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Thoughts on the Titanfall “Beta”

I put quotes around Beta because any game that gets a huge public beta, especially this close to release, seems to serve mostly as a promotional tool for a feature-complete product.

Keen has been playing the Titanfall PC beta and I’ve been trying out the Xbox One version, which was the platform I had originally planned on getting the game for. However, now that I’m getting Keen’s old PC, which is a significant upgrade to mine, I’m tempted to get the PC version so that we could play together.  Having only played the Xbox One version I can’t really comment on any differences there might be. Just throwin’ that out there.

titan-and-pilotTitanfall’s acrobatic elements are pretty cool. I think wall-running makes every game better. It’s really easy too since all you seem to need to do is jump alongside a wall. It might be one of these things that is easy to use but harder to master. At the start of a few matches I saw some guys pull several maneuvers to gain a lot of height and distance and get themselves through the top window of a nearby building. They were like ninjas running along the tops of a bamboo forest in one of those martial arts movies.  Another thing that is awesome is how you can mount ledges. More FPS games need to let you mount ledges and climb up.  PC players seem like they would have an easier time with all of the acrobatics since they can jump and turn the camera at the same time. Since the controller has you jump with the face button and control the camera with the right stick you are force to either have very precise and fast movements or claw your hand to move the stick and jump ant the same time.

The actual Titans are fantastic, but it seems to cause Battlefield Vehicle Syndrome. In case you haven’t heard of that, since I just made it up, it’s the feeling that enemy vehicles are incredibly difficult to take down but for some reason whenever you enter one yourself the armor is made out of wet cardboard. I also seem to have some problem aiming with the shoulder mounted rockets since they seem to want to curve perfectly around my target rather than hitting it. Being able to latch onto an enemy Titan and rip its hatch open and fire at its circuits is pretty rad, though. I also like how you can exit your Titan and leave it to guard the outside of a building while you run in to clear it or capture a point.

I’m not totally sure how I feel about the 6v6 player limit. Usually I prefer FPS games that have a lower player limit but by that I usually mean something like 8v8 or 12v12. They’ve also included a few grunt bots in the multiplayer for some some reason. Maybe this is to kind of fill out the matches so they don’t feel dead or perhaps they wanted to make it feel more like a FPS MOBA by adding in some AI creeps. Either way they don’t seem to pose any kind of threat, at least not in the game modes I played.  I also like how when your team loses you can try and make it to an evac point before they kill you off; like it cheapens their win and softens your loss.

There’s a definite Call of Duty meets Brink vibe in Titanfall. It all looks promising, and I think we both enjoy the Beta enough to pick it up.  Production quality is incredibly high; heck, watching your titan grab you and put you in its chest is something you have to experience — it’s amazing.  The features are all there, etc.,  but neither of us are really certain yet if there’s a long-lasting appeal.  Have you tried out Titanfall?  Let us know what you think.

MMORPGs of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close I want to reflect back on the MMOs I played this year.  It was a weird one for MMOs, and I think this restrospective is quite telling.

Ultima Online Forever

KGC Haven First House UOF

KGC First House UOF

I began the year playing UO Forever, a player-run shard.  Practically the entire Keen and Graev Community played together, and we met a dozen new friends.  I was reminded of how glorious it is to be able to focus on nothing but gathering materials and crafting.  In its prime, UO was able to provide such a fulfilling experience to so many different playstyles.  I was one of the top crafters on the entire server, placed the very first house, and became one of the richest players with the largest merchandise selection.  The highs of building a player city, and the lows of being ganked repeatedly by other players, were a great way to start the year.  This year’s adventure in UO lasted about 3 months.

Defiance Shadow War Objectives

Defiance was a flop for us.

Defiance

Graev and I were originally uninterested in Defiance.  Then, out of nowhere, we must have been bored enough to pay attention and get interested in playing.  We played the beta for a bit, and slightly after launch, and quickly realized it wasn’t for us.  We couldn’t get past how generic the game felt, and ultimately decided not to play longer than a few weeks.  I’m pretty sure this is the way most people felt.  Neat idea, pairing with a TV series and all, but overall “meh.”

 

Project 1999

KGC in Crushbone camping the Orc Trainer.

EverQuest Project 1999

My next stop this year was yet another player-driven MMO server: EQ Project 1999. I think I played twice this year… I’m still trying to remember.  I’m positive I played back in April, but I think I went back sometime during the Summer as well.  I played as a Dwarf paladin and a Gnome Enchanter, and rekindled my love for Norrath.

Together with members of KGC, we camped Crushbone Orcs, Crocs in Oasis, Aviaks in SK, all sorts of stuff in Kunark, the bowels of Guk, Sol A, and more.  I remembered why I love games that require players to group, and why it’s so awesome to have a massive world all about PvE.

FFXIV Christmas

Keen during FFXIV’s Christmas Event

Final Fantasy XIV

FFXIV launched in August, and for the last four months has been the MMO of choice for me and the community.  FFXIV started really strong, albeit more themepark than I had hoped.  The leveling content is solid, and perhaps one of the more polished MMO experiences outside of a Blizzard product.  The class system truly embraces the themepark model by allowing one character to essentially be everything.

Where FFXIV has fallen short for me and a lot of the members in our community is the the end-game.  FFXIV focuses on raiding the same bosses over and over, and for a while had a huge leap in difficulty between the grind and hardest encounters people wanted to see.

Thankfully patch 2.1 finally came out this month which added PvP and Housing. I confess myself disappointed by the incredibly high prices for housing and dumbed-down and unbalanced PvP.  Overall, I don’t know how much longer I am going to last in FFXIV if they don’t do more to make the game about Final Fantasy instead of about being a theempark.

As you can see, 2013 was… an off year for MMOs.  It makes sense if you think about it.   This year has been entirely about waiting for the next big thing.  EverQuest Next Landmark, WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online all officially launch in 2014.

The best things to come out of MMOs for me in 2013 were the friends I’ve made.  I’ve made at least a dozen new friends — most now a big part of our gaming community — and hope to continue playing with them for many years to come.  That’s why I play MMOs, and even in a year like 2013 it’s nice to know that people still make these games worth playing.

I’m curious to hear your impressions of 2013′s MMOs.  What did you play?

Battlefield 4

BF4-Levolution

I know I’m quite late with this one, but it’s time to talk about Battlefield 4.

I’ll be honest with you by saying Battlefield 3 was a let down for me.  I think the engine felt clunky, the maps were awful, and I simply couldn’t continue playing for more than a couple of weeks.  I feel the exact opposite about Battlefield 4.

The new Frostbite 3 engine is gorgeous, and runs well on my 3+ year old system.  The maps are a huge improvement, although I do wish they could be a tad bigger.  I’m a fan of the maps where flying a jet let you go in a straight line for more than 2 seconds before the map being a tiny speck in the distance.  The new Levolution feature makes for great destruction.  Their marketing materials would have you believe that the maps are now so dynamic that no two rounds are alike, but that’s hyperbole.  Still, watching a dam explode or a skyscraper crumble always makes me stop and gawk long enough to get sniped.

battlelogThe vehicles, gadgets and guns haven’t left me wanting for anything, although I do feel like I will never have the weapons I want most because the progression system has gated so much.  I think the gunplay in Battlefield has come a long way overall.  Being able to customize all of my weapons with various unlocks definitely adds depth to the few I have unlocked already.

Battlelog has me going back and forth.  I love how integrated my profile feels, and how I can have a browser open on another monitor while watching it update in real time.  I really love changing my loadout before joining a server and exploring all of the unlocks with my progression alongside.  Having to always go through a web browser, however, becomes tiresome.  I miss the days of a real server browser in-game.

China Rising expansion came out for Premium members tonight.  If you’re not aware, Premium is their way of selling all of the DLC upfront for a small discount to suckers (like me) and granting 2 weeks early access.  I’ll post my thoughts in a comment when I log a few hours.

I know the only question on your mind right now is whether or not BF4 is worth buying.  Yes, I think it’s worth your money.  I give it an 8.5 and think that now is the best time to jump back into Battlefield since BF2.  With great maps, vehicles, guns, unlocks, and finally a better engine it’s easy to overlook a few of the shortcomings.

Killzone Shadow Fall Review

Killzone Shadow Fall Logo

Killzone Shadow Fall is a typical launch title.  It’s a solid game in its own right, with gorgeous visuals, but isn’t the mind-blowing experience we all hope launch titles will be.

Killzone-Shadow-FallStory & Presentation

I really had no idea what was going on here. The last Killzone game I played was Killzone 2 and there has been an additional PS3 and Vita titles between then and now. They didn’t brand the game as Killzone 4 so I imagine that at least thought it could stand on its own but that’s not really the case. If I was confused then I imagine somebody completely new to the series must be completely lost.

Aside from from providing minimal backstory I think the problem lies in how the game presents itself. In the first level, which is more of a tutorial, you play as the main character when he’s a kid. Then before the second mission you see time jump ahead several times until it’s 12 or 14 years and through all of that a series of confusing scenarios play out. It seems you join the military, and then make Shadow Marshall, then at one point you get captured and are part of a prisoner exchange, etc. This all happens in the span of a few minutes. From there the narrative just seems to bounce all over the place and you’re never quite sure how you got where you are. After you beat the second mission the third drops you off in space outside some station. [Read more...]

PS4 Launch Day Game Roundup

We spent most of the morning setting up the system and working through general placement logistics. It’s a real mess up here and with the Xbox One due out soon it’s only getting worse. I’d show you a picture but I doubt Keen would ever own up to this cord jungle.

After the initial patching and mass downloading of free stuff we decided to check out some of the launch exclusives and share some quick impressions before we eventually get to reviewing.

Knack-PS4

Knack

This game is getting pretty badly panned across the board but Keen and I don’t quite share that sentiment. I mean, sure, it’s nothing mind blowing but it is enjoyable all the same. We put in several hours of the co-op and were enjoying ourselves the whole time.

It’s part platformer, though only lightly, but mostly action-brawler. You run around levels as the titular character and bash on bad guys while collecting various artifact pieces that increase your size. It’s actually pretty neat to see the character grow over time and completely decimate foes that earlier were giving you grief. So far it seems to be pretty linear but there are a few secret areas along the way for you to collect. In co-op mode the second player plays as a robot version of Knack and can fight alongside and even heal you. It’s all on one screen and the camera follows player 1 which means P2 has to keep pace or get left behind. It all works out pretty well, although Keen screamed at a few of his off-screen deaths.

Really my only complaint about the game is it’s take on difficulty. Being the typical fun-hater than I am, I put it on hard from the get-go. Unfortunately the game seems to go for the whole pseudo-difficulty of just making everything that hits you take all of your life. It can be a little frustrating, especially with no block, and having to re-do segments several times due to cheap deaths can make your co-op partner rage. Or maybe that’s just my experience.

Killzone-Shadow-Fall-PS4

Killzone: Shadowfall

I played the first two games and the PSP game but I haven’t touched the series since then. Having missed out on 3 and the vita game I have no idea what is currently going on story-wise in the game. Something about the Helghast’s planet getting made uninhabitable by the Vektans so now they have to share Vekta. I need to hit a wiki page or something.

Anyway,  this evening I played through the first few segments and I’m really enjoying it so far despite the confusing narrative. The game looks absolutely fantastic and runs very smooth. It definitely makes me excited to see what the system will be capable of down the road. There are a lot of really neat lighting and visual effects.

In the first main level you initially have to sneak in with just a knife and take out guys with stealth all while avoiding cameras, etc. You also get a handy little echo-location type device which can spot enemies through walls, but it will emit a large sound and alert enemies if you activate it for too long.  One cool thing you can do is jump onto a guy from above, stab him in the neck, and then throw your knife at another guy in your field of view. It’s very reminiscent of the kind of thing you could pull off in FarCry 3. The first gun I got was a really awesome combo weapons. The first configuration was some kind of automatic weapon that shoots little blue things and the second form turns it into a long range rifle that charges up and releases a powerful shot.

Probably the coolest thing I’ve seen so far is the little drone that follows you around. It can do basic stuff like hacking terminals for you but it can also order it to kill enemies, stun them, defend you, and create a zipline. The last one is actually pretty awesome. If you need to get access to an area below you then you can order it to shoot a zipline which you can slide down. The drone, which I think is actually called an OWL or something, can also revive you if you die. Provided you have adrenaline or something.

More To Come

We’re also going to be trying out CoD: Ghosts and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag this weekend and we will be sure to write up our impressions of them. Since the PS4 can stream straight out of the box we might even look into doing that as well, but so far our internet connection hasn’t been very cooperative. I think Keen also has plans to try out DC Universe and some other free-to-play titles as well.

It’s been a pretty smooth launch so far and we made it through the whole day without bricking our system. Take that .4% failure rate!