PAX Australia 2019

The sign at the entrance to PAX Australia has always said two simple words: “Welcome Home.”

While, for the most part, PAX can be a solitary affair, that doesn’t stop there being some sort of camaraderie in that isolation – a shared loneliness as it were. Sure, there are heaps of groups and likeminded gamers using the opportunity to get together for some face-to-face Dungeons and Dragons, or spending the time simply hanging out and playing some card games, but there’s also quite a few people ‘going stag’ and balancing their need to just chill out and enjoy gaming alongside their innate hatred of … well, people.

2019 was an absolutely crackin’ affair … but because of time, inclination and just general can’t be botheredness, I’m not going to write a post on it.

Instead – make the effort to book a ticket for PAX 2020. You won’t regret it.

E3 2019 Thoughts

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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.

Sony (PlayStation) E3 2018 Thoughts

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Right, Sony. The behemoth that is console gaming. Expectations for PlayStation are at an all-time high this year, which is a terrible place to be if you’re presenting at E3. I think there is a far better result from studios, publishers and platforms that work their communication around lowering expectations – resulting in either met expectations or pleasant surprise.

I think after Andrew MK, having Gustavo Santaolalla play a spot of banjo to lead us into The Last of Us 2 is much more my vibe. I never platinum’d TLOU1, but one of my proudest trophies is completing NG+ on Hardcore difficulty.

If you ever needed to show a bit of gameplay to get you excited about a game – then Naughty Dog absolutely delivered. Oh my God. For the entirety of this footage, I completely forgot about my overwhelming hatred of Sony and their inability to let me change my username. Hell, I’ll play this game on someone else’s account – it’s just downright gorgeous.

The intermission style panel discussion with Sid Shuman and Ryan Clements interviewing Shawn Layden was a strange change of beat, but I have to admit – it was nice seeing them in-the-flesh, rather than just a disembodied voice in my ear or car stereo once a week via the podcast.

Importantly, Layden announced the introduction of a New Game Plus for God of War, which I didn’t realise I even wanted until he mentioned it – but now that he has, I am completely on-board.

I could take-or-leave any of the Call of Duty news, but I’ll absolutely take a bit of Black Ops for free with my PlayStation Plus.

And I’m still a PSVR virgin, so I’m just going to gloss over any news in that space.

One of the surprising titles from the conference was Ghosts of Tsushima, which looks like something that might struggle on my OG PS4, or it’s certainly going to cause it to sound like a jet engine taking off. I don’t think I’ve heard or read anything about this so I’m not sure if it was an announcement, or more meat-on-the-bones, but either way, I liked the look of it. Like? Maybe strongly like is a better phrase. You know … like ‘like-like’ but not ‘love-like’.

You get the idea.

Destiny 2 Forsaken is still appealing to me, but I think that it’s been dissected enough over the past few weeks, particularly from the core Destiny sites, so I’m not going to be able to add much more – particularly when it was little more than a short teaser. I suggest you would learn much more through reading Bungie.net than holding out for info at the E3 press conference. Needless to say – they better not kill-off Cayde-6 though. Don’t you touch my Nathan Fillion, Bungie!

Control looked incredible. I even texted a friend to comment that Xbox had nothing that came close to this visually during their press conference, but it’s quite possible that I’ve just bought into the hype of the presser – if anything I think Quantum Break probably fits that criteria – but gameplay alone certainly held up as a work of art. It’s only after-the-fact that I realised that Remedy is the developer, which is exactly why it had the QB feel!

I was concerned that this was going to be a PlayStation exclusive, but Sam Lake has since come out and confirmed that it’s coming cross-platform.

Resident Evil 2 … looks gorgeous … I don’t think I’ve ever actually played RE2 … If I cast my mind back, I’m not actually sure I’ve finished RE1 properly … but there is certainly enough aesthetic here to get me interested.

Trover Saves the Universe. What? Much like Seth McFarlane has turned every one of his creations into essentially ‘the same thing’, this felt very Rick and Morty – just with new characters. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not, I’ve only just really started getting into Rick and Morty (which I love), but I feel like you could grab yourself a cheap voice actor for a bit of variety and – if the material is good enough – it will hold up.

I can’t understand the deep-rooted love for Kingdom Hearts III but it was clearly enough to get coverage at both Xbox and Sony’s stage … so I guess this is now going to end up on my to-do list. What did appeal to me was Sony packaging them all together as part of the final package (though I assume that 1.5 and 2.5 are remasters).

Nioh 2 adds itself to the list-of-games-that-I-haven’t-played-the-first-one-of. The internet seems excited though, so it seems like I’ll be locked in a gaming room for the rest of the year to try and finish this off.

Not even touching Death Stranding. I wonder if I have to hand in my Sony fan card (which was already on its last legs – where was my username change, Sony?) if I admit to not really liking the vibe I get from Kojima’s latest foray?

And then, the title we’ve probably all been waiting for – Spider-Man. It’s so utterly, utterly disappointing that this isn’t coming to Xbox or PC, but business is business, and I think Sony have made a very sensible decision grabbing this one as an exclusive. If I ask my son who he likes more – Spider-Man or Batman – he comes back with a decisive Spider-Man, which nearly gets him disowned from the family every time, but I satisfy my rage by telling myself that Spider-Man is actually my favourite Marvel character and Batman my DC. It hasn’t helped the last few years in realising that the rights to Spider-Man were owned by Fox, but once again, I have become incredibly good at disassociation as I get older, so I will endure.

Let me just say, the gameplay for Spider-Man is A+. A PLUS. The city is beautiful, the combat is second-to-none and the library of characters looks to fill a comic-book lover’s wishlist. If I can find myself a limited edition Spider-Man PS4 Pro console, then there’s a not-insignificant chance that I’ll be throwing my money at whatever retailer is going to take it.

The post-conference chatter with Shuman and Clements essentially included a little more gameplay from Spidey, as well as the announcement of a new PSVR game from From Software.

If you listened to the internet, you would think that the Sony conference was terrible. Sure, the approach to focussing on 5-6 big games and the inclusion of a panel was a bit ‘different’, but it was a good example of quality over quantity (compared with Xbox’s focus on showing 50 games). And when it comes to quality, Sony certainly delivered. I won’t say that the quality on-show was necessarily better or worse than Microsoft’s – I think there’s been strong positives to take away from most shows this weekend. But, and I apologise for the wax lyrical, but maybe at some point the discussion can turn from ‘who won?’ E3 to just being about the general love of gaming and the communities which form around it. For all my pessimism in life, I don’t really play PUBG, but I do enjoy its success. Kojima isn’t really my bag, but I love that others love him.

In the wise words of Rodney King: Can’t We All Just Get Along? 

Congratulations to everyone at E3 2018, and I sincerely mean that. For every shooter, puzzler, platformer, strategy, collectable card game, platform, and engine that fills our gaming libraries with great content each-and-every day, thank you.

It’s a great time to be a gamer …

… even if we’re stuck with our twelve year old PlayStation usernames.

Ubisoft E3 2018 Thoughts

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For starters, I’m going to leave everything associated with Just Dance 2019 aside, because I think that it’s still a ridiculous title to lead E3 with. The only time I get a hint of enjoyment out of Just Dance is when costumed superheroes or dinosaurs try their best to hit the moves on the dance floor at things like PAX. My loungeroom, and my beautiful big coffee table which sits in the middle of it, are not dancing friendly. Heck, ever since Xbox Fitness died, I haven’t had a need to gesticulate in front of my TV for a long time.

No, instead, let’s get into the meaty stuff.

Beyond Good and Evil 2 is another of the titles that make me feel guilty for never finishing their predecessors. I am fairly certain I got the original as part of a Games with Gold Backward Compatibility title, or on PC (I can’t remember), but in either event, I haven’t had the inclination or the drive to get this over the line, and so the emotional attachment to the game just isn’t quite landing for me. Visually, it looks quite good, so I’m interested to play it – but this will probably be a 2020 game for me at the earliest, considering everything else I have in my backlog to get through!

I spoke a little bit about The Division 2 yesterday following Xbox’s conference – and I quite enjoyed the first game, but can completely understand its limited appeal. There is a big focus on games-as-a-service these days as everyone tries to be the next Destiny, but I don’t think the inclusion of ‘raids’ and free DLC is going to be enough to get anyone over the line. For me, I still have a swath of achievements I haven’t unlocked from the first game, so I’m not holding out any great burning desire to get back into The Division 2. Sure, it looks great – and the gameplay looks sensational, but it’s more of what made the first game good. I want to play it … but I just don’t know whether the investment is worth it. A story run might be the best I can hope for when it comes to the latest instalment.

I don’t even own a Nintedo Switch, so the new Mario + Rabbids Donkey Kong DLC doesn’t float my boat … one day I’ll get a Switch (because I’m a sucker for Pokemon) but because of my long-standing love of achievements, the absence of a reward system, as well as known issues with the career setting on the Nintendo Network means that I’m holding out.

That, plus I grew up as a SEGA kid.

I like the look of Skull & Bones but I remain a little bitter that it doesn’t just pull all the piratey goodness out of AC4 and dump it into a new game on its own. The focus on naval combat is what gives me the most pause, because what I enjoyed most about AC4 was running around the island settings … complimenting the naval combat. If anything, what really gets me excited about Skull & Bones is the prospect of a really good collectors’ edition. Ship-in-a-Bottle Anyone? Ubi Collectables certainly know how to make me happy – and if they can’t do it with a great pirate setting, how can they do it?

I could do without the whole ‘working together’ aspect of piracy … I don’t like it as a general rule for most games, and 2018 had a fair amount of focus on online co-op gaming. Has nobody told these studios that playing online with people is a terrible idea?

Next up was Starlink, which is going to fill the gap that Skylanders and Disney Infinity have left in my collectable obsession. The inclusion of Star Fox in the Switch version is fairly inconsequential, seen as the series is coming to all platforms, but if you put that to one side (remember there was a Donkey Kong special crossover in Skylanders for the Wii U), then you can begin to feel the anticipation for the game. Time will tell if kids are on-board as this thirty-something adult is, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

I only played the main campaigns in For Honor, nearly a year ago when it had a free weekend. It’s not really my kind of game – well, online certainly isn’t anyway – so the news about an expansion doesn’t really float my boat. I think it’s good for those people who are obviously still passionate about it … I’ll be honest, I’m surprised it continues to have such traction in the gaming community – but I can appreciate that people thrive on variety, and For Honor certainly brings variety to the gaming landscape beyond the shooters and sports that fill the esport landscape.

Last, but certainly not least, was the close of the conference with some Assassins Creed Odyssey. I was a huge, huge fan of the series taking a bit of a break, and I think it helped AC Origins come back bigger, better and badder than ever. I have some concerns that the reintroduction to a yearly title might start to stretch the friendship, but for now I have to just take comfort in the fact that this entry actually looks pretty good! The focus on gender-selection at the start is a nice touch – I can’t imagine it’s entirely being begged for by the community, but I think any step towards equal representation is a good one.

Plus, if Mass Effect is anything to go by – female protagonists are actually more thematically believable.

Do you know what was missing from all of this? Splinter Cell. Walmart Canada really made me angry with this one – all I have been excited about out of this E3 was Splinter Cell, given almost everyone else had their titles on-show today, I was simultaneously disappointed and surprised not to see Ubisoft pull out a ‘one last thing.’

Will I get over it? Of course I will. If anything, I’ve been treated to a stunning variety of games that are going to fill up my library (and their prequels which I’ve never played), and they all signal a great future for game quality on the horizon.

But, you better believe I’m going to get back to Splinter Cell: Conviction this week to get my fix.

Square Enix E3 2018 Thoughts

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Huh. I mean … we’re all used to E3 having most of the surprises spoiled for us in the weeks leading up to it, but Square Enix were actually a touch underwhelming in their announcements today. I mean … they weren’t bad announcements, were they? It was just … well, expected.

Just Cause 4 is going to be all about the weather. OK. That’s good. But really, the Just Cause series has been all about having fun. Pretty much everything about JC3 (by the end of the DLC) was pretty much perfect in my mind. Rocket packs, tanks, and the standard epic destruction that the series is known for is more than enough for me – you could call the whole thing Just Cause Three-and-a-Half and I’d be happy.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is just an automatic win for me. I don’t really need to see the expanded stealth options or story … I just know that I’ve been happy with the remakes so far (the only thing nearest to God of War, in my view) and I’ll be happy to just throw my money at the screen.

Everything else seemed .. well … ‘so-so’. The Quiet Man looks like it’s about a deaf brawler, I still haven’t played any Monster Hunter: World to get excited about a crossover and both Dragon Quest 11 and Octopath Traveller hold zero interest for me.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing necessarily – but d’frent strokes and all that. And these strokes certainly didn’t appeal to this folk.

Here’s hoping Ubi and Sony can make up for lost ground today. Anything less than the ability to change PSN usernames and the PlayStation Vita 2, and I’ll probably Hulk-out.

Or not … time will tell.

Bethesda E3 2018 Thoughts

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You know you’re in for a bit of a party when Bethesda kicks off it’s conference with Andrew MK doing his best to start the infamous shenanigans with a spot of rock, but admittedly it felt about as normal as watching pornography with your parents, judging by the stilted looks from the audience and the seemingly audible collective groan from Twitter.

It felt like an unnecessary evil we had to face to get to the meat of the show, which kicked off with Rage 2. E3 means a lot of different things to me each year – this year it’s making me play a whole catalogue of games that I’ve never touched in order to be ready for the sequels. Kingdom Hearts, Rage, and I suspect that I’ll need to play some Borderlands before the weekend is out. Either way, the whole package was enough to get me interested, and interested I am! Do you know what gets me over the line? Avalanche Studios … in terms of chaos and destruction, these guys are the masters.

I haven’t really played much of the first Doom, and I absolutely can’t get into Prey, so skipping over those two titles, we next stop at Fallout 76.

Two things: I hate online games, and I love the look of this game. May God have mercy on my soul. Already, I’m very tempted to grab the power armour version of 76, which would match nicely with my unopened, unblemished, display-only Pip-Boy.

Moving right along, and Wolfenstein got some love on-stage this time around. Two new spin-offs were announced, one of them a VR title, and the other which I am incredibly down with – Wolfenstein: Youngbloods – which follows the story of BJ’s twin daughters and is set in the 1980s! Bethesda certainly feel like they’ve ‘leaned in’ with the Wolfenstein IP, and they’re running it for all its worth. And, to be honest, they’ve been doing a pretty darn good job with it – why wouldn’t they?!

Other than a brief mention of their ‘next gen’ new IP, Starfield, the rest of the show was centred around some Elder Scrolls IP. The delightful way that new mobile game, Elder Scrolls: Blades was pitched (“meeting mode” to describe holding the phone in portrait mode is my new favourite gaming slang) got me pre-ordering that game straight away.

Of course, if you weren’t happy with everything that was on display, and you felt like the show needed a little something more to whet the appetite … it certainly delivered with nothing more than a Elder Scrolls VI teaser.

I think the call of the day goes to Twitter user Link40K though …

Xbox E3 2018 Thoughts

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It is a truth, universally known, that Phil Spencer is a Gaming God. The man has single-handedly … well, perhaps not single-handedly … but he’s certainly been instrumental in bringing about some incredibly consumer-friendly policies at Microsoft, including Play Anywhere, Backwards Compatibility, and library continuity between platforms.

Today, he stepped it up a notch.

I think I watch the Xbox Press Conference much the same way that I watch Sony’s. I find games themselves inconsequential at these events – sure they are nice reveals and I do get excited about the odd title, but it’s the systems and services themselves which I get most excited about. Well, today, in my humble opinion, Phil delivered.

The Games

With that in mind, let me whip through the games. The standout for me was clearly From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice … which is a strange thing to say for a guy who completely and utterly sucks at Bloodborne and Dark Souls, but the trailer for this one looked … I don’t know … ‘accessible’. The trailer itself is probably designed with that in mind, but the game itself looked great. The pacing, the setting, and the variety of combat combined to offer what looks to be a nice refresh and development of the Souls‘ pedigree. It’s certainly a ‘watch this space’ title.

I feel like showing Crackdown 3 at the Xbox conference is just asking for trouble. It goes to show that even Terry Crews can’t save every franchise. Even the trailer for the game is starting to show its age … and while I’m sure it has the delightful, frolicking fun of every other futuristic sandbox with destructive physics, there’s nothing that is really holding this game up as a ‘must have’, and certainly not ‘worth the wait’.

The show concluded with Cyberpunk 2077, which was a nice artistic way to end the show, and it showed a rich, detailed world which is what we’ve come to expect from CD Projekt Red in a post-Witcher 3 world. I don’t quite have the nostalgic attachment to the Cyberpunk series that I do many other titles, but I’ll absolutely give it a go – certainly off the back of Geralt’s last adventure.

All-in-all, I was pleased to see some of these titles on the Xbox stage, but there wasn’t enough exclusivity there to get me excited. The titles that were exclusive are largely available on PC as well, and while I still remain fairly committed to the Xbox ecosystem, I can feel the PCMR pull more-and-more each time I watch a gaming press conference.

Spending Spree

Perhaps the only real moment my heart felt a flutter was when Phil Spencer started going through the list of acquisitions Microsoft have made as part of its consolidation and expansion of Microsoft Studios. In addition to announcing the creation of a new studio, ‘The Initiative’, Spencer listed off some new studios (which I, to be honest, already thought were first-party):

  • Undead Studios (State of Decay)
  • Playground Games (Forza)
  • Ninja Theory (Hellblade)
  • Compulsion Games (We Happy Few)

It’s fair to say that Microsoft will be getting some more exclusives in the coming years, though – as I say – I thought most of these studios were already first party. It’s also telling that these studios have all published titles onto Xbox already, and while they’re all ‘OK’ titles … none of them are God of War killers.

Game Pass

The big takeaway from today’s conference was that, if you have Xbox Game Pass, you are probably going to get all the benefits from the Xbox ecosystem. It seems that there are advancements in technology for the service which are coming thick-and-fast, and today’s announcements that Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls Online and The Division are all going live on the service ‘today’ is certainly a vote of confidence.

What’s Next

Game Streaming and the new Xbox console were flat-out confirmed by Phil during the presser. Nothing concrete, and no details to announce, but he revealed that Microsoft is working on it, and that is huge. Hot off the back of EA’s reveal that they’d be doing game streaming in the near future, it seems like 2019 will be the year that everybody reveals their consumer-ready streaming service, if not beforehand.

If you were there for the games … then you probably left ‘happy’. If you were there for anything else, then you were probably more than happy. Either case, it’s not a bad outcome for the console underdog – Phil, Larry and the team should all be exceptionally happy and proud of their work.