I Want Intel’s ARC GPUs to Succeed, But my Hopes Aren’t High

When I first got into PC gaming, AMD was basically the only company I really cared about. Before I even knew what a dedicated GPU was, I learned that, with AMD, all I needed was a single AM4 socket motherboard and one of their cheap APUs and I’d be set with an entry level gaming rig that would satisfy a newbie PC gamer like myself.

And it did. Hell, I don’t even think I was running AM4 at that time. Back then, I was using an A-10 series APU. And boy, did I use that fuckin’ thing till to its maximum. CS:GO? League? Sure. But what if I told you I would take that puppy and fire up ARMA 2’s DAYZ mod and happily play it at 25 FPS at 720p? Those were the days, I’ll tell you h-what.

These days, I can’t claim to be the most spoiled person in the word in regards to performance. Despite having a stronger knowledge of hardware, I haven’t actually cared to spend the money on any of the latest tech. I run a 1660 Super with a R5 3600 and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s all I need. 4k gaming? No thanks, not needed.

That said, I can stand to make note of the future of hardware’s direction even without direct experience with the stuffs, and I can stand taller yet in understanding that Intel’s ARC lineup of GPUs are, at best, going to act as a 2.5 billion dollar graceless buffer between the dedicated GPU market and Intel’s ironing out the seams of their new product.

Image via Intel

NVIDIA and AMD, who have both dug out respectable shares of the dedicated GPU market, have a new graphics card generation (supposedly) coming out in Q4 of this year. These newer cards are going to outdo the current circulation of cards by a considerable, unverified margin. NVIDIA’s 40 series GPUs are being produced on TSMC’s 4nm fabrication process and will retain a 300-400 dollar price point for the 4060 model. In today’s age, that performance is going to be more than enough for AAA gaming at 1080p (and likely 4k), and its going to do it at mid-range prices the likes of which we are only just starting to see again after the Covid-19 related silicon shortage. Meanwhile, we have yet to get a confirmed release date for the ARC graphics cards outside of a Korean laptop launch which played host to a plague of driver issues that have more or less dampened the hype surrounding the cards altogether.

When said cards do get a global release, they’re only just going to be able to compete with NVIDIA’s 30 generation, as demonstrated by a somewhat barebones test released by Intel. This means that NVIDIA will be a generation behind the competition with product that is only just strong enough to compete with a product that’s already been in circulation (and thus, discounted heavily) for more than a year.

Its a real shame, too, since having a third tried and true company to put the heat on AMD and NVIDIA in the graphics department would be a real win for consumers everywhere. Hell, it would probably be a huge win for the world as a whole when you consider the cementing of a stronger Intel fab process, cheaper market prices, alongside stronger consumer and server-based computing performance from all three companies to boot (assuming they can all keep pace).

The barrier between that distant, preferable reality and the one we may be in, which sees Intel eat their losses in full, is nothing short of a few tall cliffs that need climbing. In short, Intel’s ARC GPUs are something I desperately want to stick in the marketplace and pave the way for a consistent showing against NVIDIA and AMD. To do that, they’re going to need to be cheaper than the already discounted RTX and RX cards, strong enough to pass up on the new 40 and 7000 series cards, and also be void of any compatibility issues at global launch.

Basically, the odds are against Intel, but we’d all be better off if they could cause an upset.

GLHF,
-E

It’s Hard to Hate Riot Games | Star Guardian Taliyah Sessions

Riot Games uploaded the “Star Guardian Taliyah” Session to their music channel on the 11th of July. Essentially, its a collection of thematic songs created by independent artists that anyone can use in videos or streams without concern over copyright issues. The playlist was created as part of the Sessions project on behalf of Riot Games, which aims to provide creators with more ways to produce content using official music. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this, but it is the first time I’ve taken notice of it.

I’m no paid actor or apologist for Riot Games in any sense of those words, and would absolutely bite at the chance to criticize them over pretty much anything (and have done). But this sort of effort they put into their art, which seems to serve no other purpose than to help creators out and support independent artists, makes it extremely difficult to hold them in a bad light, generally speaking.

Image via Riot Games

The video itself is a series of animations that follow a bubbly-themed Taliyah through her day off at the mall. For each song, a new part of the story. The animations are simple, and aside from Easter eggs in the background, there isn’t anything that sets itself apart as “incredible”, except for the fact that the video exists at all. The notion that Riot Games would hire a team to animate a one and a half hour video, a group of musicians to create their own unique 8-bit themed pieces, and then release the two as one project for no reason other than to give their community free stuff is pretty incredible, at least to me.

This sort of behavior points to a recurring philosophy presented in Riot Games’ policy towards treating their community. That philosophy is a tad hard to put into words, but it can be seen in their Esports events, which continually set the bar for Esports tournaments everywhere. It can be seen in the extra content created for the game, which includes the incredible Arcane and the soon to be reviewed Ruined King. And, of course, it can be seen in these Session releases.

Its a philosophy that implores the League fan base to learn more about the game, its lore, and its history, while also inversely including the fan’s creations as a platform to grow the community further. Its a self-perpetuating system where fan’s are given strong foundations to create off of, which further builds up the game’s player base, which further draws more fan participation.

Its genius, and its something I don’t think any studio has managed to do as well as Riot Games. Even a company like Valve, which is known for encouraging and rewarding player interaction outside of simple gameplay, couldn’t hold a candle to Riot Games’ efficacy in building strong relationships with its player base and creators. Even if those relationships sometimes start and end with “rito plz nerf…”

GLHF,
-E

Dead by Daylight Has Serious Competition Now

Evil Dead: The Game. Who’d a thunk it?

Image via Saber Interactive

It isn’t at all surprising to me that another title has come along that is trying to nail the asymmetrical horror gameplay that Dead by Daylight has so mysteriously held onto like the plague that just wont quit. Among the many, many smaller titles that have attempted such a feat, Friday the 13th and Last Year are the only two I can actually remember. One of them was defeated by a lawsuit while the other was so insignificant in quality that I never really heard anything about it other than “Meh.”

Enter Evil Dead. Ash is a character that’s become nearly synonymous with the asymmetrical horror genre almost entirely thanks to his inclusion into Dead by Daylight (DBD) a few years ago. Naturally (or not so naturally), he’s appearing in his own game that attempts to do DBD, but in a far more interesting way. And when I say interesting, I mean it.

Evil Dead: The Game pits one “killer” against four “survivors”. And it is there that the similarities between DBD and the ED stop. The games are completely different, both in tone and in mechanics. Players fond of DBD might feel like they are little too “hands off” in ED as the killer, while survivors might feel like they aren’t taking part in any enthralling mechanics. On the other hand, fans of ED will be able to enjoy gameplay that’s far more varied and action packed than the average DBD match.

The two are extremely difficult to compare, but in short, you could say that DBD is to a classic game of golf where ED is basketball but with trampolines. Both fun for different people and, in this industry, both competing for the same share of playerbase. And its about time.

Dead by Daylight, since its inception, has been one of a kind. There’s no denying it. No other game in the industry, in the history of gaming, has been able to replicate the kind of elusive quality that DBD brings to the table. This is both a blessing and a curse for Behaviour Interactive, the game’s developing studio.

Image via Behaviour Interactive

DBD is one of a kind, which means there’s no where else to go but it if you want the kind of gameplay that it offers. DBD is also the only of its kind, which means Behaviour has no where else to go for inspiration towards new gameplay mechanics, content, or in-game events. It all has to come from within. I credit the original artist as much as the next guy, but when it comes to DBD, Behaviour, who we’ll refer to as BHVR from now on, has a long history of showing up empty handed.

Decisive strike, Moris, Vacuum pallets, infinite loops, keys, the hatch system as a whole, the absolutely terrible bloodweb design, their MMR system, their ranking system, the inability for solo queuers to communicate to one another, the absolutely broken nature of 4 stacking, the disgusting map imbalance, the cheaters, that one time they made flashlight and pallet saves guaranteed, Brand new parts, triple blink Nurse, on-release Legion, Iridescent Heads, and oh boy, could I go on! I really could go on!

DBD, if it were any other game without that special lighting in a bottle kind of core gameplay, would have died ages ago in the hands that it is currently in. There is no other development team in charge of a reasonably large title I can think of that has made more blunders more consistently than BHVR. And now, with ED, there is a real contender to keep them worried about their performance. If DBD falls into another low point due to developer performance, ED will be there to cradle up the frustrated player base with warm arms. With fun arms. With arms made for trampoline basketball, what joy!

I love Dead by Daylight, and given the incredible reception Evil Dead has entered into the fray to, I imagine I’ll love it, too. Hopefully the pair will share enough competition that they’re simply forced into perfecting their craft. Or maybe ED will die, leaving DBD alone in the genre once again. What joy.

GLHF,
-E

How to Make a Boring Game | Transparency

I’d like to talk about a phenomena in gaming that anyone who grew up with a controller in their hands can relate to: sucking. Sucking isn’t actually the negative thing its made out to be in gaming, despite the inherent negative connotations made with the term. Sucking, or being bad, is a by product of being a newbie. Its the seed from which being passable and then talented comes from.

In modern game development, there has been a loss of artistic grit in the form of transparency. And by that I mean that the art of lacking transparency in just the right way is a practice modern game developers are leaving in the dust.

New World
Image via Amazon Games

Artistic Grit

To “lack transparency” in just the right way is to obfuscate, hide, or outright lie about information presented in a game to purposefully keep the player out of the know. For me, I think about Dark Souls 1 and its ability to have a complicated combat system that players can learn the basics of without spilling any of the deeper mechanics in an obvious way. Spell casting, for example, isn’t something that’s listed as having anything to do with dexterity, but absolutely does work in tandem with the attribute. Dexterity speeds up spell casting, and this is only something someone could know through self made trials (or data mining).

This is a very specific example, and a very bizarre one at that, given the mathematics behind the mechanics of the casting speed in DS1, but ultimately the specifics aren’t important for this discussion. What is important is the key takeaway: FromSoftware decided to hide specific information about the game from the player and let the studious among their fans find out the info for themselves.

For game developers, specifically, this is something I want to see more of. Patch notes, official game guides, in-game books and descriptions, and all of the information you can get in-game should function this way. They should be minor, incomplete, or non-existent altogether, at least in some regards.

A player shouldn’t be mapping out their game route before they’ve begun playing a game. And when developers show every little number and change in the game as they’re released, it feels like the game itself is becoming detached from the world its trying to pull its players into. Its no longer a separate entity to escape in, it’s a piece of art that’s not only stuck in the real world, but requires real world study to get the most out of before its even been played.

This philosophy I’m advocating for, which is a philosophy in favor of partially or completely hidden mechanics in-game, isn’t a philosophy that’s going to work for all games. And I completely understand that point. If tomorrow, Riot Games began releasing “secret” updates every week that changes the numbers of specific champs in League of Legends, I’d wager the uproar from the casual and competitive gaming community would be loud enough to force Riot to revert any and all changes immediately.

But for game developers who are creating pieces of art that are meant to be learned about in-game and in real-time, I’d like to offer a piece of advice, if I can be so bold: Act as if you’re developing an RPG / MMO that’s going to be played by millions of people every day, concurrently. Ask yourself, “Would I want to tell players that this is the META at this stage of the game? Would I want to disclose this mechanic? Would it be far more enjoyable for players to discover this on their own?” I hope the answers to these question outside of a competitive PvP game, is “No, No, and Yes, of course it would.

Transparency and the 2000’s

Image via “A Friend”

I remember playing OSRS back when it was just RS in 2007 and just walking around, having zero clue what I was doing. That not knowing made every little thing worth doing because I didn’t know if what I was doing was effective or not. “Is this fishing method the best XP/HR? Who knows? No one knows, so I don’t care.” That’s the mentality of a player who’s having fun, and that mentality only exists in ignorance.

There’s a reason people still talk about the 2000’s as the golden age for gaming, and I reckon it isn’t because developers have gotten worse at their jobs or because games are objectively less fun. I think its because gamers as a whole are able to cipher information about what they’re playing a lot easier, and when developers display that information and leave zero room for experimentation on the part of the player, the game in question becomes solved faster than developers can possibly keep up with.

The solution? Lose the transparency. Create games that obfuscate information. But provide players with the necessary tools to experiment with the mechanics of the game themselves: leave clues via NPC’s, dialogue, or other means to teach players about your game without handing them the keys to victory for little to no work. And if you as a developer can manage it, release updates that are either partially or completely secret. If you buff, nerf, or otherwise change something in game, let players know that something has been changed and watch them scurry about trying to find out what it is and how it effects the way they play. That, right there, is half the fun.

Games are fun. Games are especially fun when you’re bad at them. Stop giving me the tools to be decent at every game before I’ve had my fun with them and let me just be terrible for a while.

GLHF,
-E

Happy 20th Birthday to Morrowind | Near Perfection

I was a little late to the Morrowind party having only played it for the first time roughly three years ago, and I’m a little late to its birthday. The role playing game was released on the first of May, 2002, and made up what was the third title in the Elder Scrolls series. Its a game that’s not widely played in the gaming community, but it is certainly a game that’s widely praised. People who don’t really care for the game’s outdated mechanics, textbook levels of reading, or punishing (and tedious) combat system often refer to appeals of “It’s just not my type of game” arguments when explaining why they don’t like it. The number of people who would outright say its just not a good game are small in number, and that should tell you a lot about the weight the game holds in terms of respect out of the gaming community: Its just about beyond major criticism, culturally speaking.

Image via Reddit (u/danae123)

This doesn’t mean that the game is actually without its flaws to criticize, but it does mean that, generally speaking, the pros inside of the game’s inherent design are stronger than the cons. In fact, many people point towards a game like Morrowind when making arguments for why the early 2000’s were the “golden days of gaming.” It was a time when you couldn’t google a solution to every single problem you ran into when playing through a game, you had to just be bad at the game, can you believe it?

What this meant was that the tedious, confusing combat, the breakable mechanics, the quest lines with confusing directions, and all of the reading that came with that set of design choices were essential to the experience. In my first personal playthrough, for example, I found myself not only reading every single instruction given to me by quest givers, but also writing notes down: Cardinal directions, odd comments that may or may not have special meaning, maps, and dungeons I find along the way during my travels. I still have the notebook with all of that in there. And I wrote all that down despite there being an in-game notebook, not because I was going out of my way to role play, but because a game like Morrowind, of which there are few, if any, benefits greatly from the player acting as his or her own detective.

The in-game books, which a game like Skyrim. Morrowind’s younger brother, is so well known for, aren’t just extra flavor on an already completed game in Morrowind. There are textbooks detailing the inner workings of alchemy, which act as an in-game guide to the most broken skill in the game. There are journals of mages, alchemists, and warriors and their lives which give either nothing at all, or hints to the player regarding combat and the like. There are whole documentations in-game of all the gods and their cultures that the player can delve into. For lore? Sure. But also for in-game knowledge that translates into a stronger character.

I’m just spitballing some thoughts about the game out here, so this article isn’t going to be very coherent or streamlined, as you can see, but its probably the most prominent quality about the game: everything you need to know, you can find, research, and learn about in the actual game itself. No googling, no looking up guides, and no special addition developer notes required. Have a question? Look for a book seller in-game and find a book on the topic, read the whole fuckin’ thing and apply your new knowledge.

Stuck on a quest? Go back to the quest giver, ask ’em what to do, and write all of that down. Do everything they say to a T and, if you’re still stuck, its entirely possible they just gave you bad directions (seriously, they can do that.)

The game asks a lot of your time, but still respects it, which is an extraordinarily hard balancing act and one that a modern game, like Elden Ring (review coming soonish), simply cannot follow despite being nearly 20 years newer. All of the studying, walking, training, and reading is an investment in a game that rewards you by giving you greater and greater power. Not just power, but ways to break the game. The secret sauce being that the most powerful ways to become strong in the game is not by training your character, but by learning more and more about the game itself. That is to say, a newbie with maxed stats is infinitely weaker than a veteran starting at level 1 simply because, in Morrowind, mind beats matter. All the same, I’m sure many veterans would take being bad at the game for a chance at being able to play it all over again without prior knowledge of its inner workings.

So happy 20th, Morrowind. There may be many role playing games to come that try new things and advance the medium, but I doubt there will be any that are as nearly perfect, as special, as you. If we get something as half as good in the next decade, I’d say the gaming industry is doing alright.

GLHF,
-E

Escape From Tarkov | How to Hide the Grind

The “grind” is a term that’s used pretty much everywhere these days to describe hard work over a long period of time. The word is thrown around by meat heads who just finished their three-sets-of-ten and 20-something college girls who just got their 500 dollar paycheck and need Instagram to know about the hustle.

In gaming, the term is used mostly in the same way, but with an emphasis on a sometimes (I’d personally say all the times) arbitrary design by the developers of a game to keep players engaged. For example, an MMO might have a ton of content in the end game, but requires a player to grind out roughly 50 hours of quests to level up enough to get there. This grind to the end game is arbitrarily designed, long, and therefor qualifies as a ‘grind’ in the gaming community. Simple.

If all of the same quests in this theoretical MMO existed without blocking the player from accessing end game content, it wouldn’t be a grind to play the game, now would it? It would just be more content in a game, no grind required, see?

This is probably a bit confusing to a non-gaming person, as it seems like the better design would be to get rid of the grind altogether. The problem here is that “the grind” is something of a boon for a lot of players. A sense of accomplishment is created from having a journey be arduous instead of easy, and this is the soul gameplay model for many MMOs, not least of which being WoW, OSRS, RS, and pretty much any other game in the genre that’s ever existed ever. The grind makes doing X an actual accomplishment instead of just something everyone else has done.

That said, there is still a great deal of problems that come with this design. Namely, the fact that the grind can’t be too long without losing player interest, and it can’t be too short so that the accomplishments gained from a grind become meaningless. Walking this line properly has generated certain companies hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars, while failing to hit the mark has made other games, and their respective companies, dead on arrival. It isn’t easy to understand how one developer concocts their formula for success compared to another, but it is easy to understand what the developer ultimately ends up creating. Enter Escape from Tarkov.

Escape from Tarkov and the Illusion of a Grindless System

Escape from Tarkov, or just “Tarkov”, is a first person shooter that mainly revolves around resource management, and it revolves around this kind of gameplay exceptionally well. Players are pitted against each other in a variety of maps with gear they choose to enter the match with: Armor, weapons, tactical gear, grenades, the list goes on. There’s a lot of items that are mediocre and common while others are exceptional and rare. And when a player dies in one of these matches, they lose all of the items they brought or found during the match.

Image via Battlestate Games

As one might imagine, this makes the nature of failure in the game extremely punishing. As a counter to this, succeeding in a match, or a “raid”, is just as rewarding as losing is punitive. Players can accept daily tasks from the AI traders in-game that act as objective creators and help to speed the player’s advancement along. This advancement is used as advantages in the form of acquired levels and resources to gain a better hideout, which provides passive bonuses, as well as better items which, of course, can be used to go and earn more items. Rinse and repeat.

And it’s at this point that a veteran of the MMO genre would have no problem identifying the fact that Tarkov is actually an MMO dressed up as an FPS Battle Royal. I mean, it is a BR, but its managed to sneak in the various aspects of MMO gameplay that keep players coming back for their hits of dopamine: Daily tasks / quests, a ‘get gear to get more gear’ gameplay loop, heavy PvE environments with PvP sprinkled in (this part can be the other way around, depending on the type of player you are,) and an ungodly grind that requires daily attention and resets every six months or so when the game completely wipes its player progress for a full restart from level 1 (for everyone.)

And that’s the great formula for long term success that Tarkov has created. This grind that eventually hooks players doesn’t present itself until weeks of gameplay, at the earliest, for many players. For most players, the gameplay loop isn’t even a second thought yet. The complex mechanics, confusing map layouts, and punishing resource management systems are all they care about. And make no mistake, this isn’t an article knocking against Tarkov, those systems are very, very well done in the game. Brilliant design, no doubt about it. But it’s a fact that those same systems are the bait which reel players in for years and years at a time. The hook, as it were, is the grind. The “Tarkov Grind”.

This grind is just like any other in any game you’d like. As we’ve established, it takes a lot of its design from established MMO titles, and demands constant attention from the player. However, this hook, despite bringing the player back like an addict, is hiding behind the interesting gameplay to mask itself as genuine fun instead of addiction. The player would have already decided to ditch the game under any other pretenses, but since Tarkov’s grind is dressed up in such a way that’s pretty much in a league of its own, that decision doesn’t come until much later when said player is probably already hooked on the game, despite potentially being the kind of person who doesn’t enjoy a grindy game.

Its the incredible design shown by the developers over at Battlestate Games that created such an interesting title, and its their ruthless ingenuity that coupled said title with a gameplay loop that can drain literal infinite hours away from its playerbase. At the time of writing this article, its been about two weeks since I picked up Tarkov, and I’ve thrown roughly 50 hours into the game as though it were nothing. Its taken me a while to pickup on the fact that I was just getting hooked on the loop without actually enjoying the gameplay, but this article topic serves to acknowledge the fact that I’ve managed to escape it, no pun intended.

How to Avoid these Grind Systems as a Player

When trying out a new title, your first question should always be: “What am I playing this for?” You can ask this question on multiple levels, but for the sake of this topic, you should be asking the game itself. The Dark Souls Trilogy has a myriad of boss fights that are well designed, an intricate and deep story, and hidden philosophy on the nature of life itself. A player might ask him or herself why they play Dark Souls, and one or all of those things may be the answer. The key aspect of the game being that it does, indeed, have an end, and isn’t designed as an endless loop (despite being about life as an endless loop).

Image via FromSoftware

Now, you can grind in Dark Souls, and you can play endlessly, but that’s a decision that’s left up to the player. People have beaten the first game in less than an hour, and the other games don’t have completion times much different than that. That is to say, the grind in Dark Souls is one you choose, not one that’s required, and it isn’t endless or pointless, at least from a gameplay perspective. Some might call it genius, but the game is meant to satisfy you on completion, not leave you feeling like you have to play everyday for the next six months just to maintain progress on your character.

Try that same thought experiment out with any other game. “Why am I playing this game?” Story? Well designed mechanics? Incredible writing, acting, or art direction? Maybe its just fun? Really test yourself on that question, because in the modern age, its not unlikely that you find yourself playing a game as a means to progress to the next part in the game as apposed to enjoying the part you’re currently at.

Progress should happen naturally as long as you enjoy where you’re at. If you don’t enjoy where you’re at, get out. Don’t lie in wait, for those hopes of things changing for the better without your influence shall let the rust of a dull gear creep into your mind. By that point, you’ll be accustomed to your setting, and leaving will be far too difficult a task. You’re an addict, you’re unable to move, and no one is able to help you rekindle the first flame.

What were we talking about? Right, Tarkov. Fun game, innovative game, too much of a grind. 6/10.

My Favorite Games of 2021

Before moving onto the next year, we gotta look back at the stuff that defined the high points of gaming in 2021. You know the drill with these “best games of 2021” articles, so I’ll keep this one short.

Inscryption

Inscryption
Image via Daniel Mullens Games

I dunno if I’m harping on this game too much, but I gotta say: Inscryption remapped my brain’s understanding of how to define an “original” piece of art. I mean, the nature of something original is that it’s something I wouldn’t have seen before or expected to see, and yet I still feel like my previous encounters with original art just weren’t as awe-inspiring as my play through of this game.

Am I lame for being so in love with this game? Maybe. Am I wrong in saying it was one of the, if not the, best game of 2021? No, my subjective opinion on the matter is objectively right, fact, and unquestionable. If you haven’t played this game because you don’t think you’ll enjoy its card-game mechanics, just play it. Please play it. Play it.

Play. Inscryption. Please.

RE: Village

I know you’re probably going to be upset with my over this, but Village was my first ever Resident Evil game. Yes, I can see your face, it spells U P S E T, and I completely understand.

RE: Village
Gorgeous Image via Capcom

Despite what the memes might suggest, Village is not a game about a sexy vampire lady. In fact, if you pay close attention, you’ll find that she’s actually one of many characters in the game. (I didn’t find this out until my third playthrough.)

The story, as I was told to expect from Resident Evil games, is cunning in its originality and clean structure. I wasn’t ever at a point in the game where I was like “Okay, let’s hurry it up.” The game has a solid beginning, middle, and end, and does a good job at making me want to learn more about the universe and its past, and future, story lines.

The gameplay was super smooth, and was complimented wonderfully by the excellent horror themes exhibited by the narrative and visual structure of the game. The subtlety with which these horror elements were employed were so masterful that I actually had to use them as a subject in an entire article about the topic. There have been many points in history where prolific game direction and masterful programming / design have met hand in hand, and RE: Village marks one of those points with a ton of ink (and a little obscurity.)

Village was a masterpiece, and I look forward to absorbing more Resident Evil content because of it.

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Image via ZA/UM

Disco Elysium was released back in 2019, and even then it wasn’t anything short of incredible. The intensely complicated RPG elements and top-tier writing are complimented by a collection of gritty, charming, and realistic voice acting performances that pull everything together in what is, unarguably, one of the best narrative-driven RPGs of all time.

Its release of “The Final Cut” in 2021 version gave me an excuse to add the game to this very barren best games of 2021 list and to tip my hat to it, if only for a moment. I know this game already has enough love as it is by those who understand solid game design, but it still feels odd that, in a world that’s having a love affair with RPG gaming, Disco Elysium doesn’t see more commercial success.

In any case, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is a prime example of how passionate world building and professional, talented writing can carry an otherwise decent game into instant classic territory.

That’s it.

No, really. That’s it. I didn’t really care for too many games in any meaningful way this year. This could be due to the fact that I’m currently limited to PC gaming: I’d figure The Last of Us 2 or some Nintendo game would have made it onto this “best games of 2021” list, otherwise. Or it could just be that the gaming industry is giving up and can’t, or doesn’t want to, produce quality content as much as it used to anymore. Its probably the former, eh?

GLHF,
-E

Inscryption is Hearthstone, But Infinitely Better

Inscryption is a great game that I haven’t finished. This article is a short review of my first impressions of it and nothing more. No spoilers ahead. If you haven’t played the game yet, take my advice and set this article aside until you have. Despite the lack of spoilers, I’m still going to touch on some of the magic that makes this game what it is, or what it has been so far. Perhaps not reading any of it is best if you want to keep the hints out of mind.

Inscryption’s Gameplay

Inscryption's gameboard
Image via Daniel Mullins Games

Never did I ever expect the gameplay of this rogue-like deck builder to have its narrative so closely tied to its gameplay. Sure, deck building games often build their worlds around the cards they produce, but none that I’ve played have ever had their cards specifically exist in the world that’s in the world or, more to the point, cards that change gameplay that’s within the gameplay.

Confused? Yeah, well, that’s Inscryption. According to the reviews, playing the game blind was the move, so I put my knife up and downloaded it not knowing what I was going to get myself into. The gameplay itself is reminiscent of the classic Magic the Gathering format tied in with Hearthstone-like mechanics: the game board reacts to you and your pieces and the horror atmosphere is knit like a sleeve against the gruesome nature of what you’re doing: playing a card game with trapped souls.

The gameplay feels like Hearthstone more than it does like Magic, despite the format being closer to the latter. Perhaps it’s because of the personality each card has, or maybe it’s the just a matter of habituation for me. In any case, this game plays like a Hearthstone that costs a flat 20 dollars instead of 100 dollars per expansion. And the content within it is far more satisfying to delve into (and far more fun, too, if that matters.) I say this as someone who reached rank 75 Legend in Hearthstone’s competitive ladder, not a casual who played the game for a month or two and left it alone: Inscryption is the better game in almost every objective sense.

Incryption’s Best Magic Trick | Perspective and Scope

Two attributes every game has, and often overlooks. Perspective is the “picture in the picture” to paraphrase. Its the view the player will have while playing, and what a developer crafts from day one. Its a literal perspective on the part of the player’s eyes, but also an idea of what lies ahead, crafted by the player’s brain using the ingredients a developer lays in front of him or her. The perspective a game offers up is encased within a genre, artwork, writing, and audio design. In Dark Souls, this perspective is thrown right in the face of the player as a form of helplessness brought on by a murky aesthetic and overwhelming difficulty. In Inscryption’s case, the perspective of helplessness and curiosity is brought to the player via a horror-like atmosphere and a collection of incomplete tales. Tales that the player is practically begged to follow up on: a suspicious character, a new line of dialogue or book entries, as well as hidden secrets that alter gameplay. They all work together to build what is essentially one big question: What does this game mean to tell me?

Inscryption's Horror
Image via Daniel Mullins Games

It would be so embarrassing, almost crude, to write the following sentence, but by default I am going to do it, and you can’t stop me: Inscyption is a page turner. Oof!

Ignoring the fact that the gameplay itself has an addictive quality to it that I’m going to chalk up to sheer craftsmanship on the part of the developers, this game forces you to continue playing match after match just to try and figure out what the hell is happening and how you can overcome it. I haven’t played a game like this in the last two to three years. In fact, almost every game I have played in recent times feels like a chore just to go back to. And I ain’t talking about League of Addiction, I’m talking about big hitters like Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim. These are great games that just don’t draw a player into it in the same way Inscryption, somehow, manages to do.

What is Inscryption’s Scope?

Scope is a developer’s ultimate vision and, in this game’s case, is hidden from the player just behind the game’s perspective. And I mean really hidden. I cannot tell you how confused I was to have the main menu be a function of the game’s story telling and plot progression, but once I figured it out after getting through that part of the game, I was completely blown away. To have a cheap game deliver on its promise ten times over only to expand into something completely different… I just have no words, except for all of these ones. It’s been two days since I managed to get through that part of the game and I’m still in awe of how an indie studio can craft something together such as Inscryption, and I’m not even finished with the thing yet. Without ruining anything, I’ll say that the game’s scope hits a point where you think its done enough, and then it takes another step, and then another, and so on. It seems to never end.

Inscryption has wit, incredible writing, a vision, grand scope, and it doesn’t play by contemporary rules. Its the kind of game that is going to be borrowed and stolen from for the next decade, and it will likely only receive a light nudge by a small portion of the gaming community as credit despite being a contender for game of the year.

GLHF
-E

Arcane | First Season, First Impressions

Spoilers Ahead

Arcane’s first season has come and gone, and those of you who’ve been following me for a while will know that I’ve been both eager and terrified to see its release. On the one hand, having a League show to flesh out a huge world the characters’ lore has set into cannon has been an idea I’ve always been on board with. On the other hand, Riot Games has some cringe-worthy writing habits in their skill set, and I’ve been afraid those skills would come to flourish non-stop in Arcane. There is a little bit of that here n’ there, but ultimately the show was very strong.

I’ll be breaking up this review into three sections, with each section corresponding to one of the three chapters of Arcane. Each chapter, for those who don’t know, is comprised of 3 episodes each, for a grand total of nine, aight? Let’s begin.

Arcane Chapter 1 | Character Development, Quality Writing

The first three episodes of Arcane feature plenty of natural introductions and strong character development which helps to set the scene for the rest of the show. I’ve been playing League since Lucian’s release and am familiar with the set of characters in the game, but if one wasn’t so well educated on who these characters might be, they wouldn’t be lost watching this show. I felt that was a strength worth mentioning, so there you go.

Image via Riot Games

Having Arcane get off on the right foot was a must for me, since I was already prepared to have some poor writing in it, and it absolutely delivered. Right away I felt invested in seeing Vi and Powder’s relationship stay strong and for the two of them to live happily ever after, despite my better knowledge of their character bios. Their cast of friends, Claggor and Mylo, are characters serviceable enough to help create a realistic coming of age story for teens and young children, but still stay out of the forefront and keep the focus on our two sisters.

Vander, Vi and Powder’s adoptive father, is also a highlight in Chapter 1. His writing is just as good as his voice acting, and he doesn’t fail to deliver on that “wise and loving” character that we look for in leaders for these kinds of shows. In terms of character, he’s a mix between Tywin Lannister and Uncle Iroh. Structurally, he serves as the stories bookmark for us to remember where to world is at that point in time. Under Vander’s guidance, the Undercity, which is steampunk neon-light infested neo-LA ridden with poverty and organized crime, lives in a temperamental peace-treaty with Piltover, which is what people who have never been to LA think LA is actually like: The city of progress with a vast amount of wealth and a head start on the world’s technological forefront.

This is Arcane’s starting position for the show, and I couldn’t have thought of a better place to begin myself. Seeing the plight of the Undercity in contrast to the almost suburban-like peace of Piltover says more than you need to hear from any character about the economic differences between the two. And from here, we start the journey.

Powder, Vi, and the other two soon-to-be dead expendables are performing a heist in Piltover. After a few hiccups, the gang nearly makes it back to their home before being routed by another group of expendable schmucks. In a panic, Powder (who is a 10-year-old Jinx, or something) chucks the loot from the heist into a large body of water, and after getting out of the scuff with the expendable schmucks, the minor characters comment repeatedly on how Powder is a jinx (see what they did there?) and how she isn’t ready to come help with heists, yet.

I promise, I’ll stop explaining what happens in the show, now. I just needed to get that first bit out of the way so we have our starting position for the review.

All of that transpires, slowly, into a reveal of multiple characters. Some of the best fun I had was guessing who might be what champion in the game, and then slowly realizing that not all main characters need to be anyone in the game at all. Vander is unveiled as the father figure for the two girls (and basically everyone in the undercity), and our antagonist, Silco, is revealed as a wise, smooth talking crime-boss who may or may not be well written, depending on the episode.

The character introductions, as I’ve said repeatedly, felt natural and well deserved. Nothing felt contrived or off putting in so far as to make me go “aw, that kinda sucked.” I liked seeing Vander lead the Undercity as best he could, and Silco was an engaging enough antagonist that I didn’t mind the stereotypical ‘evil’ vibe they gave him. In fact, he was a character I could empathize with from time to time, despite his whole get up. More on that a bit later, though.

The first chapter concludes with a showing of the beginning of Powder’s transition to Jinx. Powder tries to save Vi and the gang from a trap Silco set for them, and unwittingly kills just about everyone involved, including Mylo and Claggor. In a fit of rage, Vi smacks Powder a bit and walks off. Silco finds Powder all abandoned n’ such and takes her in as his own daughter. Vi is arrested by a bloke named Marcus who was just hanging out, badabing, badaboom, contrivance, maybe, but I mean whatever, you know?

The first chapter has great character development, excellent writing, and voice acting that’s to die for (Silco’s voice, man). Solid stuff, 7/10.

Arcane Chapter 2 | What happened?

There were tons of problems I had with chapter 2. This is a strange fact, since the first three episodes were so consistently strong. My theory is that they produced the episodes in groups, since they knew they were going to release the episodes as chapters, and so if one episode in a chapter is weak, the other two were always likely to follow suit. In any case, Arcane’s chapter 2 is the worst out of the three.

The strong voice acting is still there, but the writing is weak and the choices the characters make are questionable at best.

To start, I need to talk about Silco. The first three episodes led me to believe this guy was going to be a very well designed antagonist. He was smart, brutal, clever, and had conviction that I could almost see eye to eye with, in some instances. These next three episodes do some things that make me question whether or not Riot cared to keep that promise for the character alive at all times. I vividly remember those scenes where Silco is attempting to murder Vi and he’s just giving a monologue while playfully keeping the shimmer just out of his addicted henchmens’ grasp.

It felt so… out of place. I get that Silco likes having power over people, but the second chapter does so many little things like this where our antagonist stops being a man of conviction and starts being evil just for the sake of it. He starts making dumb mistakes, acting out in fits of rage like he’s a comic book villain, and plays with the addictions of Undercity dwellers despite devoting his whole life to achieve supremacy for the Undercity. He just stops making sense for a while so that the plot can move forward, and it hurts the second chapter by a huge, huge margin.

Something else that needs to be mentioned is Jinx. I’ve got huge issues with Jinx as a character, and we’ll start with the first one: She’s way too immaturely designed for someone with such huge mental health struggles.

Image via Riot Games

The first scene we get of Jinx with Silco is her hopping on Silco’s lap and helping him inject his eye medication (or whatever). This is great, in my opinion. This scene demonstrates the level of trust Silco has in Jinx as well as the suggested inappropriate nature of their relationship. Jinx is like a daughter to Silco, yet she is wearing her trademark skimpy clothing while sitting on her father’s lap, and its all terribly uncomfortable and close. Like I said, great. Silco’s a fucked up dude, Jinx has a ton of mental problems, it would make perfect sense for this suggested sexual nature of their relationship to be the only thing Jinx has that’s close to family at this point. Its a very mature take on a very real problem, and I commend Riot for having the nerve to stick it in a show knowing full well their target audience is an extremely large group of twitter wielding teenagers who will complain about anything being out of line.

That said, I have to turn around and smack Riot Games over the head for then taking that mature story telling device and combining it with Jinx, who they wrote as having what a middle school student thinks mental illness is.

I’ll write that one more time just so we’re on the same page.

Jinx’s mental illness is displayed as what an edgy middle school student thinks mental illness is.

Its absolutely cringe-worthy to see Jinx talking to herself and the voices in her head out loud just to spout exposition for the audience. Its even worse for these conversations with the voices to pop up during Jinx’s temporary reuniting with Vi just so that Vi knows there’s something wrong with her dear old Powder. Jinx’s voice is all squeaky, high pitched, and met with painful laughter that’s more or less souped with maniacal pacing that’s so cliche its painful to watch.

I get that Riot wants Jinx to be their Harley Quinn, but combining a very real problem with their amateurish design of a mentally ill people wasn’t the way to do that. You can have one or the other, Riot. Not both.

(They chose both, though, and it sucks)

Jinx is arguably the weakest part of the show, at least at times, and I think if they had just held off on making her backstory so dark, I’d have less of a problem with how embarrassing she is to see on screen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take any moral objection to how the show is portraying anything. Its fiction, and Riot can do whatever they want. But if you want to argue consistent writing, Jinx is not the aspect of Arcane to do it with. She has a slight Harley Quinn accent (but only sometimes), is super fucked in the head, and I’m sure every teenage girl watching Arcane was absolutely enamored with relating to her. But she sucks, and I’m sad she sucks. Tough!

Chapter 2 features some extra development into Piltover, and the characters involved are hit and miss. Jayce is fairly annoying, but that’s by design, as far as I can tell. He’s written with a fair bit of confidence and can easily be forgiven for being so quickly led astray due to the amount of responsibility on his plate, which is a lot for someone so young to have to deal with. In my opinion, Jayce’s character is one of the most accurate depictions of a character as shown on the rift as you’re likely to find in Arcane. He felt true to his nature all the way through.

Viktor is also given a lot of development at this point, and he is easily my favorite character in the series so far. Well voice acted, consistently written, and absolutely heartbreaking. Kudos, Riot, I want to main the guy, that’s how well done he is.

As for Vi, she’s a bit lesbian and has a round chin now, and Cait is given a more prominent role in the show. She, too, is a bit lesbian. And also rich. That’s about all chapter 2 lets you in on. Both characters are strong drivers of the plot line, and its a relief to see Vi, like Jayce, being written in a way that reflects her nature in the show, as well as the rift. All of Vi’s decision making and dialogue feels like natural extensions of her character, and she’s easily one of the more entertaining on-screen characters to behold (though that might be because of her kick-ass fight scenes. Seriously, they’re the shit.)

5/10. Sweet fight scenes, Riot. You could have done a better job with Jinx.

Arcane Chapter 3 | A Strong Finale

I don’t know who’s running the show-biz things over at Riot, but whoever they are, they pulled through with chapter 3. Almost all of the problems I had with chapter 2 were reigned in for the final act, and it proves to be the best chapter out of the three because of it.

Image via Riot Games

Silco is back to being a driven crime-boss with wit and intellect that isn’t just evil for its own sake, Jayce starts wildly making decisions to solve the problem of the Undercity’s crime, Viktor is still just incredible, Vi and Cait are doing something I’m sure, and Jinx is… well, Jinx is actually worse in the final chapter than the other two (one?). More on that later.

The final chapter pulls Silco into his own as a crime boss. His love for Jinx as a father begins to conflict with his work in a way that’s testing the patience of his underlings, and he’s forced to make quick moves to accomplish his goals. Vi is determined to get Powder back as her sister, but is ultimately too many steps behind the curve to accomplish her goal. Cait is doing something, I’m quite positive.

Oh, also, Ekko is back, and he’s the shit. Act 1 showed him to be a curious tinkerer with a heart of gold, and act 3 shows that, despite being hardened to the world around him, Ekko still retains his heart in the way he tries to better the lives of everyone surrounding him. Sick skateboard, too.

I could go on for days about every little scene and all the pro’s and con’s of every other thing in the show, but I think its absolutely fair for me to say that the entire show’s quality would be remembered by Act 3’s performance, and it performed extraordinarily beyond expectation. I felt after Act 2 that the third would be just as bad or worse than its predecessor, but it managed to beat out Act 1, even. Incredible stuff.

There is one thing I have to talk about before wrapping this up, though. One thing that was so egregious that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw it at the wall a couple of times. That thing is the Powder vs. Jinx dinner at the very end of episode 9.

Holy hell, have you ever seen a writer spell it out for an audience more than that before? I understand that the result of that ‘dinner’ would dictate how Jinx decided to try and live the rest of her life. I understood that the moment I saw Vi and Silco tied up in their chairs. So why in the hell did the writers decide that having “Jinx” and “Powder” written on two respective chairs to signify the point of whole scene was necessary? Why did Jinx have to spout more expository dialogue for this scene to happen? Why couldn’t this scene just be made simpler? Jinx isn’t one to make things metaphorical, she’s a very straightforward character that doesn’t want her time wasted, not even by herself. And yet she planned out a dinner for two people complete with poetic writings and spray-paint designs to boot?

Did anyone see that scene and think to themselves, “Oh, yeah. Totally. Makes sense.” or “OH, thank god they wrote that! I didn’t know what was going on here!” Am I in the minority here? Am I crazy? Should I start talking to myself as narration for the people around me, then?

The whole scene wasn’t a flop by any means. The ending, ultimately, felt right. Silco was acting in selfish love for Jinx, and wanted to kill off Vi to keep her to himself. Jinx couldn’t let him do that, but couldn’t let go of her love for Silco. It was a very timely and realistic ending to the problem the trio faced. And despite all the horrid problems with Jinx, Silco, and their relationship, seeing Silco tell his daughter that he was never going to sell her out, even in the face of losing his life’s work, was actually pretty heartwarming, in a very weird way.

Also, Jinx used R on the city council while they were at full health, so I’m sure they’ll all be fine for season 2.

7/10, Arcane is a strong show with some glaring weaknesses. Can’t wait for the next season.

GLHF,
-E

New World | First Impressions

The brand new, conveniently timed MMO is finally here, and while I don’t have a shortage of things to say about the game, there are a few things I’m leaving off the table for sake of simplicity. I’m not going to say that New World is a bad game. I’m not going to say that New World doesn’t have something to offer new players. I’m definitely not going to say that New World doesn’t have anything to offer veteran players, either, since I will likely never find out for myself if that’s the case. I’m not going to give definitive opinions such as those because I ultimately feel as though New World can appeal to anyone who can craft their own stories and enjoy a little grinding into the game’s higher tiers of wealth and power. That is to say, I think the game fails at what it’s trying to do, but I also think other people are going to disagree very harshly, and that’s fine.

Image via Double Helix Games

What I will say is that, despite the game’s best intentions and moderate charm, New World tries very, very hard to be a decent game, and most of the time struggles to grasp at the edges of the cliff of mediocrity. Make no mistake, the difference between New World being a decent game and New World being absolute trash is a thin, thin line. And the fall below is quite steep.

The Gameplay Mechanics and Story Progression

I wrote an article about Ark: Survival Evolved last year. In this article, I discussed the sloppy nature of Ark’s combat and how the poorly designed nature of it was carried into tolerable-hood thanks to the charm and strengths the rest of the game had. Well, New World is like that, but in reverse.

New World offers players a combat system that is actually fairly well polished. In fact, for an MMO with thousands of players running around at one time, the combat is as fluid as I’ve ever seen. It’s a marvel to see other players shooting, dueling, and dodging against others in PvE and PvP combat alike, all while being able to participate yourself and not have the experience be buggy and gross.

Like I said, the combat is smooth. Projectiles find their home and have weight upon hitting an opponent, strikes with melee weapons tag enemies as though you were actually smacking them instead of just registering hits via pillow fight. Dodging is effective and an integral part of PvP and PvE combat, of which there is a ton. Its good. Great, in some ways. The exact opposite of Ark, which has mostly bad combat which is barely passable.

And in keeping with being the opposite of Ark, New World has no other redeeming qualities. In Ark, players deal with the buggy combat because the rest of the game has a myriad of highly attractive qualities that make engaging in combat worthwhile. But New World offers nothing of comparable value even in its core design.

The story is bland and feels like an excuse to have factions just exist for the sake of their role in PvP, the weapon and armor upgrades might as well be imported straight from WoW, and the same can be said about the crafting system. The writing is downright cringe worthy at times, the voice acting is about on par with Sea of Thieves, and the quests… OhhhhhHHH fuck me, the quests!

Image via Double Helix Games

How many iterations of MMO’s do we need to go through before developers realize that fetch quests marked with way points and needless exposition for story development is not what players want to spend their time on?

The formula is simple; make a very small number of very well developed, written, and voice acted (optional if you’re clientele is above the age of 8) quests to move the story along when needed, and scale the rest of the open world to be the source of EXP players use to progress forward in their characters. Let playing your game be its own reward. Take a look at Runescape’s method of questing. Everyone who doesn’t play Runescape thinks Runescape is a joke of an MMO, and yet none of them would even argue that it doesn’t have the best quest system in the history of MMO’s.

Almost every quest in RS3 / OSRS is well written, witty, and charming. Even in Oldschool Runescape, where people just use a quest guide and blaze through the story, can attest to the quality of the writing that they choose to skip over. The Runescape quests, once finished, can never be completed again (unless you feel like speedrunning it, in some cases), and unlock not just some EXP, but new area’s of the map, items, training methods, and more story.

Players use the new items and new map areas to level their character, and in Runescape, their character is THE story of the game. Everything else is a minor event happening at random chance, and everyone else is a minor character in their story. That’s the strategy Runescape has used to create narratives surrounding their players’ characters, and its the best in the business. WoW took the “faction” narratives that New World is trying to “borrow” from and dressed it up with community. Guilds were an integral extension to the “Horde vs Alliance” narrative that dictated everything from classes and races to starting areas for players. Talking to other people and grouping up was integral to the leveling experience, which meant that even though you were following one fetch quest after another, you still felt like you were part of something bigger which helped to push the gameplay forward in a fun way, in terms of narrative. Not to mention the fact that each class was unique to another class and could only function in certain ways. Warriors were objectively better at tanking than mages, for example.

All of these design choices from other games have their issues, but the bottom line is that they are miles better than what New World has to offer. New World has the same terrible fetch quests that WoW has, but with none of the unique gameplay WoW offered with its class system and 3rd person mechanics and single-enemy targeting system which makes combat clear and accurate. Not to mention the faction / guild system in WoW, even from day 1, was just miles better than New World’s.

New World has decent mechanics surrounding its combat system, as I’ve mentioned, but has nothing in the entire world its created worth going out for. All of the money and EXP, which can be earned naturally in the aforementioned Runescape, is going to be earned via questing in New World. You can find ore deposits and valuable gathering supplies that spawn in niche areas of the map, but ultimately nothing is going to be more valuable than busting out as many copy / paste quests as you can while simultaneously farming supplies that you happen to find along the laid out path for your character as you move from one way point to another.

Grab every quest you can in the city your in, follow all way points to satisfy your quest objective while occasionally mining for ore that’s along your path or gathering some plants, return to quest giver to get EXP / gold reward and get another set of quests. Repeat. That’s the whole game for 90% of players.

For the other 10% of players, that is the whole game, but with some extras thrown in. This top 10% gets rewarded for playing all day everyday by being able to own cities within the game using their company, which is the “guild” mechanic from WoW, but New World-ish. These companies can set tax rates in their respective cities and reap the rewards for it. These same players are often high leveled and have a large group of players to play with, which means they can enable PvP and run with groups of 10 or more and delete anyone unfortunate enough to try completing a PvP faction quest alone. They can also lead wars towards other cities for their faction / company and try to grab more land, of which there is not much, with only 14 territories between 2000+ players.

To be completely fair, the novel idea of players owning territories like this is cool, but its been implemented in a way that only makes it a point of interest for the hardcore players with large companies. And that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with such massive content being aimed at high-tiered players, but when everything else that New World has to offer is so bland in comparison, can I really justify the hundreds of hours of dedicated grinding it will take to experience that kind gameplay?

No, I absolutely cannot. New World, I believe, is hanging on by a thin lifeline at the moment. That lifeline, as so many other would-be MMO’s have learned, is the rush of a temporarily large player base. You feel encouraged to play it because other people are playing it, but if you took that player base away tomorrow, would anyone in their right mind would want to play the game solo?

Despite all of WoW’s problems (I’m not even getting into Blizzard’s problems today), you can play the game solo if not but for the experience of learning all of the different races, classes, and professions the game has to offer. If OSRS or RS shut their servers down, but released the game files to be played through single player, you could absolutely enjoy it for years to come with no one else their to play with. Hell, that’s a whole game mode, btw.

But if someone tells you they could play New World by themselves without the community behind it to pull the game’s ‘new’ energy up, they either have zero clue what other MMO’s have to offer or they are lying to you.

I Digress in This Next Part

But I digress, because I need to wrap this article up. The combat is very fluid and a case study for how to do target-less combat right in an MMO. It’s also lacks depth, isn’t unique from player to player, and somehow feels like a worse Sea of Thieves combat system despite its fluidity. Maybe that’s because of the nature of an MMO and how combat should feel, but make of that what you will.

The questing is poor. It’s just poor. Poor writing, poor creativity, poor. It’s poor. And I am $40 poorer because of it.

The crafting is fine, but its also ripped straight off from WoW so that’s to be expected. There’s nothing innovative about the crafting system. The items used in crafting are entering the game at too fast a rate, and I imagine this is going to cause some horrific issues in the game’s economies across all servers, if players decide to stick around for that long, which I don’t think they will. The crafting system is poor, alright?

The story is boring. I don’t know what the story is, I don’t care. The developers don’t care. There is a team of writers who probably have a lot of talent who are being shafted by the game designers because nobody wants to sit and pay attention to the story to figure out just what’s happening because the payoff will never be worth it, because the game isn’t worth it. The story is an excuse for Factions to exist (did I mention the faction’s “identities” are trash, yet?)

The faction’s “identities” are trash. Poorly written and unimaginative . You’ve got the science nerds, the magic religious zealots, and the warrior jock dumbasses who look like vikings on T.V., ya dig? There might have been one other faction in there, but I can’t remember, for obvious reasons. The factions are poor and have next to no effect on how you play the game or how your character progresses.

New Word’s Map, via Game-maps.com

The Map design is actually not bad. I like the long distances between cities and towns that make your journey on quests feel like an actual journey. The issues is that you can’t actually just enjoy the world for what it is because you’re constantly back tracking to go return your dumbass quest so that you can level up to get more quests and it goes on, and on, and on. Awful gameplay loop. And because of that, the map design suffers and goes from “not bad” to “actually kind of trash.” Poor.

Now, look. I said I wouldn’t call this game bad, and I haven’t. There are aspects of it that are good which I have yet to mention which help to redeem it, and aspects that are at least “neat” which really don’t change the core issues the game suffers from to be worth talking about. For instance, there are random in-game events that spawn powerful NPC’s for your and your friends to take down. Ain’t that something? Ain’t that just something in the face of every other problem the game suffers from?

Here’s another radical bite to enjoy from the New World soggy pizza: me and my friend tried playing together and were met with the surprise that we couldn’t choose our starting areas, which meant we had to spend over two hours of gameplay, gameplay we didn’t know we were committing to for coop, before the game took some of its strict leash off and let us play together. That’s pretty cool, right? Hey, I don’t value my own time, why should New World? Just tell me where to go and I’ll do it, I’m a dog! Really, I spent $40 on this game, I AM a dog.

And lest I forget, I should mention how cool it was when I hit level 20 and finally quit the game. That’s a pretty cool part of the experience, I feel. It was a bit like being sick, only to wake up and find a new appreciation for not feeling like death. If you disagree with me on any of this, try pulling the plug on your computer and taking a 15 minute walk outside in the Old World to think about how you define what a “good” game is and then you’ll thank me for yanking you out of the Matrix hell that is New World.

I want MMO’s to be revived in a grand way that only a new IP can do, but New World is not the title that’s going to do it. Time to move on, comrades and friends.

GLHF,
-E