Battlefield 1

I’m really happy to see the Battlefield series returning to its roots. Modern shooters don’t do it for me anymore, and future shooters have fizzled out for me too. I’ve been wanting a shooter to return back to that era where guns can’t see around corners, auto-aim, or transform into robots.

Battlefield 1 is set in the WW1 era. If you haven’t seen the trailer, let’s watch.

I’ve read and heard a completely mixed bag on this one. Everything from “OMG this looks amazing! Hype! Hype! Tears of joy!” all the way down to “Looks completely stupid. CoD is better. So dumb.”

As I have already alluded to, I like the setting. I think the concept of horses, melee, older tech, and a modernized spin on the era will be very enjoyable. I’m not worried about the setting at all. Graev and I used to have so much fun riding on the wings of planes and doing all sorts of zany stuff on BF1942. I hope to relive that.

What I’m most worried about is execution. Battlefield 4 was sorely lacking on so many fronts. The maps sucked, the vehicles sucked, the weapons were just ‘okay’.  BF Hardline was a bit of a joke. And if you consider it a BF game, and I sorta do, Battlefront was only just ‘okay’ for the hype.

I want to see better character customization, or none at all. I’d rather have Overwatch’s cosmetic progression over BF4’s implementation. I’d like the BF series to focus more on the gameplay and less on the tech and tools.

BF1 is on my list. Fingers crossed.

This Week at a Glance

Crazy week of 14 hour work days and trying to get a few projects off the group for my little startup project I’m doing. Starting a business is a lot of work. Let’s play catch up.

Chronicles of Elyria

Several of you emailed me or commented about Chronicles of Elyria with a “Check this out, Keen!” or “Hey have you seen this?” Yep, I see it. I think there’s a lot of really, really baseless hype right now. I can’t get excited for Kickstarter projects anymore. I’ve been pretty vocal about my dislike for the crowdfunding model for video games. While it has worked wonderfully for some games, I think it’s been the death sentence for twice as many more.

Don’t get me wrong here. I think the game has plenty of awesome ideas. In fact, I’m hyped myself at the thought of how some of these ideas can translate into a more dynamic and “living” world (sandbox?) rather than a themepark.

  • Characters age and die
  • Characters can permanently die
  • Characters stay in the world and if merchants they will be turned into NPCs (really cool concept?)
  • No in-game maps
  • Game enforced palyer contracts (also really cool)

What I can already say I dislike immediately are the ideas of players being Kings and a less than super simple business model. I have never seen the promise of player Kings or rulers or mayors or whatever they may be actually pan out into something that makes ANY sort of sense. So that idea already throws a red flag for me. And the concept of having pre-launch currency, in-game currency earned by playing, yada yada, all makes me frown and wish they’d just charge $14.99 a month.

Chronicles of Elyria is on my radar for sure. Let’s hope Kickstarter works, they actually make the game, and it’s what they promised the world.

Overwatch Open Beta

I’m enjoying Overwatch Open Beta significantly more than the Alpha I played a few months ago. However, the game still suffers from immense balance issues. Some characters are just worthless due to team composition needs. Some characters are still ridiculously powerful unless hard-countered by a specific character. I like Overwatch, but end up feeling frustrated 50% of the time I play, but that’s shooters in general.

World of Warcraft – Ding 100

My Monk reached level 100 and I was able to start my Tanaan dailies. In just 3 days of dailies I now have a full set of gear for my healing spec. I’m up to like 650 iLvl or something. Half my items are 675-680 epics. I’m planning to start dungeons soon, and farming raids for cash.

Entering The Division’s Dark Zone

Graev and I played lots of The Division over the weekend. We decided it was time to venture into the Dark Zone for the first time last night to see if the dangerous PvP area was worth spending any amount of time. I have to say… it was pretty awesome.

The Dark Zone is a nice big section in the center of Manhattan. In the Dark Zone you can be attack or be attacked by other players at any time. Attacking someone who has not already attacked another player turns you ‘rogue’ and makes you red and visible on the minimap to other players. When you go rogue, other players can attack you and obtain a bounty for killing you. Going rogue is not without its benefits, though.

The best gear in the game is found within the Dark Zone. In order to take items out of the Dark Zone they must be evacuated via helicopter in special containers. Evacuating can only be done at special locations in the Dark Zone, and requires an event be initiated. Once initiated, after a minute an thirty seconds you can drop clip your bag onto the rope dropped by the helicopter and your gear is safely transported to your base.

Here’s where it gets good. These events announce to everyone that you are trying to evacuate gear you found. As you can imagine, rouge players want nothing more than to relieve you of your goodies.

We spent 2 hours last night hunting NPCs in the Dark Zone to gain Dark Zone rank, Dark Zone currency, and find good items. We did pretty well! Throughout the evening we chased rogue players down and ultimately walked away with a few full containers of goodies. I should mention that the Dark Zone has its own level system and currency outside the scope of the regular single-player/co-op game, so the playing field is much more fair and balanced. You can gain rank and buy lots of nice items.

One incredibly memorable moment last night was when there were maybe 12-15 guys all trying to evacuate gear at once. Everyone was on edge and no one was holding still — you could feel how uncomfortable people were around each other. I had this gut feeling that the guy hanging back was going to go rogue so I kept my shotgun trained on him. Sure enough, he started sniping at people and went red. I put my shotgun to his back and unloaded! I ended up snagging a full bag of goodies and ran in at the last minute to click them onto the evac.

I wish the entire game was like Dark Zone. That feeling of working with other players to stay alive is awesome, and when you see a red player your heart starts to pound and you sometimes have to just go and hide to catch your breath. Evacuating gear is incredibly unnerving and by the end of the night we were both exhausted from the experience of being on high alert. Definitely something to be said for the human interaction that is blatantly missing from the rest of the game.

The Division: Very Early Impressions

Graev and I picked up our copies of The Division yesterday to fill the gap in our list of evening co-op games that we like to play together. Prior to purchasing the game I kept seeing people referring to this idea of “massively multiplayer” and even weird hints at open-world and even elements of DayZ. Those are definitely way out of left field because The Division is neither a massively multiplayer game, nor anything remotely like DayZ or a survival game.

The Division is a third-person shooter game with hints of RPG, but definitely not a game I would ever comfortable say fits the RPG bill. RPGs have choices, and The Division is more of follow the story experience where you shoot bad guys, get gear, and level up. If there are decisions in the game, I certainly haven’t seen any.

The world is a mixture of seamless lobbies and mission phases. For example, safe houses contain other players. You walk through the door and ‘bam’ you are suddenly faced with a few dozen other players. You walk out that door and they stay there and you’re in your own world. If you group up with people then you’ll see them outside. There’s only one area of the game where it’s more about PvP and seeing other people, and that’s called the Dark Zone.

The story is intriguing. I like the idea that someone created an epidemic in New York causing the entire city to go into chaos and be quarantined. This special group of people who are like good guy sleeper agents are activated to go in and fix things. Fun premise.

The engine is fantastic, and gunplay is very tight. I really like the cover system — especially being able to select different cover and then automatically transfer to it even when it’s far away. Gear has a nice level of customization and variety/diversity. I think finding cosmetic items and weapon/armor upgrades will be fun, especially in the Dark Zone areas where you have to export your gear safely in order to keep it.

One critique I have about the shooter side of the game is that the enemies are spongey. They’ll soak up lots of bullets despite looking like normal people — I think they ARE normal people. I don’t know many humans who can take a full clip from a M4 and still be running around. Head shots really, really matter in The Division. Putting it on Hard Mode makes the spongey feel way worse.

The missions are neither here nor there so far. Focusing on the gameplay model too much would actually be a detriment to the game for me because it ultimately boils down to running around a world to find quest markers. If I were to think about it really hard, technically the game is about forming groups and going out on missions with the “open-world” being more of a pseudo-open-world experience — almost an illusion. But again, don’t overthink it. You’ll find encounters and more of an “open-world” experience the further you progress, but it’s definitely not an Elder Scrolls kind of open-world experience.

Co-op is fantastic. Graev and I have had no problems grouping up together and running missions. The Division really integrates nicely with the PS4 friend list as well as the Ubisoft accounts.

Bugs have been annoying. I had a glitch where right in the first 5 minutes of gameplay I was halted for an hour trying to interact with a laptop to “activate” my agent. I had to do a work around where I ran 200 meters away, did a matchmaking gimmick to find a group, then fast travel back to the house to activate it in a different phase. How that made it past QA boggles the mind.

The Division is, so far, a great third-person shooter with light RPG elements. Definitely worth the buy. I’ll integrate these thoughts with later thoughts for my more formal review. So far, I’d say 8/10.

Star Wars Battlefront Review

Star Wars Battlefront Review

Star Wars Battlefront is out and, after much deliberation, I decided to purchase it after all. You may recall from my Battlefront Beta Impressions that I wasn’t thrilled by a few of the design decisions. I feared the game may be a short-lived phenomenon. I had a few concerns about the game’s longevity because of the maps, the modes, and the features. Now that I can play the full version, here’s how all of those things are playing out.

Maps & Modes in General

Thankfully there are a few more maps per mode than I had originally thought. The ‘biggest’ mode with 40 players has four maps (one on each planet). That brings up a good point: There are only four planets (Endor, Hoth, Sollust, Tatooine) comprising 12 maps, and those 12 maps are more like variations of the four planets or variations of the same map. While the diversity isn’t what I would have loved to see — like a Tattooine city. While not ugly in any way, most are very simple and somewhat flat without a lot of complexity to their impact on gameplay.

The modes are what you expect just with different names and range from capture the flag to dog fighting in ships. Except for the air battle mode, the modes are rather lackluster. Both Graev and I would have really loved to see a Conquest Mode similar to Battlefield. The modes for capture the flag and ‘droid run’ are fairly uninspired and lack a desire for much replayability since they drive combat closer to arcade grenade spam than they do tactical Star Wars battles.

battlefront ship battles

Longevity and Replayability

Herein lies probably the most important factor of all: Does Star Wars Battlefront have staying power? I have to go with my honest gut opinion here and say that it doesn’t have the staying power of shooters we all used to love and play 5-10 years ago. While fun, it’s more of that ‘flash-in-the-pan’ kind of experience. Some people call it the “Titanfall Effect” where its awesome, amazing, innovative, tons of fun, but you stop playing two or three weeks later.

The key to Battlefront’s long-term success rests entirely on how DLC and expansions to the game are handled. Unfortunately, EA doesn’t have the most amazing track record with its shooters — namely the modern Battlefields — and their staying power. I can’t see myself playing this 6 months from now. Does that mean I won’t get my money’s worth? That’ll be subjective. Personally, I’ll get enough hours out of Battlefront to justify the $48 I spent (Thanks to Best Buy’s game club I get 20% off new releases).

battlefront capture the flag mode

Guns, Unlocks, Customization, Etc.

I stated back in my beta impressions that this system was lacking. It still is. Simply gaining access to new things linearly as you level and then spending credits you earn to unlock and slot them is too simple. They are completely missing the customization of recent Battlefield games. Alternatively we could compare this to Battlefront 1 and 2’s class system which they are also lacking. Instead, everyone is the same and you can simply change your character’s ethnicity and/or take off your Storm Trooper’s helmet.

Battlefront’s Multiplayer Platform / UI / Framework

Here’s where they’ve started to make great headway. I really, really like how they handled multiplayer and playing with friends. Inviting friends on both PC & Console is easy. Forming a squad works seamlessly. Playing with Graev on the PS4 has never been easier. Being able to choose a “partner” from your group so that you can spawn on them is a very nice touch.

Battlefront, like every game these days (Overwatch, Fallout4, etc), is designed for consoles first. The UI is defined by that experience. An in-game example of this is how AMAZINGLY well the vehicle control on consoles but how poorly they are implemented on PC. The game is full of amazing control and UI decisions that I enjoy — on consoles.

Battlefront droid run mode

Challenge Modes & Singleplayer in Battlefront

There are a few singleplayer modes that work mostly like challenge modes. Graev and I have had some fun playing these. Two nights ago we spent 2 hours trying to beat them on hard mode and failed after being really far into one of them. The harder modes are absolutely brutal and a real test of skill. While trying to survive waves of storm troopers or capturing pods may be a lot of fun — and being able to do it co-op is even more fun — I can’t say this is a replacement for multiplayer. Battlefront is a multiplayer game.

Gameplay & General Fun

Despite my highly critical remarks so far, I feel that Battlefront is a very fun game. I am glad I bought it, and knowing what I know now I would still buy it again. I love the atmosphere. I love shooting blasters, flying X-wings, playing as Darth Vader (SO FUN), and strategizing with Graev on how best to defend our flag or take on incoming enemies.

Is Star Wars Battlefront worth buying? Yes, but go into this purchase knowing what to expect. Battlefront truly captures the Star Wars feel in a very modern way, but falls slightly short of bringing an innovative or new shooter experience.