Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Isn’t Quite The Sum Of Its Parts

When Pokémon Go came out, people came down on it hard (including myself) for being a shallow experience. There was nothing to do but walk and swipe, and to the developer Niantic’s credit they have added a lot of the fan requests to the game, but the core gameplay loop remains the same. Niantic must have taken all that criticism to heart because Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has a lot of things to do, but it can’t quite bring all those pieces together in to something cohesive.

There is a story to Wizards Unite, magical stuff has leaked out in to the muggle world, and you have to go find all these “foundables” and defeat all the “confoundables”, so that the magical world stays secret. Which is a surprisingly good setup, but the problem isn’t with the story. The problem is that there isn’t the same compulsion to play that Pokémon Go has.

I think the problem is that it is too overstuffed. Yes you still walk around and find stuff, but then you have to trace out a spell, then you have place the picture of the image in your book, you have to pick up potion components, then brew your potions, and be sure to be stopping by all the inns and greenhouses for more potion stuff and spell energy (Pokéballs). You need more to do? Good, you can update your profession’s skill tree, dungeon crawl at fortresses, play the mini-game to brew your potions faster, and don’t forget to read all the text pop-ups from Harry and some new friends.

There is just sooooo much to keep track of. It is a lot to handle while walking. Pokémon Go’s simplicity makes it the perfect thing to do while walking around, and it adds the thrill of finding something new, or getting enough of a Pokémon to evolve it. With the amount of things you have to do in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, you have to stop every five feet, so instead of walking, you are standing around like a creep.

That is not to say Harry Potter: Wizards Unite isn’t fun. It is, but it seems that Niantic over corrected due to the complaints about Pokémon Go, and the game suffers for that. Still, it is a solid base, and if they get enough Harry Potter fans playing, I am sure they will tighten things up like they did with Pokémon Go. If you like Pokémon Go, or you are a Harry Potter fan, it is worth trying out. If nothing else it is fun to make up your avatar picture like you are a resident of the Wizarding World.

I Have Finally Finished Red Dead Redemption 2!

It only took me eight months and eighty hours, but I finally did it. I finished the main story for Red Dead Redemption 2, and it was quite the ride. While my brother did it in only fifty-eight hours, he missed many of the side stories. Honestly after looking around, to get most out of the narrative you need to invest at least seventy hours. Which is crazy to think about. My only problem with this is that a lot of the middle feels like they are stretching it out. It is not filler per say, but we all know what is going to happen, and they force you to play through every beat of it. An editor should have gotten out the red pen.

In this day of people wanting games to last forever, I can see why they left everything in, but I didn’t do any of the hunting, fishing or gathering quests. Just ones with a story, and I know I missed a couple of those too. It is a shame that a lot of people will feel some fatigue or just never make it through to the conclusion. Had the story been forty hours with all the extras, I think this game would have been even better, and people would have been given the time to explore a bit more. The way it is now just feels indulgent. Like giving people a whole cake instead of just a slice, and then giving them a smaller cake at the end for dessert. It’s a lot of cake, and most people will probably not have the stomach for it.

If you can make it to the end, it is rewarding, and it dumps you off in a great place before the start of the first Red Dead Redemption. It then lets you roam around and do whatever you want in the game world. Even see all the locations from the first game, but that is up to you. Again, it is a little indulgent to add areas to the game map you don’t even need to visit in the campaign or its epilog, but go for it if you want to. For all of you that haven’t gotten there yet. Maybe get some coffee, but keep pecking away at that cake. You will be happy once you finish it, and the little cake at the end too.

Hands On Xbox Game Pass For PC!

During Microsoft’s E3 briefing they launched the new Xbox Game Pass for PC. Much like Game Pass for Xbox, you pay $10 a month, (currently $5 a month during its beta period) and you get a collection of games that come and go from the service much like Netflix. Also like Netflix, all original Xbox Game Studio Games get added to Game Pass day one and will not leave the service. Since I already have Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold, I got to combine those two services and upgrade to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Which includes Game Pass for both PC and Xbox, and Gold. I have a little over a year before I start paying anything (I had a whole year of Gold and a couple months of Game Pass, so it gave me credit for all that), but once I do, it will be $15 a month for all the Xbox services.

That is all well and good, but if the service is not any good, it is a waste of money. So far it seems like a winner. You need to have your computer on the latest version of Windows 10 (1903), then you need to download the new Xbox beta app, and then you will see a list of games that you can download and play. The new Xbox app is a big upgrade over using the Microsoft Store for finding and downloading games. All the games are organized in a much better fashion, and it has a sleek way of showing you the games you have installed on a little left hand bar, that way you are never more than a click a way from playing your games. Unlike say Steam, where if you are in the store you need to click on your library tab and then scroll through a bunch of uninstalled games to get to the game you want. Now, to be fair I have hundreds of Steam games and there are less than a hundred games thus far in Game Pass for PC. How sleek it will be a few months or a year from now has yet to be seen.

There are some annoyances however. For one, once a game is installed it is added to your Start Menu, but if you don’t ‘own’ the game, you need to first launch the Xbox app, and then start the game from there. I am guessing that is so it can make sure your Game Pass subscription is up to date, but if that is the case, why add Game Pass games to the Start Menu at all? Also, there need to be more tabs in the new Xbox app, like a built in way to check out Achievements, or search for Xbox Groups. In order to do that you need to open up the Xbox Console Companion App, but I would rather just use one app if I could. The new Game Bar helps a little with this, but I would apricate a more complete solution.

All in all, Microsoft has another winner on its hands. It has found a way to bring a lot of value to gamers, and an odd way for gamers to get around the Epic Store. A lot of Epic’s ‘exclusives’ are now on Game Pass since Microsoft bought Double Fine and its publishing arm, and all games for the Xbox are already on the Microsoft Store, so Epic can’t do anything about a game company selling the PC version on that same store as well. Loopholes are fun aren’t they? It is also an easy way for friends to insure that they have a lot of games in common if they want to play together. They can both just look in their Game Pass library and pick out something that sounds fun.

I am not sure how much I will use Xbox Game Pass for PC, my PC is a little long in the tooth, but since it is included in the services I am already paying for, it is a nice bonus. Game Pass also let me see if my PC is up to the task of running Metro Exodus, it mostly is, but it has a few little hiccups. If you are a PC gamer, I would say it is something to be aware of for sure, though you may want to wait a little bit for the roster of games to fill out and for the Xbox app to get a few more features. Then you can get your money’s worth out of your one month $1 trail period.

Go, Go Godzilla!

Somehow the Toho/Legendary/Warner Bros Monsterverse has made it three movies. I never thought it would make it this far, but I am glad it did. I have loved the Toho monsters ever since I was a kid, and these movies have brought them to life better than I could have hoped for. The latest movie Godzilla: King of Monsters is both the best and the worst of the franchise. If, like me, seeing these giant beasts on screen is something you have been pining for, King of Monsters gives you the most kaiju action ever, but if that is not your bag, there is not a lot to the rest of the movie. King of Monsters is all kaiju all the time, and some annoying people making bad decisions.

Godzilla: King of Monsters takes place five years after the first Godzilla. The world is still reeling from the destruction of San Francisco and Las Vegas. Monarch, the secret monster finding organization, is wrestling to keep control of its operations and not be absorbed in the military. The military wants to kill all the kaiju, but Monarch wants to study them and learn how to live with them. A few dumb things happen and bada bing bada boom monsters are destroying the place.

Story wise, there is not a lot here, and that hurts the movie. I think the producers heard the complaints that there wasn’t enough Godzilla in the first Godzilla, so they amped it up a bit. Which is good for people who just want monster destruction, but bad for people who want involving story. Though why those people would come to a giant monster movie is beyond me.

There are a lot of actors in this movie, and they are all fine. They are given one note to play, and they all mostly play it well, but they are not the stars. Godzilla and his kaiju crew are, and they are amazing. The CG doesn’t hold up all the time, but for the most part everything looks great, and the fights are epic. While the trailer promises a ton of monsters, the movie focuses on four: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. If there was someone else you were expecting, you may be disappointed.

It is hard to fault a movie about monsters for focusing on the monsters. Though, because of this focus everything else suffers, but for kaiju fans there is a lot to like, and I think this movie will find its audience. I don’t think it is as big as Warner Bros was hoping for, but it will be remembered fondly. Still, out of the three movies in the Monsterverse: Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and King of Monsters, King of Monsters is probably the weakest if viewed as a complete movie. If viewed as a way to see giant monster destruction, it is the best.

Microsoft Kicked Off E3 2019 With A …. Well It Kicked Off E3 2019!

Microsoft had the first big press event of E3 2019, and it wasn’t a bad show. I mean it had Keanu Reeves, but there was nothing mind blowing about it. Its job was to remind everyone that even though Xbox Scarlet comes out Holiday 2020, there will be tons of games to play until then. Xbox Game Pass for PC launched, and for $15 a month you get everything (Live Gold, Game Pass PC, and Game Pass Xbox) which is nice. Battle Toads will be a thing again, and of course Gears 5 comes out this fall. Gears 5 will be the only big Xbox headliner this year.

The real big news was Microsoft bought Double Fine Productions, which I mean, holy crap, but they didn’t have anything new to share. Just that Psychonauts 2 will still come to all the promised platforms and to Game Pass. The news behind the news is that with that purchase Microsoft now owns all the founding members of game financing and profit sharing site Fig.co, so Microsoft probably owns Fig.co as well.

I think that means we are once again seeing the death of independent game studios. It happened before in the ’00s when EA bought BioWare/Pandemic in 2007 and Bethesda/ZeniMax bought id Software in 2009, and the same reasons for selling out then are being expressed now. Back then it was too expensive to create AAA games without being part of a mega-publisher, and now it is too expensive to create top tier independent games, let’s call them AA, without being part of something bigger. Games are too big and gamers expect a lot, and unless you have tens of millions of dollars at your disposal it is impossible to get those games made. Due to the finical risk publishers are in turn looking towards their own studios to make those games instead of taking a risk on funding outside talent, so to survive you need to find someone who will buy you and not change your studio, and for now Microsoft is saying that is what they are going to do.

On that somber news, I look forward to playing what was shown at this year’s show, and getting an Xbox Scarlet next fall. The show will not be remembered as anything special, but it did its job. I will not lack for games for the next twelve months.