Bungie leaves Activision, takes Destiny with it

Article and info here

This is huge, as a gamer and as a gamer that plays Destiny; this is a very big move and potentially the biggest of 2019 and we aren’t even midway through January. In the face of their subsidiary Blizzard paying their employees severance to quit, and now this news of Bungie’s departure does not bode well for the giant. Activision has been pushing so hard for bigger profits while cutting costs and I think these sweeping mandates on top of the actions in the hopes of those goals (Diablo Immortal, microtransactions in general, anti-consumer practices, over-monetization, under-developed games, etc) are the biggest factors in these recent developments. Activision has been isolating themselves with every month that’s passed, two CFOs were let go/left back to back. All these things were clearly red flags for Bungie, to the point where they can’t even take the money and deal with it anymore. This is another huge blow to the publisher to the point where I can’t help but wonder exactly where this leads to given that this probably isn’t the last bit of news to come from the halls of Activision.

As a Destiny player, this is where the chips are really down. Bungie has no fallback, no scapegoat to use for the colossal fuck-ups they’ve had in the past, no DaddyActivision money, and every eye on them now that (in a sense) they’re back at square one. I open with the bad because I genuinely believe it doesn’t outshine the good. Bungie is free. This is complete speculation but imagine Destiny, with the dev response that Halo had. If it’s half the effort they put into that franchise I will be happier as a Destiny player. Bungie has fallen from grace, and instead of going gently into that good night. Instead, they’re fighting for the respect their name once had and trying to resurrect their reputation as FPS frontrunners. The mere fact they did this is a good sign to the point where even my pessimistic ass can’t ignore it.

This news has just dropped today, no one knows what’s going to happen. We don’t know when the separation will occur and what kind of recompense may come of it. All I’ll say is, this is one of the best things Bungie could’ve done from a creative standpoint. Now they just have to capitalize on it. Let’s see what this old dog can do.

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Game Awards highlights

Highlights of the awards are as follows: Roger Clark (Arthur Morgan) won best voice actor, God of War stole Game of the Year from RDR2 as well as best game direction. Fear not, Red Dead did take the award for best narrative, score, and audio design. Celeste won best indie. Deadcells snuck away with best action game. Monster Hunter World took best RPG and…I agree but I also think Nino Kuni, Octopath, Pillars of Eternity and Dragon Quest 11 fans are rightfully mad. Dragon Ball FighterZ takes best fighting game. Fortnite took best multiplayer game, shocker.

What I wanted to talk about were the announcements and trailers that came between the commercials and cringe-inducing antics of the event. There wasn’t a lot going on but what was announced was very interesting.

Atlas: Pirates and cannons do not excite me, seafaring and swashbuckling just does nothing for me. All that said…wow Atlas really looks impressive. Made by Wildcard and the team consists of many people who put Ark together. This appears to be a full pirate sim mmorpg that plans to hold 40,000 people on one server. Yes. Forty thousand. Is that MAG level hype? Yeah that and then some. This seems to be one of those situations where a game comes out, it flops, and another studio swoops in to capitalize on the disappointment (see Fortnite to PUBG, 2k to Live, FIFA to PES etc). That game I’m referring to is Sea of Thieves and Wildcard appear to be working hard on making the game Sea of Thieves should’ve been. You can watch a trailer here.

MK11: I am so conflicted by this trailer, lemme tell ya. The actual look of the CG trailer was nice, visceral, even cheeky at some points (awful big emphasis on weapons in that trailer). Another obscure and mysterious aspect of this game is time and how that plays into characters and the story potentially. New Scorpion is killed by Evil Raiden, only to be killed by Old Scorpion himself…hmm. Now that makes me think. It was a quintessential Mortal Kombat trailer top to…wait…is that 21 Savage playing in the background?? The song choice did not fit at all, it was like someone at NetherRealms plugged in their phone last minute to compensate for a glitched audio. Literally, anything would’ve been better, Wu-Tang, Freddie Gibbs, Earl Sweatshirt if you had to go the rap route. Yeah, I could be making a big deal out of nothing but I’ve also seen games make unnecessary focus on soundtrack and losing focus on the actual game. All in all, interesting. trailer here

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: Oh boy, oh fucking boy. X-men Legends (stick with me here) was the first of top-down arcade hero brawler type that really got my jimmies jumping. So when Marvel Ultimate Alliance came out it was something of a true actualization of what me and my friends thought up back when Legends came out. Two titles, both of which I owned and played through thoroughly unlocking characters and finding cheats. So imagine my surprise when initially I think this is the Marvel Avengers project by Square Enix. No! Wrong! Bad Chayton! It’s UA3 by…Ninja Theory?! What is going on? We got a little gameplay that unfortunately didn’t look too impressive. I’m still excited and with it being a Switch exclusive…I just have more reason to get one. trailer here. Speaking of reasons to get a Switch…

Joker joins the battle: Hi, huge Persona 5 fan here. Very excited to see our boy join the scuffle. He will be included as a DLC character (meh) but it raises some very interesting questions as to who else could be added. Goku confirmed! really cute trailer here

Far Cry “New Dawn”: This screamed Rage 2 to me. It is a cool idea to play so directly off the last released Far Cry title. I’m sure the games are going to be very different but the trailer seemed to take direct influence down to the shade of pink they used in their cooky-wacky post-apocalyptic looking setting. The game will even have you run into Joseph Seed and this is where I think it will diverge heavily and start to focus more on the Far Cry aspects of the game. Interesting villains as per usual but I’m hesitant. Even if it’s an expansion from FC4. trailer here

Rage 2: Now this is the post-apocalyptic open world I am looking forward to exploring. As I have stated before, Rage was underwhelming but had potential, this new trailer expanded upon what was already explored but didn’t really show off anything new. Regardless of the utter turmoil BGS seems to be in I am still excited to get my hands on this game and rip shit up .trailer here

Psychonauts 2: This is big, many many fans have been dying to see where Rasputin’s adventures take him. The look hasn’t changed much, but the polish of modern tech is doing wonders for the world of Psychonauts. We don’t get much info but just the glimpse is more than enough to get me thinking about the possibilities. trailer here

Dragon Age 4 teaser: this is a teaser trailer for Dragon Age 4… not much more to it. trailer here

The Outer Worlds: This is the big one, Obsidian are coming out the gate hard. In the wake of Fallout76 this was the last thing Bethesda could afford; for another studio to come along and do their games better than them. A space oriented RPG that appears to focus heavily on decision-making and character development. Two staples of Obsidian games that I can’t wait to take part in when this bad boy drops. With Obsidian being acquired by Microsoft I was concerned this would be an exclusive but thankfully they can’t deny the PS4 audience, at least this time. Next gen (or title even) we might not be so lucky. trailer here

Red Dead 2 review

Games like this just don’t come along that often. It’s so rare that a game’s sequel (when following a massive success like RDR) will live up to the previous game’s benchmark let alone blow it clean out of the water. I haven’t felt this immersed in an experience since New Vegas, most recently Persona 5 and God of War, the kind of game that grabs you by the collar and demands you play it. Most importantly, and arguably impressively, it’s one of those games that promises so much and actually delivers on all of it.

Story Time

We have been waiting a long time to find out how our boy John Marston got out of the outlaw life. Finally, after all this time we are seeing some characters as their younger selves and meeting others for the first time. We know who lives and runs into John later in life. This is more about the journey and how we got to the point that RDR jumps off at. We finally get to see Dutch in the twilight of his golden age with the law on his tail and his mind spinning out at the constant threat of his long con coming to an end. Arthur Morgan is one of the original members of the Van Der Linde gang and assumes the role as “muscle”. From the snowy mountains to the steamy swamps we ride across New Austin doing everything we can for our makeshift family to just survive shortly after the infamous Blackwater incident. There’s something special about this story and how it’s told. The way it is clearly Arthur’s story, and yet we know its a stream that is going to meander into John’s life in some sense or another somehow, some way. Learning and, more impressively, understanding Arthur is a journey that seems to have benefitted the first game. Arthur is conflicted and that is something that is a constant throughout the entire game. This character trait (or flaw depending on perspective) is one that settles in as the game continues. Initially, he is the reliable right hand that holds the gang up when no one else can. Over time there is a dissonance that begins to rattle Arthur as the stakes get raised higher and higher in the face of insurmountable odds. The characters are deep and fleshed out, the story is long but an odyssey I can’t wait to dive into again. Pacing isn’t perfect but whether or not you have any investment in the Van Der Linde gang, this is something worth seeing out.

Home on the Range

This map is vast, detailed, and eerily alive in its own way. We went from clumsily walking into everyone representing the closest we could get to NPC interaction; to actually being able to “greet” or “antagonize” literally anyone. Don’t like the way that guy is looking at you? Tell him to fuck off! Wanna brighten someone’s day? Tip your hat and say hello. In certain instances, these prompts change allowing you to defuse or escalate a situation. These two very simple additions to the way the game plays completely change it and feeds into that Rockstar style of gameplay. Where systems and engines collide and create a situation that feels unique and genuinely spontaneous. Some of the events are obviously scripted but it’s the presentation of these events that, to me, so wonderfully hide the strings. The level of interactivity is another aspect that bolsters the world even further. See that stagecoach? Rob/ steal it, rob the train, free that prisoner on the way to the gallows, rob a store, rob a store’s under-handed side business, customize your weapons since you’ll be getting familiar with them, hunt animals, hunt rival gang members, search for treasure, rob houses. It’s a near-perfect outlaw simulator in this sense and I cannot stress that enough.

Morgan Kombat

Melee combat in Rockstar games has always been minimal, to say the least, “serviceable” at best if you ask me. Red Dead 2 doesn’t do much more in offering a simple two-button combat system. It’s still a little anemic in my opinion but it at least has turned into a spectacle no matter what your camera perspective is. Random punches are now hardened fist fights and potential brawls that feel heavy, especially in first-person. I had a hard time imagining what Rockstar meant when they said that the guns would be ‘fully functional’ or however they specifically put it. The look on my face was probably pretty amusing when I pull the right trigger twice hoping to let off two quick shots, only to watch Arthur let off a shot and cock the hammer. I really liked how it felt once I got used to it and now 20+ hours in it feels just as good. I wish all the view options were made a bit more clear (I was looking for iron sights for a good while there). That said, once you get there, if you enjoy FPS it’s worth a shot no pun intended. It’s a little clunky but requires patience to line up shots if you turn off the aim assist. I’m bringing up the first-person option a lot and that’s because of its impact on the game and how important it is to get the perspective right. It’s hard to fuck up the trademark third person angle Rockstar has at this point. What was not hard is fucking up the first-person translation of that perspective like they kind of did in GTAV. This is not the case in RDR2, so much so I had to dedicate a whole section to it.

From Worst to First (Person)

GTA V took an interesting step when it debuted its first-person mode. It’s funny how far away the camera started in the first games of the series and now we’ve gotten to the point where we’re looking out the eyes of our character. It’s in no way new for video games but it’s definitely different for Rockstar and you could tell. A buddy of mine put it like this and I couldn’t have worded it better myself: “GTAV first person felt like a mod”. It did, it was stiff and janky because the engine and animations for the series have never really lent themselves well to the smooth feeling a first-person experience needs. Boy did they polish the shit out of that because I haven’t played more than half an hour in third-person on RDR2. It’s nice to have this side of the gameplay really be able to shine and not just be passable. I understand some may see my playing this way as heresy but seriously, try it, my immersion levels go through the roof playing this way. On top of all that, the shooting is better and more polished than GTA and feels unique to this game.

Aging Like Wine

Rockstar almost never ceases to impress me, this title decimated my opinion of GTAV when they originally came out (a game I wasn’t too hot on to begin with) but this is very different. Rockstar as a studio is learning with every game they make and it’s showing on most fronts. The point in history we play in is fictional in location but very very real when dealing with the bigger picture of the country as a whole. The industrial age starting and growing quickly,  the age of outlaws slowly dying because of “civilization’s” growth, the last remnants of native life slowly being snuffed out, as well as some other hints that the country this game takes place in is changing. All of this is handled with a maturity that I think Rockstar has withheld from showing simply because it didn’t fit what mold the game they were making at the time. It’s almost hard to believe the same people that write the GTAV radio bits were the same people that really moved me with some of the strongest dialogue in gaming. Yes, there’s plenty of levity and humor but the heavy moments are just that and hit me in ways that other Rockstar titles and games in general struggle to do. If this is any indication it can hopefully prove to be a turning point for the studio from a writing standpoint. Personally, I love the hills and valleys of depressing realism to cartoony comedy, something that this game tries and competently succeeds at time and time again.

Peeves and Problems

Some of my gripes come more so from Rockstar than from Red Dead 2 if that makes sense. Character movement and control is better than previous titles but something about the RAGE engine they use makes conventional movement a chore more often than not. It certainly doesn’t help when one wrong move and you’re bumping into people and suddenly you’re in a shootout with the entire town all because you scuffed some dude’s boots. Speaking of being “Wanted”, the system could use some tweaking. If an NPC starts some shit, and I beat him within an inch of his life, why isn’t it self defense? Dudes knocking each other out in the streets all the time and no one bats an eye, your character doesn’t even need to draw his weapon to have a situation on his hands and that can be a bit bothersome. The formula of missions is repetitive despite how diverse the number of situations there are. Main missions mean something going to go wrong, if you are being stealthy, it’s gonna get real loud real soon. Side missions/ random encounters are where things dance a fine line between the contradictory ideas of painfully formulaic to entirely spontaneous and unique to you. You’ll see the same dude get kicked by his horse/ get bit by a snake twenty times. Only for your friend to tell you of this side mission/encounter you never even found. It’s probably tough to get that sweet spot since RNG is surely a factor in accessing these types of events to begin with. Others are just minor details that were overlooked if you can believe that. Little things like how I can’t choose my loadout when I replay a story mission. Some of these missions are so enthralling and cinematic, I often want to go right back and play it again. The issue is that when I do, I do not have any options in my arsenal depending on the initial encounter in said mission. So I’m going against an army of O’Driscolls complete with repeaters and a damn machine gun while I’m stuck with my two base pistols and maybe a shotgun. What the hell? Pacing is another minor gripe I have at the beginning and especially in the epilogue, this ride, however, is so enjoyable it doesn’t hamper the fun I have more so they just nibble at the grey matter in the back of my mind from time to time.

This game is immersive, detailed, made with love, and an achievement in gaming. It is by no means perfect but is definitely one of the best games I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Games like Destiny, Watch Dogs, Fallout 4 No Man’s Sky, The Division, and many more have gotten hype from talking about things that can’t/ won’t be in the game but sound good anyway. Rockstar talked a big game before the release of RDR2 and I really have a hard time thinking of any true bullshit to call them on. So I will join the ovation and applaud the studio for not only meeting my expectations after so long but exceeding them quite handsomely. TL;DR 9/10

Blizzard, Activision, and Diablo Immortal 11/25/18

At Blizzcon 2018, to end the keynote speech to a room full of longtime and hardcore fans, Blizzard announced the mobile game Diablo Immortal. A room full of people who love the company and the games they make. So much so they paid money for a ticket, travel, hotels, the damn uber to the venue; gamers that know their shit and more than likely play on PC. So how Blizzard and the mainstream gaming media like Kotaku and Mashable can turn around and call these people entitled or misguided is simply beyond me. Some going so far as to say that attendees were “throwing a tantrum” which is just, a lie. One: Blizzard’s dumb ass actually gave the fans opportunities to walk up to the mic and ask questions probably thinking it would be softballs coming over the plate. Not so, Blizzfans brought the heat, but questions and comments that were sarcastic at worst. One guy simply asks if they are gonna bring it to PC, another if they can get previous expansions on dedicated servers as they originally were, the worst and most famous is the “is this an April fools joke” dude. A light jab while probably proposing an earnest question as well. Why? How? Because every company has a mobile game coming out these days, what they didn’t do was make that the biggest announcement of their conference. Bethesda, Microsoft, Square Enix, all put out mobile games for their big franchises. What they also did was announce Fallout 4 (they showed an Elder Scrolls 6 title card this year), Gears 5, and Final Fantasy had been out for a while before it’s mobile iteration. Perhaps Blizzard could’ve given the fans that clearly don’t mobile game a taste of the next PC game coming. Personally, I believe it could’ve been the announcement of a brand new IP and no one would’ve batted an eye and maybe even be excited. Of course, there are trolls online and people flaming the ever long hell out Blizzard but those are the few. The many are rightfully disappointed and merely voicing their opinions on the matter as they have every right to do being that they’ve been paying money for these products and now Blizzard is turning away from them for the piles of money mobile gaming can yield.

Consumers aren’t beholden to companies, without us, they don’t exist. Don’t ever forget that.

Rockstar post RDR2 11/17/19

Okay, Red Dead Redemption 2 is out and blowing the saloon doors off nearly everyone’s britches. Are we enjoying the game? Put it down cause you can’t get into it? Regardless of how you feel, what we can do is take part in the speculation as to what exactly the powerhouse developer will do next.

GTA 6 barely has more than a concept as far as the public knows, nevermind the fact that 5 is literally the last title they worked on. Yet still, I hear a lot of talk and even hope that GTA 6 is the next thing to come out but I personally can’t see the reason behind that besides you know literal butt-tons of money. I would think it’s just a bit much considering how long the last title’s life cycle was and how many other IPs they have that would be great on the current gen. We got the big boy out of the way, now let’s move on to some other gems.

There are leaks and rumors that Bully 2 is in the works which are exciting to consider especially because it would be a strong divergence from games like Red Dead and GTA and a nice bit of service for longtime fans (I personally still need to play the original). Rumblings of college and given the sim nature of RDR2 I can see it being tedious but I could also see it being quite fun the way Persona 5 (for those that played it) did it. Half student sim, half conventional Rockstar debauchery; can anyone find something to not like? I’m struggling as well.

Max Payne 4 is the game I hope comes out before too long. I’m still patiently waiting for PSnow to add MP3 to finally kill the nagging subconscious desire I have to play that game again. From Brazil to Hoboken I had a blast with that title and I really want to be able to go back. More so, I really want to see Rockstar let their nuts hang on this title and RDR2 shows just what they can do when prepared to take on the current generation from the ground up. I’m practically salivating at the thought of the set pieces we’d get to shoot up in slow motion.

PS: Rockstar, bring back Manhunt, I fucking dare you!

Thots on RDR2 coming soon

Fallout 76 woes and worries 11/09/19

Between Bethesda’s lack of experience in a game like this and the self-inflicted technical disadvantages they’re notorious for, Fallout 76 is shaping up to be a shit show and a half. So much of the footage I’ve seen seems like a bland reskin of Fallout 4 with next to no design changes outside of the environment. The same guns with minor additions and slight tweaks, character models are smack the same as Fallout 4 despite this game supposedly taking place many many years before FO4 let alone in an entirely different part of the country.  The same cars, building models, and other things that if this were a decent effort, would be polished or touched up to feel new and different. Empty landscapes with bland quests that always end in fetching or defending. No NPCs means when they tell you to “find Jack,” you already know there is no Jack or it’s an ironic name for a robot. Not even Raiders, you really had to take out my favorite punching bag? You still keep the whole ‘no passive-NPCs’ and you give another faction for solo/grouped players to hunt/stumble upon. Who loses in that scenario?  I really think this is going to be one of the last games that Bethesda pulls this lackadaisical game development that at one point was cute but is now honestly kind of pathetic. This company makes too much money to not be pressing out some of the more polished experiences on the market, instead, they are literally the bottom of the barrel technically, graphically, gameplay, it’s all really sub par.

“Oh Chayton you just don’t like Fallout,” Wrong, I love Fallout. When 3 came out I was instantly in love and even 4 was welcomed with open arms after all those dry years. Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase was short when I couldn’t notice much more than sharper gunplay as far as ‘non-gimmick’ oriented changes were concerned. Settlement building was an interesting addition, I absolutely concede that but I will say that was one of the first markings that formed the writing on the wall. Bethesda was pivoting to a multiplayer market. I wish I had rolled a little higher on my foresight because I couldn’t have expected a full-blown shared world experience.

I’m not even saying that this game “shouldn’t exist” or “shouldn’t be made”, what I’m saying is they had no reason to jump into this installment other than needing some of that games as service cash. Bethesda should’ve tested the waters with a co-op Fallout experience. Not a main title game but an offshoot to essentially understand what this fanbase wants. It could’ve been wonderful (if nothing else an interesting experience) that wouldn’t be too demanding and, to me, excuse some of the trends Bethesda constantly revisits. It would also give them time to work out the kinks that bringing an ancient engine like Creation into an online foray like 76 would bring. The very kinks they are definitely feeling right now.

Game-breaking and game-deleting bugs, player speed affected by frame rates, muddy graphics and poor optimization on consoles and top of the line PCs with tech that has been out for more than long enough. People are already figuring out how to mod 76 because ya know, it’s the same engine they’ve been modding for almost a decade now. Can’t help but wonder how that’ll affect gameplay. I’m waiting at least a year to see if Bethesda gets their shit together outside of the cash shop and hopefully, the content they drop will be substantial or at least entertaining. I hope those that plan to purchase enjoy it, I just can’t even be bothered to give it a shot at sixty dollars.

“Fifa: it’s the same game every year” 11/04/19

“It’s the same game every year”

I hear this often when I tell people I play FIFA. This is the first year I have literally no evidence to back that my fervent desire to defend the game. I am crushed, mortified, and at a loss. No, but seriously, they added a couple game modes that (at this point) are online only.

I mainly play career mode. I’m bad and I don’t want to embarrass myself online not to mention who doesn’t love making a dream team sans RNG? Career additions this year are minuscule with maybe two or three features actually impacting the experience. Player search adds a “release clause” filter, new training exercises for strength and sprint speed, and the board will now potentially grant funds based on your performance. Oh and don’t forget that sweet sweet Champions League….whoopty-do.

I’ve watched many Youtubers voice their opinions on the game both individual aspects and as a whole. ‘Chayton you can’t let other people dictate your opinion and your point of view,’ yes tiny voice I totally understand, however, an informed voice that can break down the game into its finer parts and even go into the history of the game further than my own time with it goes. I was stunned when I found out how much deeper the career mode used to be I found myself at a loss as to why these mechanics aren’t there anymore. The more in-depth scouting options, youth academy,  and overall more comprehensive managerial controls. Why remove these features? Can they really take up that much space on the disc? What is keeping them from expanding on the one aspect of the game that isn’t making them millions of…oh. Call me naive but I think with all the money FUT has made EA you think they could throw us poor fucks a bone in the form of deepening the offline game modes. I suppose that was what House Rules are for; but then they drop the ball by not allowing them online (I’m sure they’ll be patched in at some point).

The more advanced tactics are nice but…these could’ve been brought in years ago. All this is because EA has grown fat with success and there isn’t anyone that can hold a candle to the production value and licensing that FIFA has. That said, I think if Konami were to really nut up and bring some serious development time to PES it could challenge on sheer content and depth of mechanics. Nothing will come close to FUT but it could really take a bite out of EA’s consumer base. The few that would switch for an actual manager mode. The gameplay is strong if not a little rusty, that just means that with effort those kinks can be worked out. It’s better than what EA is doing, which is next to nothing; and any step they do make is nine-times-out-of-ten in the wrong direction.

These instances are online that take place in a game EA wants to push to as “competitive” and “esports ready” please enjoy.

FIFA has gotten to a point where even in my love for futbol, I literally cannot bring myself to purchase this game when nothing about it is being changed for the better, or worse, there are changes for the better but they are buried under an avalanche of both purposefully and accidentally terrible decisions. FIFA is worse than “being the same game every year”, it’s slowly falling down grace’s mountain and it’s hitting every ledge on the way down. I hate not getting FIFA this year but I legitimately cannot justify it’s purchase anymore, not until they steer this ship right and make changes that actually push the gameplay to that “simulation” and “esports” polish EA claims the game already has. I’d never fault a fan of the beautiful game for buying the marquee title video game if that’s what they want, I just can’t do it anymore.