Tag Archives: XONE

Monster Hunter World: There is no enough

I’m struggling hard to be the jungle-swinging-dino-killer and attentive boyfriend with a game that demands chunks of my life with no brakes. You cannot pause the game and go see what it she needs. I’m stressing as I rush to try and finish what I’m doing or find a bush to hide in for a while before she walks back in the living room wanting to throw what she needed at me. First world problems.

As worthless as it is to say, I’ve felt guilty I’ve been absolutely drawn into Monster Hunter: World. Most especially for my girlfriend who has futilely attempted to grasp my attention over the sounds of pissed off dinosaurs being slashed at with an axe that morphs into a giant sword. Without saying more, there were conversations and alterations made.

The core of World, like nearly every other entry in the franchise, is a slow and steady grind towards apathy. It’s a grind Destiny 2 or MMO players are well acquainted with, for example. The siren call for better, prettier gear channeled through the challenge of addictive battle keeps the wheel moving.

 

Unlike Destiny 2, World offers continued challenge through free downloadable content in the form of new monsters and new, flashy things to wear. Yes there is stupid DLC like $3 gesture packs (to make your avatar do a specific emote like Ryu from Street Fighter’s hadoken), but there isn’t any paid DLC that directly involves itself into the ever spinning wheel.

If you’re new to Monster Hunter as a franchise, this is the definitive starting place. While its past handheld entries will always be held close to my heart (bye 3Ultimate, 4Ultimate, Generations), so many concessions have finally been made in world that to go back would be a very noticeably different experience.

It’s also a game obsessed with numbers. Lots of numbers and bits of miscellaneous information that may or not be important to you at any given time but it’s still important to know regardless. World does its absolute best to ease you into the game’s very intimidating amount of information (most of which won’t really be relevant until you reach the High Rank stage anyway).

There is a routine, a flow to things you’ll be expected to do automatically before the start of every quest: Visit your box, dump the crap you don’t need and organize your field inventory; Visit the canteen and eat food (always!); visit the forge and see what you need built to tackle your next challenge; go craft new consumable items and make sure you’re well equipped in potions, food and buffs; check on your farmers who cultivate combine-able items for you each time you leave the village. Suffice to say, there is a lot of shit to keep track of. It just goes on and on.

 

Your first 10 hours hunting will probably be intimidating then a sudden jump to bad-ass. This is all before you realize that really hard T-Rex you’ve been fighting 10 times was a weaker version of one you’ll be seeing more often with flying dragons. But by that point, any hunter worth their salt loves those kinds of parties.

I definitely could waste a lot of your time rambling about the similarities and minute differences World improves upon its predecessors, but the simple thing to say is the game wants to constantly keep you busy and out in the field as much as possible. Like nearly 24/7 – 365 busy. Yeah, like I said there are a lot of things to keep track of when at home but things like the wishlist system automatically tell you mid-game when you’ve collected all the components needed for something; which beats in the past having to endlessly visit the blacksmith to double check info.

There is a gradual rise and sense of progression to things also. While the physical gear is the literal representation of leveling up here learning how monsters operate and their place within the food chain is also invaluable knowledge. Fights easily break down to demonstrations of skill over gear. You can wear the best equipment the game can provide and still get your head smashed in if you’re careless.

 

When playing online the group is afforded a limited number of re-spawns per mission. Each KO is a significant blow to not just the team but even your purse at the end. There is a definitely thrill when running with the top dogs hunting the baddest of the bad, because you’ll need to rely on your partners and watch their backs more than you may want to. However it also drags having to keep the weakest link alive when their doing their damnedest to die.

On that note, I would highly recommend new hunters hold off on multiplayer for a while. Not out of some plea to keep scrubs off our sessions but because you genuinely learn a great deal more facing monsters on your own than relying on high power strangers to save your ass. Studying monster movement, behavior, and their place within the food chain is crucial wisdom.

 

With all that said: I’m not convinced World will change the minds of people adverse to the grind. Because let me reiterate: there is a grind. The game is the grindGRINDING. Because just beating a monster isn’t enough, you must also cover yourself head to toe in it. However, World easily comes off as one of those quality-of-life games where it just becomes a routine. You hop on for an hour, either do a few hunts or wander around picking shit up. You learn a little something new one day, and eventually the game just opens itself up to you.

This all comes at a heavy time investment. There is no dipping your toe in the game. You must go balls deep. When firing this up, it’s demanding every bit of your attention until you’re sleepy little eyes safely save the game back in town. It’s creed may as well be come correct or not at all. For those up for the challenge, welcome to your new addiction.

 

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Preview – Agony (PC, PS4, XOne)

The product of Kickstarter, developed by MadMind Studio and to be published by PlayWay, it’s clear from the onset this is an indie project. Once you fire up the trailer, though, that thought immediately goes out the window.

Like, what the fuck was that? Look, if that didn’t rustle your jimmies then I don’t know what the hell your problem is. Get it? Hell? Oh shit, I can do this all day.

What stands out most about Agony is how horribly good it looks. It’s showing off the beautiful (maybe grotesque in this case?) shine the new-ish Unreal 4 engine possesses.

Played in first-person, so far the concept is navigating puzzles while occasionally possessing demons to keep eventually find a way free from this. The trailers have painted Agony in similar ranks to Outlast, which is fine company to be in.

Currently there is no release date for the game outside of a vague Q4 2017 listing. Regardless, this one is worth keeping on your radar. Or if nothing else, now is a good time to get those much needed upgrades to make games like this really pop. This is probably also not a good game for people who do psychedelics. Just saying.

Like seriously, what the fuck?

Review – Fire! Explosions! Knocking Bitches Out! Mad Max

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Mad Max is a game that should’ve been made long ago. The films are cult legends, even the shitty one with Tina Turner. Fury Road reinvigorated the franchise and brought it back into public consciousness despite the game missing the film’s release by months (though landed alongside the DVD release). Open world games have grown in sophistication, opening up possibilities. Mad Max is about driving hard, being mad and fighting crazy people. As open world titles go this game a no brainer. So why hasn’t it gotten the love it deserves? As fun as Mad Max can be, it doesn’t feel like it’s gotten much TLC.

Let’s be straight about this though: the Mad Max franchise isn’t about intellectual discovery or a deep narrative. It’s about watching angry, psychotic people committing mass vehicular manslaughter as an unhinged Mel Gibson stomps the desert. The game pretty much reflects this down to the letter, minus Mel Gibson. Instead Max is voiced by a man I swore was Kano from the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie (it’s not unfortunately, for the record). Avalanche Studios did a great job making the world look very gritty and real. This is where the Photo Editor is a blast to mess with, as you creator your own Road Warrior-styled shots that look great.

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Much of Mad Max’s gameplay has been cribbed from other games, sort of like how Darksiders played out. Combat is taken directly from the Batman Arkham series; it’s free-roaming, systematic base-blowing up/wire-shooting antics was provided by Just Cause (which was also developed by Max’s creators), and a fun photo editor as last seen in Shadow of Mordor. The whole package comes together alright but doesn’t feel wholly fleshed out. Combat feels sluggish and without fluidity. I get Max isn’t Batman. You’re a banged up wastelander, but combat still doesn’t feel responsive. It’s also easy to simply blast on the offensive and roll away, versus trying to take on crowds of people with a stunted counter system.

The game forces you into on-foot confrontations more than it should. Car combat is the star of the game, hands down. Fighting off four cars while blaring down the wastes is a blast, ramming into each other at high speed is exciting. Especially when you start tooling around with your grappling hooks and pulling drivers right out of their cars, or ripping their wheels off. Fighting fisticuffs? Not as great as you’d think.

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On-foot controls feel sluggish and awkward, but have a satisfying sound to knocking someone out. While Max is always equipped with a shotgun (and a sniper rifle in the Magnum Opus), gunplay is super weak and awkward to control. Not to metion ammo is in short supply (both on the field and how much you can carry), so for the most part you’ll need to rely on Max’s fists to solve most of your out-of-the-car problems.

Outside of base-busting, committing public service by picking up scraps and playing through the story there aren’t much else in the way of distractions. There are desert legend quests given by specific NPCs that challenge you to hit certain jumps and kill small groups of enemies, but the biggest side missions are death runs. It’s what it sounds like: races designed with car combat in mind. To get to the point, they’ll likely be the last things you choose to do since they are largely frustrating races.

Mad Max is a lot of fun buried under a lot of repetition. Base busting, or just rolling in with your car and picking fights to clear outposts, is a lot of fun. Max is a bad ass and isn’t intimidated by jackasses painted white. After some upgrades Max is a force to be reckoned with both in and out of his car. Enhanced shotgun kills that freak your opponents out, prolonged rage mode to crush opponents quicker, crushing knockout blows are waiting. Granted you have the patience to keep engaging in the same fetch activities over and over and over.

Mandatory Score: 6/10

Fans of the films will get a kick out of taking to the wastelands Road Warrior style. It’s also a fun, post-apocalyptic distraction until Fallout 4 ships out in November. However there are plenty of other action games out there, so it’s hard for me to recommend Mad Max at full price. Much like the films this isn’t one of those games you need to look deep into. Instead it asks you to accept it at superficial value and just roll with it. If you can get past its short comings, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Especially since this is the first time proper fans have gotten the chance to be in the (very unlucky) shoes of Max.

Personal Score: 7/10

For the all the negativity I’ve had throughout this review, I really like this game because I like the source material. The game does a good job of putting me into the mindset that makes the movies so much fun. It’s not about a strong narrative, because there isn’t one. It isn’t about anything else exception knocking people out, starting fires, blowing things up and running goons over. It’s a game I can come home from work to play that doesn’t require me to focus hard. Just sit back, crack open a beer, and enjoy.

Case For/Against – The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

The concept was pretty cool: take the massive role-playing experience provided by the likes of Skyrim and convert it to a MMO in hopes of creating a more narrative-flexible MMO in a genre that’s typically inflexible. Much like Star Wars: The Old Republic tried this last, and Elder Scrolls Online tried to cash in on a single-player franchise and apply it to it’s total opposite. It’s was a gambit that fell relatively flat quickly, despite early praise, and (also like Old Republic) quickly went free-to-play surviving off initial purchases and its atypical in-game store.

Tamriel Unlimited is among the first (Neverwinter having the distinction of being the first MMO on next-gen consoles) in likely many more console-headed MMOs. It controls and plays admirably on a controller, especially in a genre that features many nuances requiring key-logged macros, but things work pretty well. I can’t speak for the experience as a whole. Full disclosure I’ve never been a huge fan of MMOs. The last two I voraciously consumed were City of Villains and the first Guild Wars. I found myself chronically wanting to assault people in real life during my very, very brief stint with World of Warcraft, and after that effectively gave up on the genre until my next very, very brief stint with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach talking about this game, so I’m just going to do this in the most simplistic way I can:

Pros

On the plus side, if you’re a big time Elder Scrolls fan whose been playing since the days of Dagerfall, it’s a treat to finally explore the whole world of Tamriel. Finally getting to see the likes of Elsweyr or Black Marsh was pretty cool. Especially after just having only read about them in in-game lore for several years. Maybe these will also be locations I’ll one day fully explore in a single-player setting since playing online felt like a non-stop chore.

I digress, to Elder Scrolls Online’s credit the world looks really good and true to Elder Scrolls’ fantasy design (though generic it might be anyway). Also the character creation system is pretty damn flexible. From the character creator itself, which allows very detailed avatars, to the build of the characters themselves. Instead of investing points into a general pool, Elder Scrolls Online tasks players with developing the character through repeated use, much like in the singe-player franchise. Want to wield a greatsword? In true form you must use one over and over in order to specialize with that weapon. Unfortunately, I also have beef with this system which leads me to the…

Cons

… of the specialization system. I get what the game wants the player to accomplish. Become good through use. Instead of waiting to level up to use something, you just use that weapon type from the start and keep with it. Instead of investing general points into pools, like being good at all swords or staves or bows, you have to invest in specific weapon types of those weapons. Meaning there are multiple types of the same magic staves to invest points in. So say when you invest in restoration staves, those point buffs don’t match to the other staff types like the destruction magic staves. It’s way specific as even the mainline games don’t do this. This means you must at times knowingly stick with weaker weapon options because that’s what you invested points in. Did that all read a little confusing? Good now we’re both on the same page about it.

As for the rest of the game very little of it feels like anything but the same MMO archetype I’ve experienced for decades. Sure, there are some occasional lines in a side-quest that check to see if I’ve been paying attention to the story but generally I’m not. I’m trapped in an eternal loop of fetch quests running around like a dumb bitch. Might as well make it mandatory to name your character Gopher, because I’m constantly going for other people’s shit. There’s nothing particularly engaging about the plot. A Deadric lord stole my soul, that alone should lead to a badass revenge story, but instead it’s, “Our nation is at war! Oh by the way, you have no soul, did you know that?” And I suppose that’s the fundamental problem when it comes to these story-focused MMOs.

The story wants you to suspend your disbelief and ask you to believe your unique (you’re not, ever) despite seeing an endless supply of new characters join you in your seemingly pivotal moment. It’s like being nominated for an award, onto find that every single person who was nominated won anyway. What the fuck is the point of this. As for it’s basic MMO elements, it’s grouping system also sucks to boot. It’s faster and more efficient to just spam, “LFG, LFG” over and over than trying to use the built-in system. So there’s that too.

MMOs are a dime a dozen now. There are some games that are worth your time and others that simply aren’t. Elder Scrolls Online, in my humble opinion, isn’t. Exploring Tamriel with friends might be cool, and the experience system makes it flexible enough to make whatever build your mind comes up, but that’s where the fun ends. There will be two minds on this game as long as it exists: the fans of the singe-player games disappointed with how unrecognizable the MMO is, and MMO fans who have been so inundated by other MMOs that they don’t give a shit anymore, it’s another fix.

Mandatory Score: 6/10

The nicest thing I can say about Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is that it’s decent. But decent isn’t enough. Not when there are plenty of better, and subscription free, MMOs out there if you’re desperate to fulfill your OCD needs of eternal character grinding. Granted, it’s not all bad but it’s hard to want to invest in something that invested little in itself.