A Spoilerific Look at Breath Of The Wild

Well friends,

it’s been a ride waiting all these years for the release of The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. Not only is it finally here, but some have finished it — myself included. My original plan was to play a bit of it, give my impressions, and then do a spoiler-filled post about it. My plan fell through completely as I was simply enjoying the game itself far too much and kept wanting to come back for more. Having recently finished the game and having seen the credits, I do feel a sense of closure. No, I didn’t get every last shrine or armor nor did I fill the Hyrule Compendium, and I didn’t even find every Korok. What I did do however was climb every tower, free each Divine Beast, and reclaim all of Link’s memories. In this post I am going to bring up moments and sequences that can be called spoilers therefore you have been warned that I may discuss events that you may not have seen.

Still here? Wonderful. Let me first address the Vah Ruto in the room: Breath of the Wild is a remarkable open-world game. Some worlds, including Oblivion or Assassin’s Creed, never felt inviting or offered a sense that I could explore and be rewarded for it. Breath of the Wild offers this in spades thereby instating my belief that this game should be regarded as a masterclass of open-world design. Even ruins had tantalizing prospects of treasures hidden in them. Everywhere you go in Breath of the Wild there are both enemies to combat or wildlife to hunt. The game simply never feels barren or desolate.
Yet despite this, it makes for one of two things: either an imperfect Zelda game or a reimagining of what a Zelda game can be/is. Consider for a moment the beginning of the game: you are stuck on a plateau where you are tasked (among other things) with clearing four Shrines that each gift you with a rune that you use for the entire game to solve puzzles. This means that once you receive the bombs, magnetism, stasis, and cryonis runes, most if not all puzzles found in the game can be solved with these abilities. During my playtime the only times I felt like I couldn’t complete a Shrine were when I came across the combat-oriented ones. Furthermore, the Divine Beasts (which are game’s equivalent of dungeons as we have known them) don’t have boss keys and can be completed in any order you desire. You can even choose not to complete them at all. Breaking from Zelda conventions is one of the things the developers wanted to do and they did so with aplomb. Does this mean we have a new kind of Zelda game? Yes, absolutely. This is the most risk Nintendo has taken with Zelda as a franchise since Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. While I do believe that Breath of the Wild isn’t perfect, I do feel that the risk paid off and this will be a title that brings in plenty of new fans.

But for the returning fans, there is plenty to love. References to multiple games can be found (nevermind which timeline this may or may not be in) but no title is referenced quite like Ocarina of Time. Dialogue throughout the game points to the various races being very aware of who were made Sages, going so far as to say that the Divine Beasts were named after Ruto, Nabooru, Darunia, and Medli. Medli being the lone sage reference to Windwaker. Additionally, Urbosa, the Gerudo Champion, speaks about the legend that Ganon once assumed a Gerudo form. Even the music while working my way to Hyrule Castle itself was very reminiscent of the organ playing that Ganondorf plays in Ocarina of Time.

Speaking of Hyrule Castle, I tweeted that I had a lot of thoughts about one room in particular. While climbing the Castle Walls, it’s very possible to run into Princess Zelda’s room. Aside from a bow and sword I hadn’t seen before, I found Zelda’s diary which was very eye-opening. In the pages of her diary, Zelda expresses resentment towards Link at first. She quickly changes her attitude on him once she witnesses his courage first hand and then appears to develop feelings for him. Among the entries, Zelda discusses a conversation between herself and Link about why he is so quiet and doesn’t usually express himself. Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this give characteristics to an avatar Nintendo typically left purposefully blank? I’m intrigued to learn if fleshing Link out further was ever discussed during development.

While on the subject of Zelda herself, I am absolutely thrilled with how she is characterized in Breath of the Wild. In the game, all of Hyrule is not only aware of Ganon, but actively takes steps to prevent the Calamity his arrival brings. This all weighs heavily on Zelda, who through the course of Link’s memories, is unable to summon forth the power that is expected of her until a dramatic climax. This understandably brings forth feelings of anger, jealousy, fear, and ultimately, failure. Why am I so thrilled with a downtrodden heroine? It’s another breaking of convention for Zelda as a character. In prior games, Zelda was usually featured as someone who understood her place in guiding Link to his duty against Ganon and sometimes also as a damsel in distress. In Breath of the Wild, Zelda is trapped in Hyrule Castle with Ganon, but is there willingly holding him back from taking control of the rest of Hyrule. She has some real gumption y’all!

Now, on the bosses, I think it’s a great idea to have the random bosses strewn about the environment. You don’t need to face them at all, but they do present solid challenges, and offer some great loot if defeated. But of all the bosses I encountered, none were as challenging as the version of Ganon in Vah Naboris. During this encounter, the boss moves quick as lightning and is difficult to counter due to the sheer speed at which he moves. I’m still not certain how I beat them, but it is the most memorable.

In addition to the subject of bosses, I love the design of Ganon, it looks very much like his exposure to the Guardians affected him as he attempted to assimilate the technology and use it as a means to achieve a physical form. I was intrigued by his spider-esque form as well, but it was something positively new for him. And I really enjoyed how the fight against this form was varied enough that it felt as though I could use any of my weapons and skills against him, and they weren’t “wrong”. I will say that I was disappointed by what was a by-the-numbers form in Dark Beast Ganon: a hulking beast that is very much like older forms of Ganon. Furthermore, to make things even more generic Link is required to shoot at glowing spots on his body highlighted by Zelda with a special Light Bow. We’ve seen that segment a few times over, and I was surprised after such an inspired first form that we would have that segment to fight.

Now these are just my thoughts on the latest Zelda, but they may change with the DLC that is expected to release this Summer and in the Fall. But what are some of your thoughts on Breath of the Wild Right here is a great outlet to be as spoilerific as you’d like, so go ahead and leave a comment and let the words flow.

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Switch Previews

On March 3rd, Nintendo will launch their latest video game console, and for all of the hype, there’s an awful lot of question still lingering around it. I can’t answer a lot of them just yet, but what I can do is go over the launch titles expected to be available in retail or as a download once the Nintendo Switch goes on sale. Let’s get right to it with the most hyped title – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda has long been a series of certain expectations, you go through the story of the game, visiting dungeons and collecting items that you all of a sudden conveniently need. Well, like it or hate it, that and other conventions for the series are thrown out the window. Once the game begins, it’s expected that you will have very little to tell you where you should go. Instead, Breath of the Wild will encourage you to pick your own path and carve out your own adventure. This may very well be the game Zelda fans have been waiting for, and previews of the game tell of a game that packs a wallop. It’s being called the greatest Zelda title since Ocarina of Time, and possibly the game that will force Ocarina to settle for 2nd best Zelda game. All of this praise means even more once you understand that the developers wanted to bring back that feel of wonder and exploration that the original Legend of Zelda on NES gave. If there is a must-own title at launch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks to be that game. Breath of the Wild is a $60 grab physically or digitally.

1-2-Switch

It would be easy to dismiss 1-2-Switch as “just” another collection of minigames, but these are designed for parties and to be the center of everyone’s attention. Not only that, but they showcase the Joy-Con controllers of the Switch with extensive use of each feature. The game packs in 28 different mini-games for you to choose from, or you can have the CPU choose games for you. Previews so far have compared 1-2-Switch to the Warioware series, suggesting a lot of the minigames are relatively quick and simple to play through. But it has already attracted criticism for not being a pack-in title for the Switch. While the title is tailor-made for party or game night scenarios, there is no sign of a single-player mode. All signs point to 1-2-Switch being a hard sell unless you regularly have friends over. 1-2-Switch will be a physical or digital purchase for $50.

Fast RMX

Little seems to be said of this indie racer, but you’re most likely be able to find videos on YouTube. But, Fast RMX is a racer that is best described as a cousin to F-Zero. It’s a futuristic hover racer that emphasizes speed above all else. Fast RMX has 4-player split screen and 8-player online multiplayer options. Further, this is the third game in a series that has been only on Nintendo consoles since the Wii. This is a digital-exclusive offering and will be a $20 purchase.

Snipperclips

Snipperclips is a unique co-operative title where up to 4 players re-shape each other to solve assorted puzzles. Expect this game to be a source of equal parts fun and frustration depending on who you get to play with. Players will need to work together to come up with inventive ways to solve puzzles, and sometimes combine shapes to create something else. This may be the most inventive puzzle game in years. Expect this to be one of the most downloaded titles of the launch lineup. Snipperclips will be a $20 purchase.

Just Dance 2017

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Just Dance 2017 is coming to the Switch, which will support up to 6 players for your latest dance party. Featuring over 40 songs included with the game, and over 200 through a subscription based service. Just Dance 2017 for the Switch will utilize one Joy-Con per player, and features the same gameplay you either love or love to hate. Just Dance 2017 will be a $60 physical or digital title.

Skylanders Imaginators

Just in case you don’t use Amiibo enough, Skylanders are here to get you to buy more figures! A starter pack will be in retail that offers two figures, the game card, and a portal for use with the figures. For the uninitiated, Skylanders is a combination action and platforming game that has a pretty loyal fanbase. Also, this version adds in a Crash Bandicoot cameo and allows players to make their own Skylanders. The Starter pack will roll you back $60.

Super Bomberman R

Super Bomberman R is the return of the Bomberman series after an absence of seven years. In this edition, up to 8 players can compete and cooperate towards laying bombs down in order to progress through levels. Some previews have painted the picture that the game is a tad clunky, but of the launch lineup, this may be the most accessible multiplayer game around. Further, expect this to be a general pallet cleanser compared to the monstrous size of Breath of the WildSuper Bomberman R will set you back by $50 in physical form or digitally.

I Am Setsuna

I Am Setsuna is an RPG made in the SNES-era fashion, and has it’s roots deep into the classic title Chrono Trigger. When Setsuna is selected as a sacrifice to appease demons, what should be the end of her life turns out to be the beginning of a true test. I Am Setsuna takes plenty from classic RPGs including passive bonuses, and a combat system almost taken from Chrono Trigger itself. I Am Setsuna and it’s classic RPG experience will run you $40 as a digital download.

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight already was on the Wii U, but it will be coming to the Switch on launch day with every piece of DLC in tow in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. In Shovel Knight, you guide the titular character through an 8-bit adventure on a quest to rescue his beloved from the clutches of the Order of No Quarter. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove also boasts up to 4-person multiplayer, and 3 additional campaigns involving different characters and abilities. Lastly, a new mode of play will allow you to alter the body and pronouns of each playable character. Meaning, if you want, your Shovel Knight can have the appearance of a woman but be referred to with he/him/his pronouns. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove will be a $25 digital download.

There you have it, the nine titles confirmed to be launching on March 3rd alongside the Nintendo Switch. There’s plenty of other titles coming soon like World of GooMr. ShiftyMario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Stardew Valley, plus more games are coming every week for this brand new system. What will you plan on grabbing? I’ll hope to see you back here to see my thoughts on two of the titles, Super Bomberman R and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Resolving On Resolutions

It’s that time of year and, yes, I do believe in the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. But why? At it’s core, I believe the ultimate idea is to give yourself goals to follow in the new year. I also understand but reject the stereotype of goals failing. Why make someone else’s failure to stick to their goals a reason to make none for yourself?

At any rate, I’m here to talk about my own goals for the coming year. So without further adieu, here they are!

Watch 1 movie I haven’t seen before each week. 

Why make this one of my goals? I have a bad habit of buying some movies and then not watching them. A few examples sitting in my collection include 42The Life of PiAliens, and The Wolverine. I believe by making a concentrated effort to watch more of the movies I own, but I also plan on watching other selections from streaming services and from theaters. As a matter of fact, tonight I’ll be going to see Hidden Figures, which I’m very excited to see.

Complete 2 games each month.

Seems like an awfully simple goal, right? But with the increased size of modern games, and my desire to play perhaps too many games at once led me to pick this as one for the year. But there is a stipulation. Some games I would like to play have a prominent multiplayer component. And most of the time, those parts have no end. So, those parts won’t really help me actually complete a game. With that in mind, completing a game for the purpose of this goal will mean that I saw the credits for the game. I already have one game under my belt for the month: their Final Fantasy I remake on iOS. There’s bound to be more to come!

Increase calories burned.

Truly though, who doesn’t have this as a goal? My belief is that since calories burned is an easy metric to track with my Apple Watch, I can use that as a metric of my success. The idea is by seeing something I can control and measure each day, some weight will drop without the need for weighing. Do I have an end goal? I actually don’t, but at the moment the goal is 500 calories burned in a day. I’ll need to work harder on my days off to reach it, but it is certainly doable.

Cook more often.

It’sno secret if you follow me on Twitter (and you really should), that Gary and I enjoy cooking and watching cooking shows. But we don’t cook as often as I’d like. My goal is to increase how often I do the cooking, wether it’s baking or dinner I feel like I’m ready. Besides, I feel this way I’ll be able to improve my cooking skill. At least so long as I push myself to try new things.

Be more social, but selective.

I don’t get out a whole lot, but I also don’t make that great of an effort to get in contact with local people in order to change that or even to invite them into my home. With that in mind, the goal is to talk to those I want to know better more, and to try and do something with them. I’m anticipating nothing more then games, movies, and food. Still, I think it will be fulfilling. But why selective? I’ve learned that I don’t have an obligation to be social with someone simply because they have an interest in me. After all, if I don’t want to, it wil only serve to affect me negatively. As another prong of this goal, I plan to deactivate my Facebook account. These days, I only look at it when there are notifications for me, and even then those are usually about groups I’m in. The platform holds no interest to me anymore.

Have a new position by year’s end.

I only have so much control over this, but I do still want to try. By the year’s end I hope to have a new position. Will it be in the same company? The same property? I don’t know. But I know the opportunities are there and I will need to find them. Where there is a will there’s a way, after all.

Consistency In All Things

Towards the end of last year I became very bad about keeping to a schedule for the stream and for committing to do much of anything. I went with my desires and didn’t go for what I should have concentrated on. This goes for real life, the stream, the blog, and truly all aspects of my life. That changes this year. If I say I am streaming, then I will stream. If I say I am going to clean the house, then I will. As the header says: consistency in all things.

On that note, starting again on Monday, the 9th of January, the stream will return. I’ll be concentrating on only one game from now on, starting with concluding Deus Ex: Human Revolution. While I will be focusing on games with a story, there will be moments of multiplayer goodness as well. As always, keep an eye on my Twitter for what games I will be playing.

I hope you’ll join me for next week’s post which will be highlighting something I’ve been watching with new eyes: Sailor Moon.

The Game Awards 2016

It’s that time of the year for the leaves to change colors, sweaters to come out of the closets, and to invest in stretchy pants for holiday dinners galore! As gamers, however, we get one extra little pleasure, in that our lone televised award show airs on December 1st. This year, I thought I would break down the categories and nominees and highlight my picks (and predictions) for the show.

 

Best Action Game

* Battlefield 1

* DOOM

* Gears of War 4

* Overwatch

* Titanfall 2

 

Let’s start with Best Action Game. Here, we find a realistic war-time shooter in Battlefield 1, a sci-fi adrenaline and gore rush in DOOM, a smart revitalization of a franchise in Gears of War 4, the colorful and unique team chemistry in Overwatch, and the Robo-Buddy system of Titanfall 2. First, every one of these games are great picks, and this could truly go in any direction. However, I’m willing to bet the intense single-player of DOOM or the superb overall package of Gears of War 4 will come out on top. 

 

Dark Horse: Titanfall 2

 

Best Action/Adventure Game

* Dishonored 2

* Hitman

* Hyper Light Drifter

* Ratchet & Clank

* Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

 

In the Action/Adventure category, you have the play-it-your-way dazzler of Dishonored 2, the episodic masterpiece in Hitman, the unique throwback indie title Hyper Light Drifter, the zany gunplay of Ratchet & Clank, and the shoot ‘n’ quip game ending Nathan Drake’s story, Uncharted 4. It’s another category filled with fantastic titles, but I believe that Dishonored 2 will end up the winner; its focus on playing in your own way is only shared with Hitman

 

Dark Horse: Hyper Light Drifter

 

Best RPG

* Dark Souls 3

* Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

* The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine

* World of Warcraft: Legion

* Xenoblade Chronicles X

 

The battle for best RPG is a strange one this year. The gothic brutality of Dark Souls 3 is certainly the favorite among a few of my followers on Twitter. That being said, I have a soft spot for the sci-fi near future setting and timely social commentary of Deus Ex. The Witcher surprises me in that its DLC is nominated against these other full titles, and, win or lose, that speaks volumes to me. World of Warcraft’s latest expansion doesn’t re-invent the wheel so I am not sure if the refinements are enough to pull in a win, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game I’ve heard more than a few say they loved and enjoyed. Will the Wii U’s limited audience prove a hindrance? My money is on Xenoblade Chronicles X or Deus Ex.

 

Dark Horse: Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine

 

Best Fighting Game

* Killer Instinct Season 3

* King of Fighters XIV

* Pokken Tournament

* Street Fighter V

 

Of all the genres to pull punches, who would’ve thought it’d be the fighting games? I truly only see a fight between two titles here: Killer Instinct and King of Fighters XIV. Street Fighter didn’t have the features or character roster people expect in a modern fighting title, and will have to try next year when Capcom inevitably re-releases it. While Pokken Tournament had some unique gameplay, it didn’t stick with me and I see it as the underdog in this category. Killer Instinct is my expectation for winning with the refinements made and the crowd-pleasing guest characters.

 

Dark Horse: Pokken Tournament

 

Best Family Game

* Dragon Quest Builders

* Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

* Pokemon Go

* Ratchet & Clank

* Skylanders: Imaginators

 

What a motley crew we have assembled here. By and large, Dragon Quest Builders is the JRPG fan’s Minecraft and has captured a lot of attention. Lego Star Wars, is a favorite to win by near default. Pokemon Go is unexpected in this category; although having lackluster in-game multiplayer, the crowd effect it had on people over the summer makes Pokemon Go a strong contender. Ratchet & Clank is also a solid choice, but I had almost forgotten it was out this year, and I believe others have done the same. Skylanders is the one title I can’t see winning in the slightest. 

 

Dark Horse: Dragon Quest Builders

 

Best Strategy Game

* Civilization VI

* Fire Emblem Fates

* The Banner Saga 2

* Total War: Warhammer

* XCOM 2

 

Only one can win in this category full of titles where every decision changes the outcome drastically. Each of these games could easily win the title, and I feel no other category is as close as this one. It’s so close in fact, I can’t pick a favored game to win. However, with Civilization VI winning Best PC Game and Best Strategy Game at the Game Critics Awards, it is certainly the favored title among critics. 

 

Dark Horse: Fire Emblem Fates

 

Best Sports/Racing Game

* FIFA 17

* Forza Horizon 3

* MLB The Show 16

* NBA 2K17

* Pro Evolution Soccer 2017

 

You might be thinking poor Forza, but I’m thinking the other sports titles are the ones who should be feeling sorry. Forza Horizon 3 is the best reviewed title of these, and I’m betting it’s going to drive away with a win. Why is Forza the only racing game listed? Turns out only three have been released this year for consoles or PC.

 

Dark Horse: NBA 2K17

 

Best Multiplayer Game

* Battlefield 1

* Gears of War 4

* Overcooked

* Overwatch

* Rainbow Six Siege

* Titanfall 2

 

At first glance, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I say Overwatch should win. And why shouldn’t it? It’s one of the few shooters I’ve played where I feel like I can actively contribute to my team’s victory. However, any of the other shooters could be worthy of the award, but none would have the surprise of Overcooked winning. Overcooked is also the only game on here with no gunplay at all.

 

Dark Horse: Overcooked

 

Best Game Direction

* Blizzard

* DICE

* id Software

* Naughty Dog

* Respawn Entertainment

 

A games direction needs to feel cohesive and whole in order to be successful and, once more, I think Blizzard will end up pulling away with this award on the backs of World of Warcraft and Overwatch. It wouldn’t surprise me though to see id Software find it instead based on the work done with DOOM

 

Dark Horse: id Software

 

Best Music & Sound Design

* Battlefield 1

* DOOM

* Inside

* Rez Infinite

* Thumper

 

If this was just about sound design, I would say it’s a fight between DOOM and Battlefield 1. However, with the inclusion of music in this category, I feel that Rez Infinite will take the prize. It has a very catchy soundtrack, and immersive effects, but if beats aren’t quite enough, Battlefield 1 is next likely to take it. 

 

Dark Horse: Inside

 

Best Performance

* Alex Hernandez for Mafia 3

* Emily Rose for Uncharted 4

* Nolan North for Uncharted 4

* Troy Baker for Uncharted 4

* Cissy Jones for Firewatch

* Rich Sommer for Firewatch

 

For Best performance, I believe Nolan North will end up winning for his portrayal of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4; however, I would love for one of the two Firewatch nominations to win as well. Last year’s win from Her Story shows us an indie upset is entirely possible. 

 

Dark Horse: Alex Hernandez

 

Best Independent Game

* Firewatch 

* Hyper Light Drifter

* Inside 

* Stardew Valley 

* The Witness

 

Best Independent Game is a challenge between three strong contenders this year, Stardew Valley, Inside, and Firewatch. I saw plenty of people playing Stardew Valley on YouTube over the summer, and saw firsthand the addictive gameplay it offers. Inside is a very different beast and plays similarly like its predecessor, LIMBO. Inside also has an ending to be believed. But Firewatch is the interesting title, in that it has a story that isn’t as tightly controlled as Inside, but doesn’t offer the freedom that Stardew Valley does. Still, its story of a lone Ranger against trespassers in a woodland setting is unique. Any three of these have a solid chance at winning, but I’ll be favoring Firewatch

 

Dark Horse: The Witness

 

Best VR Game

* Batman: Arkham VR

* Eve Valkyrie

* Job Simulator

* Rez Infinite

* Thumper

 

Now I’m not in a situation where I’ve been able to play these, but I do feel that the most likely to win are Batman and Job Simulator. Both offer very different experiences, but they do them very well. I can’t wait though to see if this becomes a permanent fixture of future award shows. 

 

Dark Horse: Rez Infinite

 

Games For Impact

* 1979 Revolution

* Block’Hood

* Orwell

* Sea Hero Quest

* That Dragon, Cancer

 

After reading up on each of these games, they all are unique and make me want to give them a spin. The three that stand out to me the most are Orwell, Sea Hero Quest, and That Dragon, Cancer. Orwell puts you in the shoes of a surveillance expert in a foreign city that employs advanced techniques to keep tabs on its citizens. Sea Hero Quest is a game that has led to the compilation of years of all-new data about dementia research. That Dragon, Cancer is a game born from the experiences of the couple that made the game after they learned their son had a terminal form of cancer. My personal pick will be Sea Hero Quest given its possible real-world purpose, but the story of That Dragon, Cancer may be the emotional favorite.

 

Dark Horse: That Dragon, Cancer

 

Best Story

* Firewatch

* Inside

* Mafia 3

* Oxenfree

* Uncharted 4

 

Stories have grown more complex in gaming as these titles can attest to, but I think it will be a showdown between Mafia 3 and Oxenfree. Oxenfree’s gameplay relies very heavily on its story and the choices of the player, and is my personal pick to win. Mafia 3 deserves it too though, for having such a racially charged storyline and for not being afraid to take risks with their story in a medium where such acts aren’t always appreciated. 

 

Dark Horse: Uncharted 4

 

Best Mobile Game

* Clash Royale

* Fire Emblem Fates

* Monster Hunter Generations

* Pokemon Go

* Severed

 

Pokemon Go may be the most successful game in the category, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best, and I feel it’s going to fall short of winning the award. Instead, I think Severed or Fire Emblem Fates will end up winning the day. Severed is the newest game from the makers of Guacamelee – another game I really enjoyed – while Fire Emblem Fates is the newest release of the venerable strategy series.

 

Dark Horse: Monster Hunter Generations

 

Best Art Direction

* Abzu

* Firewatch

* Inside

* Overwatch

* Uncharted 4

 

Each of these games is beautiful to look at, but for very different reasons. I think the more minimalist directions of Inside and Abzu will make them the favored titles. However, the vibrancy of the characters and environment of Overwatch comes in a tight third to me. Watch for Uncharted 4’s realism to be the unexpected winner.

 

Dark Horse: Uncharted 4

 

Game of the Year

* DOOM

* Inside

* Overwatch

* Titanfall 2

* Uncharted 4

 

Here we are, the big aware of the night. The coveted Game of the Year award will end up going to one of these 5. Four of them are shooters, but Inside is the lone, purely single-player game. Will its short campaign mean it is snuffed out, or will the quality of its story outshine the others? DOOM was a very successful reboot of a classic series that delivered on every hallmark people expected in its single-player campaign, but its multiplayer is its biggest crutch. Overwatch, for as much as I enjoy it, is a multiplayer title only, but it does it so well and no other single game has been played as much by myself or the people I follow on Twitter this year. Titanfall 2 has been reviewed consistently well and is said to have grown itself in every conceivable way over its predecessor. That being said, I think it’s Uncharted 4 that may walk away with the award with a mostly solid campaign and competent multiplayer. It doesn’t hurt that it is arguably the most gorgeous of the nominated titles, but it’s still anyone’s award. My money will be on Overwatch, primarily as no other game has felt so wonderful to play and it never stops being fun. It’s clear this race is extremely close. 

 

There you have it, my picks for The Game Awards 2016. What are your picks? You can catch The Game Awards for yourself live on all sorts of services, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Live, Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Steam, IGN, Gamespot, Snapchat, and NextVR. I’ll be watching and live-tweeting the show myself when it starts Thursday at 8:30pm Eastern. 

I Warped Into Star Trek Online and All I Got Was a Starship

These days, it seems that Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) are a dime a dozen. You have juggernauts like Final Fantasy XIV, World of Warcraft and the Elder Scrolls Online, but this barely scratches the surface of what all is available for a gamer to choose from. Lately most have gone free-to-play, making it too easy to slip into one, but the question remains about whether it’s worth your time. I recently stumbled into playing a bit of Star Trek Online and have raised a character up to level 10 on the Federation side. Star Trek itself has been about exploring the human condition and a future where humanity works to better itself. Star Trek Online, however, doesn’t always reflect the mentality of the franchise.

 

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The U.S.S. Kershaw

Long story short,  Star Trek Online is a solid Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game at odds with itself. Short story long however, when you create a new character (out of a surprising number of established races and an option to create one yourself) you find yourself a Cadet about to graduate from Starfleet Academy in San Francisco roughly thirty years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. You pass a test and find yourself enlisted as the First Officer on a shake-down cruise on a Miranda-class vessel. Klingons strike your vessel, kill your captain and leave you as Acting Captain. Then somehow you manage to fight off a Borg invasion. It seems a tad far-fetched, but your actions grant you the rank of Lieutenant and the official command of your vessel.

 

The next missions have you fighting the Klingons as they have started war with the Federation. You have some slightly different scenarios while you strike at the Klingons, but personally I felt there was very little challenge. Even then, the challenge truly comes from ship-to-ship combat. It feels right, perfectly balanced, and feels as engrossing as even the best of Star Trek’s battles. However, on the ground things change. You have to take out groups of enemies and conduct bonus objectives when they arise, like venting plasma to eliminate a group, or heal wounded along the way, but it’s unclear to me if you are killing the enemies or simply stunning them as is historically what the Federation prefers doing.

Now I don’t know if it’s the mission, or if it is indicative of a larger issue, but so far there hasn’t been much in the way of negotiating, or conducting explorative activities as is what the Federation usually does. Most interestingly, aside from your bridge, it appears that you can’t explore the rest of your ship. It strikes me as a big surprise only because it seems like a feature that would be on the list of most Trekkies. But, aside from these issues about the activities you do in the game, it is a very well made title.

As you traverse the quadrants, it’s easy to stop and stare and the magnificent ships flying past, or at the surrounding galactic phenomena peppering the environments. Truth be told, the only graphical hiccup I’ve seen on my Xbox One is that when a communication window pops up, sometimes the character model lags behind the dialog box. Other than that, everything appears to run smoothly.

Further, it’s impressive how much of the game has been added since it’s debut in 2010. While on the Federation side you start out cooling off the Klingons, eventually you start fighting the Breen, Borg, and dealing with temporal anomalies bringing less then friendly foes to your doorstep. And all of it is free. Currently, the only thing to spend real-money on is customization items, things that enable your bridge to look like the classic Enterprise’s or to get the uniforms as seen in a movie or TV series.

9-28-2016_10-12-38_am-2
The Bridge crew of the Kershaw on a Cardassian flagship, led by Vulcan Lt. Commander T’Pia (middle).

Notably, once you hit level 10, further customization becomes possible, where you gain control over what ship you are the captain of, and what she looks like. For example, when I hit level 10, I gained a Constitution-class refit vessel. Think of it as being similar to the Enterprise-A and you’re on the right track. Along with the ship, you can customize your bridge crew to be in the shape you want it to be.

All-in-all, I believe Star Trek Online is a good MMORPG, featuring solid gameplay, but lacking in a sense of immersion that feels at place in the Star Trek universe. Still, if you enjoy the franchise, it’s difficult to say no as a fan. See, the game manages to do something that so far hasn’t been accomplished in a visual form: it continues the lore. Since Star Trek: Nemesis, there hasn’t been a movie taking place further in time. And the upcoming TV Show, Star Trek: Discovery reportedly won’t either, so for those that want to know what happens to the galaxy after the Romulan sun goes nova will find a treasure trove of scenarios and information to dive into.

So who is best served by Star Trek Online? Trekkies looking for an expansion of the lore and for a good Trek game, of course, though I hesitate to suggest that it is any better than other MMORPGs out there.

X (Box) Marks The PC

Microsoft had their Xbox briefing Monday morning, and talked mostly about games and then a little bit of hardware and about Xbox Live itself. Let’s not dawdle, there was a lot going on.

First and foremost, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer opened the show with condolences for those affected from the Orlando attack. It’s especially a surprise for Xbox to do it very first thing, as historically they cut to an opening demo.

But after that it was to the usual business and Microsoft wasted no time in confirming the rumored Xbox One S. The slim model is 40% smaller, moves the power brick into the box, plays 4K Blu-Ray discs and 4K streaming, and is ready for HDR gaming. However, this also removes the Kinect port. Now if one wants to use it, there’s and adapter for a USB port. Further, the controller has also seen a slight upgrade with Bluetooth functionality and a new textured grip. It’s priced at $299 for a 500GB model, $349 for 1TB, or $399 for 2TB. It’s a great offer for anyone new to the Xbox One, but I’ll explain later why it may not be good for the biggest of gamers.

Then, the first game, Gears of War 4, was shown off while also showcasing a new initiative for Xbox. Like with Quantum Break earlier this year, Gears of War 4 would also be coming to Windows 10, but would also be the first title to feature the new Xbox Play Anywhere. Xbox Play Anywhere will let people buy a game digitally on both Xbox One and Windows 10 for one price. These games aren’t just cross-buy, they are cross-save and cross-play as well. I for one, see this as a fantastic new initiative for those gamers that can play own both, or for PC users that were interested in an Xbox title but didn’t want to make the plunge. Let’s hope it works better then Games for Windows Live.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 7.12.42 PMBut Gears of War 4 is also going to have support for the new High Dynamic Range that the S is going to offer. This will create better colors and greater visuals. I’m always happy for prettier titles, but the catch is you need a compatible TV which means you need a recent probably 4K TV. Will it matter when most haven’t bought in or is the thing that gets people to? A gameplay demo was also shown, and the biggest takeaway I had was that Gears of War 4 looked to be a lot more colorful, but still played like Gears. Surely that’s great for fans but if you haven’t paid attention to it, I doubt this game will change your mind. Gears of War 4 comes out October 11th. Is that not enough Gears for you? There’s a specially designed Elite controller for Gears 4 coming at the same time too. It’s assumed that ti’ll be the normal $150.

Is that STILL not enough Gears? The fighting game Killer Instinct is also joining the Xbox Play Anywhere program and is getting a new character, General Raam from Gears of War. General Raam is free to play this week.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 7.20.22 PMAnother Xbox Play Anywhere title was unveiled next, as Forza Horizon 3 races to the Australian coast. I’m not a big fan of racers myself but holy cow this game is gorgeous to behold. Instead of focusing on gameplay mechanics (which is a smart move to me) a stage demo instead focused on the cross-platform multiplayer. They had two PCs on stage, one using a race wheel, and the other using  a gamepad playing along with an Xbox One and Xbox One S. Having not played a Horizon title before, I am interested after watching the gameplay, but but maybe it’s just the multiplayer aspect I like seeing. Forza Horizon 3 is coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One on September 27th.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 7.28.52 PMYet another Xbox Play Anywhere title, a gameplay trailer for Recore was finally shown. From the creators of Mega Man and Metroid Prime, gameplay has you traversing a far future Earth and using robot companions to overcome various challenges. I’m interested in this because of the pedigree behind it, but also as a great alternative to all of the multiplayer titles. It releases _________ on Xbox One and Windows 10 for $40 and gives you Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts for the Xbox One through Backwards Compatibility for free. Strangest bundle offer, but if you don’t have it that’s a great way to get it.

Next title shown at the Xbox conference is… not exclusive. They showed a Titan boss battle in Final Fantasy XV. Certainly not complaining that it was shown, but there was no commentary during the gameplay. It created a very confusing segment that I wish was expanded upon. No exclusive features for the Xbox One were mentioned or announced, which really makes me question why it was shown in the first place. I mean, we’ve known that Final Fantasy XV was coming to the console for a good while now. It felt out of place. Don’t get me wrong, still interested in the title though.

As an example of a good third-party appearance, Tom Clancy’s The Division showed off a new upcoming DLC for June 28th named Underground. Having not played it, I don’t have any opinion on it but for fans, I’m sure more DLC is always good news. Also, we kind of already knew it, bit Battlefield 1 can be played on Xbox One earlier than other platforms through EA Access. You can play it starting October 13th if you are a member of EA Access. What I don’t approve of though, is a showing of the exact same trailer that EA’s own conference showed just the night before. At least bring something a little different or even extended hm?

At this point, Xbox Live took a break from showing games and talked about the Xbox Live service itself and announced some new features coming. One, Clubs, will allow you to create your own communities to find friends and players easier then ever. True, this feature is already on the PlayStation 4, but this feature has been long overdue and I’m excited. Next, was Background Music. I know some like it and have waited for a long time for it, but personally, I prefer to listen to the game’s own music when playing. You can also select your preferred language for your home console. So, if your family is more fluent in Spanish, this would allow you to make all games and apps display the Spanish language by default. I don;t know of anyone that will take advantage, but it’s a good move in my book. Further, Xbox Live started to branch out. As a service, it’s now available on iOS and Android devices as well. Still another feature, Looking For Group, was announced and explained as “a wanted ad for gamers” where you look for gamers that are going for a particular goal or achievement. Lastly Arena is a new tournament platform for eSports or those that just want to play against each other. It’s not bad, but I’m not really that concerned myself.

Minecraft also made some waves and showed off that multiplayer can now be engaged over different platforms including Xbox One, Windows 10, Oculus, iOS, and Android. Notably, there’s no PS4 or Wii U. Also, you can ear achievements or invite people from your Xbox friends list. I wish that the other networks would reach out and bridge the gap. Still, pretty cool announcement.

Oh, remember those controller upgrades? It’s also possible to get your own custom controller. For a bit of a premium over the original, you can mix and match colors and have them engraved at the Xbox Labs website. Not a bad service, but it’s on that seems inconsequential.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 7.50.11 PMPlayhead’s latest title, Inside is almost here! They announced with a trailer that it’s coming out June 29th. But aside from that, LIMBO is now free for Xbox One owners. And free is always great news. But aside from that, Inside has been greatly anticipated because of how well LIMBO was received. If you haven’t tried it before now is the perfect time.

Being that Inside is an ID@Xbox title, it should come as no surprise that a sizzle real started highlighting some big titles on the way like Cuphead, Below, Outlast II, and Stardew Valley.Eagle-eyed observers of the sizzle trailer will have noticed that four titles; Cupped, Slime Rancher, The Culling, and Everspace are also Xbox Play Anywhere titles. Also right after the trailer, Ark: Survival Evolved was announced as another title in the program, and that it would honor previous purchases was well. Could this be a sign that any 3rd party publisher could enable the service too? I hope so. The more people that play these gases, the better.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 11.54.48 AMA demo was also showcased for an upcoming ID@Xbox title that would also be making it’s way to Game Preview: We Happy Few. Personally I’m excited for it and I get a very Bioshock-ish vibe from it with the characters being controlled to some degree by a drug called Joy. I for one know I’m going to play when it comes to Xbox Game Preview on July 26th.

But my guess is that the next game will get a lot of people excited. CD Projekt Red, the folks that made the Witcher series wold be creating a spin-off based on the very successful card mini-game, Gwent. Gwent will feature a single-player campaign, and cross-platform multiplayer between PCs and “consoles”.  A closed beta will be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs in September 2016.  Interested? You can register at playgwent.com.

Why stop the competition at cards though? Next up Microsoft showed that Tekken 7 would also be coming to Xbox One and Windows PCs simultaneously with the PS4 release in early 2017. On stage, a demo showcased the story mode that would switch between cutscenes and actual fighting gameplay. But why stop there? Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was also made free for all Xbox Live Gold members through Backwards Compatibility. Again, free is great.

Moving right on to the next title is another game coming to Xbox One and Windows 10, but notably was not labeled as an exclusive. Dead Rising 4 will release this holiday on both Xbox One and Windows 10 and could eventually make it’s way to other platforms in the future. Dead Rising 4 will feature Frank West as the main protagonist again as he bashes and shoots his way through hordes of zombies 16 years after the first game.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 12.21.49 PMNext up though was a demo for a game coming in 2017 from Platinum Games, Scalebound. In the demo, 4 players worked together to bring down a massive boss. It could be fun, but it didn’t seem like fun to me. I’m hoping that I will be proved wrong when it releases. Scalebound is yet another title that will be Xbox Play Anywhere.

Now as for something I am excited for, the upcoming Rare title, Sea of Thieves was shown with some gameplay of “real gamers” playing it. It came across as genuine and really spoke to the goal of “play how you want” that they’re going for. Sea of Thieves will be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 as a Xbox Play Anywhere title. Sea of Thieves unfortunately does not have a release windows yet.

Was Dead Rising 4 not enough zombie mayhem for you? Good, because State of Decay 2 is coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 as another Xbox Play Anywhere title due to come in 2017. Just the trailer was shown.

The final game on display is a big one for Microsoft, Halo Wars 2. It’ll be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 as a Xbox Play Anywhere title and bring back the RTS gameplay to console on February 21, 2017. Halo Wars 2 also launched a public beta that ends on June 20th. I’m excited for this only because I haven’t tried the first one yet, but I loved titles like Age of Empires and Starcraft.

With all of the games shown off I thought that was it. But Phil Spencer hit the stage again and with a trailer introduced “Project Scorpio” publicly. This is why I can’t decide if the Xbox One S is worth getting right now. Project Scorpio is going to be a very powerful console that will allow for 4K gaming, VR support, and HDR gaming. Project Scorpio will release sometime in 2017. There’s been a lot of talk this last week over wether it makes the S obsolete before it releases, or if it will create a fractured user base. Unfortunately, right now I don’t think the answers are all there. I feel like Scorpio will be the biggest story at next year’s E3, but for right now, it leaves more questions then answers.

But Scorpio, aside, the Xbox conference was almost more about Windows 10 being welcomed back with open arms into the Xbox family, and that can only be a great thing. My only concern is that it will give people less reason to pick up an Xbox One and just beef up their existing PCs. Time will tell.

But there’s my admittedly long-winded look at the Xbox show, lots of games, some added features, some new hardware and even some free games. I’ll be working on the Ubisoft briefing and I’m hoping that I’ll get that out sooner then later.

Bethesda Honors A Quake-ing Audience

Before I truly begin to look into Bethesda’s 2016 E3 showcase, it would be a grievous mistake to not highlight what they started. As a sign of solidarity with victims, their families, and others affected, all speakers for Bethesda wore rainbow ribbons. Bethesda created a classy move that was followed by each conference that followed.

But, that sad event is not why you are here, you’re here to look at some fantastic games, so let’s get to it.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 6.44.22 AMBethesda started their event with a wonderful homage to the old DOS operating system where they booted up a Quake trailer to marvelous applause. It was only a CG trailer for the upcoming Quake Champions. Now the big surprise given the present gaming landscape is that Quake Champions dares to be a competitive shooter only available for PC. It does follow the classic release plans for Quake, and it’s a surprising move. What isn’t a surprising move is that Bethesda is pledging to support eLeagues with Quake Champions. It’s been made for that kind of environment when Quake first premiered twenty years ago.  More is promised but it won’t be shown until QuakeCon in August.

Next, after a quick review of Bethesda’s successes, the opening cinematic for The Elder Scrolls: Legends was shown. Here, actual gameplay was shown, as well as some information on the single-player campaign. But, most exciting is that Legends is expanding it’s platform base to every iOS device, Android device, Mac, and PC. If you’re interested in the Beta, you can still sign up!

They quickly moved to a video that made several announcements including new DLC for Fallout 4. The Contraptions add-on will let you add things like elevators, sorting machines, armor racks, and conveyer belts to your settlement. It arrives next week. Bethesda also showed a Vault-Tec add-on that allows you to create your own Vaults in Fallout 4. That releases in July. Lastly, a new area was shown and may have a campaign for it. The tourist attraction of Nuka-World comes in August.

The video stayed on theme and talked about a new update coming for Fallout Shelter, a very successful mobile game that is making the leap to PC in July. All of these add-ons will ensure that Fallout 4 and Shelter remain popular for a while, but it does also sound like next year we could end up with a new RPG that’s similar to Fallout and the Elder Scrolls.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.12.01 AMThen lastly, Bethesda owned up to the rumors and showed a trailer for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim – Special Edition coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One. This new version of Skyrim will feature new and revamped graphics as well as mods made available on console. Journey back to Skyrim October 28th. Personally I think it’s great to have that come back and I for one can’t wait to get back into it and stream it!

Bethesda next brought out Arkane Studios for one of the projects they’ve been working on. A trailer was released for Prey, a new psychological title coming to PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Some games are about zombies, but Prey is the game that won’t stop. This is now the second attempt at using the name and having it live on. Prey has a planned release in 2017 with more promised at Quakecon. I’m certainly intrigued and really enjoyed the trailer that was shown.

Next Bethesda went back to the familiar and talked about the latest entry in the DOOM franchise. They talked about free DLC in the form of new construction sets, props, and logic options for the SnapMap feature, which allows you to create your own maps. Unto The Evil will be coming later this summer and be the first premium DLC for DOOM. It’ll provide a few new maps, a new playable demon, along with more weapons and armor. Finally, they also announced that for the week, the 1st level would be available for free for everyone to try. More ways to play that are mostly free and a free way to entice new players like myself? That’s certainly a great way to expand your user base.

Bethesda quickly shifted gears to The Elder Scrolls Online, and I have to say this is where I was lost, but that’s more because I don’t play MMOs. But, the announcements were still innovative, including an initiative to have every player be able to join in every quest and with any other player regardless of progression. Also, a new Dark Brotherhood quest-line was revealed and as this was one of my fav parts of Oblivion, I hope players are excited.

Half expectedly and half surprise, Bethesda also announced plans to put DOOM and Fallout 4 onto VR with Fallout 4 being announced for HTC Vive. I’m intrigued in VR, but right now the price point is too steep for me but for those that have it this has to be a great announcement.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.59.11 AMNext, Bethesda dove head first into a lengthy Dishonored 2 demo. Showing a new vibrant city to explore with two characters you can play as , Emily Baldwin, or the hero of the first title, Corvo. Dishonored 2 utilizes a new engine named VOID that allows the developers to create a vibrant and visibly historical city. Dishonored 2 will still focus on letting the player play how they want and the story changing based on your actions. Emily will have new powers, while Corvo’s utilize new skill trees. It looks to me like Dishonored 2 will be a natural progression of the mechanics of the first title, and the world that has been created is one I enjoyed before. Dishonored 2 is one title I will be keeping tabs on, and you may want to as well. Dishonored 2 releases for PC, PS4 and Xbox One 11.11.16

Overall, Bethesda had most of their big franchises on display at E3, with only Wolfenstein really left out. Unless you want to consider Prey as a new game, the presentation was also very light on any risk. Each item unveiled is sure to be a hit. Is this the sign of a publisher playing it safe, or hitting a golden age?

Regardless, it was a fantastic showing and will lead into the next conference I tackle, the rapid fire Xbox 2016 Media Briefing. See you then!