I don’t if you’ve noticed but we’re slap bang in the middle of a bit of a barren period for gaming blockbusters unless you happen to own a PS4, that is, with God of War inbound on Friday. Fortunately, these quieter moments give us a bit more time to spend with the games we’ve already got, or perhaps to clear out some of that towering backlog before we get back into crazy season again.
Jon: I’m sort of stuck between a rock, a hard place, and a diamond hammer when it comes to games. My pilgrimage through the Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition is proving to be every bit as daunting as I’d feared. I’m about 45 hours in right and in danger of hitting the dreaded wall, so in all my wisdom I thought now would be the perfect time to begin my dungeon crawling exploits in Etrian Odyssey: The Millennium Girl on 3DS. It’s actually a fantastic little RPG that has you exploring this gigantic, multi-layered dungeon in the Yggdrasil tree. The best bit is how it fuses cartographic elements in though. There is no map apart from what you draw for yourself on the bottom screen, allowing players to jot down layouts, potential secrets and shortcuts, tough enemy locations, or whatever you want really. As you inch through the labyrinthine levels you gradually begin to map everything out and it’s really rather satisfying. But, it feels like Etrian Odyssey is also horrendously massive.
Plumbing the depths of my wisdom even further, I thought the best thing to break up two massive RPGs would be a spot of Cities: Skylines. Last weekend, several hours flew by in what felt like an hour. It’s like the time machine none of us want, warping me closer to death at 8x speed but I just can’t stop playing. So, that’s my weekend then, and probably all of my weekends for the foreseeable future. Oh, until God of War arrives next week that is...
Felix: I have been tucking into Far Cry 5.
The intro is great. It made me really feel like I was there in amongst the craziness of the setting. I'm sure most of you will agree that it's fun playing any Far Cry. Designed so you can pick it up and play it for as long or as short a period of time as suits. Which is great for you folks who, like me, are faced with a busy daily schedule. However, there are a couple of issues that would make me drop my normal Far Cry score of around 8 out of 10 to about 6.5. There’s nothing new apart from the setting, and after just two hours of Far Cry 5, you realise the design of the Cult enemy and general makeup of the world is the same as if you were playing Far Cry 3. And in fact, I think the situation here is worse than that. It's as if they've dumbed down Far Cry 5, and so let's turn to my more cynical dark side to see why I think this.
Ubisoft is trying to create a Far Cry game that can spark the imagination of the modding community while monetising it with equipment you can purchase and use across single and multiplayer created scenarios. This means the “purchase anything” shop is present throughout the single player experience. And for me, this is a massive loss of immersion. Seeing all the things you can find in the game, from the moment you first reach a phone stuck on the side of a building, or one of the many many tables with a guy stood near it, spoils any surprise in the game's enfolding depth. When you interact, there is no in-game preamble from a scripted event to explain why a phone is attached to the wall waiting for you to instantly summon something, just Ubisoft loading up what you own from your connected account. All the things you can't afford are greyed out but enticingly visible to the player for instant purchase, with two price tags next to each item. One price tag is for in-game earned and found currency, while the other price tag is for silver (bars? Or whatever they are called), which you can buy with real money. It tells you the most popular is the 15.99 option. Sheesh.
Anything you buy can also be used in any multiplayer, fan-made maps. So buy the top-end weaponry or most interesting vehicles and then instantly spawn them in your single or multiplayer game. It just jars me out of feeling like I am in a well crafted FPS that is trying to deliver a comprehensive story and actually just playing something a bit like Garry's Mod.
To maintain this switch for players to cross over with their characters from multiplayer to single player seamlessly the perks have been simplified as well. Perks are the things you purchase as you progress in the single player to improve your abilities across the single player experience. But you look down the list and think….nah not really fussed by most of that. This is because the perks are balanced so as not to tip the scales too far in the multiplayer game. This approach is at the cost of the player’s interest in character progression in the single player. I found I went long periods before bothering to see how many skills I could now purchase because they were dull skills.
Despite all the negative, its still a fun game, but seriously Ubi, know your audience. Dont cautiously hack up and stagnate a well regarded IP like Far Cry in the hope of cashing in. Either spin out a separate game dedicated completely to multiplayer and make it fricking awesome or better yet pump your efforts into single player, which is where its roots lie, ideally delivering something on a par with the likes of Red Dead Redemption (Hah! - Jon). But if you were trying to create the next single player/multiplayer cash cow aspiring for the likes of GTA5, then you need to put in a heck of a lot more resources to both the single and multiplayer. I had feelings of Just Cause while playing Far Cry 5. And while JC is fun, its not known for its single player emersion levels and technically gifted storytelling.
It's been a busy few weeks for gaming recently, what have you recently picked up? Or are you tucking into some of your older games this weekend? Let us know!