The gang is back to give our reactions to the announcements, and some games we thought would be announced, in our reactions podcast part 1
There is certainly a time and place for those games as a service, and if done well can be a very rewarding experience. For the purpose of this article though, I want to explore the reasons why we could benefit from more games like God of War.
Author: Nathan Doverspike
Back in the 90’s, I was just a kid who found endless amounts of joy exploring worlds as a purple dragon that could breathe fire onto unsuspecting sheep and charge head-first into enemies. Never would I have thought that single-player only games like Spyro the Dragon (I can’t wait for the remaster to come out in September!) would become overtaken by games like Destiny 2, Farcry series, or recent Assassin’s Creed titles, games that prefer to be a service instead of a singular experience. There is certainly a time and place for those games as a service, and if done well can be a very rewarding experience. For the purpose of this article though, I want to explore the reasons why we could benefit from more games like God of War.
Awhile ago, I wrote and article condemning micro transactions in video games. It appears I am not alone, as the ESRB has begun cracking down on them, countries have started outlawing them completely, and there is even a petition online to have them halted altogether. These are steps in the right direction, but until these companies see a direct impact in sales (both Assassin’s Creed Origins and Farcry 5 were well received critically and sold well) I don’t see this issue going away. The loot boxes in Shadow of War, a game that was obviously crippled by their inclusion, recently removed them. I would give them a slow clap, but it’s too little too late for that game. These gamble boxes of random nonsense prey upon people who may have an addiction to gambling, or could possibly develop one due to this insidious practice. Jim Sterling, a moderately famous YouTuber, has been extremely vocal about the abolition of loot boxes in games for these reasons and others, and I highly recommend checking out his content to see exactly why they should be removed. They impact the balancing of the game, with the core experience often tampered with to make you feel inferior without dropping additional money to have better gear, weapons, etc. God of War doesn’t fall into this trap, and it deserves recognition for it.
Also along the lines of scumbag practices are season passes. These promises of extra content to gamers for extra cash often don’t live up to the money you invest in them. Whether it’s not as much story content, maps that don’t feel worth the price of admission, or outright screwing over customers with incomplete content, there always seems to be a downfall to a game’s season pass. God of War could have had one of these. There are multiple realms you do not visit in the game, and quite honestly I would pay extra to travel to them because the game is so extraordinary. But they aren’t available for purchase, and most likely won’t be according the game’s director Cory Barlog. For the first time in a long time, we have a COMPLETE game at release. No need to pay to finish the story, get more loot/gear, or unlock other content like characters that were already included on the original disc (Mortal Kombat I’m looking at you on that one). This gives us something to look forward to in the sequel.
Speaking of complete story, not since The Last of Us did I think a story was so well-done. It kept me engaged and always wondering how they were going to overcome their next challenge. Like the relationship between Joel and Ellie, Kratos and Atreus aren’t always on great terms. In fact, for the majority of the game, they butt heads more than a millennial and baby boomer stuck in a closet together. Which makes their evolution throughout the game that much more interesting. You see where each is coming from, you see the regret over the terrible things Kratos has done, and how hard it is for him to express that to his son. And without spoiling anything, you see how some of these rifts are closed by the credits, and how some more could be opened in future installments. Too many games are shifting to imitate a service instead of an excellent experience.
Being a single player game, without a season pass or expansions, you would think that sales would be down right? Publishers want to claim that multi-player games sell so many more copies, thus making them considerable amount more cash. God of War would like to disagree, with it selling over 3.1 million copies of the FIRST THREE DAYS! This sold more than Uncharted 4 (had multi-player) and Horizon Zero Dawn, both Sony first party games. It is hard to believe that if this were released on even just Steam as well as PS4, that the sales numbers would be even more impressive. Even still, the notion that single player games don’t make as much money would be labeled as busted if it were to be analyzed on Myth Busters.
It’s my hope as a gamer that studios continue to release quality big budget games that aren’t looked at as a service. Something that I can sink a decent amount of time into (currently sitting just short of 40 hours in God of War) and feel like I received a full and complete experience. The Last of Us did it, Horizon Zero Dawn did it (speaking about before the later expansion), and God of War did it as well. All were successful, and I strongly believe that single player games can continue being profitable for companies and provide their audience with experiences that stimulate their gaming senses. We just have to hope that publishers like EA, Activision, Ubisoft, and Warner Brothers come to their senses before another collapse occurs.
Author: Nathan Doverspike
Previously, I wrote an article listing multiple reasons why Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the best RPGs to release recently. Only one game tops that fantastic title, and it’s called the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. CD Projekt RED, somewhat unknown in the United States until the release of The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings (that game is also phenomenal and I highly recommend going back to it if you want to see how much the series evolved between iterations), their name was rightly sung in the highest of the gaming heavens for this masterfully crafted game. In fact, calling it a game doesn’t do this interactive experience justice, because it is so much more than a game. It’s a living, breathing world that is shaped by your actions and interactions with the hundreds of NPC’s across literally hundreds of hours of gameplay. Here are just some of the reasons this game will always have my RPG-loving heart forever.
In order to keep my interest, an open world game needs to have something that sets it apart from other games. The world in the Witcher 3 is not just gorgeous to behold (see screenshot above for proof), exploring it is just as captivating. Every question mark on the map holds something interesting, whether it’s an important landmark, an area infested with monsters that you can claim for the townsfolk to restore, hidden treasure, or a brand new quest. When the Hearts of Stone expansion released, I found myself traveling into areas I wasn’t nearly ready to conquer, just to see what new places and loot I could find on my travels. The second and final expansion, Blood and Wine, adds over 30 more hours of content to uncover, along with a vast land inspired by French architecture. A realistic day/night cycle and dynamic weather also adding to the impressiveness of this gorgeous game. The realistic facial expressions and animations also bring out the believable nature of the game, too.
While I personally enjoyed the combat in the Witcher 2, I understand why a lot of people I spoke with about the title described it as “clunky.” It sort of was. There wasn’t a nice flow to it like the Batman Arkham Asylum game that released two years prior and really set the standard for how fluid combat in RPG’s could feel. Witcher 3 definitely improved upon its predecessor, adding a new rune crafting system, better inventory management (thank goodness for chests), more upgrade options for signs (magic) to use in combat, and a satisfying counter system. Instead of having a light, medium, and heavy attack for combat like the original, the later two ditched that for just a heavy and medium attack, which absolutely streamlined it with what also worked in somewhat similar titles.
Speaking of combat, how does it sound to take on a dragon. Everyone likes that in games right? What about a GIANT dragon that is as intimidating to look at as it is to slay? Or how about a griffon terrorizing the local folk by eating their livestock? Or maybe you prefer traditional golems and liches that so many fantasy games feature? In this game, you get all of that and so many other varieties its almost overwhelming to list them all. Thankfully, the game keeps a bestiary of each one you encounter so you also know what potions, oils, and signs are effective against them.
Which brings me to the last improvement on combat: preparation. Playing the Witcher on anything but easy can be a real test of your mettle. You are able to drink potions that vastly increase certain attributes like vitality or strength, apply different oils to your weapons before entering combat with a foe, lay down traps, or cast signs on the ground and yourself to snare your enemy or even reflect damage back at them. All of this helps you take down the biggest of baddies, and for them you will definitely need all of these on your journey to save Ciri.
Speaking of Ciri, the whole story of the Witcher 3 revolves around Geralt finding his long lost acquaintance, Ciri, and saving her from a quickly approaching catastrophic event stemming from her being the last in a line of humanoids who can control space and time. Without spoiling anything specific, let’s just say I was left breathless after I finished the main quest. The expansions also have memorable stories to behold, including a massive toad that speaks (sure why not). The fantastical elements never feel out of place in the world, it’s weird and wonderful in its own quirky way. Geralt knows a lot about killing monsters, but even he doesn’t understand everything that happens in the world around him. The game earns a tip of the cap and two thumbs up for not over-explaining every little thing through spoken exposition, and instead lets you purchase books and read the lore in a separate menu if you want to dive even deeper, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do.
Geralt of Rivia (voiced by Doug Cockle) steals the show as the lead character, but other characters round out a very enjoyable cast that returns from Witcher 2. Also featured in the game is Dandelion, possible my least favorite character in the game, Yennefer of Vengerberg (Geralt’s previous love interest), Triss Merigold (a sorceress and possible love interest), Zoltan Chivay (one of Geralt’s closest allies) and of course Ciri. All actors and actresses did a fantastic job bringing these characters to life, and even though I didn’t care for the character of Dandelion in any of the titles, I respect the great job he did in reprising his role. They all have a unique way of interacting with Geralt depending on how you choose to treat others in the world, something may other games fail to accomplish. If you are a total jerk to other people, not only will you most likely have everyone despise you throughout the game, but you will get one of the most unsatisfying endings you can imagine. Just keep that in mind when you want to continually bribe the poor townsfolk for monetary paying in exchange for investigating their requests.
Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a masterpiece of a video game, something I don’t think can be easily replicated anytime soon. It had the perfect mixture of solid combat, enjoyable exploration, interesting characters, and so many other great touches like the addition of Gwent (the mini-game in a video game, period). This immersive experience is something I’ll never forget, and after over 100 hours of playing, still go back to it on a very regular basis. I can’t wait to see what great things CD Projekt RED has in store for us with their newest title, Cyberpunk 2077. Did you play the Witcher 3? Did you like it as much as I did? Let me know in the comments!
Overall, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is both a return to horror and a breath of new life to this decades old franchise.
Author: Nathan Doverspike
I start to panic as my character takes their good old time unlocking a hatch leading underground. He is right behind me: Daddy is coming. I hear him curse at me as he swings a bloodied spade wildly towards my head. I luck out. The hatch opens and I drop down into the claustrophobic crawl space littered with cob webs and a rusted lawn mower (no idea how that got there). My heart won’t stop pounding as I contemplate just staying put for a moment to catch my breath, cursing Daddy for scaring the living hell out of me. I can hear the creak from his brooding footsteps above, and I know I can’t stay here forever. I need to get out of there and find out what in the world is going on here. This is just a taste of the heart-attack-inducing moments to come, and I loved every second of it!
Ethan decides to go looking for his long-lost girlfriend Mia after he receives a video of her begging him to stay away. Reckless, and slightly naive, he nevertheless travels to the swamplands of Louisiana to investigate her disappearance. Once you arrive, all is not as it seems. The family living there, the Bakers, clearly have a few screws missing, as well as a pile of other body parts along the way. You fight them, as well as another form of enemy along the way to saving Mia and yourself. While the game is slightly linear most of the way through, I never felt quite safe from the denizens of darkness. Besides the safe rooms located throughout the game, no place was comfortable or inviting, and I prefer my Resident Evil that way compared to the travesty that is Resident Evil 6.
Speaking of gut wrenching, please do not play this game if you have a weak stomach or are prone to heart attacks. That is a serious warning. This game made me jump off the couch AND scream at the top of my lungs in just the first hour. The first half is terrifying, and the second half keeps the scares coming but does focus a little more on linear level design and first person shooting gameplay. While some might have wanted a complete return to form to Resident Evil 1-3 (this game has a house that resembles the mansion in RE1 and even references to the greater Resident Evil universe that are subtle but brilliant), I adored the blend of scares and stealth mixed with tense moments of action. Even when you are stripped of your inventory during a section of the game, it never feels like it overstays its welcome. The weapons all have a place, and I never felt like a weapon wasn’t useful or didn’t feel awkward aiming. The pace is nothing short of a masterpiece, so much so that I began a new playthrough immediately following the completion of the game. It has its bloody hooks in me that deep.
Overall, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is both a return to horror and a breath of new life to this decades old franchise. Some fans may not enjoy all aspects of it, and I respect that. However, I couldn’t get enough of this entry and can’t wait to see what the future holds for Resident Evil if they continue down this gutsy path.