Category: Games

Battle for Remember to Go to Azeroth

Since my last post on the subject back in August, I have been unable to return to Azeroth and finish leveling my character. Why?

First, MMOs only tend to work when they can keep my attention. I knew already that Battle for Azeroth was not doing a whole lot for me, but, to make matters worse, I got distracted by other things. Mostly, I got distracted by other games.

Like a bad relationship, time apart does wonders. For me, it stopped the moment-to-moment hooks that dominate the genre – completing an area, experiencing more troll stories, advancing my character, etc. With those out of heart and mind, I was left remember a game that honestly and sadly was boring me to tears.

Despite being a lot earlier than expected, I am giving up on the final month of my three month foray and calling it quits on an expansion in which I couldn’t even cap out one character. I enjoyed playing my Warrior not more than I enjoy playing newer, fresher games. A different character may have helped but to what end? Similarly, I can get the feeling of progression and advancement elsewhere as well. The only remaining draw for MMOs for me these days are the social aspects and they are all significantly watered down from the earlier days of the genre.

It is a shame. I hate wasting the money and I hate knowing I did it on a troll-heavy expansion. It failed to satisfy me, but in a “vote with your dollar” world it can be hard for a company to sort out why people leave a service versus why they played a few extras than they should’ve.

It also furthers my disillusionment about MMOs overall. These days, I can scarcely raise a finger to type a rant about the next big genre-ending trend. Not that there is much to rant about when no one makes these kinds of games again.

At this point, I am unsure what it would take for me to play a MMO again. Too often I feel like a tourist, rather than a resident, and I go back to other games that hook me for hundreds of hours without question. With MMOs, there are always questions. And, frankly, I have run out of answers.

Dead Cells (Switch, 2018)

Before Marvel’s Spider-Man took over all my time, I was playing Dead Cells on my Switch. I saw a sale on the physical copy on Amazon and decided to take a chance.

Dead Cells is an action-platformer roguelike though with far less randomization than I am used to. I find it very enjoyable, though I have yet to finish a single playthrough. There are a ton of things to unlock and collect for future playthroughs but, unlike Binding of Isaac, I am not inspired to complete or see everything.

Different levels have guaranteed access to new movement powers so, like Castlevania or Metroid, to advance you have to find these powers. I had to give up on my longest playthrough because I hadn’t unlocked the one power I needed to progress. That was depressing. At the same time, I enjoy the initial gating because it forces me to try different level paths, each with their own enemies and hazards.

The gameplay is fluid and animations are great. I would easily put it on par with Castlevania Symphony of the Night or, more recently, Hollow Knight in terms of fluidity. The bosses thus far have been a letdown but its an enjoyable game to try and go as fast as possible in (like Sonic the Hedgehog where most enemies are to be ignored).

I love the pixel art and the humor. You play a corpse animated by a sentient slime. There’s a story, but it is revealed in randomly generated rooms that add to the theme/ambiance of the game. It is all very background, but it adds up to be a pleasure.

I noticed on my periphery some hype for this game. Like Hollow Knight, it seems to have a lot of fans and a strong following. I personally feel Hollow Knight is better in every way, but Dead Cells does a better job of offering similar gameplay in a more bite-sized, arcade-esque fashion. It is perfect for Nintendo Switch.

I doubt I write a full review when I do get to where I feel comfortable stopping. I’d say if you generally enjoy this kind of game, then Dead Cells is another enjoyable entry in your personal library. Otherwise, it may be worth a shot to find out if this is the kind of game for you. Its challenging but I never feel like it is challenging in a deliberate or unfair way. I think it has great entry-level potential and it stands well on its own regardless of the reason you want to give it a shot.

Marvel’s Spider-Man, Spoilers Only (PS4, 2018)

If you want me spoiler-free post about Spider-Man on Playstation 4, click here. Otherwise continue on for a spoiler-filled take on the game.

SPOILERS AHEAD! Continue reading “Marvel’s Spider-Man, Spoilers Only (PS4, 2018)”

Marvel’s Spider-Man, 100% Complete (PS4, 2018)

I preordered Spider-Man late last year, but it was less because of hype and more because of necessity. Target was running their annual Buy 2, Get 1 video game sale and it applied to preorders as well. I decided to get God of War (for me), Kingdom Hearts 3 (for Diane), and I needed a third game to round out the deal. I went with Spider-Man because I loved the comics as a kid and I wanted to be positive about getting a good game for the property despite so many lackluster attempts over the years. As I am sure you realize from the title of this post, Spider-Man was totally my jam.

((No spoilers in this post other than general opinions.))

Insomniac Game’s Spider-Man takes place in its own universe which immediately resolved several of my initial concerns about the game. First, it isn’t an origin retread (thank God). In this game, Peter has been Spider-Man for eight years. Second, it didn’t place in any comic continuity where I would feel completely lost. Insomniac’s version of the character works as a “Best Of” album that assumes some familiarity but not so much that I ever felt lost.

Marvel's Spider-Man_20180907224052.png

I was also worried about it being open world. Yes, the game suffers from a lot of repetive content (same models, same animations, same quips, etc.), but it stays fresh enough. What makes it all work though is the movement, controls, and all the animation work that goes into making this the most accurate depiction of Spider-Man yet. I didn’t care about repeating the same car chase a couple dozen times when it meant more time swinging freely through a photorealistic version of New York City. The combat also borrows heavily from the Batman Arkham series with a greater emphasis on stealth and dodge mechanics which keeps it from feeling too much like a button mashing action game (though ultimately that’s all it is).

I am rarely a completionist, but Spider-Man scratched the same itch that Horizon: Zero Dawn did before it. From the very beginning, you have access to the entire map and total freedom in regards to swinging. As the story progresses, new activities unlock. Each of these activities rewards unique currencies which are then used to buy new suits with special suit powers or upgrade gadgets. In addition, you level up by gaining experience which provides for progression through the game’s skill trees.

Marvel's Spider-Man_20180907220554.png

Every time an activity unlocked, I only did that activity until I had cleared it in all sections of the map. This made things feel a lot more repetitive but it was a strangely satisfying kind of grind. It also takes nearly the entire story for all activities to be unlocked, so it isn’t the kind of game where you will be able to do all of the side stuff within the first five hours. Everything is gated but remains useful (in terms of rewards) throughout the game.

All of the side quests were forgettable give or take a couple. Some activities I hated (research labs and superheroic environmentalism nonsense). The challenge activities were all fantastic though. I also loved all of the crime activities, despite their repetition, just because it never got old swinging to the scene, dropping from the sky, and dropping some bad guys.

Marvel's Spider-Man_20180907222333.png

Finally, and most importantly, the absolute best thing about Spider-Man is its story. I won’t spoil it here (stay tuned for another post) but rest assured that this game understands Spider-Man, creates a branch of his universe I want to revisit, and freshens up the relationships with all of the characters we expect to be in a Spider-Man story. Overall, the story stays true to the essence of the characters without feeling stale or dated. It is superb and I recommend you at least watch a playthrough if you don’t want to play it yourself.

With another platinum trophy added to my list, I still want to play more Spider-Man. I haven’t committed to preordering the DLC, especially at $24.99 spread over the next three months. I am hoping it is worth it but the problem with most DLC these days is they don’t have the budget/attention to add more story, which is what I really want. I may hold onto my copy of the game to see what comes of the new content but at this point, I am more hyped for a sequel than anything else. Too bad it will likely be on the next generation of systems, if it happens at all, so there will be a long wait!

 

Donut County (PS4, 2018)

This review is going to go differently. I bought Donut County for Diane and she recently finished it. Since she doesn’t like to write these posts for me, I decided to interview her instead.

Q: What is Donut County?

Umm … it is a game where you swallow everything with holes. And that is all you do.

Q: Seriously, that’s it?

Well there’s a catapult sometimes so you gotta launch shit, to choose to swallow more things with the hole. But the controller – literally – joystick and one button.

Q: What did you like best about Donut County?

Sometimes you swallow stuff that causes explosions. Or the part with the Ferris Wheel where we launched a Ferris wheel at a castle. It was also kind of satisfying to swallow up the characters themselves. Hmm. And the dialogue, especially the Trashopedia, was pretty entertaining.

Q: What’s a “trashopedia”?

It teaches you what each item in the game that you swallowed up was (except for the characters). It is very educational if you take the time to read it.

Q: Did you like the characters? If so, why?

Yeah, I did. They … they are a group of characters that seem very comfortable with each other so there are a lot of friendly insults thrown at one another and no one really took offense. It’s kind of how I am with my friends. So it felt like, despite the predicament they were in, they were still a good group of friends.

Q: Other than swallowing everything with holes, would you say Donut County is really about friendship then?

I would say it is more about redemption. There is a pretty good redemption arc in there. And education courtesy of the trashopedia.

Q: Was there anything you didn’t like?

Not really. I can see some people finding the whole all we are doing is swallowing things in a hole repetitive, but there are a variety of puzzles that add to the game. And it is not terribly long, as you probably expect, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Q: Favorite scene, character, or level?

I thought that the game over screen was a nice touch. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go and then it leads to a surprise cutscene. I am not sure if it is actual canon or not, but I feel it adds a little layer by potentially breaking the fourth wall with it. It felt like a nice surprise. As surprising as a game over screen can be in a game where you swallow things in a hole.

Q: Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to add?

Quack.

WoW, This Is It?

It is extremely telling for me that an expansion dominated by trolls is not drawing me back in to play World of Warcraft every night. Battle for Azeroth’s initial grip on me has slackened greatly and now I regret committing to a three month run.

Here’s the rub: Battle for Azeroth, and current World of Warcraft in general, is a solid iteration of a game that has no right to be this good this many years later. That said, I feel like its a pretty boring single player RPG, a lackluster multiplayer game, and an awful MMORPG. I had hoped to get a solid month plus out of it but I don’t know if I can anymore.

Let’s rundown some of my biggest problems with the game “as is” in Battle for Azeroth:

Progression Regression

Leveling, as in playing the game, is still a lot of fun in World of Warcraft. Leveling, as in playing a roleplaying game where you expect your character to advance and evolve, has never been worse.

When you level up in Battle for Azeroth, you get nothing. No talents, abilities, or anything of any kind of merit whatsoever. Everything scales now too so there isn’t even a sense of “being able to go places I previously couldn’t”. Outside of padding, I don’t understand why they added more levels in the first place.

Now, I don’t mind quicker leveling, but leveling in general should always mean something in a RPG. I doubt I could go back to the days of EverQuest leveling where getting past a level (and staying there) was an achievement unto itself but World of Warcraft had a happy medium once and I miss it.

My Character Plays the Same

Toward the end of Legion, I exclusively played my Warrior as Fury for the quick PvE kills while I finished up some lingering quest chains. I enjoy Fury and I decided to keep leveling that way. It plays exactly the same as it did though, so yay?

I think we are all a bit spoiled by Blizzard’s willingness to rewrite the rules every expansion. Maybe it was time to get away from that. Still, the new expansion chaos of “relearning” key aspects of the game has always been something I have looked forward to. I am not sure I will be as excited for a future expansion if Blizzard has found its permanent status quo.

A MMORPG With Chat Turned Off

My schedule for playing is chaotic. For the first time, I am a true casual player who only gets an hour(ish) every few nights (maybe). At first I enjoyed the lazy pacing, but it is harder and harder to login when I have no guild, few in-game friends I don’t talk to elsewhere, and zero reason to find a guild/make friends/casually chat in dungeons.

The other day, a stranger whispered me to ask about Warriors. I was shocked. He was the first non-friend to send me a message without intending to recruit me into some horrible spam invite guild.

It was a brief conversation. I could’ve gone for more, but I didn’t have the energy. I miss the days even in early World of Warcraft where chatting with strangers was part of the allure. I made a lot of friends in-game that way, but there’s no real point to trying anymore. Everything is laid out in-game or on the internet on my second monitor.

What do I need other players for? Absolutely nothing.

Ending On A Positive

There are a lot of trolls and I love all of the Zandalari zone design. Plus, troll-based armor everywhere! Battle for Azeroth is a dream come true in the sense that you dream about winning a million dollars, enjoy it for a bit, and then wake up to being broke again.

But trolls …


This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

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