Outlast has made an invariable impression on my horror taste buds, and I’m well and truly addicted to the gameplay loop it offers. I haven’t bothered to touch the second game, but I DID recently pick up The Outlast Trials on Steam with a friend of mine. In short, the game is worth buying. Try it out.
Aside from satisfying the itch I have for the surprisingly fun Paranoia Place, The Outlast Trials has been a solid experience that provides intriguing and rewarding progression. A strength that is coupled, and surpassed, by its ability to pull the Outlast formula from its predecessors and lather it into a series of short-lived trials that have great replay value and a fun ranking system to boot.
When played alone, I imagine even outlast vets will find the first few hours a horrifying experience, at least. But when paired with a friend or, sides forbid, three, the game quickly becomes a (fun) clown fiesta that pairs teamwork with trying to screw over your partners in crime. If you haven’t heard your friend’s reaction when locking them in a room with a psychotic murderer, then you owe it to yourself to pick up The Outlast Trials.
As far as gameplay goes, you can’t really go wrong with the formula here: Stealth gameplay mixed with inventory management and the apprehension associated with the ne’er-do-wells of the day. Objective hunting ala Dead by Daylight combined with resource hunting is the name of the game, and you’ll be beating a sweat while accomplishing your tasks.
Afterwards, The Outlast Trials offer up engrossing rewards for their players; Rig upgrades to be used in-game, passive upgrades that can be bought with the in-game currency, and aesthetic changes for your cell, which other players can come visit.
Progression aside, all you really want to play this game for is either the horror repetitive aspect of nailing a specific trial with an A rank or to mess around with your friends in a clown fiesta. Either way, you can’t lose (unless you die.)
I was fifteen when I first played The Last of Us. The remastered version for the PS4 was the bread and butter of the hours spent post-surgery after tearing my ACL. That meant for just about an entire month, I played through the game roughly four times, taking breaks in between every few chapters to rewatch the “behind the scenes” footage that came with the title.
I had completely fallen for the characters and the story, and each time I finished the game, I felt a little more whole than before (and much more sad). Something about Joel and Ellie’s relationship just called me back to the start menu any time I was conscious. It’s not like I had much to do in the early days of recovery, anyway. But I could have been playing other games, or reading, or writing. Ultimately no, I really wasn’t interested in any of that. I just wanted TLOU.
Watching the actors deliver their performances, watching Gustavo Santaolalla walk me through his creative process, and seeing Neil Druckmann explain the nuances between his vision and commanding a whole studio of animators, audio designers, writers, and other artists made playing the game seem all the more enticing. And playing the game made learning more about seem all the more rewarding. And this cycle repeated itself until, finally, it was easy to say that I simply loved the game.
It is the first title I can say that I truly loved, even before Dark Souls found its way into my library. I haven’t touched TLOU in years, but that vault is best left closed. On the one hand, I’d be enthralled with the idea of another game reaching the near-perfection TLOU did, and in quite a similar fashion. On the other hand, I don’t know if I have the energy or time to be grasped by a title like TLOU grasped me way back when.
It’s a shower of brilliant art, and I’m lucky to have been here to witness it.
There’s little more that needs to be said than “smithing” when talking about the absolutely strange design choices seen in Bannerlord that lead the game to become a tedious walk of trying to break the game instead of playing it naturally. But that’s only true when talking to veterans of the Mount and Blade series, so I’ll pretend you know nothing about it and explain myself.
Bannerlord is the second installment in the Mount and Blade series. Its ultimate goal as a game was to refine the gameplay offered by its predecessor, Warband. The meat of which amounted to roaming around a kingdom divided, offering your warband’s military prowess to various lords in return for cash, favor, and, ultimately, land. Acquiring land and becoming king of your own kingdom, too, was the ultimate goal of the game, generally speaking. In Bannerlord, the name of the game is just the same. Roam the lands, get into fights, and build up a reputation that can back a King.
The problem with Bannerlord in relation to its predecessor, in my opinion, is that it mars this gameplay loop with a collection of outrageous design choices that benefit grindy tactics as opposed to leaning on the strengths that it has as a medieval battle sim. Where Warband annoyed players because of its dated combat, troop control scheme, and limited diplomatic features, Bannerlord annoys players because of its intentional design: Clearing bandit camps is a tedious and needlessly long game of sending your troops while alt-tabbing to do something else, grinding out skills and controlling the development of your own family and companions is unbelievably taxing on the fun to be had in the moment to moment fluidity of Bannerlord thanks to the perk system and steep XP curve, while the quest system, in some cases, finds itself wanting with groups of easy-to-accomplish and lucrative quests that one completes on repeat while others are borderline cheese with their impossible-to-fail, easy-to-bore design, such as the “Inn and out” quest which gives the player no opportunity to scale up skills, but still requires a rather large time investment for what amounts to beating poorly designed AI in a game of Calradic Checkers.
The Second-Worst of it is the Skill System
The almost most egregious of the problems aforementioned is the skill system. When grinding out skills in Warband, the player character didn’t have to worry about the perk system. That is to say, the player character did not need to make perk selections at every meaningful juncture in XP gain. Instead, the player would update their favorite skill, assign some weapon points, and be on their way. Bannerlord took this system and added perks on top of it so that when each skill hits a certain milestone, the player is offered the choice between two choices that give respective bonuses.
Ignoring the fact that these bonuses, in most cases, are wildly different in power levels, the most annoying thing about this is that each of these decisions has to be made for family members and companions. And before you say “You can enable the auto-perk selection options!”, remember that these perks are wildly different in power levels. That is to say, one is going to be useful, while the other is going to be useless.
This means that rolling the dice on whether or not an important companion gets a perk that does not affect the weapons they use isn’t a viable option. A system that could fix this would include giving the game a learning system for perk selection that opts to select perks that benefit an NPC’s habits, but even that wouldn’t solve the severe power discretion they suffer from. And even a fix to that doesn’t change the outrageous grind being asked of players to cap out their skills.
Take trading, for example. If you google “how to get 300 trading Bannerlord“, you do not get a collection of responses telling you to trade effectively. Instead, you get responses detailing how to exploit the game because the actual methods for XP gain are both painfully slow and dreadfully boring. You’d think a game about leading parties and kingdoms would reward the player with trade XP for conducting all kinds of business ventures, but instead, you only get XP for trading at a profit within your own party. No other forms of business matter, which means your caravans and businesses, even when operating at massive profits, yield no XP. You’ll be spending the entirety of your characters 50-70 years trading at a profit in tedious fashion just for the option to buy a few settlements that you could have just taken via combat.
And that leads us back to smithing. Another skill that turns the game into an absolute nightmare of tedium and balance issues. Smithing, conceptually, should have been a way to let the player roleplay as a tradesperson. Instead, it functions as a means to buy out the entire wealth of kingdoms. No, seriously. If you make a weapon that is moderately sharper and longer than other weapons you can find on dead looters, the whole of Calradia will go bankrupt trying to buy it.
It’s goofy, and while I like developers taking chances on outrageous balancing, this feels like an oversight more than it does a legitimate, immersive way to play the game. This feeling doubles over with the boredom factor as it asks you to manually rest your character in between smithing and smelting items to simulate the passing of time instead of just passing the time in relation to how much you’ve smithed. That sounds like a non-issue, but anyone who has tried leveling smithing knows how tedious it is to hop back and forth between the various UI just to facilitate smelting down one skirmish’s worth of loot.
The Actual Worst of it
The worst part of all this is that I like it. The strengths of the game, that is, the combat, sieging, currying favor with lords, and watching your Warband grow in size and quality, are stronger than the game’s weaknesses are annoying. It puts the player in a strange position of loving the game when the game is good and absolutely dreading it when it’s fucky, for lack of a better word. I honestly find myself having a better time playing Vanilla Warband over Bannerlord just because the former does not seek to waste my time in ways that Bannerlord chooses to.
I give credit to TaleWorlds Entertainment where it’s due: They’ve been consistently updating the game and making improvements to the basic functions found within, so I can count on some of these issues being addressed. That said, I have only so much patience. And at the current point in time, I’d much rather spend my days with something that I don’t have to make exceptions for.
Phantom Liberty is here, and before I play it, I want to go over some of the free changes that have come alongside it. For clarity’s sake, the changes included with the 2.0 update, which completely overhauled the game, are considered completely separate from Phantom Liberty’s release. You do not need the new DLC to enjoy these changes. And with that, let’s begin.
The 2.0 Update
The free update that CDPR has released overhauls everything in the game save for the most fundamental of quest progression, dialogue, and combat mechanics. Everything else, for the most part, has been reworked in some way, and on paper, it seems for the better. For the smaller things, players can rejoice in knowing that miscellaneous, low quality loot, which plagued every single battlefield post-victory, has been limited or replaced with leveled loot to decrease the overall opportunity cost of claiming the spoils of combat. Vendors now scale to the player’s level. Vehicles have been given some quality of life updates, such as destructible tires. Additionally, the police system has been reworked to resemble a more lively and dangerous reality for law breakers.
Now onto the most important changes in CyberPunk’s 2.0 update:
Perk Tree Rework: The perk trees have been reworked into a smaller number of perks for each skill that change gameplay in a more drastic way than before. Players can expect a little more from spending their perk points aside from simple damage increases. A good example is Killer Instinct, from the Cool perk tree, which gives players 25% increased damage with stealthy weapons when not in combat, rewarding an unseen pattern of play. The perk trees also interact more with consumables and give bonuses to vehicles, which have seen an overhaul in how they function with the game.
Consumable Rework: It wouldn’t be fair to mention the consumables without touching on their changes. Before the 2.0 update, Cyberpunk played like a resource collection game where by its mid stages you’d have acquired an effectively infinite number of healing goods and grenades that you could spam to no end, making boss fights tedious and mostly safe. From now on, players will have a set number of grenades and healing goods that they can draw from before needing to wait for them recharge. So if you’re capped at two healing goods and you use two, you’re out for an allotted amount of time.
A Leveled World: I have an article talking about the nature of leveled worlds, if you’re interested in diving deep into what they are, but the essence of this change revolves around the enemies you encounter. Before, Cyberpunk’s world had enemies scattered throughout that were leveled in association with their location. So if you were in a high leveled area, the enemies would be higher leveled. Now, enemies will be leveled to the character at all times, so matter where you are, be it a late game area or an early game area, the enemies will have a consistent challenge across the board, where variation in difficulty will scale with the enemy’s preset rank as opposed to a flat level that you are either prepared or unprepared for. The loot they drop, too, will level with you, so you can expect an easy-to-follow path for your weapon upgrades.
Armor Rework: Moving forward, only some clothing items will provide slight bonuses in armor, and will serve primarily as a cosmetic choice. Instead, players will be able to pick up their armor bonuses through attribute allocation, skill levels, and primarily, CyberWare stat modifiers. Most players see this as a welcome addition to Cyberpunk since much of the clothing previously sought for their armor bonuses looked kinda dumb. Now, there’s no more choosing between fashionscape and protection, just take both.
The changes brought in by the 2.0 update give Cyberpunk a fresh coat of paint and a host of new ways to play. Many of the more tedious aspects of the game have been removed or streamlined in a way that makes them unobtrusive. Despite this, the core gameplay is still the same, and the writing and story development have been mostly untouched, so if you didn’t like the game for those reasons before, you still won’t like them moving forward.
For a story that revolves around the nature of the self and what it means to be human, CyberPunk sure does spend a lot of time making certain that almost everyone in the game acts like an NPC with no soul.
There isn’t a whole lot to complain about with the modern CyberPunk of today when stacked up against the CyberPunk on release day. For one, the game actually runs now. And with the rapidly approaching Liberty City expansion, which essentially overhauls much of the games mechanics, there’s little room to complain within the game’s space. I’m going to try to, anyway.
I’ve been playing the game as a means to collect footage for a proper review on my YouTube channel, and now that I’m approaching 50 hours, I can feel the slog coming on. The fun is grinding down into a repetitive meltdown, and what used to hook me, the world, is now an eyesore that looks about as interesting as a messy painting you’re forced to look at on the way to work every day.
The gunplay is, actually, pretty solid. No news here; the game has been out for three years now and everyone who has heard anything about the game has probably heard that there isn’t much to say about the gunplay. The mechanics associated with hip firing, maneuvering, ADS combat, and melee (this one is very fun) all tie together to make a smooth combat experience, which is just as well since 99% of what you do will revolve around combat.
The quick hacking mechanic, which sees your character mentally hack into a foe’s mind, is a little lackluster in satisfaction for me since it requires your character to quite literally slow the game down and stare at enemies before initiating a quick hack and wait for it to work its magic. A simple fix that I’d like to see implemented would be the inclusion of a hotkey system that allows for quick pinging of hacks on enemies instead of having to navigate through a UI in slow-motion every time you get into combat (which, again, is 99% of the time in 2077).
I hinted at this earlier, but the world, named Night City, is very, very interesting to explore at first. Within the first 5 hours of gameplay, you’ll find yourself eager to see more of it, even if the exploring you’re doing isn’t holding hands with a quest marker or side activity. After that five hours pass up, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything of note beyond repetition, repetition, repetition. If you want a world that feels alive, go play GTA V. If you want to see an example of a world that does a poor job of hiding the unkempt kitchen from the customers, then go play CyberPunk 2077.
Right outside your starting house in 2077, two cops are sitting upon stools in front of a food vendor. The first time I came across them, I stopped to eavesdrop on their conversation. They argued about the safety of their last interaction with crime before halting the conversation and staring at each other. I found this to be fine. Thirty minutes of gameplay later and I found myself walking by them once again, only to hear them repeat that same exact conversation again and again and again and.. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Take that kind of design, which forgets to just program these cops into not repeating themselves throughout the entire game anytime the player walks within 50 feet of them, and apply it to the world of CyberPunk. It takes the player out of their attempted immersion and reminds them that they are, indeed, playing a deeply flawed product. Cheers.
Where the combat serves to provide a fun challenge in 2077, the Story serves as one’s motivation for pushing on when the side content (of which there is very little by way of variation) proves too repetitive. And it is within the story that we find our immature coolness factor. The story and its characters are cool, and they are written very immaturely.
The game, as aforementioned, revolves around a philosophical question aimed at the soul and humanity as a whole. Having Keanu Reeves hold our hands as we plow through crazy situation after crazy situation is entertaining. The only problem here is that the writing and direction exhibited throughout the game can be lackluster, to say the least. Some lines are delivered as though the voice actor didn’t know what kind of situation the player was going to be involved in during its execution, and some lines are delivered properly, but written so poorly that it comes off as attempted cheese in a satirical environment.
And don’t get me wrong, the game is satirical in many ways, but it flip-flops so frequently between trying to take itself seriously and trying to achieve an audience of laughter that it isn’t hard to see the areas in the game where the satire is used solely to phone it in without getting criticism from the playerbase. This weakness takes the entertainment and, just like the world itself, pulls the player from their seat of immersion and plops them back into their room, a little more annoyed than they were the moment before.
As for the question the game poses to the player; if the people in Night City actually do have souls, and this separates them from the AI that surrounds them, I am not impressed, and would rather spend my time with the Delamain crew.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
Many of the video games I find myself playing these days are arena-based PVP games. Something like OSRS or any other MMORPG-ish game that I find in my library always reeks of commitment. Commitment of emotions and time (In OSRS’s case, a lot of regret, too.)
Given my current situation with work, time is commodity I am valuing more and more. Said commodity, when amply available, is best spent on something I can get in and out of within 30 minutes to an hour, and this has led me to playing as much Siege as I possibly can.
I’ve managed to put over 200 hours into it over the last year or so, and I feel I’m now in a good spot to give my two-cents on the game from a casual and competitive standpoint. Ill break this up into a not-so structured way and hope for the best. Let’s start with the game in a casual setting.
When you’re first learning to play Siege, you’re going to get pure enjoyment from simply looking at the different characters (operators) in the game and trying to figure out just how to use them all to their advantages. There’s enumerable ways to play the game, and since everyone has a different play style, the different operators offer another layer of depth to complicate the game in the best way possible.
This experience is not unlike the kind offered by MOBAs like Leagueof Legends and DOTA 2. Different playstyles in those games represent themselves in the kinds of roles offered in-game, and the characters available to play are all different enough to add extra spice on top of those already-different playstyles.
But with Siege, these differences, while noticeable, make up a 50% change in how you play at most. This means, simply, that if you manage to win a round of Siege by playing to your operators strengths, you don’t feel like you won in any specific way because you had to. You feel like you won because you made one of the many correct decisions you could have in the game, whether that’s being aggressive and relying on your accuracy in a gun fight, spawn peaking unsuspecting enemies, or laying back and denying a plant.
All of this to say that the different operators in Siege are designed well enough to be fun in their own rights, but also don’t completely dictate the flow of a match. If the defending team chooses horrible operators to defend a site with but are also the better team in a gunfight, well, they’re still likely going to win the match, because this game is still a shooter with a very low time to kill (often a fraction of a second.)
When you’re in a casual mindset, the game is also at its most fun, in my opinion. Siege benefits greatly from having an “Ah, fuck it.” attitude from its players since there’s so much shit happening that you often can’t account for; teammates not making call-outs, enemies cooking a grenade just right, fuse dropping bombs on your face from above, enemies DCing right before you manage to make an interrogation against them, the list really does goes on infinitely. And this isn’t to say that I’m a perfect player. I’ve been guilty, on more than one occasion, of being startled by my own team and shotgunning them in the face.
This can be solved by being better, of course, but can also ruin a competitive player’s game and, potentially, their entire day. Say what you want about League or DOTA2, at least your teammates can’t directly kill your health bar by shooting you in the face.
So, Siege is fun when you’re not attached to the game’s outcome. What is it like when playing to win?
Siege does not magically become a bad game when you start playing competitively. The different operators are still just as fun to experiment with, destroying the map layout to gain an advantage is still just as tactical and enthralling as before, and pulling off great plays or sweet flicks is still rewarding in its own way. What changes when playing competitively is one’s emotional investment.
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of things you’re not in control of when playing Siege. Sometimes, you need to check one corner before advancing, and an enemy 50 yards away lands a lucky headshot against you through a wall. Sometimes, you teammates accidentally shotgun you in the face. Sometimes, your team just doesn’t want to communicate, and you don’t stand a chance against any 5-man teams (5 stacks) you go up against.
All of this is to say nothing about the INCREDIBLE amount of cheaters and griefers who go into matches with wall hacks or intentions of ruining someone else’s game. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being paired with four other teammates who were all friends with one another. They spent the whole match throwing themselves in front of my line of sight, shooting me, and at one point killed me as I cooked a grenade with intention of having said grenade kill them all, marking me as a teamkiller.
These two things happen fairly often, and since you are banking on having a good match by not having griefers or cheaters on either team, those matches that feel like true representations of what Siege is supposed to be make up only about 60%-70% of your games, which is absolutely abysmal for a title of Siege’s quality and standing in the FPS community.
Now, this problem exists regardless of what kind of mindset you have going into a match, but what changes is how much it effects you. Obnoxious (or straight up bad) teammates matter very little when you’re only half paying attention, or if you’re just in a match to test out a strange strategy for the fun it. But that same issue becomes horribly annoying when you’re trying to win in an intense match and two out of four teammates can’t use communications to save their lives. Or, if you have the unfortunate experience of playing with or against a hacker, the entire game you’re in becomes a huge waste of time, as that game’s LP gains or losses become negated after the hacker is eventually banned.
I suppose its fair to say that this review is focusing a bit too much on the experience of playing siege and not going in depth about its mechanics, but aside from mentioning that operators are different and that the map can be destroyed, I don’t see much point in talking about, say, the barbed wire secondary gadget vs. the mobile cover. These are things that are in the game, but the game definitely isn’t built around them.
The gun play is good, if a little inconsistent with its hit detection. The various ways to traverse a map thanks to the destruction mechanics in the game make for a new experience every match. The weapons are all neat, if that counts as a ‘review’ of them, and the maps themselves are… hit and miss. Most players just try to play on Oregon when they get the chance, as it is decidedly the Dust II of Siege.
6/10 | Decent
That verdict might seem harsh given Siege’s unique position in the FPS genre, but until Ubisoft manage to get a stronger hold on cheaters and griefers, I can’t see myself rating this game any higher.
If you’re looking for something new to play and want to chill out to a one of a kind FPS game with populated community, I can totally recommend this game. If you’re looking for something to dig deep and get competitive with, I’d advise steering well clear of Rainbow Six: Siege.
War Thunder is a free to play vehicle simulation PVP game that allows players to compete in aerial, sea, and ground warfare. The lineup of vehicles ranges from a wide variety of famous, under appreciated, and outright experimental creations that may have never seen combat in reality, and from many different countries. I think it goes without saying that this game isn’t going to be everyone right out of the gate. For those who don’t care much for vehicles, or aren’t open to learning about them (which is a must if you want to compete against decent players) you might as well pass this game up from the get go. That said, there’s a host of good things (and problems) awaiting anyone who’s even slightly interested in the vehicles of WWI and beyond within this game. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of this game as it stands in 2021.
The Gameplay Itself
Conceptually, fighting in vehicles is fun. Fighting other players is fun. So all that’s really left to discuss is whether or not Gaijin delivers in the design department, and yeah, they really do, to put it simply. For the more casual players, the arcade mode serves to ease the gameplay into one’s mind in a forgiving manner more akin to World of Planes (though not that bad, to be sure). Dive speeds don’t rip your plane apart, G forces are lenient, flaps don’t mind a ton of pressure, and by now you’re probably noticing that I’m only talking about the planes and nothing else. I only have authority on the air combat, everything else in the game are things I have limited experience with, but I’ll touch on the tanks and boats, don’t worry.
From Arcade Mode, you can move to realistic battles. In RB, flight models behave far more realistically, ammo and fuel is scarce, you only have one life, and the Germans win just about everything that doesn’t involve a P-51. When it comes to arcade, your aim and ability to turn your plane properly is really what separates winners from loser.
In RB, so many more factors come into play that the game takes a steep incline in its learning curve. Understanding your planes flight characteristics; How fast it goes in a straight line and at what altitude, how well it retains speed in a climb, how quickly it gains speed in a dive, how quickly it turns 360 degrees, how its engines behave, the list goes on. Simply put, there’s a lot to consider, and even after you master one of the many planes for a single country, you still have to study up on what planes you might face in matches and try to get an understanding of their behaviors.
This is the game mode where the game shines, in my opinion. This is true for planes, boats, and tanks alike. Arcade is really the ‘newcomer’ mode, and RB is how War Thunder was truly meant to be played. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting knocked out of an Air RB match not 5 minutes after getting into it, but that frustration doesn’t compare negatively to the positively triumphant feeling a pilot gets in War Thunder when than putting in a good performance, getting back to landing safely at your airfield, and winning the match because of your efforts. In terms of lows defining highs, Air RB is a staple in the field, no pun intended.
For tanks and boats, this is mostly true, except for the fact that getting up tiered (that is, getting into match with vehicles one league above yours) is a horrid experience. The difference between two planes of different battle ratings is defined, but not as well defined as the jarring changes between two tanks of a different time. There will be situations for tank players where there’s nothing, offensively, they can do in a situation. Their shells will never pierce, their speed will never be sufficient, etc. Its pretty upsetting for the community, but they manage. I can only imagine this problem is similar for Boat players.
From there, Gaijin allows players to take part in ‘Simulator’ mode, which is one step above Realistic mode in what we’ll call realism. Its not quite DCS World, but it does offer some notable changes for the hardcore players in terms of flight models and dog fights from RB, as well as bringing in the ability to use a flight stick to good effect. In fact, a flight stick is the preferred method of control in this game mode if you want to be competitive.
This game mode, while decent at accomplishing what its supposed to do, is often cited as being the most ignored piece of content in the game. Too few updates, too few rewards, and too few objectives. It’s likely the Gaijin understands that this game mode is the least played area of their game and have decided to put resources elsewhere. All the same, if you’re a hardcore simmer, this mode may be worth checking out at least a couple times to get a feel for it.
In all of the aforementioned game modes, you can play as a myriad of historically faithful ground attackers, bombers, dog fighters, heavy and light tanks, anti-aircraft vehicles, and whatever kinds of boats existed back then. This is a blessing due to staggering variety offered up to the player in terms of gameplay and roles. This is also a curse due to the
Sheer Fucking Grind of War Thunder in 2021
Reminder, this game is free to play. This means that Gaijin needs to monetize the game in one way or another. And the way they do that is by reducing grind times of unlocking every vehicle at the cost of monies.
Want to get to the top tier jets ASAP instead of months of deliberate practice and grinding? You might consider buying a premium subscription for roughly 13 dollars a months or so. Or, you can outright buy the research points needed to get the plane you want right away. There’s numerous ways to cut corners in the game, and all of them include dishing out some cash. Sometimes outrageous amounts for one plane.
Now, to Gai’s credit, all of the vehicles have their strengths and weaknesses, so you’re never going to be able to auto win most of your games by virtue of having some premium tank/plane/boat you shelled out for. So don’t fret, P2W isn’t a rampant problem in this game. In fact, I’d say that problem is almost non-existent, if its even present ever. But the grind is quite the pain for most players, resulting is many choosing one or two nations to focus their grind on, leaving most of the content untouched as they climb the trees.
So yeah, play this game. If you like it, experiment with different vehicles and nations and find your playstyle. If you love it, you can buy a sub and improve your grind experience. But some words of warning
For you New Players
You’re going to get absolutely smacked. There is no ‘newcomer’ queue to hold your hand into the game. You’re going to be thrown into a match (start with arcade, please) and get stomped on. This will happen repeatedly until you get at least a slight grasp of how you’re supposed to play. Veterans playing with early-game planes and destroying new players is just a part of the matchmaking system and its not going to be changed any time soon, so get strapped in and prepare to be the new player who sucks for a while.
The Game is fairly well balanced, despite having issues with the new player experience and high-tier vehicles
The grind is insane, reduced by spending cash, but never P2W.
The various game modes give a lot of variance for gameplay and allow different kinds of people to find their niche in the community, leaving a lot of room for different strokes.
A good in-between the market game for veteran simmers and casual players to enjoy together.
Strong6/10, light 7/10, Solid. Play this game if you’ve got some time to blow and want to learn some history while enjoying some accurate to reality models of various vehicles through multiple iterations and generations.