Thoughts on Apex Legends

Respawn Entertainment, creators of the awesome Titanfall series, has now thrown their hat into the Battle Royale ring, like many other studios before it. The budding genre is already becoming over saturated, but some gems peek out from the chaff from time to time, and I believe Apex Legends is set to do just that.

I’ve played a handful of Battle Royale games and have found only a couple of them to be to my liking. Apex Legends ticks a few boxes for me that others have not. I prefer the forced first person perspective (which was also a plus in Black Ops IIII) because in any third person shooter, you can utilize the camera angle in relationship to your avatar to see around corners in a way that wouldn’t be physically possible in real life. Being a sort of spin off of the survival genre, Battle Royale succeeds when you are forced into this camera position and need to utilize your senses to outlast the other players in the round. I also enjoy the team-play aspect of groups of three. There are only three classes of legends in the game, so you can make a balanced team with only three players. The voice chat works, but it also is entirely unnecessary. The “jumpmaster” feature is also great for keeping your team heading to the same place on the map and not being picked off elsewhere.

The map feels large, but you can still traverse much of it fairly quickly. There are no vehicles, so everything is done on foot — thankfully there isn’t stamina to worry about. The weapon and gear selection feels adequate and the gunplay is excellent. I do miss the double-jumping and wallrunning of Titanfall along with the ability to call down and pilot mechs, but I understand why they didn’t go that route. I’m hopeful for an additional game-mode that will allow the use of mechs sometime in the future but it doesn’t seem likely. Still, there are a variety of skills to use via the different legends, so it still feels varied enough.

Typical of most Battle Royale games, you’ll have rounds where you are one of the first teams eliminated, and other games you’ll be the last ones standing. My second match ever when this good, as I was playing Gibraltar and our team was the first to the circle of safety so we set an ambush. Gibraltar’s ultimate ability calls down an air strike, so when I saw the enemy team coming I dropped it on them and managed to take they whole team out in one go. Since then I’ve managed to be in the top ten several times but haven’t won another round. Rumor has it that there are plans for solo/duo queues coming soon, but actually think the team co-op is a better approach. Even playing with randoms it has been a good time.

The game looks great and runs smooth. I think it’s a blast. At least Respawn seems to have done their homework, as they’ve taken some of the better ideas from the competition and included their top-notch FPS gameplay to the mix while avoiding some of the over-the-top design choices. When loading up for the first time you’ll have access to six legends, with two being unlockables. There is a micro transaction storefront, but no power is being sold — just fluff skins for Legends and weapons. You can buy in-game currency to speed up your unlocks or to outright buy skins, or you can just unlock them with scrap parts eventually. I still don’t have enough in-game currency to unlock a new legend, but it doesn’t seem like it will take that long to get there. Honestly it’s probably worth throwing a few bucks at the company just to make sure the game doesn’t disappear, but I’d rather buy a “unlock all legends now and in the future” package than skins ala Quake Champions or SMITE.

No matter the case, the game is out now, and is Free to Play. I personally don’t have Origin installed so I downloaded Apex Legends on my Playstation 4. If you’re a PC player you’ll have to get this via Origin. It probably looks even nicer there. I’d give it a whirl if you enjoy the Battle Royale genre or need a new FPS in your life.

The Walking Dead: Final Season Episode 3

We learned back in September that Telltale Games was going bankrupt. This meant that despite the first two episodes of The Walking Dead’s Final Season were out and playable, the game would not be finished. Thankfully, Skybound — a company founded by the creator of the series –decided to go ahead and make a games division specifically to finish off the series (and I assume, create other gaming experiences). This was good news for fans like me, who just wanted to see the end of Clementine’s story, a story that started way back in 2012 with the first season of the game series. I’ve talked about my experiences with the first two episodes already, but I recently completed the third and thought I would jot down some notes to chronicle this.

As with the rest of the series, we’re not seeing anything new here, just more of the same interactive story game that we’ve all become accustomed to. The Walking Dead is one of my favorite pieces of media. I’ve always enjoyed a good zombie horror story, but what I’ve always appreciated about the comics, the TV series, and this game series is that there is less of a focus on the dead, and more of a focus on the human struggle of living in this post apocalyptic world. The human element and emotions that have been stirred within me while consuming this media is second to none. I haven’t nearly shed tears with any other medium.

Clementine has grown into a capable young woman. She is no longer the child that Lee protected from the world, and instead is the protector of AJ — a child she has watched over for years. Now in Lee’s shoes, she even has dreams where she is able to commune with him for guidance, and his pride shows despite merely being a figment of her subconscious. It’s touching to see his reactions to her all grown up, compared to the child he once knew. He (I) did a good job in raising her, and now it’s her (my) turn to raise AJ. This has been tricky, due to the sheer amount of shit that is thrown our way, but I have done my best not to turn him into a little psycho.

As the last episode closed, raiders had taken members of our group, and the children at the school were shaken to say the least. I met a mysterious boy named James who is a “whisperer,” in that he is able to walk among the dead without alerting them to his presence. He reveals more of himself and his past in this episode, and I grew to like him despite his odd lifestyle choice. As the appointed leader of the school group, this episode focused on the plan to rescue our friends, and making preparations to do so. Without spoiling too much, it turns out that our friends are being held on a boat by the raiders, and Lilly seems to be the expedition leader. Despite letting me go earlier in the season, she is not willing to let us get our friends back. A plan is hatched and the attack on the boat happens and seems to do so without any issue until one of their soldiers (who used to be a member of the school group) spoils things. This leads to a confrontation with Lilly and ultimately, the death of another person. I simply wanted AJ to show some mercy, but Lilly wasn’t going down that road.

James got caught up in our struggle, and though I think he probably would have been a great addition to the group, unfortunately Lilly showed no mercy. However, the episode ended with a bomb that we had put into the boiler going off, and we really don’t know what’s happened to anyone. We can assume that the three characters we came to rescue made it off of the boat, but as I was trying to save AJ, Tenn was also involved and James was killed. The bomb went off and threw Clem into a wall, so we can assume she lives, along with the others, but it will likely take some time to gather everyone back up. My ending results showed that most of the other characters were MIA, along with some base stats like usual:

It seems that my choices were mostly in-line with other players this time around, but I don’t like the fact that we don’t really know where anyone else is. I guess that’s why there are typically cliffhanger endings between episodes, so we’ll be kept guessing until the next comes out. I know that I’m looking forward to the finale and the closure of the story, I just hope Clem doesn’t end up like Lee. But I supposed anything is possible. They haven’t said exactly when the next episode will come out, but I assume it will be released within the next couple of months. I’ll report back once I’ve completed it.

Thoughts on Soul Calibur VI

Since moving back to my old town, I have been able to reconnect with my best friend who stayed behind when I moved away almost five years ago. One game series we both enjoyed was Soul Calibur. I believe I played either the first or second iteration way back when prior to knowing him, but we did play either the third or the fourth game together quite religiously for a time years ago. Since then, the fifth installment came along for PS3 and I picked up a copy while the two of us still lived together. We played it quite a bit too, but found ourselves less impressed with it than the prior versions of the game. One thing that makes Soul Calibur interesting is their inclusion of console exclusive characters depending on what platform you picked the game up for. For #5 I believe it was a Star Wars character on the Playstation. For the sixth game on PS4, Geralt from The Witcher series makes his fighting game debut (he’s pretty damn good too). There are familiar faces otherwise, along with some new characters.

The game has various modes as most fighters do. There is a story mode that is fairly easy to complete (I did so in a little over an hour). It takes you through the story of the Soul Edge and various other trinkets that certain characters interact with and a culmination boss fight against Inferno, who is an embodiment of evil. Nothing too challenging, but there were some interesting bits along with beautiful hand draw art during the story bits. The in-game engine is beautiful, and the characters have smooth animations. The special moves are especially over the top and reminiscent of some of the summon spells from Final Fantasy games.

Outside of the story mode, there are the typical battle modes where you can play against friends on the same console, or you can go online to play strangers via the Internet. There is a gallery where you can view various bits of artwork (much of what was unlocked during my story playthrough) and another mode where you can create your own fighter. In this mode you’ll be able to customize the look and name of your fighter, but it inherently works like other fighters in the game (you pick a particular fighting style). One thing I will note that is different in the sixth installment is that the controls feel more fluid and intuitive. I was picking up characters’ moves very easily despite playing those I had never tried before. Old favorites still worked great, but I felt like it was easier to pick up and jump into for people who haven’t played the series before.

Because I was playing on his system over on his house, I didn’t manage to get any screens of the game, but rest assured you can find them online. We felt like it was a good time, but he was already considering returning his copy just because it doesn’t feel like much of a value for the $60 price tag. We just don’t play these types of games like we used to. He probably also didn’t like the fact that when we used to play back in the day, he would be the winner the majority of the time, but this time around I had a record of 11-2 before going home (HA!).

Monetization schemes seem to be built in as well (which is expected in this day and age), as they are pushing a season pass which I assume will add in new characters (Street Fighter V has been doing this for a couple of years now). Overall it’s a beautiful game that I’d recommend if you’re a die hard fighting game fan, but if you don’t really play these sorts of games your money would be better spent elsewhere.

Games Played 2018

2018 is quickly coming to a close and I typically do year in review style posts like the rest of the community. This year I don’t really have a game of the year that I want to nominate or even a list of the best games of the year. I don’t have movies or music that I want to talk about. I do however want to talk about things that I did during the year as a sort of wrap up. As such, I have this post and another where I’ll talk about my year in Magic: The Gathering. For this post in particular, I’d like to go over the games I played throughout the year to sort out what I actually did.

At the tail end of 2017 I started working on my backlog in ways I hadn’t in the past. Due to Steam sales, Humble Monthly and Playstation Plus I’ve managed to acquire a huge amount of games and with limited time to play them, that list continued to grow to a point where I knew I needed to get focused and do something about it. This means that a bunch of what I played throughout 2018 didn’t release this year, but I do want to notate games that I finished and how I spent my gaming time. I’ll break things down with a monthly summary, and at the end of this post I’ll list out what games were completed with links to those posts.

January:

At the beginning of the year, I was playing some Everquest II (having been gifted a copy of the latest [at that time] expansion for the game in late 2017). This didn’t last too long (as most of my trips to Norrath have gone) but I was enjoying things nonetheless. I was looking for ways to play games with my girlfriend because she had shown some interest in spending more time with me by gaming together. As such, we spent some time playing a digital board game called Antihero on PC, along with some Don’t Starve Together on the PS4. Telltale gave us the season of their Batman game for free via Playstation Plus and I got started with that towards the end of the month. Street Fighter V saw a big update (Arcade Edition) that I made some commentary on, and I also played a bit of the game Has Been Heroes which is a neat rogue-like title.

February:

I was still playing Everquest II in February and had moved into the Kunark Ascending expansion. I had started Bioshock: Infinite in January and saw its completion during the second month of the year. I ran through The Order 1886 during the course of the month as well and thoroughly enjoyed it. The other game I managed to complete was the Batman series I mentioned starting in January and loved it enough to pick up the second season. Lastly, I picked up a copy of Monster Hunter World due to the hype train surrounding it, and though I talked about it positively in this post, I ended up not playing it for very long.

March:

At the beginning of March, I picked up a copy of the new game from the makers of Faster Than Light, which was called Into The Breach. It was pretty cool, but not something that I spent a lot of time with. As I mentioned, I wasn’t that into Monster Hunter World, and since it was still a pretty new game I was able to trade it in and picked up copies of the Shadow of the Colossus and Crash Bandicoot remakes. I also managed to complete Shadow of the Colossus. Another title I was able to complete was a game I hadn’t touched in a couple of years, Shadow Warrior 2, which was a great game and I don’t know why I didn’t finish it sooner. I picked up Batman: The Enemy Within as I mentioned, and also completed it within March. I grabbed a copy of Dying Light for myself and my best friend and we got started with that during the month, and we also played some more Killing Floor 2, and during that session I managed to get the Platinum trophy for it. Lastly, my girlfriend managed to get me an SNES Classic, and I jotted down some thoughts about it.

April:

My backlog work seemed to slow down a bit in April. I didn’t complete any games this month but I did get started on some new ones. I started up Prey, but it ended up being more challenging that expected so I have still yet to complete it. Another title that I had owned for years but hadn’t played was Pillars of Eternity, but shortly after getting started realized that I don’t really care for this style of game anymore and didn’t want to put in the hours to complete it. New games I started were The Council and Hellbound: Survival Mode. The former is another narrative adventure game but one not made by Telltale, and the latter is a game that ended up being Kickstarted, but was giving out this sort of demo mode for free on Steam. It’s a throwback to 90’s shooters (very heavily influenced by DOOM) and this survival mode was just an endless wave-based game where you try to survive as long as possible. The Kickstarter promises to bring a single player campaign and other features that will probably be out in the next couple of years.

May:

Another slow month for gaming, I didn’t write about much that wasn’t MTG related. I picked up a copy of the game ELEX on sale, but didn’t get too far into it before shelving it — I did like what I saw though. I had written about Battlechasers: Nightwar in one of my round-up posts earlier in the year, but gave it its own post in May. It’s an excellent JRPG style game based on a comic book series and I’d highly recommend it. I go back to it here and there but have yet to finish it, but I should hopefully do so in 2019. Another game I had written about several times in years past was The Forest, which finally left Early Access after a few years. It’s a great game and one of my favorites in the survival sandbox genre and now it’s actually complete.

June:

June was another month that I didn’t complete any full games, but I did complete the Fallout 4 DLC Automatron. I had resolved to finish up all of the DLC for the game because we had learned during E3 that Fallout 76 would release in November and I wanted to finish off the previous title to be ready for the new one. Another boon coming out of E3 was the announcement that Quake Champions would be free for a couple of weeks, so I ended up grabbing that too. It’s a game that’s supposed to be free to play once it comes out of Early Access, but you had to buy-in to play it early. I did end up spending some money on it because they had a pack where you open up all of the existing characters and future ones as well so it was a good deal (on sale during that week as well). Speaking of Early Access, the creators of SMITE and Paladins decided to jump on the Battle Royale bandwagon and release Realm Royale in an Alpha state. I checked it out and said that it was one of the best BR style games I had played (though that is not true at this point due to some others releasing later in the year). Finally, I began a playthrough of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, the sequel to the reboot from a couple years back.

July:

In July, I quickly turned things around and completed The New Colossus. It was excellent and because I had played Wolf 1 and 2, I decided that I should also dive into The Old Blood as we learned at E3 that another title in the series, Youngblood would be releasing in the future. I finished The Old Blood rather quickly over the course of the month — It was shorter, the graphics not as sharp and not as fun but was completed nonetheless. I got started on the next Fallout 4 DLC, Far Harbor, but part way through it, decided that I was no longer interested in playing through these DLCs and scratched that goal off of my list. Lastly, I got started with The Banner Saga 3, a game that I Kickstarted and finally released. Just like its predecessors, it was excellent.

August:

Though not strictly game related, we saw Blaugust Reborn kick off in August and it was a successful event. As such I pushed myself to try more games to have things to write about for the challenge. I won’t waste time and write more thoughts on these titles, but instead list them off so if you are curious you can follow the links and check them out in more detail. I tried out Idle Apocalypse, Chasm, Tooth & Tail, Questland, Starcraft: Remastered, Legend of Solgard, Defiance 2050, and StormboundAs if that wasn’t already quite the list, I also spent some time trying to get back into ESO, and started playing TellTale’s final season of The Walking Dead. I finished The Banner Saga 3 that I mentioned at the tail end of July as well. This was also the month that we first heard about Torchlight Frontiers, a new Action RPG slash MMO being published by Perfect World Entertainment. Another notable occurrence during August was that I was able to get free hosting for my dead podcast, so Couch Podtatoes was put back online. Definitely one of my busier months of the year.

September:

I continued dwaddling about in ESO for a bit in September before calling it quits. Destiny 2 was one of the free titles via Playstation Plus for the month, so I convinced my best friend to download it and we started playing strictly together as to keep at the same level through the game. I tried out another Early Access title that didn’t require any sort of payment called Zeal, but given the state of it I doubt it will get very far. It had a Kickstarter but I don’t think that it was funded and I’m too lazy to check right now. It seems there is still ongoing development but it is sort of meh. One big announcement on the hardware side of things was when Sony revealed the Playstation Classic (undoubtedly due to the success of Nintendo’s NES and SNES Classic consoles). I wasn’t really impressed with the announcement lineup (which wasn’t the full lineup) and still wasn’t that into it once we knew all of the games included. For someone who wasn’t around to experience the PSOne, it’s probably a great buy, but for those of us who were there, it’s not amazing. To boot, most of the PSOne classics were available on PS3 (of which I bought a few) and are now available via PSNow. So probably something to skip for most.

October:

Somewhere between September and October, we learned that Telltale Games was basically going out of business. They canned most of the projects they were working on and laid off most of the staff. There were a few things they were still working on, but I was most distressed about the fact that the final season of The Walking Dead wasn’t going to be finished. Thankfully, Skybound (a company owned by the creator of TWD) formed a games division and was set to finish off the series. It has been announced since that the third episode will release in January next year. As I mentioned earlier, Zeal created a Kickstarter for their game, but as I said I don’t know if they were successfully funded. I checked in on League of Legends, after a very long break from the game, and was happy to see that things have been successfully chugging along in my absence. I’ve played it off and on since, but without the dedication I once had for it. We heard news of a revival effort for Hellgate: London, a game I hadn’t played in about a decade. I was interested to check out its revived Steam version, but after initial reports suggested it was a buggy mess, I decided to pass. Lastly, I tried to pick up where I left off in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, but after a few sessions I decided that I was better off spending my time elsewhere. It’s not that it was a bad game — far from it — it’s just that rumors surrounding a proper sequel (Borderlands 3) sprouted and I’m honestly more interested in a brand new next generation title than one that is a few years old (and running on their old engine).

November:

Another month, another Battle Royale game released. Such is the story of 2018. However, this particular title resonated with me more than any other BR title before it, or since. Battlerite Royale went into Early Access on Steam around this time and I couldn’t resist the siren call. The combination of MOBA mechanics with Battle Royale gameplay is simply tits. This would be my game of the year if was actually in a full release state, despite other huge titles releasing throughout 2018. I was gifted a new piece of hardware for my birthday during the month, and wrote about it here. I was invited to the Torchlight Frontiers alpha and participated in the first weekend test — It looks promising, but there’s much to be added before it’s a proper game. I wrote about a couple of titles I picked up on sale on the cheap, Iron Crypticle and Sunless Sea — two games that are nice time wasters but not too deep. I jumped into a new free to play title on PS4, though it’s not a new game (just new to consoles) which is a FPS with multiple modes (including Battle Royale) called Warface and shared some thoughts. Lastly, I found a new mobile game that has held my interested to this day, and will likely remain in my rotation for the foreseeable future — it tugs on nostalgia strings and has fun gameplay. SEGA Heroes is the game, and it is currently the only game installed on my phone besides Clash Royale.

December:

Speaking of Clash Royale, the big December update patch came out and with it a number changes and additions that made things different, for better or worse. I checked out another mobile game called Knight Story, but it has since been removed from my phone. It was decent but not enough to hold my waning attention span. Another major franchise jumped on the Battle Royale bandwagon, this time it was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Not only did they change the entire menu system, but the new Danger Zone game mode introduced Battle Royale to one of the longest running and most successful FPS franchises on Steam. The final episode of The Council released this month and marks the last game I’ll finish in 2018. It was a great series and I’d recommend it if you are into these sorts of games. Lastly, I picked up a copy of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and shared some thoughts on it here.

Games Completed in 2018:

Bioshock Infinite
Telltale’s Batman
The Order 1886
Shadow of the Colossus remake
Shadow Warrior 2
Batman: The Enemy Within
Wolfenstein: The New Colossus
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood
The Banner Saga 3
The Council

I suppose ten games being completed during the course of a year isn’t that great, it’s not even an average of one per month, but considering the bulk of these were finished during the first half of the year I suppose that’s pretty good. I also know that I spent a bunch of time spread about dozens of other games and spent a good chunk of my time on my other hobby (MTG) and on real life obligations, so I don’t feel so bad about it. Perhaps in 2019 I’ll do even better, or perhaps things will stay the same. Either way I feel decent about the way the year went, and I’m looking forward to more awesome experiences in the year to come!

Thoughts on Street Fighter 30th Anniversary

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of the Street Fighter series and fighting games in general. I’m fairly picky when it comes to the games I like, but for the most part Capcom’s fighters have always been my favorite. So naturally when I learned about the impending release of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection I knew it was something I’d have to pick up. When it released it was reasonably priced, but I still waited for a sale, and that happened just the other day so I was able to get a copy on the cheap. The game boasts a considerable line up from the history of the series:

Two things that stick out however, are that really you’re only getting 6 titles rather than the advertised 12, and also that these are Arcade ports rather than ports of the console versions. The reason I say you only get 6 games instead of 12 is because there are literally 5 versions of Street Fighter II here, along with three versions of Street Fighter III. The Alpha series is really the only one that could be considered separate titles, and the original Street Fighter didn’t have multiple iterations over the years. It’s also a little disappointing that these are Arcade ports rather than the console versions, mainly because I played most of these games on the consoles that were around at the time, and because they are less full-featured as a result. One of the main reasons I picked this collection up is because Street Fighter Alpha 3 is pretty much my favorite fighting game ever, and I absolutely loved the survival mode. I would play this for hours when I lived in my first apartment, and would play versus with friends endlessly. These bonus modes aren’t readily available, as when you hit start on the above screen, it takes you directly to character select. There are ways to play some different modes though, but they require particular button presses at the main menu of the title to do so, and they’re still not entirely what I remember. A shame, but I’m still glad to have this package.

Outside of the games themselves, there is a pretty impressive amount of information about the series. You can read details from each individual arcade title, along with seeing a timeline of the entire Street Fighter history. There are detail character bios, sketches and artwork for the games and little tidbits of trivia sprinkled throughout. It’s pretty cool if you’re a super fan, but most people will probably skip over these details.

Otherwise it’s still the same old Street Fighter that we know and love. You can play pixel perfect (a border surrounds and looks just like the old arcade cabinets) or stretch the size of the screen from more modern TVs. If you had a favorite version of Street Fighter II, it’s here and you can choose to play it over the others. Honestly it doesn’t make a huge difference but there are nuances like the speed in which the game plays or the amount of playable characters or even if there is an inclusion of a super move bar. Capcom is still doing this sort of thing to this day, as with Street Fighter IV there was a normal, arcade and super edition of the game, and Street Fighter V just recently added the arcade edition of the game (for free if you owned the base game) which I wrote about here. Another new feature is the addition of online matchmaking to some of these titles, though I believe this was already done for some of the games in the past. I know that you could have purchased Super Street Fighter II on the PS3 and it had online matchmaking, and a version of Street Fighter III did this at some point to. In this collection, you can only play Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 (I believe this is the first time you could play online with this one) and Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. I’m not sure what the population is like but I was able to play a few matches online so far with short wait times.

If you’re a fan of the series like I am, I’d recommend picking this up just to complete your collection. I’m happy with the purchase.