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Gaming • Technology • Esport • Toys

— June 17, 2019
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Now that the dust has settled on E3 2019, I’m remiss in not providing a few thoughts on the event itself. While other years I’ve given a more prescriptive blow-by-blow on each of the publisher/company events, I’ve opted for a more overarching collection of thoughts for this year.

Xbox

Let’s be honest, with the absence of PlayStation, all eyes were on Xbox to deliver this year – and, to be honest, I walked away from the press conference pretty happy. While everyone was fairly excited to see what Xbox would show from Halo Infinite and the next Xbox, it was very much the filler content that floated my boat for the year.

So, let’s begin … (in no particular order)

Xbox Game Pass PC

This is exactly what I have waited for ever since Phil and Satya did the big pivot from Xbox as a product to a service. The PC market is positioned perfectly for Xbox, but the company has had so many missteps in getting it to the same standard and take-up as Steam, GOG, or new player, Epic, and I feel like this has been very much the failure of developer negotiations in getting products onto the market. Sure, the store is abysmal, but this is largely cosmetic, it can be fixed.

The only issue is, I still haven’t been able to try Xbox Game Pass on PC because I’m told my PC “Isn’t Quite Ready Yet”. I have all the updates, I have it up to snuff, and still, I can’t even get in the front door to try it out.

And, as it seems, I’m not alone.

I’ll give it time to cascade out, but it’s certainly a teething problem, and – failing that – a messaging problem. Xbox needs to get on the front foot with this.

Double Fine and Psychonauts 2

What an excellent, excellent purchase. Let me be clear: I have zero interest in Psychonauts. I never really had the nostalgia for it when it was first announced, and seeing the trailer for it this time around didn’t tickle my tits either, but bringing industry heavyweight Tim Schafer into the Xbox fold is absolutely a solid decision. While I might be poo-poo’ing Psychonauts, Double Fine are absolutely the bastions of great storytelling games, second perhaps only to Telltale (RIP), and I think this is a great score by Phil.

Project Scarlett

AMD, Zen 2, Radeon, they are all really nice technical words but do you know what had me at hello? Four times more power than the Xbox One X. To be honest, there was just a lot of tech-specs dropped here as part of an effort to showcase how beastly this machine is going to be, but no hardware was on offer, and other than the announcement that it will launch with Halo Infinite, we didn’t really get any other insight. This was a puff piece through-and-through, so I suspect that we’ll be waiting until E3 2020 before we see anything of substance, and even then – I don’t doubt that it’s going to have to go up against the PlayStation 5, Google Stadia and whatever Nintendo pulls out of its back-pocket in the next 12 months.

xCloud

Since Google Stadia’s announcement, I’ve been lamenting the state of Australian internet, and looking longingly at xCloud with the same level of lust that is normally reserved for everyone who doesn’t live in California within arm’s reach of the Facebook-Google-Apple wi-fi signal.

But then, Phil said something that excited me.

Not only was xCloud based on the whole premise of being able to stream direct from Azure, but hand-in-hand, they were bringing streaming from your home console to your devices.

Now, this is something I’ve done quite a bit console to PC, and one of the main ways I played games on PS4 was via the Vita, particularly in the early days when the graphics were able to withstand transmission through my cheap-as-chips router, but if Microsoft can deliver the same PC experience to, say, my mobile phone, this will seriously open up my gaming options. Right now, I’m confined to a few hours in the evening once our evening TV viewing is finished and the kids are in bed. The odd exception being a small, narrative, or family-friendly title that I might be able to play on a Saturday morning or briefly before dinner. For me, this was perhaps the single-most exciting outcome from the Xbox press conference, and it immediately elevated Xbox to my platform-of-choice (as if it wasn’t already).

Elite 2.0

If xCloud was announcement No. 1, the series 2 Elite Controller was an immediate second. Imagine a world where I can play my Xbox games, on my Elite Controller, using my phone screen! Graphical snobs might turn their nose up at the idea, but I am absolutely on-board with this utopian future for gaming. Sign me up!

Cyberpunk 2077

Keanu Reeves is the Mic-Drop of E3. What an excellent ambassador for Cyberpunk, and he led that snippet of Cyberpunk like a seasoned professional. I love it when AAA Actors get involved in gaming. LOVE it.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

I love the look of Fallen Order, and I think that a lot of the hate surrounding it embodies everything that is wrong with gamer culture at the moment. It looks like a fun game, echoing the best parts of the Jedi Knight series, with a great actor in Cameron Monaghan, and what looks to be a nice (force?) balance between gameplay and story. This isn’t necessarily a day one purchase for me (because the story will largely be timeless), but I’ll be absolutely giving it a go when it gets a price reduction!

Elden Ring

I want to be excited about Elden Ring. But I was also excited about Sekiro and, much like every other Soulsbourne game, I sucked at it, so I feel like this will be very much more-of-the-same. Time will tell, but George R R Martin doesn’t quite hold the same appeal to me as he used to … sad to say, the Game of Thrones gloss has worn off.

Minecraft Dungeons

OK, this is completely inappropriate for a man of my age, but I am in love with the concept for Minecraft Dungeons. Minecraft-meets-Diablo? Absolutely on-board with that … and considering it’s coming to Switch, is it possible that I might be able to get some Xbox achievements on-the-go (in addition to my new xCloud collection?) … so much yes.

Blair Witch

I can’t imagine a time when I’m going to play this and feel comfortable playing it … which I suppose is the point, isn’t it … but the trailer gave me uncomfortable feelings in much the same way the original movie did, so it will be in a well-lit room with lots of people around me before I give this a go.

Borderlands 3

Yeah. Maybe best distance yourself from Randy Pitchford, Microsoft.

CrossfireX

This looked interesting, and I hadn’t heard of it – despite being touted as having 650 million players – but me and F2P titles traditionally haven’t had a good history … and considering Destiny 2 is being opened right up this year with a F2P base game, then I think this will be a hard sell to compete for my time.

Gears 5

My yearly reminder to finish a Gears of War game. Any game.

Halo Infinite

Pretty much just a short story trailer, but I did enjoy the concept. Still … I can’t bring myself to the same level of attachment with the Halo franchise that everyone else seems to have, so it’s very much going to be a wait-and-see. Perhaps, just perhaps, the 343 guys can develop something that blows Destiny out of the water, and if that’s the case, then I’m all-in.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Yes please! I have a ‘Microsoft Flight’ hole in my heart since the more arcade spin on flight went the way of the dodo, and so this looked to be a welcome return to the fray. I’m not a hardcore sim guy, but I do appreciate a well developed game that allows a novice like me to play with my aerospace engineering friends. Day one purchase for me.

Twelve Minutes

I love the look of this game. Love it. This is my kind of story-telling, and I think it will prove to be as good as it looks. Annapurna Interactive have gone with a simple aesthetic and sold a solid story and gameplay mechanic here – and I am willing and able to be signed-the-hell-up.

Wasteland 3

I suck at Wasteland. I just suck. Not quite Dark Souls-level suck, but I’m just no good at it. Perhaps this will be more like Pillars of Exile rather than the original Wasteland, time will tell – I’m not quite about to write it off, I’ll give it a go, just setting my expectations low.

The addition of LEGO Speed Champions to Forza Horizon is perhaps the single greatest match-up next to Hot Wheels. I’ve been watching a bit of footage on Mixer the last few days and loving every minute of it, not only have they rendered the LEGO Cars and plopped them into the world, but they’ve fully realised a whole LEGO Environment, complete with little flowers and trees that fall apart when you race over them. In the absence of a pure LEGO Racing game, this is almost perfect – and, to be honest, when you can deliver this package so perfectly by DLC, who needs a full standalone experience.

Square Enix

To be honest, I think everyone was really just watching this for the Avengers trailer (more on this in a moment), but the presser wasn’t completely void of other content. I didn’t get the same Marie Kondo spark-of-joy out of Square that I was hoping for, but a few thoughts nonetheless …

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

I probably should get back to the original and at least try and finish it. I don’t know … I’m still on the fence about this – I just don’t think I’m compatible with Final Fantasy, and the only element that I love – turn-based combat – is going away with the remake. I’m not convinced.

Avengers

OK … great game … but seriously, how hard is it to have scored the license off Disney to use the actor’s likeness? I think the foreshadowed content release that Square are planning will ultimately be the saviour for this game, and it might actually hold up considering we’ve essentially reached the end of the main MCU Avengers story line (for now) … so I’m really just going to play this to fly around as Iron Man, but will secretly hope for so much more.

Final Fantasy 8 Remaster

OK.

Romancing Saga 3 and Saga: Scarlet Grace

I’m bundling these together because the news here is, essentially, that both games are being released from the Japanese-only shackles … but I think this is news that will excite a niche that … well … isn’t me.

Outriders

Cooperative Shooters interest me far more than competitive shooters, and so this interests me – but it’s so far out that it still feels a bit pie-in-the-sky. I’ll wait for the ‘more information’ to come out later this year.

Look, there was a few other smaller snippets of content, but considering I don’t play Kingdom Hearts and already have a full-plate of mobile games on-the-go, there wasn’t a lot else here for me. Nonetheless, I was happy they turned up, which is more than I can say for some other Japanese-centric studios/publishers/console manufacturers.

Ubisoft

Truth be told, Ubisoft have really delivered most of the AAA games that I’ve played lately. That probably has more to do with having the Tom Clancy license than anything else, but I’ll give a special little nod to Rayman here as well.

The announcements at Ubisoft were very muted, considering that most of it had been leaked ahead of the press conference, but it’s a good chance to take stock of what was announced, now that they got to put their own spin on it.

Watch Dogs Legion

I platinum’d the first Watch_Dogs on PlayStation, completed it again on Xbox, smashed through the story mode on WD2 and now I’m chomping at the bit to get to Legion. I love the Watch_Dogs series, and it plays deliciously into my own love of the hacker culture (though I’m not nearly as cool as any of the protagonists), so I’m absolutely on board with a post-Brexit London setting. I think it’s perfect … I hope more games (looking at you, GTA) turn to London for their inspiration in coming years.

Gods & Monsters

In the absence of Zelda on Xbox or PlayStation, I’ll take this. I’m yet to see how it will be delivered – is it more a standalone title, or game-as-a-service? – but colour me curious. It was touted as a ‘storybook adventure’ which makes it seem close-ended, which is probably quite refreshing for a game these days, so we’ll wait-and-see.

UPlay Plus

I’m not sure if this is coming to console or not, or just PC, but $US15 ($22) a month gets access to the Ubisoft library. I think this is probably the sexiest of the subscription deals (second only to Xbox Game Pass) but I think I’d be better-off just buying the games outright and playing them. That’s if I can find some free time to play the games that I already have.

Roller Champions

I have no idea what market this is catering for, but from what I hear it’s all in a bit of fun, so I’ll just leave this as a floating thought for the time being.

Rainbow Six: Quarantine

Three-player, PvE Coop. Yes. Yes. Yes. Surely this has to be better than the toxic cesspool of misery that Siege has become. God, I hate people. If I have to play with them – then at least having them on my side is the way to go.

Just Dance 2020

I have nothing to add here other than this is coming to the Wii, and I think that is hilarious. Heck, I still have my Wii plugged in … maybe it’s time to give it a dust-off?

Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad

OK, I liked the look of this, but do you know what I’d like more? Splinter Cell. C’mon Ubi.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Another reminder that I’m now about three or four games behind in the series.

Ghost Recon: Breakpoint

Once I worked out how to play Ghost Recon, I couldn’t keep away. I am absolutely on-board with this new outing, this time in a more politically-friendly, Just Cause-esque fictional SE Asian island. I’m OK with that … the setting of Bolivia didn’t really add or takeaway from the Wildlands story, so this setting should only further make a good game, great.

Overall Thoughts

Despite all the good games announced, there was actually very little that looked to be on-the-cards for 2019. Almost all of the big announcements touted a 2020 release date – which is either the industry’s new attempt to stop needing to make second ‘delay’ announcements, or it will be 2025 before we see half of these. I think the lesson here is that we just need to enjoy the content that we have now, and hope to find a few little nuggets of gold along the way.

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AoM Light Campaign 2-1 Shepherd Stone — June 12, 2019

AoM Light Campaign 2-1 Shepherd Stone

And so, we kick off Act 2. What I found interesting about this was that it was only one round – which made for a fairly quick encounter.

That being said, it was a nice warm up for what is to come. Enemies are certainly a ‘touch’ harder here – so this will be a world that is as much about balancing daily rewards and coins (and levelling) with the tactics of the game itself.

Candy Crush Saga 5 — June 11, 2019

Candy Crush Saga 5

First of all – I should note that I have levelled up, which I suppose is nice and all – but considering I spent much of my evening playing Warface on Xbox just so I could get a pretty frame on my Gamertag, it should go without saying that I am probably not going to get too excited about Candy Crush levels until I hit Level 5.

This level was very much another tutorial – merging five gems creates a ‘colour bomb’, but unlike the last level, this one actually had a few to try out during the course of gameplay. The whole ‘wipe-all-the-same-colour-off-the-map’ concept is another one that seems to be tried and true in the merge genre, and here it is in its full origins tale glory.

Candy Crush Saga 4 — June 10, 2019

Candy Crush Saga 4

Level 4 seems to be more tutorial, considering it opens up with an instruction about merging special candies together. Interestingly, other than the first one – I didn’t really find an opportunity to merge candies into special ones beyond this first one. Not that it mattered really, there’s still plenty of points on offer with vanilla merges to clear the level, but it makes for a strange inclusion in the tutorial.

The journey continues …

Candy Crush Saga 3 —

Candy Crush Saga 3

Target: 4,000.

Result: 48k.

I think it’s fair to say that Level 3 of Candy Crush is more about giving you that little serotonin hit that comes from winning. It’s also a word that Charlie Sheen likes to drop, so I’m almost certain that I’m destined to inherit a fortune and take my place as his consigliere.

#winning

In all honesty, this was an easy one – people who need that payoff from a level well-played aren’t going to leave the party unhappy.

Que Sera Sera.

Candy Crush Saga 2 — June 9, 2019

Candy Crush Saga 2

The journey continues.

Nothing particularly wild or fantastic on this level – more a lesson about what happens when you get four-or-more candies in a row. Pretty much like any other in-a-row puzzle game ever I suppose – though considering Candy Crush Saga pretty much pioneered the concept, you’ve got to let them have it I guess.

No significant revelations to be had here – it’s a quick and dirty level for the beginner Candy Crusher.

Candy Crush Saga 1 — June 8, 2019

Candy Crush Saga 1

Oh no. Oh no! It’s finally happened. After managing to resist what I originally considered to be the monstrosity of the iPhone Generation, I have finally succumbed and commenced playing Candy Crush Saga.

I suppose you’re asking why, and many of you will judge me incessantly of course, don’t worry – I consider myself a bit of a hypocrite as well – particularly seen as I used to mock people who played. Hell, I even had to unblock Candy Crush from using my Facebook login just so I could save my progress. But, my motivation for playing Candy Crush Saga is it offers a gaming opportunity for me to start from the beginning of, and reflect on, something that very much defined the renaissance of mobile gaming.

We’ve come a long way in mobile games in such a short space of time, and it seems like they are poised for another ‘great leap forward’ – with cloud-based gaming (‘streaming’), subscription services and cross-play between once-competing services now no longer a pipe dream, but reality.

And so, I think now there’s room in life for the simplicity offered by Candy Crush Saga.

Over the next few days/weeks/months, I plan on playing the first one hundred levels of Candy Crush Saga and documenting the experience. I suspect there will be a range of frustrations and moments of triumph in such a journey – as there are in most well designed games – and it will be my job to make them interesting to read.

With level one complete, that journey has already started!

AoM Light Campaign 1-15 Fallen Lord — June 4, 2019

AoM Light Campaign 1-15 Fallen Lord

One of my favourite enemies in the game God of War is the Ancients, which are essentially creatures not dissimilar to this level’s ‘Last Guardian.’ He’s big and he has some sort of elemental vibe, but at the end of the day, he’s killable, just like anyone else.

With the battle all said and done, I reached the ending of Act I! Recognised by a delightful little spiel and some goodies to unlock with my new found wealth.

And so, our journey continues. Onward and upward to Act II!

AoM Light Campaign 1-14 Murk and Fyre —

AoM Light Campaign 1-14 Murk and Fyre

The team goes head to head with ‘Abaddon’ in this round, but – for a change – it does not end up with you obtaining Abaddon for your hero roster, instead he is just ‘gone.’

Abaddon tickles that bad guy vibe that you need in a proper game. He’s big. He goes up against a red backdrop nicely. He has a big sword. And, perhaps most importantly, he has a supernatural affinity for fire. It took me a couple of rounds to kill him without any team loss, but I got it over the line, and did a mad dash to the end of the Act.

Next stop, the Fallen Lord.

AoM Light Campaign 1-13 The Black Wastelands — June 3, 2019

AoM Light Campaign 1-13 The Black Wastelands

Another new location, this one very red-and-glowy, but the combat was not all together difficult, and even a time-intensive battle is made easier with 4x speed on.

This level marks the penultimate battle on the Act I map, so it will soon be time to move location onto more robust enemies. It’s a good chance to try and flex my moves and naturally work my way up – but who has time and inclination for that when you can just burn through the lower levels.