Microsoft Makes The Internet Mad! But They Shouldn’t Be.

I was going to review The Grinch today, but the internet has been all in a tizzy about Microsoft’s newest studio acquisitions.  Namely Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment.  There have been a lot of gifs on the subject.  A few of these:

And probably more appropriately some of these:

And while seeing these major RPG studios get gobbled up by a corporate entity known for buying studios and then closing them after a couple disappointing games seems alarming.  We all need to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture.

Both of these studios were having cash problems.  It turns out for inXile making RPGs for a niche market doesn’t provide a lot of cashflow, and for Obsidian, they were also releasing niche isometric RPGs that were doing okay, but their major games like South Park were not doing a ton of business.  As we saw with TellTale, once cash gets low it only takes one mediocre round of funding, and all your employees are walking out the front door with their knickknacks in a box with no severance package.  All of the sudden a major cooperation with a lot of cash and a history of treating employees well seems like a good idea.

Not to mention for most gamers nothing changes in the short term.  Obsidian’s next untitled game is still coming out for all platforms on 2K’s new indie label Private Division, and Wasteland 3 from inXile was partially funded on Fig.co, so Microsoft will have to publish the game on all the platforms that were listed there (Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) to honor its investors.  These games getting finished was probably not a certainty a few months ago.

Now after those two games, I am sure their next games will be locked in to Microsoft platforms, but their games usually don’t push graphical boundaries, so finding a PC able to run them shouldn’t be an issue.  Better yet, so Microsoft can get some ROI we are guaranteed at least one more game from each of these devs.  Which we should all be very happy about.  Even better Brian Fargo from inXile was going to retire after Wasteland 3 came out, but now it sounds like he is sticking around for a while.  It is probably nice being able to just build a game without wondering where all the money will be coming from.

With these purchases Microsoft gains two legendary RPG houses (Even more legendary if you take in to account they used to be Black Isle Studios and Interplay Entertainment.  I mean Microsoft needs to buy the Interplay company branding like yesterday), and it gets to add a lot of games to its upcoming PC focused Game Pass, and at least two exclusive RPGs for the Xbox One X2 or whatever they will call it.  For everyone else, we get four games instead of none, and even if the studios do close, we know Microsoft will treat those employees properly while they look for their next opportunity.  What I am saying is, everyone wins, and sounds like a good deal to me.  Better yet, I am betting we are getting that Halo Universe RPG in a few short years, and that is something to be excited about.

The Diablo Immortal Controversy Is Everything That Is Wrong With Fandom!

Blizzard teased that something big would be happening with the Diablo franchise at this year’s BlizzCon, and of course fans jumped to the conclusion that Diablo 4 was going to be announced, or at the very least info on a new expansion, but that of course was not the case.  What was announced instead was a new free to play (F2P) mobile game being done by an outside studio.   The game is called Diablo Immortal.

This sounded great to me.  Diablo on the go?  Why not.  As long as the F2P stuff is optional.  I mean Pokémon Go, PUBG, and Fortnite have all shown that games can be F2P on phones and still be fun.  Hardcore Diablo fans on the other hand raged.  Don’t go anywhere near Blizzard on twitter or any of the Blizzard franchise Reddit pages.  It is just hundreds of angry gamers lashing out at anyone who works at Blizzard/Activision with toxic vitriol, and what is sad, is that this isn’t surprising.

Lately whenever a developer or any other media company does something fans don’t like, fans feel it is their duty to lash out, to get things changed, or to get the people responsible fired.  Look it is okay to be disappointed.  To have a large stage show in front of the most hardcore of hardcore fans that paid hundreds of dollars to be there live and fifty bucks to watch virtually then announce a mobile game was not a smart move on Blizzard’s part, but while it is okay to be disappointed.  To out and out rage is not.

Blizzard has several F2P games, and I am sure they thought one based on one of the their biggest franchises would big news.  It was, but not for the reasons they were hoping, and the fact this rage has lasted all weekend long with no signs of slowing down is saddening.  We as fans need to be better about this.  If you don’t like the game, don’t play it (though everyone is going to).  Also, I am not saying not to voice your displeasure.  Please do, but be respectful.  It is much different to say, “Blizzard is a bunch of greedy a$$h0!es!” versus, “Man I am bummed we didn’t get any new mainline Diablo content.”, or “Why use BlizzCon to announce a mobile game?”.  Two of those statements get our points across, and might even get read by Blizzard employees.  One makes us look like a bunch of jerks.  I will let you decide which is which.

We should all be true to our feelings, but taking them out on the people that make our games and movies is not helpful.  It is upsetting that so many fans feel like this is okay.  It makes it hard to call myself a gamer knowing that so many of us act like entitled brats about little things that don’t matter.  What’s worse is that we all know Diablo 4 will come out sooner or later, Diablo fans are just mad they feel they were bait and switched, and even if they were to some small extent, this is not how it should be dealt with.  We should all take deep breaths and be grateful for all the great content we have and that is continuing to be made.  Not pitting ourselves against the people that are making it.

Shmee Destroys Great Britain In Forza Horizon 4!

If you read my Forza Horizon 3 review, you know that FH3 was/is one of my favorite games of all time, and guess what?  Forza Horizon 4 is more of what made Forza Horizon 3 great!  So, if you loved Forza Horizon 3, you will probably find a lot to love in Forza Horizon 4.  It is not a re-invention of the franchise, but no one wanted that anyway.

In Forza Horizon 4 you are no longer the ‘boss’ for the Horizon Festival, you are just another racer, so you are no longer trying to level up Forza event locations.  What are you trying to do is win all the races, so you can become a British Real Estate Tycoon.  Which is to say that without event locations, you need to buy houses for fast travel locations, and the houses you buy come with perks like more wheel spins, fancy clothes or extra cars, so you want those houses (and castles).

You also need those houses, story wise, to stay in because you now live in England through the changing seasons, and if you are going to live in the UK for foreseeable future, you will need a few places to lay your head and store your cars.  The seasons are fun: Things are frozen over and thick snow blocks your progress in the Winter, mud and rain ruin your traction in the Spring, conditions are perfect in the Summer, and you get Spring with leaves in the Fall.  It is always a challenge to retune your skills with each change of the season (seasons change every week).

The other big change is that Forza Horizon 4 is online by default now.  Instead of Drivatars racing around, they are real people, and they are also ghosts.  Spooky!  It makes sense, you don’t want people purposely being able to grief each other while going from place to place, I mean that is what the races are for.  It is fun to watch other people screwing around at least as much as I am.

Besides the Forza Event locations, the only thing Forza Horizon 4 lacks from 3 is the event Blueprint system.  You can’t plan out your own jumps or speed traps anymore.  All you can do is tweak existing races.  I am guessing this had to be done so the game could always be online, and I don’t really miss it that much.  Mostly because I am leveling up all the time, and I don’t just mean my overall level, but you level up in types of races, car collection, photo mode, skill points and just about everything else.  I am pretty sure the only way not to progress in FH4 is to just sit still, but even then, there must be some bar going up somewhere.

Mostly, FH4 is just more Forza Horizon, and I love it.  I love driving a Lamborghini off a cliff and in to a pond below, or racing a Willys Jeep across the country.  If I don’t want to do any of that, I can just mess about, and the game pats me on the head and tells me I am its favorite and hands me some points.  It is all so good.  Even if some may call Forza Horizon 4 an expansion for 3.  It is a vast expansion with a lot to do, and it expands on a wonderful game, wonderfully.  Buy Forza Horizon 4 (or get it with Game Pass) it is more fun than just about anything else out there.

Lucky Tells Shmee A Super Tale!

Did you know Microsoft has an exclusive platformer?  And it is not Blinx or Voodoo Vince?  It is Super Lucky’s Tale, and it is a sequel to an Oculus Rift title, so I am sure there was a ton of demand for it.  Well all joking aside, it is a pretty decent game.  It is not a classic, but it scratches that Mario 64 itch.  You explore cute worlds, find coins and collect random things.

You play as the titular fox Lucky who gets trapped in a magical book with a lot of ‘evil’ cats, and you need to kick them out.  To do so you need to collect clovers and be able to play a platformer.  The more collectables you find per level, the more clovers you get.

As far as the game goes, it is a basic 3D platformer.  It is a little slower though, so think more Mario and less Sonic.  However, there are lot of different types of levels: standard exploration, endless runner, super monkey ball tilting levels, and other random puzzles.  Not to mention the boss levels, so there is plenty of variety.

Super Lucky’s Tale is not going to set the world on fire, but it is fun, and if you have younger kids, I am sure they will love it, or even if you are old like me, collecting things is a good time.  While I don’t think this game sold as well as Microsoft wanted, I hope they stick with it because they lack a solid platformer in their portfolio.  Super Lucky’s Tale was a good first try, and I think they should give it another one.

Shmee Will Remember Telltale!

After fourteen years and over thirty games Telltale Games will soon be no more.  I will miss them greatly.  I loved their take on the choose your own adventure graphic novel.  I know some people say what they made are not really games, but I loved seeing where my story would end up, and entertainment is entertainment.  Sadly, I was probably part of the problem.  Why?  Because I always waited until the games were cheap or free to get them, and I know I was not alone.

Telltale was able to create its own genre of game, but then it was never really able to capitalize on it.  It kept spending money licensing movies, comics and TV shows, and then selling their games for very little money.  You can see the problem with that pretty quick.  Add the fact that their engine was ageing and was very glitchy, so they needed to spend a lot of money on an overhaul no doubt only added to their financial problems.

Still, with The Wolf Among Us, Tales From the Borderlands, and the Batman games, they created some classics that will stick with me for a long time.  I am sure that others will come along and build on their formula.  You never know, another company may come in and buy out their name and try to keep things going, but for the time being I going to miss their creativity and storytelling.  Shmee will remember that.