Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Things you should know about Dropzone!

                MoBA has been the most popular gaming genre of this decade with games like League of Legends and Dota 2 topping profit charts and the esports scene. But in the latest years we’ve reached a point of oversaturation which prompted developers into making hybrids rather than pure MoBA games. So, it was only a matter of time until a serious combination between MoBA and RTS was going to happen and that’s how Dropzone was born.
                Dropzone is a sci-fi game in which players take control of three rigs, robots piloted by heroes, and lead them into battles of tactical ingenuity and micromanagement. Dropzone is a pretty damn difficult game and here are a few pointers to ease your way into it:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Screenshot of the Week #113: Praise the Sun!

                The Dark Souls saga is coming to an end at the same time I’m on a weird quest of completing all the achievements for games that I play and enjoy which incidentally include Dark Souls and Dark Souls III. I’m quite aware that this isn’t a healthy attitude towards gaming and I think I’ve already missed the mark on 2 articles because of this so called goals, but what can you do when gaming OCD takes over? This might be my last time playing Dark Souls for a long period of time and I’m going out with a bang. I’ve been destroying bosses left and right while collecting everything that’s there to collect and forming new theories based on a better understanding of this universe’s lore after Dark Souls III. This new playthrough has been quite interesting because despite the multitude of annoying technical issues the gameplay experience still felt enticingly fresh. Which brings me to my dilemma. While I’m looking forward for the Ringed City DLC and the story revelations it might bring (show us those Primordial Serpents again!) I do have a feeling of regret for the end of a troubled but beautiful saga.
Notice me Solaire senpai!


Monday, February 20, 2017

Screenshot of the Week #112: Customizations!

                MoBA and RTS collide in this week’s Early Access release, Dropzone. I had the opportunity to test out mix of two genres which haven’t met much so far despite their common past. The MoBA genre was born as a mod to a RTS game and has continued its existence in the same way with Dota, a mod for Warcraft 3. But why nobody has tried to do this before?
                Dropzone is mostly about fighting for objectives on a map that’s filled with AI controlled mobs and vision towers in a similar fashion with MoBA games, but without all the lanes and defensive structures. The gameplay twist is a RTS component that’s adding high micromanagement requirements and a well thought strategy as conditions for success. The players control a team of three rigs, which are highly customizable war machines, each having predefined roles and a bunch of active abilities and passive traits. This leads to a long path of trial and error trying to find the group synergy and learning all about the large number of potential abilities because Dropzone’s customization options are quite insane. The number of options for each of the classes is so high that I highly doubt players with the same setup will meet anytime soon.
                The complexity of the pregame management isn’t dumbed down by the gameplay as Dropzone is focused on tactical decisions while requiring a Korean level of micromanagement. It’s an almost herculean task to control 3 units which can sum up to 15 active abilities, watching over the cooldowns and trying to create opportunities for lethal combos. It’s even harder in a game with an objective driven victory where killing the opponent only provides some breathing time. The battles are demanding (to say the least) and the strategy that goes into winning is quite scary which circles back to my original question. The reason nobody is mixing these two genres it’s because the outcome will most likely be a hardcore game and Dropzone is exactly that.
                There is a reason why RTS competitive scene is dying out. While strategies are entertaining to watch, they aren’t entertaining to play at a competitive level. The abrupt learning curve makes strategy games hard to master and fewer players relate to them while the majority is migrating to genres that can be fun and competitive at the same time. Dropzone tries to make the best of both worlds and while I find it hard to believe that it will succeed into creating a strong competitive scene I think the game’s potential could flourish with the future free to play release.
Check out these customization options!


Monday, February 13, 2017

Screenshot of the Week #111: Under siege?!

                This week came another slightly successful update for Rainbow Six Siege. A new map, new operators, new skins, a new ranked season and an improved main menu are all welcomed additions. But as usual, besides all the goodness came innumerable problems ranging from server errors to bugged cameras. It’s all in good spirit as the game is on the right path and while annoying, the bumps along the way are not here to stay. Now I just have to train hard my decayed skills from a 3 months break, but with my overpowering team things are going good!
Nowhere to go!


Monday, February 6, 2017

The Upcoming RPGs in 2017

                I saved my favorite genre for last and what a meaty article this is. There are so many RPGs set to release in 2017 that I still cannot believe it. Truth be told, many of these titles were in last year’s list and probably the year before that, but some releases have been set in stone and we might see a better year for RPGs than 2014.

Torment: Tides of Numenera
Release Date: February 28, currently in Early Access

                For the fans that backed this game during the Kickstarter campaign, the development of Torment: Tides of Numenera is a rollercoaster ride of love and hate. It all started with the game being developed for PC only, which turned into a simultaneous release on all platforms that got people questioning the repeated postpones. The latest controversy comes from the recent digging which surfaced the lack of a few Kickstarter goals from the final game prompting an explanation and apology from the developers. The lack of transparency is worrying, more so when a lot is riding on this game as Torment: Tides of Numenera is the spiritual successor of what is considered the best RPG of all times.
                The game is set in Monte Cook’s Numenera universe, a world of magic, technology and strange creatures where death is not necessarily the end. Torment returns to the classic formula that defined RPGs for many years focusing on a choice and consequence driven story where dialogues play the most important role and combat can be avoided by using the right words. Characters with well defined personalities will join the protagonist in this journey through the Ninth World helping him if things go out of control in a tactical turn based combat system in which enemies can still be convinced to back down.
                Torment: Tides of Numenera is supposed to bring back the cRPG and provide a deep and meaningful story with a ton of replay value stemming from the amount of choice and consequence and the character progression system. Let’s hope that all the bumps in the development road didn’t stop this game from achieving its goal that had so many of us backing it up.

Mass Effect Andromeda
Release Date: March 21

                After the colorful ending of Mass Effect 3 Bioware is continuing the series in another galaxy with a new story and characters.
Mass Effect Andromeda takes the plot 600 years into the future after the main events in the original trilogy and has the players taking the role of Sara or Scott Ryder, pathfinders with the designated role of exploring new planets aboard the Tempest ship. Andromeda retains the cover shooting gameplay but expands on the character progression with more skills and weapons. The planetary exploration seems to be at the center of the gameplay, each planet having its own quests, resources, useful information and even bosses. For that reason the Nomad has been introduced, an exploratory vehicle with an improved navigation system designed to get rid of the annoying Mako bugs from Mass Effect. On top of the singleplayer campaign, the game comes with multiplayer mode following the popular model of Mass Effect 3.
I’m not sure how much real RPG is in Mass Effect Andromeda and the lack of actual gameplay videos keeps us quite in the dark. The game will be accessible days before release with a 10 hours trial through Origin Access, a paid demo that could unveil more information if Bioware doesn’t provide more until then.

Release Date: Q4

                Paradox has bought White Wolfe and we are all on edge waiting for an announcement that the coming of Leonard Boyarsky to Obsidian Entertainment isn’t just a coincidence and a new Vampire the Masquerade is in development. But until that proves to be true, Dontnod Entertainment (Life is Strange) and Focus Home Interactive are working on a game with vampires, intuitively named Vampyr.
                Vampyr is set in 1918 London during the Spanish flu pandemic and follows the story of Jonathan E. Reid, a doctor who’s also a bloodthirsty vampire. As the protagonist tries to unravel the mystery behind his transformation he’s facing the moral dilemma of having to kill to stay alive. The gameplay focuses on the need to stay alive and stalking targets, finding their habits and weakness to strike them or finding other means to feed. As it was expected from its 3rd person camera, Vampyr has an action oriented combat system which involves melee and ranged weapons as well as vampirical powers which are gained from feeding on humans. The enemies that stand in Jonathan’s way are many: hunters, his new kin and even mutated vampires will pose a deadly threat. There are plenty of gameplay options and at the end of the night it is up to the player to live with the consequences of their actions in a world where everyone is killable.
                Vampyr is the game I’ve been waiting for to restore the reputation of vampires after a series of movies and TV shows turned them into love toys and I can’t wait to see the choice and consequence system Dontnod Entertainment has put into it.

Book of Demons
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                Book of Demons is the first installment of Return 2 Games, an initiative by Thing Trunk to create a series of games inspired by the 90s classics. These games are set in the Paperverse, a book world made entirely with paper-cut graphics.
                The game is an homage to Diablo with an extremely similar narrative following a hero as he arrives to a troubled town to venture into the cursed cathedral and slay the evil that dwells beneath. But it’s all done in good fun with presentations delivered through rhymes and a comedic feel for the whole story. The gameplay retains the Hack & Slash elements of its inspiration but uses cards instead of items and a deck system to create builds for the three classes. The characters move on predetermined paths and have to fence off waves of enemies that get increasingly more powerful and dangerous. The combat is pretty limited but has an appeal to it and works well with the cards system providing some good mindless fun.
                Book of Demons is getting closer to release with each new update. The content is mostly complete and two out of three classes have been released so far. I’ve played through the first difficulty in Early Access and I did get enough entertainment value out of it to be tempted for another playthrough when the game is fully released.

Divinity: Original Sin 2
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                Larian’s sequel to the acclaimed RPG that mesmerized everyone with its turn based tactical combat has been financed again through Kickstarter and has Chris Avellone on board to right some of the wrongs from Divinity: Original Sin.
                The Divine is dead so prepare to embark on an adventure into a fantasy world where the gods are no more. Choose between 5 unique races including Lizard and Undead, each with their own traits, and set an origin story that will prompt different reactions and provide new dialogue options. Explore the world through an isometric camera and engage into a turn based combat featuring an expanded combo system between spells and abilities to destroy the outnumbering enemies. Unfold a deeper and darker story as the Void is coming. And if you feel competitive, test your skills in the new PvP arena.
                I can’t say that Divinity: Original Sin wasn’t a bit disappointing. The writing didn’t rise up to the expectations of a classic style RPG and there were other problems that stopped the game from achieving greatness. But the developers seem to have taken notes and are trying to improve on those exact problems. With a much detailed character progression, a story that feels more interesting and which has the creative touch of Chris Avellone and many improvements all over the place, Divinity: Original Sin 2 it’s on the right path.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Release Date: TBA

                Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a RPG developed by Airship Syndicate, a studio formed by ex-Vigil Games veterans including the old studio’s co-founders. The game was funded through Kickstarter luring backers with a charming art style resembling Darksiders and a JPRG combat system. Battle Chasers is based on an acclaimed fantasy comic book launched in April 1998 which stopped after only 9 issues. As part of the promises made in the crowdfunding campaign, new issues will continue the comic book story from where it was left in 2001.
                The gameplay follows the concept of Japanese RPGs with free movement during exploration and changing to a different perspective during the turn based combat sessions. The world is rich in content allowing players to freely explore in order to discover quests, find rare bosses and uncover secret dungeons filled with puzzles, traps and potentially good loot. Mechanics like: a two-tiered mana system, initiative bar, random buffs or debuffs and super attacks will give the combat system a strategic flavor.
                The artistic direction and gameplay behind Battle Chasers: Nightwar nail the feeling of a comic book world with just a slight of Vigil’s artistic direction to get the Darksiders fans intrigued.

Children of Morta
Release Date: TBA

                Children of Morta is a narrative driven Hack & Slash RPG with roguelike elements by Dead Mage which was financed through a Kickstarter campaign.
                The players can choose between 6 members from the Bergson family, the guardians of Mount Morta, and fight against the spreading corruption. Each of the characters is unique having its own backgrounds story, quests and fighting styles. The action unfolds in a procedurally generated world composed of different landscapes filled with lore and powerful monsters.
                With an action gameplay driven by a narrative that’s centered on a family instead of one hero and painted-like retro graphics, Children of Morta is an appealing indie game.

Death’s Gambit
Release Date: TBA

                It’s almost becoming a fashion to have Metroidvania games with Souls-like elements and after Salt and Sanctuary comes Death’s Gambit.
                As Death’s emissary on an alien planet with a medieval look and inhabited by knights, beasts and horrors, the players attempt to find the source of immortality and put an end to it. Featuring a precise combat system which requires calculated moves and timing, Death’s Gambit promises to be a difficult game where players will die a lot learning the gameplay mechanics and mastering the boss fights. A varied arsenal and a wide set of spells alongside shady characters and creatures of the land will help seeing this quest through.
                I enjoyed Salt and Sanctuary tremendously, more than I thought I will, so seeing another game following a similar approach can only be good. Hopefully the developers at White Rabbit will strike the balance between combat, challenge and fairness so that we can have a true Souls-like experience.

Release Date: TBA

                After Salt and Sanctuary has pulled off an amazing Soul-esque sidescrolling adventure, EITR is coming to do the same but from an isometric perspective.
                As a Shield Maiden whose destiny was shattered by Loki’s interference engulfing Yggdrasil in darkness using Eitr and altering her path, the players have to venture into the nine worlds of Norse mythology and find her true fate.
                First and foremost, EITR impresses through an artistic design merging retro style graphics with an isometric camera into a feast for the eyes. But the game’s main feature is the complex combat system using a variety of melee weapons and viable ranged weapons into tactical dance between fast and powerful attacks meant to deal with challenging encounters. The character progression is about taking chances as the players can choose to play safe and permanently level the character or invest into powerful boons that last until death.
                After experiencing a sidescrolling Souls-like game, I’m quite excited to stick to solid ground and fight challenging enemies without the constant risk of falling off the cliff.

Release Date: TBA

Piranha Bytes has returned, not with Gothic or Risen, but with a new RPG entitled ELEX made in the studio’s unique style that was propagated throughout their entire portofolio.
                The planet Magalan was following the path of evolution with billions of inhabitants and advanced technology, but the meteor hit and the post apocalyptic aftermath left a battle for survival centered on Elex. This new limited resource brought by the meteor can power up machines, grant magical powers and shape life into new forms changing the planet forever. What’s quite visible from the gameplay videos is that the spirit of Gothic lives on through this game, yet, in many ways ELEX feels like an evolution. Piranha Bytes are departing even farther from the fantasy setting that made them known in the industry, taking risks with concepts that are rarely used in higher quality games.
                ELEX takes full advantage of its seamless science-fantasy open world providing a vertical sense of exploration with the addition of jetpacks. But the jetpack is much more than a mean for exploration, it’s a multifunctional tool that can prove to be a valuable tactical option in combat allowing for strikes from above and a way to escape when needed. The combat system combines futuristic gadgets and guns with spells and swords to face droids, mages and other creatures empowered by Elex with the clunkiness that has become a studio trademark. The developers promised interconnected quests with choice and consequence that hopefully involves characters with the charm of Diego or Gorn.
                I can’t lie, ELEX looks rough around the edges with slightly dated visuals and stiff animations, but this is a budget game and knowing Piranha Bytes, it will surely shine in other ways.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Release Date: TBA

                This medieval action RPG has been on all the upcoming lists I’ve put together since I started this blog. Partially funded through Kickstarter, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a game set in the medieval kingdom of Bohemia and it’s aiming to be as historically accurate as possible. Players won’t be the chosen one or even a royal blood, instead they will play as the son of a blacksmith whose family has been killed by an invading army. The story will take the protagonist on the road of vengeance, but will ultimately lead him in a battle to restore the rightful heir to the throne. Kingdom Come will feature a character progression and gameplay mechanics that stay true to the authentic setting. Players can engage in activities of the era, shady or not, and gather materials, craft or steal from others. A reputation system and complex dialogues will have a serious impact on how certain situations unfold and a never before seen medieval combat will require time and skill to master. The authenticity goes as far as having a needs system which requires that players to sleep and eat in order to stay healthy.
                Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just the first act in a historical trilogy set on capturing the look and feel of the time and presenting everything with a detailed accuracy from story to gameplay. The wait has been long enough and it’s almost the time to see how this ambitious project has turned out.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Release Date: TBA

                Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a medival RPG announced by TaleWorlds Entertainment in 2012 as a prequel to Warband.
                The game is set 200 years before the events in Warband, during the decline of the Calradian Empire and the formation of the Kingdoms. During these times of civil war players will armor up and join the fight on the battlefields of Calradia. Bannelord’s gameplay features an improved medieval combat system and historically authentic siege weapons. Crafting, diplomacy and a sandbox economy will also play a huge role in the game’s world. But as compelling and immersive the world of Mount & Blade can be, it wouldn’t be so successful without mod support and Bannelord won’t skip on this highly praised feature.
                As an indie game, Mount & Blade II: Bannelord is not shooting for the production value of a AAA, but aims for a scale, complexity and scope that most AAA games tend to miss and that’s why it is one of my most anticipated game in 2017.

Release Date: TBA

Every title from Supergiant Games shares a similarity in artistic direction, but turns out unique without trying hard to be so and the first look the same seems to be the case with Pyre.
                Pyre steps even further from the legacy of Bastion as a party-based RPG in which a band of exiles partake in competitions in a mystical purgatory world. Travel through mysterious lands, meet colorful characters fighting for their freedom and take fate changing decisions in a gameplay that combines storytelling with an action-packed combat system. And if that’s not enough, challenge other players in 1v1 battles of skill and wits.
                Supergiant has managed to deliver magical looking games each time and Pyre seems to make no exception. Playing multiple times through all the studio’s games I’m almost certain that Pyre’s soundtrack will be as great as the artistic direction, leaving just this new world to impress and I sincerely hope it will.

NieR: Automata
Release Date: TBA

                A game set in the Nier universe finally makes it to the PC market. After the controversial cancellation of Scalebound by Microsoft, NieR: Automata is the only title from PlatinumGames coming out this year.
                NieR: Automata is an action JRPG taking place in a post-apocalyptic Earth during the war between the remains of humanity and machines created by otherworldly invaders  following the story of a combat android and her companion. The gameplay stays true to the series using a combo based action combat in a weird mix of 3rd person, isometric and sidescrolling cameras. The melee weapons will be the primary focus of the combat system but the game does have shooting elements as well as stories attached to the weapons themselves.
                As a first entry on PC, the story of NieR: Automata might not be as enjoyable for the PC players, but the responsive fast paced combat and the unique setting might make up for it. The game is set to release on PS4 on March with the PC version coming later this year.

South Park: The Fractured but Whole
Release Date: Early 2017

                Despite The Stick of Truth being an overwhelming success, South Park: The Fractured but Whole isn’t made by Obsidian Entertainment. This sequel powered by the Snowdrop engine is now made by Ubisoft San Francisco working together with the two co-creators of the South Park TV show.
                The Fractured but Whole is a sequel to 2014’s game in which the players will once again assume the role of the New Kid and join the 4 now legendary characters of the series in another RPG adventure. This time the characters will become superheroes to fight the crime spree in South Park but due to difference of opinions they will split into two clashing groups. Fitting for the game’s new thematic, players will be able to choose between multiple superhero classes as well as the gender for their characters and enjoy a turn based combat system in similar style with the predecessor.
                I’m not a fan of South Park but the series as well as the RPG inspired by it have been a huge success and fans will be happy to continue their adventures in this city of never-ending irony.

The Surge
Release Date: TBA

                The Surge is one of the many Souls inspired games coming out this year and it’s created by Deck13 Interactive, the studio behind Lords of the Fallen.
The action takes place in a dystopian future during the ending days of planet Earth when society is facing a degradation prompted by the advancement in AI technology, aging population and environmental diseases. With the job market plummeting over the years, people are forced into labor in the suburbs using exoskeleton suits to improve their efficiency. The players will take the role of a human equipped with an exoskeleton suit fighting AI controlled robots in visceral melee encounters. The combat system will have a faster pace than Lords of the Fallen and will be complemented by an in depth upgrading system tied to the exoskeleton suit.
                Lords of the Fallen wasn’t all that well received, short and buggy the game needed a lot more development. Deck13 Interactive might have learned from their mistakes and The Surge could be a big step up for the studio.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr
Release Date: TBA

                The number of games set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 is growing almost by the quarter and it was only a matter of time until somebody was going to make a Hack & Slash style RPG in the universe of eternal war. This overwhelming task has fallen on the shoulders of NeocoreGames, a studio known for the Van Helsing series.
In Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitior – Martyr players will take the role of an Inquisitor choosing between three available classes to purge the unclean from the Caligari Sector. The game features an interesting concept of an open ended gameplay that has players going through a story as well as an Inquisitorial Campaign which is a colossal sandbox with persistent elements influenced by the player’s actions. The combat is far slower paced than any Hack & Slash I’ve played and has a bit of tactical focus to it with destructible cover and enemies with advanced damage model which allows for dismemberment.
Inquisitor- Martyr is an intriguing Hack & Slash to say the least. It might not have the best animations, but the combat approach seems fitting for the universe and the Inquisitorial Campaign will be supported by a gradual development which could provide years of entertainment solo and in multiplayer. Now let’s hope the unannounced class is a Grey Knight!

                I’m at the end of a long series of articles showcasing an extremely promising year. This kind of articles has been misleading in the past, games get postponed or turn out disappointing, but the sheer amount of potentially good games cannot be neglected. We’ll have to wait and see how all these games turn out, but my wishlist hasn’t been this big in a long time.

See also:


Screenshot of the Week #110: A weekend of tactical disappointment!

                This has been one busy weekend and not because I’ve returned to Rainbow Six Siege to prepare myself for the upcoming changes, but due to the testing I’ve done to upcoming games.
                Thursday I got invited to Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 CBT which had a fraction of a rather small map to explore with a few missions and side objectives to do. My feelings after this beta are mixed. There are a few good gameplay elements like the multiple ways to approach a situation, the lethality, the freedom of movement or the sheer variety of weapons and upgrades gained or crafted tied to an internal economy that has you scavenging for resources. But the game cuts some serious corners on production value with sluggish animations, a questionable AI and numerous visual glitches. The graphics don’t look as good in game as in the gameplay videos with textures and foliage being quite underwhelming yet the game doesn’t shy away from performance problems. At least the gameplay and level design allows for tactical approaches and the ballistics are pretty advanced requiring a bit of patience and even some skill to pull off some shots. Too bad the AI isn’t more capable of countering the combination of drone marking and sniping from the distance, but if you get to cocky the enemies will kill you faster than you expect it.
                Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 problems are out in the open and that’s a beta test for. The good thing is that the game is still 2 months away from release and there is time to fix some of the issues based on the feedback, something that cannot be said about Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands.
                It’s hard to call Wildlands a Ghost Recon game, even harder to call it a Tom Clancy game, but both these “titles” have lost much of the meaning they had in the early 2000s. At its core Wildlands is just another Ubisoft game ticking all the boxes of the current trend of streamline game. There is the open world having a gigantic map filled with many trivial tasks and probably way less meaningful missions that take place in special locations and have unique objectives. The progression gives the exploration more meaning requiring some resource gathering and a hunt for collectibles to be able to improve your character with skills, some more realistic and others not so much, as well as gain new guns and customization, both being surprisingly detailed. The UI is well designed and extremely intuitive with a bit of spoon feeding, but that’s ok because Wildlands requires more keybinds than expected. The real problems I’ve seen this beta comes from design choices and the level of polishing.
                Wildlands can be played in a team alongside 3 AI controlled members or in online co-op with friends or random players. The gameplay is quite straight forward, shoot or sneak your way through some encampments controlled by some pretty dumb enemies which can easily be outplayed with markings from the drone and by taking advantage of the many gadgets, weapons, vehicles and even special abilities your team has at its disposal. The available arsenal is overpowering limiting the actual tactics instead of expanding them because the AI doesn’t seem capable of keeping up with the players unless they gain overwhelming numbers through reinforcements. Even if the compounds are designed quite well with multiple access routes, lights which can be turned off and even with diversion opportunities, there is little need for these. The streamlining of the gameplay in order to be fast enough for co-op reduces the challenge even further as you can easily salvage a situations by teleporting on squad members, regenerating HP or resurrecting players without any losses. The Ghost difficulty does make things a bit more challenging, especially if you don’t have a full team, but mostly because you die faster as the AI doesn’t seem to get sharper reactions. Like things weren’t worrisome enough, Wildlands has the bugs and performance problems of an alpha test. Even on high end rig you need some pretty heavy tweaking to gain an acceptable fps and this game isn’t all that high on graphical fidelity. Bolivia might have beautiful landscapes from afar, but getting closer reveals textures with average quality, spasmodic foliage and skimpy animations. But while the performance can be fixed in time for launch, the sketchy controls when moving or driving, the weird physics, the vehicles extreme damage model and many other issues are most likely to stay. Wildlands can still be a fun game, especially in co-op, and if you try really hard you can get tactical, but the gameplay mechanics seem half cooked and there is a plague of technical problems.
                It’s a sad day when you find out that a game with potential has so many problems just a month before release. It’s even sadder when you can find many striking similarities between a Ghost Recon game and Just Cause.
All that wait for this weekend just to be disappointed. At least Siege has some promising features in store for this year!
A hard to control death from above.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Upcoming Online Games in 2017

The list of online/multiplayer games is shorter than expected this year, mostly because I attributed various games that qualify for it to their respective base genres. But even so, 2017 has a lot of online action to offer from the customary MoBAs to fully-fledged MMOs.

Release Date: Q2-Q3, currently in Early Access

                Battlerite is an online skill based arena brawler from Stunlock Studios, the makers of Bloodline Champions.
                The game is built on the skeleton of its predecessor with the same top down camera and similar action controls using the keyboard for movement and the mouse for aiming abilities. Most abilities are skill shot requiring fast reactions, careful aiming and even enemy movement prediction giving Battlerite’s gameplay a high skill cap and a great potential for eSports. There is no farming required to get better items or level up abilities, all players are equal and the builds for each champion come from battlerites, ability enhancing traits that players choose from at the beginning of each round. The game has a decent variety of champions split into three categories: melee, ranged and support, as well as multiple arena style maps with various layouts fit for 2v2 or 3v3 matches. There is also a cosmetics system working with the built in character progression and microtransactions.
                Battlerite is an extremely promising game which has sold of 500,000 copies since its Early Access release in mid-September 2016. I sunk many hours in this game and I continue playing it on a daily basis. The player base drop in the last month doesn’t scare me as the game has been constantly tended to with balanced patches or content updates. The developers are currently working on the biggest update yet, planned for mid-February. Battlerite is also intended to be a free to play game and it will become so later this year when Stunlock Studios are convinced that it has enough content to support its business model.

Release Date: TBA, currently in CBT

                The skirmish concept popularized by World of Tanks has grew over the years and Yager Development is using it to create a game featuring gigantic space ships engaging in a battle of tactical maneuvers and skill.
                I had the chance to test this game since the beginning of the closed beta and it shows great promise. The battles are slower paced and more tactical than what World of Tanks or Armored Warfare have to offer and the combination of ship classes and abilities works wonders. The visuals are pretty impressive as well, being powered by Unreal Engine 4 the game renders pretty good particle effects and environments depicting awesome futuristic battles in the lower atmosphere of planets or in space.
                I’m not someone who enjoys the tedious progression system featured in this type of games, but I liked Dreadnought’s gameplay and I want to see more from it. Sadly, a recent update has forced a terrible grind onto the players diminishing the player base considerably. I’m hoping the developers will listen to the players’ complaints and address this issue as it will be a shame if this game doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

Escape from Tarkov
Release Date: TBA, currently in Alpha

                Behind Escape from Tarkov’s initial appearance as an online shooter hides a survival game with elements borrowed from MMORPGs.
                Set in the almost deserted post Soviet Union city of Tarkov, the game is combining elements from DayZ and Destiny into a compelling survival shooter with an extremely detailed loot component and an RPG skill progression. Players will be able to explore different instanced areas of the city called raids, some extremely large while others being nothing more than a building, and scavenge for loot. AI controlled enemies are roaming these areas as well as other players which makes each raid incursion a thrilling hardcore experience where you can escape with new items or lose everything. The big selling point of this game is the unmatched gun play which allows for different animation stances and an advanced shooting system that’s extremely realistic. The itemization greatly complements the combat allowing players to build their own weapons from parts and customize them the way they want with different barrels, stocks, scopes, foregrips and much more. The RPG character progression is similar to The Elder Scrolls games allowing players to level up their skills, e.g. lock picking, the more they use them, the twist being that skills lose levels if they are not constantly used.
                Escape from Tarkov is a mix of multiple concepts in a setting that greatly resembles STALKER but rooted in reality and with a narrative that gives meaning to the player’s actions and why they try to escape this city. There will be no microtransactions and no unfair business to give players advantages, but DLCs are expected to come out after release, most likely expanding the city with new areas to explore. Escape from Tarkov has an undeniable potential and I’m dying to test this game out.

Release Date: TBA

                Absolver is a Souls inspired martial arts RPG brawler from the indie developer Sloclap, composed of former Ubisoft Paris employees.
                The players will take control of a masked warrior under the control of the new rulers of the fallen Adal Empire fighting to determine if they are worthy to join the Absolvers, a peacekeeping organization. The character progression requires picking a style and a weapon of choice as well as configuring a deck-like system of combat techniques. The game features a fluent combat system in which players alternate between 4 different stances to deliver devastating attacks or avoid dangerous combos in PvE or PvP battles.
                Absolver is the debut title for Sloclap and has been in production since May 2015. The game is set to release later this year featuring exclusive content for PS4.

Arena of Fate
Release Date: TBA

                Crytek has been expanding its development to new genres and in 2014 the studio announced Arena of Fate, a free to play MoBA developed by Crytek Black Sea. The studio was closed in 2016, due to the publisher’s financial problems, but the game hasn’t been cancelled.
                Arena of Fate is a classic style 5v5 MoBA with a 20 minutes time limit and a slight change on progression. The gold gained throughout the match can be spent to acquire new traits which enhance the hero’s capabilities. The hero’s roster features of over 30 characters from literature, history or legends split between 7 different roles including heroes specialized on destroying or defending lane towers.
                Arena of Fate is currently in Closed Beta and as of yet no announcements have been made about a potential release or the continuation of development after Crytek Black Sea was shut down.

Camelot Unchained
Release Date: TBA

                Camelot Unchained is a MMORPG partially funded through a Kickstarter campaign that helped raise over 2,200,000$.
                As a spiritual successor to Dark Age of Camelot, the game will focus on large scale PvP with new mechanics to enhance the experience. The main feature is the Three Realms, a persistent world split between three factions where the cities are built by the players part of a never-ending war for supremacy. The players will have to defend their settlements, burn the ones of their enemies and engage in a PvP/PvE battle in the TriRealm dungeon.
                Craft, build, defend and conquer in a game with a reactive combat system where spells can combine for new effects. Camelot Unchained feels like a pretty hardcore PvP experience where not only the player’s skill but also the community will play a crucial role.

Release Date: TBA

                Without trying to hype things or get myself too hyped, Crowfall is the MMORPG I’m eagerly waiting for to change the familiar landscape of Guild Wars 2.
                At the first glimpse Crowfall looks like any other 3rd person MMORPG with some similarities in visual design to World of Warcraft, but past this point everything this game has to offer is extremely unique. It all starts by jumping over the leveling part straight to the end game and by changing the classic MMO worlds for a system of campaigns. Five in number, each campaign is procedurally generated and has a unique set of rules that define it. The campaigns go through a cycle of life and death as well as seasons which drastically affect the gameplay. When the campaign ends everything is gone except the player’s characters which can travel to new worlds with a new cycle and abide by new rules. Campaigns can last from 1 month to a full year and the only one that won’t be affected by time is Eternal Kingdoms which holds the housing. To join a campaign players have to choose between the three races which include the customary humans, but also unique sub-races like minotaurs or centaurs. The classes are many, each unique in style and adapted for a more action oriented combat system.
The features of Crowfall are many and I won’t go as far as to mention them all, but the intriguing ones involve pantheons and physics based siege battles.
                As a MMORPG consumer it is hard not to get sucked in by the hype generated by Crowfall’s great potential and a funding of over 10,000,000$ stand as proof to that.

Lineage Eternal
Release Date: TBA

Announced in 2011 as a sequel to the original Lineage which was released in 1998, Lineage Eternal has suffered numerous delays to the point I thought it will never come out. But the project is alive and kicking, currently in a closed beta test in Asia.
                This MMORPG with a Hack & Slash flavor takes a bit of artistic inspiration from Diablo 3 mixing it with some actiony gameplay into an attractive package, which hopefully doesn’t have the crowded UI that comes with Eastern online games.
Despite its isometric camera, Lineage Eternal will have all the common elements associated with an MMO. The game features an open world environment suitable for questing and PvP, randomized dungeons, raids and the mandatory organized PvP in the form of arenas.
                The stream of videos from the closed beta show a good looking game with varied classes and some pretty epic boss battles. NCSoft has promised that Lineage Eternal will launch simultaneously around the globe, so westerns have no reasons to worry about other than more postpones.

Mirage: Arcane Warfare
Release Date: TBA

                Chivalry is getting a younger and more distant cousin in the form of Mirage: Arcane Warfare, another first-person skirmish game with a medieval style from Tom Banner Studios, but now set in a fantasy world. 
                In a world ruined by civil wars players will have to choose between 6 different classes and engage in savage battles in a setting heavily inspired from Arabian and Persian culture. A skill based combat system which combines steel and magic urges the players to get creative in a battle of reflexes and wits as they try to severe the limbs of their opponents.
                Chivalry is a one of a kind and many players enjoy it even today more than three years after its release. Building on the foundation lain by its predecessor but with a new setting and more refined gameplay mechanics, Mirage: Arcane Warfare could be a real success.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds
Release Date: TBA

                Playerunknown is one of the winners of Make ARMA Not War contest with the Battle Royale mod. He later went on working on a similar project for H1Z1 and now has been signed up by Bluehole, known for Tera, to create Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds.
                In the well-known style of the mode the game has 64 players spread throughout an island scavenging for resources, gear and weapons. As the roaming area shrinks, players are pushed towards fighting until only one is left alive. The game features a considerable amount of gear and weapons as well as a few vehicles to have fun with and the performance during a match is rewarded by a character progression system.
Battlegrounds looks like a mix of the two projects Playerunknown has worked on with ARMA-like gameplay mechanics and a bit from H1Z1’s visuals. The Battle Royale mode is generally popular and I see no reason that Battlegrounds won’t do well.

Sea of Thieves
Release Date: TBA

                The pirate game we were all waiting for is finally happening. Sea of Thieves is an online action-adventure developed by Rare using Unreal Engine 4.
                We can finally crew up with friends and other players online to take control over a keel in a highly co-op focused game that requires each member of the crew to do their part. Collect resources for crafting, hunt for treasures and fight against other players in a seamless world of vast dangerous waters and not too friendly lands.  
                Sea of Thieves is one of the most highly anticipated games of this year and the buccaneers’ hopes are riding on with it.

                Online gaming is looking good! MMOs are back in force with new games that try to break free of the outdated recipe which has pushed players onto new genres, while MoBAs and online survival games are not the sole attention of developers anymore. Either you like to grind for gear or tremble at the thought of losing all your stuff, play against other players for glory or engage in large scale battles for fun, this year has you fixed.