Thursday, June 25, 2015

The list of games I’ll keep an eye out for after E3 Part II




Space Hulk: Deathwing

                I’m a fan of the Warhammer 40k universe, I’ve even played the tabletop game for a short period of time (Grey Knights ftw!). When it comes to PC video games this license was not often properly used. The Dawn of War series was great, despite some of its problems and the expansions and DLCs spam, but the series is dead for now and other than that there aren’t many games worth mentioning when it comes to Warhammer 40k.
                Recently Games Workshop opened up their license for Warhammer (regular and 40k) to loads of new studios and many new promising games have been announced set in the 40k universe. One of these games is Space Hulk: Deathwing.
                Space Hulk: Deathwing is a first person shooter in which the player takes the role of a Deathwing terminator from the Dark Angels Space Marines chapter and fights hordes of Tyranids aboard an abandoned Space Hulk.
                I’ve been waiting for a while for actual details related to this title and at this year’s E3 some new screenshots were presented showing the incredible potential of the Unreal Engine 4 which powers this game. Also there is a video reinforcing those screenshots with some off-screen gameplay footage. The game looks quite stunning with detailed models and visually appealing effects capturing perfectly the atmosphere as it should be on a Space Hulk invaded by the Tyranids.
                Warhammer 40k is a vast universe that hasn’t been properly exploited, yet, by the video games industry. But I hope things get better now and Deathwing looks like a good start.




Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst

                Mirror’s Edge was DICE’s only other title aside from the Battlefield franchise and a game so unique that it became a cult classic. For years gamers have been waiting for a sequel to this game and with the release of Battlefield 4 it was hinted through an Easter egg that it’s coming.
                Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a reboot of the original game, still starring Faith Connors as the female protagonist. Catalyst will feature an open world with a lot to explore, but keeping the main features that made Mirror’s Edge special.
                Faith will be on the run as always, jumping from building to building, running of ledges and doing her parkour style job in the city of Glass. The gunless action has remained a primary feature and now Faith can’t even pick up her chasers guns anymore, but she can run away from them as she is in a better shape than ever before. This doesn’t mean the game has no combat, when needed, Faith can defend herself punching and kicking her enemies until they are down. She even has some special abilities that pull the camera into a 3rd person perspective so we can enjoy in a cinematic way how she takes down her chasers.
                When it comes to graphics, the simplistic primary color style is still the focus of the artistic design, but it’s turned into a good looking game by the power of the Frostbite engine.
                Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst sounds like the perfect sequel (in before disappointment…). A game that is not only set on capturing what made its predecessor great, but improving on it.  Hopefully DICE won’t screw up (remember Battlefield 4?!) and do Mirror’s Edge and Faith justice.



For Honor

                For Honor is Ubisoft’s take on the style of Chivalry and War of the Roses (two games that I like).
                The game has two teams of four players battling against one another for the control of three strategic points on a battleground filled with fighting NPCs. The game mode presented felt like a mix of Conquest and King of the Hill. The goal of the match is for a team to reach 1000 points and when it does, the other team loses the ability to respawn, but there is a twist. The losing team can get back into the game if it can capture a strategic point which will provide future respawns. This system turns the ending moments of a match in a desperate rush for strategic points or a hunt for the remaining enemy players.
                The graphics overpower the now aging games on the market and builds up the atmosphere. The number of players feels small, but the battlefield filled with fighting NPCs gives a true feeling of raging war that other games don’t manage to recreate. But these aren’t the features where this game shines the most. The most impressive mechanic was the complex, yet not too complicated combat system.
                Each player can use light or heavy attacks from four different stances which set the attack’s direction. The blocking goes the same way, the player has to match the opponent’s stance and use block in order to stop an incoming attack. Positioning and switching between stances and the counterattacks in between are going to be the flavor of player versus player fights.
This combat system combined with the fluid and nicely done animations add for a spectacular result and the main reason this game caught my attention.
                As War of the Vikings was a total letdown, it is about time a new game takes the place of the good games that start to feel old.



Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part I

                My review for Pillars of Eternity was positive. The game has enough issues to be annoying at times, but makes up for them with nostalgia, story and gameplay. The expansion for Pillars of Eternity was something known since the Kickstarter campaign as it was one of the campaign’s tier rewards, but now it has a name: The White March.
                The story is set after the events of the main game and takes place in the White March where the players will try to relight the White Forge and learn the secrets behind Durgan steel.
                White March promises to expand the character customization past level 12 with new skills and multi-class abilities. Two new companions can join the group: a rogue and a monk. It was also hinted that the amount of text that we will have to devour in this expansion will exceed the one of the original game.
                The White March is an episodic expansion which could work well with Pillars of Eternity. The number of parts is unknown and the same goes for the price, but if this works out it might be possible that Obsidian Entertainment will use the idea of episodic content past this expansion (hopefully it won’t get used for low quality content).



Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

                I’m a sucker for any at least slightly tactical 3rd person shooters and apparently Ubisoft is set on exploiting this. A new third person shooter game part of the Ghost Recon franchise has been announced by the name of Wildlands.
                In Wildlands the player will be part of a tactical team fighting corruption and drug cartels in an open world environment. One of the game’s key features is the ability to approach the missions in various ways. Stealthy assassinations, full out shooting, car chases and even starting a war within the cartel are part of the strategies available to use in order to cleanse the world of dangerous groups of drug dealers.
The action in Wildlands has every key feature of a 3rd person shooter, using a cover system, accurate aiming and more in order to provide a realistic and intense experience.
                The graphics look extremely immersive and detailed and seem to bring this huge world to life. But we’ve learned lately that we shouldn’t take these trailers for granted, especially when it comes to Ubisoft (remember Watch Dogs?!). Also, the optimization for PC video games was never one of Ubisoft's top priorities.
                Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is the kind of game the PC market as the number of 3rd person shooters on this platform is extremely low.



Tom Clancy’s The Division

                Visual downgrades are an incurable plague at the moment and after the videos shown at E3 it is obvious that The Division got afflicted by it. The overall texture quality of the world and models has been visibly reduced together with the intensity of some of the visual effects. Despite these changes it seems like The Division still captures the apocalyptic atmosphere of an abandoned New York quite accurately.
                The gameplay footage looks pretty interesting. The shooting feels goods and the skill system might have enough variety to differentiate into play styles. The PvP seems hardcore and takes place in special open areas that combine PvE content with PvP and reward high end gear that drops on death.
                The Division is the game I was looking forward to at this year’s E3 (was waiting to see how big the downgrade is) and even after the graphical changes I’m still very interested in the game. Hopefully Ubisoft Massive won’t downgrade the PC version even further as it will be a huge blow to what should have been the real next-gen title. The game launch date is set for March 8 2016 and a Beta Test will start in December with the possibility to sign up for it from now.



Rise of the Tomb Raider

                I never was a Tomb Raider enthusiast, but I enjoyed the 2013 reboot immensely. Quality action adventures are rare on PC and Tomb Raider can be a breath of fresh air.
                Rise of the Tomb Raider continues the story of Lara Croft as she embraces her wild and adventurous side. The setting for the sequel has changed from the island haunted by storms and mythical beings to the snowy mountains of Syberia in the search for another mythical place: the city of Kitezh.
The game will feature more survival features combined with and an advanced crafting system that requires scavenging for materials. The world has a day-night cycle and shifting weather, which should affect the gameplay drastically.
                I’ve always thought that the series needed more survival elements if not an entire approach from this perspective (they missed their chance with the 2013 game) and apparently Crystal Dynamics is going that way with their new title. I am a little intrigued to see how Rise of the Tomb Raider will turn out, but sadly the release for the PC version is unknown and we will probably have to wait until after the Xbox One release on November 10 to find out.



Vampyr

                I’ve been dying to play a new game with vampires since Vampires the Masquerade: Bloodlines. Vampyr is set in a 20th century London ravaged by the deadly Spanish flu. During these dark times when the streets are filled with sick people and entangled in fear and violence, the military surgeon Jonathan E. Reid is turned into a vampire as he returns home from war.
The player will take control of Jonathan and play as a vampire feeding on the living while exploring the ravaged London. The game promises a tone of characters to interact with different personalities, each with their role in the world. As the vampire has to feed with fresh blood, the player can hunt down in various ways almost every character in the game. The death of an NPC will have a visible impact on the world and killing people will have an impact on the protagonist.
                As a new game in the White Wolf’s World of Darkness universe seems like an unachievable dream, Vampyr might be the right video game to wash away the shame of vampires after the Twilight Saga.



Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

                Deus Ex is one of the greatest video games of all times followed by a sequel that didn’t do much justice to its predecessor. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a worthy prequel that came a lot closer to the original game, but had enough problems that hold it from reaching its forefather. Now comes the sequel to the prequel (I know right?!), that could rise up there or be as disappointing as Invisible War (I still liked it!).
                Adam Jensen is back as the protagonist, despite some of the ending of Human Revolution, and he is set on finding, again, those who terrorize the world from the shadows. But he doesn’t come empty handed, Jensen will have a series of new abilities and weapons at his disposal to help him find the answers he seeks, including a total body shield.
Mankind Divided will follow the same game mechanics that made the series prestigious, combining RPG elements with first person combat and stealth. The gameplay footage looked quite phenomenal from all perspectives and that sets an optimistic tone about this game.
                The cyberpunk almost dystopian world looks better than ever with the help of the Dawn Engine which will bring volumetric lighting, screen reflections and even air density to the PC version and full support for DirectX 12 (apparently this game is not a regular PC port).
                Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will come in 2016 and is one of the games that I struggle not to get hyped about and wait patiently until its release.



Kingdom Come: Deliverance

                This year at E3 many games looked impressive, but few have the courage to get out of their comfort zone and bring something innovative. Kingdom Come: Deliverance doesn’t fear change and actually bets all it has on innovation.
                I’ve been waiting for a properly done open world RPG (game) for many years now. I was expecting for The Witcher 3 to make the leap for a better future for this type of games and while it had something over the recent open world games it wasn’t really enough. Now I’m focusing my attention on Kingdom Come, as this RPG has the greatest potential in doing what others have failed to.
                Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an episodic open world RPG set in a 15th century medieval Europe. The game ditches the fantasy setting that is so common for this type of games and takes on the challenge of creating a historically accurate realistic RPG.
                The world of Kingdom Come is recreated from real places once part of the Kingdom of Bohemia, now incorporated in Czech Republic. But what is a realistic setting without complexity? Stealth, combat (both ranged and melee), alchemy or crafting are some of the activities that will be available in this game, each created in a dynamic and realistic way to immerse the player in this medieval world.
                Kingdom Come will offer a dialogue system with many options and moral choices being involved. The quests can be solved in multiple ways, being up to the player style and the world will react to the player’s actions leaving nothing without consequences (hopefully). While the number of quests will be limited, world events will fill the gaps between locations to keep the player engaged.
                One of the biggest challenges that this game is set on achieving is a combat system that is physics based and extremely reactive simulating the battles between knights in medieval times. From the E3 video it looked absolutely amazing, like the combat system I’ve been waiting for so long to experience. It’s not the usual hit and parry system, but something way more engaging and feels like the entire body of the character is used to fight. The only downside is that there will be no spears as according to the developers they are extremely hard to adapt to this system (too bad, I love fighting with spears).
                It is not only the gameplay that should be taken to a next-gen stage by this game. It is also the case with its technology. Powered by CryEngine, Kingdom Come delivers a gorgeous open world that has no match in today’s games.
The AI of every NPC in the game will be fully simulated covering its day and night activities and adapting to some of the changes in the world.
Even the sound design is taken to the next step with a system that combines the soundtrack by merging two songs with one slowly fading out while the other becoming more prominent.
                Gothic 1 & 2 and TES III: Morrowind set a standard for open world RPGs that seems hard to reach by today’s games. Fallout: New Vegas came to give us another taste of that standard and I’m waiting for the game that will take it to the next level. From its features, game mechanics and technology, it seems like Kingdom Come: Deliverance might be that game (I must resist the hype!!!).



                For those who wonder why the new Mass Effect or Fallout 4 are not on my list. I’m not so interested in these games because of the experience I had with the previous titles in the series and some other factors that make me reticent to them.

                The Mass Effect series gradually decreased in quality in favor of a hollydwoodian action story (that didn’t even end properly) and from the well balanced RPG that was Mass Effect, it became a cover shooter with lots of dialogues. The characters were good and the overall story was captivating enough, but the streamlining of the gameplay to a point where the complexity was almost lost and the way in which the story was presented that made me feel like playing a 3rd person Call of Duty pushed me away. I expected the series to evolve in a space RPG with vast areas with exploration and interesting colonial plots and factions at war that kept the races divided in front of the upcoming Reaper’s invasion (like in Bioware’s golden age).
                Mass Effect: Andromeda might be a promising game, it will certainly be a good looking game as it’s powered by the Frostbite Engine. But I will put this game on my wish list when I’ll be sure that it doesn’t make the same mistakes as its predecessors.

                Fallout is one of my favorite video games series of all times and I used to love it, but the series went off-road from what it used to be. I tolerated Fallout Tactics as it was strictly a combat spinoff. But Fallout 3 was a nightmare for me, someone who loved the series. It went away from the classical isometric tactical combat and the complex dialogue system with choices and consequences at any step and turned into a mediocre hybrid between shooter and RPG with a world that is not plausible and a story that didn’t do anything for me.
Fallout: New Vegas was the excitement and agony of almost having a real Fallout, because asides of its camera and combat it was for the most of it what Fallout games used to be (including the bugs). But Obsidian had the opportunity to make one Fallout, not more.
                I want from this series the game mechanics that made the Fallout games some of the best RPGs ever made. I want a complex yet quirky dialogue system that leads to multiple choices which aren’t so obvious (or spelled out by the developers with color markings). I want a tactical combat that is challenging and puts me in difficult situation where I have to use everything at my disposal to win. I want a skill system that allows the development of a character in an interesting with multiple builds and weapon specializations. I want the atmosphere of a post apocalyptical world that still follows some logical guidelines without diminishing the craziness of the setting.
I want Fallout, not a hybrid between shooter and RPG with an I win button and now a building simulator incorporated in it (which hardly makes sense, because building things without the danger of losing everything seems pointless in an RPG and is a feature more appropriated for simulators)
                If Fallout 4 could offer all these things I would be happy to follow the game, but knowing Bethesda’s style, it is unlikely that Fallout will return to what it used to be. And why should it? Fallout 3 sold extremely well as it is.

                Mass Effect: Andromeda and Fallout 4 aren’t the only high profile games that didn’t get much of my attention. But I wanted to explain with few examples why I choose not to be interested in such games and probably wait until after release to think if I’ll enjoy them and if they are worth buying.

                It’s hard not to have a positive impression about this year’s E3. It was kind of short on MMOs and strategy games but other than that it was full of surprises and showed a lot of promising games. I’m convinced that there was at least one game worth following for everyone, but only the time will tell how these games will turn out to be.




Nodrim

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