Despite the country being on lockdown and me working from home, my time has actually decreased from before. Figure that one out. Hint: baby.
What I have been doing in extremely limited bursts though, is playing though Metro: Exodus. My overall impression is… better than expected.
The Metro series has been an interesting experience. I reviewed the first game way back in 2012, and the key takeaway was that it was one of the best “authentic” gaming simulations at the time. Features that might otherwise be annoying actually felt right, such as having to pump up your flashlight battery as you explore subway tunnels. The second title was similar, although I seem to recall a truly ridiculous number of “knock you unconscious so we can show exposition” sections. Like, serious traumatic brain injury levels of blackouts.
Exodus starts out in the tunnels and I was not really feeling it. You kinda have to be in a mood to enjoy jump scares and such, right? When the game opened up into an almost Far Cry 3+ way though, it almost felt like too much. You have a map (Far Cry 2-style) and markers, but was it really a Metro experience to just… walk around wherever?
It is, and I like it. Or maybe I’m just getting Fallout vibes and liking that.
Indeed, in addition to pumping up the flashlight, you now have to scavenge for materials to create bullets and repair your gear. There is some minimum level of crafting you can do anywhere, and there are workbenches scattered about to complete bigger tasks like making grenades. Some human enemies drop weapon mods you can otherwise permanently learn, with others being tucked away in remote areas of the world.
There is definitely a tension with exploring though. As usual for the series, the mutants you kill drop nothing. Which itself is a surprisingly uncommon game design mechanism, if you think about it. The result is that sneaking and avoiding enemies is encouraged, which heightens the tension considering how much simpler it’d be to stealth kill them instead. The difficulty I’m on (Normal) doesn’t make avoiding fights necessary, but I do find myself tackling most missions during the daytime, which increases the amount of human enemies, who do drop gear and are easier to take out anyway. Aside from that, the other tension is the lack of fast travel. Exploring is fun and all, until you get to a point where you have to traverse the map in the opposite direction a few times.
I’m not sure how far along in the game I am, but it’s going well. We shall see if Metro: Exodus loses steam or pushes through to the end.
All my… what?
I am facepalming over here a little bit, but not necessarily for the reasons you might expect.
First, that trailer is just bad. Not in the “they got a British female amputee in my authentic WW2 sim!!1!” way, but in the very standard “this is an incoherent mishmash of themes” way. There’s a part halfway through when you see a squad of soldiers running away, and I was trying to figure out if they were on my (the viewer’s) team or not. And what the hell was with that “fire twice, then immediately reload” crap? Some people have complained about the Michael Bay-ness of the whole thing, but Battlefield has always had that element. If you don’t believe me, here is 21 minutes worth of Battlefield trailers.
Second, though… ugh, WW2? Why? What’s the point?
To be clear, I have zero issues with DICE introducing female soldiers, amputee soldiers, or any combination thereof. I have no issues with Braveheart-esque dudes in kilts, or people running around with katanas. BFV won’t be selling map packs anymore, so having a wide variety of wacky cosmetics is the trade-off we can expect. I don’t even have any issues with this laundry list of GamerGate-style criticisms. It’s completely fine, for example, that the developers wanted a more “authentic” experience with BF1 and have since changed their mind with BFV.
The one criticism in that thread that rings true, though?
Why didnt they just said right away its WW2 Dieselpunk Alt History something. Alot of people wanna have this anyway but claiming it just as an WW2 game was a fail.
I want that dieselpunk game now. And it makes me question why that wasn’t the direction they wanted to take BFV. I don’t feel that Battlefield should be beholden to “historical authenticity” at the expense of gameplay, but… why WW2 then? Why these specific fronts, with these specific armies, and aiming to tell the “untold stories” of WW2? Like seriously, I’m pretty sure the History Channel has told every damn WW2 story possible, else they would not have had to resort to broadcasting Ancient Aliens and Pawn Stars.
What also annoys me is how this trailer and the controversy it generates obscures all the cool shit they are implementing into the game. I have never been more excited to play a Medic/Support in a Battlefield game than I am right now. Towing around gun emplacements is whatever, digging foxholes in specified locations is kinda cool, and the hyper-focus on squad tactics fantastic. I can also see how all of it could be annoying nonsense, especially when the Medic starts dragging your body around and teabags you because you happened to have picked a female soldier.
Not looking forward to that.
In any case, my one hope for Battlefield V, regardless of anything else, is that it returns to the cool stories of BF2/3/4. The series is at it’s best when it generates videos like this one, with a dude ejecting out of a burning plane, sniping the enemy pilot, and then scrambling aboard the now-pilotless plane and continuing on. Battlefield 1 was a very pretty game, but it was also oppressive as shit in a very authentic WWI kind of way. I’m not looking for more of the that.
I beat Destiny 2’s single-player campaign a week or so ago. Haven’t touched it since.
If you were wondering if you could trust all the assessments about how the campaign is pretty standard sci-fi FPS fair, the gunplay being amazing, and then a hard transition from story into a grinding endgame… well, consider this another data-point on the graph of player experiences.
I was actually more impressed by the overall campaign than most, even though it’s pretty ridiculous from a premise stand-point based on what you actually see. I mean, it’s cliche to point out how the story treats you as basically a minor god amongst mortals – in this case, kinda literally – but that sort of criticism never really landed with me in most other contexts. Never bothered me in WoW quests, for example. However, in Destiny 2, they went through great pains to express the fact that you were the only one to receive your powers back. And then you finish whatever story mission you were on, to go grind public quests with a whole bunch of other people with their powers back, until you got a high enough GearScore to start the next story mission.
In any case, as soon as I finished the final mission and the wrap-up quests, I started researching on the internet what would be the most efficient way to get better gear. Was it Patrols? Public quests? Should I be doing some kind of Daily? Then I realized: “Oh, right, there have been two DLCs since launch.” Much like in MMO expansions, I could be getting better green gear killing the equivalent of boars if I threw down the cash to catch up to everyone else.
But I’m not, so I won’t, so I’m done.
In the scheme of things, I think the Humble Monthly was worth it. I’m pretty miserly when it comes to games, so I probably would not have been happy with a $12 Destiny 2 purchase by itself – not quite sure about how many hours I played, but the spectacle was almost good enough. Almost. But the odds that I will enjoy something else from the full bundle is decent enough that I still consider the entire transaction worth my while.
The latest Humble Monthly bundle has Destiny 2 as an early unlock. I’ve been subscribing month-to-month for a while now, and this was a no-brainer month to pay early.
Destiny 2 is the much maligned sequel to a game that should have been ported over to the PC the first time around. I am well aware that the endgame sucks, and that the (short?) campaign really just serves as a vehicle for expensive, disappointing DLC. Oh, and they actually removed content from the base game when the first DLC came out. Classic Activision Blizzard. Still, $12 is $12, and I wanted to see this train-wreck for myself.
You know, as a member of the Press©.
First impressions? It is a staggeringly beautiful game. Skyboxes are skyboxes, but D2’s are great. The gunplay thus far as been as good as they say as well.
Once out of the immediate tutorial area, I found the sort of free-roam mechanics rather interesting. The first mission had a recommend gearscore Power level of 30, and I only had 20 at the time, so I stuck around and randomly killed enemies with other strangers until enough loot dropped to take me over the finish line. There were periodic public events, so things didn’t take too long, but it was interesting seeing this sort of MMO-ish Public Quest mechanic in a FPS. I’m sure things get significantly less interesting once you’re no longer getting upgrades, but until then… wheee!
Regardless, I am still super early in the experience – or maybe not… heard the story is like 5-6 hours? – having just unlocked the free-roam areas on Titan. Not sure that I like the rock-paper-scissor style of weapons though. Yeah, it’s fine have energy weapons be better at breaking shields than kinetic weapons. But having energy weapons deal less damage to normal mobs than basically any kinetic weapon? That means I basically only have the one weapon to use 90% of the time. Also disappointed that fun stuff like shotguns are limited to the “power weapon” slot that competes with grenade launchers and such.
I’m basically treating this like a non-cel-shaded Borderlands, so I’ll enjoy the ride until I don’t.
I managed to play a few hours of the Star Wars Battlefront 2 (SWBF2) beta this past weekend. I had not actually played any of the prior titles in the series, nor does the Star Wars IP hold any particular cachet with me. I have played and been a fan of the Battlefield series for over a decade though, so my impressions are based more around that.
In short: it’s decent fun.
One of the first things that should be addressed is the Star Wars-ness. I mentioned that the series holds no particular cachet with me, but that does not mean I am unable to appreciate cool sci-fi battles when I see them. In this regard, SWBF2 hits some seriously good notes. Being a part of a Stormtrooper charge through a wooded area, blaster fire going every which way, is exactly as cool as you can imagine it being. I am also incredibly impressed by how the other map can cast the player as a Droid. I think the hitboxes are the same as the more common human ones, but it remains an interesting experience seeing your Droid teammates scurrying about.
The space battle map is whatever. I’m not a huge fan of flying vehicles in this or any Battlefield game, entirely because I lack whatever faculties are necessary to shake someone off my tail. I have fun shooting people, launching missiles, etc, then someone gets behind me and I inevitably die. I know that it’s possible to lose someone, because I have been “lost,” but I cannot do it.
On a mechanics level, the game has a pretty interesting approach. There are four base classes in the game, and each class has three abilities (in addition to different weapons). Abilities are all cooldown-based, with the exception of the Specialist’s Thermal Goggles, so there is always a tension between using it ASAP to eek out every possible advantage, or “saving it” for when you might really need it. Do you chuck a grenade in the off-chance someone is in that hallway, so that you can chuck a second one later? Or do you wait for a specific situation? Beyond that, the four classes themselves seem relatively balanced – Officers are pretty bad solo, but shine in groups – and each organically play out quite differently due to said abilities.
Where things falter quite a bit is in the teamplay department – the only teamplay is accidental.
Again, I come from a Battlefield background, and I also recognize that EA might not want to copy all (or any, apparently) of its systems. But the lack of squads, the regenerating health, infinite ammo, infinite abilities (after a cooldown), no spawnpoint choice, no revives, no Spotting… in every way, SWBF2 is an arcade shooter. I can appreciate the fact that some things wouldn’t make sense in the Star Wars universe – shock paddles bringing Storm Troopers back to life, etc – but there is so very little connecting you to the rest of your team unless you’re playing an Officer, who in every other way is worse than any other class you could have chosen.
The hero system sort of wraps this all up in a big bow. As you complete objectives and get kills, you earn battle points, which you can spend to respawn into battle as special characters, vehicles, etc. The money-shot heroes cost 5,000 points, which take a rather significant amount of time to accumulate, and thereafter lock your team out of choosing said hero until you die. From my few hours playing, I can say that the ones using Lightsabers are OP as shit, as they dance around one-shotting everyone, then dancing away to regenerate a health pool five times larger than normal. There are still some “more powerful than normal” options for the rest of us plebs, but there are still limited slots.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the current Star Cards P2W fiasco.
At the end of each match, you gain a number of Credits which can be spent in increments of 1000-1100 to purchase crates, which then hold three random “cards.” These cards can be improved abilities for any of the classes – including the heroes – or even alternative abilities that replace other ones. Or they can be cosmetic things, emotes, etc. Cards have different levels, with higher levels corresponding to better bonuses. At the beginning, you can only equip one Star Card, but as you gain more cards for a particular class/hero, that class/hero “levels up” and can equip up to three.
The fiasco part of this is that the entire system right now is pretty much naked Pay-2-Win. These crates can be unlocked during normal play, or you can unlock as many as dollar bills you have. Since character levels appear to be derived by how many Star Cards one has – as opposed to, you know, how long you have been playing said class/hero – not only will buying a ton of crates give you more options, they will specifically allow you to equip all of them. And these are direct power increases. Lower cooldowns, damage reduction, regenerating health, more “ammo” per clip, etc. It might not be impossible to take out a fully-decked out player as a brand new player – unless we’re talking about the Star Card that gives Boba Fett 100% damage reduction during Rocket Barrage – but in a FPS the margins between winning and losing are measured in milliseconds. Every percentage bonus counts. Especially when your target survives with 1 HP and regenerates to full a few seconds later.
As if that was not bad enough, the real problem here is that this is SWBF2’s entire progression system. While you can eventually earn a crafting currency to construct exactly the Star Card you desire, there is otherwise zero means to acquire better (or any) cards of a particular class. In the Battlefield series, playing as Assault will let you unlock more/better Assault abilities, using the same gun will unlock components for said gun, and so on. In SWBF2, it’s all lockbox RNG. I can appreciate the occasional incentive to try out a different class based on a good loot drop, but as the primary progression mechanism? That’s dumb.
The whole Star Cards thing probably deserves its own post, assuming you haven’t already read 37 variations by then. But, yeah, it’s basically as bad as it looks.
Unsurprisingly, the jury is still out.
As mentioned before, the game is decent fun. If you are looking for an arcade shooter and like Star Wars, then it is probably a no-brainer. If I were eventually purchase SWBF2, I expect it to follow the same trajectory as TitanFall 1 & 2, for the same reasons. Just something to play around with for a few hours here and there, to kill time. As opposed to the trajectories of Battlefield 2, 3, and 4, which remain mentally compelling and engaging to this day.
Unfortunately, I have missed the Destiny 2 beta window. Technically, I could still have picked the game up midweek and tried to squeeze in a few hours, but the GreenManGaming sale price went from -18% off MSRP to -10% by the time I remembered to check. That’s technically only about a $5 difference, but… Consumer Surplus, people. Fight for it.
The other complication is that I could technically purchase the game outright via the money I earned via selling WoW Tokens. It’s funny money, but I’m still averse to paying full price for anything. I would still plan on purchasing the next WoW expansion and a month or two to play it, and that is unlikely to go on a similar deep sale ahead of time. We’ll see.
All that aside, I do plan on picking up Destiny 2 on or around release. I have never played any of the original game or expansions, primarily due to not having the requisite console. I couldn’t even really tell you anything in particular about the game that caught my eye either.
If Destiny 2 is anything similar to Borderlands 2 though – which I believe it to be – then I will be satisfied with a outlet in which to shoot things in the face and collect its loot. Overwatch was supposed to be that outlet, but… not anymore.
About a year and half ago, I was excited about Overwatch in large part because it was new. I enjoy FPS games in general, and have spent countless hours over the years playing the Battlefield series. There were several titles though, such as Team Fortress 2, that I either tried and dropped or didn’t bother trying at all because of accretion:
the process of growth or increase, typically by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.
That’s the dictionary definition, but I used it this way: “the older a game gets, the less space exists for the ‘skill middle class,’ and the less the developers seem to care about catering to said group.”
For example, getting into Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2 these days, as a brand new player, would be an exercise in futility. Not only would you be useless to your team generally, your opponents are most likely extremely skilled veterans, and you are likely to die to mechanics/map secrets you don’t even understand yet. It is a frustrating situation for everyone involved, compounded twenty-fold considering the bile and vitriol that exists just below the thin skin of faceless internet gamers.
After this weekend in Overwatch, I can sadly report that the accretion is getting real there too.
The last time I talked about Overwatch was more than a year ago – ironically around the Summer Games, which are currently ongoing – and I stopped playing towards the end of the second competitive season. Competitive Mode was a necessary addition to the game overall, but I found it has actively made the Quick Play experience worse. First, naturally competitive players got their taste of what it’s like playing with people who actually want to win the objectives, which makes the Quick Play environment feel worse in comparison. Second, new players generally avoided Competitive Mode until they got more practice, lest they tank their ranking when it matters. And finally, the toxic tryhards that couldn’t try hard enough to be successful in Competitive Mode find themselves surrounded by other toxic tryhards and complete noobs in Quick Play all day long.
“Cream rises to the top.” Sure does. But once you remove that, everyone else is stuck drinking the creamless sediment that sunk to the bottom of the glass.
In short, the experience was awful. I stopped playing Overwatch before Ana was even released, so I’m four whole characters and countless patches behind the metagame curve. Team needs a tank? Okay, let me play… Orisa. That probably wasn’t the best pick for the team composition even if I had never played her before, but nobody else cared about team composition anyway (Hanzo and Windowmaker on a point control maps? Sure!), so why not?
Because it results in an embarrassing loss. I’m frustrated because I’m still trying to figure out the correct use of my abilities, but my team is also just bad players… unless they are just trying to figure out their characters… and oh my god just end it now. In another match, I decided to go back to my old standby, Zarya, to get a win. Things were good… until they weren’t, when I realized that the healer Ana spent more time sniping instead of healing. So here I was bringing my A-game with a hero I’m actually good at (but don’t want to play anymore) and everyone else is dicking around.
Wait a minute… now I’m the tryhard.
So, yeah, it sucks playing Overwatch now. If you never stopped playing, or exclusively play in Competitive Mode, perhaps it’s the same as its always been. Coming back from a break though, queuing solo in Quick Play? I’m not even sure I would ever recommend the game to anyone now. I would much rather be playing any iteration of the Battlefield series, where noobs can exist without constituting a full 16% of the team (6v6), or 100% of the teams chance for success should they occupy a critical role, e.g. tank or healer.
The accretion problem is real, my friends, and I’m not sure what the devs can do to counteract it. Overwatch does have Arcade Modes available, and something like “Mystery Heroes” where people get forced to play random classes can help. But these modes are not entirely satisfying on their own, and generally don’t help you develop the map awareness/strategies necessary to win “real” games.
There is basically one word that sums up Battlefield 1: oppressive.
Which, considering the war DICE is simulating, is pretty impressive.
“Impressive” might actually be selling BF1 short. There is a rather sublime confluence of game design and tone and setting going on. I mean, this is a Battlefield game and one that largely plays like BF4, BF3, and BF2 before it. I’ve played this series for over a decade, right? But let me tell you, when you’re playing the Operations game mode and hear that whistle and the yelling from a bayonet charge… well, you find yourself jumping out of the trenches and joining your brethren rushing the front line just the same.
Part of what makes this possible are the extremely limited and almost universally bad weapons. Which is a rather weird thing to say, I realize. The Assault and Support classes have automatic guns, but they are largely inaccurate without going prone or bracing against cover. The Medic class has a semi-auto rifle that hits like a truck, but is terrible at hip fire. The Scout class has all the sniper rifles, which are more infuriating than normal due to needing to spend most of your time in cover.
What this ends up doing is encouraging the exact tactics I described before: charging the front lines. There is no “slow and steady” here – there is melee range shooting or being sniped from 200 yards.
The map design absolutely influences things as well. Only the Scout has the ability to create temporary “radar” to find enemies, which means there could be enemies hiding out in every corner of every ruined structure. There are ruins everywhere though, and craters, and trenches, and bunkers. This leads to a rather manic, room-to-room searching every time you try to cap an area, or perhaps huddling down and hoping no one pops around the corner and stabs you in the throat.
Oh, and have I mentioned the grenades? The normal complement of grenades are back, plus the Incendiary and Gas variety. The former is pretty self-explanatory area denial, but the latter? Very interesting, conceptually. The Gas grenades release Mustard gas in the area, which causes blurred vision, your character to choke and cough, and rapid HP loss. Pressing T will have your character put on a Gas Mask, nullifying the damage completely. At the same time, the Gas Mask obscures your vision (also preventing aiming down sights) and hearing, and doesn’t do anything about the actual gas blocking your vision. Thus, tossing Gas grenades still affects the given area rather dramatically even if it deals no direct damage.
All of the game elements above mix into a dirty miasma of oppression while playing. You are surrounded by comrades, but you are also terribly, terribly alone in the smoke and death. You are constantly forced to make the decision to blindly rush towards the enemy or suffer constant sniper fire from every corner of the map. Biplanes and tanks are virtually indestructible killing machines. Even if you happen to pick the Assault class, your two options are rushing tanks with dynamite or plinking them with dumbfire AT rockets while prone, which makes you easy picking for snipers.
For a game to evoke such emotion so well regarding the subject matter via inherent gameplay is a triumph of game design. This is pure Show, and little Tell.
At the same time… well, I’m not sure how much WWI I can really stomach. A squad of soldiers could grab a helicopter in Battlefield 4 and go point-to-point capping areas and dodging missile fire and feel good about things. Or they could die in the gas-saturated muck in BF1, accomplishing nothing. I’d say 80% of my deaths show the killer dying himself seconds after I hit the ground. It’s hard to feel good about that, or watching a flag getting turned after you spent several lives just getting to the capture point in the first place.
I dunno. It is hard to put into words what is going on and how I end up feeling after a match is over. If Titanfall 2 is like cotton candy, then Battlefield 1 is a greasy Big Mac – there is more sustenance there, but that doesn’t particularly make you feel any better.
It is amazing how just a few tweaks can completely ruin a game for me.
First, the good: Titanfall 2 has a single-player campaign. The lack of one was a common criticism for the original, and one that I shared. Actually, I think the original technically had a weird sort of “multiplayer match with a vague voiceover” story mode, but that hardly counts. This one is legit, and it is decently fun. A lot of game sites are gushing over the Effect and Cause mission for some reason, but it’s not ground-breaking or anything. Perhaps higher brow from a technical standpoint than typical arcade shooter FPS fare, but I’ve played a lot of inventive FPS games, and this one was okay.
Having said that… where it matters, Titanfall 2 fails hard. Specifically: Titans.
A big part of the original game was the interplay between the Pilots and the Titans. Titans could basically one-shot Pilots in a number of ways, but clever usage of the jump jets and such from a Pilot could all but spell doom for the Titan. “Rodeoing” was when a Pilot jumped on a Titan, peeled off an exterior armor panel, and blasted the Titan’s internal circuitry with whatever weapon they had. Pretty much the only recourse the Titan had was Electric Smoke, which had a cooldown/limited uses. Otherwise you’d either need a friendly player to shoot the Pilot off, or disembark to do it yourself, if you were currently piloting the Titan.
For some utterly bizarre reason, the designers changed all that. Now? A Pilot jumps on a Titan and… removes a battery. This deals about 30% damage to the Titan, and immediately highlights the offending Pilot to everyone with a big battery symbol. The battery’s function is to recharge shields/empower a friendly Titan, either by re-entering your own or jumping on the back of someone else’s and jamming it inside. Not that that ever fucking happens though, because the FIRST and ONLY thing that occurs is the enemy Titan looks around and instantly blasts the giant green battery icon that is attempting to get away. Then the enemy Pilot disembarks, grabs their own battery, and re-enters the Titan, charging their shields.
Folks, I can’t even.
There was a crazy amount of elegance to the original design. Different weapons dealt a different amount of damage to the Titan hull once you pulled off the armor panel. If all you had was a grenade launcher, guess what? You took splash damage. I often went with a harder-hitting pistol secondary expressly because it dealt more Titan damage when Rodeo’d, even though it was tougher to hit a Pilot with it. Then there was the fact that a Pilot attached to your Titan was a (slow) death sentence unless you specifically dealt with him/her. The Titanfall 2 system is basically a free Pilot kill.
Also, if I recall correctly, the original Titanfall had Titans with regenerating shields. It really only protected the Titan from 1-2 shots, but the current system is zero shields (unless you get a battery). This subtle change makes Titans much less durable, which actively counters the apparent “steal enemy Titan batteries for your own Titan” design, because yours will be dead before you get back. Assuming you get further than 10 feet away with a battery in the first place.
Then there is the changed Attrition mode. The core part of the map type is the same: kill either AI units or enemy Pilots to get points. In the original, the AI bots were total cannon fodder. In this game, the AI… is still mostly cannon fodder, but can kill you rather surprisingly easy. If you try to melee Grunts, they will melee you back, and basically get you to 50% HP. Stalker/Spectres are bullet sponges that can definitely give you away. Then you have Reapers, which as basically mini-Titans that will chase you around rooftops and basically unkillable outside of Titans.
In principle, the new bots are fine. The problem is actually finding any. In the original Titanfall, you could actually select a gadget that would show all bot location on your minimap (at the expense of more useful anti-Pilot measures). That doesn’t really exist here, and you can often run around for 1-2 minutes without encountering a single bot anywhere. Given how matches are only 10 minutes long, that’s fairly significant. It also means that if your team falls behind, there is no way to make it back.
The bottom line is really this: Titanfall 2 is just not as fun as the original game. This is Respawn’s Signs follow-up to their Sixth Sense. It’s really a shame because there wasn’t much they needed to improve upon in the original game. Instead, they have weaker Titans, weaker anti-Titan moves, worse maps with less wall-running opportunities, and… well, just less all the things that made the first game cool. If they continue on this trajectory, the third one is going to be The Village.