Fallout 4 – Pip-Boy Edition – Look It’s All I Can Do

Fallout 4 Box Art

With my Xbox One still being at the Xbox Service Center being worked on, I knew that today was going to be a bittersweet gaming day. And sure enough, on the front porch this morning was a lovely cardboard box from Gamestop with my Pip-Boy Edition of Fallout 4. While I can’t actually play the game yet, I can give you my thoughts on the collectors edition goodies today. And since I have been waiting five years for this game, I want to get talking about it as soon as I can.

As far as collectors editions go, this one is kinda hard to judge. Generally, I’m way more in favor of them having some kind of digital goodies to make their value worth it. Whether it’s exclusive items or a built in season pass, that helps make the collectors editions feel special as you’re playing the game. That said, I’m also a sucker for sweet physical loot. I love my posters and cards and strange coin from Destiny. I really enjoy my poker chips and playing cards from Fallout: New Vegas. Going into the Pip-Boy Edition, the biggest physical treat I had was the Batman: Arkham City statue. I think the Pip-Boy itself probably is a little bigger in the long run, so that’s kinda neat. It’s actually got a surprisingly big size to it, which kinda makes sense. I don’t really plan on wearing it a whole lot, but it’s definitely big enough for an adult to wear. I will say that some of the materials feel a little on the cheap side – but that could also be my specific one.I love the functionality with the new companion app though, and I definitely plan on using that app as I play through the game.

Pipboy Edition

My other only real issue with the collection is that, aside from the Pip-Boy, there’s really not a whole lot of extras. Yes, there’s a Steelbook case – and it’s a fantastic one. It looks super sick with my other two Xbox One Steelbooks – Destiny and The Taken King. I love the use of the Power Armor for the main art, and the interior art being the garage from the reveal trailer is also a great touch. But that’s about it for special exclusives. The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Perk poster comes with every physical copy, so that’s out. The Fallout 3 code also comes with every Xbox One pre-ordered copy, so that’s out. I really think that including the Season Pass with the Pip-Boy Edition probably would have made it a much more worthwhile collectors edition. As it stands now, I think it’s a special edition that really is built for hardcore fans of the series. I love my Pip-Boy, but people who are just getting into the franchise might not get the same feeling for this collection.

At the end of the day, am I upset I got the Pip-Boy edition? Not at all – I think it’s a really cool idea and will be a lovely addition to my growing collection. The Pip-Boy itself will probably be a part of my desk setup for a very long time. Do I wish that there was maybe one more little part to it? Sure, in particular the Season Pass would have been perfect. But I don’t think that ultimately it’s going to impact my feelings toward the game, nor will it impact the success the game has. It’s a cool thing for fans, and really that’s something that I love seeing developers do.

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In Defense of Microtransactions

The Taken King LogoOver the last couple months, I’ve seen a lot of talk in various places about microtransactions. With Destiny adding Silver for emotes, and Halo 5: Guardians having the option to buy some REQ packs with real money, they’ve been at the forefront with two of the biggest games of the season. So the debate continues to rage on – are microtransactions good for gaming? The easy answer is no – they give developers a way to charge for content that might normally be in the game. But that’s the cynical way of looking at it. In truth, the answer is a lot more complicated. If you’re looking for reasons why their bad, just go search around Reddit or game forums. I’m playing devil’s advocate today.

Destiny Tess Everis

When they’re done properly – like I think they are in Halo and Destiny – they supplement the game that’s already in place. In Destiny‘s case, it’s a secondary revenue stream for Bungie to use. Activision came out in their latest revenue call and said not to assume that all future DLC for the game would be free just because Silver is in the game now. That irked some players – but to me, that makes perfect sense. Silver alone would never be enough of a revenue stream to support a game of that size. What Silver does is provide a little cushion, and gives Bungie a way to maybe put out smaller chunks of content for less money or for free. I don’t think that something like House of Wolves would ever have been free – but maybe with Silver something a little smaller in scope now can be. Maybe a Quest that has a couple missions in it and has a few new pieces of gear, or a new Crucible map – those are more what I think we’re looking for moving forward now. Bungie was also smart about what Silver is used for. Since it’s only good for buying Emotes that have no direct impact on gameplay, there’s no penalty for not getting Silver. It’s not a Pay-to-Win system that seems to be a pretty prevalent way of implementing microtransactions.

Which is what worried me most about the REQ system in Halo 5: Guardians. Since I wasn’t super interested in diving into the info pre-launch (I tend to do that a lot with games I like) I didn’t really know that REQs were only in Warzone. Now, Warzone isn’t a super competitive mode – it’s a good way to just zone out and play a few games with big teams. The REQ system actually works really well, removing weapon spawns on maps, and putting them in the players hands with these REQs. Now, if they were only tied behind real-money purchases, that would definitely be a real issue. But they aren’t – you gain in-game currency from playing and leveling up, which you can use to pick which tier REQ pack to buy. Sure the very top level is only real-money, but that’s not a necessary purchase in any sense.

Halo 5 Warzone

Ultimately, I see microtransactions as a great tool that developers and publishers have access too. When they’re used right, they do nothing but enhance the game. Whether it’s with customization items, or status things, they make playing it a little more fun. It’s a tricky line to tread for sure – it’s real easy to use them as shortcuts to victory. Battlefield is guilty of that – after a few months from launch, they offer the shortcut packs for each class/vehicle to unlock all of the items and upgrades. It’s supposed to be a help for new players to get caught up, but it does make me feel a little punished as a day-one player. It kind of alienates the original fanbase. Now Battlefield has gotten away with it – mainly because I don’t think those items are really promoted or needed. What microtransactions really do is open up a different way for fans to support the game they love. DLC takes time to make, and while playing the game is always the best way, buying these little things helps in the meantime. Like them or not, they’re here to stay too – so it’s more important for us as players and fans to find the games that do them well and support them. The power with microtransations is in the players’ hands – if they don’t work, the publishers feel that and adjust moving forward. That’s how we progress as an industry.

Halo 5: Guardians – Arena Multiplayer Quick Thoughts

Halo 5 GuardiansBefore my Xbox One died last week, I was able to play a pretty good chunk of Halo 5: Guardians online with my buddies. We played a bunch of Warzone while we had five online, and switched to Arena when we lost one member. I actually managed to play enough games to get my Slayer ranking before the Xbox update disaster of 2015 happened – and managed to pull a Platinum 1 ranking. So with that in mind, I want to quickly talk a bit about how I think the Arena behaves.

As far as the ranking system goes, I actually really like the idea behind it – it draws heavily on the way that MOBA’s rank their players. You get put into a group, and then have to work your way up through the brackets by playing well and winning. The better you do, the harder the competition is within your division. I think that this style of ranking actually fits better with the Halo style of play. It’s always been a series that’s had a strong link to the more hardcore competitive scene. This style of ranking just brings that to the masses online. Having you play ten games before you even get a ranking just makes sure that you’re placed where you should be – and if you aren’t you’ll find out quickly.

Halo 5 Warzone

When we talk about the actual gameplay, the two big factors that really impact how well Halo works are the weapons and the maps. In the play time I managed to get in, I will say that I think the rotation was a little weak – we played Fathom almost every other time it felt like. Now, Fathom happens to be a really solid map, but I definitely wanted to see more variety in the maps. I think in the few hours of playing we did, I saw Regret, Fathom, Plaza and Rig – that’s it. The maps definitely play into the new mechanics – clamber, spartan charging, thrusters – and work well with the weapons too. I actually think that the maps that I’ve played are, as a whole. a really strong mix. I don’t know that there’s a Blood Gulch in there, but they’re certainly not bad maps.

Halo 5 DMR Render

As for the weapons, I like the changes they made to the system here. Gone are Halo 4‘s ordinance drops, and we’re back to set weapon locations on the maps. I like that each map has a much lower number of power weapons on them. Doing that makes the matches feel a lot more intense, since they tend to revolve around those points more. They also simplify it with built in callouts for the respawns on the power weapons – what used to be a pro-level strat, now is just a part of the game. That helps everyone – newer players don’t need to worry about tracking those times, while pro-level players now can focus on other parts of the game. The weapons themselves feel just like Halo weapons should. The new Assault Rifle feels really powerful – especially in mid-range combat. It’s not going to beat a good BR or DMR user at mid-long ranges, but it can definitely do it’s job of knocking people out of their scopes. The fact that default loadouts are back to AR and Magnum puts more emphasis on learning the behaviors of the two weapons – Magnum is a five-shot kill, if you hit headshots all the way. AR is a shield drainer/support weapon to keep enemies in cover while you make moves. My biggest complaint with the new weapons is that the Plasma Caster and Hydra Launcher both feel really weak compared with the rest of the arsenal – they just kinda suck. Same with the Rocket Launcher, although that’s just because the projectile is really slow now.

All in all, with my unfortunately limited time with Halo 5: Guardians Arena, I really think 343 may have done what they needed to with it. It’s certainly more fun so far than Halo 4 was, at least to me, and it definitely works better than Master Chief Collection. I really wish that I could play it more – especially now that we’re a week out from launch and hopefully everything stabilized a bit more. Hopefully my repairs won’t take too obscenely long and I can split time with that and and Fallout 4. We’ll just have to see.

This Halloween I Got a Nasty Trick – Not a Treat at All

Xbox OneI’ve been talking pretty much all summer about how excited I have been for this fall/holiday release season. I legitimately think it’s the best lineup of games we’ve seen in at least four years. There’s big first-part titles, there are huge triple A games, and there’s always the chance for some indie loves to sneak in. I’ve already had the chance to play a few great ones – Destiny: The Taken King and Halo 5 both are tremendous fun. The meat of the season really picks up this week with Call of Duty, next week is Fallout 4 and then after that we have Star Wars Battlefront. That’s not including Tomb Raider, or Need for Speed.

With all those incredible games, I should be really excited. And I was – until last Tuesday night. I’m a part of the Xbox Preview Program, which lets me get the system updates early to test them. I had put off installing the New Xbox Experience (Windows 10 on the One) because it had issues with Destiny. Unfortunately, last Tuesday night, the Program pushed the update live to my box. Normally, no problem, but my Xbox had its first install issue in two years. The update downloaded fine, restarted the Xbox fine, and then nothing. It hung, forcing a power cycle. Doing so showed me just how bad the damage was. There’s a known issue with system updates – Xbox’s support page has a troubleshooting section for them even. I got the Green startup screen stuck for well over ten minutes – normally a maybe one minute screen as it checks the systems. After trying their fixes – power cycling and using a thumb drive to try to boot off of – there was still no change. Which means that as I write this, my Xbox One is somewhere in Fed Ex Land on route to Xbox’s service center. What’s nice is that shipping was free, and that the repairs shouldn’t cost me either since it’s in the “in-program repair” category. All I’m really losing here is a couple/few weeks without an Xbox One. Normally, that would be a little inconvenient – no good YouTube/Twitch/ESPN/Gaming center to entertain me. I still have my 360, as well as my SNES and Genesis if I’m really in the mood to play something. I’ve also hooked up my desktop to maybe try my hand at a couple PC games again. In truth, what’s really killing me with this whole situation is the timing of it all. In 8 days, I’ll have a beautiful brand-new Fallout 4 Pip-Boy edition in my hands, and no console to play it on. I have Halo 5 ready to rock, and no way to play it with my friends (who have already finished the campaign.) Destiny is having a really awesome Halloween event that I was enjoying a ton, that I can’t finish now; not to mention that Xur had some awesome gear I wanted last weekend.

There’s no real timeline on fixing my Xbox yet – I probably won’t know for sure until my Xbox actually gets to the service center. I’m expecting it to last at least two or three weeks, but prepared for longer. My advice to people now is this: take care of your consoles – keep them registered, and under warranty, you never know what can happen with those moving parts. And it never hurts to have a backup plan should it go.