Looking Ahead to 2016: What I’m Excited For

We’ve spent the last couple days looking back at the past year in gaming. Today though let’s look ahead to 2016. We had a really fantastic year this year, so I fully expect that 2016 will continue that and have some serious heavy hitters. With that in mind, let’s talk about some of what I’m excited about for next year.

No Mans Sky logo

We really don’t need to wait too long for some big names to drop. Uncharted 4 and The Division are both set to drop in the first quarter of the new year. While I’m personally more excited about The Division, I do understand the importance of Uncharted and why this next game is such a big deal. The Division has a beta coming down the pipe soon, so we should be able to get a decent idea about how the multiplayer side of it will work. We’ve also got No Man’s Sky coming out early in the year, which if you have a PS4 should be on your must-buy list. If that game can come anywhere near delivering on its promises, it could be the most important game in years.

Black Ops 3

We also have DLC to think about for the early part of the year. Black Ops III has its first DLC coming to PlayStation in February, and Xbox One in March. I feel confident in saying that Fallout 4 will have something in the first quarter as well, in addition to mods coming to console. We know that there are a couple timed events headed to Destiny – including “bigger events” than we’ve seen since The Taken King launched. I always keep my eyes out for big songs heading to Rock Band, and with Halo having monthly content updates, we know we’re bound to get a couple big additions coming to the game. Depending on timing and actual content quality, that DLC will be what keeps those games fresh until we get new games.

Final Fantasy VII

That’s all stuff that we know about though. When I start looking at the coming year, I always think about some of what we don’t know for sure. Things that we kinda can infer, but haven’t been confirmed. Things like exactly when Kingdom Hearts III and the Final Fantasy VII remake will be coming out. We know Crackdown 3 is coming out too, just not an actual release window yet. We know that Infinity Ward is working on their entry with Call of Duty, but we don’t know exactly what it will be. I think it’s fairly certain to be Ghosts 2, but we don’t know what direction they’ll take it. With Treyarch and Sledgehammer both having pretty sci-fi influenced games, I kinda want Infinity Ward to stick with the near future/modern setting. One thing that I don’t think we’ve seen a ton of talk about is Borderlands – I wouldn’t at all be surprised if we see something about a new main entry to the series announced. I’ve seen a couple rumors about the studio having some financial issues that could be impacting a Borderlands 3, but until I see it actually reported, I’m going to remain hopeful that we get a new one in 2016. One other game that I could very well see make a surprise return would be BioShock – a true next-gen entry, maybe returning to Rapture could be damn good to play. We also know about Mass Effect Andromeda but beyond that, we’re still waiting on some details. I could very well see that being one of the big names at E3 this year – and depending on the release window they’re aiming for, I could see a Next-Gen trilogy collection of the first three games to tide us over.

As great as 2015 has been for gaming, I think 2016 could equal it. We’re finally starting to really feel like we’re in a new console generation. I think we’re going to see games move away from last-gen support (Destiny 2 I’m looking at you) and really start to take advantage of the technology on our hands. Nintendo will be showing off their new console – the N-X – which I think is a very important console for the company. They need something to appeal more to people who focus on graphics and online play, which the Wii and Wii U didn’t really ever have.

Infinite Lives Best of 2015 – Day Two

The Taken King LogoContinuing our look back at the year that was, today we’re talking DLC and post-launch content that came out this year. Now I didn’t play everything that came out this year, but of what I did play, there were some really great post-launch content that helped extend games lives.

First off, the big one for me really shouldn’t be a big surprise here – it’s The Taken King for Destiny. That was exactly what Destiny needed to stay relevant moving forward, and really what the game needed to fix a lot of the issues that we all knew the game had. Is it losing its luster a bit right now? Probably a bit for the hardcore crowd. But I still think that there’s a lot more to get out of The Taken King than we had with the initial game, and it’s a really good building point for Bungie moving into 2016. House of Wolves is also worth mentioning for kinda redefining the focus of end-game Destiny gameplay. We went from six-man raids and Iron Banner for PvP to three-man Prison of Elders and Trials of Osiris. Were there issues with both of those events – you bet, but they did a good job of bringing me back into Destiny after The Dark Below. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Bungie is going to do with Destiny in 2016, especially with the focus on timed events now.

Battlefield Hardline

I did want to mention a couple other post-launch content. Battlefield Hardline has had a really strong DLC season so far – adding in new game modes, a lot of new gear for each class, and solid maps. EA and DICE tend to do really good by the Battlefield games – hell, they’re putting new content out for Battlefield 4 out this year, and that’s a two year old game now. The other game that I think has done a good job of supporting itself post-launch has been Halo 5: Guardians. Instead of having full fledged DLC map packs, 343 has been adding in good content through title updates for the game. We’ve gotten Big Team Battle added in, as well as social playlists, new maps and a whole slew of new REQ weapons. They keep using these monthly updates to address the issues in the live game as they pop up, which helps keep the actual game fresh and playing great. After the debacle that was Master Chief Collection, this is exactly what the Halo series needed.

There are a couple other little things to mention quickly. First off, Rock Band has restarted weekly DLC offerings. I always thought that that was one thing that Harmonix always had over other rhythm games. So far they’ve had a really good mix of genres as well as grabbing some deep cuts in addition to big hits. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more next year, especially as they keep adding content to the Rock Band platform. One other thing that I saw this year was Witcher 3 do a really cool thing with offering a ton of free DLC to keep the players invested moving forward. I mentioned yesterday that while I have The Witcher 3, I haven’t played it yet – and obviously that extends to the DLC. But I do like that more developers are putting in extra content to their games for free and finding other ways to fill their development costs.

Infinite Lives Best Of 2015

We’ve only got a couple days left in 2015, so I thought that it would be a good time to wrap up the year before we move on to 2016. Instead of giving you my ten best games, DLC, microtransactions, trailers, so and so forth, I’m just going to offer up a handful of what I thought really stood out this year. I’ll focus on games today, we’ll hit DLC tomorrow and then we’ll spin it forward to 2016.

Fallout 4 Box Art

Let’s start with my favorite new game of 2015. I say new game here because I still played Destiny more than any other game this year. But of the new, 2015 titles that I played this year, I think it’s no surprise that I’ve been enjoying Fallout 4 the most. I was super excited for this game the minute it was teased back before E3. Now that I’ve spent plenty of time out in the Commonwealth, I definitely think it’s my favorite game of the year. Does it measure up with Fallout 3? I don’t really know that they’re actually that comparable. Yes, the dialogue system is a little out of character for the series; and yes, some of the more traditional RPG mechanics are simplified. But I think the whole package is actually a really great game – and the main quest line that runs through the game is I think stronger than Fallout 3‘s. The characters in the Commonwealth actually feel a little more alive – perhaps that because of the better graphics, especially the character models. The new designs on items and enemies keep classic parts of the Fallout universe fresh. And the revamped combat really makes it less of a chore to get into bigger firefights. Combat actually feels modern and I think appeals to a wider audience than just series and Bethesda fans. I think the negativity surrounding the game is totally unjustified, at least to the extent that I see it. I think people are overreacting, and maybe assuming that Bethesda will do the same things with their next Elder Scrolls game. Just relax a little, suspend that disbelief a bit and dive in and you’ll find a really exciting world to explore and get lost in.

While I think Fallout 4 is the best game that I played, I did have a lot of fun with a couple other games worth mentioning. Rock Band 4 returned music party games to the consoles. Again, there are some issues here – mainly that the game launched pretty bare-bones and they’ve been adding features moving forward. But honestly, just being able to load up a Rock Band game again and rock out on the Xbox One is awesome. I put a lot of time in over the summer with Smite on the Xbox One as well. I’ve never really gotten into MOBA’s but Smite managed to draw me in with the more third-person camera/action game style controls. The retro gamer in me really loved playing around with the Rare Replay collection, as well as the Mega Man Legacy Collection. Both featured a good mix of games for a reasonable price – and gave younger gamers a chance to go back and play some truly classic games. More recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Halo 5 – which is honestly somewhat surprising to me. I went in to that game with relatively low expectations – Master Chief Collection and Halo 4 both didn’t really excite me. But 343 finally has created a Halo game that does a great job of retaining classic Halo gameplay while also bringing in some new ideas and features we’ve seen in other recent FPS games. Add in that Warzone is I think the most ideal way to experience Halo and it all comes together to make a really solid shooter on the Xbox One. That said, I think my favorite shooter I played this year was Battlefield Hardline. I loved the new take on the classic formula – cops and robbers instead of military was actually I think a great move for the series. The maps were awesome – they worked perfectly on just about every game mode. Each class was balanced well, and I think Blood Money/Heist were fantastic additions to the franchise.

Battlefield Hardline

Before I wrap up, I want to mention a couple games that came out this year that I haven’t run through yet, but are on my short list. I already have The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, just haven’t sat down and really played it. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is on sale right now, so I’m picking that up later on and will give that a shot – I really liked the beta so, I have a hunch I’ll be enjoying the full game. Star Wars Battlefront is another game that I really liked the Beta for, just didn’t get the full game at launch. I probably will be looking into it soon to give it a better overview.

Infinite Lives Last Minute Christmas Game Gift Ideas

Panicking at the last minute about what you should pick up for the gamer on your list? Well I’ve got you covered here at Infinite Lives with a couple games that I think any game lover will enjoy.

Fallout 4 Box Art

For the RPG lover, you are looking at Witcher 3 or Fallout 4. Both games feature strong story telling, living worlds and characters that feel alive. You should pick the game that fits the world your gamer prefers. Not everyone likes that Tolkien sword and sorcery style RPG, and Fallout offers a tremendous alternative. Both games are bound to be all over Game of the Year lists soon, so you really can’t go wrong with either game. Each game has a different way they approach the traditional RPG mechanics, so you might need to figure out how your gamer likes their story and action delivered to them.

If you have an action/FPS fan on your list, you have a few more options, so it might be a little more complicated. Destiny: The Taken King, despite what the hardcore community might be saying, is absolutely worth the price of admission. With all of the extras going on in the game right now – SRL, and Iron Banner hitting next Tuesday – this is a pretty good time to get a new player into the game, or bring a friend back in. Battlefield Hardline came out way back in March, but I still think it’s probably the best option if you’re looking for a more realistic style shooter. Huge games, big maps and vehicles all over the place and a change of pace from the usual military setting make for a pretty damn fun game. You can probably find it marked down by now too, so keep that in mind. If you’re looking for something even more on the realistic side, you’ll be grabbing Rainbow 6: Siege. I haven’t played it since the beta, so I can’t give the full recommendation, but if you plan on having a group to play it with, I think it could be the best co-op/competitive option out there. Which brings us to the old question – Halo 5 or Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It’s been the dominant question in console FPS for years – at least on Xbox. Now, last year, it wasn’t a question – Master Chief Collection was too broken to recommend. But this year, I actually think it’s a lot closer. Halo 5 is a ton of fun to play – Warzone alone is I think worth checking out the game for. And Black Ops looks like it’s the strongest entry in a couple years in that franchise as well. This might be the only pick where there really isn’t a wrong answer – I think no matter what your Xbox FPS gamer likes, either game is a win.

Rock Band 4

One last game that I think might fly a little under the radar this season – Rock Band 4. The return of my favorite music game franchise has been a little rocky so far. Yes, it’s still missing some features – especially online play. But if you’ve got the instruments, I still say it’s far and away the best couch co-op/party game available. The new setlist is really good, plus they are continually adding new songs to the list, as well as the old DLC too. If there’s a music fan on your list who happens to also like playing video games, I think this is the game for you.

Halo 5: Guardians – Cartographer’s Gift Update Thoughts

Halo 5 WarzoneHalo 5 took a unique route to post-launch content for the series, forgoing a traditional map pack season and instead has been adding in monthly updates with free content, supported by real-money purchases of the REQ packs. Yesterday we got the December update, bringing with it the addition of Forge – Halo‘s map editor that has always been a fan favorite – along with a few new maps and REQ items.

I haven’t really dug into Forge enough to give that part a final thought. Forge has consistently been more and more in depth with each iteration, so I know that there’s a ton to really get into. What I did play was each of the new arena maps and the new social playlist. Warzone didn’t cooperate with me to put the new map on, so that’ll wait until I get that map to come up in the rotation too. What I will say is that if 343 can keep up their track record with these monthly updates, Halo 5 could be exactly what the franchise needs to bounce back from Master Chief Collection.

Those new arena maps though, boy howdy are they varied. Overgrown, the new 4v4 map, is so dense it’s almost impossible to get a grasp on it in one game. There’s so much in such a small map that games are pure chaos from the outset. The map is definitely skewed around close quarters – the railgun, shotgun and energy sword are all on the map as power weapons, along with an active camo pickup. Combine that with the layout of the map, and you’re going to have a lot of quick kills from around corners. You’re going to see plenty of corner crouch camping – or as I call it, douchey play. It’s a twisting, mazelike set of corridors, with an actual good mix of verticality. Do I think it’s going to be a new Halo classic? Probably not – it’s almost too complicated for that. But it’s a pretty damn fun map for sure.

The other two new maps are big team battle maps – Entombed and Antifreeze. Entombed is set on an asteroid or other space rock, and is basically a big valley with a few big buildings that act as bases. Of course, the power weapons here are what really dictate map flow – there’s the new SPNKr rocket launcher, a binary rifle, a wraith, warthog, over shield and active camo all over the map. Grab them and get up high, and you’ll be in a really good position to pull ahead. Antifreeze, on the other hand, is a bit more straight-forward. It’s a big valley, but map flow definitely is more based around the structures. The actual structure stretches across the whole map, with different points that act as the bases for CTF or Strongholds. You’ve got binary rifles and incineration cannons as power weapons, and ghosts as vehicles. It’s a bit more intense action since it tends to focus up around the middle of the map.

All in all, I think the new arena maps are all really good, in different ways. They show that Halo works at long, medium and short ranges. It’s just what the matchmaking needed to keep it fresh, and I hope that 343 continues it moving forward.

Another Week, Another Destiny Dustup

DestinyIt’s starting to be a pretty regular feature around here, each week it seems like there’s some big hullabaloo in the Destiny community. Whether it’s the Silver items, raid boss challenge mode or SRL being announced, it’s felt like there’s been something constantly bugging portions of the community. Today, there’s another one – the Spark of Light consumable that came with purchases of The Taken King is now for sale on the marketplace for $29.99 – essentially a $30 shortcut to level 25.

Here’s my issue with this whole thing. Most of the disapproval I’m seeing is coming from devoted players – ones that are already well past level 25. I think people are fishing for things to get outraged about here – sure I think it’s way overpriced – it’s half the price of the base game after all. But it’s not malicious – all it does is give brand new players a potential shortcut to The Taken King content. Since we’re in full holiday swing, it’s not hard to imagine a whole bunch of new players trying to catch up. Activision knows that, Bungie knows that, and they both know that offering the Spark of Light for money is basically a sure fire way to make some money. But for those of us who already have three characters with all three subclasses maxed out at level 40, this isn’t meant for us. I honestly think we have no real say in the matter here – we might not like the pricing and all that, but the people that really matter are the new players that this is intended for. I know, technically, veteran players could use them if they delete a character to make a new one, but I don’t really see a lot of veterans talking about doing that.

To play devil’s advocate for a second here about the pricing, I can kinda see why it’s so expensive. I definitely don’t agree with it, but I can kinda see why it is. Activision, by offering this item, is basically cutting out hours of gameplay. It’s not a direct comparison, but gameplay time is actually money for these games – it keeps eyes on the product and means future investment from players. So in a way, offering a shortcut through a good chunk of the early game can be a bit of a risk for Bungie and Activision.

At the end of the day here, while this is definitely a curious move from Bungie and Activision, I really don’t see the big deal this time. It’s an item that veteran players really shouldn’t be too invested in, regardless of its value. New players that buy it and use it I think are missing out on the point of the game. Destiny isn’t really a shortcut game to me – it’s about experiencing the worlds and leveling your character. But if someone wants to go ahead and drop $30 bucks on it, when I think there are more fun things you could put the money into in Destiny, that’s their prerogative.

Destiny 2.1 Patch – Titanic Changes

DestinyI’ve talked here already a bit about the changes that Destiny‘s 2.1 patch brought to the weapon meta. In brief though, the four different primary weapon classes are all a bit closer together than they used to be. Maybe the exact figures weren’t quite to the level that we expected, but I do think that in general they’ve accomplished their mission. That said though, the patch didn’t just bring weapon changes and Sparrow Racing. The 2.1 patch is the first time that the subclasses have really been adjusted in just about a year – and in this case, it was all about the Titan.

If you follow my Destiny posts here, you know that I’ve played as a Titan since the Beta – it’s always been the class that just seems the coolest to me. With the addition of the Sunbreaker in The Taken King Titans got a second option in PvE and a dominant option in PvP. But even I can’t look at how strong the Sunbreaker was and say that it wasn’t too strong. It needed to come down a notch or two – and the older subclasses needed to come up one or two. So the 2.1 patch made those changes.

Destiny Titan

Sunbreaker basically just got pulled back slightly, mainly in PvP. While Hammer of Sol is active, prior to 2.1, we were all but unstoppable. It gave us the highest damage resistance yet – even above Radiant Skin Sunsinger Warlocks. With the right build and gear, you could tank through a Golden Gun shot – that’s a little silly, even I have to admit. Supers should all do something to counter the others, with Ward of Dawn being a little different. So that damage resistance came down a bit, the actual Hammer of Sol damage came back to the pack a little too. It’s probably still the best Titan PvP subclass, with versatile neutral game choices that impact the different phases of Destiny combat. And with the 2.1 patch, it has some competition finally.

Striker Titans have had a bit of a rocky road over the last year and change. Since they were the only purely offensive Titan class for Year One, if you were an aggressive player, you were probably playing them. In Crucible play, they were definitely the better option without a strong understanding of just how to work the Defender builds. But in end-game PvE, well, they just were bad. Basing the subclass around melee combat proved to be way too dangerous for its value. Add in that Fist of Havoc really had limited use against bosses and big groups of majors and that Storm Fist did so little damage it was funny and you can easily see why PvE end-game demanded Defender Titans. Not anymore though! Patch 2.1 made Strikers not only better, but actually relevant. It’s been a running joke that Titans have little T-Rex arms and that’s why they can’t punch anything. Well now they can with a melee range buff – and it’s noticeable too. In PvP I have found myself making lunges almost on par with Warlocks – not quite that far, but pretty close, enough to trade in a lot of melee fights.

Where I think the patch really shines is in the adjustments to the subclasses neutral games. Striker Titan’s strength going in was a strong neutral game – fantastic grenades, and good upgrade nodes to build either around melee health regen, grenade duration or Fist of Havoc versatility. The patch went ahead and tuned those nodes to be even more useful. Headstrong – which previously just had you leap farther while Fist of Havocing – now increases your sprint speed, and feels like you leap even further. It’s actually worth taking now over Transfusion or Aftershocks. Storm Fist got a pretty sizable damage boost to the point where it actually is worth punching low and mid-tier enemies. Amplify gets you 30% more super energy per kill now, making melee kills worth going for. Striker is more that just trash clearing now – it’s still not quite on the level that Defender is, but it’s way, way better in PvE than it ever was. In PvP terms, Striker still has the strengths it always did, but got that melee range boost and damage boost for Storm Fist actually makes a huge difference and brings it right up with Sunbreaker.

Defender Titan also got a little attention, just not quite to the same level that Strikers did. They’re still the best PvE subclass in the game, able to provide not only a safe haven with the Ward of Dawn – potentially buffed by Saint-14; but they also provide a pretty substantial stat boost to anyone that enters the Ward, either offensive or defensive. Really the biggest change with the patch is that now when you activate Ward of Dawn, your grenade and melee energy is refilled – instantly putting you back at full strength. In PvE, that’s a huge boost to potential DPS. In PvP, it means that you can better fight back against whoever comes up against you. With Defender really starting to show up a lot more in PvP play thanks to suppressor grenades and No Backup Plans taking away the risk for Force Barrier usage, the 2.1 patch really just reinforces that having a Defender in the mix in PvP is a good idea in just about any game mode.

If you play Destiny still, at this point it’s likely that all of this is old news. Destiny has evolved very clearly into a game that’s supported by a dedicated fanbase – I think it might get a good influx of players next week, but right now I think it’s more full of longtime players. But if you’re new, you might be wondering why Titans are starting pop up in Crucible play more than they used to. And I think the patch really was just what the class needed to keep us relevant. One last thing to keep in mind is that in advance of 2.1, Bungie had said that the other classes will be getting similar changes, so Hunters and Warlocks will both probably see a patch next month. I think I speak for all Titans when I say I hope that there’s a lovely little Blink nerf headed their way.