Dec 11, 2017

Heroes Hype Schedule for this Week!


Nov 21, 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II Review

EA obtained exclusive rights to the Star Wars franchise shortly after Disney purchased Lucasfilm and shut down Lucasarts. Since then EA has published two Battlefront games from DICE, the creators of the legendary shooter series Battlefield. Star Wars Battlefront II released this past week, generating a huge controversy around the game. What lead to this, and is Battlefront II worth playing?

While the title of this game is Star Wars Battlefront II, it is actually the fourth Battlefront game. The first two titles we made by Pandemic Studios and published under Lucasarts on PC, Playstation 2, and the original Xbox. When the Disney/EA deal went through they kept the name, but rolled back the numbering of the series. The first Battlefront under the EA banner was released in 2015, right before The Force Awakens hit theaters. It felt very much like a Battlefield game with a Star Wars skin. However, EA’s Battlefront was only set during the original trilogy timeline, where as the original Battlefront games spanned both the prequel and the original trilogy.

Furthermore, the game only had twelve multiplayer maps at launch and not every map could be played in every mode. Four more maps were added with DLC, but it splintered player groups into haves and have-nots. Adding insult to injury, there was no single-player campaign, only a lackluster arcade mode where you could fight against not-so-smart AI-bots. Battlefront was considered successful because it made a lot of money, but gamers didn’t really consider it a success.

The inevitable sequel had everything to gain from its little brother’s mistakes. All EA had to do was make sure it was bigger and better than the low bar it set in 2015. Battles across all three trilogy eras? Check. Eighteen maps to play on? Check. Full fledged single-player campaign mode? Check. No DLC to splinter your player base? Check. Battlefront II was poised to be one of the greats of 2017.

But then they added loot boxes.

There are dozens of think-piece articles breaking down the controversy of the addition, ranging from gaming focused enthusiast sites like Polygon, all the way to national news organizations like The Washington Post and CNN. Loot boxes have been controversial additions to gaming for about ten years. They are a staple of a free-to-play ecosystem. Incredibly, successful games like League of Legends are built on the backbone of free-to-play economics.

So why and how do these boxes cripple Battlefront II?
There is a lot to unlock, but is all random!
First, it creates a power vacuum between players. Want to have thermal detonators that have a large blast radius? Grind out roughly thirteen, 20-minute matches for a chance to pull that card. Or, pay real world cash for a chance to pull that card without the time sink. On top of that, each card has four ranks, so you might pull the lowest rank card when you open a box, or the highest ranking card. Your overall multiplayer power is based on luck, and players who buy boxes in bulk will have an tactical advantage over those who don’t.

Oh, and those who pre-ordered the game had access to the game a week before it came out, giving them the chance to gain loot to their hearts content, long before the masses even had the opportunity to install the game. This system was met with so much bad press that EA disabled the ability to purchase crystals, the currency that can only be used to buy crates, hours before the games official launch.

That doesn’t fix the system though. Hours of grinding for a set of random tactical advantages cripples enjoyment. Do you normally play a sniper? Well, the loot crate you just opened contained cards for the heavy class, not the sniper. That is a whole lot of time you just wasted for an upgrade for a class you don’t even play. Want to play as Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader? Get ready to grind credits for that too. They aren’t too expensive, assuming you don’t spend any credits on loot boxes as you save up.
The Starfighter Mode has the best Star Wars dog fighting since Rogue Squadron.
On top of all of this, there is even further splitting of content as your rewards are divided up into Trooper crates, Starfighter crates, and Hero crates. While this gives you the option to focus on one area of the game you like, it still feels like a chore for those with an itch to collect everything, especially for the unique units like the Millennium Falcon or Rey. If you put all of your efforts and time into one specific hero, hopefully you get sorted into that particular side in the battle.

So What About the Single Player?

While the multiplayer is a convoluted mess of currencies and frustration, anyone can jump right into the single-player campaign. The story follows Iden Versio, a member of the Imperial Special Forces unit Inferno Squad, from the Battle of Endor all the way to the Battle of Jakku. Iden is played by Janina Gavankar (True Blood), and she gives on hell of a performance. This is accomplished by employing some of the best motion-capture technology in the business. You really feel like she is a part of the Star Wars universe. There are some great moments in the campaign that help bridge the trilogies, but ultimately the story ends up feeling like a big budget fan fiction. There are parts that absolutely sing, and parts that fall flat.
Iden Versio is the one bright point in the galaxy.
The best parts of the campaign are when you are in Iden’s shoes, shooting down enemies from a far and using a small Imperial probe droid to shock enemies into submission. It gives Iden some unique abilities instead of the standard Star Wars fare of Force Push and Lightsaber throw, and is a welcome addition to the canon. The one gripe with it is the droid feels lifeless compared to the other robotic friends from a galaxy far, far away. Iden constantly barks out commands like “Droid, slice that!” or “Droid, need a shock!”. I found myself desperately wishing for Iden to give my new little buddy a nickname, just to imbue some personality into the character.

As Special Forces, Iden is proficient with nearly every weapon in the Star Wars universe, excluding lightsabers of course. The missions in which you get to take control of any number of Star Wars vehicles stand out above all of the other missions, particularly the space combat ones. Battlefront II has some of the best dog fighting out there, and the campaign is firing on all cylinders when you are are weaving in and out of super structures like space station where Star Destroyers are built. Honestly, this game just level me longing for the days of Rogue Squadron.

The low points of the game are when you are forced to take control of the hero characters we have played with a million times. I have played as Luke Skywalker in so many different games that it is no longer special, especially given how unwieldy he is in Battlefront II. His particular level has him swinging his lightsaber around blindly fighting… insects. That’s right. You get to play as Luke Skywalker, but the game has you fighting against bugs. Not Stormtroopers, not AT-AT’s, not TIE Fighters, but fricken bugs. Adding insult to injury, the voice actors aren’t very good, with only Billy Dee Williams voicing his character in the campaign. (Daisy Ridley does provide the voice for Rey, but she is only in Multiplayer.) Also, who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to give Han Solo a beard?!
Han Solo has a beard now?!
Sadly, the campaign ends right as the story starts picking up. The full story mode takes only six-ten hours to complete, and there are only a small handful of levels that offer replay value in the from of collectibles. Unless you are a sadist who has to play through on every difficulty, there is no reason to revisit the story, even with its cliffhanger ending.

The Verdict:
Battlefront II was built for a very small subsection of gamers: huge Star Wars fans and multiplayer junkies. If you don’t fit that very specific demographic, there are loads of things that detract from the experience. Love Star Wars, but don’t like multiplayer? The single player only lasts six-ten hours, and the arcade mode is pretty bare bones. Love multiplayer, but don’t care for Star Wars? There are better games out there with a more robust, and more fair, progression system. While EA has promised that they are listening to fans and want to make changes, they would have to change quite a lot to make this package worth it.

This review originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Nov 17, 2017

Metroid Prime 15th Anniversary Retrospective

In 1994, Nintendo released Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to critical acclaim. Along with 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the Playstation, Super Metroid helped create an entire sub-genre of exploration based, non-linear 2D adventure games dubbed Metroid-vania.

And then the franchise went dark for 8 years. In those 8 years, gaming transitioned from 2D sprite-based games into full fledged 3D worlds. The Metroid franchise was completely absent from an entire generation of consoles, and Samus’ only appearance on the Nintendo 64 was in the first iteration of the party brawler Super Smash Brothers.

This allowed two things to happen to the Metroid community. First, Super Metroid went from being a critically acclaimed game to a cult powered megaton. Due to the reward structure offered by completing the game under certain constraints, Super Metroid was a perfect fit for the evolving speedrunning community.

The second effect the gap in these games had on the franchise led to two different thoughts about how the game should proceed in the era of 3D gaming, with vocal fans arguing that the next Metroid game has to be a 2D successor to Super Metroid, and a reluctant fan base wondering if the game could even make the transition into the 3D world. After all, not every beloved franchise could make the jump to 3D, just look at Sonic the Hedgehog.

Nov 14, 2017

First Impressions - Super Lucky's Tale

Let’s get the gushing out of the way: Super Lucky’s Tale is so darn cute. The art is exaggerated, yet fully realized in an almost Pixar kind of way. Lucky is charming in his innocence and gosh-darn-it attitude. He is friendly and so well animated you can’t help but cry out when you die. The game feels extremely polished thanks to the superb animation.
Unlike Cuphead, the other indie Microsoft title that released this year, Super Lucky’s Tale isn’t about a blistering difficulty. It reminds me a lot of the early 3D platforming greats such as Banjo-Kazooie, Super Mario 64, and Crash Bandicoot 2. Levels rely on collecting coins and clovers, as well as floating L-U-C-K-Y letters akin to Donkey Kong Country.
The first few levels offer a ton of variety too, from 3D levels where you re-animate a golem, to a side scrolling 3D puzzle where you can’t jump because you have to carry an object through a level full of fire. These different levels are a great way to break up the simple jump, spin, and burrow controls, and the level design is where that variety comes into play.

So far, the 2D and puzzle-based levels are the highlights. There are some issues with the camera though, as it is only locked to one of three positions. It makes some of the jumps hard to judge, and most of them are over very open pits. The respawn system is pretty generous as to where it puts you if you missed the jump, but in some levels it becomes frustrating to grab those extra gems or coins when you miss the last leap and have to repeat the sequence all over again.

There are only 99 clovers to collect throughout the game, and while I have only scratched the surface, it is nice to be jumping and collecting coins instead of shooting my way to my goals.

This post originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Nov 11, 2017

Not Enough Resources: Episode 20 - Assassin’s Creed Origins, BlizzCon 2017, Stealth in Multiplayer games, Overwatch League

Hold on to your hype, it is time for the latest episode of Not Enough Resources!


Now Playing:
Dylan finished out this season of League of Legends just below platinum, despite a last minute push. Thankfully, the meta for the next season looks to show lots of promise thanks to some reworked systems. Ryan has finally finished Assassin’s Creed Origins, and it is his favorite Assassin’s Creed yet.

News:
BlizzCon 2017 was this past weekend, and there was a lot announced. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth looks to be the closest to Warcraft 4 we will ever get. Meanwhile, Overwatch is getting a brand new map and a new support hero in early 2018. Starcraft 2 is going completely free to play, and is bucking the trend of secondary currencies. Hearthstones next expansion, Kolbolds and Catacombs, looks to be a doozy as far as balance is concerned, but hopefully the Dungeon Run single player mode can bring players back in. Finally, Heroes of the Storm is getting a lot of back end upgrades, including changes to stealth that begs the question: How do you handle stealth versus balance when it comes to multiplayer?

Competitive Corner:
We finally get our first details on the Overwatch League’s inaugural season, and we could not have been more wrong on how the entire thing was going to be handled. Cool new additions to the game include team uniforms and matching colors for abilities, but how will that effect readability for viewers? Meanwhile, Compete had a great look at how Super Smash Brothers Melee is hampered in Japan.

We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Team Liquid, as one of their Overwatch coaches, INTERNETHULK, has unexpectedly passed away. Thank you for everything you have done for esports, and for channeling your passion into something that others can enjoy.

Follow us on Twitter @NERPodcast! You can subscribe to Not Enough Resources on iTunes or Google Play.

Nov 10, 2017

Assassin’s Creed Origins Review

Assassin’s Creed Origins had a lot riding on its shoulders as far as the franchise is concerned. The previous game in the series, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, was met with lukewarm reception and a sigh of relief that it was better than the glitch-riddled Assassin’s Creed Unity. It was passable, but not great. This latest iteration is a return to form in a series that faced stagnation thanks to an annual release schedule.

Like the other Assassin’s Creed games, Origins follows a dual storyline. The bulk of the game follows Bajek, a Medjay from ancient Egypt, as he seeks revenge against the Pharaoh Ptolmey XIII for the accidental murder of his son at Bajek’s own hands. Ceaser and Cleopatra have a part to play in the game as well, setting the stage for the beginnings of the long war between the Templar and the Assassins. There are enough twists and turns throughout the plot to keep things incredibly interesting and complex, and I won’t be giving those away here.

As always, the big star of the game is the setting. Ancient Egypt is thankfully not just a giant desert that is boring to explore, but a breathing world full of caves, rivers, lakes and sprawling cities. Memphis is a particular highlight, with rivers cutting through the city and under temples. Like previous Assassin’s Creed games, climbing to the top of giant structures to get a good view is amazing, and having something as iconic as the great pyramids of Giza to do so with brings a smile to your face.

The biggest change comes to character progression, ditching arbitrary sequential upgrades in favor of an open-ended talent system. Unfortunately once you hit around level 20, progression slows as talents start costing two or three points instead of one. I understand the need to not artificially inflate a skill tree with gap skills, but maybe they should have just reduced the level cap from 40 to 30. Thankfully, within a couple hours you feel powerful and diverse enough in your skills that you have plenty of options for executing your targets, and the talents you acquire later on just make you feel like a god.

Combat has also received a huge upgrade tied into the new character progression system. While you were able to upgrade items in previous iterations, Origins has you looting and switching out gear as you play through the game. You can hotkey two types of melee weapons and two types of bows to your d-pad for optimal switching, and there is about a dozen different types of weapons to choose from. These choices are great, but the ability to upgrade weapons to match your current level does allow you to play through the game using the same four weapons if you want. While I do like my spear that steals life on hit, I would much rather have to constantly be forced to change my weaponry around than just upgrade my existing weapons to match my level.

Then there is the addition of the shield. This is the only form of defense you get and mastering it is key, especially once you reach level 30 or so. Parrying attacks with the shield is a little cumbersome compared to other 3rd person adventure games, so you will miss a parry more often than not at first. This is mostly a control issue, where parry is mapped to an odd place on the controller. Thankfully you have enough tricks up your sleeve like smoke bombs and tiered, regenerating health to help.

With most open world games, the experience of the sandbox – the unique, player driven way in which situations are approached – is where Origins outshines its predecessors. With a simple up-tap on the D-Pad, you take control of Senu your eagle companion, giving you a literal birds eye view of your surroundings. This replaces the series ‘eagle vision’ where enemies would just get highlighted red and collectibles would just get highlighted gold. Now, you have to mark things using Senu, and if you don’t see any enemy with Senu, you don’t see the enemy until it is too late and they are already calling for reinforcements. This is a great way for Ubisoft to take off the training wheels and crutches players have relied on for years, all while making the game better at the same time.

Later story beats, and certain collectibles, will be met with eye rolls, but Assassin’s Creed has always straddled that line between a serious look at history and a tongue-in-cheek style B-movie. Thankfully, it all comes together in the end, with a final mission that will have history buffs grinning.

The Verdict:
While this isn’t the first Assassin’s Creed game for this generation of consoles, it surely feels like the first. Black Flag, Unity, and Syndicate all had at least one foot in the previous generation due to long development periods for these titles, and Origins finally feels like a fresh new take. Combat has changed for the better thanks to a generous loot system, and the addition of Senu allows for complex and fresh ways to tackle a stronghold. Hopefully Ubisoft keeps up the good work with the next Assassin’s Creed, and it doesn’t rush another one out the door in the next 18 months.

Review copy of Assassin’s Creed Origins for the Playstation 4 was provided by Ubisoft.

This review originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.