Game Review – Battlefront 2 Can’t Hurdle Over Its Loot Box Issue.

Battlefront 2 received a lot of less than positive headlines this past week for its treatment of Loot Boxes. It’s weird that I wrote about Loot Boxes becoming more common last week and the next big title drop seems to have emerged as a sort of referendum on them. It’s unfair that Battlefront has been chosen as the hill gamers want to fight this battle on. It’s a solid game that’s worth your attention but the Loot Boxes make it really difficult to like this game.

The original games were just Star Wars skins placed over the Battlefield franchise, but they still had a quaint sense of being more than the sum of their parts. I skipped the 2015 Battlefront remake as I expected it was going to be a sub standard game but I thought they might actually listen to the criticisms and come up with a solid sequel. For the most part they did but it was one step forward two steps back for EA. Battlefront 2 is receiving a lot of flack for this loot box fiasco but it’s more a result of the industry than anything the developers did specifically. There are things to like about Battlefront 2 but the loot box issue is a pretty difficult blemish to hide.

Campaign

I know most of the ink B-front is getting is about the loot boxes but it should be noted they actually put together a pretty solid FPS campaign mode. I’ve mentioned it before but gamers are starting to allow companies too much leeway in what’s worth their money. A purely multiplayer game cannot be worth $90, it simply can’t, if the game is unplayable without an internet connection you better be paying for my internet. Yes, Overwatch is a solid game, it won Game of The Year Awards but really multiplayer should only ever be used as part of a game’s appeal.

*Gets Down From Soapbox*

The actual Campaign has some decent characters, there’s a cool dynamic in the first few levels when Luke Skywalker encounters an Imperial Soldier and I really felt like they captured the character of the original Luke Skywalker. As a Star Wars fan it was refreshing to see Luke as we remember him from the movies vs the weird emotionless robot so many other Star Wars games choose to depict him as. The story attempts to humanise the Empire which is a welcome change of pace. There’s a great scene where the characters question “High Command” after the decisions the Empire makes at the Battle of Endor. It’s a great moment, showing a side of the Empire we never really see in the movies.

Campaign

The Campaign follows the story of Iden Versio who operates as a relate-able soldier for the Empire

I’m only a few levels in but so far my expectations have been met. It’s solid, not an award winning story but enough that it shows they listened to the backlash they got from the first game.

Multiplayer

Here it is, the elephant in the room, or I guess in this context it’s the Rancor in the room? Loot boxes are incredibly frustrating. The game operates like typical Battlefield or Battlefront games, with classes largely establishing how you want to play the game which is all well and fine.

The issue comes from these “Star Cards” they’ve added, and the ability to change the type of gun equipped to your class. It feels very Call of Duty except even in COD you’re starting weapons weren’t pea shooters compared to the unlocked weaponry. Each class also has abilities that rely on a cooldown and these too can be replaced so you don’t know if you’re running into an assault trooper who has a shot gun or some other ability equipped. It creates a learning curve where you think you’ve got a surefire kill but the guy has some bullshit card attached that makes him immune to lasers and he gets a free pizza after 3 kills.

I also have a hard time understanding how points are scored. I have as many kills as the guy who just unlocked Darth Vader except I got to unlock “Rocket Trooper #1”, he seems like a cool guy and all but he isn’t Darth freaking Vader. There are points for capturing or defending objectives but other than that I feel like people have figured out some kind of secret in game pool of points. Now I’m not especially good at shooters or anymore, but I’m not last in points on my team levels of bad. I get my kills and I don’t die, that’s pretty much enough for me in most games but in Battlefront that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Loot Crate.jpg

Loot Crates currently have a worse rep than Michael Bay films. 

Worth The Attention?

Battlefront 2 is getting a lot of the flack that the rest of the industry probably deserves. The Loot Boxes are annoying, unnecessary, and in general just seem like a way to piss off a fan base that was already waiting to jump on you. Still, this is an industry wide issue not specific to this franchise.

The first Battlefront was a disappointment plain and simple so all the new one had to do was correct the mistakes they had previously made (Basically what JJ Abrams had to do with Episode 7). Instead they adopted a mechanic that was guaranteed to rub people the wrong way.

It might not be fair to blame Battlefront for the state of the industry but unfortunately when you take up the Star Wars license you’re putting a target on your back. Bioware took a lot of heat when they decided to make an MMO instead of finishing their RPG franchise Knights of the Old Republic. Was that heat justified? Not really, the game was a solid MMO but fans felt betrayed, they wanted a $90 finish to the amazing story they had invested in with KOTOR 1&2 and instead were given something that looked like a money pit. The merger between Disney and EA represents exactly what people hate about big companies, they just seem like they’re chasing the dollar vs what people actually want.

Still, I think Battlefront 2 is worth a look. Maybe you want to wait a bit for prices to drop for the holidays or some different in game prices to shake down but the game IS fun. As a Star Wars fan I can’t deny it felt good to jump in to battle on Yavin 4, the big 40 player maps give you a really good balance between feeling like you’re in the movies and still playing like an FPS. The space battles are incredible, a trend that follows the original Battlefront 2 when it came out but best of all, if you don’t like the multiplayer for any reason you have a solid single player experience. This is why a campaign should always be in your games, it can always save you a few fans.

Star-wars-battlefront-2-ea-dice-mmorpg-news

The Storm Trooper in the back is EXACTLY how the Social media rep for EA feels every day.

So that’s basically it, if you’re a Star Wars fan or just bored of Call of Duty games like I was, check out Battlefront 2. It’s not going to blow you away but it does the Star Wars franchise justice. I really think they’re going to address the Star Card discrepancy before long but if not you just put up with being crap for a while until you get those cards. The true hero of the game are the star fighter battles anyway.

Stray Observations

-“Inferno Squadron” works on “Operation: Cinder” what happens if they die, do they change the operation name?

-The questioning of Imperial High Command reminded me of The Thrawn Trilogy books where an Imperial Admiral talks about how dumb the Death Star is. It basically takes up the entire resources of an army that could’ve been better suited on practical things like men, ships etc.

-As much fun as I have in Dog Fights, I am 100% terrible at it. Having 0 Gravity really messes with you.

-I always get a kick out of the player names in Star Wars games. “TheLASTJedi69”, or “Hand So Low”, they’re basically either 12 year olds or people who are into bad puns. Put me in the latter.

-Why does Yoda have a star ship? This is a game made for and by Star Wars nerds. In the entire trilogy we don’t see Yoda fly a star fighter once, why would he, he’s YODA! It’s like if Gandalf the Grey used a shotgun.

 

 

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How MOBA’s Have Changed the Game Forever

 

 

MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, to my mom or dad this would be utter nonsense but to most gamers in the year 2017 it represents a game style that has spread like a weed. I say a weed because MOBA’s seem to be multiplying to a point where they’ve taken a choke-hold on the industry. The spores of the MOBA: Loot Boxes, Cosmetic Skins, and Game Balance have made their way into the traditional genres of First Person Shooters, Real Time Strategies and even Sports Games. They’ve become some of the most popular games on the market now.

Gameplay

Standard MOBA

This is a pretty basic “MAP” of what the standard field of play in most Moba’s looks like.

Most MOBA’s have the same structure. Two teams go into battle fighting waves of “creep”, no name grunts who are essentially cannon fodder, the teams battle the creep and each other while pushing into the other teams base, first team to destroy the other’s base wins. DOTA kept this simple, teams were forced to try to fight as one team defended their towers and the other tried to gain map control by destroying them. When Blizzard created their MOBA, Heroes of The Storm, they added different ways to destroy the other teams base. Depending on the map you were on, fights would be entered over objectives which would allow you to push easier, whether that’s a powerful Dragon-man or Nuclear Bombs which can be dropped on bases from afar, Heroes allows you to win in different ways.

I never played League of Legends but from what I understand it’s similar (see: Better) than DOTA, basically you try to kill other teams heroes and knock down their forts using your teams abilities. The most important feature in any of these games are “Roles”. Characters’ skills are designed with a goal in mind, Tanks take damage so other characters can stay alive, Pushers push lanes to force the other team to defend, Supports try to keep their team alive etc. Think of it as roles on a Football team, everyone has a role and if your Runningback starts trying to throw the ball you’re team is not going to be successful. So there’s a GIANT learning curve in these games as you try to understand the roles and what heroes fit into them but the MOBA community is usually not one to wait around for you to figure it out.

Community

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The Community of MOBA’s is different than any other I’ve ever seen, because the game is so centered on roles and teamwork, communication is paramount to a team’s success. Unlike in a First Person Shooter, where one person can carry the team to victory just by being better at shooting than everyone else, MOBA’s require you to use your team. Sure you can sometimes carry your team to victory single-handely but if your team is failing around you chances are the other team is getting stronger and it’s going to make your life more difficult. I think that’s why the community has such a reputation for toxicity. I don’t know that the people who play these games are more racist and mean than people who play other games, I just think the game demands these people communicate. There’s probably a lot of racist assholes who play Call of Duty but you don’t really need to talk to them. In a MOBA though, that asshole might be my Healer and I need him to keep me alive so I’m forced to talk to him.

Maybe I’m being too forgiving of the trolls in these games, partially because I know I’m guilty of a few outbursts but that’s why I don’t play with a microphone, so I can yell about that moron on my team without him hearing me, (unless it’s my roommate). I remember something my dad used to say about playing hockey, about how toxic a typical hockey game is regarding what people say on the ice. Now I don’t think my Dad was talking about racist slurs coming from the goalie but more the stuff gamers are already familiar with. We all know about the “Call of Duty Kid Who”, you know the one who has multiple late night encounters with your mother? MOBA’s have 12 of those kids all playing at the same time.

Call of Duty

Just type in “Call of Duty Kid” into Google and all you get are references to kids fornicating with your mother

Character Rosters

Arguably the most important feature for any MOBA is the variety of interesting characters. DOTA gave players the entire roster for free, which was one of the main features I played it as a starving poor student. It currently boasts over 115 Characters so I honestly don’t know how anyone could get into the game as a new player now. I struggled for months to learn everyone’s abilities and who counters who, and that was when there were only 70-80 heroes to remember. Games like Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends have taken a different approach, giving players a small number of unlockable heroes every week and allowing players to pay to permanently unlock. They can use in-game currency which is accrued by playing games or they can literally buy the currency with a credit card. Meaning ultimately if you’re willing to fork out some extra dough you can start gaining heroes quicker. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy since they only charge a few dollars per hero but I find it affects the game balance and can make certain teams stacked with talent.

Dota2

How could you possibly balance this many characters, you can’t and the biggest problem is, THEY JUST KEEP ADDING MORE.

This “pay to win” stuff has been around in other games but it’s becoming more prevalent lately. The latest Halo instalment added a “card” feature where you could purchase weapons and vehicles for certain multiplayer modes. I remember feeling like it completely changed the balance of the game when some teams are stacked with tanks and rocket launchers while the other is forced to run at them with pea-shooters. This is becoming even more present in sports games where “Ultimate-Team” modes require you to purchase packs including players, upgrades and contracts, sure the currency can be gained just by playing the game but you can get it 10x faster if you just buy it. There’s nothing worse than your scrappy upstart team going up against the mercenary team of “Every player is Lebron James because I bought them”. It’s not that MOBA’s started this process but they certainly made players more comfortable with it.

What Does It Matter?

In the grand scheme of things I guess it doesn’t re-define the way we see the universe but I think I’ve laid out a pretty clear case of the negative repercussions these games have had. Were they the start of “pay to win” games or micro-transaction gaming? Certainly not but they’ve helped these trends become palatable to the average gamer. Mark my words, it will get to a point where I can see future Halo instalments charging you extra for new skins of the Masterchief in single player mode. All under the guide of “it doesn’t affect competitiveness.” I guess it’s their right as the creators of this material to charge whatever they’d like but I think we’re starting to give these developers a little too much leeway in what they need to put into the full game and what you’re willing to call an “add-on.”

When Overwatch came out it was relatively balanced as far as FPS’ go, characters that didn’t get played got left alone and simply didn’t get played in competitive matches. Now though, we’re looking at endless tinkering and re-balancing, in non-stop cycle of patches and new characters. I really think we’re going to start accepting poor game-craftsmanship in an effort to “wait for the patch”. Games aren’t getting cheaper so why does it seem like we’re paying for less game? The worst part of this is probably that rather than attempt to balance the characters they already have, they just kept adding more.

E-sports

Full E-sports venues like this are why developers are constantly trying to find a fair balance in their games.

I suppose you could argue that these companies are continuing to provide you with a service at a cost but when the endless tinkering affects what I’ve already purchased isn’t that going a step too far? If I paid 70 dollars because I found these characters interesting but you continue to patch the game to a point where the characters are completely different (See Overwatch‘s New Mercy Abilities), then am I not entitled to a refund? If the patches and constant changes have fundamentally changed my enjoyment of the game should I not be allowed to turn it in? With game developers chasing perfect balance as E-Sports becomes more popular the days of a finished multiplayer game are over. So I guess that’s it, the MOBA has affected other genres to a point where there simply is no going back, racing games will have their car skins available for purchase through micro-transactions, FPS’ will have guns that are available only through “loot boxes” and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it but still I… I will not go quietly into the night.

Game Review – The Turing Test: In Space No One Can Hear Androids Dream

The Turing Test is supposed to be a game that deals with AI’s but really it seems clones should be the sci-fi trope we need to talk about. Xbox Live recently had The Turing Test available for free download on marketplace and being a starving poor student, there’s nothing I like more than free games. Like being a human being however, being free does not absolve you from consequence or judgement. It’s very hard not to compare The Turing Test to Portal, and I’m not sure if Bulkhead was intentionally going for that vibe but I sure hope not. It’s like comparing my hockey skills to Connor McDavid or my painting to Van Gogh, Portal is an all time great and Turing is not.

Gameplay

I don’t want to accuse anyone of plagiarism but jeez, you play as a female character who is guided through puzzle rooms by a voice while trying to solve said puzzles using only a gun that has a specific set of physics altering powers. Rather than teleportation this gun carries electrical charges that only work on specific electrical boxes so I guess that part is different? The mechanics of it are not very well defined and it gets even worse the later into the game you go as the different charges you can hold all have different abilities. Blue charges are constant, green and purple flicker and red ones only last a while. It’s basically all made in an effort to make the puzzles challenging and interesting, which they are, but without anything tying them together I couldn’t help but feel doing the puzzles was a chore.

Characters

Like Portal, the main character speaks with a mysterious omnipresent voice who guides them through each room all the while asking probing moral and philosophical questions. The difference is that in Portal the AI is funny and interesting, whereas in Turing “T.O.M.” the AI is a monotone drone (no pun intended). The dialogue is interesting on an intellectual level with the moral quandary of what it takes to be human, and what is life worth being discussed by the two characters but it’s pretty clear what’s going on at the Europa station about 5 minutes in and it’s frustrating to play a character who seems oblivious to something you figured out an hour ago. Specifically once T.O.M. explains why you can’t find the rest of the crew but your character keeps trying anyway. It’s all well and good to discuss these moral dilemmas but without allowing your character to make any decisions before the end of the game I felt like I was being asked to follow someone else’s moral code and being judged for it.

Atmosphere

The graphics are stunning but there’s not a lot for the engine to play with beyond light orbs and glowy-neon-wires. Portal had super simplistic, dare I say boring design as well but that’s mostly because the terrain and decorations were central to how you could complete each test. Turing doesn’t have that excuse, they could throw in a few outdoor levels, maybe a few more windows or like…anything really. It just feels barren, and with T.O.M.’s droning voice heard only at the beginning of the levels the game really feels boring at times.

What’s It All Worth?

I don’t want to crap all over Bulkhead Interactive’s game. From their website’s design I don’t think there’s a whole lot of finance behind their operation. That being said though, they seem to have a history of being less than original. I mean come on, you’re going to tell me Battalion 1944 isn’t a rip of of Battlefield 1943. Just take out the year and it would’ve been more original! I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, I really do but you know what they say, “fool me once…”

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re getting it free it’s not a bad way to wrinkle your brain and spend a few hours but it gets pretty old pretty fast. If you’re someone who needs action or excitement in your games I’d give this a hard pass.

HAL

I can’t let you play that

Random Observations

-I thought the voice of T.O.M. was Alan Rickman turns out it’s James Faulkner who I’ve never heard of until now, it was eerie when I thought it was a dead actors voice. 

-The philosophical questions The Turing Tests brings up have been explored a thousand times in science fiction but with things like Google Home and Alexa becoming more prevalent it is something we actually have to start talking about.

-I really wish there was a HINT button for games like this. I hate wasting my time for 30 minutes and then having to go on Youtube to watch an entire walkthrough.

-The levels are supposed to be designed by the humans to make sure that only a human could get by it but you’d think they could of left some handwritten instructions, something an AI would not think to look at like a diary?

-The Turing Test in Blade Runner is still an all-time classic movie scene.