This week's Game Buzz sees us chat about Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang and Minecraft, and what the future might hold for both the studio and its wildly popular IP under new management. Now that Jon's had a chance to get cracking in Destiny, we also have a natter about Carl's review and the ongoing mix of feelings that Destiny manages to provoke.
Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be some instances of strong language.
Do you consider 7/10 to be a bad score?
Have a real think about that one, and while you ponder that, here's a further, qualifying question to fit into our consumer-oriented editorial remit.
If you were looking forward to a game, would you be less likely to buy it if it received a 7/10 score or equivalent?
Converted mathematically into a star system, 7/10 equates to three and a half stars. Suddenly, it doesn't quite seem so bad. Hell, even 6/10 starts looking fairly attractive at that point. Put into pictures, the idea of suggesting that 7/10 might be something negative becomes an almost laughable notion. Sure, it isn't top marks, but it isn't bad. It's isn't even average. One certainly wouldn't call it mediocre.
And yet that's exactly what this industry seems hell bent on doing.
Part of this has to do with the pervasive and ever-growing power of review aggregation sites. The shadows that Metacritic and, to a lesser extent, GameRankings cast over the industry have been well-documented. There has been much talk of corruption in the past few weeks, but in amongst the personal attacks on industry figures, the howling banshee noises from various entrenched factions of the internet, the slandered "gamers" and the harassed journalists, and everyone caught in between, let's take a look at something simple and clear and easy: bonuses should not be predicated on aggregated review scores when the entire scoring system is broken.Click here to read more...
The FIFA 15 demo has been out for around a week or so now, and I've been dipping into it in amongst swathes of Destiny, Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2 (do check out Carl's review of Bungie's FPS, and my appraisal of the Zelda/Warriors mashup). As per usual, EA Canada have been showering us with buzzword-heavy promotional sentences largely devoid of any real meaning, and the biggest of the lot for this year's release has been "emotion" -- that is to say player and crowd reactions, presentation tuned to deliver the theatrical and entertaining, and a boost in dynamic atmosphere when it comes to the in-game environment.
Has it worked? Are all of the footballing feels writ large upon this new, super-shiny canvas? Here are a few thoughts are several hours spent playing the demo:
Emotional behaviour is a thing: FIFA's always been a rather emotional game for me, in much the same way as any multiplayer game that you love can be. When winning and bragging rights amongst your friends (or the rest of the online community) are onthe line, matches mean more, and the peaks and troughs of a game matter more than they really have any right to. But this is now reflected on the pitch. In one game where I was playing as PSG, Lucas skipped past several defenders, Ibrahimovic shook his man, but I wanted to get the winger a goal so I ignored the Swede and promptly ballooned a sitter over the bar. Ibra then launched several unintelligible insults Lucas' way.
Players will shove and barge more than they used to, they'll clamour and cheer when you do something awesome, but they'll also let you know when someone's been an arse. After unclean tackles, if those involved are not injured, they'll leap to their feet and start mouthing off and pushing one another. If anything, FIFA 15 has most gloriously captured the notion that footballers are whinging prima donnas, who'll get uppity about anything.Click here to read more...
I can't get enough of Hyrule Warriors. It helps, of course, that I'm quite a fan of the musou genre, but Omega Force have quite outdone themselves with this hybrid mashup. I spent much of yesterday listening to the game's outstanding soundtrack, which mainly consists of epic, widdly, J-rock variations on an abundance of Zelda themes.
Much like the OST for Pacific Rim, it instantly makes whatever you're doing seem more awesome than before.
Anyway, our review is already out, in which I gave it 8/10 and called it a bunch of fun, along with branding it as probably the best Warriors game to date:
Hyrule Warriors doesn't pretend to be anything that it isn't. It does exactly what it says on the tin, producing what is probably the best Warriors game to date, and doing so by taking many of the best aspects of The Legend of Zelda and successfully incorporating them into the classic 1-vs-1000 gameplay. The fan service is astonishing, the level of detail very welcome indeed, and the action can be truly satisfying, with the various bosses going a long way to making the repetitive action seem quite refreshing at times. A triumphant mash-up indeed.
Not only that, but we've also gone and captured the game's first battle on Hyrule Field, which features lots of Spin Attacks from Link, and an appearance from King Dodongo.Hit the jump to see Hyrule Warriors gameplay in action >>
Nintendo are usually fairly strict when it comes to their own IPs, especially when it comes to their big hitters. But their slight history of sharing isn't without success stories... along with other, admittedly contentious, results. Take the Metroid series, for instance. Retro Studios' Prime trilogy is still a benchmark in fantastic reimaginings of a yesteryear favourite, even if Other M proved that sometimes there'll be mixed results when a Nintendo IP is loaned out into other creative hands.
Unlike those games, though, Hyrule Warriors is not representative of Nintendo giving another studio relatively free rein with one of their most beloved franchises. Here we find a very specific mashup, and one that tends more towards the latter part of its name than the former. Hyrule provides the sizzle, but Warriors the steak.
It's worth bearing in mind that I like the various Warriors series that have emerged over the years. My favourite is still probably Dynasty Warriors 4, but that has more to do with it being an incredibly cathartic game at a certain point in my life rather than anything that game does especially well over any of its fellows. You generally know what you're getting with a Warriors game: a range of playable heroes, amusingly nonsensical cutscenes, 1-vs-1000s combat stuffed with button mashing and epilepsy-inducing special attacks, taking over enemy keeps and knocking out Outpost Captains.
Hyrule Warriors does all of those things.
But it does them in better fashion than I've ever seen from a Warriors game before.
Hyrule Warriors is basically a Warriors game as modded by the world's biggest Zelda fan. It's a spectacular piece of fan service that manages to frame everything in terms of the various adventures of Link and Zelda over the years, from playable characters and weapon sets to fairly pretty maps based upon locales from a number of different Zelda titles, to an entire adventure mode that plays out on a retro map plucked from the original Legend of Zelda NES game. Rupees burst out of downed enemies, fulfilling certain requirements on the battlefield will cause chests to spawn that tinkle in familiar fashion when they appear, and deliver the same anticipatory music when you take a peek inside. Variations on Koji Kondo's musical themes weave in and out of the wildly-soloing electric guitars that accompany most Warriors titles.Click here to read more...
No, that title is not a typo.
Let's face it, Microsoft didn't really buy Mojang for, well, Mojang... they dropped $2.5 billion for the privilege of owning Minecraft, and it's fairly easy to see why. It's a time of transition for Mojang, of course. What indie culture existed there is changed forever by this, not least because of the departure of several of the studio's founders, Notch included. It's not about the money, apparently, but rather to avoid going insane.
Given how massive Minecraft has become, for a mild-mannered bearded chap who just wants to go about making little games that interest him once again, I can't say that I blame Persson.
Minecraft is huge, it's gone beyond games to the point where it's now used fairly widely as an educational tool. As Notch wrote in his farewell blog post, Minecraft belongs to its millions of fans as well as Microsoft. There's a lot of love for the voxel-based trailblazer, and there were a range of reactions to the confirmation of the buyout on Twitter, even when the buyout was a mere whisper.
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) September 10, 2014
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 15, 2014
Some were confused by the amount of money that Microsoft had paid...
Click here to read more...
— David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt) September 15, 2014
The Masterplan is like a top-down Payday in many ways. The Early Access version of Shark Punch's hold 'em up is just a smattering of levels at this point, but already there's something glorious about the whole affair. Much like Starbreeze's criminal FPS, you're given a location, some intel, and it's your job to get and get out with the swag, hopefully before anyone calls the police.
Here's the official blurb:
Drawing inspiration from both legendary tactical turn-based games and classic heist movies alike, the goal of The Masterplan is to put together the right crew, get the right equipment, and finally plan and execute the biggest heist ever.
Set in the early 1970s, the game features beautiful hand-drawn 2D art and an authentic soundtrack recorded by a real band. The gameplay blends a physics-based world and a clever AI system with an easy to approach "real time with pause" user interface.
The user interface is lovely, keeping things simple and allowing players to better survey the area, identify obstacles and issues quickly, and try to plan out the perfect heist. Left-click to select, right-click to move and aim and interact, and there are a selection of useful hotkeys for brandishing weapons and (this is easy to forget at first) concealing them once more. Simple stuff, but when applied to an intricate tapestry of guard patrols, security cameras, a steady stream of potential witnesses, and obstinately locked doors, The Masterplan really comes alive. I have to talk about the music as well, because it's simply superb. The band recordings conducted for this game have brought an aural "crime caper" soundscape into the mix, with the dizzying horns rising and falling as the drama in the level unfolds and is dealt with. It's brilliant stuff.
It's early days indeed on the content side of things, but the core gameplay works very nicely indeed as it stands. I rather hope that the toolset of your goons expands as you progress, and I'm eager to see what other systems can be brought it to further deepen the options available to players. There's some serious potential here, but it hinges on building upon the solid foundation with some scope and ambition. One of the best things about Payday 2 was the manner in which you could specialise, and the persistent nature of progression. Borrowing those systems wholesale for this wouldn't work, but it'd be nice to see a simple continuity in your goons much like Cannon Fodder or XCOM -- improved efficiency in certain areas through use, perhaps, and (hopefully) the ability to name them ourselves. It's a simple device, but it fosters a surprisingly strong connection.Click here to read more...
Microsoft have bought Minecraft. Well, they've bought Mojang, but given that three of the studio's founders are leaving, I reckon we can tell it how it is. For Notch, his creation has grown too big. He is now a man with nearly two million followers on Twitter, an industry figure whose musings on social media have become newsworthy headlines.
And it's all become a little too much.
"I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn’t understand. I tweeted this in frustration. Later on, I watched the This is Phil Fish video on YouTube and started to realize I didn’t have the connection to my fans I thought I had. I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter."
It reminds me of the departure of the two Doctors from BioWare in some ways -- a situation that's understandable and yet tinged with sadness -- but at least Notch is saying that he wants to keep making games. They'll be smaller, much smaller, but there'll be something freeing about developing without a million eyes or so looking over his shoulder (eventually).Click here to read more...
A week on from release and I'm still no closer to being able to answer what seems to be a simple question: is Destiny any good? Thankfully, I've exercised my power as editor and given the job of putting a score on the game to Carl, but I was at a gathering over the weekend and three people asked me variants of that very question, and I realised that I gave three completely different answers.
It's a game that still fills me with an enormous sense of ambivalence.
It's easy to see why Bungie warned everyone away from day one reviews. One of the most fun, and quite possibly reductive, activities of critically engaging with The Most Expensive Game Ever Made has been seeing which bits and bobs of gameplay have been borrowed from where. A healthy slab of Halo here, a dusting of Defiance there, left to marinade in a bunch of MMO conventions and practices. It's perhaps the aspects of that last one that have proven a little confusing for the console audience. Here in the land of PlayStations and Xboxes, we know little of power levelling. Endgame content is a term that is confusing and sounds suspicious.
Much has been made of Destiny's fairly bland story missions, most of which take you out of the even more bland expanses on Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars, and funnel you into some sort of dungeon area. In my opinion, the bits of bespoke content (particularly the Strikes) have proven far more entertaining than the other solo/co-op content. It says much when the best bits of a seemingly expansive title such as this are actually the most narrow and focussed sections.
For console players who've shied away from MMOs, content gating will be a new experience -- the slow introduction to the game's systems and modes anathema to the regular slew of content shooters and action RPGs that deliver the whole package and tell you to run amok. Indeed, it's the primary excuse I've heard from people defending the practice: Destiny takes its cues from MMOs, you grind to level 20 and that's when the "real" game opens up!
My response to that thus far has been simple...
Why?Click here to read more...
Probably the most fully-realised aspect of Destiny, today we turn out attention to the Crucible in this ongoing series of review impressions, taking a look at game modes, maps, and balancing.
Destiny reminds me of the original Assassin's Creed.
Wait, come back. Let me explain.
I remember when the original Assassin's Creed came out, and the hype train was a full speed for that particular title. I remember it being the game on everyone's lips, not least in part because one of the core aspects of the way that game handled felt so liberating and exciting. Running and climbing was fluid and intuitive and wildly freeing. I remember local multiplayer nights being replaced by us crowding round a single Xbox, swapping the controller back and forth every so often just as we had years before when the GTA series was in its infancy. This central mechanism, this seamless parkour and vertical freedom from which everything else seemed to derive, was incredibly exciting.
That might all seem a little daft now, but at the time it was extraordinarily exciting, coupled with open-ended assassination missions that gave you the run of the city and empowered you to make your own decisions. The core of the game was fresh and fun and brimmed with promise and potential.
That's the thing, though, it took Assassin's Creed II to take the franchise to the next level and really deliver on that potential, realising the promise hinted at in that first game. For all of its seemingly breathless originality and ambition at the time, the original Assassin's Creed was also repetitive, clunky, and fell far short of the grandiose ambitions underpinning its structure. Altair was a blank cipher, whose American voice sounded out of place amongst the heavily accented tones of every other character, and although the game around him had some nice ideas, it was mired in content that still had some way to go, its quality diminished by missions of an increasingly formulaic and repetitive nature, and a devolution into endless combat encounters the further along you got.
At the time of release, Electronic Gaming Monthly described it as "an incomplete template based on multiple other games" -- there were some unique flavours in the mix, but it took a sequel for Assassin's Creed to really find its feet and its complete identity.
That quote above could just as easily be applied to Destiny. In fact, it's even more pertinent here.Click here to read more...
Busy collecting Grimoire cards and Emblems in Destiny this week? Well, allow us to help you out. Through promotional trading cards for the game, affiliate websites, and the emergence of limited edition codes, 26 codes have been uncovered that can be used multiple times and redeemed on Bungie.net for rewards.
All you have to do is register on the site (sign up the Dealspwn Destiny clan while you're at it), link up you PSN/Xbox LIVE accounts to ensure maximum benefit, and then enter in the codes by clicking "Redeem Code" in the drop-down menu from your account name.
You can see your Grimoire cards immediately on Bungie.net once you've unlocked them, but you'll need to take a trip to the Tower and visit the Postmaster to nab your Emblems and Shaders. Don't expect to be able to to use the latter until level 20.Hit the jump for the free list of Destiny codes >>
Another day, another set of games heavily discounted over on the Humble Store. Today's highlights see Just cause 2 available for under two quite, Batman: Arkham Origins for under £8, and a slew of awesome indie titles such as Bastion, Godus, and The Cave all with 70% or so knocked off of the usual price.
As per usual, you've only got a few hours to nab these games at the current prices.