Blog Archives

Dragon’s Dogma: Skyrim Killer?

Shortly before Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning was released this year I played the demo and I speculated that the game could perhaps be a better RPG than Skyrim was. If you read my blog regularly you’ll know that Skyrim was my game of the year for 2011 so it should be obvious that I was impressed by the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur. Sadly, though the game is good, it was nowhere near as good as Skyrim was.

Later this month Capcom will be releasing their own fantasy RPG which, like Skyrim, features quite an emphasis on both dragon’s and roaming bosses that you can stumble across whilst exploring. At this stage, like when I speculated about Kingdom’s of Amalur, all I have played is a demo but that demo has left me feeling very impressed by what Capcom have achieved.

One of people’s biggest complaints about Skyrim involves the combat which can feel a bit limp wrested at times. Fortunately Dragon’s Dogma features a great combat system which is controlled easily but isn’t simplistic to the point where it is boring. Also, and this perhaps is a complaint that is more personal to me, the dragon’s in Skyrim, although very cool, were too easy and too repetitive to fight. This is something that, from the demo at least, it seems Dragon’s Dogma will not suffer with.

The game features a variety of different bosses which can be tackled in a number of ways, in case you haven’t played the demo I won’t go into details I’ll just say that you can climb onto stuff and lop heads off or, if you’d prefer, you could hang back with the Mage in your party and shoot it from afar whilst the more melee oriented party members take it on up close.

That’s the other great thing about Dragon’s Dogma, having other characters fight along side you lends more of an epic feeling to the fighting, in Skyrim you are a one man killing machine but in Dragon’s Dogma it’s important to use your allies to take down the beasts you fight. This adds something that Skyrim is quite frankly lacking. A world as big as one in an RPG such as Skyrim can be lonely and many people find it all too easy to simply miss any of the companions you can meet in Skyrim, this isn’t a problem in Dragon’s Dogma.

All in all the demo has left me excited for the game, sadly I still haven’t finished Mass Effect 3 and I bought Killzone 2 and Heavy Rain the other day, neither of which I’ve played before, so I might have to wait a while before I have the time to get into Dragon’s Dogma, but I can’t wait to try the full game and everyone who is a fan of RPGs should definitely try the demo and get the game.

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The Future of Sony

This year Sony are expected to lose $6.4 billion and lay off 10000 employees. This will not only mark their biggest loss so far but it will also be the fourth year in a row which has caused them to run at a loss. Of course the problem encompasses Sony as a whole and not just their gaming division but here I will focus on what it could mean for the world of gaming.

With the PS2 Sony created the worlds most successful gaming console and both it’s successor and predecessor have been incredibly successful. They also released the high selling PSP and boast a vast list of first party developers and exclusive games. At the moment, if you are a hardcore gamer then, whether you are a fan or not, they really are the kings of gaming. With all this bad news though, can it really last?

The Vita so far has been a dismal failure and Sony aren’t showing signs of even attempting to turn it around, there are virtually no adverts for it, not many shops here in the U.K stock it (I.e. Tesco etc.) there is no sign of a price cut and it still doesn’t really have any huge games. On top of this the PS3 seems to be gradually losing momentum, Insomniac, creators of Rachet and Clank and Resistance are going third party and Santa Monica studios, the developers behind God of War, are considering going third party as well. On top of this notable studios such as Zipper Interactive, the developers behind Socom, MAG and Unit 13 have been closed down and, although there are some exclusives coming over the next year there is nothing that can really match the magnitude of last year’s Uncharted 3 or Killzone 3.

In short the PS3 is gradually slowing in pace and the Vita doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast, this means that many people are looking toward the next generation, but what, if anything, will Sony offer? The world of gaming has changed drastically since the release of the PS3, digital gaming, phone and tablet gaming, as well as casual gaming have all seen a huge rise in popularity. Retailers such as GAME are struggling to stay open and consoles as an all round entertainment hub can’t do much more than they currently do in terms of offering TV, film, photo and online services. Short of a huge graphical boost and a massive change in direction in terms of how games are distributed (a Sony app store, more focus on downloaded games and perhaps even streaming games) there is little that Sony can do with a PS4 and with the market how it is there is very little chance of it actually being profitable.

This seems to be reflected in their reluctance to even tease a next generation console, perhaps they aren’t even planning one? If they aren’t then the world of console gaming will be a drastically different place. Let’s face it, Microsoft’s next console is likely to be a while because of the success of Kinect and when it does come it will probably be even more Kinect heavy and causal gamer oriented. This will mean Nintendo will be left to cater to the hardcore gamers and will really be the only console that still resembles (albeit remotely thanks to its tablet controller) what gaming looks like today.

I hope Sony do manage to turn things around and I know it’s about their whole company and not just the gaming side of it but, certainly for the foreseeable future at least, the future looks dark for Sony and the PlayStation brand.

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Trophies Are Ruining Games

Trophies and Achievements are incredibly popular things, they add new areas of competition and bragging rights and can greatly increase a games longevity. People even become addicted to unlocking them and take an immense amount of pride in their Gamerscore or number of platinum trophies. Personally though, I hate them.

On one hand trophies can add to games, completionists are rewarded and masochists have something to brag about. But what about the rest of us? Personally, so long as I’ve done the main story of a game, and possibly a select few side quests, then I consider it completed and I’m done with it. In the past this wasn’t a problem but now people can see that I haven’t got 100% of the trophies. People think I haven’t completed the game and that it looks bad, essentially many gamers are punished by the trophy/achievement system rather than rewarded by it.

Also if you were to borrow a game and then find out that you didn’t like it that game is listed as being 0% complete and, quite frankly, looks messy and ruins the list of games that you have played by again making you look like a poor gamer. This shouldn’t be how it is, you should just be happy knowing you’ve completed these games, haven’t completed those ones and didn’t enjoy the others. You shouldn’t be judged for it by being given a big fat zero for others to laugh at.

My other major problem is that it causes some gamers to simply miss the point of the game. Instead of paying attention to the great story and awesome gameplay of a game like Uncharted 3, some gamers just focus on getting a platinum trophy. I even know of some people who refuse to play a game like Metal Gear Solid 4 because it doesn’t have trophies. This is utter madness and it is bad for gaming.

Ultimately I’d appreciate it if the next generation of consoles did away with trophies and achievements altogether, some level of in game rewards might work as an alternative, the Metal Gear Series does this quite effectively in the first 3 MGS games but did admittedly lose track in the fourth. Only time will tell how things shape up with the next generation but hopefully at least Nintendo will keep their games trophy/achievement free.

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Gameplay Vs. Story

With ever improving graphics, bigger budgets and longer development cycles games have been changing. Instead of the focus being purely on gameplay, games are becoming increasingly concerned with the story and the cinematic experience. Games such as Azura’s Wrath are arguably more about story and experience than they are about the gameplay.

Personally I feel that that’s a step too far, games such as The Legend of Zelda and Uncharted strike what’s, for me, the perfect balance, they feature simple but compelling stories and also have great gameplay. Many though, feel that gaming as a medium can become more than what it is today and whilst I disagree that gameplay should be put on the back burner I do agree that progression and evolution can be a very positive thing.

On the other hand however I can see that stories can also be all but irrelevant. The Mario games are some of the greatest of all time but the story really doesn’t matter, it’s the gameplay and level design that makes them great. Story for me is great and I love story driven games with film like cutscenes but I also love Mario, so clearly there is room for development either way.

What do you think? Should games become more about the experience and feature more of a focus on stories or are games about gameplay and should games like Azura’s Wrath even bother trying? After all, £40 is a lot to pay for what is more a film than it is a game.

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Stand up for Gaming

There are many famous people who are known gamers, one of the most commonly referenced of these people is Dara O’Briain. Dara is such a noteworthy gamer that he has even been chosen to present the gaming BAFTA’s. The thing that I wonder about though is that, as gamers are such a widely criticised part of society (we are stereotyped as the overly violent, reclusive, basement dwelling, women hating delinquents of society who you’d rather see dead than near your child) should famous gamers do more to defend us?

Dara joked once that it would be more acceptable for him to announce that he masturbated to hardcore porn than it would be to say that he played games to cool down after a show. Whilst he is clearly joking the principle behind the joke is, in many cases, true. Most people think children are allowed to play games but anyone else falls into the stereotype I mentioned above.

Most of the time this has little actual impact on us but every now and then it results in a major controversy with us at its centre when we don’t really deserve to be. Whilst I accept that a few words from a famous person aren’t going to magically change this perception of gamers (also, not everyone sees us as this stereotype) it could certainly help as a long term thing.

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Resident Evil 6: Do or Die

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If Capcom didn’t invent the Survival Horror genre then they at least made it incredibly popular, realising a trio of great games to cement this. Then, with Resident Evil 4, they changed the genre massively, adding huge amounts of action whilst still maintaining the intense nature of the Survival Horror genre. Since then? Well since then they have released Resident Evil 5, in my opinion the worst of the main canon of the series and a dull experience from start to finish. However, is this the year that everything gets set right?

At the end of January Capcom released Resident Evil: Revelations for the Nintendo 3DS, which if I were to review would score very highly, and in November of this year they are set to release Resident Evil 6. I am incredibly excited for Resident Evil 6 but I am also well aware that it’s sink or swim time for the series, if the game is like the fifth one then, for me, the series is done for, two awful games back to back on the consoles would be a terrible blow for any series. Action is great but in Resident Evil it needs to be cleverly balanced with tense moments where you are all too aware of how little health and ammo you have and that just around corner could be some hideous infected monstrosity waiting to rip your face off.

Moments like those were missing in 5 because you knew you had enough ammo to take it on because the game was overly focused on action and was, as a result, a pale imitation of what Resident Evil is. The trailer for Resident Evil 6 has made me very excited and, though my faith in Capcom’s ability to create a great Resident Evil game has been damaged, it still remains intact.

Ultimately if they can strike the balance between survival and action as they did in the fourth game and as they seem to have done in Revelations then they will likely have a masterpiece on their hands (it’s only ever been the gameplay that was a problem so i’m sure that the other parts of the game will be fine). I look forward to playing Resident Evil 6 but the excitement is held back by the fact that Capcom could very easily ruin the series. I for one, hope that they don’t.

 

A Skyrim Killer?

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Late last year The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released to massive critical and commercial success. Many thought it was the best in the series and whilst it had more than its fair share of flaws it is widely considered to be a truly great game and is, at present, untouchable in the world of fantasy RPGs. I believe however that that could be about to change. In February there will be a new fantasy RPG, Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning. Reckoning promises to do right what Skyrim did wrong and if it succeeds then I believe Skyrim may well have met it’s match.

Where Skyrim’s combat seemed limp wristed and at times frustrating and dull, Reckoning promises an intense, almost arcade type feel to its combat that is lacking in RPGs of this stature. The problem with combat has plagued the Elder Scrolls series since its inception and it would be good to have an RPG of similar ambition give us decent combat.

Combat however is not Skyrim’s only issue, though there were a number of cool moments during the story it was, as a tale, dull and inspired. Reckoning features a story which currently consists of 10,000 years worth of history thanks to R. A. Salvatore who is one of the most esteemed fantasy writers in the world.

On top of this Reckoning, from what we have seen so far, looks to be balancing Skyrim with elements of Fable in terms of its style and feel, but obviously ditching the tongue in cheek humour that Fable games are full of. Borrowing elements from a revered RPG (Skyrim) whilst borrowing also from a series that has great potential but has never truly been great in itself (Fable) could very well give the Reckoning developers a huge hit.

The last reason why it may likely be a Skyrim killer is one we can’t really see decided until the game is out: bugs. Skyrim has been plagued with bugs and they are still present despite Bethesda’s best efforts to rid the game of them. Gamers really shouldn’t be expected to deal with bugs to the extent that we do and if Reckoning comes out as a polished game then it will put shame on Skyrim’s shoddy finish.

Ultimately of course we will have to wait until Reckoning is out but my money is firmly on Reckoning in this one as I feel that it would be far harder for it to fail than succeed due simply to the potential in its design and ideas.

 

Back From the Dead

I recently dusted off and plugged in my PS2 and found all my old games for it, games such as Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven and Max Payne. I played through each of them and it has made me realise that, whilst this generation’s franchises are great and whilst I want some new and innovative games there are certain series that need to be brought back from the dead.

Later this year Rockstar are releasing Max: Payne 3 and a much loved series will be brought back, this seems to me to be a good thing but I wish more developers would do it. The last Tenchu game (Tenchu: Z) may have been a flop but the games that came before it are classics and they deserve a worthy sequel. Rockstar aren’t the only developers looking to bring back a franchise, Nintendo are soon to release Kid Icarus: Uprising and have shown that it is possible to resurrect a series, keep it familiar, but also innovate and modernise it.

With the developments that games such as Assassin’s Creed have made in the stealth/action genre a new Tenchu could feel very modern, indeed with the right developer behind it it could even freshen up current trends in that genre. Similarly if a new Doom game was to be released it would be able to incorporate some of the modern shooter mechanics into itself and would also provide a breath of fresh air in the current climate of somewhat stale first person shooters (Modern Warfare, Duke Nukem etc.)

So perhaps, whilst focusing on current franchises and hopefully trying to bring some new ideas to the table, game developers should also look to the past to see what is worth bringing back. It has been proven that it can be done with great success and it is becoming increasingly popular but it is obviously yet to become a full-fledged idea.

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