Star Wars Battlefront 2: Restoring balance to the Force?

Can the upcoming ‘Battlefront 2’ strike the right balance between satisfying the hardcore shooter crowd and the Star Wars fan seeking a game that’s easy to pick up and play?

When it comes to first-person shooter (FPS) games, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a klutz. Even in my youthful peak my reflexes were never that great. Now, as someone on the north side of forty, I’m not going to delude myself into thinking things are going to get better.

And yet I still sink massive amounts of time into the FPS genre. A big part of the appeal is how easy it is to jump in and play an hour or so here and there throughout the week, without compromising on the experience. That’s in contrast to something story driven like Mass Effect, which is best enjoyed in longer sessions where you can really immerse yourself in the fictional world.

While I’ve dabbled with Halo and some of the earlier Battlefield games, it’s Star Wars Battlefront (SWB) and Battlefield 1 (BF1) that have consumed the bulk of my FPS playing hours since I upgraded to the XBox One.

So what if someone produced a game that combined the best of both these games?

That’s my hope for Star Wars Battlefront 2 (SWB2), due in November 2017. Based on what’s been revealed so far, this could become my new ‘go to’ FPS game, despite there still being a lot more content to come for BF1.

What am I hoping for in Battlefront 2?

Squads – running with a good squad in BF1 makes a lot of difference to my enjoyment of a game. For me, ‘good’ isn’t necessarily about the skill of the squadmates, it’s about having a group of people who want to play as a team and have fun together. Squads also enable players to coordinate a large enough group to make a difference in a game. The ‘partner’ system in SWB was fine if you just wanted to provide support for each other, but squad play can help turn a battle.

PTFO and Classes – As someone who sucks at the shooting’ bit of FPS I earn most of my points in BF1 playing classes like ‘Medic’ and ‘Support’, and by focussing on playing the objective. BF1 offers a lot more opportunities for earning points through these mechanisms, so I’m hoping we’ll see that carry over into Battlefront 2.

Gritty environments and weather in the Star Wars universe – Being able to explore locations in the Star Wars universe is part of the appeal of Battlefront. Whether that’s the icy cold of Hoth, the corridors of the Death Star or Jabba’s palace – as a fan it’s brilliant to be able to immerse one’s self in these worlds. What I’m hoping for in the upcoming instalment is the environment, like that of BF1, will be a little grittier. A bit more wear and tear on the environment, more destructible elements and dynamic weather. Snowstorm on Hoth anyone? Or fighting in the rain on Endor?

Pick up and Play – SWB was criticised in some quarters for being a bit too casual, and hence, lacking depth. In responding to these criticisms, I’m hoping Battlefront 2 doesn’t go too the other way. If I want hardcore, there’s still plenty of life left in BF1.

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Between the various reveals, teasers, trailers, game changer coverage and beta trials – I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about Battlefront 2 in the next few months. I’ve high hopes for this game based on the fun I had with the 2015 version of Battlefront, and the challenge I’ve enjoyed playing BF1. When launch day arrives on 17.11.17, I just hope the game lives up to the hype and that it still has some pleasant surprises in store.

Eyes Up Guardian !

 

I have a love/hate relationship with the original Destiny. Bungie’s first offering after parting of the ways with Microsoft and the incredibility successful Halo franchise was filled with so much promise and excitement. At the time rumours circulated that the game had a budget of approximately $500 million, a claim Bungie has since refuted.… It had a star studded cast of voice actors, most notably Peter Dinklage of Game of thrones fame. Voicing your faithful side kick and multitool….your Ghost.  It was a first person shooter MMO that quite brilliantly integrated single player and co-op play as part of the single player campaign. The artwork was staggering, the weapons and skill tree mechanics where good, not necessarily anything ground breaking but they were solid, and it was a lot of fun….initially, after awhile though it became a tedious grind, and my lack of skill especially playing against other people and my constant respawning….(see what I did there ???)……meant that I soon got bored with it, not long after I finished the single player campaign.

It lacked a serious crafting mechanic to upgrade weapons and armour and more importantly it lacked any real narrative, Bungie created a wonderfully deep back story,  to ground the destiny universe in, and then completely failed to capitalise on it. Even with a follow up DLC it didn’t really do much to extend itself life as an MMO, so as is the way of things it got shelved.

Several years later an announcement of a new DLC “the Taken King” claimed to create more engaging story lines, new game refinements, and variety of new weapons, armour and vehicles. Most surprising, Peter Dinklage was to be replaced as the voice of ghost by Nolan North, and if you don’t recognise the name , you most have certainly hear his voice, in both video games, and animated TV and movies. (Uncharted and the Justice League animated franchises to name but a very few.) The single player campaign story lines had more depth and featured more heavily the Leaders of the Guardians, most notably Cayde6…voiced by the irrespirable Nathan Fillion, and lets face it Nathan Fillion makes everything better.

For me at least this DLC has breathed new life into a game that I had quickly become bored with, it also didn’t hurt that thanks to my 2 gaming personal trainers, my skills in the multiplayer arena improved dramatically…..I’m “solid” to quote a much used phrase.

It was no surprise then that the pre-release trailers for Destiny 2 featured Cayde6,  (still voiced by Nathan Fillion) quite heavily.

 

September 6th Destiny 2 dropped in Australia, and I was once again  excited at the prospect of a new instalment in the Destiny franchise. The opening sequences did not disappoint, The Tower, the last city and indeed the world has fallen to the Red Legion, you are powerless, the light  radiated by the traveller gone, contained by the Red Legion for its own nefarious purposes.

I found this a really interesting path for the game to take, the Guardians weakened, having to develop new strategies to fight off the invaders, however sadly bungie wasn’t brave enough to persist with plot device and within a mission you have regained your light. That minor complaint aside, I’m throughout enjoyed the new game, the art work, and music help to immerse you in future world, a world of decay and beauty, of desolation and hope.

Many of the familiar game mechanics and NPC’s are still there, the scenery changes but the jobs remain the same, it seems. There are some refinements to the things like the weapon and amour upgrade system, and the new “director” mapping system which lets you see available missions in a given area and provides a fast travel system allowing you move around the map with far greater easy than the original game (especially handy if you don’t have a sparrow and need to shlep everywhere on foot.)

Thankfully there a fairly solid narrative to keep the missions flowing  nicely and  series of cutscenes which focus on the leader of the Red Legion and his plan to steal the secrets of the traveller for  himself. The missions themselves often have specific objectives in mind rather than just cutting a swath through your foes to kills the boss at the end. In the first few missions you are trying to assist a group of survivors establish comm’s out side the city. Loot crates that were peppered through the original game are still there, however rather than random loot and glimmer (the in-game currency) you get faction emblems which can be redeemed for reputation with that factions NPC. Just as you could with in the original, however this time you receive  an engram which return a random piece of equipment.

While only only several missions in…(I have just made it to Titan) I’m not disappointed….Its not exactly setting my world on fire, but I’m enjoying it. Its more like a new season of your favourite TV show, there new characters, as well as old favourites, new tech, locations, and villains…but very much has the sense of the familiar…..including a huge soccer ball (but now with bonus goals)!

Building a Better World…One Brick at a Time.

I love Lego games…more accurately, I love the idea of lego games, as do Pinky Pie (8) and Groot (5) . Groot’s barely contained excitement and antipation as the game installs, has him bouncing off things and firing off questions about who he can play as and what he has to do, at a rate that often makes me wonder if he is breathing through gills.

The Excitement soon fades, to be replaced with frustration as he struggles to progress through the prescribed, story arc. ” I need help”… small and thoroughly disheartened voice cries out…. “DAD TO THE RESUCE” …I cry, as I stride over to the couch with a completely overinflated sense of my own ability, a feeling which, disappears rapidly as I discover that I have no more of an idea about what I’m suppose to be doing, than does Groot.  Pinky Pie keenly observing all of this, offers helpful advice  but not long after, we collectively give up and play Forza Instead. (if you ever wondered how much damage you can to the  Australian Outback in a Lambo, keep an eye out for some game footage I’ll post of Pinky Pie at the wheel !!!)….  “why can’t we just run around and build things and fight bad guys dad ?” ask  Groot….” I don’t know son….I just don’t know”

FEAR NOT GROOT OUR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED !!

 

Travellers Tales, subsidiary of Warner Brothers Interactive, have been bringing us Lego games, based around our favourite movies  since 2005s. 2017 see’s a departure from this with the release of Lego Worlds, a single or multiplayer sandbox platform which lets your imagination run wild as you explore and craft worlds in your own image. This game is available on PS4, Xbox one and via steam.

It is a free play style game as with most sandboxes, but there are quests you can complete on the worlds, which reward you with a variety of different rewards, There are “studs”, which are the standard in game currency of the Tt games, franchises, as well as gold bricks which you accumulate to level up and unlock new worlds to explore. As well as special Lego pieces or objects. There are also treasure chests, which spawn randomly around the world, many of which, you need to use the landscape tool in order to get to. They could be buried  far under ground or on at the top of a mountain.

There are NPC’s around which will give you quests to complete, and plenty of special items to discover which adds to your repository of items…everything from  dinosaur bones to a horse and carriage can be scanned and replicated.

The initial tutorials progress you through the use of the various tools at your disposal which will let you shape the worlds you explore, buy giving you one tool at a time and then providing a series of quests in which you much use that tool to complete the quest and again your reward, before unlocking the next tool.

These tools allow you to reshape the landscape, cut and paste objects and structures, paint the world, or build things one brick at a time, using brick shapes you collect during your adventure.This is a multi player platform which lets you visit the worlds other people have created and lets you create and populate your own worlds and share them with other people.

At the time of writing this I have not had a chance to try out the online play, however the general feed back on the single player mode, from Pinkie Pie and Groot was extremely positive. A game that lets them each focus on their strengths and preferences for playing in sandbox environments, I except to see massive complex structure including many statues in praise of Milo, our Tokenise…(or as he likes to think if himself…our household god !) Groot will need to a little more practice with the some of the tools but that didn’t stop him from thoroughly enjoying himself.

All in all we each had at lot of fun with game and look forward to seeing what worlds we will forge.

 

When big brands make love: Lego Star Wars and ‘The Force Awakens’

The marketing department assigned to Star Wars is probably as large as The First Order, and merchandise is a big part of Disney’s plan for galactic domination. So  it’s no real surprise we have a new Lego Star Wars game to go with the latest movie.

Most serious Star Wars fans by now will have seen ‘The Force Awakens’. By June, those who are content to watch it at home on DVD will probably have had their chance to see it too. That means by the middle of the year, the plot of ‘The Force Awakens’ will be as well known as the weak spot on the Death Star. Throw in the bonus of most US schools being on vacation, and June 2016 seems a reasonable time to launch Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Retelling the Star Wars stories with their signature quirky humour, the Lego Star Wars games are among the most played games on our XBox 360.  Jetite has conquered all the existing games, and unlocked a staggering amount of characters – including  Indiana Jones. The Lego Clone Wars game was also our first attempt at playing something like an RTS against each other. 

As a parent, the Lego Star Wars games have a lot going for them.

  • They’re easy to pick up and play – which means even non-gamers in the family can join in the fun.
  • Cartoon style combat, no bad language and no (obvious) adult themes – makes them suitable for a wide range of ages.
  • Adult ‘in jokes’  – although sometimes quite subtle,  there’s more humour to these games than just the slapstick stuff that makes the kids laughing out loud.

Which brings us to the trailer for the new game. It really does suggest the latest instalment to the Lego Star Wars franchise will be sticking to the formula they know works – poking fun at the movie.

But what about Disney Infnity? Isn’t there a Force Awakens game for it too?

Yes, indeed there is.

  

And I’ll admit to being a little surprised to see two games going after what I assume will be pretty much the same market.  I can only assume that when Lego rocked up with a bag full of money to buy the licence for the latest game, Disney felt confident they wouldn’t be cannibalising their Infinity product.  It’s even possible the  June 2016 launch for Lego was imposed by Disney, creating a six month window in which Infinity ‘Force Awakens’ could promote itself without competition. 

When Lego finally launch in June, Star Wars buzz will be well past its peak. It’s going to be interesting to see if the strength of the Lego brand, and the legacy of its previous Star Wars games, will be enough to make the game a commercial success. 

From Test Drive to Total Recall: The visual experience of gaming

Gaming has changed a lot in my lifetime.

One of my earliest gaming experiences was playing the original ‘Test Drive’ car game on my uncle’s PC. At the time, the Hercules graphics card was the state of the art in home computer graphics. The video below, though it’s an emulation, gives you a pretty good feel for what that experience was like.

Oh how things have changed.

Here’s me driving my little Opel Astra on a rain soaked track in Forza 6.

It’s a world away from the laggy, two-tone graphics of the original Test Drive.

If we’re not yet at the stage of photorealistic console games, one has to imagine they’re just around the corner. Once 4K televisions become more common, we’ll probably see even more demand for console gaming to take its next step forward in visual quality.

But what if we look even further out?

By the time Jetite reaches my age, how far the visual experience of gaming have advanced? How will things like augmented and virtual reality change the gaming experience in the coming decades? Perhaps the TV screen will be obsolete! Will the future of gaming be like Star Trek’s “holodeck”? Or will it  be purely in our minds – closer to the virtual memories of Total Recall?

Interesting times ahead.

Star Wars Battlefront: Nothing like the stomp of an AT-AT

  
If you’re a fan of the Star Wars universe, you’ll want to check out the eye candy that is the latest Star Wars:Battlefront game.

This week I finally succumbed and bought myself an XBox One. The decision to upgrade was primarily motivated by the desire to play the latest version of Star Wars Battlefront, but other titles like Forza 6 and the upcoming Mass Effect title also played a part.

There may be a longer post to follow on the whole path to purchasing an XBox One and getting it up and running. But having just stepped away from a couple of hours of Battlefront, I wanted to take a few minutes to say “Wow”.

Let’s get something out of the way up front. I suck at first person shooter (FPS) games. I suck badly. My reflexes and hand eye coordination are pretty ordinary, even for someone my age. So what you’re getting here is the first impressions of someone who isn’t a regular player of this genre. But what I am a fan of is Star Wars.

So what are my first thoughts?

A lot of hard work has gone in to ensuring this game feels like the Star Wars universe fans know and love. (Check out this article on the making of the game for why this game looks so good).

This game is beautiful. From the way the wind whips the snow up on Hoth, to splashing through streams on Endor, the environments you do battle in are gorgeous.

There’s also lots of little things done well. Running across the snowy landscape of Hoth, you leave clearly formed footprints behind you. If you charge out of a dimly lit bunker in to the full glare of Tatooine’s twin suns – you’re temporarily blinded by the glare.

But better than that, the battles I’ve experienced so far feel just like you imagine they should.

I’ve spent most of the previous hour playing the ‘Walker Assault’ mode, which involves fighting alongside or against an invading AT-AT force.

When you’re fighting against the AT-AT’s as they trudge across Hoth’s snowy white plains, their size and firepower make them seem like almost invincible machines of death. Which is how it should be.

On the flip side, fighting as an Imperial soldier alongside an AT-AT is terrifying in its own way. Using the AT-AT’s legs for cover, the controller vibrated in my hands each time the At-At’s heavy steel feet stomped against the rocky desert of Tatooine.

Although its very early days yet, I’m loving Battlefront. After I’ve spent more time playing, I may have more to say about the gameplay. But for now, I’m still just enjoying being wowed by the world that DICE has managed to create for fans of the Star Wars universe.