[Review] Need for Speed Rivals – Safe, But Not Dull

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“Are you a cop? Or a racer?” This is the choice that’s presented to me shortly after a cutscene in which two equally edgy drivers bump their egos against each other for two minutes. The basic premise is that the cops enjoy the thrill of going fast in their cars, and they’re tough guys because they’re the law, whereas the racers enjoy the thrill of going fast in their cars, and they’re tough guys because they break the law. With little to differentiate them, then, I choose racer, a choice which is quickly rendered meaningless ten minutes later when the game forces me to also learn how to race as a cop.

The more I think about what I’m going to put into this review, the more I realise how scathing it’s going to come across. I have some gripes. I have a lot of gripes! So I think it’s important to first of all mention that the game is fun. It’s solid. It’s a good racer, and a decent Need for Speed game. I do not regret my purchase. I am, in fact, considering aiming for the Platinum trophy, which looks to be a bit of a grind. I want to pursue as much gameplay as Rivals has to offer. I’m just not a huge advocate for how that gameplay is delivered to you.

When you begin your career as either a cop or a racer, you’re thrust into the open world of Redview County, a name so generic I had to look it up before finishing this sentence. Redview County is a fairly island-shaped map with four distinct biomes – town, forest, desert, and snow – with very little space to transition between them. There’s literally an area on the map where you drive from snow to desert in about twenty seconds. The visuals also leave something to be desired, but given that this is a game from 2013, I can forgive it a little for being a product of its time; it’s dark, gritty, and grainy, clearly an outlier from the PS3/Xbox 360 era where this aesthetic was commonplace. That being said, I didn’t like the aesthetic any more in 2010 than I do in 2020.

Redview County is not Paradise City. Sure, it has jumps, and speed cameras, and an autolog system which pits your score against your friends and those in your lobby, but they’re almost an afterthought. Jumps are clustered together in areas like the city or the airport, and nowhere to be found on the longer stretches of road between. This can make certain objectives a pain in that you have to seek out these locations, rather than achieve them as you make your way around the island. These objectives are grouped together and presented to you by way of “speedlists”, and each one you complete nets you a level, and a new car unlock. As a racer, you can personalise them (though that system is somewhat limited), upgrade their performance and outfit them with pursuit tech; as a cop, you’re limited to choosing your pursuit tech only.

The pursuit tech, while not new to the Need for Speed series, is a welcome inclusion. There have been countless occasions where I’ve been surrounded by cops, at risk of losing my session’s SpeedPoints – this game’s currency – and let off a shockwave that propelled my pursuers into barriers, trees, and other unfortunate passersby. Racers have access to Turbo boosts, stun mines and more, while the police are offered more traditional spike strips, road blocks and helicopter backup. I’ve not played around with all of these, but I’m yet to find one I don’t like, as utilising them effectively almost always yields satisfying results. Interestingly, I’ve also found that using a shockwave on a racer who’s ahead of me is often to my own detriment, as it boosts their speed, or laying a mine when a car is directly behind me will catch me in the stun range too. All this adds an additional layer of tactical thinking to your races.

It must be said, though, this game feels disjointed, and not just because I’ve been skipping the awful cutscenes. You level up by completing arbitrary sets of objectives, some of which don’t even include races, and there’s very little to persuade you to try one of your new car unlocks. There’s not much discernible difference between the performance of a Ford Mustang and a Lamborghini Gallardo; the latter is obviously faster and more agile, but you’d expect the difference between the two to be much more extreme than it actually is. The only time I felt like I had to think about which car I brought to an event was the very last Racer speedlist, a 15-minute Hot Pursuit race around the island, which my Gallardo wasn’t durable enough to survive.

So, is this the best Need for Speed? Of course not. And yet, there’s a reason I’ve been playing it for hours at a time. The structure may be awkward, the story virtually nonexistent, and the progression unsatisfying, but the moment-to-moment racing sells it all the same. If I’d read the review I just gave this I’d be inclined to give Rivals a pass, but at the end of the day, I’m happy I didn’t. Not every Need for Speed game has to be on par with Underground or Most Wanted, and while I’d not recommend picking this up for £30, acquiring it as a bundle of three with the reboot and Payback for £15 is more than good enough value for me.

Gaming Memories #1 – RC Revenge

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Whenever I think of the phrase “favourite childhood games”, my brain immediately goes to RC Revenge. Not necessarily because it’s number one on my list of games I grew up with, but because it’s not the kind of game that exists today. It hasn’t been remade or remastered, not since the Playstation 2’s RC Revenge Pro, in any case. If I want to play it, I have to dust off an old console or figure out an emulator. It’s truly a relic of the past.

So… what is it? Well, it’s an arcade racer based on RC cars. You’d start with a number of options to race with – I always chose RC Action, the car on the box art – and as you went through the Championship cups, you’d always race against one car you didn’t have the option to select. Jungle Ranger, Yella, Sarge, Skull Duggery, these cars had a special presence in races, and unlocking them at the end of each championship felt highly rewarding. Two cars I never figured out how to unlock, one of which was a UFO, always remained a mystery to me, though I later found out you were supposed to unlock them by completing Time Trials. Hilariously, the thought had crossed my kid brain, but I figured they’d never force anyone to unlock them through boring Time Trials and they must have been unlocked in other ways instead, like beating championships without losing a single race or taking a single hit. Ah, the days before the internet.

My favourite thing about this game was the varied tracks and the structure of their championships. To start with, you have five themed worlds – a horror theme, a jungle theme, a space theme, a monster theme and a wacky theme – each of which had two main tracks. Those two main tracks also had two longer variations for the Gold and Platinum cups, which means that tracks you were once familiar with suddenly had new pathways which opened up and let you see another perspective to the world. This may not sound particularly crazy now, but it blew my little 5 year old mind.

I vaguely remember spotting RC Revenge Pro on the shelf of a completely non-game related store on a trip to town on day (I want to say it was in a shoe store?), and my dad rolling his eyes, knowing it was an essential purchase. RC Revenge Pro brought the game to PS2 with enhanced graphics – and they really did look enhanced to me then – alongside a new pirate themed world and more unlockable vehicles with special abilities. I remember thinking that the pirate tracks were somewhat boring to play, and I never fell in love with any of the new cars, but I certainly got something out of seeing the game on PS2 with better graphics. It was truly ahead of its time in this way.

With old games like this, I often wonder how many hours I put into it. Did I play for hundreds of hours over the years, as a kid with little else to do? Or does it simply feel that way because I have a lot of fondness for those memories? If it was released today, would I give a crap about it? It’s worth noting that the PS1 version received average reviews and the PS2 version did worse, which is an argument against taking review scores too seriously, as I clearly enjoyed it plenty. I’ve revisited the game in my adult years too, and still had a good time.

One last thing I’ll mention is that I only recently discovered that RC Revenge is actually a sequel to a far more popular RC Racing game named Re-Volt. Some years back, Re-Volt launched as an iOS game, and the entire time I played it I couldn’t shake the sense of familiarity I felt. Much later, I looked up RC Revenge on Wikipedia out of interest and found the link there. Curiously, I don’t find Re-Volt nearly as enjoyable as RC Revenge, which is super interesting given that the general consensus is that people prefer the first. In this way, I feel I’m able to conclude that if I discovered RC Revenge for the first time as an adult, I probably wouldn’t get much more enjoyment out of it than I did out of Re-Volt, which is something to think about.

Either way, if somebody were to come out with a spiritual successor to the series, I’d be on it in a heartbeat.

Platinum Watch – Assassin’s Creed Series – Part 3 – A Platinum and a Trip Back In Time

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The cultists are all dead. My loading screen is littered with the hearts of each and every one of them, but my work was not yet done. After slaughtering anyone and everyone who had anything to do with her family’s fate, Kassandra had to take care of some mythical beasties hanging around the place for reasons I won’t divulge due to spoilers. These were a handful of boss fights which challenged you in different ways, and set against an otherwise historically accurate world, each mythical creature and the story leading up to them stood out as something remarkable. Finishing this task also wrapped up more storylines in a way that gave me more fulfilling closure than the main story did by itself.

But closure aside, Kassandra’s work was still not done! She had bounties to do, quests to undertake on various islands, and, burning deep in her heart, a project more important than dismantling the cult which wronged her family and saving the Greek world, more so than even that… was her desire to visit forty separate underwater objectives and grab all of the treasures within.

Good. God.

WHY.

Whoever implemented that trophy, who hurt you??

Anyway… that took me about 7 straight hours, but to finish off, I took Kassandra on a light jog around the places she had yet to visit in Greece. Have I mentioned it’s a massive place? After landing on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, I finally completed every trophy there was to grab in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

PLAT
This could have been a fantastic Platinum pic if she wasn’t mid-jog. Ah, next time.

Well, the pre-DLC trophies that is, anyway. I’ve got three episodes of Legacy of the First Blade and three episodes of Fate of Atlantis to get through! I’m pretty excited to take these on, especially the latter, and see where Kassandra’s story goes after the events of the main game. In fact, I’ve already played through (and perfected) the first episode of the First Blade stuff, and it was a pretty decently sized third of an expansion, I must say. I like how it’s set in underused areas of the main game, though I do hope the Atlantis stuff is set in Atlantis itself, as I’d love to see more of that.

There’s also “Lost Tales of Greece” quests to do (or something like that) which are nice little stories featuring some of the main characters in the game, or just unique little stories by themselves. So far, I’ve helped Herodotos come to terms with his parents deaths, stopped Sokrates being wrongfully imprisoned, and completed a few arbitrary tasks for a woman who thinks she’s Athena. There’s plenty more of these to do and each as their own bronze trophy, and I’m not going to rush them. They’ll probably be the last trophies I acquire in Odyssey, and I’ll chase them whenever I feel like going back and spending some time in Ancient Greece again.

Alongside Odyssey completion, I’ve been playing through Assassin’s Creed II again. Ezio Auditore’s journey is one which popularised the series, and which many people lament the end of. He’s basically the David Tenant’s Doctor of the franchise, in that many people stopped playing after Revelations and refuse to try any of the just-as-good content of later games because it’s a little different. But I digress.

I originally played through AC2 and Brotherhood on PS3 in 2013, after seeing a Youtuber play through Brotherhood. It was my introduction to the series, and in 2016 I went back and played through the complete trilogy on PC. I was about to remark that it’s not been that long since I played through this trilogy, but then I noticed that the time between my first and second playthroughs was shorter than between the second and third. What even is time? Well, I’m playing a game which is set around 2000 years after the game that came out 10 years after it, so you can hardly blame me.

Anyway, Ezio’s story is always a delight to relive, even if the faces have become a little… dated. I’ve mentioned this before, but Ezio’s character development over a long period of time is what sparked my love of fiction which follows characters from a young age to their oldest, latest days. There’s something fascinating about watching someone’s experiences shape them over the entirety of their life. The trilogy opens with Ezio’s idealistic childhood, which swiftly gives way to betrayal, changing him from a naive and typical teenager to a raging, vengeful assassin. The cutscene after he makes his first assassination is breathtaking; the graphics may have aged, but the acting still comes across brilliantly. Then, slowly over the course of AC2, we watch him mature into a more calm, driven assassin. In Brotherhood he becomes a leader, and in Revelations he becomes old. I’d have more to say on those games if I’d reached them yet, but alas, I have not.

Playing AC2 alongside Odyssey has had some interesting consequences. Sometimes, I’ll go back to Odyssey for some DLC quests, try to sprint and immediately unleash a heavy attack on an unsuspecting passerby. Alternatively, I’ll load up AC2 and immediately jump merrily to my death, forgetting that Ezio lacks Kassandra’s shins of steel. In all honesty though, adapting hasn’t been as difficult as I feared, and it’s actually quite fascinating to compare the two side by side. One’s a far greater game for cohesive narrative and atmosphere, while the other excels in scope, choice and longevity.

Now, depsite the fact that I’m loving playing through Ezio’s story again, I must admit to a bit of fatigue. This is my third go-around, after all, and I’m all-too aware of the massive gap in my games played between Revelations and Origins. 3 is downloaded and 4 is currently on sale for like £6. Infuriatingly I had to buy a new controller this month so this is the only Assassin’s Creed on sale that I’ll be able to take advantage of. Either way, though, to avoid burnout, I have a plan:

I’m allowing myself up to two concurrent Assassin’s Creed playthroughs, one which focuses on story, and one which focuses on trophies. So, for example, my Assassin’s Creed Odyssey playthrough is currently focused on story, as I’ve platinumed the game and am on to the DLC now, whereas I plan to 100% Assassin’s Creed II before moving on to Brotherhood, as I’m already familiar with the story and am in no rush. Therefore, if I want to get started on AC3, I need only finish the Odyssey DLC. This also leaves me free to jump from AC3 to AC4 when I finish the story, and go back to do completion at a later date.

Will this work? Hopefully. Am I overthinking things? Absolutely. But with an attention span like mine, you’ve gotta order things somehow. Ooh look, Watch Dogs 2 is on PSNow!

Platinum Watch: Assassin’s Creed Series – Part 2 – These Titles Just Get Worse

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It’s been a long road. I first started this game a year ago, and after a hefty reinstall, a few days getting to grips with the true nature of the game, and a many hours traversing it’s huge open world for one arduous trophy, I finally got there.

I finally Platinumed The Crew 2.

Oh, you thought I was- no, no you silly goose, that would be way too fast! Have you seen the size of ancient Greece? I haven’t even begun to wrap my head around what still needs doing in that game yet! No, no, I’m far from done. I did finish the main story last night, though. And boy, did I get a bad ending. I won’t spoil anything, suffice to say I ended Kassandra’s odyssey at a very terse dinner with characters who weren’t exactly my best choice of company. The thing is, I thought I was making the right decisions; I researched the choice tree, too, and it turns out that by making one dialogue choice, I doomed myself to this ending halfway through the game. Annoyingly, I actually opted for the correct choice, but I didn’t think it’d be right for Kassandra to be so… forgiving… after what had immediately just happened.

That being said, it’s been a long time since I felt less… accomplished at the end of a long RPG story. It wasn’t lacking, but with the combination of my bad choices, the many other avenues of completion still awaiting me, and the DLCs resting in my quest log, I feel like I’ve just crested another chapter in Kassandra’s odyssey. And I suppose, in a way, I have. And I’m completely fine with that – if a little antsy to get started on one of the other titles, too. But I’ll hold off.

Trophies, then. I’m currently sitting at 31/94 trophies, but after mentioning that trophy number in the last blog post, I realised that this also accounts for all DLC trophies – as far as Platinum is concerned, I have 29/50 trophies, which sounds far better. I’ve obviously collected all the trophies for the chapters in the game, culminating in a silver and gold for the last two. I’ve also begun to tick off some of the periphery achievements regarding certain questlines and special assassination targets. In fact, I’m looking at the contents of the hidden trophies for the first time and it’s giving me a much more complete sense of the road I have before me, and it’s perhaps not as long as I once feared.

That being said, I am at a crossroads. I feel like I could go into full trophy hunting mode and clean up a lot of these final trophies before heading into the DLC, but I’m also not patient enough to wait that long before continuing the story. Kassandra is just before Ezio in my list of favourite assassins, and I’m eager to continue / complete her story. I may just work on trophies as a way of levelling to 50, and continue story-wise from there. As for the DLC, I can’t see those trophies being too difficult to obtain, so I’ll be sure to pick them up as I go. I’ve already got two on my travels!

Hilariously, after declaring my intent to purchase the Ezio Collection if it ever went down to £15 in my last blog post, the game has now done just that. I sit here staring at it, wondering if I really need to play through the trilogy from scratch, when new Assassin’s Creed adventures could await me. I did also pick up Origins for £12, after watching some clips of my 2018 self playing it on PC, and determining that I did originally buy it on sale, too. I feel less weird about buying it twice when I know that both purchases don’t add up to the full price. Plus, Origins is rad.

Okay. I’m rambling. Gonna go get some trophies now. Peace.

Platinum Watch – Assassin’s Creed Series – Part 1 – An Ambitious Beginning

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I’m 46 hours into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and it’s showing no signs of ending. This is my third time visiting the game, by which I mean the two or three weeks I spend playing before I end up giving in to my short attention span and wandering off to have another gander at an Elder Scrolls game or The Witcher 3 instead. And as I stare at my quest log, noting how the game continues to give me quests two levels higher than me and subtly winking towards the store’s timesaver packs, I realise something.

I want to get every Platinum trophy that an Assassin’s Creed game can offer.

This is obviously a terrible idea, not least because I own more than half of the franchise on PC rather than PS4. But the idea grips me before the cold embrace of reality can wrap its clammy fingers around me, and before I know it I’m writing a blog post about the thing, declaring to the world my intent to set out on this task which I surely won’t come close to completing. Platting (which is what the cool kids call 100%ing a game on PS4) Odyssey itself looks to be a monumental task. Still, while I’m giving my fickle attention span the benefit of the doubt, let’s lay out my history with the Assassin’s Creed series and see what kind of task lays ahead of me.

AC1 – Began on PS3, has no trophies but would like to complete in line with the rest sometime
AC2 – Finished the story on PC, plus 33 of 51 trophies on PS3
AC:Brotherhood – Finished the story on PC, only 6 of 61 trophies on PS3
AC:Revelations – Finished the story on PC
AC3: Barely touched on PC, own on PS4
AC: Liberation – Never played, own on PS4
ACIV: Black Flag – Never played, owned for free on PC
AC: Freedom Cry – Never played, I know literally nothing about this one.
AC: Rogue – Never played, might have gotten it free on PC?
AC: Unity – Never played, got it for free on PC
AC: Syndicate – Never played, think I got it for free on PC (they’ve given a few out huh)
AC: Origins – Played a decent chunk of it on PC, but it doesn’t perform great on my rig
AC: Odyssey – 46 hours in on PS4, and only 20 of 94 trophies collected babyyyyy
AC: Valhalla – Aw cmon, that one’s not even out yet.

I’m mostly excited to play through 3 to finish Desmond’s story, 4 to be a pirate, Rogue because I’ve heard good things and Syndicate because it’s apparently an underrated title which is a really cool Victorian outing. By the way, I thought Rogue was to Unity what Freedom Cry is to Rogue; I had no idea it was a mainline title and I’ve always overlooked it for that. I also completely forgot that Freedom Cry exists, but lookie, they brought it over to PS4 and everything.

Ideally, before I begin on 3 and Liberation, which I got with the Odyssey Season Pass, I’d like to go through the Ezio Collection on PS4, just to refresh my memory on Desmond’s story and also because those games are rad as heck. Sadly it seems to never go on sale though, and it would feel like a waste of money at full price considering I own the originals on PC and PS3. That being said, if it dropped to like £15 before I finish Odyssey and begin on 3, then maybe I’ll bite. Maybe during the July Uplay event?

So, place your bets. Will I succeed in this absurd mission? Will I have a digital shelf of Platinum Assassin’s Creed trophies to grace this blog with before the year is out? HELL NO! Ruling that one out. But before the decade is out? Solid maybe. Although there will probably be at least six more games out by 2030. And I did also declare intent to Platinum every Ratchet and Clank game recently…

 

Playstation 5 Event Predictions & Desires

The Playstation 5 has already been revealed in peeks and scraps over the last few months, but on June 4th Sony are hosting an event which I think we can safely assume is analogous to previous console reveal events. And seeing as we’re not having an E3 this year, I figured we’ll focus our yearly predictions thread here instead. Plus, while I may have spread my focus to include PC, Switch, and to a lesser extent Xbox games (via PC Game Pass) in recent years, I was brought up on Playstations and I doubt I’ll ever be able to think of gaming history outside the context of what Playstation console was current at the time.

To give some context for future readers, here’s what we already know about the PS5:

  • It’s got a super duper SSD which loads Marvel’s Spider-Man pretty much instantly
  • The controller is called the DualSense, and it’s an aesthetic nightmare
  • It’s releasing holiday 2020
  • It has a renewed focus on backwards compatibility

And here’s what Sony has to say about their upcoming event:

There are few things as exciting as the launch of a new console. While this road to launch has been a bit…different, we are as thrilled as ever to bring you with us on this journey to redefine the future of videogames.

We’ve shared technical specifications and shown you the new DualSense wireless controller. But what is a launch without games?

This is part of our series of PS5 updates and, rest assured, after next week’s showcase, we will still have much to share with you.

So it’s focused on games, but the promo image shows a DualSense controller which looks to be an all-black version, and if that’s the case: THANK YOU. But also, one prediction on this presentation besides games: there’s no way this ends without us knowing what the damn console looks like. I’m hoping that includes the home screen, too – I love a good home screen reveal!

And now, onto the games, in order of whatever came into my mind first.


A New Ratchet and Clank

Likelihood: Decently likely? Insomniac confirmed the series has a future, and it’s been a while

What’s a Playstation without a Ratchet and Clank game? The Playstation One, that’s what, and we don’t want the Playstation One. We want the Playstation 5! We want to smash open crates and suck up little bundles of bolts and here the little tingle-clanging sound that signals instant gratification. We want to discover, upgrade and fire new absurdly powerful – and just plain absurd – weaponry at a fun array of alien and mechanical baddies. We want to slingshot across oceans of lava and acid and bottomless pits.

I would also accept the ability to play the older titles on the newer system via whatever their backwards compatibility solution is. I’m a little Ratchet and Clank starved right now.


Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Likelihood: More likely than a new Ratchet and Clank! I would not blame Insomniac for this. Plus, they used the first game to demonstrate the PS5 SSD.

Marvel’s Spider-Man convinced me to buy a PS4. (Alongside Spyro Re-Ignited.) I’ve discussed it here before, but it’s the perfect storm of a fantastic game made by some of my favourite devs in one of my favourite fictional worlds, based on one of my favourite superheroes. I’m still amazed that it exists. It feels like it was made for me! And Insomniac have not been shy in hinting at a sequel. For this one, it’s less a matter of if and more a matter of when. If we don’t see it in this presentation, I have no doubt it’ll be on the way regardless.


A New, Original Crash Bandicoot

Likelihood: There’s demand for it, but I’d be more concerned with the likelihood of it being good

Vicarious Visions developed the fantastic N.Sane trilogy remake of the original Crash Bandicoot games, and then Beenox followed it up with an absolutely superb remake of Crash Team Racing. Crash is more relevant than ever, and Activision love money. The concern is that… well, Activision love money, not Crash Bandicoot. Creating a new Crash Bandicoot game is a considerably larger undertaking than recreating an old one, and Activision is not the company to put your faith in regarding the choice between putting the time in to make a good game or rushing a cash-grab.

Also, this wouldn’t be an exclusive, but I can see them marketing it towards PS5 consumers given the series’ history!


A New, Original Spyro the Dragon

See above.


God of War: Ragnarok

Likelihood: I mean… it’s the poster boy for Sony exclusives, and for good reason. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t present

Without giving spoilers, PS4’s God of War absolutely leads into a sequel. We’re not done with that world or that story. I can say with a decent level of confidence that we’ll be seeing Dad and Boi again on PS5, possibly sooner rather than later, and as someone who has only just played the PS4 game and is now playing the PS2 originals, I say: GIVE IT TO ME.


Horizon: Zero Dawn 2

Likelihood: They recently “continued” the story in external media, so maybe not as likely as everyone thinks?

Then again, maybe it’ll be a time-skip deal; maybe the recent port to PC is a long-play to drive customers towards PS5 for a sequel. I’ve never played the original. I own it, but I try to clear my gaming schedule for a large-scale RPG like this. Either way, a sequel would please a lot of people, and the hype would probably push me towards trying the first game.


Godfall

Likelihood: Almost certain. Yay?

What is this game.

The initial trailer at the Game Awards did excite me, but on further reflection it does have the aura of a launch title that has lots of swagger and press, but is hardly talked about a few years from now. Hopefully that’s not the case though, as it looks epic.


The typical iterations.

Likelihood: Crushingly inevitable.

A new FIFA. A new Madden. The next Call of Duty. The next Need for Speed. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. I don’t know if EA are doing an event this year, but they like to double dip, so I wouldn’t put it past them to show up in the PS5 presentation.

It’s an hour long. There’s going to be a drawn out sports game segment.


Everything likely that I’m not specifically excited for

  • The Last of Us Part II
  • Gran Turismo 7 / Sport 2
  • Ghost of Tsushima
  • Days Gone 2? For some reason?
  • A new Killzone or something that we forgot existed

Everything old is new again

Hey, look at how well all of your PS4 games run on the PS5!! You never have to worry about New Console Game Draught again. It’s all already here! And enhanced! And look at Playstation Now running PS3 games on this system!! Technically it’s no different but we’re going to remind you about this service anyway!!! And hopefully details on improvements for it because it is legitimately exciting, I’ve been trialling it lately.


PSVR2

Likelihood: Confirmed to exist, but is it important enough to be a launch peripheral?

The PSVR2 is going to happen, and it’s going to make use of PS5’s hardware to be better than its predecessor. But is it slated for launch? Either way, I won’t be able to afford it. That being said, I believe they said something about PSVR1 performing better with PS5, too, so that’s exciting.


All this, and more!

Okay, not “all this”. Especially regarding that quote that warns we’ll have more news leading up to launch. This isn’t a one-and-done presentation, much like Xbox’s presentation (although I’m yet to see anything since that first one that’s turned my head). I imagine there will be a new IP or two that are impossible to predict, maybe a surprise port or remake.

Point is, I’m excited to see what they reveal on June 4th. I doubt I’ll own a PS5 within the first year of its existence, but it’s always fun to see what’s coming and where series are going. And… hell, I just love these reveal events. I know there’s a lot of cynicism regarding events like E3, but I always came out of those excited for at least a few games, so I was sad to see it die. Hopefully events like these will be a suitable replacement.

Founding a New Home – Inkwell Week 1, An Animal Crossing Diary

I was somewhat apprehensive as I stepped off the plane and onto the island – our new home – for the first time. I was used to life in Canvas, a town where I could walk to the shops to buy what I needed, buy new clothes or change my hairstyle on a whim. But as we stepped out onto the dock for the first time, I was struck with just how empty the land before us truly was. Overgrown with weeds, trees, and without a building or pathway in sight. Not even flowers!

Moreover, I was moving here with Canberra and Coach, two animals I’d never even met before. Thankfully, the Nooks had already established a basic plaza and resident services tent towards the centre of the island. They reassured us on the matters of our access to essentials – we would have some quality of life, after all – and had us pick out spaces for our tents that evening. I found a cosy spot nestled near the bank of a sort of river crossroads, whereas Canberra decided not to stray too far from the plaza, herself. Coach was stumped as to where to set his tent down, so I suggested the beach – as someone who’s into fitness, I figured he’d appreciate stepping out on the shore each morning to inspire him into his morning jog along the coastline. He heartily agreed!

Before I knew it, we’d settled down in front of the fire for a night of appleade, laughter, and stargazing. We were throwing out ideas on what to name the island long into the night, when I considered the name of my previous town of Canvas. I always liked that name as it gave the impression that the town was the canvas on which the tapestry of life would be painted. Similarly, then, Inkwell could be the pot of ink from which one might dip their pen into to write the story of their life. The others immediately took to the idea, and it became official. We celebrated for a while, but I soon grew weary and turned in for the night.

Or… so I thought. At 2am, Tom Nook – perhaps a little buzzed from one too many appleades – came by my tent to give me the full sum of my moving fees! The sly raccoon. Luckily, I’ve dealt with him before, so I wasn’t at all surprised. And besides, behind all the surface-level consumer-capitalism, there’s generosity in spades. One only has to look as far as the interest-free loan with no time limited repayment to see that. But enough – I’m starting to sound like one of his advertisements.

Things began moving rather quickly over the next few days, though perhaps that’s simply because I’m looking back – at the time, it felt like it was going at a snail’s pace! Despite originally envisioning an easy life with no responsibilities on a deserted island, I soon found myself falling into old habits, such as harvesting nearby fruit trees and selling sea shells for small sums of bells. Before long, my old friend Blathers visited, and almost immediately decided on staying and opening up a new museum, bigger and fancier than ever before. The Nooklings didn’t tarry either, setting up a new Nook’s Cranny beneath the cliff’s edge slightly north of the town plaza. And of course, we’d need to build a bridge to get there, and Daisy Mae – Joan’s granddaughter – now saw reason to visit for turnip sales, and then Sahara showed up… everything began to feel more familiar, but also more like home. I’d soon stopped thinking of Canvas as “back home” and started thinking of Inkwell in that way instead.

Speaking of Canvas, though, I had heard word that some of my old townsfolk had taken to visiting some deserted islands of their own, and I set out to some of the smaller ones in hope of coming across some of them, but no luck. I did, however, meet a very energetic yellow monkey by the name of Tammi. Behind her smile she seemed to be lamenting the nature of her current home, so I tentatively offered her a place back at Inkwell, to which she immediately accepted. She wasn’t the only one to move in this week, however; Tom Nook also had me building plots for Zucker the Octopus and Norma the Cow. Zucker is an… eccentric fellow, who has this odd fascination with bugs that I’ve not quite come to grips with yet. Norma is one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever met, and all three of the newer villages have immediately taken to decorating their homes with a delightful assortment of furniture.

Animals haven’t been Inkwell’s only visitors, however. I’ve been in touch with some friends, and have so far had the joy of hosting friends from Hoenn, Lazuli Bay, Stinkwhiff and Tarkinael. I’ve also visited their islands and met some of their villagers, including not one but two bulls who seem like cousins of my own Coach. We’ve traded fruit, so Inkwell now has a wide variety of delicacies on its horizon, as well as ample bell-making opportunities. Speaking of which, I’ve been hard at work ridding smaller islands of tarantulas for future visitors, which is hard work for honest pay, and have already swapped my humble tent for a fairly spacious house with three rooms! If my old friends back at Canvas knew I was in debt to Tom Nook once more, I’d never hear the end of it.

Resident services was closed for refurbishment today, but it’s due to open tomorrow and I’m so excited to see how it turns out. Tom Nook muttered something about requiring some help for the expanded services and gave me a knowing look, but I can’t think of who he might be hinting at. Well, I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. Tomorrow, as always on Inkwell, is another adventure.

My Most Anticipated Games, Expansions and DLC of 2020

2020 is looking to be a pretty good year for gaming, and having decided to make myself a game releases calendar for the stuff I’m personally most interested in, I figured I may as well go the extra mile and make an entire blog post about it. I briefly mentioned what I was anticipating at the end of my 2019 GOTY post, but there’s more to come and more to say about each title. So, going in order of release, we have:


Warcraft III Reforged

Anticipation Level: It’s Warcraft! But it’s also RTS.

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Release Date: January 28th

I probably don’t need to do the whole song and dance about how much of my life I’ve devoted to World of Warcraft at this point, but if you’re new here, allow me to summarise:

It’s a lot.

More specifically though, I’ve always been interested in the lore behind Warcraft’s universe, and indeed one of the reasons I’m so excited about the next expansion is that it’s mostly new material, expanding the story on a cosmological scale. More relevantly to this game, though, I’ve never played any of the original RTS games. I got my dose of Warcraft III lore in the form of Youtubers like nobbel, helping me to fill in important backstory for MMO characters such as Jaina, Illidan and the Lich King.

Due to this, though, my knowledge of the Warcraft III story is limited to a sort of cliff notes version of the plot, and I’m very much considering diving in to the Reforged edition and witnessing the story firsthand with the benefit of updated graphics and renewed relevancy. That being said, as with many other games on this list of a milder anticipation level, it all depends on income and free time.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Anticipation Level: If I could pay off my debt to Tom Nook in hype, I’d be debt-free on day one.

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Release Date: March 20th

Did I make this entire blog post as an excuse to vent hype about the upcoming Animal Crossing game? Maybe. Your point?

My first game in the Animal Crossing series was the Wii one, and I loved it, but always lamented the lack of ease of play. This is going to come off as extremely lazy, but the requirement of motion controls (I assume? I had no Pro controller but you couldn’t play with the controller sideways) meant you needed to have at least some free space to wave your arm about, or a motion sensor that didn’t break every two months. Nevertheless, I enjoyed City Folk as much as Wild World (acquired later) and New Leaf. In all three titles I sunk many days of work collecting fruit, fish, bugs, laying down pathways, paying off debts, the works.

I criminally underused my 3DS, though, so New Leaf didn’t get quite as much love from me as it maybe should have, and I’ve subsequently not played any Animal Crossing in some time. I’m therefore bursting at the seams for New Horizons. And hey, you know how any seasoned Animal Crossing player has a favourite villager? Aurora. Aurora the goddamned penguin. She showed up in my first Wild World save as one of my original villagers, and then later showed up again in my New Leaf village. If I could get her to consider island life, then I am more than willing to resume being besties for life. Just, you know. Putting it out there.

Goldie is cool too.


DOOM Eternal

Anticipation Level: Tweet and blog. Until it is out.

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Release Date: March 20th

Yes, I see you doing the double-take. DOOM Eternal releases on the same day as Animal Crossing. That means that there is an excellent chance that I’ll be viscerally murdering swathes of demons and stomping through angel guts on the very same day that I’m moving into my new island home, setting up the furniture and watering the lovely flowers nearby. If I do have to choose, and common financial sense dictates that I likely will, then I’m probably going for the island life. As much as I love the shit out of DOOM, I’ve still yet to beat a single game in the series. I’m like 80% of the way through, but I always get distracted by something else.

Nevertheless, DOOM Eternal looks to be advancing the spectacular reboot into enticing new locations, with new people (demons) to meet (slaughter) and new locales (apocalyptic hellscapes) to visit (conquer). Maybe I’ll send a postcard.


DOOM 64

Anticipation Level: It won’t be the first DOOM release I try this year…

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Release Date: March 20th

DOOM 64 releases on the same day as DOOM Eternal, and given that one is old and one is new I’ll likely check out Eternal first. But as someone who sought out the original DOOM a few years before the reboot was even announced and loved it, I’m always interested in more retro DOOM. I’ve still not tried DOOM 2, though, because I haven’t beaten DOOM 1. Can you see a pattern developing here?

Before we move on, now’s a good chance to mention that this exists as a sort of apology for the delay; DOOM Eternal was originally going to release back in October, on the same day as Animal Crossing: New Horizons before that got delayed to March as well. These two titles are determined to stick together. How romantic.


Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition

Anticipation Level: Duh-duh-duh-dunn!

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Release Date: March-April, we hope

As a newcomer to the franchise, I think that starting with Reach on PC was a fantastic choice, and the result of many things aligning – Reach being omitted from the Xbox collection meant that 343 could kill two birds with one stone in developing it for PC, as it’s chronologically the earliest game. Plus, it makes PC players’ first experience with Halo a more modern, polished one, as opposed to the original, which will have inevitably aged and could turn newcomers off. That being said…

I’m ready to be the Chief! Pump that shit into my veins!


Cyberpunk 2077

Anticipation Level: Mild, but pretty sure it’s a crime to not include this title.

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Release Date: April 17th

I’m only just falling in love with The Witcher 3, and I’ve bounced off both previous Witcher games, so all throughout Cyberpunk’s pre-release hype I’ve been blind to the pedigree of CD Projekt Red. Plus, while the setting interests me, I’ve never personally fallen in love with a cyberpunk world. Nevertheless, this looks like an extremely high calibre game, and I’m excited to experience it secondhand; through Youtubers and streamers and surely my mate who’s going to be buying this day one, I assume.


Minecraft Dungeons

Anticipation Level: It entirely depends on the quality of the final product.

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Release: April

I like Minecraft a fair bit. I can’t see how that translates into hype for a completely different genre as a spinoff title, but the aesthetic translates cutely enough, and it’ll be interesting to see what new avenues are explored in the world of Minecraft – new monsters, locations etc.

Best case scenario, this game is a Minecraft themed Diablo-like that’s fun to play on and off for a good twenty hours. If it’s cheap or if I re-activate Game Pass, I’ll be sure to check it out.


Sidenote – Marvel’s Avengers releases in April? We still don’t know what the hell’s going on with that game. Last I heard they did a 180 and now it’s focusing on a character who wasn’t in any of the trailers / shown story material.


The Elder Scrolls Online: Untitled Skyrim Chapter

Anticipation Level: SHOW ME WHITERUN BABYYYYYY

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Release: Likely Summer

This one’s a difficult one to talk about, because they haven’t technically announced it yet. If I was patient, I’d be making this blog post next week, which is the announcement date. But at The Game Awards they teased that their next Chapter (see: Expansion) is taking us into “the dark heart of Skyrim”, which many have speculated to mean the underground area known as Blackreach. I wouldn’t be surprised nor disappointed if that was the case, but hopefully as an Artaeum-style accompanying zone, with the main focus being on the remainder of Skyrim that’s yet to be included in game, such as the areas containing Whiterun, Falkreath, maybe even Solitude?

Oh, and a new class would be nice, too, though I’ve hardly explored outside of Sorcerer so far. New profession? Would fit the pattern, but can’t think of what. Or they could surprise everyone and include a new race, like the snow elves, though I’m not sure how they’d fit into the lore. I mean, they did dragons during the second empire, so I’m assuming anything’s on the table at this point. Dwemer, even?


Halo 2 / Halo 2: Anniversary Edition

Anticipation Level: Duh-duh-duh-DUNNN!!

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Release Date: My guess is Summer?

Given that I’m just a Reach boi right now, I can’t really formulate an idea of what this game is in comparison to Combat Evolved. All I know is that it has dual-wielding, an Elite campaign element, that turbine map, and more recently, that Halo 2’s Anniversary graphics do more for that game than I expected, they’re gorgeous.

Is it enough to be hyped about? ABSOLUTELY IT IS.


Pokémon Sword: Armour Island Expansion

Anticipation Level: Lrrroooaaaarrddd!

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Release Date: June

These were announced a few hours ago, so excuse my relatively unformed opinions. These kind of caught me off guard, but heck yeah, I’m ready for this! Both areas have an overworld that’s entirely wild area-like, which is hopefully how the full games are moving forward.

It’s a little hard to separate what belongs to which expansion given how they’ve marketed it, but it seems that the first expansion contains Venusaur and Blastoise and Gigantamax forms of each, out of which Blastoise sadly wins design-wise; looks like we’ll be chasing after a legendary fighting Pokémon themed after a panda-looking bear dude, and that it’s going to be primarily story focused. I think, of the two expansions, I’m more excited for this one’s environment, but the second one’s actual game content.


Pokémon Sword: Crown Tundra Expansion

Anticipation Level: Whatever noise Eternatus makes?

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Release: Autumn 2020

The second expansion is almost a mirror of the first when it comes to how it’s an open area, with a running story, and a legendary Pokémon to chase after (some weird biped that looks like it should be a quadraped but it has a bush for a hairdo), but this expansion also allows you to team up with friends and venture into underground Pokémon dens to capture old legendaries, which sounds fun. They’ve also given the legendary birds some awesome new forms – did I see concept art of Articuno shooting eye lazers? – and there’s some new Regis in there to boot.

Not much else to add, just pleasantly surprised they’re fleshing out Pokémon Sword and Shield in a meaningful way, especially as Sword is the most fun I’ve had in a Pokémon game since Soul Silver. I now make it my mission to finish the Pokédex before Armour Island releases (I got distracted breeding and wonder trading).


Gods and Monsters

Anticipation Level: Just don’t add towers and pointless collectables

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Release: Q3/4

Literally the only thing I know about this game is that it’s made by the developers who did Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and that they want to make a similar game, but one which focuses more on the mythology side of things.

So far, I’m sold.


Watch Dogs: Legion

Anticipation Level: A healthy curiosity, and a suspicion of secretly spry elderly people

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Release: Q3/4

I’ve never played a Watch Dogs game before because it’s Ubisoft, and GTA V exists, but from what I’ve heard the second game was pretty decent. The premise behind Legion has got my attention, though. The possibility of any NPC becoming a playable character with a fully fleshed out story and character traits, plus permadeath, in a GTA style world makes my sandbox tastebuds tingle with excitement. It’s also an incredibly difficult formula to perfect, and I have many concerns about how things will actually play out, so I’ll keep a watchful eye on the game past launch.

I’m also super intrigued by the whole post-Brexit dystopia thing they’ve got going on. Besides maybe some spy or war focused games, I can’t think of a single title which tackles modern events with such reckless abandon. And I’ve already seen a pretty huge red flag in the form of Ubisoft claiming that it’s not a political game in any way. You set it in a post-Brexit London gone wrong, how the fuck do you create the world without political connotation out the wazoo?

It’s either going to be a fantastic game, or an utter shitshow. Or a little bit of both, because nuance exists.


Halo 3 + ODST

Anticipation Level: DUH-DUH-DUH-DUNNN!!!

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Release Date: Fall, hopefully? May be getting too hopeful.

This is it, the granddaddy of all Halo, the epitome of Chiefage. Or so I know from osmosis. I remember an interview someone did in a line of Halo 3 purchasers outside of Gamestop once, where someone said that Halo 3 would be without a doubt the greatest game ever made. As a kid I kinda just believed that, but thinking about it now that speaks more to the success of Halo 2 than anything.

Anyway, what do I know about Halo 3? Well until recently I thought it introduced energy swords. I know that there’s some desert levels and, hey, didn’t they redo Blood Gulch for this one?

Look, I’m excited, what more do you want from me.


World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

Anticipation Level: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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Release Date: “2020”, history says Autumn, reality says Holiday.

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Okay, I should probably articulate instead of screaming.

I am completely in love with everything we’ve seen regarding Shadowlands so far. Actual fantastical setting? Check. Thematic variety across zones? Check. Linear story so it has room to be something good? Check. New lore on a cosmological scale? Check. Meaningful solo content? Check (I hope). Roguelike elements to it? Check. Interesting expansionary feature? Check – emissaries.

I could keep going, but this isn’t a WoW based post so I’ll leave it there.


Godfall

Anticipation Level: WHAT IS THIS GAME

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Release Date: Holiday 2020, PS5 babyyyyy

I’m mostly just excited to learn about what the hell this game is. It is the most shounen anime looking shit and I am all about it. And people aren’t talking about it. Why the hell aren’t people talking about it?!

Oh, right. Because the gameplay could be anything.


Halo 4

Anticipation Level: Duh-duh-duh-dunn!!!!

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Release Date: Literally just guessing by this point, but before Halo Infinite? As a goal, at least.

I know this as the Episode VII of Halo. The “they tried to revive it and it was okay but not amazing. Also similar but different” game. I know it has orange guns? And modernised FPS handling, including sane sprinting. And something called the Praetorians? I might have made them up.

IT’S MORE HALO I WANT ALL THE HALO MOVING ON.


Halo Infinite

Anticipation Level: Duh-duh-duh-dunn?

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Release Date: Holiday 2020, Xbox PC babyyyy

Am… am I allowed to be excited for Halo Infinite? Narratively speaking, I’m all the way back in Reach. I don’t even know what a Halo is, besides that it’s “like a Death Star but it’s already got a big hole in it”. I haven’t even met Master Chief yet. But I’m super excited about playing Halo 1-4 (and reading up on 5 lol) so… yay? I guess?


LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Anticipation Level: Fuck the movies, gimmie them BRICKS

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Release Date: 2020

LEGO Star Wars is my childhood. It was basically my introduction to the entire franchise. I’ve played through it so many times! And now they’re completely remaking the originals as well as making the Disney trilogy. Can you imagine how weird it would be seeing an Episode I character next to an Episode IX character?

oh right they did the Palpatine thing didn’t they

Anyway, I should mention that I’m somewhat cautious. While I loved the original PS2 games and the remaster of them, I simply cannot get into LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The entire way they handle the story is completely offputting to me. Give me a cantina! Let me walk among the characters I’ve unlocked. And please, please don’t make it a cover shooter. Also, the quality of puzzles varies wildly between LEGO games. For reference: LEGO Marvel Superheroes good, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers bad, very very bad.

I’m not fussy.

Update: When looking this up I’ve found the Steam page, and I’ve just learned that, quote, “For the first time ever in a LEGO video game, explore the galaxy your way as you fly to some of the saga’s most legendary locales. You can start your journey with Star Wars™: The Phantom Menace for some podracing on Tatooine. Or choose to launch right into Rey’s adventures in Star Wars™: The Rise of Skywalker. Players have the freedom to seamlessly travel to any planet, in any order, at any time.” Open world hub? Verrrry interesting.


Rune Factory 4 Special / 5

Anticipation Level: I like this… in theory.

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Release Dates: 2020

I’m bundling these two together, because I don’t have a lot to say about them. I own Rune Factory 4 on 3DS, but it’s the very last game I bought for that system, and I’ve subsequently spent about two hours in that game. I’m probably due time for the neglect I’ve inflicted upon my 3DS at this point.

But hey, these games interest me! Harvest Moon plus a bit of fantasy RPG. And I’ve never played a Harvest Moon game, but boy have I put time into Stardew Valley!

Okay this one might be a little tenuous.


Dwarf Fortress

Anticipation Level: just insert ascii text here it’s a funny joke

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Release Date: 2020?

My tale of experience with the original Dwarf Fortress is the same as many others: I learned of the game, got excited about the emergent narrative capabilities, booted it up and promptly shat myself when greeted by a bunch of numbers. The learning curve is steeper than a screen of n’s (did I do the ASCII humour right?), which is why I was very excited to learn that a slightly more user friendly version of the game is coming to Steam in… 2020? Maybe? Hopefully? Possibly?

I did mess around with the lore generator that comes packaged with Dwarf Fortress and was legitimately impressed, though I do question the uniqueness of a world which was started by a dragon named One. Regardless, shit hit the fan when he was killed a few hundred years later.


think that’s everything, but more games and DLC will doubtlessly be announced for 2020 as the year goes on. For instance, doesn’t Destiny 2 do a yearly expansion now? That’ll be announced around summertime if they’re following their usual pattern. And there’s probably heaps of indie games which have already been announced, and maybe even caught my eye in a Direct or something, that I’ve failed to note down here. The Survivalists, for example. Ah well. I think 3100+ words is a big enough list to be getting on with.

Kritigri’s Top 10 Played Games of 2019!

Wow it’s that time of year again already! As always, it’s about what I played this year, not just what was released this year, because I’m not made of money and can’t afford to buy every release that interests me for full price. Also, DLC counts if it’s an expansion or a similar level of content release to a pre-existing game.

In fact, let’s acknowledge what I was interested in this year but never got the chance to play:

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Devil May Cry 5

Planet Zoo

Borderlands 3

Control

Rage 2

Onto what I actually did play, then. I’d say this year’s been pretty good, but every year’s good when you’re looking at your top ten. Games are a lot of fun!


Honorable Mention: The Outer Worlds

This game gets my yearly “I’m sorry I abandoned you” award.

The Outer Worlds was good. GOTY material. I thought that, in my head, as I was playing it. I finished the entire first planet, including a few sidequests, and I was really enjoying my time. But on the way to the next planet I realised that I’d reached a good stopping point, and another release pulled me away.

I swore to come back, but I never did.

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.


#10 – Beat Saber (PSVR)

Whenever you see clips of people doing amazing things in Beat Saber, just know that they are literal gods who walk among us. The level of satisfaction you get from just watching them work is easily achieved by accomplishing much smaller feats in your own play sessions. The game does exactly what it promises to do in its visuals – it makes you feel like a damn Jedi. When you get it right, anyway. And when you don’t end up punching your bookshelf… I don’t have a lot of movement space in my room.

My only complaint is that there’s no Spotify or Youtube integration, with an algorithm for generating your own levels. Choice of level is sparse, with music that’s personally only enjoyable because of the accompanying gameplay. I’d be way more interested in playing Beat Saber to the tunes of heavy metal, just to see how insane that could get, but it seems like the creators are opting for a DLC method, netting them more money but us far less options in genre. Ah well.


#9 – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS4)

Of all the late discoveries in my GOTY lists, this one must be the latest. Despite the original game having not even been released this decade, the PS4 remaster holds up. Whilst the fact that it’s a PS3 game shines through in some of the flat platform ledges and basic, albeit touched-up faces, the gameplay didn’t feel clunky at all.

I really didn’t know what to expect going into Uncharted. It’s a genre I never cared about as a teenager – I actually sold Uncharted 3 which came with my PS3 – to the extent that I’ve never even gone out of my way to watch gameplay of the series. I was surprised by the amount of cover shooting the game had, though not unpleasantly so. I was even more surprised by the turn the story takes towards the end, into the supernatural. I took my time with the game, playing through a few chapters over the course of weeks, but I had a great time.

If you’re wondering why I chose the first game, which everyone tells me is rough compared to its sequels, here’s the answer: I’m not doing playing Among Thieves yet.


#8 – Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)

One of my most anticipated games of the year. The original’s existence was my one regret for not owning a Wii U, having already been deeply invested in making my own Mario levels years before on a fan-made version called Super Mario Flash.

I love that it’s just always there, on my Switch, millions of levels ready to go. This time around Nintendo also included 100 levels of their own in a cute little story mode, where you can rebuild Peach’s castle and earn some new level parts along the way. I’m also a big fan of the huge variety of themes across all games, with night levels including some fun modifiers. It truly feels like there are limitless possibilities.

I made a couple of levels, and was decently surprised to see them get played and rated nicely. However, my idea of recreating Crash Bandicoot levels in Mario Maker form didn’t exactly pan out, and it kinda crushed my motivation to make levels from there on out. Plus, the issue of the level pool being flooded with low quality content stops Super Mario Maker 2 from being higher up in the list; a flaw of its own nature.


#7 – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)

I’m going to level with you here – I haven’t played this game in months, so I don’t have any sort of fresh take to give you. But from what I remember, it’s my favourite Assassin’s Creed game since AC2. Kassandra is a genuinely likable assassin with a story that I actually give a damn about, and having agency over basic choices in the story makes a world of difference. Plus, the world of Ancient Greece is superbly crafted. And it’s HUGE. I’m still awestruck and bewildered as to how they made such a huge and detailed environment.

It’s a long ol’ game, and it’s one I’ve pledged to return to at some point. I think that point may be coming up sooner rather than later.


#6 – Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr (PC)

Back at the start of the year I played through the preceding Summerset chapter, and considered it to be a gorgeous and well-crafted island with a somewhat dull story riddled with ambiguously magical plot points. Then, in the summer, I began the Elsweyr chapter when it came out, but the story just didn’t grab me, and I ultimately fell off of playing it, not even thinking about it again for months.

Then, last week, I got the urge to resume my travels and discovered that the second half of the Elsweyr story is when shit got interesting. And just when I’d grown attached to the characters, the story ended, and I continued onwards to Southern Elsweyr in the accompanying DLC released this fall to wrap up the year-long storyline. As far as ESO stories go, it was pretty grand! Zapped some dragons, helped some cats, did the hero stuff. I haven’t actually tried any of the side-stories yet, though. I’ve spent my last few play sessions levelling an alt through the Daggerfall Covenant questlines, which I’ve scarcely touched.

This year is the first time I’ve given into temptation and opted into the optional ESO Plus subscription instead of just buying the smaller DLC packs outright. I’ve gotta say, the freedom of being able to loot everything without worrying about the crafting materials eating up all your bag space does make questing that little bit more enjoyable.


#5 – Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4)

CTR:NF is the most generous game when it comes to free content that I’ve ever seen, with one huge caveat: Despite initially promising that the game would have zero microtransactions, season two saw the introduction of the ability to buy Wumpa Coins alongside earning them through play. I’ve kept a close eye on the valuation of store items, though, and nothing’s been tweaked to be more of a grind that I can see.

Anyways, this game is more than just a faithful remake of the original PS1 title. It goes above and beyond, including every track from the PS2 successor Crash Nitro Kart, as well as the aforementioned seasonal content, each bringing with it a free new track that’s unlocked for everyone. It is incredibly generous. Not only that, but I personally find the gameplay more fun that Mario Kart 8’s, and I love Mario Kart 8 (though I am now AWFUL at it).

I’m currently a bit burnt out, having successfully completed my Champion Kart grind in the Halloween season, but it’s definitely a game I’ll be returning to often.


#4 – Pokémon Sword (Switch)

I almost didn’t buy this game.

The last mainline Pokémon game I really loved was Pokémon Diamond. I’ve always been more of a fan of the remakes and spinoffs, like Pokémon Leaf Green, Pokémon SoulSilver and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee Edition. It’s only because I bought the two-game-pass thing months ago that I decided to pick up Sword; I was initially going to go for Dragon Quest XIS, but I fell off playing the demo. (It seems like a really good game, my attention span just betrays me.)

I’m so glad I changed my mind! This has legitimately been the most fun I’ve had in a Pokémon game for years. I love the setting, I love the Galar region Pokémon, I love the story (yes, even Hop), and I love the spectacle of gym battles. When you look at a clip of a Pokémon dynamaxing it looks stupid, but when you’re immersed in the game’s story and challenge, it genuinely feels awesome when you dynamax for the first time.

Hell, I’m even planning on checking out the anime for Pokémon Sword when it comes out. And I never watch the anime! That’s how much I love the Galar region.


#3 – Halo: Reach (PC)

It feels like I’ve been waiting to play a Halo game for my entire life, and I am so, so happy that I finally have the chance to do so.

That being said, Halo: Reach’s campaign didn’t really grab me until halfway through. The somewhat blunt gun-feel took a little bit of getting used to after years of Destiny 2, and the setting of the first few missions isn’t quite the fantastical sci-fi romp that I’ve known Halo to be from afar. It does get there eventually though, and when you’ve spent some time with the weapons they do feel effective in their own way. By the fifth mission I’d fallen fully in love with Halo: Reach.

The multiplayer is hugely refreshing, hailing from an era before ultimates and gameplay tailored to try and give every player their hero moment. There’s obviously still a fair amount of one-shot kills, such as sniper rifles, rocket launchers and energy swords, but these are weapons which you have to fight over to obtain, rather than being a bar which charges up over a set amount of time. I love the Crucible in Destiny 2, and I do enjoy the ultimate based gameplay, but it does lead to more moments of frustration. In comparsion, Halo feels like a breath of fresh air.

I can’t wait for the rest of the collection to come to PC.


#2 – Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

Choosing between this and Halo for #2 was a difficult choice. I have friends who would object one way or the other. But when it really comes down to it, to what I spent the most amount of time in getting the most amount of enjoyment out of, it has to be Shadowkeep, purely by way of design.

As far as the story goes, I made an excellent decision in brushing up on the lore of Destiny before this expansion dropped. (Chapters, DLC, I don’t care what the devs call these things, they’re expansions.) The “oh shit” moment near the start of the campaign was really an “OH SHIT” moment for me. The over-arcing narrative of events on the moon was really fun to explore. To be honest, though, the seasonal story felt tacked-on, and the Vex Offensive event for season 8 had absolutely no replayability. Season 9 has just kicked off but I’m still a little burnt out from reaching the end of season 8’s loot pass, and it’s a little weird adjusting back from Halo.

Nevertheless though, I’ve spent literally 100 hours in the game since Shadowkeep launched and while I may have gotten frustrated with it towards the end there, the majority of time was well spent.


#1 – Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

I beat this right at the start of the year in January, so my memory might be a little vague, but this remains the best game I’ve played on PS4. One of my favourite fictional worlds from one of my favourite game developers turned out to be an amazing (hah) combination. I immediately fell in love with the story and bought all the DLC, playing to 100% completion. This is legitimately one of my favourite versions of Spider-Man across all forms of media, up there with the Spider-Verse movie and the Ultimate Spider-Man comic line.

I’ve honestly been keeping myself from doing another run through the game until my memory of it is distant. And hey, it is now… and to grab that platinum trophy I need to beat the game on its hardest difficulty. So there’s a good excuse.


Most Anticipated 2020 Titles

And that’s a wrap on 2019!

This list could have looked very different without a few delays, however. Where would Animal Crossing and DOOM Eternal have landed on this list? What if the other Halo games had also launched this year? Let’s take a sneak peak at what the next year holds in store. My most anticipated titles, not ordered because I honestly can’t choose, are:

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

Elder Scrolls Online: Untitled Skyrim Chapter

DOOM Eternal

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Halo 1-4

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

And probably a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting right now. Looks to be a good year!

Guildies Over Game Design (A World of Warcraft Classic Review)

Audio Version

After several minutes of wandering up and down the small stretch of coast where Murlocs appear, I see him – the final Murloc Warrior that I need for my quest. Four types of Murloc have been plaguing Westfall’s beaches and I’ve been tasked with killing seven of each, a task which has taken me about half an hour so far. Targeting the creature, I begin to cook my Fireball – a 3 second long cast – and just as I finally let loose, a Dwarf Hunter from the middle of bumfuck nowhere opens fire and steals the rights to the kill. I seethe.

WoW Classic is a specific experience. If you’re after an MMO which respects your time, which recognises the way players behave and adjusts systems to benefit your average player accordingly, WoW Classic is not the game for you. However, if you’re after an experience which feels like a grand adventure, which creates communities out of the necessity of teaming up and encourages people to explore every avenue of the world including cooking, then WoW Classic is absolutely the game for you.

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This was one layer… of one starting zone… of one realm… of one region.

 

Everyone’s origin story of how they discovered WoW is different, and I’m very lucky in that I get the best of both worlds when it comes to enjoying the game as it used to be. I levelled a Druid up to 20 in the Burning Crusade expansion, which hardly touched the original levelling experience, so I have the nostalgia of returning to a pre-Cataclysm Azeroth and re-discovering the game’s systems as they used to be. At the same time, though, I only properly got into World of Warcraft for good during the Mists of Pandaria expansion, a time long after Looking For Dungeon and other oft-maligned quality of life improvements had been added to the game, so I also get to play the version that hooked so many people and thoroughly explore the pre-Cataclysm world for the first time.

Classic can be frustrating. It was, of course, rather naive of me to try to tag that Murloc Warrior with a 3 second cast during the intensely busy launch period of the game, but having gotten used to the ability to share kill credit with non-party members of the same faction in the modern game, I’ve grown complacent. But the game is often more rewarding than it is frustrating, like that moment the second after that bastard Hunter tagged the Murloc, when I saw the three other Murlocs he had aggroed along the way chase him down and make swift work of him before he could finish the kill. In his hubris to snatch a quest objective from out under my nose he had acted recklessly, and he thoroughly deserved my /applaud before he released his spirit to begin the long corpse run.

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They let me into the city dressed like this?

Most community interactions aren’t ones of conflict, I’m happy to report. Typically in a situation like this, strangers will party up together to share quest objectives, even on quests where you have to loot items from corpses, which take longer in groups due to the way group looting works. On several occasions I’ve had party members stay back and help me finish my quest objective, despite having finished their own, simply because we got to talking and they wanted to be friendly. In fact, at the very start of my WoW Classic journey I found myself re-grouping with a priest from an earlier party to kill kobolds. The area was incredibly over-populated with players, making the quest take far longer than it otherwise would have. During that time I struck up a friendship with the priest and joined her guild, who I am now increasingly familiar with as I log on each day. And that is honestly the quintessential vanilla experience I’ve heard tales of for many years.

The game’s been out for a little over a week now, and I have about 3 days /played… and that’s with a job that I’ve not taken a week off from. And despite all that time playing, I’m only level 23. If I was playing modern WoW for that much time, I’d easily be level 110 or higher already, and I likely wouldn’t have spoken to a single person on the way there. And I feel like it should be said, I do like modern World of Warcraft and I likely will go back to it. I enjoy the narrative, the more thoroughly built world, and the quality of life updates. But while the evolution of the game was cheered on as these features were introduced to ease player frustrations over quest objective stealing, the time it took to form a group for a dungeon, that sort of thing, the community spirit of the game also began to fade, and it sort of happened without most people noticing until later. So while I’ll always be attached to the modern game to see Jaina, Thrall, Baine’s story unfold, I’m also very much attached to Classic, where the focus of the story is about how the highest level player in our guild right now is a Warrior, about one of our officers who got two blue drops in one day, or about how it took forty dead bears to inexplicably drops six bear asses.

Seriously. How many assless bears can exist in one place?

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New Allied Race confirmed.