Rainbow Six And The Need For Betas

As anyone with a vested interest in video games, particularly first person shooters, will know, this weekend marked the launch of the Rainbow Six Siege closed beta test on all platforms.  I nabbed myself a guaranteed access code without the inherent risk of pre-ordering a Ubisoft game since they’re one of the main developers/publishers that has pretty much run out of goodwill by this point, so in between work and other commitments I’ve managed to put around about ten hours into the beta so far.  Thankfully, due to issues with the beta access website, Ubisoft have now committed to keeping the beta running all the way to October 1st.  Good job.  This game needs as much technical testing and assistance as it can get before its December launch date.  It adds further weight to the fact that beta tests are a full on requirement with multiplayer games these days and it adds fuel to the already sizeable fire that publishers are rushing developers into getting games out the gate well before they’re ready.

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It’s funny because from a gameplay stand point, the game feels pretty much done.  There are a few things that need balancing, which a beta is great for.  Operators using the riot shield with a pistol are a tough challenge, while they’re stood upright you can shoot out their legs but while crouched and moving forward there isn’t a single operator that can counter them in a one on one fight.  The hip fired pistols are also way, way too accurate and pulling headshots, which are a one shot kill regardless of weapon, is much too easy.  Granted, there’s a certain feeling of baddassery by sauntering into a room and pulling three straight headshots but at the same time, it feels a little cheap and dirty.

The MP5 could probably do with a bit of balancing too, the recoil is so minor that even while unloading a full mag down a corridor, it’s practically laser beam accurate.  It requires minor balancing tweaks here and there but on the whole it almost seems to be there, the real issue I’ve had is with stability.

For reference I’m playing on Xbox One.

Now, it would appear the game doesn’t run on dedicated servers, but rather uses a player as host.  I’ve had a couple of situations where a host has either left or lost connection and then you get that little “migrating to new host” message.  It seems a little backwards, we’re in 2015 and a time where Microsoft is really working on this whole cloud based gaming, which certainly has its merits.  The main this is though is Ubisoft are not a small time publisher, there is no way dedicated servers would be decided against for monetary reasons which means they either made this decision thinking it was a good idea (please) or Ubisoft don’t have faith this game will succeed.

Finding a game can be an absolute nightmare too, it frequently takes me at least five minutes to get added into a squad which is appalling, I’ve had situations where it won’t even find me a game unless I drop out of the search and back in two or three times.  Then there are the multiple times I’ve been added to a squad only to be met with an error code, where the game then proceeds to drop me back to the main menu screen.  It’s wildly frustrating.

But it’s not just the sometimes crippling network issues that hound the beta, but actual game stability has been an issue for me on Xbox One too.  At most I can play four or five games in a row at the moment before I either lose connection or the game fully crashes to the home screen.  Sometimes the game won’t even open when selected from the Xbox home screen.  Frankly, if the game launched like this, retailers would need to be preparing to make concessions for a large amount of refunds, I would not accept a game in the state at all.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely why beta tests should be mandatory for all multiplayer games.  I actually think the game, when it works, is a lot of fun.  Will I pre-order it?  Nope.  Will I buy it day one?  More than likely not.  Fortunately, the game will be going through an open beta test before launch too so it can be stress tested with a larger audience before it’s fully released, but they’re beta testing a game a little over two months away from launch and, frankly, I’m not entirely convinced they’ve left themselves enough time to fix some of the more serious issues and problems that need addressing here to make the game fully playable.

With a lack of dedicated single player campaign, a fundamentally flawed and outdated host system instead of dedicated servers, serious game stability issues and a game engine that looks to be more at home on the 360 than the One Rainbow Six Siege finds itself in the unenviable position of facing a rather steep uphill climb with a relatively short amount of time in which to do it before launch.  Will they manage it?  I couldn’t say for sure, but with the news of the omission of a proper campaign and my first impressions from the beta, this looks like a £20 purchase in a few months, which is a real shame.

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Comic Con International 2015

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In case you were wondering and the image above wasn’t clear enough, no, I was not in attendance at San Diego Comic Con this year, nor have I ever been and who knows if I’ll ever make it there.  But this year, same as every other year, I strive to keep up with as much of the news coming out of the show as possible and boy was there a lot this year.  I don’t know if it was because there was more announced this year that I was interested in than previous years, but SDCC 2015 felt like the biggest yet in terms of huge, awesome news.  DC had a killer show, coming right out the gate strong and continuing with an avalanche of incredible announcements (and trailers) all weekend.  So the way I’m going to dissect and discuss everything I’ve seen this weekend is breaking it down over the course of a few days with a few special posts for a couple of really huge things.  First up for tomorrow will be a look at all the DC Comics news, Wednesday I’ll delve into the DC Collectibles announcements, Thursday we’ll take a look at Marvel Comics news, Friday we’ll look at Marvel Legends and other Marvel related collectibles and finally Saturday’s focus will be everything else that jumped out at me.  On top of that Sunday will have bonus posts breaking down and analysing two absolutely freaking huge trailers shown to the Hall H attendees.  No doubt you can guess which two got me giddy with excitement.

As if I’m not giving myself enough to do this week, this Thursday I’ll be picking up a decent headset for my PS4 so I can begin streaming on Twitch.  The plan is, I’ll be streaming The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 21:00 GMT to 23:00 GMT.  Rather than being just a simple stream of me playing a game, however, I’ll be playing on “Death March” which is essentially hard mode but to keep in the spirit of Geralt of Rivia and The Witcher in general, I’ll be drinking only vodka all the way through each two hour stream.  So who knows how bloody long it’ll take to finish this game on that difficulty and in that state, but hopefully it’ll be good fun.  My channel is over here, feel free to drop by and see the potential train wreck for yourself.

Anyway, I’m going to go get things prepared for all my posts coming this week, it’ll be a challenge to get everything out when I want but I think it’ll be worth it.  Stay frosty!

Am I In Bizarro World?

Bizarro_World_001It would seem so, I’m not quite sure how but I seem to have been transported to htraE, a world where a huge DC fan like me comes out of the newest, biggest Batman game underwhelmed if not slightly disappointed.  A world where I can’t wait for October to roll around so I can sink my teeth into a delicious looking selection of new Marvel books that will be launching after the end of Secret Wars.  It’s pretty cool, actually, not so much the fact that Arkham Knight fell so flat for me but that Marvel are dropping a stack of books I want to read.  Now, what with the wonderful weather we’re having in the UK right now, I’m in too good a mood to reflect on anything overly negative so let’s get the Arkham elephant-in-the-room addressed first.  No Paul Dini resulted in a lack-lustre story, too much of a reliance on the new Batmobile mechanic which I don’t think was implemented particularly well, foreshadowing giving away too much to anyone that’s a fan of Batman and misplaced focus on certain characters resulting in less screen time for others than deserved.  On the plus side, the CQC was fantastic again and the voice over work was flawless.  Oh and, to be fair, Gotham looked very pretty.  Overall, I wish I’d waited for the inevitable game of the year edition.  I think The Witcher 3 had skewed my view on early purchases but I have quite thoroughly re-learned my lesson.

Anyway, let’s talk comics!

Marvel have been slowly announcing a few titles here and there for their “All New All Different” relaunch which lands when Secret Wars ends, something they actually said they wouldn’t do if I remember rightly.  Anyway, this massive leak dropped either today or yesterday, scans from a preview book sent to retailers detailing 45 of the alleged 60 new titles Marvel are releasing.  I’m assuming the 16 or so titles not included in the preview are being kept close to the chest by Marvel for one of two reasons, they’re either keeping them quiet so as to avoid major spoilers for Secret Wars or they’re saving at least some of the new titles for announcements at this year’s SDCC.  Either way makes perfect sense to me, but what’s been announced so far look pretty cool.  And varied!  So, here are the titles I am most excited for.

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OK so I only know two of the characters on the cover, and have only read anything with one of the characters in, that being Captain Marvel (the other I know is Black Panther).  This is pretty much a case of me following one of my favourite characters and one of my favourite creators.  I really like Carol, I’ve just recently started the Ms. Marvel volume that ran before her becoming Captain Marvel and have read all of DeConnick’s Cap.  Then we have Kenneth Rocafort.  What a stellar talent.  I first found out about his work when I read Madame Mirage, written by none other than Paul Dini and drawn by Rocafort and it remains to this day one of my all time favourite books.  Since then I’ve at least tried most of the books he’s worked on so this one definitely makes the list.

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Spider-Gwen and Spider UK.  Sold.  I’m not familiar with any of the folks working on this book so it’s arguably more of a gamble than some of the others but I’m willing to give it a go for the first few issues and see where it goes.  Keeping up the positivity and optimism!

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Seeing as Spider-Man 2099 is already on my pull list anyway this would have stuck around for the first few issues at least, but the fact that they’ve kept Peter David on writing duties makes this a dead cert.  Plus, that new suit is bloody cool, I’m really digging them ditching the blue for white.  He still looks like Spidey 2099, just with a sharp new update.  Also, Miguel is back in what looks like his future, rather than the future he was thrust into at the end of Spider-Verse.  Another great shout here Marvel!

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Same as Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman already had a place on my pull list which it will not be vacating (I’m a DC fan, sure, but a Spider-Nut too).  But this cover though!  I’m intrigued by this premise, having Jess be a mother by day and hero by night, which brings a whole new level of peril every time she steps out the door to fight crime since she has a little one to get home to.  Should set up an incredibly interesting dynamic for the book, something I’ve not seen for a very long time.

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Yeah I’m going to jump on this, give it a go.  I’m a fan of Charles Soule, think he’s a very talented writer and having recently finished my second viewing of the Netflix Daredevil show and having read the first volume of Mark Waid’s Daredevil my interest in the character is at an all time high right now.  I figure this will be as good a jumping on point as any I’m likely to see any time soon and I’d be foolish to pass it up.  No idea who the other guy on the cover is, but the most striking thing for me is that mostly black costume, which looks supremely badass.

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More Dan Slott ASM?  Yet another easy sell to me from Marvel.  I’ve loved all of Slott’s run on Spider-Man, whether it be Amazing or Superior, so I am all over this.  Add Camuncoli art into the mix and I’m super excited to get my hands on this book and see where Peter Parker’s life is heading next.

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Coming from the same team that launched Silk, I would be remiss to not give this a go, even though the cover showing her behaving very much like a villain is a bit of a put-off.  I’m going to take this as a public eye view of Silk, maybe she’s painted as a menace or villain much like Peter had been for much of his superhero career.  Optimism!  In all seriousness though, so long as we can get more insight into Cindy’s past, what happened to her family, then I’ll be quite happy.  I think the character is great, but the really big draw for me has been the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her family and with her current volume getting one more issue (I think) I doubt they’ll be able to wrap that thread up before the relaunch.

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James Robinson, check.  Kevin Wada, check.  Marvel character I’ve been meaning to read stories of since watching Age of Ultron, check.  This will certainly be one of those “try a few issues and see how it goes” scenarios, but with the team involved and the character in question, I think I’m going to get on with this quite well.

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Another book that’s already on my pull list, it seems totally ridiculous for this to be relaunching with a new number one already but I think this new Gwen is fantastic and Marvel have kept the winning team together, though only Latour and Rodriguez are mentioned I assume by the cover style they’ll also be keeping Rico Renzi on the book too.  Another easy win here.

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Yet another book that is already on my pull, although under a slightly different title than presented here.  Thankfully, again, Marvel are keeping Jason Aaron on the book who has been doing a phenomenal job on Thor for some time now and while I was initially disappointed at the loss of Esad Ribic when it went from God of Thunder to simply Thor, Dauterman has more than proved himself worthy (see what I did there) of being on this book.  Looking to be a straight up continuation of the story running before Secret Wars kicked off, I’m very much looking forward to this.

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While genuinely gutted that Kelly Sue DeConnick is no longer helming Captain Marvel, I will be carrying on with this book post Secret Wars for two reasons.  Firstly, it’s Captain Marvel so I would always be trying this out anyway, second I’m seeing Kris Anka on art duties, I’m seeing the cover and I am totally hooked before I’ve even read a panel.  I have only one demand (that’s right, not request, but demand): Chewie the Flerken must remain in this book, and not be retconned into a simple cat again.  The co-writers on this title do make this one a little bit of a gamble, I’m not familiar with either of them and from what little I’ve heard this will be their first job in comics.  Sometimes an unknown entity can be a good thing as it can help to manage expectations of a new book.  Sometimes it can be disastrous.  I wish them luck, both for themselves and for the enjoyment of this book!

Those are my 11 definites, I will 100% be picking all of these up when they drop in October.  Whether I fully enjoy them is yet to be seen, but I’ll be giving them a chance for at least the first few issues.  This isn’t it entirely though, there are a few others that have piqued my interest, mostly due to the creators that have been named on the teams.  These won’t necessarily be bought right away on release, I’ll have to see how things pan out in terms of reviews, any previews I get to see and the good old word of mouth.  Take a look at what else might be going on the list.

Arkham Day!

June 23rd 2015, release day of Batman: Arkham Knight.  I honestly had no intention of picking it up for a little while since I’ve got my death march playthrough of The Witcher to crack on with, Planetside 2 launched on PS4 today and I’m still having a lot of fun with Elite: Dangerous on Xbox One.  so you can probably imagine my surprise when I got home from work and found a package from ShopTo waiting for me with Arkham Knight on PS4 in it.  When did I preorder it?  I haven’t a clue, but mostly down to the fact that I couldn’t be arsed to send it I installed it and gave it a crack.  Now, first impression when I opened it was how little you get in the box when compared to The Witcher 3.  It’s funny how much that game has influenced my opinion of things now, Batman is a game I’d never think to compare it with, but here we are.  The really funny thing is I have no doubt this game will be fantastic but it left me slightly cold to it, first impressions count for a lot and it would seem CDProjekt Red have set a high bar in more ways than one.  My second impression, almost as important as the first, was also fairly negative.  We’re not off to a great start, are we?  Just take a look at the picture below, this was the first thing I saw when I opened the case…

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Right off the bat, the first thing they’re concerned with is chucking DLC down our throats.  I get that this is a fairly common practice these days, I just don’t like it flung in my face before I’ve even popped the disc out the case.  I’m willing to blame this on WB Games as much as anything, we already know they’re willing to cash-whore the hell out of this game after the abomination that was Arkham: Origins, but regardless of who the blame falls to it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

The game itself seems pretty good so far, visually it looks stunning although I thought some of the faces looked a little odd.  Driving the Batmobile is very cool indeed, the handling takes some getting used to when taking corners at high speeds but overall I’m enjoying it.  My only stumbling block so far is getting used to playing an Arkham game on Playstation, I’d only played this series so far on PC and Xbox 360 and my PC play time was solely with a 360 controller.  So after a few stumbling blocks I’m impressed so far, but far too tired after a long hot day of work to put any more time into it today so I sacked it off for the night.

Before I turned off the PS4 I wanted to give Planetside 2 a blast too, seeing as it’s meant to be this huge multiplayer first person shooter which sounds right up my alley.  This is how far that got…

So, wonderful.  Thanks for that.

On the comics front, I’ll be dropping Batman from my pull list after several years of (mostly) incredible comics.  I thought Zero Year dragged on way longer than it needed to and almost dropped it then, but kept going.  Now I find the premise they’re running with ridiculous.  I know, I know, this is comics but I’m sick of seeing “death of…” stories in comics knowing full well that the main hero will return at some point, but to have Bruce spotted in the very first issue after his “death” is a bit of a joke and Jim Gordon?  Really?  There’s no way he’d do that, not a chance.  So, regardless of how pretty Capullo’s art is I’m sorry, but Scott Snyder has lost me here.  Not sure I’ll be coming back.

Anyway, this turned from me sitting at home, bored and overly warm, to a really negative ranty post.  Sorry about that, going to head off now.

Peace.

E3 2015

Oh how I’d love to get to one of these shows, maybe one day I will but for now I have to be happy with the constant stream of news and videos coming from various attendees.  We’re lucky to be honest, there was a time not all that long ago where we’d have to wait until actual, physical magazines came out after the show before we really got to see what was going on and even then we were limited to printed words and the occasional image.  Now we have YouTubers grabbing  video captures of hands on time with games then uploading them back at the hotel in the evening, granting us an almost up to date look at these new games.  Then we have Twitter, where we get fully up to date thoughts from attendees on all the cool things they are seeing.  It’s been a little consuming this week to be honest, I’ve been sifting through all the updates from the people that I follow and various news outlets, resulting in a huge amount of excitement for a whole host of things.  I’ve got a top 10 list of games I’m super excited about, but before we get onto those there were a couple of updates that came out of it that I’m loving too, and one other game announcement that surprisingly had me a little disappointed.

Major Xbox One Updates

Microsoft came bellowing out of the gates with a slew of exclusives and some fantastic updates for their consoles.  Under Don Mattrick the Xbox One reveal suffered hugely, he didn’t really seem to know where he wanted to take the console brand and as such Microsoft received a huge backlash to their initial announcement.  Well, things have changed wildly since then and, under Phil Spencer the console platform is flourishing like it always should have.  Now we have a console with a much clearer path set before it, still placing itself at the centre of a living room but now much more focussed on supporting us, the gamers.  As such, the two major updates that came out of E3 this year were Xbox 360 emulation and Xbox Game Previews.

Billed as “backwards compatibility” but not really, Xbox 360 emulation allows digital copies of certain Xbox 360 games to be played on the Xbox One in a specially built Xbox 360 dashboard emulator.  The list of available games is very limited right now but the program will continue to grow over time, with more games being added over time.  Games that you’ve downloaded via Xbox Live, whether they be Games on Demand or Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) titles, will be immediately available to download once the titles are added to the compatibility list and retail discs will unlock a digital download, again, once the title has been added to the availability.  The most incredible thing about this announcement was that this is available right now for Xbox Preview members, something I’m a part of.  I can say the emulation works great on the two games I’ve tried it with so far, Perfect Dark and Perfect Dark Zero, with all Xbox 360 functionality right there.  This will be available to everyone later this year.

Now the Game Preview program is something many PC gamers will already be quite familiar with, as this is essentially the Xbox equivalent of Steam Early Access.  The bonus to the Xbox Game Preview program is that developers must offer a 60 minute free trial before anyone needs to commit any hard cash to get access, so if something takes your fancy you can give it a go first.  This is a great idea, and I feel a little more comfortable running an early access-style program on a console than a PC, simply because I think there will be less of a chance of a game being released incomplete and left to fester as has happened with the Steam equivalent.  I’ve also given this a go, downloading the free trial for Elite: Dangerous, which impressed me so much I’ve dropped the £24.99 price for full early access.  I think both of these announcements are huge, and really help move the Xbox platform away from the shaky beginnings it suffered and into a fresh new life.  The future is bright for the Microsoft console.

The game announcement that left a bitter taste for me was Star Fox Zero.  It’s funny, many years ago I was a huge Nintendo fan, any time from the N64 era backwards I thought they could do no wrong and one of those shining examples for me was Lylat Wars, or Star Fox 64 as it was known in other territories.  So hey, maybe you’d be thinking I’d be quite excited at the prospect of a new Star Fox game, one that seems to do exactly what a game like that should.  This is a sequel many of us have been waiting nearly 20 years for but, you see, the problem is that with the release of the Wii Nintendo kind of lost me.  There were some strong titles, sure, but the chronic lack of third party support and over saturation of gimicky party games resulted in me losing interest in the company as a whole.  Now, they finally release what looks like a faithful Star Fox game and they make it rely heavily on that piece of garbage tablet controller on the Wii U.  You know what, Nintendo?  Too fucking late, I and many others have moved on.

So, on to the stuff that looks amazing!  (In no particular order).

Rainbow Six Siege

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There’s already been a whole lot of content shown off for Rainbow Six Siege, including a closed beta run not all that long ago.  Still, we got to see the fruits of that beta during E3, seeing how much feedback had been taken on board by the developers and applied already.  Impressively, a lot of the feedback has been dropped into the game now, slowing the pace, increasing full auto recoil and making the whole thing feel more realistic and tactical.  I’ve been intrigued by much of the content released already, but the improvements that have been patched in look fantastic and now I’m super excited.

Ghost Recon Wildlands

Another one from Ubisoft next, who I find can be very hit and miss recently, Ghost Recon Wildlands eschews the regular militaristic approach of previous entries for a stab at the vaunted open world experience.  It looks like they’re doing something pretty cool with this, giving the game the cool tech that Ghost Recon is also well known but taken it in an almost DEA direction.  Essentially, the game takes place in South America, teaming you up with friends to take down drug lords in a variety of ways, going guns blazing or going quiet and stealthy.  There was only a little shown, but my interest has been grabbed, well played Ubisoft.

The Division

Now there is a risk that Ubisoft are going to massively oversaturate the market with Tom Clancy franchised games but The Division has been on the cards for a while and ever since it’s announcement way back when I’ve been incredibly excited for this.  Now, once again there wasn’t a huge amount show here but I’m still totally on board, although if it goes through any more delays I’ll start to worry, there are only so many set backs a game can suffer before things start to deteriorate as the budget and expectations continue to climb.  Maybe it has something to do with the new engine they’re using, but I’m holding out hope.

Halo 5 Guardians

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Oh boy, major Halo fan here and holy shit did we get a treat and a half at E3.  Gameplay footage dropped for the single player campaign, showing off Spartan Locke and his team tracking the movements of the Master Chief who now seems to be aligned with the Prometheans from Halo 4.  Not sure what’s going on there but hearing Nathan Fillions voice pop up as Buck from Halo 3: ODST returns was a huge and welcome surprise.  I may have been thoroughly against Locke and his team up until now but, they’ve got Mal on their team so suddenly they don’t seem quite as bad as before.  Interesting that the campaign will switch up between the perspectives of Locke and his team and the Chief and Spartan Team Blue.  For further awesomeness, JackFrags uploaded a 16 minute video of some Halo 5 multiplayer which seems to be a very clever mix of PvP and PvE.  Check it out below.

Star Wars Battlefront

Finally!  Some actual gameplay footage!  After the official announcement some time ago we have finally been deemed worthy of feasting our eyes on some footage taken from PS4.  It looks damned impressive, I’m genuinely surprised that Dice have got this game looking as good as they have.  I feel like EA and Dice have dragged this out a little bit, I was beginning to wonder if it was possibly due to the fact that it hadn’t shaped up as well as they had hoped but I am all on board for this when it drops, though I’ll probably be picking this one up on Xbox One due to a more extensive friends list.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

More crafting options, greater focus on tombs and a continuation of the story begun with the recent reboot, Tomb Raider, leaves me wanting even more.  This was an interesting one, I’d been impressed with the reboot though there was a list of flaws and faults that left plenty of room for improvement, many of which seem to have been addressed in this latest instalment.  With a return to the voice from Camilla Luddington too, I’m rather looking forward to Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Just Cause 3

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This is how you have fun in a sandbox game, or rather, this is how you make a sandbox game fun.  Just Cause 2 was one of my absolute favourites on the Xbox 360, it was just an excuse to grab as many explosives as possible and wreck as much as you could.  The next title in the series looks to be just as chaotic as previous entries but with some cool new features thrown in for good measure, such as being able to link your grappling hook to two items now instead of just one, then rapidly increasing the tension and slamming the two items into each other.  The addition of an infinite amount of C4 is also welcome, with the player only being limited to how much they can place at any one time.  This is a bit of a game changer to be honest, massively increasing the fluidity of the time spent in the game and reducing the need to go hunting round for explosives to take down a target.

Fallout 4

Following the official announcement shortly before E3, we all knew that there would be more content dropped during the show itself, especially with Bethesda holding a keynote speech of their own.  Lo and behold we got a good look at some gameplay footage, showing off the cool weapons (aiming down sights too!!), armours and crafting.  There was also a good look given at dogmeat, the new dog companion coming to Fallout 4 who can be given commands from attacking a particular enemy to fetching you a specific item.  There has also been confirmation that Fallout 4 won’t be including any sort of multiplayer functionality which is absolutely FINE BY ME!

Dishonored 2

While up on stage showing off their new wares, Bethesda also dropped the announcement trailer for Dishonored 2.  Now, it was one of those pre-rendered trailers which doesn’t represent the game we will actually be getting, but my excitement comes from the awesome game we got originally.  It would seem this one has taken a significant leap forward in time, technology has advanced and the assassin we are playing as is Emily, the girl Korvo was tasked with protecting in the first game.  It’ll be interesting to see how similar or different she is to Korvo, who I also believe will be showing up.  Now, because we didn’t see any actual gameplay here I can’t see this dropping this year, it was more of a “oh hey, we’re working on this too” kind of display but I’m happy nonetheless.

Mass Effect Andromeda

I’ve been in tow minds as to whether I’d include this on the list or not, we have known for a while that Bioware have been working on a new Mass Effect game and we’ve also known for a while that it wouldn’t simply be called Mass Effect 4.  Rather than address the ending of Mass Effect 3 and potentially commit to a canon ending Bioware have opted to take their stories outside of the Milky Way Galaxy now, taking us to our nearest galactic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy.  I’m wary though, to be honest, since Mass Effect 3 had been fairly hit and miss and while I thought quite highly of Dragon Age Inquisition at the time of playing, since playing The Witcher 3 my memories of it are not quite as fond as they were.  Could go either way this one, we’ll have to wait and see.

There were many more shown that I think look interesting, some cool exclusives coming to Xbox, Playstation and PC that look to be well worth peoples time and money.  2015 is going to be a great and expensive year for gaming.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Feminism

Ok now before I get started here, just let me quickly explain my reasons behind this post and what I want to gain out of it.  This is not me looking to set anyone off on a hunt for blood or me trying to kick off any sort of hate speech.  Nothing like that at all, this is simply me taking some critical analysis and analysing said analysis.  I’ve logged 106 hours with The Witcher since release, completing a large chunk of side quests and the story mode in it’s entirety, have played both of its predecessors and read most of the English translated works of Andrzej Sapkowski that inspired the series of games.  So basically, I’m bringing my points from a reasonably well informed place, though again I’d like to point out that I’m not saying any of the arguments I’m countering are coming from ignorance since I don’t know these people personally and I have no idea how much of the lore and previous works they have been exposed to.  So now we’ve got that part out of the way I want to make one more point very clear, there are spoilers for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from here on out, including end game content, peppered throughout the post.  You will also find some pretty harsh language but these are merely outside quotes and necessary for the post so apologies if this is a problem.  You have been warned!

As you will most likely already be aware of, The Witcher series follows Geralt of Rivia on various journeys.  The man is a witcher, a human transformed through a series of mutations and experiments, trained in multiple forms of combat to be the ultimate monster hunter.  These monster hunters were devised as a desperate effort after the convergence of the world we see and another, dark world.  This convergence brought magic and monsters into the regular world, causing chaos.  The level of desperation is evident, since the effects of a witcher’s mutations on their humanity were not even remotely considered, there was just a need for a force that could keep humanity safe.  It’s believed among the general population that the mutations witchers are put through strips them of all humanity and emotion, making them pure killing machines driven purely by the path and, therefore, coin.  I guess in a way, it could be viewed as a potentially life saving side effect of the mutations, leaving witchers to roam the land and do their jobs without any emotional ties or anyone that could potentially be used against them.  Regardless of what the residents of the world believe, Geralt is shown to have emotional depth on multiple occasions during “Wild Hunt”.

Geralt of Rivia

So to begin we shall take a look at a few tweets relating to Geralt himself, from someone called Jonathan McIntosh, a general pop culture critic who quite rightly points out a lot of gender discrimination in modern culture.  McIntosh weighs in on the emotional emptiness of Geralt or, at least, his perceived lack of emotion from Geralt which I happen to disagree with to some extent.  While I’m more than happy to say that, yes, throughout almost the entirety of The Witcher and actually, through most of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Geralt is an emotionally stunted weapon of mass-decapitation, his advanced age has brought him back in touch with his feelings and emotions.  First though, let us view the arguments.

Ok I reckon that’s enough to get us started.  Now while it’s not necessarily relevant to the discussion of “Wild Hunt” I just want to quickly touch on the final tweet I’ve quoted.  To an extent, I actually think McIntosh is kind of right.  If I see a male character in a game, wait, scratch that.  If I see any character in a game, regardless of gender, that is emotionally repressed in some form, I immediately feel sorry for them as most real people that are that way have suffered some sort of trauma or horrible grief in their life, which has pushed them into being this way.  I don’t see a male character who is cold and emotionless and think “oh that’s cool, he doesn’t give a damn about the people around him, I wish I was like that”.  But you probably know as well as I do that there are plenty of kids out there that are incredibly easily influenced by any sort of media that would think along those lines.  Do I think every character in gaming should be e wealth of emotional depth?  No, because sometimes a story requires someone to be closed off.  The beauty of The Witcher series, for me, has been witnessing the personal emotional journey of Geralt as he went from dead-inside-monster-slaying man whore to devoted father figure, life partner and friend to various people around him in the third instalment.

Now the first quoted tweet, that’s another story.  That’s just flat out wrong.  There’s no interpretation to this at all, it’s an incorrect point made by the author which can only have come from not playing a huge amount of the game.  I’ll use one example here since I feel I can get away with just using one against a point that offered up no evidence of its own as back up.  Watch this video, and watch Geralt closely.


Thanks to ReinaDCD for recording this clip!

Right from the get go, the very beginning of the conversation, he may not be smiling but Geralt is obviously aware of Ciri’s feelings and how to cheer her up.  If CD Projekt Red wanted Geralt to be cold and dead inside we wouldn’t have the option to start the snowball fight at all.  That aside, check out Geralt’s face at around 1:55.  He’s not grinning from ear to ear no, of course he isn’t, he’s been relatively closed off for his most recent years and it’s only really since he’s come back into contact with Ciri that he starts feeling again.  But look at his eyes, there is a sign of joy there.  It’s nuanced for sure, it’s the kind of tell that’s incredibly easy to miss and that’s part of why I love this game so much.  This series so much.  Nothing is “on the nose”.  We’re left to figure much by ourselves, much like it’s left to us to notice changes like these in Geralt since there’s no real focus put on the slight change in his eyes.  Now, you’re more than welcome to watch the whole video but for the sake of this post, skip to around 5:50.  If that’s not a smile on Geralt’s face then I don’t know what the hell is.  “Emotionally deficient in the extreme”?  Please, pay attention to what’s going on in the game you’re playing and I’d say it’s wise to hold off on such sweeping comments until you’ve delved deeper into the game.  The end of Triss’ story in Novigrad is another great example of Geralt opening himself to vulnerability, in front of Sigismund Djikstra of all people, someone I’d expect Geralt to be incredibly guarded around.  But this is the thing with The Witcher, much of it is nuanced and subtle, you need to pay close attention to the things going on around Geralt or you’ll miss key moments.

Now on the second point, about Geralt only breaking is stoicism to fly into fits of anger and rage.  Well, this is the point I find most interesting.  I found myself in a huge number of situations where I faced down one or more people being threatening either to Geralt or one of his companions and you know what I did?  I either talked the folk down, proving both Geralt and the people he was facing are capable of being extremely reasonable and failing at talking them down I’d use Axii to get around violent situations without violence.  This is the funny thing, “Wild Hunt” is an RPG, a game which you take the path you wish to take and play the way you wish to play.  So if McIntosh is finding himself playing a multi-choice RPG where his character is becoming violent and aggressive then that’s the way McIntosh is playing.  That speaks volumes more about the man playing the game than it does the main character.  There’s a great quote which I’ll take straight from Geralt himself, as proof that he doesn’t just go round murdering anyone.  Someone once asked Geralt if his silver sword really worked as well as it did and if his steel sword was purely for fighting monsters and Geralt responded with “they’re both for monsters”.  He is not a stoic macho man with an anger issue, and if you play the game right he can be a compassionate, caring and deep man.  It’s your choice, and if yours is prone to bursts of rage and you don’t like it, well, you’re doing it wrong.

I can’t help but feel McIntosh is trying to push an agenda here, he’s grasping at straws and trying to make a mountain out of a couple of small stones on the floor.  It’s a little off-putting for his other work to be honest, if he’s unable to look at something objectively then I’m not really interesting in looking at anything else he puts out.

Next up is Feminist Frequency, a Twitter profile set up by Anita Sarkeesian with the idea of bringing sexism in the gaming industry to the forefront and pointing out how stupid these people are.  Great!  And I mean that, genuinely, I am a firm believer in equality for everyone and if that means we have a Twitter feed dedicated to preserving those values then I think that’s genuinely fantastic.  The points made on “Wild Hunt” have a little more basis than McIntosh, not to say they’re absolutely on the mark mind you, but they’re founded on an opinion with substance at least.  So, here we go with Twitter quotes round 2!

Her first tweet here is more of a warning, now granted it’s a warning about a game rated 18 here in the UK and here’s the official rating off the PEGI website.

18

Game contains bad languageGame contains depictions of violence
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
CD Projekt S.A.
The content of this game is suitable for persons aged 18 years and over only.
It contains: Extreme violence – Violence towards defenceless people – Strong language
System: PC
Genre: RPG
Release date: 2015-02-24

Note the final part of the contents description already states that it contains strong language, though I appreciate that she’s more warning about the fact that they use gendered language against Ciri rather than the general use of strong language, which is fair enough.  There are undoubtedly women out there that would really enjoy a game like this but would take offence at the things said to her by some of her foes, I’m particularly looking at the Redanian “soldiers” Ciri fights in Novigrad.  I’m not about to be one of those asshats who tries to tell people what they should and shouldn’t be offended by, people are offended by different things and that’s that.  So, you know what, Sarkeesian’s first one is a good one.

Insults during Ciri’s combat kicked up some fuss.

The second tweet quoted is where it falls apart a little to be honest.  Now the words used probably aren’t entirely necessary, words conveyed in this way aren’t needed to provide a reason to fight these guys, they’re attacking you for shit’s sake!  If an NPC starts poking a sword at me you’re damn right I’m going to fight them!  However, if we take this in the context of Ciri and Geralt fighting exactly the same enemies then it seems like a bit of a silly complaint.  There does come a point where Geralt has to fight a whole bunch of Redanian soldiers, or at least he does if you follow a certain side quest to a particular end point.  I have a question, how are a bunch of male Redanian soldiers meant to make gendered insults towards their male opponent?  Of course they’re “decidedly not gendered” because he’s a bloke!  I put soldier in quotation marks earlier because those Redanians serving under King Radovid are common thugs, scum of the earth given swords and authority, serving under a completely insane king.  I’m not excusing their behaviour, I’m simply giving reason to it.  I also have to wonder, simply as a point of curiosity, if Geralt came up against a female enemy and she did use gendered insults what would that change?  Would it make the gendered insults against Ciri ok?  Would those insults be completely overlooked and ignored?  If the first is the case then, as I was taught when a child, two wrongs do not make a right which makes the argument feel hollow and pointless.  If the latter then this is no longer a discussion about equality, I do not agree with the way women have been downtrodden and overlooked for so long in our society and still are in many others, but we can not make up for all those years by reversing the roles and allowing the superiority complexes of certain individuals push men down either.  This should be a gender war, this should be a push for equality.  That means everyone!  If that’s the case then there’s no point even trying.

And the final quoted tweet, based around the idea that the use of the word “cunt” against Ciri is rooted in real life sexism is a bit of a stretch.  Does Sarkeesian know the writing and development team personally?  If not, let’s try to avoid calling them out as inherently sexist.  I don’t know them, there’s a lot of people that make all kinds of media that I enjoy on a regular basis that I don’t know personally and I wouldn’t make sweeping accusations about them as a person based purely on the work they put out.  The Witcher series looks at many things that are present in modern day society which are unfavourable, including the racism she mentions in her tweet.  A large part of the game has the player overcoming those preconceived notions and trying to get a job done, trying to save lives and trying to help those the character loves.  It’s a big old middle finger to those that try to push Geralt away.  These soldiers are successfully portrayed as scumbags of the lowest order, and yeah hearing them say words like that makes me hate them even more than I did before.  I really don’t like hearing them talk to Ciri in that way because thanks to everything I’ve read and seeing her in the game finally, she’s a character I’ve come to really like.  Do I think there’s deep rooted sexism in CD Projekt Red?  No, I don’t.  Neither do I think there’s deep rooted sexism in Andrzej Sapkowski, but if you ask me if I think there’s a deep rooted sexism in the world of The Witcher, one which mirrors the current state of our own society, including the gaming industry, then my resounding answer would be yes.

So to summarise my thoughts on these two, I think McIntosh is pushing an agenda with fabricated points made on foundations that just do no exist.  It undermines his position as a critic and even though I think there does exist a group of young, impressionable gamers that are easily swayed into thinking the way he thinks people do, the very fact that he seems to believe there’s no place for a character that is cold and emotionless is unbelievably flawed and makes me not give a shit about what he’s saying.  I can think for myself, thanks, everyone I know can do exactly the same.  Sarkeesian has points much more grounded in reality but I think she’s gone about it the wrong way, targeting a game and development team that probably could have done a bit more to prevent this kind of criticism, but isn’t inherently sexist but portrayed to be by her.  It’s the kind of unfounded attack I’d expect she’d understand is wrong, of all people in this kind of a position, considering all the crap the GamerGate crowd unjustly put her through.

Finally, to further push my point through I’d like to do a quick run down of three key female characters that play an important role in The Witcher series and also play critical roles in Geralt’s life.

Ciri
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The driving force of the story in “Wild Hunt”, Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon is the daughter of Emperor Emhyr of Nilfgard and heir to the throne.  The story initially takes the guise of the old “damsel in distress” trope as Geralt receives a vision that Ciri may be in trouble, hunted by the titular Wild Hunt, and so takes it upon himself to hunt her down and aid/protect her as necessary.  There are multiple segments throughout the game where you get to play as Ciri and from the very first try you get to see that she kicks a serious amount of ass.  As it becomes more apparent that the Wild Hunt are after Ciri due to her immense power, her combat capabilities start to flourish and by the time the end game comes around Ciri is shown to be wildly more powerful than Geralt.  Hell, she’s shown to be ridiculously more powerful than everyone else in the whole damn world, culminating in Ciri being the sole person that can prevent the fabled Ragh Nar Roog from obliterating the entire world and its population.  Regardless of the amount of pleading Geralt does, Ciri accepts her possible fatal destiny and steps through a portal to end the threat once and for all.  It’s not something Geralt can step in front of and say, “hey, I can do this too so stay back and let me handle this”.  The decision is taken completely out of his hands and must watch helplessly as Ciri potentially sacrifices herself to save everyone, including him (again, a really great show of emotion and despair from Geralt during this scene).  Probably one of the most powerful female characters I’ve seen in a game when you’re not actually playing as a woman, provided an incredible amount of agency and wrapped up in a well rounded, fleshed out and strong character.  Arguably, in fact, one of the greatest characters to have come out of this game.

Yen
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Yennefer of Vengerberg is one of the most powerful magic users in the known world, being the youngest member of the Council of Sorcerers and a main headhunting target of the Lodge of Sorceresses.  By the time “Wild Hunt” is kicking off Yen is around 95 years old, so she has plenty of experience.  Yen is also the assumed adoptive mother of Ciri and the subject of Geralt’s first hunt in “Wild Hunt”, with his line of thought being that she’s probably his best hope at finding Ciri.  She’s a main advisor to Emhyr and has a wealth of connections in Nilfgard and is one of the main proponents in not only securing the safety of sorceresses in the Nilfgardian Empire but also in the reformation of of the Lodge of Sorceresses.  Yen also has one of the greatest moments in the game, when Geralt attempts to discuss their past while she’s trying to tune her megascope in Kaer Morhen.  She gets pretty pissed off with the conversation and teleports Geralt out of the tower and about 50 foot above a lake, resulting in him plummeting into the probably pretty cold water.  Left me in absolute stitches.

Triss
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Triss Merigold is yet another sorceress, one who played a key role through the entire series of games.  Yes, she was a love interest for Geralt throughout the series but as a key member of the Lodge of Sorceresses and key advisor to King Foltest in The Witcher 2, Triss has more than proven her worth and capability outside of Geralt and his influence.  During the events of “Wild Hunt” Triss single-handedly plots the evacuation of all of Novigrad’s mages, sorceresses and alchemists to prevent their deaths at the hands of King Radovid.  She might need the help of Geralt to pull of the plan, but all the hard work in the lead up to the evacuation is completed by Triss, who is ready to leave with them.  Only the admittance of Geralt’s true love for Triss keeps her from leaving, again resulting in a very sweet scene.

Interestingly enough, since both Yennefer and Triss are potential love interests for Geralt, there is the potential for seducing both women in the game however, unlike other games which either skirt around the issue or provide no consequence what-so-ever, “Wild Hunt” gives you a genuinely amusing scene of both women teaming up to show Geralt up and punish him for being a lying, cheating bastard.  I’ll leave you with the video below and, honestly, you think you’d get a scene like this from developers that didn’t care for women and carelessly dumped weak female characters in their game?  I don’t.

It’s All CDProjekt Red’s Fault!

Here we are again, another post going up with me blaming something or someone else for me not getting an actual post done that I wanted.  But you know what, this really isn’t my fault, honest!  CDPR have managed to craft one of the greatest multimedia experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.  I feel like referring to it as a game oversimplifies what has been achieved here, it’s almost a put down.  This isn’t me being over-the-top or anything, there’s so much content here, sometimes it feels like an epic, sweeping movie with twists and turns in the plot and some fantastic character moments.  Every now and then you’ll just get totally swept up by the extraordinary landscapes and scenery, it’s a marvel to behold at times.  I’d love to be able to run this to it’s full potential on a high end PC but, sadly, I don’t have one of those at the moment.  Instead, I’m having to deal with this on PS4 which within the first ten minutes treats you to this lovely view.

CFi1NQRW0AAobeb

I’ve had The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for around a week and a half and I’ve managed to sink a little over 52 hours into it so far, with a sizeable amount of that time going into finding people that will play Gwent, places and people I can either win or buy new Gwent cards and going through my Gwent deck and refining my roster for each of the factions.  A lot of the time is also exploring, wandering here and there to see what I can find.  I’ve got through some of the story, out of the alleged 60 hours the story takes I’d say I’ve done around 15 so I’ve barely scratched the surface here.  And why would I when exploration looks as pretty as this?

CF4DY3sWIAIHLgI

What really strikes me with this game so far is how loved it feels.  I mean, the incredible depth and history to the world is amazing don’t get me wrong, but due credit goes to Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of the series of short stories and novels these books are based off.  No, with CDPR this is a development team that weren’t simply tasked with making a game out of these books, this is a group of people that love the original Witcher stories, a group of people that love making games, a group of people that understand what makes gamers tick and take great pride in their craft.  It shows, CDPR are a company I’ve held in high esteem for a considerable amount of time, and The Witcher 3 solidifies my feelings.  They’ve not only set a whole new standard for RPGs but they’ve even further raised the bar for the treatment of games, releases and us, the fans.

And that’s why I’ve fallen so far behind with my posts.

Still, I’m starting a new short form regular tomorrow that will be coming every Tuesday, which will be my pull list comics for the week and any other off list purchases I’ll be making (new trades, hardcovers or OGNs).  After that, I have a bit of a busy week but will hopefully be able to get this favourite Image series thing finished.

I’m going to go and watch Game of Thrones now, but before I go here’s one last Witcher screenshot: me parking a boat like an absolute boss (read: idiot).

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Peace out!