Outward or Unforgiving, Clunky and yet Fascinating – At Times

Posted in Hands On, Played & Explained with tags , , , on April 22, 2019 by Rabidgames

Imagine you get thrown into a game where you have exactly zero clue what’s going on. Imagine you can’t really die but you simply wake up somewhere. Imagine Piranha Bites (Gothic, Risen, Elex) create a world with their clunky combat system but take away each and every comfort; you can easily bleed or freeze to death, and fights can be over almost as quickly and as mercilessly as in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. That’s Outward in a nutshell.

But let’s start from the beginning. Your ship wrecks somehow, you’re on an island, you roam around … and quickly you notice how fucking ugly everything looks. Really, Outward is often an ugly game on the PS4 (seems to be a bug, but hasn’t been fixed yet)! It sometimes rather looks like a PS2 game, truth be told. Some levels look nice in the right light, sure, but that won’t happen too often. Speaking of light, what good is a torch or a lantern if it doesn’t illuminate your way properly at night? Good luck falling from a cliff because you can’t see it …

Anyway, once you die or sleep in the prologue part, you wake up in your house and you get sent on a quest to get some money or your house is gone. Skill-wise, you’re a nobody in Outward. You can’t really fight, no one likes you (well, not enough to pay your debts at least) etc. Well, thing is, you partially can’t fight because of the narrative, but for the most part, the fighting system is just awful or below average at the best of times. It’s like Gothic or Risen, just worse, more tedious, and even less fun. Outward rarely lets you feel comfortable, simply because it wants to be a survival RPG. Especially the first 5 hours are a big pain, which is rarely ever a good sign for a game.

 

Another problem Outward has is that its world is incredibly bland. From its landscapes (greenery, snow, desert, name it) to its systems to its enemies, you’ve seen it all before. And often better implemented with better lore. Speaking of lore, it also doesn’t help that the English subtitles often don’t match the audio. Sometimes, the audio is shortened, sometimes it’s entirely different. So it’s hard to immerse in the world from a story perspective when the fighting system is clunky and stuff such as crafting and skills are also just there, because they have to be there in a game like Outward.

Technically, the game also has issues. Graphics and audio issues aside, you sometimes happen to lose your inventory. Yes, the one thing that can outright kill you – or “only” ruin you in Outward – can happen here. It may get fixed soon, but who cares after having lost 5 hours of progress? Also, whenever you go to sleep in Outward, it makes you sleepy in real life, too. why? Because the loading screen is on-screen forever – for no apparent reason. And here’s the thing – you’ll sleep a lot to heal or to pass some time until the quest giver or target shows up. That’ll add up to a lot of time spent watching loading screens.

So, does Outward have any redeeming qualities? Well, it tells you the story of a nobody from a perspective of a nobody. It’s not entirely new, but still rather rare. The backpack system is also interesting: the bigger the backpack, the more you can carry – but the bigger the penalties, too. This gives Outward a somewhat strategic layer to balance loot and manoeuvrability. Same goes for the magic systems: you have runes you can combine for different effects. It’s a nice system once you get used to it, even if it feels a bit clunky, too.

Also, the map is just a map in Outward. No other indication on it related to your position. No hand-holding or icons. If you want to know where you are after waking up, well, consult the map, take a good look around and good luck. Hope you have some skills navigating your way around. It’s a nice little feature of Outward that enhances the adventure feeling, and this is actually a feature that more games should have.

At the end of the day, Outward is a game of missed chances: The bugs should have been fixed, the fighting system should have been fun and the game should have presented itself as a game that’s worth playing. At the current stage, Outward lacks too many things, especially in the bland beginning. There’s some fun to be had for those who can see past all of this, but there may not be many who feel that way if better games are released left and right.

Rabidgames’ verdict: GO BUY if you’re itching for a hardcore survival game where you are on your own without a friendly UI and if you don’t mind the rather generic and way too clunky nature of the game. WAIT if you want some bugs to be ironed out first.

DO NOT BUY if you want a flawless and  unique experience. This game lacks an identity of its own in many aspects, features terrible melee fights and it has quite a few technical issues on top of it. Close to full price seems a bit much for this experience.

 

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Netflix announces a Dragon’s Dogma Anime!!!

Posted in News with tags , , on March 12, 2019 by Rabidgames

Now if that isn’t a pleasant surprise! A Dragon’s Dogma anime! As reported by many sites, including Eurogamer, the story of that Netflix show seems a bit different from what we would have expected knowing the game:

Based on a world-famous action RPG set in an open world, Dragon’s Dogma from Capcom will be brought to life as a Netflix original anime series. The story follows a man’s journey seeking revenge on a dragon who stole his heart. On his way, the man is brought back to life as an ‘Arisen’. An action adventure about a man challenged by demons who represent the seven deadly sins of humans.

Erm, demons? Seven deadly sins? Wait, what? Anyway, here’s hoping we will hear many, many, many Pawn quotes in the Dragon’s Dogma anime, after all, because here’s the thing with Pawn quotes: “They’re masterworks all, you can’t go wrong!”

Whatever the quality of the anime, the fact Capcom does this – and the release of Dragon’s Dogma on the Switch – give us plenty of hope that the one game we’ve been craving for years finally will see the light of day soon-ish: Dragon’s Dogma 2.

Rabidgames can’t wait: More Dragon’s Dogma is always good. Always. Period.

Anthem vs The Division 2: Open Beta Face-Off

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2019 by Rabidgames

We don’t often see two massive, open-world(ish) titles pushing out open betas to try to convince people just before their respective launches in such a short time. While Anthem is more of a sci-fi game with futuristic tech and rather fantastic enemies, The Division 2 is a slightly futuristic-ish game with human enemies. And well, both are always-online loot shooters with a “games as a service system” so lets compare the shit out of them!

One thing – let’s not pretend an open beta is more than just a demo. If you really have to test your servers or your game that late in development, you’re fucked anyway.

It’s been a few days to let the open beta experience of The Division 2 sink in, so let’s get going now and see how both open betas fared!

Technical stuff

GRAPHICS: Anthem looked nice and impressive, whereas TD2 (let’s be lazy, shall we?) looked a step down from its predecessor. Both betas were plagued by pop-ups and other problems, but this point goes to Anthem because the world actually looks stunning at times.
Anthem-Division 1:0

SOUND: This is a tough one. Both games weren’t too convincing in the sound department, and both betas showed signs that there is still some work to do in both cases. However, TD2 had some serious issues with the weapon sounds. giving Anthem the edge here.
Anthem-Division 2:0

STABILITY: TD2 had issues in the closed beta, but so had Anthem. In Anthem’s open beta however, it was very common to either not be able to connect or to get thrown out of the game when connected, which happened on a very regular basis, making the game unplayable for tens of minutes at times. TD2 on the other hand, ran fine with very few connection issues and very few hiccups.
Anthem-Division 2:1

STARTING OUT: Anthem was cumbersome – Going from the hub veeeery slowly to the hangar area took a while, and going back to report and get the next objective was the same drag. Matchmaking was also rather weird and sometimes resulted with no results, wasting’everybody’s time. TD2 was more fluid from the get-go, and running inside hubs can help. Sadly, neither beta offered an easy drop in/drop out service, which seems odd in this day and age.
Anthem-Division 2:2

Beta Content

CUSTOMISATION: Both betas show not much in terms of character customisation. Anthem let us lightly customise the Javelin and our loadout, TD2 let us lightly customise our agent and the loadout, too. However, it felt easier to try out different builds in TD2 as you could do so on the spot instead of collecting orbs that were sent to the hub. All the cosmetic stuff you found to individualise your character was also more accessible than the convoluted way to change the colour of the Javelin (which also was lost when rebooting the Anthem beta the next time).
Anthem-Division 2:3

THE WORLD: We got to see most of the world of Anthem. It looked nice, yes, but also devoid of many landmarks or points of interest. You also had to actively look for activity beyond angering wildlife because it was pretty empty. TD2’s overgrown and green Washington DC was full of life, be it animals, friendly or hostile humans – there could be danger just around the corner all the time, so it’s easy to see who wins here.
Anthem-Division 2:4

WORLD BUILDING: The hub in Anthem felt static and sterile, filled with static NPCs, pointless dialogue choices and “not available in beta” signs instead of actual dialogues in most cases. Just like the rest of the world, it felt empty, even a bit trivial After you did missions, you came back and it was all the same. TD2 showed a world you rebuild and actively change. After all, you literally re-build the world in TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:5

MISSIONS: Anthem had some missions and one end-game mission. And free roam. TD2 had some main missions, lots of repeatable side missions, free roam was part of the world anyway, and also one end-game mission. While both are mostly go from A to B to kill C, Anthem was quite boring as it felt pretty generic, whereas TD2 offered more interesting levels that required some tactical planning. Being able to explore and discover seamlessly between missions and free roam is an easy win for TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:6

Gameplay

MOVEMENT: Obviously, flying around in a vertical world is cooler than walking and running around. You can fucking FLY!!!
Anthem-Division 3:6

SHOOTING: Technically, that’s a point for Destiny here. Shooting isn’t too great in either Anthem or TD2 compared to Destiny’s only strength. But between those two, TD2 actually had a more diverse cast of weapons at its disposal and shooting them felt slightly more “real” and satisfying.
Anthem-Division 3:7

ABILITIES: To be fair, Rabidgames has a weakness for the primer/detonator combat of Mass Effect that is also built into Anthem so that’s a strong point for the Bioware game. The abilities in TD2 felt a bit nerfed, making it harder to use them to our advantage. They’re not useless, but not as fun as the combos in Anthem.
Anthem-Division 4:7

GAMEPLAY VARIETY: Well, both are shooters. You aim, you shoot, boom, splash, splatter. But while enemies in Anthem are either weak or bullet sponges – and could be easily copied over from DestinyTD2 offer variety with its human and robot opponents. Firefights in Anthem’s open beta all played out the same in the categories grunts and bosses. You shoot until they fall, and sure, bosses eat 10,000 bullets for breakfast, resulting in extremely boring circle and shoot orgies while occasionally escaping super attacks. TD2’s fights were a bit harder – you needed to cover your flanks or you were wiped out. Also, a screen full of enemies, drones and remote-controlled bomb-cars in a narrow room was an intense feeling, and bosses there had visual armour you can shoot off to finish off the boss quicker.
Anthem-Division 4:8

THE LOOT: We got weapons and other goodies only after missions in Anthem, which didn’t felt satisfying. At all. And the selection was even less interesting than in Destiny! In TD2, you can play with new loot on the spot, which made playing around with builds and mods more fun. Of course, the endgames in both games will show how good loot really is, but for now, it seems you can do more with it in TD2 – from crafting weapons to donating it to friendly settlements, you shouldn’t sell all you have.
Anthem-Division 4:9

THE SYSTEMS: Now, this is a tough one judging from the beta. Both are RPGs that let you build, craft and customise the gear you like. Anthem pretty much has the mission -> rewards -> customisation loop, while TD2 has more – you upgrade your base and settlements, you open up checkpoints to control districts (where you then open up a door with loot). Plus, you get to see your changes in TD2’s world. In RPG terms, both are pretty light though – the dialogue choice in Anthem are a joke though, if you think who did it!
Anthem-Division 4:10

THE FINAL RESULT: Anthem 4, The Division 10

Rabidgames thinks: It is inexplicable why Bioware/EA chose an outdated version that was a technical nightmare to proudly show off Anthem. It also didn’t do much to tell anything worthwhile about what’s going on. The Division 2 however showed us how the game starts, what’s going on and how many of its systems work together. Substance over style sums it up nicely – Anthem had a nice world with cool flying, but that’s about it. The Division 2 offered lots of content to be experimented with.

It’s no surprise The Division 2 beats Anthem in the beta contest because of those factors, which shows EA either doesn’t get what a beta is these days or that Ubisoft is more confident enough to show us what they got up their sleeves. Or both.

That being said, expect Rabidgames to get Washington D.C. up and running in The Division 2 soon. Anthem must wait, also because the “final” game itself is far from final …

8 Reasons Why New Dawn Is Better Than Far Cry 5

Posted in Commentary, Hands On with tags , , , on March 4, 2019 by Rabidgames

You know, if it’s easy to see a game improving on its predecessor within just hours, it’s a good sign. And yes, Far Cry New Dawn might rather resemble an add-on than a stand-alone game, but it beats Far Cry 5 in many ways. Here are 8 reasons summed up quickly:

  1. No more abductions: Honestly, this bullshit was the biggest reason why Far Cry 5 sucked. The abductions were pointless, too often and how on earth the kidnappers could then, and only then, detect you everywhere on a map is beyond the laws of, well, everything. This shit is gone now. Thank fuck!
  2. More gameplay diversity: Far Cry 5 had quite some things to do, but it was mostly the same pace. New Dawn mixes this up quite a bit: Sure, there’s still stealth and shooting, but now there’s also racing to an extraction point when everyone is homing in on you at the end of the new Expeditions, and there are packages you need to race to to get some goodies.
  3. Crazier than ever: Yeah, Far Cry 5 had a bear and a cougar as guns for hire. Well, New Dawn has a boar and a sniper granny who’s “like a 1000 years old but can shoot a dick off a mosquito”. And all guns for hire now have more useful perks. Speaking of guns, guns are also crazier now. The ricocheting Saw Launcher clearly is a highlight!
  4. The landscape is more diverse: Sounds bizarre, but the downfall of civilisation has brought more greenery and colours to Hope County, and seeing the changes for yourself is a nice thing. And sad at times. And once more, Expeditions: They bring you to completely new areas.
  5. Exploration is spelt with a capital E: You can find lots of things in the world, and many loot is hidden behind an – often quite simplistic – puzzle. Some are a bit more elaborate and require some steps or just a bit of platforming though. One of the key innovations of New Dawn are the Expeditions; exploring gets you more loot, but you don’t want to alarm everyone before you grab the package you’re there for.
  6. The RPG elements add depth: Sure, there are just very light RPG elements, but they add some level of strategy to it – should you take out the one elite enemy first? How? You can use a perk for a Takedown. Or you level up your weapons. Should you even take him out? (Of course.) Sadly, once you’re in the late game, all of this doesn’t matter any more, but for a while, the danger posed by over-levelled human and especially animal enemies shrugging your bullets away before tearing you to pieces makes up for some entertainment new to Far Cry.
  7.  Crazy powers: Not to go to deep into spoiler territory, but at a certain point of New Dawn you’ll get new powers. It might not make much sense but who cares – all you need is a leap of faith! If you do crazy, you gotta do crazy right after all …
  8.  Proper end-game content: You can scrap and take over Outposts on the hardest setting as many times as you want. Same goes for Expeditions. As a reward, you can upgrade perks and guns virtually infinitely … If you’re the kind of guy who likes a challenge or wants to have a handgun that nukes everyone, New Dawn offers this kind of entertainment for you.

Rabidgames muses: Far Cry 5 went into a dark and twisted direction, which only partially worked. New Dawn chooses the Saints Row way out instead, and that makes for a better game.

Activision And Capitalism’s Ugly Face

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , , on February 15, 2019 by Rabidgames

You might have read that Activision Blizzard is firing people, right? You might have also read they’re firing people despite making hefty profits, in fact Activion’s boss talks about “record revenue” …

Here’s the thing – that shouldn’t surprise us. For years now, the gaming industry has been exactly that – an industry. Those who craft, develop and enjoy games still work there, but usually just as low-level employees. The ones ruling the shots are fucking assholes in suits who treat games like they’d treat cars, materials, or even worse than games, food or medicine: as means to generate shitloads of money so they and their fucking shareholders get richer and richer. At the same time, they don’t give a shit about the company, why would they, after all? After bleeding out one company, they can go bleeding the next one dry. The word enough simply does not exist in the capitalist dictionary.

This kind of shit is regarded as normal in our capitalist world; workers getting fed bread crumbs while parasitic shareholders and their managers in suits feast on golden cakes. And you know, the absurd thing is that those managers in suits primarily answer to those fucking shareholders. If 800 people get fired, lose their jobs, potentially their homes, they don’t give a fuck. But if one shareholder feels 5% profit isn’t enough for the platinum cake he wants to buy, the next “logical” thing will be firing 800 more workers.

This is the fucked up world we live in. If you want games made by gamers for gamers for enjoyment and for the game makers to make a living, indie games are your only choice. With every AAA game you buy, you make sure the artists, developers and other workers get fed, sure. But for each pound they might get, 2 pounds (probably more) go the fucking shareholders.

Rabidgames wonders: What to do? Well, we can buy less AAA games and more indie games. But would that really help? There’s talk about a gaming union in the UK, which would greatly help things, of course. But at the end of the day, it’s simple: Gaming is just as fucked as the rest of the world. It’s not different, it’s just another means for corporations to make money for themselves.

Mass Effect + Destiny + A Hot Mess – Bioware Writing = Anthem

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , on February 3, 2019 by Rabidgames

First of all, Anthem is better than Rabidgames expected. The flying is pretty cool, and the good old Mass Effect primer/detonator combos are back. In its best moments, when there is some flow and your team works together well, it really feels like Mass Effect plus jetpack. And some guy split in three is interesting, well, unless you know Kingdom Hearts where one guy splits himself into 13.

Anyway, sometimes better than expected does not mean anywhere above the line of average. Anthem has some good sides, but the bad sides prevail. By a mile. Shooting bullet sponges has been bad since Destiny (and that was even worse in The Division, where seemingly human bosses survive 5 magazines of lead in their head), and Anthem is as just not food enough here. While you can mix and match flying/gliding and shooting after a bit of practice, it doesn’t make up for the shooting being two leagues below Destiny. You don’t have to like Destiny to admit that they absolutely nailed the shooting …

Furthermore, the gameplay loop is boring: Go there, shoot baddies, upload something, go somewhere else, rinse and repeat, oh look, a boss. Even if the shooting was top-notch (nope), and even if combos were as fluent and intuitive as in Mass Effect (again, nope), it would just be en par with Destiny … at most. But when you end up flying through a mostly empty world for 3 minutes, you get bored quicker than in other games where you walk for ten seconds between shoot-outs. Even worse, the cringe-worthy story told by NPCs that looked ancient 5 years ago … There is no excuse for something that bad from fucking Bioware! Dude gets artefact, smashes it, gets split into three, his worst and dumbest third escapes the city, you get him back, only for the game to freeze in the cutscene that explains it … well done, Bioware.

Speaking of freezing, lags, crashes, connection issues, frame-rate problems and the loss of sound – yes, Anthem has all of this and more. Guys, this is a demo, isn’t it? You want people to convince to buy the game. Instead, hardly anything works as intended. Even worse, Friday was kind of stable, Saturday was less, and hardly anything worked on Sunday. That’s quite poor.

Also, the story. Anthem is like Destiny there – some mysterious stranger, sorry, energy source that can somehow alter reality … Sure, we don’t need all the details now, but after Destiny, mysterious hints are suspicious of a shit show in the story department. Bad dialogues and boring mission design don’t help there either. Absolutely nothing of interest except the guy made threefold happens – so where’s the catch?

Given the utterly idiotic way PS4 gamers will be the last to see the game – and thereby maybe the luckier ones as they’ll know what they’re getting into – we might know soon if the final version of Anthem is indeed ready. But here’s the thing: if, and that’s a big IF, hell, a couple of big IFs, if the game fixes its technical issues, if the story develops into something decent and if Anthem ends up with good content, then it might be a game worth looking at. But the demo does not help – if you judge Anthem by it, it’s a broken mess that is nowhere near Destiny or Warframe.

Rabdigames shakes his weary head: A demo should make people buy the game. In this case, that won’t happen. An unfinished mess with barely any identity is not good enough even though the core gameplay looks somewhat promising. Any hope for Bioware is long gone anyway, but Anthem could be their swansong – after a long decline, it might be soon time EA takes Bioware out into the desert to an unmarked grave full of bodies. If the demo is a sign, Bioware better savours its sorry life as long as it lasts …

Fuck The Fear of Offending Some Fuckers!

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ... with tags , , , , on February 2, 2019 by Rabidgames

So, it seems Ubisoft uses some – honestly only semi-funny and admittedly rather poorly timed – joke PR  for The Division 2 mentioning the US government shutdown – and then melts down over it. Wait, what?

come-see-what-a-real-government-shutdown-looks-like-in-41350320

So that’s offensive?

Remember when Ubisoft was insisting it’s not their intention to make “overtly” political games? That might why Far Cry 5 was devoid of any controversy except killing white christian extremists … well, with the help of slightly less radical mostly white christians … And of course there were still some obvious Trump jokes in there …

Anyway. Ubisoft, you’re making a game in Washington. With the name “Tom Clancy” in it. And it’s a post-apocalyptic game. That’s a politics hattrick, for fuck’s sake! But it wasn’t even overtly political nor was it directed at anyone. It was just an edgy joke, nothing more.

But you know what? Fuck your apology and fuck of phobia of being offensive. Fuck being scared of offending someone somewhere on this planet. And fuck you for being offended by anything that is not even directed at you personally.

And from a business perspective – ride out the shitstorm. It’s better PR than seeming to be a bunch of scared headless chicken.That’s just stupid.

Besides, where does it stop? The next person will be offended that Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a right-wing militarist wet dream. Another guy will then claim that Watch Dogs 2 glorifies hacking and godless life in godless San Francisco. And remember that you can slaughter innocent pixanimals in Far Cry 5! And what about all that terribly unchristian fucking everybody and their goats in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (and then taking all choices away at the end of a DLC)?

Rabidgames wonders: What the fuck happened to us? Since when is one guy somewhere always offended about anything, or even worse, thinks that someone else might be offended? Why are we so afraid the shit we say could offend anyone? Except when we do it all the time on social media of course …