Is God Of War As Good As People Say?

When God of War (2018) had finally been delivered to the masses, it was smothered with 9’s and 10’s out of adoration by virtually every respectable review outlet known to man. The praise was due to a culmination of the game’s great graphics, an in-game camera that never cuts away, a more measured approach to combat, its story, side-quests, and open world design. Just like that, any and all concerns associated with the studio’s decision to change the franchise so drastically had melted away overnight.

But is God of War really one of the best games of all time?

For those unfamiliar with God of War’s previous story, it was about a man turned demigod by the name of Kratos. He pledged his life on the battlefield to Ares, the original god of war, for victory in return. As a result, Kratos was granted great power and had a pair of blades permanently chained to his forearms. He used these to carry out the god’s bidding time and time again, but his thirst for blood was redirected when his wife and daughter were killed by his own hands. He destroyed Ares and became the new god of war, but was then forsaken by the remaining pantheon up on Mount Olympus. Needless to say, this didn’t go over well and Kratos went on his most destructive rampage yet, not stopping until Zeus was reduced to little more than a bloody pulp. This was the end of the main trilogy, leaving Kratos’ fate ambiguous to the audience.

2018’s God of War picks up many years later. Kratos has aged, settled in to the world of Norse mythology, had seemingly found a new love and had a son. The woman of his life recently deceased, to respect her wishes, he and the boy are tasked with releasing her ashes from atop the highest mountain in all the land. But before they’re able to set off proper, a mysterious stranger appears with an ominous message, something along the lines of, “We know who you are and you’re not welcome here.” With nowhere to hide, the demigod and his boy – a mere survivalist in training (you can’t quite call him a warrior, not yet) – decide to push forward with the task at hand before something worse catches up with them.

It’s a straightforward premise to be sure, but the heart and soul of this adventure is the relationship between Kratos and Atreus. It’s clear that Kratos was too busy providing for his family to be much of a father, and when he was around, the pressure he put on his son had strained their relationship. Kratos was all business and no play, and unlike his actions in Greece, we can sort of understand why. He knows the world is full of unsavory beasts and beings, and if his boy is to survive, he needs tough love.

Some of the more critical fans out there don’t care for Atreus’ inclusion, because he’s not just there at the beginning, but stays by Kratos’ side throughout. This isn’t unlike Ellie from The Last of Us, but she, wittier and wiser than her years let on, was a far compelling companion.

Personally, I don’t love Atreus but I don’t hate him. I appreciate Atreus because he’s roughly my son’s age and acts the part. When it comes to exploring the world he’s quite green but also acts like he knows everything. So, when the game wants you to explore every nook and cranny to find all the hidden goodies, Atreus attempts to pull you off the path… and I can’t understand why. Is it to remind us how to get back to the main quest? I’ve yet to get lost in God of War and certainly don’t need Atreus’ help. This game may be open world, but it’s not Skyrim. In fact, I question the ‘open world’ claim in the first place (more on that in a bit). We really don’t need Atreus to mimic Ocarina of Time’s Navi – “Hey, LISTEN!” – and that’s something that every developer should do their best to avoid.

Atreus is a handy extension during battle though… eventually. He’s useless at the beginning, but the more he learns (and the more you upgrade his skillset), the more he’s able to help. Halfway through the game the kid is a bonafide life saver. He’ll unleash arrows (at your command) that either stun or deal damage to foes, so he’s viable for reducing their health and managing crowd control. As he strengthens and grows, Kratos will acknowledge his child’s improvements and thus improves their bond. They still have their issues though. Kratos clearly wants to comfort his son but feels he can’t. Atreus wants a father figure but resents the one he has. This plays out in interesting ways.

Now, I’ve seen people say that the secondary characters are great, and they are… but only to a certain extent. They’re written and acted quite well, but God of War relies too much on recycling the few it has as opposed to presenting new ones. The two you’ll see time and time again are a pair of estranged dwarven brothers, and while they’re entertaining, you almost feel like they’re the only two characters you meet throughout the game. There are others, sure, but none as prominent as they are. The game does a good job of explaining how they manage to pop up in each location before Kratos and Atreus are even able to get there, but without an expansive cast to back them up, their inclusion makes God of War feel a bit hollow. You could certainly argue the previous games lacked in the same area, but they also weren’t nearly as story driven.

It’s worth noting that the story, by the way, is barely there. The writers do a decent job at exploring the world’s lore and providing some back information on its characters, but God of War never feels, at least narratively, as epic as its visuals. There’s some surprises, yes, but considering the slogging ‘slow burn’ technique employed – which I’m usually a fan of – those payoffs come way too late in the campaign.

But let’s get away from the narrative and cast and talk about design.

There’s been a lot of buzz about God of War’s open world and how you’re able to return to old areas to unlock things that were previously forecasted as late game content.

Personally, I don’t see it.

You could technically call this an open world, but it’s not, at least not in the strictest sense. It’s more like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (two references in one article… niiiiice). They N64 classic used Hyrule as a central hub area with each unique area branching off of that. God of War is quite similar as it uses a large lake as its central hub. Once you branch off to chase the story or side quests, things get extremely linear. The backdrops along the way are breathtaking and make your environment feel expansive, but from a travel perspective, you’re basically dealing with a bunch of corridors that are occasionally broken up by small battle arenas and puzzle rooms. This illusion of an open world mixed with the reality of linearity makes God of War feel like it has something of an identity crisis.

And by the way, even those linear paths can be a chore to traverse. Nearly every time you turn around, there’s a new chest just begging to be unlocked. There’s a few ways of doing this: by finding and smashing three vases with runes etched on them, by doing the same but with a strict time limit, or by rotating runic columns until you find the right combination. I applaud the developers for wanting to add more content to the game, but this is virtually all they offer until you’re at least halfway through the game. At that point, you have the option of going back to certain areas and engaging in battle with corrupted Valkyries, but the ‘open the chest’ variants are what make a good portion of this game’s ‘things to do’ list. You could blow past these time wasters to carry on with the main story, but then you have to live with knowing you probably passed up something that could have permanently increased your health.

Lack of variety also rears an ugly head with the adversaries you face. You pretty much go up against the same enemies over and over again, and that includes the mini-boss trolls. The surprising thing is that God of War seems to space out the major bosses few and far between. In my first fifteen hours or so, I think I’ve had three actual boss fights. Otherwise, the developers have said, “More trolls!” I believe Cory Barlog himself had stated that the reason there weren’t more epic boss battles is that they simply didn’t have time to include any. That’s a pretty big omission, considering the most memorable moments from previous installments had been going up against the Colossus of Rhodes, Poseidon, etc.

The combat itself feels pretty good, although it takes a bit of time before it finally gets to an appreciable state. The early game leaves Kratos with few moves and skills at his disposal, so it gets tiresome doing the same combination over and over again. But once you’re able to string more things together and can actually count on Atreus to help you out, it’s extremely fun to unleash upon the hordes of enemies that come your way. You can throw your axe, use it for melee, or drop it altogether and pound someone with your fists. The variety of ways in which you can approach your adversaries isn’t vast, but boy, does it feel good. But the fact that it takes some hours before combat feels fun is definitely a problem.

That’s really the running theme here, isn’t it? This game’s pacing feels off, mainly because while the game boasts about 30 hours of content (if you’re looking to do everything along the way), very little of what’s offered outside the main quest feels substantial. Instead, it’s just the same rigmarole on repeat ad nauseum. This game would have been much leaner, and for the better, if the developers stopped looking for excuses to pad things out. But they probably didn’t because despite what you’re led to feel with the ‘open world’ and all that ‘content’, most of the given areas in God of War aren’t very big… they just appear that way. These pacing issues are what caused me to take a break halfway through the game and come back a couple of months later, because I just got to a point where I felt like it wasn’t respecting my time.

That’s not to say that God of War isn’t a good game, because it most certainly is. It does plenty of things right, but for so many reviewers to overlook its flaws sort of baffles me. Some people say that God of War is the greatest game of all time. Some have said it’s the greatest game this generation. Others have said it’s the best game on the Playstation 4. I know my opinion is subjective, but I postulate that it’s neither of these things. I think what we’ve got is a game that didn’t have enough time in the proverbial oven to become fully realized, and that the studio was pretty darn lucky that everything shaped up as well as it did. With another year or maybe two, God of War probably could have reached the upper echelons of greatness that people already claim it’s at, but as of now, I think it’s just ‘pretty good’ with occasional flashes of greatness.

A 9 out of 10, in my opinion, it is not.

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Greatness Delayed Podcast #035: We’ve Got To Stop Taking Such Long Breaks

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Mike and Gus talk about God of War, Microsoft’s first party problem, Nintendo’s Labo and Switch cracking, and E3 wishes!

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Dead By Daylight or Friday the 13th? HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Happy Halloween everyone! It’s one of my favorite holidays (I’m a sucker for Christmas, too), and I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by discussing two of the hottest horror games out there: Friday the 13th The Game, and Dead By Daylight! More specifically, I’m going to tell you which is more worth your time.

Dead by Daylight came first, and it’s a fairly simple game. One person gets to be the villain stalking their prey, while four survivors must escape the semi-large arena they’re placed in. In order to do so, they must go around the map and repair five generators which power the escape gate. The villain, of course, has to stop them.

One major thing this game gets right is the intensity of the chase. A villain’s proximity can be determined by musical cues, so when they’re close, it’s time to run, and once you’re being chased, you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat. Villains. Are. FAST. They have that ‘power walk’ thing going for them, but they can catch up to you if you’re not careful. As a survivor, your job is to outmaneuver them by hopping over short walls or windows, and to slow the villain down by knocking pallets over. Of course, these pallets are destroyed in a couple of short seconds and the chase is on again. You’ll feel hopeless, but there’s plenty of chances to escape. You can temporarily blind the villain with a flashlight. Your teammates can help create a distraction, or maybe the villain wants to go make sure nobody’s about to start a generator. Even if the villain grabs you and (painfully) tosses you on a hook, your teammates can save the day… as long as they’re not too busy running for their lives.

Another plus is that this game allows horror fans to live out their fantasies. Want to be Leatherface, Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger? You can! Fancy Laurie Strode on the survivor side? Well you can do that too!

The downside to this game is that the ‘repair the generators’ bit is the only means for escape, leaving the game with a distinct lack of variety, at least on the survivor’s side. It takes a long time for the repair process, too. It probably takes over a minute without any complications, such as the villain showing up. You can also have setbacks during repair as well… that is, if your reflexes aren’t fast enough. Having to run around and do this time and time again is a chore, and once all the generators are started, guess what? The gate needs to be powered on… which is another ‘hold a button for over a minute and hope the villain doesn’t show up’ game. And, of course, because that’s the only way out, they tend to camp that part of the map. Not the most brilliant design. This game has been out for quite some time now, and they still haven’t added any escape-based variety.

Also, if you want to be a villain, you’ll rarely jump right into a match. You’ll have to wait for people to join your lobby, whereas with survivors, you can jump from game, to game, to game, without having to wait.

Still, the thrill of the chase is what makes this game so addicting and fun. Being able to play as your favorite horror villains helps, too.

It’s worth noting that the base game is fairly cheap… $20. If you want to play as these other villains, you’re going to have to pony up some money for DLC. The good news is that players are never segregated according to what DLC they own or not. You can play with anyone on any map, and play against any villain or survivor… you just can’t play as the DLC characters themselves. If you want everything this game has to offer, it’s best to pick it all up during a sale (like right now).

Friday the 13th The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight, in the respect that one person gets to be Jason, and everyone else – 8 people, to be exact – play as counselors who need to either survive for 20 minutes or escape. There’s a small handful of maps to play in, but everything is generated at random. Cabins and other key areas or items will always change up match to match, so neither Jason nor the counselors can cheese by memorizing where everything is.

I’ve never seen anyone last a full 20 minutes against Jason. He is, without question, overpowered. I mean, he’s supposed to be, right? He’s Jason! So, escape is what you’ll want to focus on. Try running cabin to cabin, looking for useful items. You’ll want a map to find other key points on the map, some first aid spray, something to arm yourself with, as well as things which will aid in your escape.

Maps will have a car or cars to repair and possibly a boat. Cars require gas, a battery, and keys. Boats require gas and a propeller. You can also find a fuse to fix an electrical box which allows access to a phone to call the police. Five minutes later they’ll arrive at one of the major roadways… but can you hold out that long? Even entering a car or boat doesn’t entirely guarantee your safety, as Jason can get right in front of you, effectively totaling the vehicles.

As Jason, you have certain powers at your disposal. You can teleport to any point on the map, see counselors outlined in red, or speed to them sort like the evil entity in the Evil Dead films. The counselors CAN kill you, but they’d all have to work together and be extremely lucky. Counselors can outrun you, at least for a little while. Eventually their stamina runs out, and if you chop them up with a weapon along the way, they’ll accrue damage and slow down. Another thing you’ll want to make sure doesn’t happen, is someone finding a stationary radio to call for help. If they do this, Tommy Jarvis will come equipped with a gun and loads of stamina. His job is to make sure everyone else gets out alive.

While Dead By Daylight is quite a bit of fun, I’m a much bigger fan of Friday the 13th. The developers really nailed the look and feel of the films, and you couldn’t really ask for more than what they’re providing with this multiplayer experience. What sets it above its competition is the variety of ways in which you can plot your escape, because Dead By Daylight is lacking sorely in that regard.

Friday the 13th is also on sale currently for 50% off, but I can’t recommend a purchase to everyone. You have to be a fan of the franchise in order to really appreciate this, otherwise you might feel the game is too simplistic, or may not be able to wave off Jason being overpowered. But if you are a fan, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play this game!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!

 

 

This Is Why People Revolt Against A Digital Future


More and more these days, people are ditching physical copies for digital, and it isn’t hard to see why. You can pre-load a game and play it right at midnight without having to wait in any launch lines. No more clutter on your shelves. You don’t have to worry about losing a disc, or having someone steal it from you. There’s cons, of course, such as the inability to sell or trade digital products, but there’s an even bigger reason which most people shrug off with indifference: You may not own said product for as long as you’d like.

No, really. Tell people that their purchase is only good for as long as the service provider allows, and they’ll laugh, saying, “Come on, bro. It’s 2017. It costs companies next to nothing to share this stuff on their servers. If you ever need to download your games again, it won’t be a problem.”

Nintendo Wii owners probably have something to say about that.

At the end of September, Nintendo made a statement:

 “Dear Nintendo fans,

 On January 30, 2019, we plan to close the Wii Shop Channel, which has been available on Wii systems since December 2006. We sincerely thank our loyal customers for their support. You can still ad Wii Points until March 26, 2018, and purchase content on the Wii Shop Channel until January 30, 2019. In the future, we will be closing all services related to the Wii Shop Channel, including redownloading purchased WiiWare, Virtual Console titles, and Wii Channel, as well as Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system.

 If you have Wii Points to spend, content you want to re-download, or content you’d like to transfer from a Wii system to a Wii-U system, we recommend you do so while the services are still available.

 Thank you for supporting the Wii Shop Channel and for being such great fans of Nintendo.”

 This presents a multitude of problems.

 Nintendo may be giving people adequate notice, but that’s the only kudos they get in regards to this announcement. Problems ahoy!

 The Wii may be 11 years old at this point, but people can still access content on the Wii Shop Channel on their Wii-U. This may seem like a non-point, but the Wii had over 200 classic games that never made their way to the Wii-U shop. We’re talking Bonk’s Adventure, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Chrono Trigger, Commando, Double Dribble, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mega Turrican, Super Turrican, and many, many more. So if you have no interest in the retro game market or emulating old-school games, a lot of these will be disappearing.

 So, why not buy what you’d like in the next year and be done with it?

 Well, hard drives don’t last forever. Nintendo makes products which last for a long time, but if you’ve got a Wii that’s already pushing a decade, it’d be risky to buy stuff now just so it could go belly up in a couple of years. And, that’s really the bottom line here: You could have invested hundreds, or even thousands of dollars through the Wii Shop Channel, and it won’t matter. If that little storage disc inside the system breaks down, it’s all gone.

 We could just say, “Well, that’s just a very Nintendo-like thing to do. We’re not surprised. But Sony and Microsoft will never…”

 But we don’t know that for certain, do we?

 With the PS4 offering zilch in the way of backwards compatibility, I think it’d be great if they kept the PS3 servers alive indefinitely… or, at least, enough to satisfy whatever the demand is. I doubt that’ll be the case, though. One day they’ll want to reallocate those resources. Microsoft, on the other hand, are doing that whole backwards compatible thing, so they’ll probably keep the Xbox 360 economy kicking for some time. But make no mistake about it, folks. The very moment these companies realize they’re spending more money to host these servers than they’d prefer, they’re going to do something about it. I’m not saying this because ‘evil companies are evil’, but because that’s business. When the numbers don’t line up, adjustments will be made.

 So, will access to these servers be available 20 years from now?

 “Who cares about what happens in 20 years!”

 Well, I’m 35, and 20 years ago I was probably playing Super Mario 64… and I still play that game whenever I get the chance. If you’re in your teens or even your 20’s, trust me: Time sneaks up on you faster than you think it will.

 Ask yourself this: Is the convenience that a digital library brings worth an inherently shorter lifespan?

 For some, the answer may be yes. There’s a lot of people who trade up and never look back. Still, I find it hard to believe that people are fine with spending $60 for a game they won’t have access to indefinitely.

 This is something people need to talk about. It needs to become one of the big conversations online. Again, I know it’s easy to wave this off as ‘Nintendo being Nintendo’, but if they’re able to do this without much backlash, it sends a message to Sony and Microsoft that they should have no problem doing the same. If you’re vying for a digital future, do whatever you can to ensure that your library doesn’t eventually disappear!

Why Do I Keep Buying Games I Should Be Taking A Stand Against?

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I find myself having the same conversation over and over again. It’s usually a lengthy debate that spins its tires on the same worn treads, but it basically goes like this:

Friend: You bought that game?

Me: Yeah.

Friend: Why would you give them your money after they (insert random shitty business tactic here)?

Me: Because I wanted to have fun playing a game I thought I’d enjoy?

Friend: That’s fine, but you should also forfeit any and all complaining about (insert random shitty business tactic here).

Me: I can’t play a game and still have a critical opinion about its negative aspects? Is it really that black and white?

Any time this comes up, I can’t help but give a defeatist sigh.

It’s worth talking about though, because I feel it represents a lot of the dominant conversations about ‘speaking with your wallet’ online. I mean, hell, I’ve got a website dedicated to sharing the seedy underbelly of AAA game development. That means I stand atop Mount Sinai, telling the masses that these companies – Bungie, Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, etc. – are taking advantage of them, and that they should use the knowledge I impart to make educated decisions the next time they want to buy a game. And yet, I’ve bought games like Shadow of War, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Destiny, No Man’s Sky, and so many others.

Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Aren’t I sending the wrong message to these studios? The answers are obvious, so let’s ask a more open question: Why?
I love video games to pieces. I was born in 1982, so I was in on the ground floor. The Atari and its games were easily findable at yard sales, and I got to experience the glory of the Nintendo Entertainment System shortly after it had launched. As a young child, it was easy to build a massive library of games. A large chunk of my collection was acquired through yard sales. The handful of games I couldn’t afford otherwise, I was able to rent through Blockbuster Video. So, I grew up with the ability to play pretty much anything I wanted… which was pretty much everything.

This hobby turned into a passion. When I wasn’t playing games, I was talking about them, reading about them (oh hai, Gamepro!), or watching TV shows inspired by them. Over the years, I’ve developed a great wealth of knowledge, even about the stuff I didn’t own or didn’t particularly care for. Once the internet came to be, I finally had an outlet where I could discuss games and the industry they hail from with likeminded people.

Point 1 – The Community

Growing up, I was clearly spoiled. But more importantly, gaming, for me, has evolved into more than just sitting down and playing the games.

I like to be part of the conversation.

Game launches are a special time. It’s when months, if not years of analytical hype – for better or for worse – comes crashing down. In this respect, it doesn’t really matter how good or bad a game is, because people are going to break it all down with their praise, criticisms, and everything in between. It’s during this release window fervor that the gaming community feels most alive, and I genuinely love being a part of it.

Of course, upon entering these discussions, I realize the pools I’m wading through are far from pure. For example, certain fans have a tendency to praise most anything their beloved studio churns out, or people bash games they’ve never played because the hate train’s pulled into the station. It’s hard to stay away from these reactionary responses, but I also appreciate these opportunities to educate people.

Point 2 – Challenging Widely Accepted Perception

While I use reviews as a rough indicator, I never take them at face value. So, if a game receives universal praise or is shunned entirely, I’m compelled to check it out for myself. We all know that hype and hate trains exist, right? If I had listened to everyone back in 2014, I would have believed Shadow of Mordor was an amazing game… but it wasn’t (not bad, but average). Not for me. On the flip side of the coin, everyone berated The Order: 1886 for being short and too cinematic for its own good, and while it was flawed, it didn’t deserve the hatred that had been dredged from the bowels of the internet (at least, not in my opinion). So yes, I’m always curious to get hands-on with a divisive title so I can see what all the fuss is about.

Point 3 – But at the End of the Day…

This is where the more ‘human’ side of me begins to come out.

I can talk about bad business practices all day, but after all is said and done, I relent because I just want to have fun. With all the bickering over microtransactions and crappy DLC models, it’s easy to forget that video games are still pretty fun to play. Shadow of War may siren to other studios that, ‘hey, you can throw loot boxes into single player games now’, but I still want to play that experience. Same goes for Battlefront II, because I loved the last one and enjoyed the recent beta.

Hypocrite, I know.

But that’s also because I remember that video games were never perfect. People look back on the history of video games with rose colored glasses, saying, “There were never any microtransactions or DLC back in my day!” But if there were ways companies could suck money out of your wallet, they were doing it. Classic arcade games were cool, but you died every 15 seconds because they were designed to vacuum quarters out of your pocket. Gimmicky accessories were released in quick succession, and many of them didn’t work as advertised (as cool as the Power Glove looked, it was a real piece of crap). Nintendo introduced an add-on for the N64 in Japan (which was very short lived and a retro gaming collector’s dream to obtain). Corners were often cut during game development, and at times proved detrimental. And despite what many are lead to believe, games could often cost a bit more than $60.

Get my point?

Things have ALWAYS been shady. If I wanted to draw a strict line in the sand between their bullshit and my money, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a game in the last 30 years.

So for me, fun factor is what I value most. It’s only when crappy business decisions impact my fun in a big way that I begin to have serious problems.

How Does Supporting Games With Bad Business Models Make Me Feel?

Although ‘fun’ is my bottom line, that doesn’t mean I’m turning a blind eye to the practices that have infiltrated the gaming world. I’m well aware of the ‘slippery slope’ and how I’ve contributed to it. I’ll say that I rarely buy season passes, or even cosmetic items for that matter… but deep down inside, I know that’s not the best justification. When I buy even the base product, I’m telling studios I support what they’re doing, not to mention a potential customer for their DLC and microtransactions. Yes, that makes me feel dirty, and yes, I am, at times, disappointed in myself. I don’t like being part of the problem.

So why do I keep riding this merry go round? Well, because these are the choices I’m left with:

I can take a stand and never buy any of these exploitive games, but then I’d be sad I was missing out on the fun.

Or, I can continue to have fun playing the games that come out, but try and spread awareness about the things I see happening in the industry.

Obviously, I’ve chosen the latter.

I don’t believe that boycotting games or even particular studios is the answer. Because even though I haven’t bought the game, plenty of other people will. My sale won’t be missed. Casual gamers don’t care to delve into the stuff happening behind the scenes, so they’re going to buy whatever they like anyway.

And I can’t fault them for that. We pay to eat the sausage, not to see it being made, you know?
So, I’m going to keep eating that sausage, pretending that it’s primo meat and not just a bunch of leftover shit being ground into an intestinal shell. But if I notice something’s not right with it, I’m going to raise hell about it. I mean, what am I supposed to do, not eat sausage anymore? That’s effin’ lunacy.

Generation Without Definition

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In preparation for the 2016 in review conversation we’ll be having on the podcast in about a week, I decided to write down a list of all the games I’ve played.  Not just the games from this past year, mind you, but ALL of them.  Didn’t matter if it’s a game from 2002 I was playing for the first time, or if it was an old favorite I was revisiting for the 18th time.  Old games are just as much a part of our ‘gaming makeup’ each year as the new stuff we play, so here’s what I came up with:

Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

Far Cry 4

Absolute Drift

Batman: Akrham Knight

The Witness

The Division

Doom

Uncharted 4

No Man’s Sky

Final Fantasy XV

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Battlefield 1

Dark Souls

Dying Light

Life Is Strange

The Witcher 3 (restarted)

Dark Souls 3

Forza Horizon 3

Gear of War 4

Dead Rising 4

Kirby: Planet Robobot

PvZ: Garden Warfare 2

Mafia III

Street Fighter V

Inside

Grim Dawn (official release date)

Pokken Tournament

Overwatch

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Pokemon Go

Super Mario Run

Skyrim Special Edition

Dragon Quest VII

Earth Defense Force 4.1

Super Mario 3D Land

Contra 4

Grand Theft Auto Online

Grand Theft Auto 4

Super Mario 64

Super Scribblenauts

Mega Man 2

Mega Man 3

I obviously didn’t play all of these games from start to finish.  Some I may have only played for a couple of hours.  But even so, that’s one hell of a list, isn’t it?  Great titles, alright ones, and even a few stinkers, but overall, I’d say 2016 was rather enjoyable.  Still, this list presents a bit of a problem, namely the inadequacies of the gaming industry as a whole.  Forty-three games, and you know what I noticed about them?  Thirty-two are either sequels or stem iteratively from existing IP’s.  Mmhmm.  Thirty.  Two.  That’s insane.  Even if we take older games off my list, we’re still talking close to 20.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with sequels or reboots.  Doom makes a compelling argument for being my favorite game of the year.  Hell, Dark Souls III is up there, too.  Oh, and surprisingly, Gears of War 4 has proven to be quite memorable, as well.  I also don’t care how many times Nintendo throws Mario at me, because he always amounts to a good time.  Point is, I don’t personally mind when studios lean on formulas that’s proven to work them.  No, it’s when they cross that line… when they insist on using that mindset as a crutch, that’s when I get worried.

And I’m worried now.

Gamers routinely say this is the best generation of gaming to date.  Sure, they’ve conveniently overlooked the unnecessary iterative consoles and the sea of unfinished games that’s been released… but vidyagames, right?!

But seriously, I can’t deny there’s been some titles genuinely worth swooning over, but that’s not unique to the here and now.  There have always been great video games, and there always will be.

But from a first party perspective, Sony and Microsoft have been playing things far too safe.  They’ve relied once again on the likes of Killzone, Infamous, Gears of War, God of War, Forza, Halo, Ratchet and Clank, Little Big Planet, Uncharted, The Last of Us, and a handful of others.  These are franchises that also defined the LAST generation of gaming, and while I understand the desire for studios to milk a cow’s supple teats until they’re coughing up powder, they’re leaving the PS4 and Xbox One without identities of their own.

The Xbox 360 was defined by Forza, Fable, and Gears of War.  But what does the Xbox One have?  Sunset Overdrive was largely overlooked, and Quantum Break was disappointing.

The Playstation 3 had Infamous, Uncharted and The Last of Us.  But PS4?  Well, it has Bloodborne… but that’s about it.  Nobody cared about Knack, and while Until Dawn is great, it isn’t a title that’s going to sell systems.  Driveclub has its fans, but still hasn’t managed to evade the stink left behind by its troubled launch.  And it’s not even worth mentioning The Order: 1886 (I didn’t think it was terrible, but it’s certainly frowned upon by most of the gaming community).

So, if video games aren’t giving this generation a definitive voice, what is?

Well, the struggle over resolution and frame-rate, for one.  But outside of that, this generation will likely be remembered for the releases of the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio.  I mean, their very existence could very well change the way consoles are developed and sold from here on out.  I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we never saw a Playstation 5.  If each console is only somewhat better than the version before it, a new naming convention could take over:  Playstation Nitro, Playstation Beyond, Playstation Zen, etc.  All only somewhat better than the previous iteration, and yet still years behind what PC hardware brings to the table.

And if I were Sony and Microsoft, I’d start thinking about how big a problem that might be.

This isn’t rocket science.  GAMES should define how we feel about any given generation.  Sure, we’ll also develop an attachment to hardware designs, but games are what matter most.  Unfortunately, the gaming industry has lost sight of that, and that could very well bite console developers in the end.  If Microsoft and Sony want to continue down the path of pushing consoles more than first party exclusives, they’ll eventually be perceived as third-party machines.  If that happens, it leaves the door WIDE open for Steam machines to make another push, and with Steam having almost any third party title you can dream of, and for less money, that platform could finally become a contender in the living room.

And speaking of third-party, it’s pretty clear the AAA heavies have gotten lazy, too.  They’re just too afraid to let go of moneymaking franchises.  People often complain about being bored of the same old crap, but how do these companies respond?

“We’ll make our games look better.  Cool?”

But people aren’t complaining about graphics anymore.  That narrative just isn’t driving the industry as much as it used to… at least from the perspective of consumers.  Gamers want better writing, character depth, enemy AI, etc.  But nooooo… all anyone has done is say, “Better volumetric fog, god rays, and particle effects!  That’ll revolutionize everything!”

Ugh.

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Shadow of Mordor had the right idea with the Nemesis System.  It was basic, yes, but I was convinced it was the first baby-step in this industry’s journey to develop better AI… and yet nobody has tried to emulate, let alone best that system since.  Nope, every other game still features enemies that either stand against a single guard post, or walk in the same L-shaped pattern over and over.

So let me ask:  Is this truly the best that AAA developers could pull off in 2016?  Is this REALLY the best generation of gaming ever?  I don’t think so, and furthermore, I think the industry CAN do better.  Not only CAN it do better, but there’s nothing wrong with EXPECTING better, either.  But with so many people literally buying products before they’re finalized, what incentive does this industry have to change its unfriendly business tactics?

Well, consumers have to realize that more powerful hardware isn’t going to solve a damn thing.  If you want better quality products, you have to stop pre-ordering games.  Stop telling studios you’re willing to buy their crap sight unseen.  Also, if you’re not having much fun playing the games being released on the PS4 or Xbox One, playing them on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One S (or even the Xbox Scorpio) isn’t going to change that.  Your gameplay will be enhanced, but enhancement of non-enjoyment is still just that… non-enjoyment.

If you want newer, better IP’s, and advancement in storytelling and AI, then all you need to do is keep those conversations in the public eye.  Keep those narratives strong so AAA publishers and developers can see that they’re no longer going to get away with repackaging the same two or three gameplay formats time and time again.  Make damn sure they know you want more than just:  FPS – The Game / Blasting From Behind Cover – The Game / Stealthily Wipe-Out Poor Enemy AI – The Game / Detective Mode – The Game.

Not that AAA games should be villainized, though.  Again, I still find them to be quite enjoyable.  I’m just disappointed that the industry refuses to broaden its horizons in the ways that are most needed.

The good news?  As long as you’re willing to wander outside the AAA scene, there’s plenty of great games being released by smaller and/or independent studios.  Ori and the Blind Forest, The Witness, Inside, Limbo, Absolute Drift, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Axiom Verge, Grow Home, Child of Light, Never Alone, Outlast, Trine, Braid, Undertale, Owlboy, Soma… and these are only some of the most notable choices.  And hey, if none of these pique your curiosity, there’s still decades worth of games for you to go back and enjoy.

It’s easy to forget that gaming isn’t a ‘box’, but an art form that we can enjoy… well, pretty much whenever.  Games take a bit longer to digest than music albums, movies, and even a number of books, and as a result, people always feel like they have to play the newest stuff and never look back on the old… and that’s just simply not true.  If you find yourself in a rut, just look at your back catalog or start working on games that you may have missed.  Sure, there are some titles that may not have aged as gracefully as others, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that most hold their own quite well.

 

 

More Exclusive Batman Details and Suicide Squad Put On Ice

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We have recently dropped additional details about the upcoming Batman game – currently under development by WB Montreal – on our podcast, but for those that haven’t listened in, I figured it’d be a good time to put those details into writing.  But first, here’s links to the previous information that was brought to you exclusively by Byte-Size Impressions:

New Batman Game May Be On The Horizon – May, 2016

New Batman Game Still In Development, New Villain Expected – September, 2016

Who IS Batman In The Next Open World Game? – September, 2016

First Podcast Discussion

Second Podcast Discussion

In our last couple of podcasts, Gabriel Galliani – journalist with the Official Playstation Magazine in Italy – decided to drop some new bits of information and even field questions from a comic book savvy audience (a big thank to Slcmof of Youtube and Twitter for that).  Here’s what Gabe had to say:

He’s seen a vertical slice of the game and also has evidence to support that claim.  The visual aesthetic is bleaker than that of previous Batman games.  The city gives off a ‘something happened here’ vibe, and there’s even a bit of fog to help push the darker atmosphere that much further.  There’s still neon lighting in Gotham, but doesn’t seem as prevalent as it did in Arkham Knight (of course, things can always change during the course of development).  Featured landmarks we can expect to see are the Monarch Theater, Goth Corp., and even a rundown version of Wayne Enterprises.

To add to the roster of characters that have already been leaked, Gabe was also able to add:

-Katana

-Talon

-The Dee Dee Twins

-Mr. Freeze

He also confirmed a rumor – which originally circulated on Neogaf – about the Black Mask being female this time around.  The villain’s identity should make sense and not seem ‘out of left field’, her costume will be extremely sexy yet maintain a dose of class, and seems to enjoy treating her victims with both syringe and hammer.

Jason Schreier of Kotaku has spilled a few beans about the game recently as well, up-to-and including an appearance by the Penguin.  What’s interesting about this is that Gabe, who has an extensive list of the characters that should appear in-game, knows nothing about that character appearing in this game.  That doesn’t mean The Penguin won’t be in it, just that this information hasn’t also come his way.

Another interesting bit of news from Mr. Schreier is that the long rumored Suicide Squad game is being canned, as WB Montreal have been shifting things internally for various reasons.  While this may have put a temporary hold on the Batman project while the dust settles, they’ll probably get back to it with an even bigger push until the game is ready to be revealed and eventually released.

For future updates on this game – as we’re able to reveal more once bits of information are verified by multiple sources within WB Montreal – make sure to keep an eye pressed against the site’s news feed, Twitter account, and an ear glued to the podcast, because you never know when or where the info will drop!