of Play overall. I think it was very well done, extremely well-paced, and in most cases informative enough to help people make actual buying decisions based on more than just hype. The more hype that gets shaved out of these sorts of presentations the better. I want to be informed in order to make the correct buying decisions for my gaming interests. And I want to be informed about games that not only matter to me but will matter to me in the near future. Most of the games shown here should be released within the next year. I hope over time State of Play can get closer to Nintendo Direct where they start showing content for games releasing in the next quarter. Ultimately this was a great episode and I’m happy to continue watching these presentations in their current form.

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Were You Actually Waiting for a New Crash Bandicoot?

Last week, a new Crash Bandicoot game was revealed. The game’s official title, as of right now, is “Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time”. I take issue with this subtitle. It’s a pun about time travel referencing the third game, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, which is clever. But it also implies that people have been waiting with anticipation for another Crash Bandicoot. My question is was anyone actually waiting for a new Crash Bandicoot game?

The Crash Bandicoot franchise is a classic that stretches all the way back to 1996. I’d argue that it was this franchise that put Naughty Dog on the map. They no longer develop titles for the franchise but they were the ones who started the titular character’s journey. Crash Bandicoot was so famous and successful that he was PlayStation’s equivalent to Mario for a long time. Some might even argue he still is. Not unlike Mario and Sonic, Crash Bandicoot is a platforming franchise at its core but has at times branched out into other genres, with games like Crash Team Racing and Crash Boom Bang! Overall Crash Bandicoot has 16 games, 4 mobile games, and appears in at least 2 non-franchise titles. But if we’re looking at just the core platformers, Crash Bandicoot hasn’t put out a game since 2008. Unless you count N. Sane Trilogy, which is a remaster of the original three Naughty Dog games. There have also been a large number of cancelled games in the franchise.

I’m a fan of Crash Bandicoot, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a die hard. I grew up playing these games. I think I’ve played five or six of them overall. I, like most people, agree that the franchise has only gone down in quality since the original trilogy. They have had some interesting ideas over the years. I liked the concept of Crash of the Titans more than the game itself. But when it comes down to full game execution the Naughty Dog trilogy still takes the cake in that franchise. The problem is that the last Crash Bandicoot platformer from Naughty Dog came out in 1998. It’s been more than 20 years since the franchise did anything truly great. Yet people still talk about Crash Bandicoot. People still celebrate the character and talk like he’s a current part of their gaming habits and interests. Currently that’s sort of true with the recent remasters of the original trilogy and Crash Team Racing, but again we haven’t seen an actual new game, other than some mobile shovelware, in more than a decade. And those last few games were considered average at best. I’d go as far as saying the Crash Bandicoot franchise has even underperformed and under delivered compared to the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. And that’s been tepid at best for a long time with a few positive outliers. So is it that people have really been waiting for a new Crash Bandicoot game, or are people just unwilling to officially let the franchise go?

N Sane TrilogyThe statement “it’s about time” implies that the public has been asking for a new Crash Bandicoot game. While I’m by no means opposed to a new Crash Bandicoot game and will of course by this latest announced title if it looks good, I can’t say that I’ve actually thought to myself that I actively want another Crash Bandicoot probably since before I played Crash of the Titans on the Wii. Now I don’t claim that everyone shares that opinion, but I can say that other than in the occasional thread brought on by the official Crash Bandicoot social media team, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a request for a new Crash Bandicoot on any other platform or thread. I have seen demand for Crash Team Racing to be remastered on several occasions, which is why that happened. But a new Crash Bandicoot platformer just isn’t something I’ve seen evidence of being in high demand.  Yet when that teaser dropped it seemed like a lot of people were chomping at the bit like they’ve been actively waiting for such an announcement for a long time.

Crash of the TitansIn my honest opinion, I think we’ve just moved on from Crash Bandicoot as a mainstream franchise. Mario has maintained the quality for a majority of games since the beginning. Sonic hasn’t necessarily maintained the quality consistently, but they have kept up with releasing titles, diversifying the franchise, and innovating gameplay. But I’d argue PlayStation very effectively just replaced Crash Bandicoot and moved on. If you asked me what would be the next best core platformer franchise from Nintendo after Mario, I’d probably say Donkey Kong. Yet the last home console Donkey Kong platformer came out in 2014 on the Wii U. Yes it was ported to the Switch in 2018, but that doesn’t count. Whereas we’ve gotten Mario Odyssey in 2017 and a grip of other Mario games that are also great but not necessarily core platforming titles. If you asked me what would be the next best platformer franchise from SEGA after Sonic, I’d not be able to give you an answer without Googling it first. The problem isn’t necessarily that SEGA doesn’t have other platforming games as much as it doesn’t have other ones that are alive and well. Maybe I’d say Super Monkey Ball, but that’s not really a platformer as the core mechanic. But if you said to me name the next best platformer from PlayStation after Crash Bandicoot, I’d say Crash Bandicoot isn’t currently even in the top three. Nor is it a PlayStation exclusive franchise anymore, which is fine but it also proves my point that PlayStation moved on from the franchise. I’d quickly say that Ratchet & Clank, Knack, and Jack & Daxter were/are all better platforming franchises from PlayStation. Jak & Daxter’s last serious home console outing was admittedly in 2005, but I’d say it was better than Crash Bandicoot’s last serious home console outing three years later.

Mario Crash SonicThe hard truth is that the reason Crash Bandicoot hasn’t really accomplished much in the last decade is that it hasn’t had to. It has been replaced with higher quality, more modern franchises. Remember that Jak & Daxter was also developed by Naughty Dog and the first game in that franchise was the first game they released after their final Crash Bandicoot. Mario and Sonic, on the other hand, have not been replaced by other franchises. They have both evolved over time in order to stay current. Meanwhile, Crash Bandicoot lost his position on the podium. I am way more excited for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart than I am for Crash Bandicoot 4. It’s just a better, more exciting platforming franchise that I’m more invested in at this point since the franchise has continued consistently releasing high quality platforming games since its debut in 2002, just four years after Naughty Dog’s last Crash Bandicoot platformer, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, released.

There are 13 Ratchet & Clank games, not counting the upcoming PS5 title. Looking at just the home console titles, I’ve played at least nine of them and while I wouldn’t say all of them were consistently better than the last, I would say that only one of them was bad. That’s of course Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, which is proof that if a franchise model ain’t broke then you don’t need to fix it. Based on the releases and their reception, I think it’s quite fair to say that Ratchet & Clank replaced Crash Bandicoot as PlayStation’s main platforming franchise and they did it several years ago. At this point, Crash Bandicoot is more like a star that still hangs around Hollywood because people like him rather than out of a desire to see him get back into the spotlight.

So to circle back to my question, was anyone honestly waiting for a new Crash Bandicoot game? Or are you just happy that it’s happening because the franchise is nostalgic for you? I can say honestly that I was actively waiting for a new Ratchet & Clank game. I have more platinum trophies in that franchise than any other one. I can say that I’m actively waiting for a new Donkey Kong platformer and a Super Mario Odyssey 2. I can even say that I’d happily play a Knack III. But a Crash Bandicoot 4 is simply something I’d play because I played the original trilogy and the N. Sane Trilogy. Not because I was genuinely hoping for or expecting another game to be released. I may be wrong but I think this is how most people actually feel about the situation based on what I’ve seen prior to the official announcement.

It’s not my intention to knock Crash Bandicoot. The original trilogy were some of the best platformers of their time and had a huge influence on the platformers that came after it. I think it’s fair to say that Ratchet & Clank wouldn’t be what it is without Crash Bandicoot first paving the way for PlayStation platformers. It’s a foundational franchise that is extremely important to gaming history. But that doesn’t mean we have to keep it on life support. Franchises can and should end when it’s time. I’d say the same thing about the Oddworld franchise. Was anyone actively waiting for Oddworld Soulstorm? It’s possible but I doubt it. I’d like to see these development teams build new IPs and cast off the chains of tradition rather than keep trying to revive franchises that are way past their prime. And it is fair to say that Crash Bandicoot is past its prime. This new game may revitalize it, and congrats to the studio if they manage to accomplish that, but the honest truth is there isn’t/wasn’t some army of Crash Bandicoot stans actively demanding a new installment in the franchise. Probably because they were too busy demanding a Final Fantasy VII Remake and Bayonetta 3 for the last several years.

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Rip & Terror

Recently I finished DOOM (2016) for the first time. I was not planning on playing it when it was originally announced, because it’s way out of my normal wheelhouse. Not only do I not like shooters for the most part, but I specifically hate FPS. I also tend to dislike Hellish/Satanist aesthetics in games, with some noteworthy exceptions such as the immaculate Dante’s Inferno (2010). So while highly praised by most, I was gonna pass. After many people recommended the game to me, I still wasn’t going to play it until they finally released a demo on PS4 sometime in like late 2018. I don’t know why the demo was released on PS4 so far after release, but this was the first time that I actually got to try the game hands on. While I’m not a fan of the genre, I immediately could tell this was a well-made game. That’s the mark of a truly good game. It’s when someone who isn’t a fan can play it and quickly tell that it’s a good game to a point where they want to play it even though they usually wouldn’t. After finishing this demo, I agreed to eventually purchase and play the game. Several months later, I was able to purchase it on Steam for $5. Then several months after that I finally decided to play it. I’ve actually been live streaming a let’s play of it, which you can check out here if interested.

Dante's InfernoMy reason for not usually wanting to play shooters is that I’m not a fan of guns. But I play many third person shooters anyway when they seem compelling. I’ve streamed many Ubisoft shooters such as Watch Dogs 1 & 2, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, and The Division 2 as examples. My reason for not usually wanting to play FPS games is that I really dislike the first person view. I often find it disorienting and don’t like not being able to see my character. Especially when they look like a badass. That’s the main reason I’m appalled by games like Deus Ex. Why would I want to be a badass looking cyborg if I can’t see him in action? As with shooters in general, there are exceptions where I will play a game in first person, but these are much fewer and far between. This is especially true for FPS titles. I’d much rather play a first person RPG like Skyrim over a first person shooter. The last “full length” AAA FPS game I recall playing was Destiny (2014). So playing something like DOOM is extremely out of character for me. But as I said, exceptions do occasionally occur. DOOM being the most recent one.

I tend to dislike hellish themed games for similar reasons to why I hate zombie games. The subject matter calls back to internalized fears that stem all the way back to my childhood. It’s for this reason that I don’t play many Hellish themed games. Or at least not the Western/Bible inspired hell aesthetic anyway. I have no issue with demon filled games from Japan. I can’t wait to finally play Nioh 2. I also don’t have any issue with games like God of War, where you visit Hades. These alternate interpretations of the underworld do not instill any sort of fear within me and thus I have no problem playing them. Whereas the last game I played based on the Christian idea of Hell is probably Dante’s Inferno, which I played at release. And the last zombie game I played was probably The Last of Us Remastered in 2017. I guess you could also say The Last of Us – Left Behind DLC, which I finally played this year, if you want to be completely accurate. They’re just not games I play. To date I’ve never played or watched a single Resident Evil game or movie.

Nioh 2What I think is interesting about DOOM is that not only am I playing it, but I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying the gameplay. It’s quite good. I don’t really think I need to delve much further into this because I’ve already stated that the main reason I decided to play it was because the gameplay in the demo was so good. But what I think is more interesting is the fact that I don’t feel uncomfortable playing it aesthetic wise. As I said, Hellish games make me uncomfortable. The only times I generally allow myself to play them is when the graphics aren’t trying to be too realistic or when the gameplay is just too good to pass up. The latter was the case with both Dante’s Inferno and now DOOM. I went into the game expecting to be uncomfortable. One of the reasons I decided to stream it was that I’d not be playing it alone so I could distract myself from my discomfort with the aesthetic. But I haven’t really had any issues playing it. And I think the reason why is Doomguy.

Doom Screenshot 2020.03.30 - 18.43.34.68In general, there are two main types of protagonists in any sort of narrative driven game focused on violence as the main form of gameplay. There are of course occasionally exceptions, but for the most part you’re always either the underdog or the badass. The underdog is not qualified to be in the situation he/she has been thrown into. They get placed in a conflict they didn’t really want to be in and then sort of luck and hard work their way through to the end. Nathan Drake, modern Lara Croft, and Joel all exemplify this underdog persona. It doesn’t matter how many adventures they’ve been on or what they’ve already accomplished. They always seem to be up against overwhelming odds with little chance of succeeding/surviving. But with brains, a can-do attitude, and luck they somehow make it to the end alive. The badass is unsurprisingly the polar opposite. This character is always the go to person for the task. They’re over qualified for whatever the problem is and no one believes they can’t actually complete the task given to them except the villain, for obvious reasons. This is how protagonists like Kratos, Master Chief, and Doomguy are characterized in their games. They’re revered and downright feared by almost everyone they come into contact with. Their reputations precede them, and rightly so. Take just about any super successful story driven AAA franchise and the main protagonist usually falls into one of these two archetypes.

 

Episode - Screenshot 2018-05-04 22-48-07You never see a game where you’re just some average cop, solider, or agent who’s qualified but not the ideal choice. It’s either a highly decorated person or a rookie who literally just started. This is done intentionally in order to set the tone of the game. The developers either want you to feel unqualified so victory seems so much bigger at the end. Or they want you to feel overly qualified so they can give you lots of awesome weapons and moves without having to justify them narratively. But there’s also an experiential aspect to these types of characterizations. The underdog instills a sense of fear in the player. As you’re being told you shouldn’t be there and you have no chance, you feel inadequate as the person controlling that avatar. Conversely, as you’re being told you’re a badass and this mission shouldn’t be a problem, you feel confident that you can get it done as the person controlling the avatar. And very few avatars are built up to be as badass as Doomguy.

I think the reason I haven’t been uncomfortable playing DOOM is that the persona of the Doom Slayer, or Doomguy as I will continue to call him, is just so epic. It’s a man that’s so badass and powerful that the demons in Hell literally set up monuments in memory of his legend. He’s said to be a man that was so angry at the demons of Hell that he was granted immortality by the Seraphim (angels) in order to fight eternally against the demons and take revenge for whatever wrong they did him. How can you be scared when the enemy is literally afraid of you as part of the canon? And it’s not just in the canon but in the gameplay. On more than one occasion I’ve seen demons of multiple types try to run away from me during combat. Doomguy is the epitome of the epic declaration “I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.” And that level of confidence and badassery is transferred to the player.

Doom-Glory-KillI’ve beaten Demon’s Souls, all three Dark Souls games, and Bloodborne. Yet every time I go to start another From Software soulslike title I’m intimidated. It’s not because I don’t think I can beat it, because I have more than enough proof to know that I can. I’m intimidated because the game presents itself as being more than the player can handle. The motto is literally “Prepare to Die”. The game chops your comfort and confidence down from the start. DOOM does the exact opposite. It actively builds the player up from the very beginning to feel like you can achieve anything and already have. And as such you can stroll into Hell by choice, rip and tear through demons twice your size, and then stroll back out at your leisure. Because you’re Doomguy.

The positive psychology in the presentation of a game is not something I’ve thought much about before playing DOOM. The negative psychology I’ve thought about many times. It’s fairly obvious how it works and how effective it is. Because the player almost always goes into a game with a natural inferiority to begin with. I’m not a super solider, monster hunter, or Dhovakin. I’m just a guy that plays a lot of video games. So it’s fairly easy for the developer to make me feel unqualified for the challenge to begin with. This is how most zombie games are presented. You’re always a normal guy with at best a bit of cop training plunged into an undead nightmare. Even the zombie games where you’re not an amateur still pretty much make you an average guy with a bit of experience at most. You’re never an otherworldly epic badass seasoned by a mountain of corpses beneath your feet. That’s because zombie games are always framed as survival games. You’re always trying to survive an apocalypse. From a narrative standpoint that makes sense because zombies always bring about a dystopian reality in narratives. But that doesn’t mean it has to necessarily be that way.

Resident Evil ProtagonistsI don’t like zombie games but I would probably enjoy one that presented itself like DOOM. Rather than a random gym teacher or beat cop, make the protagonist a complete over the top badass. Not a wannabe badass with a motorcycle and a sob story but an actual balls to the wall, no strings attached badass. I don’t want to fear Mr. X. I want Mr. X to shit his pants when he sees me. Give me a game that frames the protagonist like the Doom Slayer at the beginning of DOOM Eternal. Make the humans more afraid to piss me off than they are of the zombies. Give me epic armor and crazy badass weapons. Don ‘t set me in a world with zombies. Set the zombies in a world with me. I’d probably enjoy that zombie game.

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GOG Galaxy 2.0 Beta Review

I’m a big fan of GOG and have been for many years. They’re actually my favorite storefront to buy PC games from. Though their selection is limited compared to Steam and other PC game distributors, I try to buy from them wherever applicable. One of the main reasons I really liked them when I first found out about them was how convenient their distribution system was. There was no launcher. You just went to their site and downloaded the entire DRM free game you purchased directly to be used offline. For me, this was always a better, more convenient option than Steam. Some years later, they released the GOG Galaxy launcher, which I was against at first because it meant having to have yet another launcher and that suddenly DRM was slowly, and sadly, becoming a thing for GOG. Make no mistake, requiring a launcher to access your games is a form of DRM. Having to login to access your games is a form of DRM. Eventually I gave in and started using GOG Galaxy. It’s good as far as launchers go, but there’s nothing particularly better about it compared to other launchers.

In the time since installing GOG Galaxy 1.0, I have had to add a number of additional game launchers to my system. Uplay, Origin, Bethesda, Epic Games Store, and so on. Every publisher has decided they need their own launcher now. I’m not one of those people who gets angry at companies for not putting their games on Steam. I understand their desire to want to make more money and spend less of it distributing their games. But like with TV streaming services today, there’s a point where there’s just too many entities offering what is essentially the same service with disjointed content. This is what first attracted me to GOG Galaxy 2.0.

LibraryGOG Galaxy 2.0 offers a simple value proposition: manage all your games in one place. It’s a launcher that allows you to see and manage all your games, including those you have on PS4 and XB1, in one organized collection. Honestly it sounded too good to be true when I first heard about it. While simple from a technological standpoint, I didn’t see how GOG, or really any company, would deliver something that actually connects all the games I have, except for those on Nintendo Switch, in one convenient location with user data and preferences from that many separate launchers and two non-PC gaming platforms. So I jumped at the chance to download the beta build as soon as I saw the announcement. I’ve now spent a fair amount of time using the launcher and thought it would be beneficial to write a review of my experiences.

The first thing I want to say is that GOG Galaxy 2.0 (GG2) absolutely delivers. I can honestly say that this is the last launcher I will ever use for my normal day to day gaming needs. That being said, there are a number of caveats which sadly still requires me to make use of other launchers to get the full spectrum of PC gaming and management services I require for all my PC gaming needs. The second thing I want to say is that this is absolutely still a beta build and while I have been using it as my go to launcher, it has a number of bugs and fixes that need to be made. It lags at times when trying to apply tags to games from the grid view. It even crashed once and made me have to restart my whole system.

General Activity Feed.pngIn practice, GG2 is basically Facebook for your games via other game launchers. I say that intentionally with all the good and bad that comes with the Facebook platform. The way it works is that you manually connect each launcher you have installed on your system into GG2’s interface by logging into each launcher via GG2. You can connect or disconnect launchers/services you have connected at any time. To me there does seem to be a level of security risk with linking and logging into all your platforms at the same time and handing that login information to GOG. But you make the same sort of decisions with connecting your social media to your phone every day. I will also acknowledge that each launcher you connect has you login to the launcher’s official login window as opposed to a special GOG one so maybe they aren’t actually being given your login information directly. You can’t actually buy any games, other than from the GOG store, in GG2. In fact, you can’t even access stores from other launchers from within GG2. It’s strictly a platform for managing your games while replacing GOG Galaxy 1.0 for GOG related purchases and gaming.

What GG2 actually does is import your library page from each connected launcher, along with whatever play progress data it can find, and mashes all those libraries together in a single, convenient UI. The launcher separates each connected platform via convenient tabs, but the default page shows you your entire collection of games as one massive list. It can be viewed in either grid view with imported cover images for most games, or list view which shows the name and platform each game comes from. When you choose a specific launcher tab it just filters the same view to that one platform’s games.

PlayStation GameI was quite impressed with the amount of information GG2 imported for each game from each platform. It shows all your achievements/trophies, the date they were acquired, and your play activity for each game. As a note though, it only tracks data from PS4 on for PlayStation and GOG data after a certain year, when I guess they officially started tracking play data for users. Many of my games have no data shown. It imports your friends list from each platform and shows you a comparison of how you’ve done compared to your friends in each specific game. On the subject of friends lists, there’s a feed on the right of the launcher that shows friend activity across all platforms in real time, organized by platform. In one convenient location I’m able to see which of my friends are online in Uplay, PSN, Steam, and so on all at the same time. I’m able to see what games they’re playing and what they’re accomplishing in real time with time stamps. Even though the feed isn’t interactive, it’s super convenient when trying to pick which game to play, if you’re looking for a multiplayer experience. You can also hide/show the feed with a single button on the UI. The add friends and chat functions only work for GOG friends though.

Missing Covers PSNIt needs to be said that GG2 is still limited in what it can actually do in reference to non-GOG games. As the other launchers aren’t actually ceding control to GOG, you can’t directly launch games from GG2. When you press play on any PC game a login window for that game’s launcher will pop up before you can actually play the game. Even if you’ve told GG2 to remember your login information for all platforms, you will still have to manually login to each game’s perspective platform every time. Launch a Steam game, you have to go through the entire Steam login process. Launch a Uplay game, you still have to go through the entire Uplay login process. What GG2 is doing is essentially creating desktop shortcuts for all your games and organizing them into a single unified and curated list for you. I will say though that there are a number of bugs, as this is a beta. For instance, not all my games showed up. Sometimes they show up and then other times they don’t. Often a specific connected account disconnects the next time I load up the application and I have to reconnect it. Thankfully though, when this happens my tagging/filtering options remain intact.

From a security standpoint, this is a good way to do this. GG2 doesn’t actually have full access or control of your other accounts and thus if it was hacked, that wouldn’t necessarily allow the hacker to have access to all your games and account information. At the same time, it’s very inconvenient. Having all your games in one place with access via a single login regardless of where you purchased the games would be amazing, and GG2 almost gets there. Having to login again for that last step to actually play your games is depressing but ultimately manageable. Especially considering the time you saved by not having to open multiple launchers to figure out which game you want to play.

List SortingAs far as PlayStation and I assume XB1 titles, obviously you can’t play them from the launcher. GG2 simply says “launch this game from your console” when you click the play button for a console game. What would have been nice is at least being able to activate the app on console from your PC, but we’re not there yet apparently. It’s also important to mention that, at least for the PlayStation games since I don’t have an XB1, GG2 will only track games tied to your PSN account with a digital footprint. What this means is that all digital PS4 games, including ones you own but don’t have downloaded, will show up in your GG2 list under the PlayStation tab. But only PS4 games that you have actual progress in will show up when it comes to physical versions. I think this is because it’s using the trophy list to figure out which non-PC games you have.

I really like that GG2 shows when you own multiple versions of the same game on multiple platforms. It very clearly shows you how many versions you own, which platforms you own them on, and lets you select which version you’d like to interact with and check player data for. This is a clutch feature that I’m not sure I would have even thought about on my own. It’s not perfect at this point though as some games do show up twice in your list. I think it comes down to naming within each platform more than anything else. For instance, The TellTale Game of Thrones Season 1 game shows up twice in my list. One version on PS4 and the other on PC. But the one on PS4 is just called Game of Thrones while the one on PC is called Game of Thrones: A TellTale Series. So I think that’s why it happened. And yet it didn’t separate my three versions of Batman: Arkham Asylum, each with a slightly different name. In fact, it shows each slightly different name in the game’s main page when you click the versions owned tab. So it’s not an exact science at this point.

Multiple Versions OwnedWhat is actually much more useful and convenient than the tabs is the manual tagging and filtering system.  All your games on all platforms are shown together in one giant list as a default until you use the filters. GG2 gives you the ability to manually tag and filter all the games in your list in whatever way you want. You can also manually hide games from your list. The filtering system lets you use as many tags as you want concurrently to filter the list and tells you how many games using the tag(s) are currently hidden. As a bonus feature, you can click the notice and it will reveal the hidden games and hide the normally shown ones and then go back to normal when you click it again.

The filtering system is a feature I’ve had to do manually for years with folders on my PS4. It’s super convenient in GG2 and makes managing a combined list of more than 600 games much easier. I created three custom tags for filtering: Beaten, Backlog, and Trash. I tagged the games I have already completed with “Beaten”. This allowed me to filter out all the games I’ve finished when I’m trying to pick a new game to play. I tagged the games I actually would like to play from my collection with Backlog. This allows me to set apart games I would actually like to play at some point from the rest of the group, thus streamlining my decision making process. Finally, I tagged the games I would absolutely never play with Trash. My one complaint about the tagging system is that it has to be done manually one game at a time. You are unable to select and tag multiple games at once. This is a non-issue once you’ve gone through and gotten all your tagging done, but it’s hell when you go through and tag your entire collection the first time.

FiltersThere are also a number of small quality of life features that aren’t necessary but make for a way better experience. For instance, when you are scrolling through the grid and you click into a game’s page there’s a back button. Pressing it will take you back to the place in the list you were at when you clicked that specific game. You can give the games star ratings. You can look at your user data measured in daily, weekly, or monthly increments. There’s a general activity feed that shows everything you’ve done such as add games, get trophies/achievements, and play sessions. There are lots of little things like that which make for a great overall launcher experience.

My one big complaint, which doesn’t surprise me and I doubt it will ever be fixed, is that you can’t connect multiple accounts of the same platform. For instance, I have 2 PSN accounts and 2 Steam accounts. This is because I live in Asia but for the most part purchase games in American digital stores. Sometimes I’m forced to purchase a game through my Asian account(s) for various reasons. GG2 doesn’t account for this though so all my secondary account games are not shown in my collection. This is a problem easily fixed that will most likely never get added.

Store FeaturedOverall, I really like GOG Galaxy 2.0. It’s not a finished service yet, but as far as launchers are concerned, it’s the most convenient game organization and management tool I’ve ever seen. I wish I could connect my Switch account to it too. Even people who don’t use GOG can find a use for this if they’re buying their games on more than one launcher/platform. The organizational tools available make it a must for anyone with a large selection of games. I look forward to using the launch version of the software.

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Black Friday 2019 Aftermath

I am weighted down by all the games I bought during Black Friday sales this year. Black Friday deals were interesting this season. Last year I bought ten games, seven of which I was targeting from an original list of 17. This year I bought 21 games, only five of which I was specifically targeting from an original list of 16 games. So my targeted success rate has gone down slightly but my rate of total acquisitions has increased considerably. I definitely don’t need to buy any more games until Black Friday next year, but we all know that’s probably not what’s going to happen.

In many ways this was a much better Black Friday than last year’s as far as total deals available and the quality of them. But there were also some really terrible occurrences. Specifically GameStop and Rakuten really disappointed me. It seems that for some larger game distributors the term capitalism has become synonymous with the term nationalism. Here’s the deal: consumers have rights. Consumers have a right to privacy for one. American consumers specifically also have rights such as the freedom to live and work where they choose. They do not have the right to force businesses to change the way they conduct business, but they do have the right to be treated the same as any other American consumer regardless of their location when making an order. Both GameStop and Rakuten have decided that this is not the case and this cost me games I wanted to buy at the prices I wanted to buy them at.

gamestop badApparently GameStop has just recently changed their website and have now region locked it to be inaccessible by anyone outside the United States where their own country doesn’t have a branch, which are just a few places in Europe. Literally two days before Black Friday I was able to access GameStop’s website from here in Taiwan. The day of Black Friday I was no longer able to do this. I tried from multiple desktops and my phone to no avail. Then I looked it up on Reddit and found that countless other people around the world were having the same problem.

Rakuten, a Japanese company, was the only place during Black Friday that I found selling both Link’s Awakening and Luigi’s Mansion 3 at my desired $40 price point. This required you to purchase both games at the same time and use their 20% off Black Friday discount code. I was happy to do so. Rakuten’s US site doesn’t accept foreign credit/debit cards. No problem. I’m an American born citizen with a bank account from an American banking institution. Rakuten doesn’t ship outside the US. No problem. I’m an American born citizen with an American shipping address. And not a P.O. Box mind you. I have an actual home address I have things shipped to in the US. This is literally where I ship 100% of my Black Friday purchases. I made the purchase, it showed up on my bank statement, and then less than an hour later my order was cancelled. Long story short, they cancelled my order because I had made the purchase from an IP address outside the US. It didn’t matter that I’m an American. It didn’t matter that I paid with an American banking institution in USD. It didn’t matter that I was shipping to an American home address. All that mattered to them, and Gamestop, was that I wasn’t standing in the United States when trying to make my purchase.

black-friday-failThese sorts of location based limitations are a problem. They go against the rights of consumers, they ignore the fact that the world is now a global market, and they personally infringe upon my rights as an American. I was not demanding special treatment in my attempt to make purchases from these two businesses. I wasn’t using foreign currency or a foreign banking institution. I wasn’t shipping outside the US. Nothing I was attempting to do was illegal or an inconvenience to either company. I simply wasn’t in the US at the time of purchasing. Now I happen to live outside the US for work, but that’s not their business. What if I was traveling? What if I was seeking medical treatment outside the US for whatever reason? It doesn’t actually matter. My business is my business and I should be able to purchase American goods and services with American money to be shipped to American addresses from anywhere in the world.

Some sellers are great about this sort of thing. Amazon, for instance, doesn’t give a shit where I’m located when I make a purchase. They will even ship stuff to me in Taiwan and let me use my Taiwanese bank card to buy it. I don’t ship to Taiwan because of shipping costs, but the fact that I can shows why Jeff Bezos is as rich as he is. He puts profit before prejudice, like any good business owner should. Ultimately I was not able to get Link’s Awakening or Luigi’s Mansion 3 because I couldn’t find it at the appropriate price point anywhere else. And had they have told me why my order was cancelled before their sale ended, I would have had someone else repurchase the items for me from an American IP address. Which leads me to another big issue that consumers need to stop putting up with.

take my money futuramaBecause of my location, I have had a number of issues with online purchases over the years. Now as I said, I don’t believe that I as a consumer have a right to inconvenience or change the way American businesses conduct normal operations. But I do believe I as an American citizen have the right to the same treatment as any other American consumer and that when a company fails to deliver that they should be held responsible for fixing the issue at no additional cost to me. I buy a great many items, usually games or gaming related hardware, during sales at discounted rates. One of the most ridiculous practices among many different online sellers is that when they screw up an order, for whatever reason, the consumer is forced to lose out on the original purchase price. Here is an example. It’s Black Friday and you buy a game on sale. The site accepts the order and then later cancels it. You contact them to find out why the order was cancelled. You get a response after the discounted price period has ended. They admit that the order cancellation was a mistake and tell you how to complete the order successfully with a second try. They refuse to let you repurchase the product at the discounted price because the sale has ended. Why is it my problem that the sale period has ended when the seller has already admitted fault in writing? In that situation, the seller needs to reissue me the purchase at the discounted price manually. I don’t care how their system is coded. I made a legal purchase and they cancelled my order by mistake. They should honor that purchase price. Not try to cheat me into paying more for an item I originally purchased during their imposed discount period. That’s completely unacceptable. Honestly I will probably never consider buying an item from Rakuten ever again because of this experience.

best buyOn the positive side, I have to really commend Best Buy for their performance this Black Friday season. They provided free shipping on all purchases regardless of dollar amount and delivered fast. I made a purchase on the Sunday before Black Friday and it was delivered by the Wednesday before Black Friday. That’s phenomenal service. It begs the question why are people even letting Amazon charge a premium subscription fee for Amazon Prime memberships just to get fast shipping? And why are we putting up with a $25 – $35 minimum purchase amount to get free shipping, that’s not fast, when not a Prime subscriber? Best Buy has shown that it can be done fast and efficiently for free, at least in the holiday season if not year round. Consumers are being strong-armed into throwing away money when we clearly don’t have to be.

As far as game purchasing in general, I was impressed by a number of deals but also found that a lot of games I was targeting were just a little inflated this year. I consider myself fairly good, due to experience, at judging the market value of a game. I don’t believe in the modern line that games are art and thus can’t be evaluated accurately for cost. I do agree that games are art. But I also believe that games are a digital entertainment product that can be sold an unlimited number of times, produced for a massive consumer base, and exist within a comparative market. Yes I can put a price on your art. No that price is not based on what a developer, publisher, or even distributor wants that price to be. It’s based on comparative value of products and market trends. When I say a game is worth $20, it’s because I’ve done the research by checking out what the game offers, how much content it has, what it sold for at release, how old it currently is, and what it has been sold for in the past, as just a few of the many specific factors that should be taken into account when determining appropriate Black Friday price points. The prices I choose aren’t just pulled out of thin air. They’re based on a tried and true system of long term market analysis. Now I don’t consider this an exact science, but I do consider it a working system with established rules that can be observed with accuracy more than 80% of the time. So when I see games being priced above my estimations, I consider them to be failures on the part of sellers to adhere to the rules of the system out of greed. And let’s be clear, companies get away with being greedy all the time. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re overcharging for a product within an established pricing system.

shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-artI consider my estimations fair. I consider estimating within $5 of the final sale price during Black Friday to be an acceptable level of accuracy but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m willing to pay up to $5 more than my declared price point for every game. Some games I will depending on the situation. For instance, I paid $24 for Shadow of the Tomb Raider – Definitive Edition. I deemed the appropriate price point to be $20. The game is more than a year old and Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Anniversary Edition was sold the Black Friday after it released on PS4 at $20. I chose to pay the extra $4 here because I played the first game, Tomb Raider (2013) for “free” via PS Plus. So between three games, at least two of which I enjoyed quite a lot and presumably will the third, I paid a total of $44 to play including all the DLC for the second and third game of the series. I can live with those numbers. From my targeted list this year, there were eleven games that were overpriced for Black Friday pricing standards, five of which were within the $5 estimation range, four of which I still paid for even though they were in fact overpriced by up to $5. There were also games that came in under what I estimated them to be. I bought quite a few of these.

ps plus black fridayOne thing that made me really unhappy is the increasing price of PS Plus (12 month subscription). In the PS3 era, PS Plus was both a considerably better service and considerably cheaper. I remember buying it on sale for $35 and getting a $5 credit for PSN. Now it’s “on sale” at $45, the service offers way less in terms of actual rewards/returns, and the sale price keeps going up. Last year I paid $40. I don’t like this trend. Especially now that we’re not getting PS3 or Vita games and the number of PS4 games is limited to just two a month. XBOX Live Gold was maligned for years because of the low quality offerings and now it has been the superior option for about two straight years in a majority of cases.

As I said, it was a great year of buying games as far as volume is concerned. Here’s everything I managed to pick up this year. The ones from my original targeted list are marked with a star.

too-many-games-too-little-time big

  1. Yooka-Laylee: The Impossible Lair (PS4)
  2. Yakuza 0 (PS4)
  3. Yakuza Kiwami 2 – Steelbook Edition (PS4)*
  4. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – Essence of Art Edition (PS4)
  5. NieR: Automata – Game of the YoRHa Edition (PS4)
  6. Kingdom Come Deliverance – Royal Edition (PS4)
  7. We Happy Few – Deluxe Edition (PS4)
  8. Anthem: Legion of Dawn Edition (PS4)
  9. Man of Medan (PS4)
  10. Devil May Cry V – Deluxe Edition (PS4)*
  11. Shadow of the Tomb Raider – Definitive Edition (PS4)*
  12. Collection of Mana (NS)
  13. Just Dance 2020 (NS)*
  14. Castlevania Arcade Collection (NS)
  15. The Banner Saga Trilogy (NS)*
  16. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (NS)
  17. Contra Rogue Corps (NS)
  18. Thumper (NS)
  19. Lichtspeer (NS)
  20. ReCore – Definitive Edition (PC)
  21. SuperHot (PC)

In addition to this fairly solid haul of games, I also managed to get a few other items at discounted prices.

  1. Elgato Stream Deck (15 Keys)
  2. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
  3. Nintendo Switch 80 Cartridge Carrying Case
  4. 12-Month PS Plus Subscription

I’m really glad that I was able to get an Elgato Stream Deck. As I said in my Black Friday lead up post, this was probably the most important buy for me. I loved the Stream Deck when I got to demo it a while back and I’ve been waiting for the price to go down on one for quite some time now. I actually missed out on a sale some months back because Amazon sold out before I got home from work to place the order.

Elgato_Stream_DeckIn general, I have to say that with all its problems, some of which were quite serious and disheartening, this was a much better Black Friday than last year. Specifically because of the number of releases from this year that went down quite a ways in price. Just looking at The Game Awards’ GOTY nominees, literally four of them were on sale with two of them being more than 50% off and the other two just under 50% off depending on where you were shopping. While not all their games were discounted, even the Switch had some fairly respectable discount offerings this year.  I picked up eight switch games compared to last year’s three. Even Pokémon Sword & Shield could be found at a discount. And the truth is that even with all the stuff I did buy I managed to stay under my maximum budget for Black Friday by quite a bit. It was truly a good Black Friday year.

 

How did Black Friday shopping go for you this year?  Let me know in the comments.

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PS5 – The Waiting Game

A few weeks ago, the PS5 was officially announced. I can’t say I was particularly surprised, but I will say that I didn’t personally want that announcement to come so soon. And based on the responses from many I’ve seen on social media, I was not alone in that opinion. The PS5 was of course bound to happen and I’m glad that it will. But the truth is that it feels very early. This probably comes from the fact that console generations seem to be getting shorter while the leaps in performance from generation to generation seem to be getting smaller, from a purely practical use standpoint. Numerically we’re seeing large leaps into 4K and even 8K performance, but most people don’t really see a difference, most people still don’t own 4K televisions, and the way games are played still hasn’t really changed much since the PS3. And if we disregard online aspects and DLC, then really games haven’t changed all that much on PlayStation since the PS2.

Graphics have gotten better, loading times have gotten faster, and more buttons have been added. But the general concepts in most games remain mostly unchanged. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I like the consistency of PlayStation consoles and games. I like that it’s called PS5 rather than some weird confusing name that’s not really grounded in obvious logic. And I like that the controller hasn’t changed much since the PS3. I’m also really happy to hear that PS4 controllers will be directly compatible with the PS5, saving me a ton of money. But my point is that the PS5 feels early. I think the fact that the console industry has also shifted to half console releases like the PS4 Pro also plays a large role in my feelings about this “rush” into the next generation.

The Force UnleashedTo be fair, the PS5 is releasing seven years after the PS4. The PS4 released seven years after the PS3. The PS3 released only six years after the PS2. So in general Sony has stayed consistent. In fact they’ve stayed more consistent than Microsoft with XBOX and at least as consistent as Nintendo. So it makes perfect sense that they’re releasing the PS5 next year. But again, the PS4 Pro, which I personally don’t own, seems to throw things off. But I actually think it’s even more than that. When I got my PS3, two things had happened that were undebatable for myself and really most users. The first was that there were basically no more games available on the PS2 that I wanted to play and couldn’t also get on the PS3. The second was that games no longer looked and played well on the PS2. The last game I played on the PS2 was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008). This was two years after the PS3 had already released. It was not the last game made for the PS2. But it was the first game I played on the PS2 that was also available on the PS3 that looked really bad. This is when I knew it was time to upgrade. The PS2 just couldn’t live up to the standard of the games being released anymore. So after I completed that last game I boxed the PS2 and never used it again. I still have it sitting in the same box.

My transition to the PS4 was similar to that of the PS3. The last game I played on the PS3 was Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014). It released 1 year after the PS4. This game was the first game I played on the PS3 that just didn’t perform well due to purely hardware based limitations. It froze, sputtered, deleted my save file, and just generally looked bad by comparison to the PS4 version. I knew long before I finished the game that it was time to upgrade to the next PlayStation console. This is how I have always moved from console generation to console generation. I use a console until it’s no longer viable for an acceptable gaming experience. That’s when it’s time to upgrade. To upgrade purely because something is new is nonsensical and wasteful. To refuse to upgrade for the sake of nostalgia is equally nonsensical. There’s a time and a place to upgrade to the next generation console. The issue with the PS5, in my opinion, is that 2020 just isn’t that time.

Dragon Age InquisitionI already said that there were two conditions required for me to upgrade to a next generation console: games available exclusively and performance. In my opinion, the PS4 is nowhere near dead performance wise. I’m still using a PS4 regular and I’m very happy with the performance. My games run fine. They look good. The controls don’t lag. The loading times aren’t bad. It’s still a very viable machine for gaming. And this is even more true for PS4 Pro owners. The PS4 Pro launched in 2016. That means if you bought one as your first PS4 then this generation has only lasted four years for you when the PS5 drops. That’s not long enough for a console generation. Even Nintendo does a minimum of five years per a home console generation. And supposedly the PS4 Pro kicks the crap out of the basic PS4 performance wise. That means pretty much no one normal is unhappy with the current performance of their PlayStation console if they bought a PS4 Pro, because as I said I’m using the basic PS4 and it still runs games great. So that second condition simply hasn’t come into play yet and I doubt it will within the next year based on the games I’ve seen announced to release within the next year. That means games will be the deciding factor for the PS5 at launch.

sekiro__shadows_die_twice_gxWe are arguably in the golden age of gaming when it comes to high quality options. I won’t argue that games are the best they’ve ever been in the more than two decades that I’ve been gaming. But I will absolutely argue that there are more games worth taking the time to play today than there have ever been before. And with all these remakes of older games, that list is growing exponentially on the PS4. My backlog has never been longer than it is this generation. There are so many games on my PS4 I still need to play. And I’m not talking about junk titles or unknown indies. I’m talking popular, well received and reviewed AAA titles. And that’s not even counting my PC backlog, which I don’t even really want to get into. I’m so backlogged this gen. I still haven’t even played Final Fantasy XV, Dark Souls III, or Horizon: Zero Dawn. I don’t even own Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, or Devil May Cry V yet. These are just a few of the titles I will absolutely be playing on the PS4 before I even consider buying a PS5. And there are still games coming to the PS4 this year that I will absolutely be playing before I upgrade. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Shenmue III, and possibly Death Stranding if it’s not the garbage I think it will be. Plus there’s a list of titles coming out for PS4 next year that are must plays like Nioh II, The Last of Us Part II, and Cyberpunk 2077. There’s simply no practical reason for me to upgrade from my PS4 next year.

Jedi Fallen Order WallpaperNow it’s very likely that some of the unreleased games I mentioned will also be available on the PS5. And with the backwards compatibility announced, all of them will absolutely be playable on the PS5. We don’t know how the backwards compatibility will work yet, but we do know that the option will be there. Personally I’m hoping my entire digital PS4 library will be available to play on PS5 for nothing more than the price of a PS Plus subscription. Anything more than that and Sony is basically telling me not buy a PS5 for no less than three years, and that’s an extremely generous estimation of how long it’s going to take me to clear my current PS4 backlog without including not yet purchased and/or released PS4 titles. But the backwards compatibility is a double edged sword for Sony. On one hand, not losing out on my PS4 library motivates me to be comfortable upgrading sooner. But on the other hand, knowing that I won’t lose any of my PS4 games when I do upgrade motivates me to purchase them on PS4 and play them there until the system simply won’t run anymore because I know I won’t lose any of them when I do finally upgrade to PS5. If anything that security blanket is a reason to just wait for the inevitable PS5 Pro. Because maybe by that time I’ll actually be done with my PS4 backlog, the price of the PS5 will have dropped, and the PS5 will already have a large library of released games that have dropped in price. So it doesn’t make any sense for me to upgrade to PS5 at launch or even in the first year. And this is all without even considering my Switch and PC backlogs to tide me over. Even if I didn’t have another PS4 game I wanted to play, I still could wait out the PS5  Pro without getting bored. I haven’t even played The Witcher 3, Doom, or Middle Earth: Shadow of War yet (all games I own on PC). And Pokémon Sword and Shield have already been preordered on Switch, so that’s gonna take some time as well.

The Witcher 3Obviously I can’t speak for everyone but I don’t know anyone who isn’t backlogged. And I don’t know any realistic people who think the PS4/PS4 Pro runs like shit at this point. So it just doesn’t seem practical to launch the PS5 in 2020. The PS4 has a gigantic market share that’s still technically growing. And it’s a strong, stable base of players, most of which are very happy with their PS4. So happy that I don’t think they want a new console anytime soon. So I just don’t see the PS5 launching successfully next year. For the first time in my life as a gamer, we are in a prime waiting position to upgrade. As I’ve clearly shown, there is no reason to rush to the PS5 as a PS4 owner. Maybe XB1 owners will finally come over to Sony with the PS5 but PS4 owners simply don’t have to pick one up any time soon. I’m sure plenty of people will buy one at launch just to say they did, but in practical terms it’s unnecessary. There has never been as many games worth taking the time to play at the end of a generation as there is today. And the current generation hardware has never been so strong in comparison to the next generation hardware as it is today either. The practicality of buying a PS5 in 2020 as a PS4 owner simply isn’t there. So I will be playing the waiting game and I can wait a long time. The only way Sony will get me to buy a PS5 any time soon is to guarantee me that all my PS4 games will work on PS5 at no extra cost to me and release some amazing exclusives that aren’t also available on the PS4 and able to run adequately on it. I just don’t see them delivering all that in 2020.

Will you be picking up a PS5 near launch? If so, why? Let me know in the comments.

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State of Play Episode 3

Last week, we saw the third episode of PlayStation’s State of Play series. I thought I’d review it since it’s become a bit of a habit to do so. While not the most exciting gaming presentation we’ve seen this month, it certainly had its moments. So let’s get right into it.

The interesting thing about State of Play, is that Sony does time better than Nintendo. Nintendo’s most recent Direct was just under 40 minutes. They showed a lot but in a lot of ways the presentation sort of dragged on. I feel this way about most Directs. They cover a lot but there’s also a lot of fat that makes the presentation feel longer than it needs to be. I’m fine with this and actually love the way Nintendo does Directs for the most part, but it is something to acknowledge. The best way I can describe it is that when I get to the end of a Nintendo Direct I’m usually ready for it to be over. I wouldn’t say that about State of Play.

nintendo direct 9-4The third State of Play was about 20 minutes. By the end of it I was shocked that it was already over. It’s so streamlined with almost no fat to trim at all. And it gets right to the point. There’s no speaker introduction or speech about the happenings on at Sony. It’s just right into the games, which I personally really appreciate since I’m always busy when trying to watch them. The presentation opened with a new game. It was indie but it was effective. You instantly know why you’re there and what to expect. And in that 20 minutes they showed quite a bit.

My one peeve, which both Sony and Nintendo have become guilty of, is that they keep using these presentations to plug merch and hardware. They brought up Death Stranding, but in true Death Stranding style, didn’t actually say anything about the game. They just used the time to announce and advertise a Death Stranding themed PS4 Pro bundle. That’s not the kind of content that should be featured in these sorts of presentations. Just stick to games and gameplay content focused announcements and showings. But again, the presentation was so short that it didn’t really detract too much with that wasted time anyway.

death strandingNow let’s talk about the specific announcements that were made during State of Play Episode 3, in no particular order.

The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II got another trailer with more story details and a huge reveal of Joel making his way back into the game. This was definitely expected but it’s important that this news was finally confirmed. Also we were given a hard release date of February 21st, 2020. That’s not far off at all. I really need to take the time to play The Last of Us Part I DLC. The game looks great and it’s certainly going to be a GOTY contender for next year.

PlayStation Plus Free Games for October: The Last of Us Remastered & MLB The Show 19 

The free games for October were announced during the presentation. I don’t necessarily like time being wasted for that, unless it was the day the games were going live, but they clearly did it this way because it tied into The Last of Us Part II news. Honestly I get why they did The Last of Us Remastered but I don’t like the decision. Because it’s not even the first time they’ve given The Last of Us on PS Plus. We definitely got it before. Not for a long time, but I’m sure it was a freebie previously. I don’t have a problem with MLB The Show 19 being given, but it’s kind of cheesy to give out a sports game when we know the annual sequel is about to drop soon anyway. Both games are extremely low effort freebies hidden behind AAA veneer. I won’t be playing either of them because I already beat one of them and have no interest in the other.

ps plus 10-2019The Story of Modern Warfare

I don’t buy COD. I’ve never bought COD. I never will buy COD. But I do appreciate that since Advanced Warfare back in 2014, the franchise has made it a point of trying to make single player campaigns that matter. They’ve taken the time to invest in quality actors like Kevin Spacey and Kit Harrington over the last several years and they really do care about not being seen as the PVP shooter with garbage writing now. And I will say that the story trailer they showed during the State of Play was quite intriguing. And that’s not the first time I’ve said that since Advanced Warfare. So while I won’t be buying this latest Modern Warfare, I do commend Activision for finally taking single player seriously.

Humanity

The State of Play started with this crazy looking indie puzzle game that reminded me of games like The Last Guy. It looks weird and very Japanese and I’m totally interested. For an indie price and a good demo, I’ll definitely be picking this one up. And the fact that Sony decided to start the presentation with that instead of one of the heavy hitters shown in this State of Play is really cool.

Introducing the Limited Edition Death Stranding PS4 Pro Bundle

As I said, this sort of thing really annoys me and it’s not even the first time Sony has done it in only three State of Play episodes. Taking time just to plug yet another PS4 bundle rather than talk about the actual game is annoying. And honestly the PS4 doesn’t even look that good. It’s the controller that comes with the bundle that’s much more interesting. If they’d sell that separately they’d probably sell a lot more units than bundling a PS4 Pro this late in the gen.

death stranding ps4 bundleMediEvil PS4 Demo

I’ve been excited about this MediEvil remake since the first announcement. In Nintendo style, they dropped the demo during the State of Play and included a special bonus item for playing it. Conceptually, that’s really cool. But honestly that demo is trash. It was so short and uneventful that they might as well have just given me the special helmet just for downloading it. I completed the demo in just 26 minutes and more than half of that was reading books and watching cutscenes. There wasn’t even a boss fight in the game. I tried it before the demo at Gamescom and was already sold and I do appreciate getting the special item for playing the demo, but from a gameplay standpoint it was pretty much a complete waste of time.

Civilization VI Comes to PS4 November 22

Taking another page from Nintendo, they’ve ported Civilization VI to the PS4. I don’t really care since I don’t play Civ and the game came out three years ago, but I guess I appreciate the fact that games are getting ported to more platforms. I guess the port looked fine for Civ.

Arise: A Simple Story

This indie game looks beautiful. It’s seems to be a fantasy journey with a foundation of dark themes and puzzle based gameplay. The art style is beautiful yet subtle. And the protagonist is an older guy that’s past his prime, which is something I always like in storytelling.

Wattam

I love Katamari Damacy. I still remember when I got the first one for PS2 from a GameStop near my childhood home. And I only discovered it because Toonami did a review of it back when they used to do game features. So when I heard that a new game was coming from the creator of Katamari I was excited. But Wattam looks really weird. It wasn’t as clear as Katamari is at a glance. I didn’t really understand the gameplay after watching the trailer. But Katamari is weird so there’s no reason I shouldn’t give Wattam a chance. I hope they release a demo so I can make an informed buying decision.

L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files for PS VR

I don’t really care about L.A. Noire, which is funny because I’m from LA and I’ve often complained about the lack of games set there outside of GTA, if you count Los Santos. But L.A. Noire has never seemed interesting to me. Making it a VR game with special cases is a good idea, but I’m certainly not buying it. And I do take issue with the fact that it’s already on PS4 so people are being asked to repurchase it for a VR version.

la noire psvrAfter The Fall on PS VR 

Another VR FPS game. But this one has four player co-op so that’s nice. The game doesn’t look bad. I just don’t care about it because I’m not a fan of the genre and I don’t have a VR headset.

After-The-FallGorn on PS VR

Gorn is an interesting look battle game. It seems a bit more the type of game I’d want to play in VR. I think a lot more can be done with PSVR and I’m glad we’re finally seeing some more innovative stuff like Iron Man and this.

Stardust Odyssey Announced for PS VR

It’s hard to say at this point what I think of Stardust Odyssey. It looks like a space VR game in the style of No Man’s Sky leaning a little towards Starlink: Battle for Atlas. But the trailer showed during the State of Play, like the NMS pre-release trailers, makes the game look more impressive than it probably is.

Stardust-Odyssey-psvrUltimately I didn’t find this State of Play that impressive but I once again will commend Sony for using these presentations to show indie games that most of the public otherwise wouldn’t be aware of. And doing the release demos during the presentation thing was a great way to directly connect the audience with the content. And not just the content shown. By announcing the MediEvil trailer, I ended up going into the demos section of the PSN store and discovered a number of other demos I didn’t know even existed. Like Code Vein and Contra Rogue Corps. So this State of Play was even able to connect me with other games on PSN that weren’t shown. That’s the absolute best a company could hope for with these sorts of endeavors. There was some blatant fat that could be trimmed from what was already a short presentation. But if they did these more often then I’d be less irritated by the unnecessary hardware plugs and junk announcements. I do hope we continue to see this concept grow for Sony.

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Choose Your Weapon

This is kind of a weird post. It’s honestly more stream of consciousness than me making any particular point or argument. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently so I wanted to write about it.

There are so many types of controllers for games these days. When I was a kid, there were very few options for controlling your games. You were pretty much stuck with the controller based on the platform you were playing on. Or a keyboard/mouse when playing on PC. There were a few specialty options like joysticks for flight simulators and racing wheels. And there were some third party controller redesigns, but really these didn’t change the controllers. Just the size and grips on them. For the most part you used a certain controller for a certain type of game or in the case of certain games like fighters, you could play them at home with a controller or at an arcade with the traditional stick and buttons layout. In general though, pretty much everyone moved Mario the same way at any given time.

crash n sane

Today controllers are no longer platform or even generation specific. Between adapters, third party full redesigns, first party specialty designs, and custom made control mechanisms, people can play games with whatever they want now. And by whatever they want I mean there are people who literally play games with bananas. I remember the first time I used an emulator on my PC. I played a Nintendo game on a PC with a PlayStation controller. The whole thing seemed like blasphemy. Now I can play Crash Bandicoot on the Nintendo Switch with a DualShock 4 designed to look like an XBOX 360 controller, completely blending if not all out destroying the lines between platform, generation, and originally intended gameplay design. It’s a beautiful thing. Yet I can’t help but wonder if this level of customization isn’t ruining the experience of at least some games.

When Cuphead was first announced, I really wanted to play it but it was an XB1 exclusive so I was fairly certain that I was never going to get to play it. Then later they ported it to PC. Now you can even get it on Switch. I got it on PC, but I probably would have gone for the Switch version if I had known that was going to be a thing. As a person who doesn’t own an XB1, I opted to try out Cuphead with a PS4 DS4 controller. This was easy for me to do because I have an adapter that allows me to connect my DS4 or Wii U Pro controller to my PC or Switch to use with any game I want. I don’t have any particular rationale for why I chose the DS4 over the Wii U Pro Controller for Cuphead. It was just the controller that was hooked up when I started the game. And I was absolutely not going to play a fast paced run and gun platformer with a keyboard and mouse. Some people can do that. Sadly I am not one of those people.

Cuphead

I connected with Cuphead fairly quickly. It’s a beautiful game with fairly accessible mechanics and difficult but seemingly balanced challenges. I easily cleared the tutorial and even managed to do the jump dash on the first try. I liked it and wanted to beat it. But I struggled so much while playing it. I started with The Root Pack as my first boss. This was very difficult for me. More difficult than a first boss in a game should be. But one of the most widely talked about aspects of the game was its difficulty. So I, like any seasoned Dark Souls player who can’t find any summoning symbols, decided that it was my lacking skills and that I just had to get gud. It took me several tries but I did finally manage to defeat The Root Pack. Then I faced Ribby and Croaks. I couldn’t beat them. I tried and I tried and I tried but I could not bring them down. I continued to blame my own lacking skills, but as an experienced gamer I eventually felt like maybe it just wasn’t balanced properly. Sadly my pride got the best of me and I stopped playing rather than allowing myself to play on easy mode. I said I’d return to the game eventually but never really did.

Recently I received a free XB1 controller. I had wanted one for PC gaming for a long time, because many games on Steam, and PC in general, are optimized for XB1 controllers rather than PS4 or Nintendo ones. But seeing as how I had multiple controllers that I could use with PC games, it seemed like a waste of money to go buy an XB1 controller I didn’t actually need. Ironically I ended up having to spend $40 to get a charge pack and wireless dongle to properly use the XB1 controller the way I wanted to, so really I didn’t save any money. But that’s beside the point. In order to test my new controller, I started up Cuphead. This wasn’t because I had a desire to return to the game, but really just because it’s one of the only games on my PC that doesn’t require me to login to a launcher to use, since I bought it from the Microsoft Store and keep it saved in my start menu to motivate me to play it.

Current Gen

I loaded up the game and challenged Ribby and Croaks again. I lost a few rounds but I quickly became aware of how close I was to defeating them. Was it this new controller or had my skills improved with no practice over the last several months? Ultimately I defeated them and went on to quickly defeat a number of other levels before getting stuck again. But now I knew for certain that I was good enough to play Cuphead. Why had my skills improved so much so unexpectedly? It had to be the controller. But why would/should that be the case?

I love the DS4 controller. I prefer it to the XB1 controller any day of the week. I like symmetrical joysticks. I like symbols instead of letters on the main buttons. And though I almost never use it for the games I play, I appreciate having the touchpad. I also liked the DS3 over the XBOX 360 controller. I don’t think it’s a better controller. I just think it feels better to me. I also really like the Wii U Pro controller. It’s the main reason I bought my adapter in the first place. So I can use it on my Switch instead of paying $70 for a Switch Pro controller.

8bitdo

My preference for the DS4 and Wii U Pro is why I invested in adapters instead of just buying an XB1 controller originally. I knew the XB1 controller would be easier from a technology standpoint to use for PC gaming. But I don’t prefer the controller. Yet I have to admit that based on my limited amount of data, I’m noticeably better at Cuphead with an XB1 controller over a DS4. I’ve had similar experiences before. Last year I got The Crew 2 for PC. I first tried to play it with a Wii U Pro controller and it was absolute garbage. Absolutely horrendous experience even though that same controller is great for Mario Kart. Then I tried it with a DS4 and it was great. I also remember trying Hyper Light Drifter for the first time with a keyboard and mouse. It was so bad that I quit the game before even reaching the first boss and never wanted to play it again. This was before I had my adapter for PC. Later I got the game for PS4 through PS Plus and decided to try it again, now with a DS4. That game is amazing with a DS4.

It’s odd to me that the controller matters so much for some games. Especially in 2019 where there are so many varying controller options. You can even get a PS4 controller that’s built to the shape of an XB1 controller. So the fact that games seem to feel wrong when using certain controllers should be considered problematic within the current trend of customized controller options for literally any game. There are definitely some limiting factors to consider. Latency caused by adapters can be an issue. It’s not something I often feel like I’m experiencing but there are definitely times where I do. Button customization is also still not widespread enough within software itself. I often still find games that either don’t have button customization, or the PC version of the game’s button customization isn’t functioning properly with a controller. It could also be the adapter causing the game to not to properly allow the button customization to work I guess. But in my experience, the controller you play a game with can make a huge difference in how that game feels and plays.

Onyx Hori

If the specific controller used matters when playing a game is it intentional or just a coincidence? I now genuinely believe that Cuphead was made to be played with an XB1 controller. And this makes sense because it was originally released as an XB1 exclusive. But now you can play it on PC or Switch. Is this OK? Is it acceptable for developers to create games to be played with a specific controller and then release those games to other platforms where that controller isn’t a viable option? Of course it’s legal. And obviously publishers will do it because it’s more profitable than a single platform release. But if a studio makes a game to be played with a specific controller, are we not as gamers lowering the caliber of our gameplay experience by using the “incorrect” controller?

Like I said, I don’t really have a conclusive final thought or argument with this post. Just some ideas I was thinking about controllers and the controller ecosystem we have today. I know that I will almost exclusively use my XB1 controller for PC gaming, when not using a keyboard/mouse, from here on out. But at the same time I still favor the DS4 and will continue to do the bulk of my gaming on PS4. What are your thoughts on controllers? Have you had an experience where you tried out two different controllers for the same game and noticed that one seemed superior for that particular game?

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Taipei Game Show 2019

Once again, I had the pleasure of attending Taipei Game Show this year. It’s one of my favorite shows because of how hands on it is. It’s also one of the better game conventions that’s both completely open to the public and extremely affordable, with a single day ticket price of just $10. I will say though that the ticket price is up 50% from last year so while it’s not high, that increase in price percentage wise is worrying for the future of the show. I will qualify that statement by saying Taipei Game Show is one of the best shows for high quality free swag that’s open to the public. Every year I get a fairly good haul of stuff I probably don’t need and this year was no different.

The best thing about gaming events in Taiwan is the large number of playable demos. I’ve been to company specific events like PlayStation Gaming Festival Taipei and neutral events like Taipei Game Show over the last few years and consistently events in Taiwan always focus on having playable demos open to the public rather than just footage and demos only available for VIP invited visitors. This is the main reason I keep going back every year.

sega booth

In general, I’d say this was a weaker show than last year’s. At last year’s show, the bulk of games on display to try were unreleased titles or games that were very new. At this year’s show there was plenty of new stuff that hadn’t been released yet, but there were also a lot of demos for stuff that was already out.  Even some stuff that I’d already beaten. Take the Ubisoft booth for instance. They had Just Dance 2019 on their main stage, which is fine because they always have that year’s Just Dance running with people dancing because it makes for a good show. But their other offerings were lacking. They of course had The Division 2 Beta and that’s exactly what should have been there. That was the main portion of their booth. But the only other games they had on display to try were Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and Trials Rising. That means of the five games they had on display three of them had already been released last year. And I personally own all three of them so unless you wanted to wait in line for over an hour to try The Division 2, which I didn’t having already played the alpha, I just tried Trials Rising, which I’ll discuss in detail in my demos review section of this post.

It wasn’t just Ubisoft that was featuring a lot of already released stuff though. Bandai Namco always has a large booth, and this year was no different. But the only game I tried from them was God Eater 3. The main focus of their booth was Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, which makes sense because it literally came out this month. But they were featuring demos for Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun!, Katamari Damacy Reroll, and a bunch of Gundam stuff that’s focused on the Asia market that I’ve never heard of, as per usual. The only game that they had that was truly special for a show was One Piece World Seeker, which I didn’t even get to try because I didn’t realize they had it until the show was closing for the day. They did no special promotion for it. No large display, which they had for two or three other games, including Ace Combat 7, no posters, no special One Piece swag. They just had it set up on a few screens and you had to notice it on your own, which sadly I didn’t.

bandai booth

As usual, there was no XBOX presence there. Other than PC gaming, which is a big thing at the show every year, Microsoft has no showings at Taipei Game Show. You can buy some PS4 and Switch games at the show every year, but not a single XB1 game could be found. Speaking of which, they had physical copies of Kingdom Hearts III available which is awesome because the game launched in Taiwan the day I attended, which shows just how on top of their game SONY really was for the show.

The thing I found most disappointing about the show this year was the limited Nintendo presence. They didn’t take the time to show up in person like PlayStation does every year. You only get glances of the Switch through third party developers/publishers like Ubisoft and Bandai Namco. But an actual Nintendo booth and store would have been so much better. PlayStation had their own official booth and store, selling new physical games and merch, like they do every year. You could even buy Death Stranding t-shirts this year, though they didn’t have any new footage or gameplay for the game being shown, because of course they didn’t. In a way PlayStation is uncontested just about every year at Taipei Game Show because they put in the investment to make a spectacular booth and feature a huge number of playable demos including PSVR offerings. Most of the demos I played at the show this year, as is true every year, were at the PlayStation booth. And really I don’t think it should be that way. It simply is because enough other companies don’t care enough to participate, which is sad to say the least.

playstation booth

On the PC side of things, it was kind of disappointing because though most of the big Asian players attended such as Nvidia, HyperX, Gigabyte, Cooler Master, ASUS ROG, MSI, and even ThermalTake, they all focused on parts rather than games. They were selling parts in their booths, which is fine, but really that was the main focus of their booths. Showing off and selling products that could be used for gaming rather than focusing on actual gaming. And while this makes perfect sense from a business perspective, as these are hardware companies, it really detracts from the spirit of the show. They could do a lot more to feature more playable demos for new and yet to be released games and make that the focus of their booths while showing off their hardware. In my opinion, this would be the more appropriate way to do things. Of all the PC booths I saw, only ASUS ROG had a demo for an unreleased game. They had a small section where you could try out the PC version of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice as evidenced by a single mid-sized poster on the far side of their booth. In comparison, PlayStation had a giant statue of one of the game’s bosses and a small Japanese hut shaped structure where you could try out the game complete with Japanese style stools/backless chairs. This was the only PlayStation demo I experienced that did not require you to stand. The point is that PlayStation put in that much investment to display a game that isn’t even exclusive to their platform, meanwhile these PC companies were doing the bare minimum to talk about actual games.

cm booth

On the swag front, I’m always really impressed most by the mobile app companies and indie studios. It shows just how much money mobile apps make in Asia, because their swag is on a whole other level compared to companies like PlayStation and Nvidia. The swag for the PlayStation booth was game specific. Meaning you got different stuff for trying different games, with most games having no special items at all. Every PlayStation demo gave you red envelopes with a 7 day free trial for PlayStation plus. This is very standard for Taipei Game Show as it always happens right before Chinese New Year, so the envelopes are culturally specific to Asia. Over the years I’ve gotten red envelopes from numerous brands. This year only PlayStation had them. But certain games also gave you special items for trying them. Dead or Alive 6 gave a lanyard and collectors pin. A VR game called Focus on You gave a full sized couch pillow. But most of the time you just got the envelopes. And remember that this is after waiting forever in those long PlayStation lines. Meanwhile some random mobile app company gave me a fairly large stuffed cow, which I named Mr. Moo Cow, for trying three apps over the course of maybe 10 minutes. I will clarify that trying the three apps gave me the chance to draw a prize and that’s what I won, but they had lots of great prizes and plenty of those cows to give away.

An indie PC game studio that I’ve never heard of gave me a full length mousepad of very good quality. Again I drew this, but the same logic applies. SEGA gave out blue lanyards. Nvidia made me travel to five different locations around their booth as well as one at another booth they were partnered with for the chance to draw a prize, which ultimately got me a Monster energy drink and some stickers. Of all the larger companies at the show, I’d have to say the best single swag item was from Bandai Namco. It was a Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! themed neck pillow. But it required you to try five different games they had on display, all of which had their own separate lines. Sadly I didn’t have time to complete this. I even offered to pay for the pillow because I really wanted one and they refused to let me buy it. Overall I was very happy with my swag haul, but my point is the larger companies in the industry really could stand to step their game up.

swag tgs 2019

I will say though that Ubisoft impressed me this year by thinking more outside the box with their swag. Last year they had a system where you tried any game, of which they had several compared to this year, and you got a prize draw. You went to the claims table and they had you play a Just Dance themed prize machine like the one in Just Dance 2018 and you won a random prize, of which they had a large variety of prizes you could win. I got an Assassin’s Creed Origins t-shirt, a Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle t-shirt, and a Rabbid Mario hat. It was a really nice system because most of the prizes were really good and the system was entirely random so you didn’t have to wait to try a game you didn’t necessarily want to try to get the swag you wanted. It did however mean that you could get swag you absolutely didn’t want or repeat prizes. They also had a special For Honor keychain which was only available to those who waited in line to try that specific game, which I of course did. This year they didn’t have general swag. You only got a 5% coupon to the Taiwan UPLAY online store. But their game specific swag for The Division 2 was very creative. You got a “Tommy the Teddy Bear” backpack charm which consists of a teddy bear with a bowtie and a The Division 2 keychain. But the really cool part is that it comes with an in game activation code that will give your character in the game the teddy bear charm for their backpack as well. That’s cool swag. It makes a direct connection between the live event and the game. It’s limited edition, which players really care about for some reason, and it motivates people to buy the game. And it was still cheaper to make than the neck pillows or Mr. Moo Cow while being just as valuable to the gamers at the show. Kudos to Ubisoft.

tommy the teddy

Now let’s talk about what’s really important at game shows: the playable demos. I had the privilege to play seven AAA/large studio demos for games that weren’t yet released at my time of playing (I’m counting Kingdom Hearts III because it wasn’t available in the US for another four days) as well as a few indie titles. Sadly, the three indie titles I recall playing, one on PSVR and two on PC, weren’t anything special so I won’t take the time to go over them in this already long blog post. So let’s just talk about the big stuff. Please note that at Taipei Game Show demos only last 10 – 15 minutes due to the sheer number of people waiting to play. They simply can’t let people play for as long as I would have liked to, and that makes sense. So be aware that my assessment of these demos should be taken with a grain of salt because I didn’t have time to change any settings or get super comfortable with the controls. Also note that the demos in Taipei Game Show are mapped for Asian players, which is different from standard button maps in the West. For instance, on a DualShock 4 controller O is the confirm button in Asia, while X is the confirm button in the West. These sorts of things do really make a difference. I remember going to Taipei Game Show back in 2016 and trying Attack on Titan for the first time and absolutely hating it because of the button map and my inability to read the directions, since they’re always in Chinese or Japanese at Taipei Game Show. Then when I got to try the game at home with an American button map and English directions I absolutely loved the game.

red envelopes

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Of all the demos available, this was the one I was most excited to try. Obviously Kingdom Hearts III was more important overall, but that was set to release less than a week from the event so trying the demo for 10 minutes wasn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. Sekiro on the other hand is one of my top games for this year that won’t be out for some time. The only game I wanted to play more than Sekiro is Ghost of Tsushima, which sadly wasn’t available to play. Though they did have a giant poster and a guy dressed up like a samurai to promote the game and taunt my very soul. But thankfully I at least got to try the next great soulslike title.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was a rough demo experience. Obviously the game is difficult, which it should be. But it’s also not the same gameplay as Dark Souls or Bloodborne, so you can’t just walk on with that past experience and expect things to just click right away. This is a completely different animal. For starters, the pace of the gameplay is much faster than even Bloodborne. You’re zip-lining around the level, dealing with long range attacks like rifles, and having to dodge the view of spotters stealthily hidden throughout the world. It’s as much about stealth as it is about combat performance. And you are not very powerful in the grand scheme of things. Basic samurai go down in a few swipes, or instantly with a stealth kill. But even the first tier armored samurai were quite the amount of effort/attacks to take down. And the first mini-boss was pretty much impossible for me to bring down in the 10 minutes I had. This is because he had four other enemies in the area with him, two of which couldn’t be stealth killed. The three of them together were just too difficult for the items I had. The long range attacks are severely lacking. At least what was available to me in the demo. I really hope to be able to get a bow and/or rifle in the full game. I really hated the button map in this demo. I hate to be one of those people that makes excuses like that for not being able to beat a game, but honestly if I can’t remap that game and that’s the final layout for the US version, I’m gonna have a terrible time. It did not work for me at all. It’s not that it’s drastically different from Bloodborne. It’s that what you’re doing in Bloodborne with the controls is vastly different and that makes all the difference in the effectiveness of the button layout.

sekiro__shadows_die_twice_gx

I want to be clear in saying that I don’t think it’s a bad game after playing the demo. I’m fairly certain I’ll be buying the Collector’s Edition day one. It’s very challenging, which is what it’s supposed to be. But there are definitely things I want to see changed in the final product from what I experienced in the demo. That’s of course assuming the conditions leading up to the point in the game the demo took place in are inevitable for the items, skills, and damage I was getting in the demo. It’s very possible that the experience I’ll have based on my preferred play style will net drastically different outcomes from what I got in the demo.

Dead or Alive 6

I’m a big Dead or Alive fan and have been since I bought the third installment on the original XBOX 18 years ago. I had played the earlier games causally in arcades but DOA3 is when I really fell in love with the franchise. It’s still in my top five fighting franchises and I play every game. Really I don’t expect things to be too different from game to game and I prefer it that way because the DOA formula is nearly perfect in my opinion. I just want some new fighters, new stages, and maybe some new special moves and I’m pretty much fine with it.

What I got from this demo is almost exactly what I wanted. The graphics are good. The roster includes all the characters I wanted, including Hyabusa, and the gameplay is much the same. There are some new specialty attacks, similar to what you get in the latest Soul Calibur, but by and large it’s the same buttery smooth, fast paced gameplay fans of the franchise are accustomed to. There was also a great selection of costumes for all the fighters. I’m very much looking forward to playing this game.

doa6

Devil May Cry 5

I’ve never beaten any of the DMC games, unless you count DmC: Devil May Cry (2013) by Ninja Theory. But I’ve always wanted to play them all. I’ve been very impressed by the things I’ve seen about DMC5 so I finally bought  1 – 4 remastered on PS4. The DMC5 demo delivered both what I wanted and expected. It’s fast paced, smooth, visually gruesome, and slightly comedic. I was very happy with the gameplay, though I do feel that I didn’t fully understand the robotic hand system they implemented. I thought it was a bit weird, but I also liked that you could completely destroy your hand and then have to fight with one arm. The different arm types were cool as well because it allowed you to create a more customized gameplay experience based on your preferences. The gameplay was fair. I’d recommend playing this one on hard if you’re a hardcore fan of the franchise or genre. I beat the boss in the demo with little fear of dying. But overall I was very happy with it and I’ll certainly be buying the game.

devil-may-cry-5

God Eater 3

God Eater is a franchise I’ve always been interested in but never had the time to really play. I actually own the first two games on PC, but I’ve never played either of them. I really like the genre because of games like Toukiden and Monster Hunter World. But when you have games like Monster Hunter World available the motivation to take the time to play anything else in the genre becomes sorely lacking. But I still wanted to try this demo.

Personally I struggled a lot with this demo. A large part of that comes from the fact that it wasn’t in English. I had such a hard time trying to figure out the weapons controls. I kept accidentally changing from the sword to the gun mode and then couldn’t get the gun to fire properly. The demo had me running around looking for monsters but very few were spawning in the level. I actually ran out of time before the real monster showed up so my whole demo experience was really lousy. I hope they release a public demo because I’d genuinely like to try it again with a full understanding of how the gameplay mechanics work before passing final judgement. That is to say the game is not at all intuitive.

god-eater-3

Kingdom Hearts III

I have waited more than a decade to play Kingdom Hearts III. I have watched as Square Enix dished out garbage handheld spin off title after garbage handheld spin off title. I have seen Sora travel to worlds that made up my childhood and fight alongside some of my favorite characters growing up. But in all these years I have never seen his story get a proper conclusion. It is my hope that I will finally get this in Kingdom Hearts III. No I did not need to play a demo for a game that will literally be released before this blog post is even published. But of course I took the time to wait in line and play it anyway.

The game dropped me directly into Toy Story world. I don’t know how far into the game that was/is, but it seemed like it was quite a ways in because I was really OP. I could combo through the air for what seemed like forever. I had magic attacks that were super powerful. It was definitely fun but it did not feel earned. The team up moves were amazing and quite beautiful. I also really liked that Buzz and Woody fought alongside me without me having to sacrifice Donald or Goofy from my team. The demo definitely did its job in making me excited to play the game. But I’m hoping they don’t just drop me in at that level of power from the start. The gameplay was very smooth overall, as is to be expected. And the AI for my team mates was very effective as well. I can’t comment on Donald’s healing AI/ability at this point because I didn’t take enough damage to require healing.

kingdom hearts 3

At the end of the day, I already preordered the game months ago so playing the demo didn’t matter much to me or have any impact on my decision to buy and play the game. But I am really looking forward to finally getting to play it. As I write this post, I’m preloading it onto my PS4.

Space Channel 5 PSVR

I didn’t actually know this game was in the works. Space Channel 5 was one of my favorite games from the Dreamcast. It’s one of the only games that I enjoyed with my sisters as a kid. Even my mom liked watching us play it. I’m a big music/rhythm game fan and SC5 was one of the best from that era. The blend of story, challenging gameplay, and sci-fi graphics made for a great music game experience. And it featured Michael Jackson. So I was both shocked and ecstatic to find out that a VR version of the game was in the pipeline and available to try.

I have to say that it worked very well gameplay wise. You really had to do the moves and keep to the rhythm. It was responsive, mostly fair in its judgement of your move accuracy, and quite fun. The demo didn’t have any of the more challenging dance battles because it was only the first level, but from what I experienced I think it could end up being a stellar overall gameplay experience. What I didn’t like was that they changed the level structure and presentation. In the original game you play as Ulala and travel through the stages dance battling aliens and rescuing people along the way. In this demo you played as Ulala’s trainee and the entire concept of traveling through the stage was removed. You just stayed in the same place the entire level and the aliens came to you, bringing their hostages along with them. This lazy way of doing the level really took away from the overall experience of the original game. And playing as a trainee was kind of a bummer. Especially since she never talked back to Ulala. I would have much preferred an entirely new story as the third installment of the franchise with this new system rather than change up the process of the original game in this manner. The gameplay is quite solid though so hopefully we’ll see something like that in the future whether it’s Space Channel 5 or a new IP altogether.

sapce channel 5

Trials Rising

I only tried this game because I played and liked the beta for Trials Fusion and didn’t want to play Starlink: Battle for Atlas or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, both of which I already own. And I certainly wasn’t going to wait two hours to try The Division 2 beta. Especially after having already played the alpha. So I tried the one game that was completely new to me.

Trials Fusion is extremely hard. I’m so glad you can continue from the very plentiful and automatically applied checkpoints because wow is it difficult to get past the various obstacles in a given course. The ramps and angles are so unforgiving. Timing is everything and you rely on luck way too much. I crashed so many times trying to get through a single course that it got depressing. I don’t know who the target audience is for that game but it’s certainly not me.

trials rising

The only two demos that I didn’t get to play but really wanted to were One Piece World Seeker and Concrete Genie. Both of these were under marketed, as in not marketed at all, so I wasn’t even aware of them till the booths were already closing up for the day. This was probably my biggest complaint from the show this year. There simply wasn’t enough put into providing people with information. Usually there’s an information booth in every main intersection. This year there was nothing. No people walking around to ask for directions. No help desk inside the floor. You could get assistance about specific booths from booth employees, but for general help about the show you were on your own with nothing more than a printed map, which I had to go out of my way to find because they weren’t handing them out at the door like they always have in past years that I’ve attended. There should have been a list of playable demos made available online before the show started so you could plan what you wanted to try in advance.

One thing I noticed about a number of demos, both indie and AAA, was that many of them had intros that were way too long. If you tell me I only have 10 – 15 minutes to try out a game, less than a minute of that should be taken up by story introductions. I didn’t wait in line for an hour to get plot points. I just want to try the gameplay and see the graphics. Between that and loading times, so many games were just wasteful in their time management of that 10 – 15 minute span of time. A VR demo I tried from an indie studio had me sit through 10 minutes of introduction with Chinese subtitles and not enough volume before I got to fire a single bullet. This is not OK.

just dance bracelet
My prize for competing.

I’ll end this post by sharing a rather interesting experience I had at the Ubisoft booth. If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re probably aware that I’m a big Just Dance player/fan. Though I’ve never formally competed, based on my online performance for the past two or three installments of the franchise, I genuinely believe and tell people that I’m in the top five players in Taiwan. At least on Nintendo platforms. While I was at the Ubisoft booth waiting in line, I mentioned to one of the employees that spoke English that I was a big fan of the franchise and that I was a top player in Taiwan. As they do every year, they had Just Dance, 2019 in this case, running on the stage. But this year they allowed anyone to walk up and play rather than limit it to invited guest players only like they usually do. I actually didn’t want to play because I had only played about three hours of Just Dance 2019 at this point, having just opened the game earlier in the week. This employee went and told the guy in charge of the Just Dance section of the booth that I claimed to be a top player. He, also being able to speak English, came and asked me if I’d play. I felt like I had to at this point otherwise it would look like I was lying about my skill level. After reaching the stage, they introduced me to the host and Ubisoft’s brand ambassador for Just Dance in Taiwan. The host seemed to be an active Just Dance player but he wasn’t actually playing at that time. The brand ambassador was introduced to me as the number one player in Taiwan. I chose to introduce myself by my Just Dance online name rather than my real name and to my surprise they both recognized my Nintendo Switch User ID from previous Just Dance versions. The brand ambassador was quite good. He had already mastered all the 2019 songs, which makes sense if you started playing it day one because it’s been out since October. I just got a late start because I usually close out the year with the previous version before starting the installment for the next year. I will say without argument that he was better than I was consistently. But of the four to five players playing, I was getting second place and the ambassador was not blowing me out of the water. At times I was even ahead of him but he was ultimately closing out each song in the lead. I actually really would have liked to play against him in some songs from 2018 because I do believe that I was at his level of play. Ultimately they interviewed me after I was done playing and featured my interview in this official Ubisoft Taipei Game Show video. See if you can figure out who I am.

So that’s it for another solid Taipei Game Show. Here’s looking forward to a great year of gaming and attending again next year.

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