Tag Archives: Outer worlds

The thought counts

I am still in some level of debate on this, Alex Hearn published an article last August (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/aug/20/from-cyberpunk-2077-to-the-outer-worlds-are-role-playing-games-getting-too-predictable) and I happened to re-read the story this morning. The main hitter was ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ I believe it is a valid train of thought to have, yet in this situation is it the game, or the gamer that bears the guilt? As we see the first paragraph we are confronted with: “Not only is it directed by Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, it shares a lot of DNA with Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas – a spin-off with a reputation as the best in the series“, you see there are two trains of thought, the first (not the most embraced one) is that the game was designed by a ‘one pump chump‘, you see a one trick pony is too harsh here. The second is the one I embrace, it is set on two principles.

  1. Relation
  2. Online cheat guides

The relation factor is how you relate to it all, It is easy in the Elder Scrolls, or Fallout, these are plain drives concepts and for the longest time, we go along with it. Even as we are offered options, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 still try to guide you, yet the reality is that you can go wherever you want ignoring the first stage altogether. The Elder Scrolls 4 (Oblivion) gave you a clear option after you get out of the sewers, The Elder scrolls 5 (Skyrim) did so a lot less, but left the door open to explore. In that beginning we get the option to grow and either you start staging the story, or the game leaves you a little in the dark. In a lot of cases you are a little in the dark, this is seen in Witcher 3, you can go in any direction, yet if you avoid all the missions in the first stage, your character tends to be too feeble to get around, and you die a lot. Until you grow skills you tend to be on your own, now we can see that the first village is an introduction (like the sewers of Oblivion), and yes after that you can explore and decide the way you want and that makes Witcher 3 an amazing game. In that same setting we see Horizon Zero Dawn, it is storydriven, but you can explore your heart out, merely consider that too far away, without proper upgrades your life does not tend to make it for a long time. Still, the origin story that Guerilla Games released is as awesome as any RPG that was EVER released.

It is in that stage we need to see a game like the Outer Worlds, there is a larger stage of introduction and it tends to make the gamer fumble a bit, that is the foundation of RPG, you have to feel your way into any RPG game. Yes, New Vegas was amazing and the stage is still among the very best, but there we get it, when we start exploring, we need to realise that the enemies a little further ahead can make short work of you really fast if the beginning is absent of exploring. Still, New Vegas did one thing better than all others, you have a good and a bad you and some cases can only begotten when you decide on the bad you. It gets to be even better as the third option (Caesar’s Legion) comes into play. It was an RPG founded on replayability, making it one of the very best.

The second stage is another matter, those who rely on online hint/cheat guides. They all go the same direction and it is clear that there are thousands of them (all claiming to have done the path without help), as such the foundation of ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ becomes slightly less reliable. And for the most, the story is partially that simple and partially not so simple. That part is revealed in Horizon Zero Dawn, the story is so overwhelming that it pushes you from stage to stage, it really was one hell of a trip. The cut movies over the entire game add up to almost 6 hours, almost 6 hours of story and information and some parts are not that small, the story truly is everything and it pushes the player in a direction and not on a path, Guerilla games really outdid most designers. In opposition we see Fallout 3, which had moment, not a story that pushes you and it pushes you more towards places. The article then gives you the Cyberpunk 2077 line with “But the fundamental skeleton the games are built on is so constricting that, given an hour to show off everything they could be, both developers independently converged on a near-identical script“, I personally am not convinced that this is so, in the first there was a quote “open world feature to their upcoming RPG. Players are given the freedom to explore the fictional Night City, take on the side quests that they want to, and be a part of the world that CD Projekt Red has developed“, in the second there is the option to be a Netrunner (hacker), techie (a badgetteer) or Solo (Assassin and direct action). The class you select will influence to some degree the way you play, or the way you play will push you into a class. It changes the way you overcome missions and locations and this changes the game (not the main story). As such did the game become too predictable? 

Well that is still out in the open, yet predictability is often depending on lack of choice, CD Projekt Red (Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077) has never had that, and overall neither did Bethesda (Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout). Yet it is the way WE play that gives the impression of lack of choice. In the Verge we are given “Obsidian Entertainment’s new role-playing shooter The Outer Worlds, I met a man miserably playing a corporate mascot, his head semi-permanently enclosed in a large, ghoulish moon mask. I spoke to him for several turns, hoping there was something I could do to help. But if there was a way to improve his life, he never suggested it, and I never found it“, as such I never met the man (or played the game) but if we consider that we can help, ignore or optionally kill him, is that a lack of the game, or a lack of the player? You see that is the foundation of RPG, the gamer decides and that is where I oppose Alex Hearn’s statement (not his point of view) ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?

I believe that the statement is a little out in the open. The makers of New Vegas had an amazing setting (especially after Fallout 3), from one mission you decide whether you go to ‘The House Always Wins 1‘, ‘Render Unto Caesar‘, or ‘Wild Card: Change in Management‘, Obsidian created a phase where we are confronted with a level of brilliance and definitely an opposition of predictability. But Alex is not entirely incorrect, we might agree that there is a good and a bad choice (each with their options) but not much more. the Fable series tend to have them too, as did Mass Effect, but the last one is less RPG set. Yet how many genuinely found the 4th option in Mass Effect 3? I see all the people nod ‘yes’ but in the end, they learned of that options like me, in a YouTube video. Only a few actually found them by their own choices, it tends  to oppose ‘too predictable’. And then we get to a beautiful line in The Verge: “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, it shows the largest flaw in RPG, the truth of the matter is that you never mattered, that truth is often pushed out of the RPG, you are merely flock people, you either suck up to the needy as a newcomer, or you decide on what someone larger and more powerful needed and you are the fixer, you are almost never yourself, the person you want to become, the RPG left that out of the equation as it is close to impossible to program too and it does not make an RPG ‘Too Predictable’, it merely makes an RPG ‘less unpredictable’ those two are not the same, not by a long shot.

However, the words of Alex Hearn are still in me and we see that view emphasized in Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2019/10/23/the-outer-worlds-review-roundup-heres-what-critics-are-saying-about-obsidians-new-space-rpg/#2350c4927d34) where we see: “The Outer Worlds, we were promised the kind of RPG we know and love. And that’s exactly what we’re getting, a familiar experience in a new setting” it is the stage of ‘the kind of RPG we know and love‘, and ‘a familiar experience‘, which basically gives Alex the power of his words, an RPG might be many things, but when it is a new title, those two are the foundation of predictability, the question becomes, if that is what the gamer wants and searches, is it the game maker adjusting its view on commerce that is wrong? Is predictability a dangerous part? I believe it is, but is it any less an RPG? That part was not in debate, yet from my side, when I play a different RPG, I need a different stance. Put Elder Scrolls against Witcher and you get that, in either direction, put Elder Scrolls next to fallout and we see it less. Even as the story and the graphics change, we are not the in the stage of countering predictability, we are in a stage of gaming in a different hall, yet doing the same dance and that is where RPG’s tend to fall short (a little) and that is why I loved Horizon Zero Dawn. Even in my own design, as I drew up Elder Scrolls: Restoration and Watchdogs: Refuge, I continued on the franchise as they already had it, new elements, yes, but the setting remained in part the same, so as such am I enabling repetition and as such predictability? I believe that if we move away from “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, we can start that the premise, and predictability (to a certain extent) goes out the window. 

He also gives us “every now and again, a game comes along which shows that innovation can happen without putting people off and revives a genre in the process“, yes that is the part I can agree and align with, there were parts in Skyrim that went beyond Oblivion and id just that. Yet what is also a consideration is that both opened the field by allowing everything to be done and it took the replayability away to some extent, as such in Elder Scrolls: Restoration I went back (allegedly) to Morrowind (which I never played) and left a barricade in place, as such not all classes could be done at the same time, a student of one could not join another path. In addition, the end of the mission often would result in the loss of location and a transfer to other places. One cannot be in University all the time, you are replaced as you are merely a student in one. that path lowers predictability to certain levels, even more so as I set the stage where choices were abundant, but limits choices later on. Without going towards a Red wings match in a Blackhawks Jersey (which tends to get you killed). Yet these settings give a much larger joy towards replayability.

RPGs forgot about the stage of limitation. As we are set in a game, we want to do it all, we ourselves become predictable, not the game (although the game did allow for it).

In Watch Dogs: Refuge I decided to set gender and language as barriers, the stage of pushing for time to drink and eat (in Watch Dogs one and two) I merely did weeks of actions on one fruit drink, so how is it I survived? An RPG should take that into account and make food and sleep an essential. You could try to get through a week on red bull without sleep, but you end to look like the zombies in university (in the 3 weeks before final exam). We took options away as debilitating factors, yet when you consider that Okinawa is a cuisine haven (as is most of Japan) making that a factor as overlooked. I reintroduced the option with an optional achievement or two, considering that one should never go for the stressful places loaded on Cheesecake, you get the idea that a lack of food and sleep can be a debilitating factor, we merely programmed that part away, but is an RPG not about the stage of a whole day, not merely the part you crave for (battle and mayhem)?

So why Japan? Well most gamers of Watch Dogs are non-Japanese, so pushing you into a place where you cannot read or comprehend anything sets you in a much larger stage, when we  get everything in english, we see what we need to, yet what happens when language becomes an actual hurdle? We forget that, did we not? for those who are still in the dark, try watching Passion of the Christ without subtitles. When Aramaic and Latin are your only companions, you either get smart (real fast) or you tend to forfeit your life. Italians (Romans) were really not to be too discriminating to people who did not speak their language (they were all considered slaves).

To set the stage where we counter the RPG in ways we forgot, I still wonder if that is because of the hand holding that the RPG maker is willing to make, or the side where we are just too shabby a player of RPG. I am not certain where it goes, but there are plenty of indicators that both are factors, as such we might consider that RPG games are too predictable, yet I remain in a stage where the makers became too enabling. 

It is merely a point of view and whether it is gaming limitation or predictability, it is a setting that are two faces of the same coin. I am still unwilling to say that Alex Hearn right, but he makes a fair point, even though he seemingly forgets that part of the predictability is the gamer him or her self. 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT

And the laurels go to

It is that time of the year, with 13 days to go and no new titles in sight it is time to look at what I consider to be the best games of 2019. This year I particularly look at value, graphics, sound and gameplay still matter, yet in the past value was underrated, in my mind the re-release of Tomb Raider is still the cause of this, a game that is truly a Tomb Raider game, yet way too short, the graphics the sound it was all sublime, yet I am not paying $99 for a game I finish in under 10 hours in hard mode, that is just not on. The makers made a massive miscalculation there, whilst the feel of the game was great. As such value needs to be a massive factor nowadays, it is also the reason why I never touched any of the sequels.

Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

I had a few issues with adding this title, I played the original on the (very first) Sony Playstation, as such I wondered whether it should be allowed to go in, yet the changes in the game, setting up barricades, having limited resources and the fact that you always need to look behind you made a jittery boy out of me, I believe that some puzzles were easier (to get into), but the overall need in the game makes it a Resident Evil Plus edition, it rips your nerves whilst you play, and I personally advise you not to play that in a dark room, especially if you brothers and sisters in the house playing a game of let’s give that player a heart attack, you will piss your pants (believe me you will). The atmosphere is coming with an attached level of graphics and decent music, the sounds are amazing (or awful pending on your point of stress). Capcom outdid itself when it decided to re-release the original Resident Evil 2, you can play as either Clair Redfield or Leon Kennedy and they are basically two games, there are some changes and the two issues that bothered me the most is limit of ammo and managing your inventory, which by the way is the central issue in survival, so it works out nicely for all you survival fans. Considering that this is a remake of a 20 year old game made me realise how perfect the makers had the game in the old days and I never appreciated it to that degree, even as I gave it one of the highest scores in those days. Resident Evil 2 (remake) is pretty much a must on every PS4 (pro), if you like the genre, if not keeping it around to give your dad a try into gaming (and a heart attack) is a solid second reason. 

Sekiro: Shadows die twice

I had a go when it came out and I loved it, yet budget reasons made me leave it off my ownership list, now that the game has been made a GOTY title it becomes an uppassable need to own, the graphics are great yet it feels very non-western, crouch walking in the shrubs gives it stealth and the setting where we attack from behind also gives the edge to the fight, I like the entire stealth part, yet the idea that I was 50% above the shrubs whilst no guard saw me was a little unsettling, the game is actually more than that, the gameplay is very much intuitive and makes for a much better experience, there is also the feeling that I missed a few things on every level IO played and comparing that to time played gives rise that value is well set. The fights themselves from the very first level give rise to a larger stage where the button mashers will not live long, not even after the second attempt make the game more testing and keeps it closer to a Bloodbyrne experience, but let me tell you now not to compare them, the same with Nioh, they are all set around a tactical approach and Sekiro fits in there nicel, so those who loved any of those games will see a fight style they love, you are at times (quite often) attacked, and even whilst you can not avoid them, you can dodge them and you will have to if you want to stay alive, the game relies on counter attacks and second actions to give you the upper hand, a stage I found refreshing compared to Nioh and Bloodborne, Sekiro feels more tactical that way, the choices you make have impact, the considerate and cautious fighter tends to win, seeking out WHEN you make your move is important and Sekiro has gone to great lengths to make it close to utterly perfect, so good luck finding some AI flaw and exploit it. Breaking the oppositions posture and position tend to be winning choices and there are several bosses, all very different in how they attack, each a puzzle in its own right. Oh and it’s important not to lose your focus in this game, I did so once (my phone rang), that one second was enough to get killed, Sekiro is unforgiving that way and for me that was half the appeal. This game is near perfect and one hell of a journey (as far as I got). 

The outer worlds

I am in my heart an RPG lover, I never made any secret of that and this game delivers. I am not making any attempt to hide my discomfort regarding that one person who made a 12 minute YouTube on how to get the game done in that time, any person who sees that as a solution is not really an RPG lover, it is like running all over No Man’s Sky, a real RPG lover looks at where he is and takes in the views he /she is offered and the Outer Worlds does not disappoint, I personally believe that too many views are colour tainted or look too non-terran for the impact and that is a little sad, but in the story it all makes sense. I did like the steampunk feel the game had, it was fun to be in that world (too many RPG’s stay away from the steampunk vibe). The game has humour, good looks and decent ploys in the game, there are often more than two actions you can take and even as you forget option number three, it could be the one placing you in best position. Important is that this comes from the makers of Fallout: New Vegas and their fingers are on the button often, you see and feel that yet what you often forget is that this is not a main development house, a B-level maker that is giving you a AAA game that is much better than a house like Ubisoft has given us in the last few years. That part matters, because when we see graphics, value, sound, music and gameplay, we see that Outer Worlds passed a test unlike any, I regard it as a beautiful game, I personally like the fact that the game adjusts and appreciates the stealthy player (me) and there were some nice benefits there, overall the Outer worlds is a good game for RPG fanatics and actually a decent game for those who never dabbled in RPG, the learning curve is good that way and the game seems to like all kinds of gameplay. 

Those are the three titles for 2019 hat I found worthy of being a game of the year, I will say here that I have not looked at Death Stranding yet (budget), and there are a few more titles out there, as some papers give you a list of 20, I personally do not regard some as they were either not on console, or I merely looked past them, these three titles are well above board and well above gaming standards to stand out. Even when we look at last year we see a small drop in new titles, I get that, there is every chance that the large houses are focussing on the two new consoles, apart from Ubisoft releasing such a disappointing game, a AAA releases an actual bad game, the 40% rating that it got is a specific one, yet there was also a 3/10 and metacritic had a mere 55/100, Ubisoft had dropped the ball to THAT degree. The fact that this game is supposed to have actual DLC is laughingly inappropriate, it shows that there is a new wave of gaming required and I hope that some of the Indie developers take up that challenge. 

Nintendo has always been the odd duck out, yet they gave us two/three games that should be in this list. 

Pokemon Sword/Shield

Pokemon Shield/Sword are the first two. For anyone that has played a Pokemon game there is a joy of changes and adaptations coming their way, the Switch was pretty much maximised for that experience. using the switch to lob balls at the Pokemon, the graphics look larger and the 3D view we see make for a much larger experience and all that whilst the game did not change its core. Now as we see the pokemons in the grass and the environment, we can avoid random fights, we see what is coming our way and we can search for the specific Pokemon in the location, a massive plus, the entire region you see in 3D is still a lot larger than before, so we have more to travel, the fights are like the Gamecube Colosseum had, which is really nice, all that and new pokemons too? Yup, so there is a lot to look forward to, the entire experience made it more fun to play, the initial feeling that we get when we try another Pokemon game (like Ruby in 3DS) was not here, the look and the game was different enough to feel invigorated to play this game, from the very beginning this feeling comes across the experienced pokemon player, so there is that to look forward too. I found the overall look and feel comforting and there is no beating the value of a Pokemon game, even as some might be able to finish the game in 30-40 hours, we see that these people are running to the finish line missing the point that every Pokemon game has had since I started on the Gameboy Advance (sapphire), the game has more than a mere quest and missing out on any side quest because it is not the main quest means that you limit your options and miss approximately 40% of the game. I was especially surprised on the amount of Pokemon’s I had never seen before. Yet another point of consideration to get either of these games. In light of all the enhancements that this game has, it is an absolute must for anyone with a Switch.

Luigi Mansion 3

Another must for the Switch players (and my persoal favourite of the year) and here Nintendo does not (has never) disappointed its players when it comes to sequels, here humour takes a large limelight in this game and even if it does not play in a mansion (its a hotel), even as I missed the second game, I did get the original one the Gamecube and this game is a lot (really a lot) larger, as well as a much larger combination of puzzles and other options once you use a person named Gooigi, the man is too much of a scaredy cat to be a ghostbuster and still this game is the best ghostbusting game I ever saw, the approach to humour in this game is often practical and is without a doubt a setting where this could be the funniest game that Nintendo ever released (crazy bunnies eat your heart out). It is without any doubt in my ghost stricken heart that this is an absolute must for any Switch owner, and I almost forgot about the graphics, they are good, above good. It is like playing a pixar animation game, the switch outdoes an Xbox in no uncertain ways, each floor having a theme look on it and the game took it to a new level, basically a level you have never seen before in this kind of game. In addition the setting where it does not take you to THE next floor, but from level one you go to level 5 for example gives it a nonlinear feel and there is more to find, so like the Mario odyssey game you will revisit places. If there is one part that I missed is the option to upgrade my vacuum ghost sucker. Overall this is an amazing achievement every time I think of this game I want to run home to play it for an hour or so, that level of addiction in gaming is one I have not felt for a long time and needs to be accentuated as well. Nintendo still knows what makes us gamers tick and they show it.

There are two sides to all this, there was no intent, let’s be clear about this, yet the titles I illuminated on consoles have two PS exclusives and the Nintendo exclusives are there too, with this in mind, we see that Microsoft seemingly stayed away from all this, now there might be a clear reason as they are now in the final year before their next console comes out and there is every chance that they want to rule it (which is fair enough) and whether that is the actual reason is not for me to say, but it seems that 2019 was ruled by Nintendo and Sony, which is partially sad and partially just the way it seems to be. Yet overall 2019 was not a great year for gaming, yes there were 5 great games, there was also Jedi: Fallen order and Call of Duty Modern Warfare, which is an alternative that kicks Breakpoints ass. I did no consider either as best game yet they are not bad games and worth consideration, especially when you are a Star Wars fan. I found 2019 to be a little disappointing when it comes to gaming, I accept it as the two new consoles are now a year away and it implies that both Sony and Microsoft are taking the new consoles serious, which implies that release day games on either should be interesting. 

What was your choice in gaming in 2019?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming