Titanfall 2 Talk – The Way Pre-E3 Edition

TitanfallA couple weeks back, EA dropped a teaser showing off Titanfall 2. We had known that it was in development, but this was the first official word and look at the game. It’s a really short teaser, barely 30 seconds so we don’t get much. It’s really just a glimpse to get us all hyped up for the eventual E3 full announcement. Of course that hasn’t stopped people from already talking about the game. OXM has an article out saying that Titanfall 2 has to learn from Destiny, Black Ops III and Evolve to succeed. We know no actual details about the game – anything we talk about is just gleaned from the original game and the teaser. It’s pretty hard for me to already look at games out there now and say that this one needs to draw from them to succeed. And honestly, I kinda disagree with the sentiment – I don’t want Titanfall 2 to draw from the other FPS games out there. I want it to stay as unique as it is.

That said, there’s a couple points to look at that we do know about. First, EA and Respawn said that the sequel is going to feature an actual story campaign. As cool as the multiplayer campaign thing from the first game was, I’m definitely in favor of a true campaign this time around. Titanfall has, I think, an actually pretty cool universe to explore with different stories. That could have been a strength in the original multiplayer campaign, exploring the motives from both sides of the conflict. Hopefully with the sequel that can still happen. The other cool detail we learned was that there’s going to be a new Titan weapon – and it sure looks a lot like a sword. Swords have been popping up a lot in FPS games lately – Destiny, Black Ops III, of course Halo – so seeing it in Titanfall really shouldn’t be a huge surprise. I’m glad that it’s going to be a Titan weapon too – I can’t wait to do my best Gundam impression. I can easily see it paring well with a Strider chassis and electric smoke for a strong melee build. We have to wait until probably E3 to see any more changes to the Titan formula, in particular any new chassis. I would expect that we’ll learn the release date at E3 too, my guess is Spring 2017 since the original was a March release.

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Destiny – Looking to the Future: Or, What the Reddit “Leak” Really Is

DestinyOnce again I find myself writing based around a post I saw while browsing the Destiny subreddit. Today, it’s one that actually getting some play around the web in general. Hell, even Forbes has commented on this particular post. And it’s because it’s getting some serious views on the Reddit – because it supposedly is a detailing of specifics that the OP has obtained about not only The Taken King, but also Destiny 2. The fanbase is craving for details – The Taken King is only about a month and a half away and we still don’t know a LOT of details. But there is something a little off with the post – Forbes does a good job of breaking that down, so I don’t want to beat that horse. Instead, I want to talk a little about why that post exists, and then maybe do some speculating of my own about the future.

To me, the biggest giveaway that it’s a total sham post is that there’s specifics for Destiny 2. We’ve literally heard nothing even addressing a sequel for the game yet – and while I don’t doubt that it’s pretty deep in development, I actually hope it is – I doubt that Bungie employees at all are talking about it. This community perhaps more than any other in the current gaming sphere should be well aware of how much a game can change quickly. Destiny looked completely different when it was still a year out from release – hell, that game is still one that a lot of us would love to see. Any “concrete” details about a sequel now are just a fan’s wishes. And when you look at these “details” about the future, you really just see it’s exactly that. Activision has a notorious track record for pricing content – early Guitar Hero DLC was more expensive per song than Rock Band (it didn’t help that there was a new game every year, with no chance to transfer songs); Call of Duty charges for cosmetic DLC that literally impacts gameplay in no way at all. The idea that they will abandon paid DLC – especially the kind that the playerbase is dying for – is absolutely insane.

I get that we’re moving forward as an industry, and DLC is going through some changes. We’ve seen more substantial free DLC this year than any year I can remember recently. Titanfall added in the Frontier Defense mode for free, along with the Black Market; Dragon Age: Inquisition has had a bunch of free multiplayer DLC; and Halo 5 has said all map-packs will be free. None of those are Activision games though. The only free DLC that they’ve done for Call of Duty is add in a couple weapons – which still pale compared with the Bal-27 and ASM1. In an age where free MOBA games routinely are in the top played games, I think DLC in general needs to be looked at for multiplayer games. It’s been such a cash-cow for years though, so any growth or changes will be slow and painful. Destiny 2 – whenever it comes out – will probably not be that lynchpin game.

Destiny Taken King Collectors Edition

When it comes down to it – what this post really speaks to – is a community that is rabidly searching through any and every pixel of the trailers for details. As much flak as Destiny has earned over this first year – some rightly so – the community is still really strong, and very loyal. It’s very easily my most played game of the last year – by far. I’m in that same boat – I want to learn all about the upcoming schedule and content as possible. But you have to have a certain level of skepticism about “leaks” – even more so of ones with no concrete proof. The leak back in January that showed off the DLC schedule had some truth to it – thanks to the image that it contained. Add in that it had some truth behind it with the content that had already been released, and it was easy to take at face value. In the end, it was pretty accurate – sure a few details changed here and there, but it has so far been pretty much spot on with the schedule and content. In particular we knew House of Wolves was coming spring time, and we knew about The Taken King (then as Comet) as well as DLC 3 and 4, which are included in the second expansion pass.

Image from @LittleBigOkey

All of that adds up to an environment that is susceptible to these sort of posts. Bungie doesn’t help the case by playing their hands really close to their chest. We’re still a little far from when I would expect to see the floodgates open – that comes within the last month before launch – but I still would love the details to come a little more frequently. As it stands now, we get one or two little tidbits in each weekly update. The updates also are focused around The Taken King – which is what I want, but they’ve basically left the current game stand for a long time, which is frustrating. I’ve written already a few times recently about the current state of the meta, so I don’t need to keep beating that horse.

As far as looking forward, there are a few specific details that I am really hoping for. Of the points in the “leak,” the big one that I want is increased customization. I hate that the only option for end-game play is pretty much homogenized. You wear Prison of Elders armor, or Trials of Osiris armor, until you earn a bunch of Etheric Light to level older armor; basically amounting to using Raid armor that you’ve used for most of the year. That ends up with everyone in the Tower looking the same – even using the same handful of shaders. Adding in more options for customization is needed I think – it would help refresh the feeling of the game. The other point that I really want to address here is supposedly a new way to ascend gear to Year 2 levels. On the surface, that sounds great – but if House of Wolves taught us anything, doing that is a terrible idea. Bungie needs to show us that they’re adding in weapons that would make us abandon the older weapons – House of Wolves didn’t, so everyone ascended Vision of Confluence/Fatebringer/Black Hammer/Gjallarhorn, and really, that’s all you need. The Taken King is exactly what the game needs – a chance to do a bit of a reset with the weapons and armor. Put everyone back on the same playing field, take away the crutch weapons, and reshape the meta. Adding in a way to ascend gear to Year 2 levels would ruin that, and could potentially ruin Destiny in the long run. Datto has a fantastic video that talk about this – especially as it pertains to power creep – which explains it better than I can today. If they do add in ascension, there’s a real good chance that power creep might get to the point that it can’t be fought and could permanently impact the universe. I honestly think that ascension is actually even in the game because of the fanbase raising hell after Dark Below kinda rendered Vault of Glass gear less relevant.

If there’s one thing I can take away from this first year of Destiny, it’s that the game has been one of, if not the most, talked about games. The community is passionate, the game’s building blocks are super tight, and that’s always a good combination. It will probably never be the game it could have been – and in truth it might never have been able to, even without the changes pre-launch. But I still think that Destiny will probably go down as being one of the first true “next-gen” games – and will have a community that plays it for years.

Fallout 4 – The Hype Train Has Officially Left the Station

Fallout 3 CoverHype. Hype never changes. Yesterday was one of the more exciting days I’ve had in gaming in a while. Just in case you were completely away from the internet yesterday, let’s review. Bethesda finally confirmed, and gave us the announcement trailer for, Fallout 4. Some info we knew going in; but seeing the game with my own eyes made it all real. Add in the timing – only 11 days before E3 – and it really gets my blood pumping. Because we just got a trailer, with a pretty sparse press release, leads me to believe we’ll probably see a hefty gameplay presence at E3. There’s a lot to digest – but just watching the trailer immediately got my nostalgia going. Let’s take a look at my impressions of the trailer.

The trailer opens with another song by The Ink Spots, much like the intro to Fallout 3. The Ink Spots have long been associated with the franchise, going all the way back to the original game. Opening with a song of theirs – “It’s All Over but the Crying” – is a great way to immediately get the Fallout vibes going. Moving forward a little bit in the trailer, we get a little different take on the typical Fallout trailer. Thinking back to the reveal for Fallout 3, that trailer opened with a radio playing the song, before pulling back to reveal the total devastation of the Capital Wasteland. With yesterday’s trailer, it starts similar – a tv instead, but very similar feeling – but instead of pulling back to show the wastes of New England/Boston, we get quick cut backs to right before the bombs fell. That’s a pretty big deal – especially if we’re assuming that this is set after Fallout 3. The bombs fall, and the Great War ends in 2077 – and Fallout 3 is set 200 years later. This trailer is the most we’ve seen of pre-war life in the Bethesda era. Now, there’s no real info about when this game will be set – but generally the time between the bombs falling and the end of Fallout 3/New Vegas is pretty well filled in by various sources.

That said, I think there are a couple hints in there that might suggest that we’ll be playing post-Fallout 3. First, there’s the early reports that Three-Dog is returning; if that’s the case, that pretty much settles it. But beyond that in the trailer we get a couple different looks of multiple towns and cities. That in and of itself might not seem big, but in the world that Fallout large settlements tend to be few and far between. Seeing multiple ones, in an area that probably would have been hit pretty hard by the bombs. Ignoring that major landmarks survive – that’s a gameplay/story pass for me – I would think given what the games have told us, major cities like Boston and NYC (which are so close the number of bombs probably would be pretty high) would be hit hard. That society has revived as much as it has, at least based on the trailer, says to me that we’re looking at least a date in the late 2200’s, possibly pushing into 2300; which could be a nod to the generation of console moving on too.

Fallout 4 Box Art

A lot of what we really see in the trailer is super fanservicey. There are tons and tons of little details that anyone who’s played any previous game will notice. From obvious ones that are up front – Mr. Handy, Mysterious Stranger and the strong presence of Power Armor; to the little ones that are pretty prevalent, there’s a lot going on. For the most part, I think the details – like the presence of skill magazines, nuka cola, energy weapons and so on – just really serves to reinforce the setting. What I think is maybe a little hidden beneath the surface is some details that could hint at story direction. The iconic Power Armor from the series is all over the trailer. It’s a little unclear in some shots if we’re looking at Enclave or Brotherhood of Steel, but I think from the tone of those shots, I think that helps clear it up. For example, the shot from inside the Vertibird seems to me that it’s most likely a Brotherhood ship. In the past they’ve been the more friendly of the factions with access to that level of technology. Contrast that with the shot of the huge airship over the Paul Revere statue, and that seems more like an Enclave shot. Both from the extra level of tech – the Enclave having better access to the pre-war work – and the way that shot is framed, with dark tones and classic storytelling elements. With those little details, it makes me think that the main storyline will possibly revolve around a relatively major conflict between the Brotherhood and the Enclave, similar to Fallout 3‘s conflict around the Water Purifier. Whether this conflict is tech based, F.E.V. based, or purely political in nature is way more speculation than I want to get into.

By the end of the trailer, we get one last pretty nice confirmation. The dog that, really, is the focus of the trailer clearly looks like a companion (Dogmeat) and is addressed by the player character. Not only is the player character voiced, but will again be a former denizen of a Vault. This time is Vault 111 – which is a Vault that we haven’t seen yet; which opens up all kinds of lovely possibilities for what kind of nasty Vault-Tec experiments were going on. These Vaults are fantastic settings to compartmentalize the prologue/introduction sections – the Fallout 3 intro is actually a great beginning section I think. In the trailer the Vault looks a little different – usually the Vault doors are vertical, like most doors; Vault 111 looks like it opens like a manhole.

Yesterday’s trailer was ultimately just a reveal trailer. It just happened to be for probably the biggest game (potentially) this year. As a fan of the franchise, it felt really good to see the familiar world again. There looks like there’s plenty of little tweaks to the formula to make it intriguing for longtime fans, while looking like it’s still going to have that (new) classic gameplay. Will it be faster paced? I hope not – Fallout benefits from a slower paced combat I think, especially with V.A.T.S. Will it be bigger and better looking? I think that’s a sure bet – Bethesda only announced PS4, PC and Xbox One, which is really the way it needs to be. We’re now two years in to the new console generation, it’s time to move on fully. I’m assuming that we’ll get a whole lot more info in 10 days at E3 – including a release date.