Summer Slow Season – What to Play

Sunset Overdrive Xbox BundleWe’re halfway through the month of July, which is traditionally the slowest time of the year when it comes to new game launches. Typically we see indie titles, arcade games, or re-releases and remasters. We use the summer for E3 and conventions and playing catch-up before the deluge of games returns during the fall. So with that in mind, I thought I would offer up a couple games that I have been finding myself playing during this slow time, along with a couple remasters that we know are on the horizon that I think, depending on price, are worth picking up.

First up, the obvious picks: Destiny and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. As a long time shooter fan, there are always a couple or more FPS games in my rotation. I keep a few on hand that way no matter which shooter mood I find myself in, I have something ready to go. It used to be Halo/Call of Duty/Battlefield, while these days I’m finding myself moving away a bit from Halo and Battlefield as I wait for their next entries. Destiny instead scratches that slower, Haloesque style combat. The Crucible, while certainly not perfect, has been a lot of fun to play again. What I think really helps is that it’s very different from Call of Duty, which I load up when I really want to scratch that twitch style FPS. There’s a reason that I keep going back and talking about them here, and that’s because they’re easily my most played games currently. If you like FPS games, and aren’t playing Overwatch, I really think both Destiny and Call of Duty are worth your time.

The other style game that I always have one or two on hand of is RPG, and that’s where I’m a little behind right now. I finally went back and have been finishing up Dragon Age Inquisition, which I have been playing for a bit over a full year. It was just on sale, so if you picked it up, there’s a lot to dive into, just don’t get burned out like I did and you’ll find yourself really enjoying Thedas. I’m powering through it though because I have Witcher III on deck, which I’m really excited to finally dig into. I also recently picked my first MMO up with Elder Scrolls Online and I’m slowly starting to get a handle on it. I talked last year about the beta, and I do want to revisit it here as I keep progressing through the game. It may be an MMO, and there are definitely some portions where spending some extra money feels like it’s beneficial. That especially extends to the DLC which all look like the amount of content they add in is definitely worth investing in. I don’t like that you have to use an intermediate currency instead of just directly using dollars. There are loads of good RPGs available right now, including Fallout 4, which I still need to dive back into. Summer is a good time for RPGs in general since you need to spend a bit more time playing them than other games.

My hard drive is currently rounded out with a couple less intense games – Mega Man Legacy Collection and Minecraft. While there’s nothing new coming out, this is the perfect time to go back and play some classic games. Combine that with the backwards compatible titles that are available now and there are plenty of options if you’re feeling a little burnt out on what you’re currently playing. Don’t feel like you have to keep going down that rabbit hole, branch out, find a sale or a used disc and try something new. That’s really what the summer is about for gaming.

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Game Burnout – How to Fight it

The worst time in gaming is the down time between releases – those couple weeks when the last new games you’ve picked up have either been beaten or the player count is starting to dwindle. Some games hold on for longer – I’m still knee deep in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and some games keep player counts up for a long time – Call of Duty and Halo both do that well. But almost every game has some point where the magic has run out and you need to put it down for a bit. For me, open-world sandbox games hit that point much faster than any other – Grand Theft Auto in particular for whatever reason. So with that in mind, I offer up how I’ve been fighting my burnout with Sunset Overdrive and Destiny – the two games that I’ve been at the wall with recently.

Sunset Overdrive Cover

Sunset Overdrive is one of those open-world games where the immediate freedom is kind of both the problem and it’s also the draw. It’s a little different in that the movement mechanics help keep the pace up, and having fast travel really helps. The biggest problem comes from the sheer number of collectibles – which is always the biggest hurdle for games like this. It’s a big part of what pulled me off of Crackdown and Prototype. I had to grind my way through them in Darksiders, but the sequel just couldn’t hold me. Sunset has the same issue going – there are a lot of collectibles to grab, and while I’ve been making it a point of getting them, it does pull me out of the story. Which is the problem, because Sunset does actually have a really engaging story – helped by the humor and creativity of the world. Games with tons of collectibles like this I find it helps to focus on grabbing them as soon as possible, focus on them, then take a break from the game for a bit. Leave it for a week – I did and I came back yesterday to it refreshed and interested in finishing the game more. Sometimes that’s all it takes to shake off those doldrums.

Destiny

As for Destiny, that’s a different beast. For me, the burnout comes from the repetition in the game. It was my biggest issue with the game, aside of course from the story issues, from day one. I suppose what most players have hit now is less burnout, and more that they’ve hit the “end” – we’ve reached level 32 with weapons all maxed out. We’ve run the raids, gotten all the gear we want, and found all there is to find. Which means more that we’re in a waiting pattern for the next DLC set – right now it looks like it’s going to be coming in April. There’s always the PvP to play, but the problem is that the PvP is a little unbalanced. So Destiny is a little different – the burnout is more likely to be in the middle of the game. That period right after you hit level 20 and are stuck looking for gear with light, or grinding out marks to buy high level gear. That’s the period of time that you have to slog through – but it is worth it, since the raids and Nightfall strikes are the best part of the game.

The other nice thing is that we are in a year where there’s going to be an incredible amount of games coming out. So if you’re suffering from a little bit of burnout this year, take a look at some games that maybe were under your radar, you might find a gem.

Weekly News Recap – Week of February 9, 2015

There were a couple pretty big news pieces to talk about this week. So let’s not waste too much time and get right into this.

Bethesda Softworks Logo

BETHESDA PREPS FOR E3 CONFERENCE
With what could be some of the biggest news of the week, Bethesda announced that they will have their first ever E3 press event this year. Of course that immediately started the rumors flying even faster than they were. The initial thought is of course that this is where Bethesda will finally confirm Fallout 4. However, Bethesda is one of those developers that has always done things their own way, so there’s nothing to say that anything is set in stone quite yet. Indeed, I wouldn’t put it outside the realm of possibility of seeing a surprise or two in there. Elder Scrolls Online is launching on consoles this summer, right around E3, so I would fully expect to see that; and there’s always the chance that Dishonored could finally get the sequel it deserves. And there’s always the outside chance they completely buck with the trends and go with Elder Scrolls VI. Only time will tell.

Evolve Cover

EVOLVE LAUNCHES, DYING LIGHT IS NUMBER 1, AND DRAGON AGE SELLS LOTS
This week we saw the launch of Evolve, the highly anticipated 4V1 co-op/competitive shooter. After playing both the Alpha and Beta, I do think that Evolve can really make a big splash this early in the year. It does have some competition for early leader of the year in Dying Light – which today hit the number 1 sales position. And continuing on with sales talk, EA said during their sales data call recently that Dragon Age: Inquisition is BioWares most successful launch, based on units sold. That’s a pretty big bit of news, since BioWare has had some incredible titles over the years.

Dragon Age Inquistion – RPG Multiplayer Done Right

Dragon Age: InquisitionI had held off on getting Dragon Age: Inquisition for a long time, primarily because I am currently still making my way through Dragon Age: Origins. It’s a series that I just missed – I went the Mass Effect route instead, so when DA:O and Dragon Age II were both on sale/free on the 360 in the last couple years, I picked them up to play when I wasn’t working on something newer. Of course, that was the plan before I sat down with the first game and remembered that it’s a BioWare RPG – insanely detailed, and not a game to blaze through. So my save files have sat there, uncompleted, and now that I’ve moved on to playing my Xbox One pretty much exclusively, it’s been even longer since I’ve played.

But that was before the big EA sale on Xbox Live a couple weeks back. With that sale, they had a couple crazy markdowns – Titanfall was $10 of all things – and Dragon Age: Inquisition Deluxe was only $40. So while I felt pretty far behind story-wise, I knew that there was a multiplayer mode as well, and that I had a couple other friends that had it so we could play that together while I figured out what I would do about the story. I had played the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and really enjoyed it, so I thought this had a chance to be good as well. So last week, between bouts of Battlefield: Hardline, I stepped into the world of High Fantasy and played my part in the Weekend Challenge for the Multiplayer.

Dragon Age Inquisition Multiplayer

When you first create your multiplayer character, you have your choice of three characters/classes. I went against my usual pick for High Fantasy (Sword and Shield) and went with the archer. All of the multiplayer characters are pre-set in their race and gender, as was the case in Mass Effect (sort of) so customization isn’t really present in multiplayer. Aside from the appearances that your different armors grant you, the upgrades you apply to armor and weapons, and the abilities you pick while levelling – that’s about it. The other issue I ran into is that your base stats are hidden – all you really have is a set of three bars for your Health, Attack and Defense stats, and the same for your three different defenses (melee, ranged and magic). I think that stems from BioWare simplifying the display to help a wider audience get into the action. But for gamers that have played RPGs for years and are accustomed to having all that information right at your fingertips, it’s a little frustrating to not have it. All that said though, the multiplayer is a ton of fun. All of those RPG elements that you might think you need, turn out to be extraneous. All the important info is still there – your health is easily managed, the cooldowns on you skills are easily tracked, and the damage you deal is still displayed, as well as the status effects. While it’s not quite the same level of control over the action as Mass Effect, there is still a lot more than in the original Dragon Age.

The actual game play is very reminiscent of the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 – your team of four is dropped into an area, and must fight through increasingly difficult enemies before culminating in a final wave with a boss enemy. Mass Effect 3 was a little different though, since it was much closer to a traditional Horde mode; this has you moving through five different rooms in a larger dungeon. The settings all fit in with the story in Dragon Age: Inquisition albeit there only being three settings. Knowing BioWare, they have plenty of plans for future content – both story-based and multiplayer. If it’s like their plan with Mass Effect 3, the multiplayer will mainly be free stuff – characters, weapons, gear and maps. While I might be woefully behind story-wise, but that doesn’t really matter that much in the multiplayer. Even if you aren’t typically an RPG player, I really think that Dragon Age: Inquisition might be a perfect gateway to them – or Mass Effect for that matter. BioWare manages to do something really incredible by taking RPGs and making them incredibly accessible, while still having some serious depth. I really can’t wait to see what their plans for the rest of the year are – I think they could have a real strong E3 this year.