E3 2019: Most Anticipated

The 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo has wound down to a close and just like years prior, I thought I should give some commentary based on what we saw. This is the first year in a while that I didn’t actually watch the live streams, so I don’t have any commentary on the show itself, the presenters, any of that. Instead, I have a list of games that interest me the most, and some commentary along with a video for those curious to learn more. This has become an annual affair, and as such I thought I should probably collate all of the past years’ posts in one place so we can see how things line up.

E3 2014

E3 2015 (Podcast Episode)

E3 2015 (Written Post)

E3 2016 (Podcast Episode)

E3 2016 (Written Post)

E3 2017

E3 2018

Looking back through these lists, there are a couple of things I can glean. First, this is the only year from this selection that doesn’t have Sony present at the conference. They have started doing their own thing for the last few years at a later juncture in the year, but this is the first time I can remember them not being at the show. It also appears that I have played/own all of the games on these lists outside of the ones that haven’t released yet. Some of those games are coming down the pipeline sooner than later, finally. I suspect Sony is saving their big PS5 announcements for their own conference, as rumor already has it that we’ll see the console’s release in 2020. Now I just have to decide if I should grab a PS4 Pro this holiday season when the deals come around, or just say fuck it and wait for the new machine. Whatever the case, despite Sony’s absence there were still quite a few games and bigger updates that were worth taking a look at, so let’s dive into the list!

CD Projekt Red has a pretty decent reputation due to the success of their The Witcher series. I hadn’t played it, but grabbed the GOTY edition of the third entry in the series — I couldn’t get over the wonky combat mechanics and uninstalled it. Initially hearing about Cyberpunk 2077, I assumed it would be a similar type of game in a different setting, and so I didn’t have any excitement for the title. However, after seeing some gameplay footage and seeing that it’s an FPS in a cool setting, I became more interested. Seeing Keanu Reeves’ involvement doesn’t really sway me one way or the other, but I like most of his movies so that’s a plus I guess? Whatever the case it looks like it’s going to be a fun game so it makes the list.

I mentioned this title in prior E3 posts, as we were teased with information about it in years past. It’s finally coming out next month, and it looks to hold true to the standard the recent Wolfenstein games have set. I loved both The New Order and The New Colossus and to a lesser extent The Old Blood. Adding co-op is cool but I’ll likely play through it solo. Still, I’m ready and will be picking this one up day one if I can help it.

My girlfriend actually bought me a copy of Fallout 76 for my birthday last year. I played it for just a couple of short sessions before putting it down. One of my chief complaints would be the lack of a cohesive story and NPCs. It felt like a typical sandbox game with very little direction and I was disappointed after being hyped for the game since it was announced at last year’s E3. Apparently there have been a succession of good and bad patches/changes in the time since, and like No Man’s Sky before it, this is a game that is likely better after a year or more of development compared to the release product. Apparently they are changing up the story and adding NPCs, along with adding a Battle Royale mode (yawn). I’m hopeful that it can eventually be called a “good” game, but whatever the case we always have The Elder Scrolls VI (which was missing from this year’s show) to look forward to.

This is probably the game I’m looking forward to the most. The DOOM reboot was fantastic and made me fall in love with the series all over again. This being the sequel to that reboot, I think we’re in for a treat. I can already tell that it’s more of the same but the graphics and animations look kicked up a notch and I already know I’ll be paying $60 for this on day one.

Star Wars games tend to be pretty awful. Apparently Knights of the Old Republic was good but I never played it. Battlefront was fun for a minute, but it’s not story driven and thereby you don’t really care. I didn’t care for the MMO despite being a Bioware fan. This game looks pretty good, all things considered. I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll see when it releases what the kids are saying about it.

I’ve talked about this one before, and holy hell does it meet and/or exceed my expectations! Finally being able to see combat and more of what this game will look like, I’m sold. Final Fantasy VII was my first game in the series, and as such has a special place in my heart. The only confusing part is that apparently it’s being released episodically, so I’m hoping that they split up the game into thirds, and just use the original break points between discs (the Playstation version had 3 discs). Anything more than that might ruin the experience, but it looks pretty sweet at this point.

The only game I probably won’t ever play unless they port it to PC, but still a game I remember with a mixture of fondness and hate. The original Battletoads on NES was a painfully difficult game that was a childhood rite of passage. This game doesn’t look like it will be remotely as difficult, but still hits me in the nostalgia feels. As of now I believe it’s only slated to release on Xbox, hence why I’ll probably not end up playing it.

Another title I talked about before, I enjoyed playing the original and think this one looks familiar but intriguing nonetheless.

Panzer Dragoon was one of my favorite games on my Sega Saturn, which was the system I backed during those console wars in the 90’s. Sony was the new kid on the block but they ended up causing the demise of the Saturn, and as a result a bunch of unique and cool games never saw the widespread fame they deserved. This one being remade is interesting because it was such an unusual title. I might get a Switch someday, but I’d hope this gets ported elsewhere.

Borderlands 3 is another hotly anticipated game for me. It’s been a long time since Borderlands 2, and The Pre-Sequel didn’t hold my attention in the same way the original two did. There isn’t much to say here, as it’s not really anything new but it’s a great looter shooter and something I co-op through with friends, so I’m in!

Strangely enough, a new DLC for Borderlands 2 was announced as well, and this time we’ll be getting a story bridge between 2 and 3. Coincidentally (or maybe not?) the PS4 version of the game, The Handsome Collection was just given away for free via Playstation Plus, so we should all be able to try out this new DLC before the new game drops.

A new game by From Software? Typically that’s an automatic win. Demons’ Souls, Dark Souls and Bloodborne were all excellent games, and though I’ve heard mixed reviews with Sekiro, I can’t imagine it’s bad, just misunderstood. The only difference here is apparently George R R Martin has something to do with the story telling, so perhaps it will be something completely different. I imagine Souls gameplay will still be present, and I look forward to hearing more.

So there you have it. These are the games that I’m looking forward to most from this year’s conference. What are you looking forward to most?

What To Do Next?

It appears that the time has finally come. WordPress.com hosted sites like the one you lay your eyes upon are given 3 gigabytes of storage space for free. There are ads, but that’s to be expected with free things, and they aren’t all that obtrusive. I’ve known this time was coming for a while now, as I have been getting warnings that I was “coming close to running out of space” and “hey, why don’t you upgrade to a premium plan?” messages in my dashboard for a while. As of my last post, I’ve officially filled up my 3 GB of storage space. There was a time long ago that I didn’t really use pictures on my blog, but at a certain point in time I decided that screenshots, logos, and anything else pertinent to the article would add spice and flavor to my posts, along with being a visual aide for those who want to see more details. I use this blog to catalog my experiences and to share my thoughts on games, designs, mechanics, developers and industry news. I also have kept up with Magic: The Gathering posts for the last few years and those posts absolutely require the card pictures, but thankfully I only need one copy of each card I talk about to link to from multiple articles. Whatever the case, I simply can’t go back to picture-less posts. There are options.

Self-hosting is a thing, but not only would it probably cost me about the same, I hear it can be a headache to customize and then maintain and then you have to worry about getting a good hosting service or else your stuff disappears and yadda yadda. WordPress.com allows you to upgrade for a nominal fee, and in my case the package that makes the most sense is about $50 a year (though I get emails with discount codes all the time). For that price, I get an extra 3 GB of space, and honestly that should take a few years to fill up, particularly if I make sure to be as efficient as possible. I’ll also get some customization options and whatnot (so maybe a makeover will be in order?) and a domain name. I’ve never paid for a domain name before, and I’m honestly kind of stumped with where I want to go with that. I have a couple of options that make sense for obvious reasons but I leave it to you to help me out with other suggestions that I might have overlooked. Poll for your answer, comment with other ideas. I appreciate the help.

Warriors of Waterdeep

As I mentioned in my recent ramble post, I haven’t been gaming as much lately and was in a bit of a funk. Thankfully, blogging about things can be therapeutic, and since then I’ve made more time for gaming and have found some new things that have held my attention, but more on that later. During the time I wasn’t playing much on my PC or my Playstation, I was still spending at least a couple of hours a day on mobile titles. It’s unlikely that I spend more than 30 or so minutes at a time playing any one game, but I have a pretty good roster of games that I’ve settled into a routine with, and I play each for chunks at a time throughout my day. Generally I play a little bit before work, on my lunch break, before I nap in the afternoon and again in the evening before sleeping until work comes back around. With four titles that each have their own things going on it seems like it would get overwhelming, but I have found a balance between titles that share some similarities but still play out in different ways — different enough to keep me engaged. The newest game added to the roster is none other than Warriors of Waterdeep, which is a Dungeons & Dragons licensed title.

What originally caught my attention about this mobile title (besides being a D&D inspired game) was the turn based combat on a small grid. Similar to other games like Stormbound, which I wrote about before, but set in a more familiar universe and done differently enough that I’ve found this to be more enjoyable. You’ll start with a short tutorial that explains the game’s simple yet intuitive mechanics. Each character falls under a particular archetype, and those archetypes work better or worse against the others, in sort of a power wheel. The different classes are traditional D&D flavor, and those classes will determine the character’s abilities, but you can further customize them by changing out equipment to affect the outcome. What is constant among all characters is that each will have an ability that can trigger from movement, has two activated abilities, and then has another ability that will trigger on attack. Let’s take Halbenet, our Cleric, for example:

 

As you can see, Halbenet looks like a Cleric. He’s got a blunt weapon, he’s wearing cleric garb, and he has a healing ability. His movement ability (these trigger randomly) will heal a random ally. He can activate a heal (and later, different kinds of buffs in the third slot), and when he attacks, a random trigger can lower the enemy’s armor class. Of course, each of these abilities will change as you find and upgrade new gear. Some of the abilities are better or worse depending on your playstyle, but you can usually find a balance with the rest of your team to allow for interesting interactions. The combat is simple but satisfying. Upgrading looks to be a pain in the ass as time goes on as you don’t get much experience from actually playing the game, but rather from upgrading your gear. This means spending gold on upgrading items you aren’t even using just so that you can get your character to the next level. This is the only way to upgrade your abilities as well, and the pieces needed to perform said upgrades come in at a fairly rapid clip.

 

To begin with, you’ll only have access to the campaign, which is played out on a 3-D map that is a nice homage to table-top setups. You’ll play through short levels that consist of a few rooms until you reach a boss, at which point you’ll move to a new section of the map. Bosses can be huge, and will take a lot of effort to dispatch compared to the normal monsters, but they aren’t so difficult as to halt progress for very long. Each level will have branching choices where you can choose to fight against various enemy types (some will be easier to deal with for your party than others), find secret areas, and also find doors that require a certain hero of a certain level to access, but give chests for that hero containing a good amount of loot. Other game modes include challenges, where you’ll crawl through an endless dungeon and survive as long as you can — this gives fair rewards as well. Finally, there is a PvP battle mode that appears to be you actually playing against real people (rather than the AI controlled PvP battles I’m seeing in most games). This has a similar ladder system to Clash Royale, in that you gain/lose trophies for wins/losses and ascend arena levels for greater rewards.

I’m unsure about how long the campaign will last, but I have enjoyed all of the modes and intend to see what other hidden gems this game has to offer. I guess I have to be thankful for mobile gaming, as it has been the only form of gaming that is always readily available when life says you don’t have time. I think I’ve come out of my funk though, so I should have something to share about more substantial games soon.

The War Report: The London Mulligan

Earlier this week it was announced that all formats would be updated to a new mulligan rule, the London Mulligan. This replaces the long standing Vancouver Mulligan rule, and all of this probably sounds like nonsense to a non player. Let me first explain what a mulligan is, and then we can jump into the differences between the two rulesets.

A player may “mulligan” if they are unhappy with the first set of seven cards they draw before the game begins. To mulligan means to shuffle your current hand into your library and then draw that many cards again. It’s a way to combat the random mechanic that stems from having a deck of cards with which to perform actions. However, there are caveats to a mulligan — you’ll rarely get to simply draw seven new cards and this is never an unlimited action, or else we’d have games that are over before they start because some decks can end a game with a “God hand.”

The Vancouver Mulligan has been around for a while. When a player is unhappy with their starting hand, they may shuffle those seven cards back into their deck, draw six new cards, and then Scry 1. To Scry, you’ll look at the top card of your library and either leave it there or put in on the bottom of your library. It’s a strategic way to control your next turn, but you’ll still be down a card which kind of sucks.

The newly minted London Mulligan is a little bit different. After drawing your first seven and being unhappy with the result, you can then shuffle those cards back into your library. This is the same as the prior iteration, but it changes from here. Instead of picking up six cards, you still get to pick up seven, and instead of a Scry, you’ll put one of the cards in your hand on the bottom of your library. It’s a similar mechanic with a similar result, but the card selection is greater from your hand rather than from the top of your library, and you essentially get to weed out unneeded cards.

I don’t play Standard, Modern, Vintage or Legacy at this juncture, and because Wizards of the Coast cannot change the rules for Commander without the EDH Rules Committee’s blessing, their official announcement that I linked to above doesn’t cover EDH. Thankfully, the Rules Committee is already on top of things, and has said that this will be adopted by them as well!

This is great news, because I think that cEDH decks in particular, but also decks of all power levels will benefit from this change. It doesn’t seem like that much of a change but I think you’ll be able to find more consistency for your combos and just having enough land to do things during a match with this new Mulligan rule. Not only do you get more card selection power, but you’ll find better performance for all decks, particularly those that need the help with their early curve.

This change doesn’t go live for all formats until the release of Core Set 2020, but that does occur next month so we’ll be testing out these new mulligan rules sooner than later. The rest of the year is looking really good for MTG — Modern Horizons is at our doorstep, the Core Set should bring some new spice with it in July, and then we get the new Commander sets in August. This summer is going to be lit!

Random Friday Ramble

I already posted once today, but I thought I should get one more in today due to the fact that I haven’t been writing much of anything lately and want to get my post count for the month up just a bit. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I still feel the urge quite often as a matter of fact, but I haven’t been gaming as much either lately, so that makes it harder to have things to share with you. Sometimes these sorts of posts are therapeutic and allow me to gather my thoughts and thereby come to a decision.

So why am I not gaming as much lately? I want to place most of the blame on my work schedule, but I know that’s not entirely true. It is a fact that I work graveyard/early morning hours, so things like sleep have to be done during the day. We also get released at different times each day, though the average is about 10 am. On days when I’m off early, I think about all of the games I could be playing and therefore writing about, but once I’m home and settled I’m usually no longer in the mood. There are days when errands need ran and/or family obligations take up my free time. Sometimes I have visitors and other times I go to little social gatherings. My social life has improved since moving back out here, but that does detract from hobby time. I’m good with a fairly even split, but lately it feels like real life has taken more of a toll and I’m tired and grumpy most of the time, which is probably a drag for those around me. I’m coming to grip with different parts of my life and the changes that have come along with them, and these things take time.

Another part that makes me sad is the lack of frequency in which I play Magic: The Gathering. A couple of years ago I had a regular play group of 3/4 guys and we played once a week, rarely missing — this went on for at least a year or thereabouts. Then one of the guys moved and we were down to two regulars including myself. 1v1 MTG is fine, but it’s not the format we prefer so this meant going to local game stores to try and find more people to play with. We did that for a while and then it too tapered off to the point where we played maybe once a month. We had our third player out a couple of times and went to Vegas last year, but overall my time with the game is down when it comes to actually playing. I do still find the time to make new brews, keep up on news and new sets, and of course write about it — but it’s just not the same. Thankfully my sister and her boyfriend come to visit on occasion so I do still end up playing here and there, and I did make one trip out to play with my old roommate this year; Vegas is also upcoming again this summer. But outside of these rare gatherings I’m not playing much and I want that to change. I’m seriously considering finding an LGS that I can go to more often. Fingers crossed for me.

I think one reason I’m not gaming as much is because I’m not hooked on anything right now. All of the games I own aren’t doing anything for me at present. I know I have a backlog that I have made some progress through but it’s still a tall task. I was playing Destiny 2 pretty regularly but I’ve gotten bored of it, shy of completing Forsaken. There’s already rumors of a Destiny 3 in the works, so there’s the whole prospect of starting all over again by next year and I’m not sure I even want to. I wanted to grab RAGE 2 so I had something new to play on my PC which has been collecting dust lately, but then it ended up with some bad reviews and I just don’t know if it’s worth my $60. Thinking I’ll wait for a sale there. On the horizon are the Crash Team Racing Remake, DOOM Eternal, and Borderlands 3 that I’m definitely into, but they aren’t out yet so that doesn’t help. I’ve been paying attention to my wish list and Steam, we know the Summer Sale is coming soon, and I see that I could grab Battletech or XCOM2’s expansion on the cheap, but I’m not sure I want to do that either. The Steamworld series just got a new entry as well with Steamworld Quest, and that looks pretty good too for the money, but again, my malaise has been sticking for a while.

Perhaps another purge is in order. Just delete the games I’ll never feasibly see the end of and pretend they don’t exist. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Then perhaps a shorter list will provide some answers. Or maybe I just have to buy my happiness. Whatever the case, thanks for hanging out and listening to me ramble.