Anthem Pre-Launch Update!

Hey it is me! Remember when I said that I wouldn’t be getting Anthem or The Division 2 until after they had been out a few months (like last week)? Well, it turns out a Streamer that I follow on Twitter, Exellion, had other ideas. I won his Anthem contest, so now I am playing the 10 hour free trail period of the game, and I thought I would give a quick update on what has changed.

The biggest thing that I have noticed right off the bat is that the frame rate is better. I don’t think it is perfect, but it doesn’t have the big hitches that it had before. I think the game is a little blurrier, so I am guessing that they dropped the resolution down a little bit, or they made the dynamic resolution a little more aggressive. Either way, the game is now much more responsive.

You can run in Fort Tarsis now! In the demo you had to walk from place to place to talk to quest givers, but now you can go a little faster. Running may be an exaggeration, but faster is faster. It isn’t a big thing, but it shows BioWare/EA is at least listening to their fans.

Once you get past the opening you get to choose your Javelin. You aren’t just stuck as a Ranger, and the other Javelins are sweet. I am loving the Storm. Hovering over the battlefield dropping lighting blasts and raining down bullets. Apparently I am not the only one, I have seen a lot of Storms out there. I am almost to level 8 where I get to pick my next Javelin, and I think I am going to go Colossus. Be a big bruiser that can mount a mini gun or two. Seems like the tactical opposite of a Storm, so that should be fun.

The biggest change is that I have not crashed or dropped once. There was one connection error that happened during matchmaking, but instead of crashing the game it just took me back to the Expedition screen so I could launch match making again. Which is how it should work.

That isn’t to say everything is peachy, I am still not sure how BioWare/EA expects this to be a ten year game. Apparently the main quest is only 30 hours long, and there is only free-play and the one Cataclysm (Raid) after that, so you are left with just playing the story over again at higher levels which doesn’t sound like enough for hardcore fans. For me, 30 hours and then being out sounds fine, but I would like to hear how their content roll out is going to work. Something they have yet to elaborate on.

Anyway, I am having fun. I am playing on Xbox One, so if you see Shmee out there, say “Hi” or emote a wave or something. Maybe we can drop lightning on some baddies together.

I Am Going To Wait To Buy The New Looter Shooters

I recently played the Anthem Demo and The Division 2 Private Beta, and I came away impressed with both of them. I love being able to fly and the verticality that Anthem has. The Division 2’s location change is nice, but it is its tweaks to its shooting mechanics that really do make the game play better. More like an actual shooter, instead of a bunch of stuff to just auto-lock on to while hoping for a better LMG, so why wait? Because as good as these games are, they will be better a few months down the road.

This has been true of every MMO and now Looter Shooter ever released. The launch is rough, or even if the launch is fine, people complain there is not enough content to keep them busy, or the grind is not tuned properly. Who knows what else. The devs will apologize and then the game will have a big patch and play way better with tons of new stuff to do. It would be funny if people would learn their lesson and stop expecting perfection day one, but they do, and the forums and Reddit blow up with angsty gamers.

Here is the deal, it doesn’t have to be that way. Wait with me. Three months from now when the game is 50% off and the first be patch comes out, jump in. You will have missed all the drama and the unresponsive servers, and just get a fun Diablo style loot fest for you and your friends to play. Better yet, if we all start taking this approach maybe games will be complete and play the way they are supposed to at launch. Maybe, if we stop paying to be beta testers, devs and large companies will stop treating us like beta testers.

Look Anthem and The Division 2 look like fun, and they are on my list to play, but just not at launch. Gamers are always looking for the next big thing, but perhaps we would be better served working on our massive backlog of games for a few months and let the new shooters on the block take their time to get ready for us, or play the anomaly that is Apex Legends that came out of nowhere fully formed and ready to go. Huh, imagine that, a game launching complete and mostly free of bugs with stable servers. That almost deserves to be rewarded even if you don’t like Battle Royal.

Shmee Tries To Become An Apex Legend!

If you were wondering if games were going to be slowing down on the Battle Royal craze, I think it is safe to say the game mode is here to stay. Yesterday, Respawn, of Titanfall fame, released a F2P Battle Royal game called Apex Legends. So far it is best described as Call of Duty: Blackout meets Overwatch. Where the speed and weapons make the game feel like Call of Duty’s offering, but the hero Legend abilities give it an Overwatch flare.

Let’s start with the good. It runs at a silky-smooth framerate. I never saw a hitch or a jitter while playing this game, and if there is screen tearing, it is minimal to the point where I haven’t noticed it. The game is also faster than most Battle Royal games. The sprint feels good and the slide system makes for a fun way to mix up traversal. If you like the weapons from the Titanfall universe, you will be happy. They are all here and accounted for, with battlefield upgrades to attach while playing. Because Apex Legends forces you to play in three-person squads it has created a “Ping” system that allows you to easily mark areas of interest and enemy players. It isn’t quite as good as talking to people, but it allows for some decent mic-less communication. The heroes Legends are far from original, but their mix of powers is good, and it gives you a role to play in the squad.

Now on to the not so good. I am not sure Titanfall’s weapons are right for this type of game. Titanfall is all about fast-paced up close action, while Battle Royal games focus on picking engagements in the middle to far distance. In other words, all Titanfall’s great up close and personal weapons feel wasted. You end up looking for Assault and Sniper rifles like every other Battle Royal game and leaving all of the Titanfall Universe’s best guns behind. Wall running also got lost in the mix, and I know they got rid of it because it was ruining the group dynamic of Apex Legends, but the free movement double jumping and wall running would have added to the genre would have been exciting. Also, while EA and Respawn have said only cosmetic items are for sale, that isn’t completely true. You also can buy new heroes Legends, and heroes Legends have unique powers, so if you are not ponying up, you are missing out on some different play styles. Not cool.

Yes, you can technically earn in-game currency to buy the heroes Legends, but it is quite the grind. Personally, I would like to see a hero Legend pass or something. Where instead of getting extra skins and whatnot, you just get the heroes Legends as they come out. That way there is a real and upfront cost for owning and playing Apex Legends.

After one day and over a million players Apex Legends makes a great first impression. It just works. The “Ping” system is truly revolutionary, and the heroes Legends are fun. If they can mix up the gun balance and find some way to bring back at least some of the wall running or double jumping Apex Legends would get even better. As for now, it is free and well worth a download. If you don’t like it, so be it, but it is nice to see there are still original ways to play around in the Battle Royal genre. Apex Legends will probably be in my rotation for at least the short term, we will see if they can keep me interested a few months from now.

I Was Not Sold Or Dissuaded By The Anthem Demo

The Anthem demo happened this Super Bowl weekend, and at least it was better than the most boring Super Bowl in years. However, that is not a yardstick for success, only for mediocrity. I played the three included main missions with random people. Apparently, I had a lot of friends play it too, but we did not play together. Though it is probably a better gauge of the game without friends since they make most experiences better. In the end it was fine. The Anthem Demo was The Division with more story and you can fly.

I believe the demo starts off just a short while in to the game, so you are getting a thing for a guy you don’t know. You get the thing, it does something bad, and then you get some stuff and kill a big thing, and then you chase down a guy and kill several big things. Essentially in Anthem you fly to a spot and then shoot stuff with all your stuff that you got while out shooting stuff. Then fly back and then talk to some people and then attach your new stuff. It is a familiar loop. Not a bad one, but one we are all well used to at this point.

There were a few issues. The framerate is terrible. I don’t have a framerate counter, but it was hitching all over the place. Which for a shooter is problematic. I hope they can figure that out by launch. Even if they have to drop the resolution down a bit it needs to get smoothed out. Also, Anthem crashed on me about 50% of the time while loading during matchmaking. Not a great impression to making on a perspective buyer.

Though it was not all bad. I enjoyed the flying. I liked the mechanic that you need to cool down, so if you fly through waterfalls or skim the water you can fly longer. It forces you to get better at flying. The shooting was satisfying, and the different weapons were cool. I enjoyed all the particle effects while people were doing all their superpowers and grenades and whatnot. It gave the game some visual flare. Speaking of visual flare, Anthem, like most Frostbite Engine games, is gorgeous. The world is lush, and the hub area is cool looking, if too static.

The demo had its high points and its low points, but it didn’t do its job of selling me on the game. Which is what it was intended to do. Anthem’s combat is good, and that is a great start, but we will see if the rest of the game can come together around it, but since it comes out in just eighteen days, that might be a tall order. I will be keeping my eye on it, but for now my wallet is staying in my pocket.

Shmee Hangs With The Thief Of Thieves!

Apparently Rival Games has been playing a lot of Hitman, and is very fond of Telltale style narrative games.  Because Thief of Thieves, based on the Kirkman comic of the same name, attempts to be a mashup of the two.  Since this “first volume” (AKA Episode 1) is availble free as part of Xbox Game Pass, I gave it a try.

Let’s get the good parts out of the way first.  It looks great.  It looks like a comic book come to life, with clean lines and vibrant color.  Rival clearly has a good art and graphics team.  Also the diolog and story seemed pretty good.  It is hard to say because the first episode is really short, so I didn’t get a clear picture of how the story was shaping up.

Now on to the things that don’t seem to be working very well.  In an attempt to frame the action like a comic book, Thief of Thieves has set camera angles.  It looks great, but it is frustrating to not get a clear view of what is going on.  Likewise, while I am on board for a story based stealth game, it plays like someone added Hitman mechanics in to Telltale’s stiff old engine.  Which is to say, they do not work so great.  You are supposed to be a spry thief, but you move like a Mack Truck with a transmission problem and a power steering fluid leak.  The first episode is pretty easy, but I could already see that I will be hating things if they get any more complex.

If I was told this was a proof of concept for a Kickstarter, I would be excited.  The fact that this game is already out and completed on PC, so the stiff unresponsive controls probably will not be sorted out, gives me pause.  The cool look and interesting story are enough for me to recommend a download for people with Game Pass, but I would hesitate to recommend paying anything more for it.  If things get better as the series progresses, maybe.  Though I wouldn’t hold my breath.  However, I am curious where things are going next, so if the next episodes all end up on Game Pass, I will probably keep playing them.