The Quest Log: August 11, 2017

Another week’s over, which means we’re another week closer to fall. This is my favorite time of the year partially because it signals the start of what’s generally gaming’s best season, but I seem to recall having some different feelings towards it when I was a kid. The big releases are already starting to kick off, too, with Hellblade launching this past Tuesday and Sonic Mania due out this week. What are the rest of you guys going to be playing as summer comes to its end? Oh, and let’s take a look back at the news of the week!

,Sonic Mania delayed on PC

Today during one of their regular livestream events, Sega revealed that the upcoming Steam version of Sonic Mania will be delayed from August 15 to August 29. Citing optimization as the primary reason for the delay, it looks like PC gamers will have to wait two more weeks to play the classic-style Sonic game while console players, including those on Switch, will have access to it when it launches this upcoming Tuesday. In order to soften the disappointing news, Sega is giving away free copies of the original Sonic game to users who pre-ordered Sonic Mania through Steam.

That said, Sonic Mania looks like it’s shaping up to be one of the best releases for the series in recent memory, and Sega released the game’s official introduction cinematic on YouTube last evening. The animation–which was created by Tyson Hesse, one of the game’s contributors whom Sega plucked from the Sonic fan development scene–definitely has a Sonic CD ethos to it, which is more than enough to get me pumped to play the game this week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbqPX15G9_0

Warcraft III PTR released along with an all-new patch

Warcraft III is one of the best RTSes of all time and arguably one of the greatest games of all time, too. It’s also 15 years old, which means that even for a Blizzard title, it seems totally unexpected that we’d see an official update for the RTS-RPG hybrid game that dominated many of my high school years’ afternoons. Yet here we are. For the first time ever, Blizzard has made an official public test realm version of the game available to players, on which they can now test the game’s latest patch. The latest update brings a number of balance changes and other fixes and is available right now for those who download the PTR. You can do that here:

https://us.battle.net/forums/en/bnet/topic/20758576598#post-1

No Man’s Sky’s Atlas Rises Update brings some big changes

No Man’s Sky may go down in the annals of history as one of this generation’s most disappointingly overhyped releases, but that hasn’t stopped Hello Games from releasing a ton of new content for the game since it launched a year ago. Update 1.3, the “Atlas Rises Update” is the latest of those. Marking the one-year anniversary of No Man’s Sky’s original launch, the patch hit this past week and brought with it a veritable (space)shipload of new content including an all-new story (30 hours’ worth, according to the game’s official page), new systems and quality of life changes, ships, worlds, economies, space combat, and more. No Man’s Sky is better than it’s ever been right now, so if you’re one of the many disappointed buyers of the game, maybe it’s time to give it a second look.

http://www.nomanssky.com/atlas-rises-update/

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda revolves around the Andromeda Initiative; a group of colonists with the mission of settling in the uncharted Andromeda Galaxy. You play the role of Ryder, a Pathfinder, tasked with finding suitable planets for your people’s colonization efforts. While exploring this new galaxy, you will discover new worlds, encounter new races, and uncover ancient alien ruins; all the while bonding with your ragtag crew, each equipped with their unique quirks and personalities.  While this may sound familiar to most fans of the series, Andromeda expands and builds upon the positive aspects of what made the Mass Effect games so engaging, but is ultimately hampered by its technical shortcomings along the way.

ME:A continues Mass Effect’s tradition of presenting the player with fast paced 3rd-person shooter combat. Ryder’s abilities are impressive to see in action; while mixing and matching them on the fly is necessary to exploit weaknesses on tough enemies or create massive combos on opposing forces. The vastly improved cover system also helps to create desperate, exciting battles that never seem to play out the same way.

The new jetpack is also a welcome feature; adding a level of mobility unprecedented in the series thus far.  I found it extremely useful in combat situations as I was able to create angles on enemies behind cover simply by jumping in the air. The jetpack also gives way to new platforming sections in which I never really minded as they never felt obstructive to my progress in the game. 

Outside of navigating the world on foot, you will have access to the Nomad, a six-wheel all-terrain vehicle. Driving the Nomad is pretty fun due to the design and layout of the different planets offered in Mass Effect. One of the more memorable moments of the game consists of driving the Nomad on a low gravity planet, as I spent the majority of my time there launching myself as high as I could before slowly crashing back down.

This new sense of freedom translates directly into Mass Effect’s emphasis on catering to your play style. Customizing your character’s combat abilities is easier than ever with the introduction of the Profile system, allowing you to switch combat roles on the fly. You can start a battle with being a Sentinel to soak up damage and then switch to a more damage dealing profile, such as the Adept or the Soldier, or just stick with the always fun, jack-of-all-trades Pathfinder profile, giving you teleportation abilities. This freedom encourages you to experiment with different loadouts, and with the game’s exceptional selection of weapons, you can spend quite a bit of time re-specializing your character to find out what works for you as well as what complements your team’s strengths and abilities. And while your teams A.I. can sometimes get you into trouble, as they seem to find it hard to find cover at times, I still found them helpful specifically in setting up combos and taking down priority targets.

The teamwork expressed in combat translates into your conversations with your squad as well. Your team will interact with your character unprovoked, sometimes at random, interjecting their personality at their whim, shouting at you in a fight or even arguing with another squad mate. Conversations feel more organic than in previous entries, with Andromeda forgoing the Paragon/Renegade morality system used in previous games, and allowing the player to easily express their genuine response to a situation, rather than tying the player to one of two responses.  The game also uses this to great effect in missions where I found myself not entirely sure what was the “right” thing to do.

While the majority of your time will be dedicated to exploring planets and shooting enemies, that would be just a snapshot of what Andromeda has to offer. From solving murders to stopping assassination attempts, and even tracking down movie snacks- ME:A seems to have an endless variety of missions to try. I’ve clocked in around 70 hours with the game, and I still find new missions to complete or items to collect for the robust loot system. Researching and developing new upgrades or weapons for your team becomes an addicting endeavor. Not to mention Andromeda’s excellent, wave-based online co-op multiplayer also offers countless hours of entertainment. Simply put, the amount of content offered in Andromeda is staggering. 

And while ME:A provides a lot of value to the player, it fails in its execution at times. Besides the controversial facial animations, I’ve found myself falling through the map after fast travel, or stuck in one place, unable to move and having to reload a previous save to fix the problem. While these errors are inexcusable, nothing I’ve encountered so far is game-breaking and can only hope a patch can fix the issues I’ve come across. ME:A’s glitches certainly add frustration to your journey, but there is enough good in this game to keep you interested regardless of its faults. You’ll still find yourself anxious to uncover the next story development or discover the next planet to survey. Mass Effect’s spirit is alive and well within Andromeda’s universe, even if it’s ugly to look at sometimes.

The Nintendo Switch Announced

      The Nintendo Switch has officially been revealed in the form of a teaser trailer this morning, and has confirmed months of speculation on a handheld/console hybrid. Previously known simply as the “Nintendo NX”, rumors have been circulating for a while about the ability to take full-scale console gaming on the go with titles like the highly anticipated Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Smash Bros. While much is still yet to be released, such as the price point, launch games, and of course the actual launch date, Nintendo did end the trailer with the promise of a March 2017 release.   

      While the reveal trailer did not give us a whole lot of new information that hadn’t already been speculated, it did confirm several specs about the forthcoming platform of which we had only seen patent concept work. Features such as the detachable controllers that could be used jointly in single player gaming, or shared amongst two individuals for split screen gaming, all while sitting on the couch at home or on the move. The video also confirmed the pending rumors of Nintendo’s transition out of disc-based gaming for this iteration and move back to cartridges similar to the 3ds. Whether you have the device docked to display the screen on your TV, or on the move with the device un-docked and wireless controllers attached, they are promising enough power to support console gaming where ever you are. 

      In addition to Breath of the Wild footage, they also showed off small pieces of a new 3D Mario game, NBA 2K17, and Skyrim: Definitive Edition running on the hardware. With as much info as we do not yet know, it can only be expected that Nintendo will hold some kind of a Nintendo Direct in the coming weeks to give us more information on the forthcoming platform to give us more details. 

What do you think of the reveal? Is it everything you wanted, or are you still on the fence? What do you think the price point will be, and what launch titles would you like to see for it? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided First Impressions

My first experience with the Deus Ex franchise was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I thoroughly enjoyed its offering of open-ended mission structures, as well as the surprisingly unique cyberpunk, futuristic setting. I was eager to jump back into this world, this time with the series’ latest iteration, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. 

One thing that became immediately apparent was the 12-minute video offered at the beginning to catch you up to speed is almost mandatory. A huge game comes with a huge story, and Deus Ex’s story picks up right after the events of Human Revolution. The video is a welcome feature for those who, like me, haven’t kept up on their Deus Ex lore. While at the same time, I can’t help but feel those who haven’t played the first game will feel somewhat lost. There is a wealthy amount of information covered in the video, and I had some trouble keeping up, even with putting hours and hours into the previous game. 

While the story’s inaccessibility may turn away some people, those who power through that barrier will be treated to a fun game. Deus Ex main allure is it’s open mission structure gameplay. There are countless ways to accomplish your goals and fully enables the player the freedom to explore these option without discretion. There would be times where I would struggle for an hour to bypass security in a section, only to find out later there was an easier way, whether it was a secret passage I could have utilized or a guard I could have convinced to cooperate with me. This highlight adds to the game’s replayability, especially with this year’s offer of a new game plus mode, something that was criminally absent from Human Revolution.

I am a little more than 15 hours deep, but most of that time has been exploring the sandbox levels; hacking and collecting everything I see. The world of Mankind Divided will quickly make you sidetracked, as there is something new around every corner. You’ll stumble upon crime scenes to solve, computers to hack, vents to sneak in and much more in your quest to complete one mission. It creates a feeling that no matter how far off track you go from an objective, you are always in a better position in the end because of the items or upgrades you discover, or information that can be utilized later in some fashion.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a game of endless possibilities; a yarn ball with threads to pull at every angle, all of them serving you in the end. My first impression is in the books, but let us know what you think of the game in the comments below! And stay tuned for our full review coming soon (hopefully.)

Final Review: No Man’s Sky

     It’s been a dream of any gamer- young or old- to one day find themselves climbing into a spaceship and get lost into a universe offering infinite possibilities. To allow them to carve out their own story in the depths of space- something straight out of a Star Trek episode. So when Sean Murray, and the crew at Hello Games first revealed their trailer for No Man’s Sky at the VGX 2013, of course, it was destined to turn heads and gather hype. However, in the years that have followed, the hype train surrounding the game reached levels that I have honestly never seen before in a video game. One of the main factors that resulted in this reaction, was Sony’s inability to get in front of the message and temper expectations, and instead only added fuel to the fire. From studio floods, game delays, street leaks, and more- Hello Games has had one hell of a development cycle, while the world watched every move closely in anticipation. While No Man’s Sky is not the “end-all” game that so many had placed on its shoulders, the ambition and technical accomplishment that Sean Murray and the team achieved is nothing short of incredible, and is surely going to be a landmark for future game development industry-wide. 

     One of the most common questions that I have received from friends and followers of The HUD since the game’s release, “Is this game worth my time and money?” Honestly, it entirely depends on what you are looking for in a game. For those that are looking for an open experience where they aren’t under constant pressure by sidequest markers and deep storylines, then this game is probably right up your alley. However, if you are looking for moment-to-moment action and a more linear experience, then this is probably where I would say this isn’t the game for you at the moment. That is the one thing that I cannot shake from playing this game- is that we are playing year 1 NMS at the moment, and this game is going to look very different in the months and years to come.

     From a gameplay standpoint, NMS is pretty straight forward once you wrap your head around the loop, after what can seem like an incredibly daunting opening scenario. Land, discover, compile resources, upgrade, then wash, rinse, and repeat. While I describe this, there is really no way to do it justice in the sense that everything is on such a grand scale and the ability to hop in your ship and fly into space at any given moment (without any loading screen), really is a feat. Thus far into the game, I have learned there is no way to measure how far you are into the game based on time alone. For example, if you tell someone that you are 150+ hours into Fallout 4, then you have a good sense that this person has seen most everything the game has to offer. Where in NMS, you can spend several hours exploring one planet alone without ever leaving the surface or visiting a space station.

     Level design is where the game starts to lose its luster after a bit. It’s weird to say this because there truly are 18 quintillion planets to land on, but after a while, they become a bit more than color swaps and environmental factors that can kill you. However, for the first dozen hours or so, you will find yourself in moments as you explore the surface of a planet that is mind boggling to think that odds are you will be the first and last person to ever set foot on the planet. But as with the law of depreciation, this element loses its luster after you start to feel like you’re landing on the same planet with different trees. 

     Now one of the most divisive aspects of this game is the story or lack-there-of. I remember shortly after the release of vanilla Destiny, most people criticized Bungie for forgetting a ‘story’. Not to be outdone, however, No Man’s Sky managed to create a larger universe with even less of a story. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate games that encourage to discover the deep lore behind the games universe, but in this case, I really can’t help but feel like the campaign was more of an afterthought rather than a focal point of the development cycle. This is where my biggest quarrel with the game lies The framework for one of the most incredible experiences in gaming history is right at their fingertips, all they have to do is give the player real incentive and background to accomplish the games one goal- journey to the center of the universe. 

     At the same time, this is where No Man’s Sky shines brightest- is its future potential. In my previous example of vanilla Destiny, look at all the content and additions the team at Bungie has made to their platform- offering some of my favorite gaming experiences in the past decade. But it took those expansions for it to reach that level. This is where NMS is at, and I am excited to see what the universe has in store for the team at Hello Games. 

     No Man’s Sky  is going to be a masterpiece to those that are looking in the right places and pleased with the loop, while it will fall flat on its face for those that go in with preconceived notions that this game really is an ‘end-all’. While I don’t think this game is going to work for everyone, I honestly believe that this game is one that you need to gain your own opinion on. In the years to come, we will see many iterations of this experience come from several different companies that will attempt to put their own spin on the ambitious formula. When you find yourself playing those games, it will mean that much more to understand where ground zero was- and what we had to do get there. 

How Zelda: Breath of the Wild Stole E32016

     I have always said that one of the key indicators of great art, or in this case a video game, is the lasting effect that it has on you in the days and weeks following your exposure to it. It is no secret that Zelda: Breath of the Wild left a lasting impression with those that were lucky enough to experience the demo at E32016 last week. Articles, gameplay videos, fan reactions… you name it. All across the web, it’s obvious to see that this was the game that left so many of the attendees at the expo, wanting more. Nintendo has a hit on their hands, and boy do they know it. When every other conference or showcase was a vast display of deep catalogs, Nintendo kept their E32016 strategy to the format that they have come to be known for: The Nintendo Treehouse Event.

     But instead of new game announcements and console reveals that their counterparts stuck to, they decided to use their resources to show off one game, and one game only; Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s incredible to think that out of the amazing E3 that we were given this year, boasting titles of God of WarBattlefield1, & Gears of War 4, Zelda not only held its weight in the social media ring, but managed to outshine basically every announcement, game or hardware related, since the moment we first laid our eyes on the announcement trailer. 

     From reveals like voice acting for the first time in a Zelda game, to showing off the openness of the world, Breath of the Wild is giving not only Nintendo fans, but the entire Gaming Community a whole lot to be excited for. From the walkthrough that was narrated by the creator of the game himself, they demonstrated that right from the get go of the game you are sent into a world that feels both familiar and incredibly new. Picking apples, climbing walls and trees, and even the ability to go in any direction that you really desire. This is the Zelda that fans have been clamoring for, for a long time. If it’s one thing that Nintendo proved at E32016, it’s that you need to stick to what you know and give the fans what they want. That they did.

      Now for everyone throwing soda cans at their computer screen right now saying that PlayStation/Microsoft/Ubisoft/etc. had the best show- go check out my E32016 report card in which I named Sony the victor. However, as I prefaced before, what has stayed with most gamers since the show and what is everyone still talking about. While you will find huge discussions on God of War, Dishonored 2, & Sea of Thieves, the one game that continues to build hype and will be the highlight memory of E32016 for most- including myself- is the moment I fell in love with Zelda once more. 

Now… excuse me while I go wipe off what appears to be an inch of dust from my WiiU.

Why You Should Temper Your “The Last Guardians” Expectations

It’s crazy to think that The Last Guardian has been in development since 2007, the same year that games such as Gran Turismo 5 &  Infamous (the first entry in the now 3 part series) was announced at E3. Needless to say,  Studio Japan has had some problems with the development of the game. However, if rumor is to be believed for E32016, we should get a hard release date for the title. For me personally, I don’t believe the game exists until I am holding it in my hands.

Going into E32016 I have heard the hype train build the imminent release date of the game as “Sony’s final big reveal”. C’mon now, let’s be realistic as to what the game actually is  and is not. As much as I am excited to get my hands on this game, I know that this games legend has far surpassed what the reality of what the game will prove. In terms of ratings, I am banking on a solid “B”. Now before you throw your drink at the screen, or automatically scroll down to the comments to tell me that I am “out of my damn mind”, listen to my reasoning as to why we need to relax on the expectations of this game. 

This game will not do huge numbers. Don’t get me wrong, this game will sell well and receive average grades across the media spectrum, but the previous game that Studio Japan put out, Shadow of the Colossus, sold 140 thousand copies the first week that it was on the market. To put that into context real quick, Uncharted 4 sold over 2.7 million copies in its first week. And that is a flagship title in its 4th and final (supposedly) iteration. I am sorry, but you can’t expect this game to move console units of any significance. 

The Last Guardian has been in evelopment hell since 2007. The ICO collection was released back in 2011, with a semi decent reception critic wise,  was the same year that I expect that Sony had originally wanted to release The Last Guardian, However, the collection came and went without any promise of the forthcoming followup. This was on a previous console iteration, the PS3, now with a whole new console cycle many expect The Last Guardian to compete with an expected fall release date, side by side with franchise flagships Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warefare, inal Fantasy XV. Needless to say, it is going to have a tough time finding its legs in the sales market with games like that. For those of you that hope Sony will back it with a solid marketing campaign, just remember that they are going to be introducing a new way to experience games, PSVR, along with an expected launch of a slimmer console. Now if you were Sony, would you put your money into the headset that you are building your platform around, or the game that has struggled to release to market for nearly a decade?

Now, don’t get me wrong, this article is not being written to bash this title in anyway. I am anxious to get my hands on the final product, as well as you are- I am sure. I want to help guide those that believe that The Last Guardian will lead the “Sony Fall Lineup”, to understand what will most likely happen. If it were me, I would put the advertising behind this gorgeous game. I would make sure that I didn’t postpone it for nothing, and make sure that the first time someone actually lays hands on it will enjoy the final product. But it’s not up to me. The ball is in Sony’s court. 

What do you think? Am I absolutely wrong, and this game will be the next Minecraft? Or do you think that I may be on to something here? Let me know in the comments below!