Hands-On with Witanlore

I was first introduced to Witanlore by a long-time reader of our blog who works on the dev team at Druid Gameworks. Witanlore was successfully Kickstarted and Greenlit on Steam.

Witanlore is an open-world RPG with the goal of cutting the fluffy fat found in modern RPGs, and hoping to deliver a pure gameplay experience where every minute is spent on immersion. I like their pitch so far.

You assume the role of a young Ursine warrior seeking to determine your destiny. All we know thus far is that something nefarious happens, as it always does. The concept of Witanlore is intriguing. What I like most about the setting and lore is that I don’t have to be another human, or viking, or dwarf, or Elder Scrolls-esque race. I’m a Bear-guy, or Ursine, and that’s cool!

Witanlore Conversation Tree

I was given the opportunity to jump in and explore the demo. I’ll be upfront and honest here and say that it’s more of a proof of concept than a demo of much gameplay. I was able to run around an obstacle course, talk to an NPC to go through some story dialog, kill a pig, and scavenger hunt for some items. Conveniently, these each showed a glimpse of different game systems that will be used throughout Witanlore.

Witanlore graphics

The world is quite pretty. Unreal 4 is put to good use here, and the art assets shine (sometimes quite literally with sun rays).

Witanlore isn’t optimized yet — at least I hope not! There’s definitely slowdown for me when the settings are on turned up, but the slowdown isn’t in the form of being skippy. When I crank my settings anywhere above medium, I get a sense of moving through something thick. Almost like molasses. 

The voice acting is a bit awkward. When one of the NPCs spoke to me for the first time, it was as human as a voice could possibly get. The bear looked big, tough, and … ursine warrior-y… but then sounded not so ursine warrior-y. I hope they’ll improve the voice acting.

The combat I experienced was basic, click to swing and right click to block kind of stuff. I’m eager to try out the magic and totem abilities/systems.

Witanlore Episode 1

Witanlore has the potential to be a solid rpg. It’s conventional in the sense that it reminds me of Elder Scrolls. Pick things up in the world, active combat, text trees, and story-driven open-worldliness. 

I believe they’re still a ways off from a completed and polished game, but the foundation appears to be there. I’m looking forward to playing Witanlore when it comes out on Steam (also GoG – great place too). Episode 1 is only $6.99 which seems like a great price, as long as the content is there.

My Battlefield 1 Review

Battlefield 1 Review

EA’s newest addition to the Battlefield franchise launched sandwiched between their own shooter Titanfall 2 (Which they woefully neglected to care at all about) and the latest CoD installment. Battlefield 1 takes us back to the days of the early world war era of trench warfare and guys with capes.

Lets get right to the important stuff.

What improved, if anything, over the past Battlefield games?

EA did a nice job refining the main menu and overall presentation of Battlefield compared to a few of their recent previous versions. Battlefield 3 and 4 (if I even have the right numbers there) had clunky web interfaces and menu systems. BF1 wraps what I still believe to be a ‘browser’ into an application, and presents it with a nicer bow or cherry on top.

The menu system is decently intuitive. Joining friends is simple. Getting into any sort of game appears to be their #1 priority. There’s even a server browser, and it has so far worked perfectly fine for me.

What sucks about the out-of-game menu system is the weapon unlocks or soldier gear setup. It’s seemingly non-existent. I can look at what I have unlocked, but I can’t do a dang thing about it. Compared to the in-game menus which have everything I want, albeit less intuitive, and it’s questionable why the out-of-game menu even exists. It’s more of like an achievement scoreboard.

Unlocking items in general is SUPER slow. I’ve put hours and hours into a class and I haven’t even reached the next rank in that class or unlocked a single item. Graev has dumped like 5 hours into one and unlocked the first rank, but he still hasn’t made progress on item unlocks because he has to earn lots of Warbonds (in-game currency).

Do the guns feel good?

They feel very different from recent Battlefield games. I consider that a great thing. Bad company felt like paintball guns. Battlefield 3 and 4 felt weak and clunky. Battlefield 1’s shooting mechanics are solid, realistic, and have a nice feel to them. I feel like I’m shooting the guns from the era — though I have no basis for that statement.

Bullet drop is ever present. At times I feel like I’m lobbing sniper bullets rather than projecting them in any sort of straight line. That’s okay.

Gun diversity is lacking. I feel like there aren’t a whole lot of options — and I suppose there weren’t back in the day — and customization is kept to a minimum in an effort to maintain some chance of suspending our disbelief.

How’s the match pacing?

Matches feel much slower and methodical. I attribute that to a lack of fighter planes and explosions coming from every player. There are still tanks (which are way less annoying to deal with) and grenades, etc. There’s even gas now which is annoying, but pressing T puts on a gas mask so that’s cool.

Going back and forth between Titanfall 2 and BF1, I feel like I’m moving slower than molasses as I charge up a hill to take a bunker. Again, I don’t see that as a bad thing but a definite note to make. No running on walls here.

Are there vehicles in Battlefield 1?

Yep, a decent number. Most of them end up feeling similar to each other. Lots of machine guns instead of shells, and lots of troop transporting instead of 1-man boom sticks. Again, with big maps and slower pacing, the troop transports work out nicely. There are even horses on some levels, though I have yet to see a single person use a horse and not be completely annihilated. Who brings a horse to a tank fight?

Planes are handled a bit differently than past games. Instead of waiting for a plane — which I actually liked — you have to be the first to click the button on the respawn map. When you die, there’s a chance one might be up. If you’re lucky, you’ll spawn right into one and already be in the air flying. I think this is a huge let down for those of us who enjoyed the plane experience of taking off, landing, and putting TNT on our wings.

Aerial combat is decent in BF1. I think it pales in comparison to 1942, though.

Certain maps even have special ‘super vehicles’ like a big battleship, armored train, or zeppelin. These definitely influence the battle, and are a lot of fun to both pilot/gun in and to take out.

What about the maps and modes in BF1? Are they any good?

The maps are good. Sometimes I feel like the map sizes are decent, and other times I feel like there’s absolutely no way the map should be this small. Many of the game modes I’ve played take the map and truncate it into smaller pieces which. Capture A and B to unlock the next area, then capture the new A and B.

All of the maps have felt memorable, and I think I can say that I like all of them.

The modes are your standard Battlefield modes with the exception of a new mode called Operations. These are like replaying old battles where you have objectives in a 3 part series to advance the campaign or theater of war you’re participating in. These are a lot of fun, though they are definitely the “take these points to unlock more points to take” style of play.  Operations are a nice way to battle across multiple maps in order to determine a victor.

Maps in general are all about PLAYING THE OBJECTIVE! More than any previous Battlefield game, I feel like playing the objective has 100% priority. This is how you’ll rank up, get the most points, and win.

Conclusion – Is Battlefield 1 any good?

Battlefield 1 is A LOT of fun. The guns feel great, the maps are memorable (though I want bigger maps), the vehicles are right for the era (though I want better plane combat), and the modes scratch that Battlefield itch.

My biggest gripe about Battlefield 1 is the rate of unlocking items due to ranking up classes. You’re going to need to spend time playing in order to make progress, but hey at least it’s fun.

Battlefield 1 checks all of the boxes for me. Despite not living up to 1942 in some aspects, BF1 still exceeds my expectations. Its gritty, real, and brings a great new angle of action and features to the BF franchise. If you’re a BF fan, then this is definitely one you can’t skip.

Titanfall 2 Deserves So Much Better

Titanfall 2 Review

I played the original Titanfall for two weeks. I liked it, but then quickly forget it existed. I call this the “Titanfall effect.” It’s that, “oh yeah that was a good game” feeling… followed by having no desire to play. Did EA know this, and decide to just ‘Titanfall effect‘ their launch of Titanfall 2?

Titanfall 2 Titan and PilotTitanfall 2 launched on October 28th, and I bet the world had no clue. EA decided to launch Titanfall just one week after Battlefield 1. ONE WEEK! Why? They also chose to release it the week before their biggest competition launched Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. The very notion baffles me.

Having played Titanfall 2, I can tell you it’s not a bad game at all. Really. In fact, it’s a lot of fun. It’s actually a great step up from the original. Titanfall 2 plays like Call of Duty in many ways. The maps are on the smaller side (though much larger than the original) creating more of a ‘fragbox’ feel, and you’re never more than a few seconds away from an enemy. Gunplay feels tight and actually phenomenal compared to so many other shooters too — again, I say the same thing about CoD.

This video does a fantastic job at representing actual gameplay. Take a look:

The average map has me running along walls, parkouring all over the place, and pulling off ridiculously over-the-top moves to out maneuver the enemy. I’d say 90% of the “skill” is not in shooting your guns well (Battlefield), but instead in how you can manipulate terrain and use your movement to out-pace the opponent.

Grapples, wall-running, ninja stars, you name it. It’s there. And it’s wicked fast (did I just say wicked? I feel like it’s necessary here). Titanfall 2 makes CoD feel slow to me, and Battlefield feel like a walk with my grandma.

Where Titanfall stands out as more than just a generic fast-paced futuristic shooter is in its Titans. These mech-like battle suits are taken up a notch in Titanfall 2. There are now more titans, more weapons, and more abilities.

Titanfall 2 does such an awesome job at immersing you in the Titan experience too. Jumping into one from various angles, or having your Titan grab you and pull you into your seat… it’s just so satisfying.

My gripes are mostly with map size and design. The maps are small and the gameplay is so fast that I often feel like it’s too hectic. Sniping is stupid since people move so fast, and when everyone has a Titan things become chaotic. The maps are also a bit forgettable and generic, though I’m still giving them credit for improving upon the original.

Overall, Titanfall 2 is a fantastic shooter. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to scratch that ridiculously over-the-top futuristic shooter itch, but can’t bring themselves to play another Call of Duty. Seriously, Titanfall 2 offers something different, and I have NO IDEA why EA launched it within a window akin to a death sentence. Major fail, EA.

Note: Graev and I play the PC version. If you’re a console fan, I hear great things about both communities. There are fewer PC players, but getting a match going isn’t hard. Singleplayer is actually pretty good, too.

Blizzcon Roundup – My Thoughts on What Matters Most

Blizzcon has come and gone, and I want to take a few minutes to reflect back on some of the news coming from the company that has consistently captured the attention of most people in this space.

If you’re looking for more of a roundup, I recommend Shacknews. Scroll back through a few of their posts like the one reviewing WoW’s 7.2 update and the Keynote roundup. There’s also MMO Champion for the overall “what’s next” in WoW. I’m not going to cover all of the news side because I’m an opinion guy, not press or journalist.

So here’s what matters most to me, and what I’m excited about (and why).

Diablo 3: Rise of the Necromancer

I welcomed the news of a new ‘character pack’, despite still not knowing what I’m going to have to pay for it. This year was about 2-3 years too soon for them to announce Diablo 4. In fact, I would be upset if they did. They failed so hard on Diablo 3 — yes, I still think so even after they improved it — that I would be bothered by them immediately jumping into 4. I need to see some serious brainstorming from them before I would even trust them on it again.

The Necromancer class is fantastic, and I only wish it came out sooner. Diablo 3 is, unfortunately, on the edge of dead for me. Will this be enough to revive it…. probably not, but this next news might be…

The Darkening of Tristram

The original Diablo makes a return in The Darkening of Tristram, which is a “retrovision” look back at the original Diablo. Featuring 16 levels, a boss, old school graphics, old sound track, and four direction movement, this throw back seems like the best news to come to Diablo 3 yet — and it’s free.

Darkening of Tristram

While the Necromancer MAY bring me back, this will absolutely 100% get me to reinstall. I only wish the scope was greater than the cathedral.

What’s Next for World of Warcraft

Patch 7.1.5

Really big news coming in 7.1.5, mainly the Mists of Pandaria Time Walking and class updates (which I can only hope will be good news for me). The artifact catch up mechanics also pique my interest. One thing I really like about sticking with my Druid is that I can be a tank, a healer, a melee dps, or a caster dps. What I can’t do is keep them all up.

Patch 7.2

You want to know what I like about patch 7.2? There’s lots of neat things coming like Tomb of Sargeras, a new dungeon, more artifact talents, etc. What I like most is that THERE IS A PATCH 7.2 and Blizzard actually has a plan for this expansion.

Karazhan 2 Wings

I was just lamenting how long it takes to get through Karazhan. Well, in a few months (fingers crossed) there will be upper and lower. That’s pretty neat. But isn’t that a bit late, Blizzard? I mean, ToV is coming. Cathedral of Eternal Night (A new dungeon) is coming. We’ll have Nighthold too. Will this gear actually be that good? I suppose from the final secret boss it might be, but otherwise I can’t see needing it.

Druid Wearbear Form

Heck yes. Best news out of Blizzcon. This is so ridiculously needed, and SO FREAKING COOL!

Druid Wearbear Form

If they make this hard to obtain I’m going to rage. It’s the least they can do after making our class mount (form) look so stupid.

Druid Class Mount

Blizzcon Overall

Sort of a lackluster event. The news for World of Warcraft was fantastic. There’s not a WoW player out there who can justifiably way “that’s a let down” for the coming months. But this news didn’t need Blizzcon. Can you imagine the event if there wasn’t a Legion? “You can play some old looking Diablo levels and hey there’s some Hearthstone cards. Grats kids!”

I’m excited for when the huge year comes next year, but I think I’ll REALLY be looking forward to the year after that when they finally announce Warcraft 4.

Read between the lines here where Mike Morhaime said in a Blizzcon interview…

“We love RTS games but right now our focus is still continuing to evolve StarCraft II—and to the extent that MOBA games are RTS—continue supporting and evolving Heroes of the Storm,” Morhaime said in an interview (via GameSpot). “I love that there is so much passion and interest around Warcraft IV. I would love to see Warcraft IV at some point in the future, but that is not our current focus.”

Let’s look at the facts.

  1. He would love to see Warcraft 4.
  2. It’s not their current focus

It’s coming. The announcement will be made in 2018. They’ll release in 2020. 2020 being hindsight, hindsight being they should have done this WAY sooner. It’s coming guys. It’s coming.

My Thoughts on Karazhan

Karazhan launched just over a week ago. Our 5 man group has now completed it twice, so I want to write up some of my thoughts and experiences on the dungeon.

Blizzard did something a little bit different this time.

Feels like a Raid

Karazhan is not a raid (anymore), but it feels like one. I have championed the idea for years that “raids” should be available to 5 people too. Small, epic content is really something I love (conceptually, at least until now).

Going through Karazhan for the first time took us almost 4 hours. We didn’t know the fights, we had two people slightly under-geared, and I think we were pretty tired at the time. Still, knowing the fights was a huge part.

The second time clearing Karazhan took only 2.5 hours — we could have done it in 2 if I didn’t wipe us by moving on the flame rings like an idiot.

Lots and Lots of Trash

Staying true to older raids, Karazhan is packed with trash. Most of the time is spent traveling between bosses. However, unlike modern dungeons, the trash is easier but the bosses are incredibly difficult.

Boss Fights are Pretty Good

I really like a few of the boss fights. I think the final boss is one of the better bosses we’ve gone against (mechanically). The RNG involved with some of these fights is a little tedious, but not bad if you can conceptually master what’s supposed to happen.

Speed Running Karazhan

Instead of having Mythic+, Karazhan has a speed run mechanic where you have to get to a certain point fast enough to unlock a secret boss: Nightbane. Getting Nightbane takes really good gear, a ton of speed/luck, and probably the right classes too. That’s perhaps my biggest gripe about dungeons in WoW: Certain classes are just way better at bursting through trash with AOE.

Return to Karazhan Overall Thoughts

I think Blizzard did a nice job restoring an older raid into content that players can enjoy as though it were a 5-man dungeon. I would have preferred wings in order to avoid being in the place for several hours at a time, and a lot less trash would be nice.

Overall a very nice dungeon with good loot and difficulty curve.