DICE

Alpha Gaming Weekend : Redacted

I spent my weekend playing games I can’t share impressions on for the most part. And while people know I am in certain ones, because I announced it, I can safely group them all into “looking forward to what they do next” territory without mentioning specific features, feelings or thoughts. Wish I could share more but I do respect the alpha process.

I had a schizophrenic weekend and week of gaming. Nothing jumped out at me per se as a “must write about” but many little things. So here you get another general post hitting many topics, in particular order of importance or magnitude.

Magic: The Gathering

I am still playing this daily but due to the card rotations I have lost the core of my new favourite decks. And it is completely confusing, because they retired cards that were released in 2017. I know it is a sprawling game but the solutions I had to counter the decks I faced often were taken away, but the decks I face often were not. It is confusing to have cards that have been around from the start of beta but whole sections and subsets of cards added and removed afterwards. It makes no sense to me. The ones I miss the most are Prowling Serpopods – the only real defence against a control deck when you play green – and even then it’s a crap shoot to be able to use and utilize it – and the Walking Ballista. In fact, due to card retirements, I basically lost my favorite deck to play at all. That is frustrating as a collector. I don’t think other card games take cards away, but willing to adjust. Just goes to show MTG:A really, really needs a wildcard mode where all cards can be in play.

This fact alone makes the game less fun for me. I haven’t checked out of it yet, but am just sad and disappointed that I can’t enjoy it as much.

Secret Alpha Update

I can’t say anything here except there was an update to the Alpha. And with that update came a character wipe. Once again, I am reminded of the downsides of Alphas and how there is a correlation to the amount of time I spend in an Alpha and the diminishing likelihood that I pay for and play the game when it goes live. Where once I was a “great” alpha tester trying to break things, I am now also ensuring I am enjoying my limited gaming time. So the dozens of hours played are gone, and I get to do it all over again. If I decide to. I did take the first steps, made a character, and sat there hovering over the play button wondering if doing that was how I wanted to spend my time. It wasn’t, it turns out, but I think it was just the mood I was in with the first realization that all of the things I had done and prepped for for next steps was now gone, and back to square one. Not that I was surprised, just not ready for it.

No So Secret Alpha Update (Torchlight Frontiers)

I am still pretty sure we can’t share information on this yet – definitely not videos or pictures – but I played the heck out of it on the weekend and it was fun to see the stresses put on servers, and the parts of the development processes (patches quickly, etc.) to fix any issues and move forward, and find more issues. Being mindful of not sharing impressions of the game but to share that the development process part of being fun in itself. This is definitely one I will jump in on future tests and in the end when I CAN share things, will try to draw a line from where it started to where it launched. Will be interesting, to say the list.

Alpha I keep Missing (Breach)

It is patched and ready to go but the windows for participating have been so small – a couple hours here and there, sometimes during business hours – makes me think that this game must be in a real early Alpha state. Still, I check out announcements when I can and looking forward to playing this one too.

Battlefield V

While many parts of this game has taken it back to its roots, I still struggle that the pace is a little too much COD for me. There are way too many times that you die too fast without a chance to react or impact the outcome of that death. That is frustrating. I don’t remember it in the old 2142 days. Seems like there is a lack of ability to control your own destiny – which may reflect the realities of World War 2 but less fun in gaming. Snipers (Recon) are a bit overpowered right now and Medics very under powered – balance patches are needed and they are coming ™, but even that won’t balance out the high tempo nature of the game that detracts from a strategic experience (vs a twitchy experience). I have almost fully unlocked the Medic tree and my Sten (primary weapon) but also dabble daily in the other classes as the daily “assignments” suggest. (There are objectives each day that reward in game currency that require everything from flying planes, to resupplying teammates. They are quick and easy but force you to try different things so I am appreciative.) I still think less “busy work” is needed in all games, but this is the new reality. I am still enjoying it and new game modes come December 6th. This game will continue to compete for my time and attention. I did, however, re-download Squad to balance a more strategic shooter against the ADHD one.

World of Warcraft

Odd how when you stop the daily chores and familiarity of the routine, you don’t really miss it. Uninstalled to buy room on my hard drive (before buying the new one, see below). Will take something big to pry me away from all the more-fun gaming going on right now.

New SSD External Drive

Black Friday sale I got a 1TB SSD external so I have more room to keep all of my games patched up and ready to go. This will make my hop in and out gaming mood and style lately even more varied. Although I am going away this weekend, so that means little to no gaming for me. I am having constant and consistent DISK WRITE ERRORS to it on Steam and it randomly will open up the drive folder on top of what I am doing – I think there is either an issue with the drive or an issue with my Thunderbolt port. I need to return it. Having to restart 12GB downloads every 2-3 minutes is not efficient. It is a Sony t5, anyone else used to having errors with it? Google has been unhelpful.

Another week in the books, and another weekend coming up – sadly out of town so little to no gaming, and next week is a bit of  a writeoff as well. I can’t believe winter is here already.

 

Beautifield 5

I am now a PC game service enabler. There needs to be a better term. I had become an annual Origin Pass member, which gives you access to 150 EA games (plus early access to new titles on a trial basis) for the grand price of $29.99. They now added a service – Origin Premier – which gives you access to all of their NEW Games (and old) including all pre-order bonuses, MTX benefits, etc. It was $129.99 Canadian. I did the math and with Battlefield V coming out (it IS out for Premier subscribers) and Anthem later in the year (Premier get early access and beta access as well) I figured I’d pre-buy the year long access for less than the cost of two games. I now have another 154 titles I could mess with if I wanted to. It’s a very good deal for me, knowing that I would have bought both anyway. Now I get a full year of access to all games they have – and that includes some I used to play but can’t bother buying these days (Madden Football, FIFA, etc.) So I can dip in and out as I wish. It’s good value.

I spent 3 or so hours playing Battlefield V, the new, WW2 inspired shooter and my first impression is this. It is gorgeous. I couldn’t hit screenshot fast enough during the introduction that gives you short stints of all parts of the game – infantry, tank, plane battles, all through a well narrated but light story about war and many country backdrops throughout. The game also really tugs on the heart strings. Instead of hardy, veteran soldiers the presented them as what many of them were – kids, thrust into battle via conscription or a sense of country and the innocence is lost quickly – along with many lives. I am looking forward to playing more.

The gun play and gameplay is amazing. It brings me back to the old Battlefield days. It’s still a bit too fast paced to be a full strategic shooter but it did slow the game down enough to be less bunny-hopping and un-immersive like the COD titles I stopped buying years ago. The maps are awesome, progression is on multiple layers and quick enough to feel fun and meaningful (early on, at least). The customisation is fitting and fun to play with from weapon skins to various clothing parts. It should be a hit. I know it is getting some negative Metacritic scores because they DARED to put a woman soldier on the primary loading screen, but that is the new normal in the PC world we live in.

Here are some shots. I’ll be covering more of this – the gameplay, the depth, the maps – in the coming days and weeks. The gallery below are parts of the opening sequence and while they will not fully capture the experience of it all – the sounds and movement are missing, of course, it does capture a lot of the beauty of the game.

Enjoy the gallery! If you have any questions about the game, send them my way. Happy to answer!

Click on any picture to open the gallery. It is not the full sequence, so reading any of the text may not match up with the text from the prior picture!

Hey, What’s Going On? : Battlefield

EA recently announced the newest edition of their critically acclaimed first person shooter series, Battlefield, would be having it’s latest instalment launching in October. Weirdly named Battlefield V. I say weirdly named because they went from Battlefield 4, to Battlefield 1, to Battlefield V. They need to work on some consistency with the naming convention. Long time readers of this blog might recall how much I love(d) Battlefiled 2142. BF2142 was a PC only, up to 64 v 64 FPS with personal servers you could rent for your clan and select your own rules, map rotations, etc. It has an amazing combination of infantry and vehicular combat – at the same time, good personalization of kits, and was a great, semi-strategic shooter. I say “semi-strategic” as it did suffer from bunny hopping, etc. but had the potential for good teamwork and was a bit better paced than the Call of Duty titles at the time, which was it’s main competitor.  This was also a title I played very frequently within a clan – funny how some of the best gaming memories are when you are a part of things with other people. I still connect with that clan and they are talking about the launch of Battlefield V, to which I replied that it might be worth checking out since I haven’t really played since 2142. Which launched in 2006.

At least it is honest

The follow up to 2142 didn’t appeal to me – and it had a silly rule that you couldn’t go prone. That was one of those things that drove me batty. What, the human race has lost the ability to lie down on it’s stomach suddenly? Prone is a base position for cover, as well as a favourite for MG nests, snipers, (etc.). Taking away prone is like taking away jumping. I never could reconcile how I felt about that change to actually buy the game. I stuck with 2142 with each new release, and the servers became quieter and more quieter, and once again, I was left behind in a game I enjoyed playing while others moved on to bigger and shinier things. Why can’t we just be happy with what we have?

Instead of buying Battlefield one and all the DLC I opted for the annual Origin Pass – on sale for $30. That got me the entire expansion, as well as a huge vault list of EA games – many I have not played. If I do decide to buy Battlefield V I will also get 10% off my order for being an Origin member. I did this when I bought Andromeda as well because the price of the membership was offset by the purchase. Logging into Battlefield 1 it is clear how amazing the art and production values are. It put me into a single player campaign that hopped me around different stories of different soldiers – facing waves of enemies that I wasn’t supposed to outlive. It was a “fight until you die”, hopeless situation. I can’t imagine what it was like fighting back in the trenches during WW1 (which is the setting of BF:1) but I felt nervous, and hectic, and scared as I tried to survive the onslaught. Which didn’t last long, before putting me into a different body of a different soldier in a different setting – who would also not survive long.

When I ran out of bullets and was overwhelmed they would put up a name and a born / death date. Added a human element to it all. I had a struggle identifying friend / foe but with friendly fire off it didn’t really matter. BF1 did a great job of sucking me in quickly. To get a better feel for the game I continued down the single player path which is not built around one soldier, but revisits different war stories in different countries with different protagonists. The first I tried was about a tank crew, and I was the driver.

I’m not claustrophobic

Seeing the war through a peephole didn’t capture the stress of the battle as much, but thethird person view was much better at doing so. I made it to step 4 of 5 before getting to a stealth style mission that I struggled with, and going full Rambo wasn’t really working for me either. Who cares, I am ready for multiplayer, which is where the game truly shines! I jumped into a Conquest match – which is a multi-point, capture the flags style of game. Each time gets tickets for kills and points captured (and held) and it is in true BF style where tanks support infantry and planes battle up above fighting each other (while dropping bombs on the ground). It truly is a spectacle, all those moving pieces and madness happening all at once, all around. And to be fair, the explosions are spectacular!

I feel like I am going the wrong way…

I did the safe thing I always do in these games – grab a medic profile, find a squad, and try to stay 10 steps back – watching flanks and reviving when it is safe. Except, only, it seems like it is NEVER safe. A few things I learned quickly (and disliked) was the fast rate of respawn. There was no real penalty to dying and you could force a respawn in 5 seconds for yourself. This is hugely unsatisfying when you kill someone (to know they are back in the mix pretty much instantly), but even moreso for a medic specialist. I can see on the screen someone who is revive-able. I clear out the enemies in the way. Throw a smoke grenade. Get to the body and – he force released. Heck, even the slow release is only 15 seconds. Once again the hyperactive ruins the immersion. How is a 30-45 second penalty for dying too much? You could kill someone, and they could kill you back in under 10 seconds (you can also spawn on your squad, not just rally points.)  That part was very disappointing.

close one! I did like the voting for next map

The different maps and countries are great, and the beauty of the game, the slick shooting, movement, vehicles, infantry and specialist kits – they are all ruined somewhat by the HURRY HURRY HURRY gameplay that used to be reserved for Call of Duty, but has now completely bled into the BF series. Maybe it happened several launches ago but I very fondly recall in BF2142 the benefits of sticking with your squad, and being able to protect objectives (and each other) with smart play, positioning, and teamwork.

No more. This game is just a huge spam and revive fest. The only strategy is that there is no strategy. Rush forward, die, revive, die, revive, die. Pretty packaging – actually, to rephrase – absolutely GORGEOUS packaging but not much depth.

the in game maps are pretty too

I have gone back and tried a few more times and it’s “ok”. It is definitely not what I am looking for in a long term shooter. Yes, I am entering a game at the end of it’s cycle so against a lot of seasoned players but the core gameplay at the crux of it isn’t strategic enough to be fun for an old FPSer like me. I will still give it a whirl now and again as I haven’t written it off completely but I also downloaded SQUAD from steam last night – which is the spiritual successor to Project Reality, which was the ultimate strategic FPS experience.  I’ll check that one out and let you know it goes.