By Sparky_Buzzsaw 3 Comments
Heya folks, and welcome one and all to the freshest, hottest Sparky's Update! I've fallen off the blogging bandwagon lately. I've got no excuses, but let's do some catching up today.
E3! Wow, it hasn't even started yet and I'm pumped. Fallout 4! XCOM 2! Doom! A Gears of War remake... okay, so I'm not at all excited about that last one, but still, stuff has been announced and I'm stoked. The 800 pound behemoth is obviously Fallout 4 for me, since I consider Skyrim, New Vegas, and Fallout 3 to be among the very best games ever made. I nailed my prediction years ago that Fallout 4 would take place in the Commonwealth, which I figured was the plan even before it was rumored so long ago. Don't mean to pat myself on the back on that one, but it's cool to see my hopes for the next game come true.
Having it come to Boston should allow for a lot of creativity in the world, not entirely unlike what happened when the series was brought to DC. We'll likely see lots of robot-related stuff (what are the Vegas odds that the main character finds out he's actually a robot?), new tech, and hopefully some new perks and abilities related to those ideas.
XCOM being announced as PC only was a bit of a bummer, but it's understandable. And who knows, with everything getting ported to consoles these days from a PC thanks to the console architecture in the machines, we still might see a port. I'm not ruling out a parternship with Sony or Microsoft either at E3, but I think it's an outside shot.
As for the rest, I thought about writing up an E3 predictions blog this year, but I'm just not sure what I even want that hasn't been announced. Maybe Saints Row V? Maybe a new Rockstar game? I don't know. Certainly I want some new IPs, as always, and I'm super curious as to what will be ported from the PC to consoles, as well as the continued stream of awesome indies.
And speaking of indies, let's jump into what I've been playing this year!
The State of Games and What's to Come
It's been a fantastic year for me in terms of gaming. I've upgraded my PS4 to a 2 TB drive with a minimum of fuss. I've continued my trend of focusing more and more on console gaming, although there have been some great PC experiences too, including two of my early frontrunners for GOTY.
We've seen a lot of cool indie releases, a few really good AAA titles, and some solid announcements being made. Apart from the games I've already mentioned, I'm particularly stoked for Final Fantasy XV, Disgaea 5, and Just Cause 3, surprising exactly zero of my regular readers. I don't know though, it's super weird being excited for a Final Fantasy game again. it's been the better part of a decade since I really looked forward to one, but XV looks to fix a lot of XIII's problems. I did try XIV for a trial period on the PS4, but even with the zoom, it's a little hard to keep track of everything on the screen and see the fonts. Oh well.
All I'm really hoping for from Just Cause 3 is a reason to cause mayhem. Like I mentioned with my coverage of JC2, visible effects of the chaos I create on the enemies would drive me to do more around the world. If I take out a communications tower, I want to see troops cussing out their radios when they try to call for backup. When I take down a dictator's statue, I want to see the people start to get angry at the soldiers around them and rise up in more random encounters. That sort of thing would make for a way more immersive world.
And as for Disgaea 5, look - it's Disgaea. They're not going to change the formula or update the graphics in the way I want, but it's going to be some Disgaea-ass Disgaea, and I want that.
The Best of the (Relevant) Games I've Played This Year
Tales from the Borderlands
One of the best games I've played this year technically started off as a 2015 release, but without more content, I felt uncomfortable adding it to my GOTY list. But this shockingly well-written, hilarious, and genuinely fun adventure game won me over from the start and I hope it sees its last few episodes release this year. The story focuses on events post-BL2. While fan service usually annoys the piss out of me, with this story, it seems to be working for me so far (save for certain aspects regarding Handsome Jack, who has been played to death, as much as I like the character).
What's particularly nice about this game is that the UI has become immensely more readable thanks to its new color scheme. Telltale's other series this year, Game of Thrones, unfortunately doesn't follow this new color scheme and is still ridiculously hard to see at times, which is a shame, because that game has a good story to tell too.
Anyways, check out Tales. It's a good one!
Not only a great iPad game, but a great game in general, 80 Days is the gaming equivalent of a choose your own adventure wrapped up in a delicious Jules Verne inspired story. Combined with a slightly random inventory system that winds up making the game feel different with every playthrough, it's a novel (heh) approach to the text-based "pick your path" game like you might see in Shadowgate or Long Live The Queen. I don't want to spoil anything. Go pick this up. It's far and away the best iPad game I've played, and I hope it gets ported to everything.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein takes the old level-based shooter, throws in some shiny graphics, a surprisingly good story, and a frenzied forward momentum broken up by some tender, personal moments. It's a fantastic shooter even without the story elements, but with, it's a great straightforward game. I'm hoping we see more great things from this universe, hopefully moving further and further away from the traditional occult/Nazi stories we've seen in so many mediums of entertainment.
While the single player is kind of crappy thanks to a camera that's often way too far away, I'm listing this here due to the excellent multiplayer, which keeps the camera focused firmly at just the right distance. There's an active online community, the maps are solid, and I really enjoy the two-heat/multi-race system. It gives players points not just based on their speed but on how many restarts you use, so a second or third place finish can net you more points if you've finished clean. It's cool!
While the maps sometimes wear out their welcome, the core gameplay of Shadow Warrior (the remake, not the original) is so freakin' good that I'm willing to overlook it. Like Wolfenstein, there's a surprisingly okay story behind all the action too. At its bargain price, this was a thoroughly pleasant surprise, and I hope a sequel is in the works.
Again, if you know my history, you know I loved Dead Island probably a fair bit more than is considered sane. I'm a huge fan of the shoot and loot gameplay. Throw in multiple character classes, a giant skill tree, and crafting, and of course I was going to look past Dead Island and Riptide's faults.
Dying Light is the natural evolution of those games. Though I do wish it had more character classes or deeper skill trees, I think it's a masterful way to revisit the Dead Island formula. The movement feels great, particularly the natural parkour elements. The combat is about on par with Dead Island (unles you liked the analog control scheme, which has been ditched). The game is friggin' gorgeous, even on consoles, and there's a lot of meat here. With better side quests and more character customization options, this could be a hell of a franchise. It leaves me really looking forward to Dead Island 2. Shame Hellraid got cancelled though.
Always Sometimes Monsters
One of the best surprises of my gaming this year was just how charmed I was by ASM. It's a day-in-the-life sim with clear goals and questionable ways to get there, and I ate it up. The dated graphics might turn some off, but don't let that stop you from trying this game. Trying to make ends meet, trying to meet up with your true love, trying to protect your friends - these are all elements of a good story, and they come together nicely.
I liked the game so much that I even wound up spending two bucks to have it available on my iPad. Also, that score. Mmm. Mmm!
Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition
I wouldn't have pegged a retooled version of Diablo 3 as one of my favorite games of the year, but holy hell, this is night and day compared to the game as it was originally released. The console control scheme and UI work well. With only a few abilities active at any given time, the button mapping to the controller feels intuitive and not at all stripped down. The UI on consoles features a super handy inventory wheel system that should be the new gold standard for all PG inventory systems. It's so easy to navigate and find what I want fast, as opposed to something like Witcher 3 where nothing is easy to find and it's all a cluttered mess.
And the game just feels more fun. The loot drops are definitely more tailored to your character, giving you relevant armor and weapons on a regular basis. Playing the game alone is definitely more viable this time around thanks to the loot drops and skill rebalancing, which hasn't changed the core of the game but has definitely made it more accessible. It's a neat package for the price, and it gave me a solid 40-50 hours of fun. I keep meaning to go back and do more of the post-game content, which strips out the story and leaves you taking on waves of dungeon baddies and bosses in portals not entirely unlike the cow level from D2.
Citizens of Earth
Citizens of Earth is Suikoden-light. If that got your attention, great, go play it. If it didn't, then CoE is a party-based, turn-based RPG wherein you collect a big group of eclectic characters who band together to save Earth. I like the cartoony styling, the goofy sense of humor, and the mixing of characters. The combat is fast, you see enemies on the screen beforehand, and there's not a single random encounter to be found. it's pretty great, but not perfect. Some crew members were just impossible for me to obtain, the game is surprisingly buggy for such a simple interface, and the UI could have really used some work. But for what it is - a budget big RPG - I love it, and I want to see more budget minded RPGs like it make it to consoles.
This has the curious distinction of being the first new release I've played and completed before a QL appeared on Giant Bomb. I'm usually not that up to date on my games, but for whatever reason, I saw the Wadjet Eye label, saw the cyberpunk theme without any of that garbage combat from Gemini Rue, and I bought it immediately on its release. Really glad I did. This is a top-notch adventure game, with logical puzzles that reward you for paying attention. With the caveat of one item I had to pixel hunt for, most everything in the environment is fairly obvious to spot, and it all makes a certain sort of sense that's often the hallmark of Wadjet's better games (namely the Blackwell series).
It really doesn't hurt that I liked the characters and story. There's a smart background to the world too, wherein Ai has become a daily watchdog and genetic experimentation has led to things great and terrible for people on a day to day basis. The hints too of a world on the rebound from the verge of collapse all help to make this a well-realized universe, one I greatly hope to see more of in the future.
The Witcher 3
Admittedly, I'm taking a break from Witcher 3 right now to wait for the big upcoming patch, but the ten or so hours I've sunk into it have been an absolute joy. The world of the Witcher has always been fascinating, both on a personal and political scale. While the thrust of the main story seems relatively simple, there's a lot of intrigue surrounding it. The details of this universe are not-so-secretly its most compelling factor - I want to keep unpeeling people's motives, finding out what makes the movers and shakers tick while keeping to the mantra of "don't trust anything you see or hear." The dialogue is top-notch too. Right now, gun to my head, I'd say this or Tales from the Borderlands are my frontrunners for GOTY with Technobabylon maybe pulling in third.
I also bought Borderlands: The Handsome Jack Collection and Saints Row 4 for the PS4, and I've gotta say, i don't regret either. Borderlands 2 runs smooth as silk on the PS4, and while the Pre-Sequel still has nagging problems with overly tough bosses and poor map layouts, it's still a hell of a game with some okay DLC (I really hope Lady Hammerlock is a mainstay in the series, as she's a terrific playable character).
Saints Row 4 is just as batshit crazy as it always was. I still love its sense of humor, but it still feels like the cash-in that it was. Not entirely unlike Batman: Arkham Origins, though, it's still remarkably fun to play even if it's a thin coat of paint on an old veneer.
I'm also deep into Crossy Roads, Marvel Puzzle Quest, and Adventure Capitalist on the iPad. MPQ is probably the most robust package there, but is full of cheap F2P bullshit. Crossy Roads is Frogger, so if that does it for you, get it. It's loads of fun. And Adventure Capitalist is... well, don't play that game, but I really enjoy it for some reason, even if you are literally just clicking numbers to watch said numbers grow bigger.
Let's Wrap This Behemoth Up
I'm excited about games again. Well and truly excited. There's a lot to look forward to, a lot to play, a lot to see and do. With the PS4's zoom feature, I don't really feel like I'm on the outside looking in so much anymore, although I suppose there are always going to be limitations in that regard. Still though, it's been a tremendously fun year for me in terms of what I've played and how accessible those games are to me, and I'm stoked and ready for some hawt, hawt E3 action. Soon, it'll be time for some vidya games, some Barking Dogs (my yearly E3 treat consisting of grilled hot dogs stuffed into a tortilla with processed cheese and green chiles, then grilled on a Foreman), some alcohol, and all the E3 magicalnessilitude all the big companies can muster .Get your shit together, because it's gonna be a lockdown, baby.
Also... the E3 banner contest is coming. Tell your friends. Tell your loved ones. Prepare your finest MS Paint skillz. Gather your spray cans and your crayons. It's gonna be fun times for us mods and a great way to contribute to the site.
Whew. Thanks for reading, folks. E3!