Skyrim is Forver

This is a couple weeks late, but I keep seeing people complain about the fact that there are two new iterations of Skyrim coming out this year. People are accusing Bethesda of milking the game that was originally released almost six years ago. They say that Bethesda doesn’t have the gamers’ best interests at heart, but I whole heartedly disagree. Bethesda isn’t doing anything wrong upgrading the game for modern platforms, especially with the upgrades that they have added with the switch, and psvr versions of the game. I think I am the only one who is actually happy that Skyrim is being released again.

Skyrim is an immensely popular game, or at least it was before they announced that they are still making new versions of it. Skyrim is so popular, because it is a good game, and a groundbreaking game. It has such a large, densly populated world that redefined how we think about open world games. It does something that few games have been able to match since dispute having better hardware. I am glad that more people will be able to experience this world, whether you have already said hundreds of dragons, or if this is your first time in Whiterun, it is always good when more people are able to experience a game that will surely become a classic.

Another thing that people are overlooking is the fact that these games are very different from when Skyrim was originally released. Sure, it is the same world, but both the switch and psvr versions of the game offer new experiences that were never offered with previous iterations of the game. Game play had to be completely reworked, and now motion controls were added to both versions of the game. Finally, with the switch version of the game, you can take the Elder Scrolls world with you, wherever you want. The mobility of the switch version makes me excited to renter the world of Skyrim. Slaying dragons on a plane, at the park, or while avoiding the in-laws during the holidays is a great addition to the game. Now, Skyrim is an experience that you can take with you everywhere. But, still much more exciting than Skyrim switch, is Skyrim VR.

Words can hardly begin to express how excited I am to revisit Skyrim again in VR. Finally, a full length open world VR game to play, but even better, it is one of the best open worlds that video games have had to offer, ever! Skyrim VR will take what was already an incredibly immersive game, and take it to the next level. Now, you will not just be looking at a screen where the dragon born is out exploring the vast open world of Skyrim, but you become the dragon born. The world of Skyrim will exist around you, not just in front of you. And creatures will be vanquished, magical spells will be cast, and dragons will be slain, all by your own hand. I am more than excited to pay $60 and revisit Skyrim in VR, which I am convinced will be the definitive way to play the game.

I have heard the argument made that while Bethesda is working on porting these existing versions of Skyrim, they are not working on The Elder Scrolls VI, or whatever their next game will be. While this is true, it isn’t entirely true. Recently, Bethedlsda Games Studio has been increasing the size of their team. They recently opened a new office in Montreal, and have been expanding a lot. So, there are probably just as many people working on the new games as there were working in Skyrim for most of its development. But another thing that needs to be considered, is that they are working on understanding new technology, something that they would probably try to do for their next game whether or not they made Skyrim VR. So, if they are going to take the time to understand how VR works, it is good that they have something to show for it sooner rather than later. Now, with VR already being integrated into there games, as they work on the next game, they can focus on the software. They will not have to devote extra resources to figuring out the technology since they will have already made two VR games. And while making Skyrim VR will push the timeline of The Elder Scrolls VI back a little bit, it isn’t as much as one may think, and we are also getting another game to hold us over u til they do eventually decide to reveal their new game.

The return of Skyrim is not a bad thing. Bethesda is making changes to the game that are still ground breaking and new. While new versions of Skyrim will undoubtedly slow the production of The Elder Scrolls VI, the benefits of having a great game to play on the go, and in virtual reality make up for it. I am glad Bethesda chose to go forward with making these games. I know I will surelybspend a lot of time with them.

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Is The Pokemon Go 50 Coin Cap Wrong?

While I have been an avid Pokemon Go player since day one, I never really got interested in the gym system before this most recent update.  I would take on maybe one gym a say, just so i could get a few coins, but I never had control of more than two gyms at a time. I would always collect my coins after the first gym to avoid the disappointment of having it taken before I got another, and them wouldn’t care a for another day. Now, with the new format for gyms, I have been more willing to try and take the gyms on. So far, I have gotten many more coins this weekend than I had gotten in the few weeks prior to the new gym system being implemented, but I am still somehow disappointed. Because of the new system, coins are easier to come by, and I am more driven to try to take out gyms, but the 50 coin cap per day is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

It is strange, because I am getting many more coins than I was before, but because I think about the coins I might be getting, I am disappointed by how many I am getting. Today, I put 4 pokemon on gyms, and I have had one pokemon that has held a gym since Friday. Now, of the 5 pokemon I had defending gyms, only 2 are still standing guard. Of the 3 that have been returned to me today, only one has given me coins. The pokemon that had been diligently standing guard for me since Friday was my first pokemon to have been returned to me today. Since it had been guarding the gym for well over the time it takes to amass 50 coins, it came back with 50 coins. That is good, except when my other 2 pokemon were returned, they came home empty handed. Now I’m conflicted. The logical side of me understands that 50 coins today is more than the 10 or 20 I would have gotten without the new gym system, but then again, I know that if there were no 50 coin cap, I would have gotten hundreds of coins.

So, is this coin cap wrong? Niantic needs to make money some how, and selling coins is the primary way pokemon go makes money. If people were earning hundreds of coins a day, no one would need to spend money on it any more. So Niantic does need to keep the amount of coins people earn every day down. And the coin cap isn’t wrong, it just seems like it some time. I just wish they could do it so my efforts don’t seem meaningless.

The gym system is much better than it was before. I feel like I can actually take on a full gym by myself without wasting 30 max potions. I am happy with the higher turn over of gyms, it actually makes me want to go fight them. And there is the added benefit of Raids as well, giving me another reason to get out and find gyms. Overall this new update is a success in my book, they just need to do a little bit of tweaking on the coin system. Make it so that additional pokemon being returned on the same day don’t bring nothing back. If the cap were smaller, but it were a cap per gym, say 15 or 20 points per gym per day, that would be better, or if they don’t offer extra coins, they could convert the additional coins you would have gotten into something different, like star dust or experience. I just wish the effort I went through to put out extra pokemon wasn’t wasted.

So, for me, a 50 coin cap had a net positive effect for me,  but it seems to have been implemented in a less than optimal fashion. The new format for gyms is great because I have incentive to try to take on gyms all day, instead of just when I am available to get coins, and I get many more coins than if I were using the old system. The 50 coin cap isn’t bad, and it isn’t wrong, it just needs to be im0lemented differently.

The Best Thing About E3 This Year Is Next Year’s E3

E3 is far from over, but the big announcements are out of the way, and we have a good idea of what the gaming landscape is going to look like over the next year. The conferences are over, and there were not many surprises this year. According to my count, there were only 2 new AAA intellectual properties announced across all of the conferences this year, Anthem and Skull & Bones. There were many leaks, and we saw more information about the games that were announced last year, but over all, there was a lack of exciting new surprises. But fear not, all is not lost. We still have a slate of awesome games coming out over the next year, and this “dry spell” means that future E3 conferences will be even more exciting!

This year, there were more games shown slated for release in the next year than usual, and significantly fewer games that are really far out. Bethesda is continuing the trend that they started two years ago with Fallout 4 by releasing both of the games they announced this year. EA held back on the star wars games that we will have in the future in favor of showing more Battlefront II, and Ubisoft’ s flagship titles of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry are also due to release before Christmas. Sony and Microsoft managed to avoid showing off tempting teasers, and many of the games that were shown had dates of 2017 or 2018. Of course, there were a few games that won’t make it into our consoles any time soon, but generally, it seemed like most games that were shown only a year or two away. This is a new trend that the industry seems to be taking, and it is because of this there were fewer surprises this year or, but that just leaves more room for next year!

By this time next year, we will already have played (not accounting for delays) Destiny 2, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Wolfenstein the new Collosus, Star Wars Battlefront II, Mario Oddesy, Crackdown, God of War, Call of Duty WWII, and many other games that were shown at this year’s E3 conferences. That leaves the stage wide open for many more games to get announced next year, and, if trends continue, it is likely that the time between announcement, and shipping will be smaller. That means we will be shown more complete games, games that are closer to the final build, games that will have fewer delays, and fewer games should be cancelled. There are lots of benefits to waiting to announce games until they are ready. Sure the shiny new toy may be appealing at first, but as things change, as games are delayed and parts are stripped out, the community gets irritated, upset, and even angry. So this E3 may not have had the surprised that we may have wanted, but this could mean better announcements in the future. Instead of people being excited about something they won’t see for years, they will be excited about games that we will be playing before the year is over.

So if this E3 was dissappointing to you, fear not, remember that everything that wasn’t shown is waiting to be shown. And the longer they wait, the less dissappointed we are. We will know what to expect, and games are more likely to come out when they are supposed to. This E3’s shortcoming will be next year’s strengths.

Nintendo: Worst Console Manufacturer, Best Mobile Publisher

Nintendo has been going downhill for years. Always making underperforming consoles, alienating their third party partners, and failing to keep up with the constantly evolving principals of game design. For so long Nintendo has been faltering, and finally, they are making their way back to the top. I’m not talking about the Switch, which has all the aforementioned problems. I’m talking about their recent foray into mobile development.

Nintendo’s journey during the last decade has been an interesting one. It has been a long time since I have used a Nintendo console as my primary platform for gaming. It just hasn’t had the power to support the best games that are being made, and, while Nintendo does make good games, they don’t make good enough games to make them my primary console. And the recent release of the switch isn’t making them any more appealing to me. Since Breath of the Wild is on Wii u, until Mario Oddesy comes out this Holiday, there isn’t anything that I want to play, that I can’t play (or haven’t played) somewhere else. But despite Nintendo’s failing battle for my tv, they have almost completely won me over on my phone.

Right now, most of the games that I play on my phone are Nintendo, or Nintendo affiliated games, and there aren’t even that many of them out there. It all started with Pokemon Go last year. That is the mobile game that I have played the most by far, and it is the only mobile game that has actually affected my daily life. When Mario Run came out, it was always what I used to kill time, even being the cheapskate that I am, and not paying to unlock the full game. And now, my attention is completely diverted to Magikarp Jump. It is a silly game, but since I have slowed down on Pokemon Go Magikarp Jump has been a fun use of my time, and another outlet for pokemon.

It makes sense that Nintendo would take to the mobile environment well, having cornered the handheld market for years, but I am still surprised at how well they have captured my interest. When I was younger, I didn’t play a lot of Nintendo games. I started gaming later in life, on PlayStation and Xbox. I don’t have the nostalgic connection that many people do with Nintendo, but their mobile games are good. They do a good job making mobile games that are fun to play, without requiring microtransactions. So far, I haven’t spent a penny on any of Nintendo’s games, and I am still having a blast!

Nintendo has done something with their mobile games that they have had trouble doing anywhere else. They have adapted. Not only are these new Nintendo mobile games good Nintendo games, they are also good mobile games. This is great considering most Nintendo games still use game design principals from the 90’s. When these new games were made, there was a lot of thought put into them, making the moat of the platform they are on. Nintendo has had hit and miss success with this in the past, and these are certainly a hit. And the best part about it is that they didn’t take the annoying things from other mobile games too. No annoying ads. Microtransactions exist, but aren’t required to enjoy these games. It is the beginning of a new Nintendo.

I like the new direction Nintendo is taking. I hope they can soon separate themselves completely from consoles, and just focus on making great games, whether that is for PlayStation and Xbox, or android and iOS. Nintendo makes great games, and I would love them to be more accessible, instead of being trapped on their own devices. Zelda sold extraordinarily well considering it is only found on the two least popular devices on the market, imagine what would have happened if they had the power and install base of PlayStation, Xbox, or PC behind that game. Nintendo only has themselves to hurt if they don’t start broadening their horizons.

I like Nintendo’s games, and I am glad they are moving them out of the prison that they call consoles. Nintendo’s mobile titles have been some of the most fun I’ve had playing their games, and I hope they continue to expand. Getting their games into the hands of all gamers would be great for them. I hope they can move forward, and bring great games to everyone.

Pokemon Go Johto Woes

Pokemon go was a worldwide sensation when it came out last July, and the game was supposed to be reinvigorated when the second generation of pokemon was released a few months ago, but gen 2 didn’t make nearly the splash that gen 1 did not even a year before. During the first wave of pokemon, I had a blast. I spent nearly six months of my life trying to fill my pokedex as best I could, looking on forums trying to find the best nests, and biomes in my area, finding out tips to get the best pokemon I could. I was just starting to feel a bit fatigued before they announced the new Pokemon were being added to the game, having caught every pokemon I could except for one, I was ready for a new wave of pokemon to search for, and another six months of excitement, but now, barely three months later, I am feeling fatigued with the game again. This time, I am not even nearing pokedex completion, but I am tiring of the game anyway. I think gen 2 has a lot of issues, and Niantic has some things to learn before they release gen 3 pokemon.

During the first few months of the game, I felt like I was consistently making progress. Every week or so, I would get a new Pokemon, whether it was collecting enough candy to evolve something that I had been holding on to for a while, or from finding something new and exciting in the wild. This was thanks to Niantic tweaking the algorithms, and making the rarer pokemon become more common as the game when on. It was coincidental, but it felt like actual progression, similar to a single player game, where as I kept playing more rare pokemon showed up. It was due to this tweaking that when gen 2 came out, I managed to fill up half my pokedex in the first week. By the time gen 2 was released, common pokemon were everywhere, in a large variety, and uncommon pokemon were easy to find, unlike the original launch where they appeared seldomly. And unfortunately, the rare pokemon are just as hard to find, if not harder, since they are competing with other rare pokemon to spawn. It is because of this I feel like I have hit a wall. I’m rarely finding anything new, and there are no nests for me to find. Anything that can spawn at a nest, I already found it’s entire evolution tree, and the pokemon I don’t have are so rare, I have only seen one or fewer the entire time gen 2 has been out.

Another reason I am feeling unenthusiastic is because there are fewer pokemon to evolve. If a pokemon does evolve, more often then not, it only evolves once. Other than the babies, of which I already had the second and third evolutions, if they had them, and the starter pokemon, which were much more abundant than the gen 1 starters were at launch, there are only three pokemon in gen 2 that can evolve twice: Mareep, Hoppip, and Larvitar. Because of the aforementioned uncommon spawn increase, I was able to catch a Jumpluff, Hoppip’s third evolution, on the first day, and because of where I live, i have not seen a single Mareep, and I only managed to find one Larvitar outside of the adventure event. This is very different to the slow trickle of new Pokemon hat came in through in gen one. I was collecting Oddish, Poliwag, Abra, and even Dratini, until I finally managed to get enough candies to evolve them. The pokemon were not always rare, but it was still exciting to see them, knowing what they had in store when they finally evolved. I would be excited to see a Mareep, or a Larvitar as well, if I ever saw one.

Because so many gen 2 pokemon have ties to gen 1, there is limited use for exploration. All of the baby pokemon can’t be found in the wild. They have to be hatched from eggs. Thus it doesn’t matter where you go, just that you walk, and hope that this next egg is something good, that is if you don’t want to spend money getting limited use incubators. Even if you do, there is not even a slight guarantee that you will get what you want. The pokemon that evolve from gen 1 pokemon were difficult to evolve because there were special items needed. These are found through interacting with pokestops, most often on the 7th day of a streak. Again, it doesn’t matter where you are, just that you can get to a pokestops 7 days in a row. Eventually you will get the items you need. And there aren’t nests for as many pokemon either. If you need to find a pokemon that has a nest, it takes patience, and research. Or just getting lucky. Either way, it was possible for me to find pokemon that don’t exist normally in the region in which I live. I was able to evolve Magnemite, Kabuto, and Seel by going to nests. As far as I can tell, Mareep, and Larvitar don’t have nests. I would have to travel to find them, not just explore. So at this point in time, it seems that the pokemon that I need are going to have to be acquired through extreme luck, and walking. I can walk the Larvitar I have hundreds of kilometers, until I finally get a Tyranitar, I need to walk eggs for hours, hoping for the babies to show up, and I have not seen anything to help me find a Miltank, or an Unown. With those, I need to luck out, while walking my buddy, and my eggs.

What can Niantic do to get my love back when generation 3 pokemon are released? The good news is many of my problems will be solved automatically. Gen 3 is a self contained generation with no ties to either of the first 2 generations, and it has more three tier evolutions. This means more new Pokemon, and working towards evolutions, instead of finishing them quickly. What Niantic needs to change is their spawn algorithms. It worked so well with gen 1, when the pokemon were slowly more common. It took me a month I’m gen 1 to do what it took me a week to do with gen 2. The slow burn is what made pokemon go fun at first. And the flash in the pan is why I’m disappointed with gen 2. I hope they can get the slow buildup back for gen 3. Pokemon go has been a lot of fun for me over the last year, and I hope they are able to recapture the magic when gen 3 is released.

A Nostalgia-Free Look at Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was praised by video game journalists everywhere as a phenomenal, nearly flawless game. After spending almost one hundred hours with the game I can say with certainty, those journalists were blinded by nostalgia.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun playing this game. I’m not sure if I have ever played a game where the world had such breadth and diversity, but other than that, Zelda does not have much going for it. The story is discombobulated, boring, and has some of the worst voice acting I have ever heard. And any side quests that you do will be so poorly written it is almost laughable. Breath of the Wild is a good game, but don’t expect the story to stay with you. The world definitely takes center stage during this adventure.

The Good

During my time in Breath of the Wild, my favorite experiences were when I was removed from the story completely. Finding shrines and climbing towers, while navigating the expansive map is where this game thrives.

The map is huge, but it is also very diverse, putting you in mountainous terrain, green plains, arid deserts, and frozen tundra to name a few. Each zone has it’s own challenges and enemies, and Link has to prepare differently depending on where he goes. Link may have to put on warmer clothes when exploring the colder regions, bring his climbing boots to more easily navigate any mountainous terrain, or remove any metal weapons and gear during a lightning storm. Learning how to navigate the different areas to best find shrines was what kept me coming back to this game every day.

There are no boundaries when it comes to exploring this world. You can go anywhere you want with complete freedom. With the right equipment, you can scale the highest mountains, swim across the widest rivers, and fly over the deepest gorges. Nothing was more satisfying than making it to the highest point in an area, and marking all the shrines that you can see, so that you can go back and get them later (As long as you don’t get distracted by the immense beauty, or the Korok seed puzzles.)

After you have braved the elements, and spotted the shrines, the next step is solving their puzzles. The shrines are small enclosed spaces that you need to complete to get upgrades to your health, or stamina. Each shrine will have a different challenge that Link has to overcome. Sometimes it will be fighting a guardian, sometimes it will require memorization, and sometimes it will require good old fashioned problem solving. The shrines are fun, albeit a bit simple for a franchise that is historically known as for its tricky temples.

The game does include larger puzzles in the form of the Divine Beasts (the only good thing involving the story.) There are for divine beasts, one located with each of the games factions: The Zora, the Gorons, the Rito, and the Gerudo. After you have gained the factions trust you must lower the beasts defenses, with a 90’s style boss battle that includes dodging patterned attacks and getting close enough to hit the beast with your arrows, then once you are inside you must find 5 terminals using each beast’ s unique puzzles, and remove the corruption. The puzzles can be a bit tricky at times, but it is never too hard to figure out. Then you must beat boss battles that range in difficulty from easy, to harder than the final fight. The Divine Beasts gave me an appropriate challenge, and level of excitement.

If you spend your entire time exploring and solving puzzles, Breath of the Wild is a fun game, but when you play the story, you are likely to find yourself disappointed.

The Bad

Breath of the Wild’s main story line is told in two ways: Interacting with the 4 factions, and helping them defeat the Divine Beasts, and through random snippets of flashbacks found scattered throughout the map. While the interactions the the factions are poorly written, the flashbacks are a disorganized mess that should have been left out of the game entirely.

For a game with so much freedom in world exploration, it is strange how much it limits you in player choice during the story. During each of the Divine Beast quests, you are forced to look on as the factions squabble and work their way into a corner, making it so you are the only choice left to try and stop the Divine Beast that is ruining their lives. There is no way to let them know that you are the princesses champion, the only person alive that can stop the Divine Beasts, you just have to wait until they figure it out themselves. They scream and plead for help, but don’t let you do anything until you have done some obnoxious side quests. And even then, they usually don’t want your help, they just don’t have any other options. And as annoying as these quests are, they get much worse.

The flashbacks are points on your map that have to be found using pictures that Princess Zelda left you. They are meant to give you insight on what happened before the events of the game. There is no order to when you have to find them, so they appear out of order, and sometimes make no sense. On top of that, these cutscenes are poorly written, forcing tutorial hints into what is said, giving lore that doesn’t matter, and have dreadful voice acting. Zelda, with her weird semi-British accent will tell you that you can cook things, or give you useless tips on how to ride a horse when she isn’t complaining about her general uselessness, in her squeaky whiny voice. And worse than the voice acting, is the lack of voice acting from our protagonist, Link. Nintendo made the conscious decision to never give link a voice, so the players can project themselves on to the character. While it is a good idea, it counters itself out when you give that character a predefined backstory, and use them in cutscenes. Instead of feeling like I was Link, as the designers intended, it made Link seem bland, and sometimes he just seemed like a jerk. And as bad as these flashbacks are, the side quests are even worse.

The side quests in Breath of the Wild consist entirely of uninspired and poorly written quests. The characters have absurd reasons to get you to do things, and worse reasons for why they aren’t doing them themselves, and how they say things is the worst part about it. The lengthy dialog lacks personality, and reads like a text book. And most of the quests that you are given make little to no sense. I found myself searching for people that weren’t lost, gathering ingredients that are readily available, even getting an apple in an attempt to save someone’s marriage (don’t ask me how that helps). I skipped most of the dialog, and went straight to finding the materials, that often were already in my inventory.

The Ugly

There are many things that Breath of the Wild includes that are strange and archaic that are personal gripes. Others may not be bothered by them like I was.

The first of many annoyances that pestered me during my adventure in Hyrule was the control scheme. Nintendo has never conformed to what any one else was doing, and it took me a while to get use to the controls that are not very customizable. If it didn’t tell me, I would have never thought to Sprint with the X button. And as I started to get the hang of controlling Link, other annoyances started popping up. Breath of the Wild often confuses complexity with interesting gameplay. The game has a lot of systems and subsystems that the player has to interact with that cause unnecessary difficulties. Having to change clothes every five minutes to fit your frequently changing situation is mildly obnoxious. Having to find new weapons constantly because the swords are irreparably damaged after only a few hits made me try to avoid fighting things if I had the option. And I could never get horses to go where I wanted them to.

Another odd thing about the game, is that it uses archaic game design. Nintendo used game design principals from the 90’s and puts them in a modern game world. The constant pausing of the entire world so it could tell me that i had completed an objective was a bit jarring at first. The odd requirement of beating all of the enemies in a location for a chest to magically unlock seems outdated. Modern games have moved past this, and improved them to make the worlds feel more alive. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. It might spark nostalgia for some people, but it didn’t for me. It just made it seem a little strange.

And when the game is over, you are done. There is no option to continue. If you want to go back and get any shrines you missed, or finish restoring Links memories, you have to load a previous save. This is something that people have been complaining about in open world games since the first one that cut off their progress. Why can’t I see a world where the castle isn’t shrouded in darkness? Few people will complete everything before trying to take on Calamity Gannon, and the fact that I had reload a save discourages me from even trying to get 100% completion. I spent time and resources taking him out, I want to be done with it.

The Verdict

Fortunately for Zelda, the story, and the micromanaging are not what most of my time was spent on in this game. I spent most of my time exploring, and conquering shrines, so my overall experience was good. If you have a switch, or a Wii u, and are looking to put them to good use, you will enjoy yourself with Breath of the Wild. My review may seem harsh, but that is because everyone in the world seems to think this game is perfect, and it is honestly quite baffling to me how it has received the scores it has. There are obvious flaws with the game, and everyone just wants to ignore them because it has the word Zelda on the title.

7/10

The world is fun to explore, but the game is seriously lacking in good storytelling. There are many small annoyances involving item management, but the world makes up for it.

Until Dawn Review: The Best Horror Movie You Will Play (Spoiler Free)

It’s October, so to get in the spirit I have been playing some horror games. The first game that I played was the recent PlayStation 4 exclusive game, Until Dawn. Until Dawn follows the format of a typical teen slasher flick. It starts with a bunch of friends at one of their parent’s cabin in the woods. Of course there is no adult supervision, no power, and a psychotic person up on the mountain with them. All of the typical slasher movie tropes are present, there is young love, bitter rivalries, and a lot of good ole fashioned peer pressure. Until Dawn does an excellent job of capturing the look and feel of a classic slasher flick, while keeping the player effectively engaged.

The Butterfly Effect

One of the largest selling points of this game is the fact that your choices matter. Throughout the story, you switch between characters, eventually playing as each of the 8 friends in the cabin, and you have to make choices for them. Each different choice that you make could affect something that happens down the line. These choices can be something small, like deciding to show off your skills by shooting a squirrel, or game changing choices that put your friends lives in danger.

Before the game starts, it shows branching veins which show how many possible endings the game can have. you can play the game from beginning to end without having a single one of the eight playable characters die, or you could loose all of them before the sun rises. The best part about this is that the game feels genuine, no matter which characters live, and which ones die. The story is put together in such a way that all of the deaths have meaning, and when a character dies, it doesn’t feel forced. And the characters that live aren’t alive without ordeal. No one gets a walk through, and the game is different each time you play it, depending on what choices you make.

Tense Situations

Until Dawn may not be the scariest game that you will play this Halloween, but it does do a good job of keeping you on the edge of your seat. It follows all of the horror movie tropes, and does a good job of keeping players alone. The only time that all of the players are guaranteed to be together is at the beginning of the game. There are a lot of fake scares throughout the game, and it keeps you wondering whether the thing around the corner is friend, or foe. There are times when reacting too quickly could end up endangering a friend, and there are times when your life could be on the line if you don’t respond quickly enough. This game definitely does a good job keeping the tension.

The primary game play mechanic that Until Dawn Utilizes is the quick time event. Normally I am not a huge fan of quick time events, but Until Dawn uses them correctly. They are used to simulate tough tasks by making you press the buttons quickly, but failure doesn’t mean the end of the world… well, at least not every time. Usually, when you mess up, it will make your character fumble, making their objective harder to reach, but sometimes, it can lead to character death. They are used to maintain suspense, and keep your blood flowing.

As with any horror movie, the scariest parts of the game are when a character is hiding only a few inches away from someone who is trying to kill them. Until Dawn makes the most of this by sensing the controller’s movement during these times, and penalizing you if you can’t keep your cool. It is one of the best mechanics I have ever encountered to keep tension in a video game. There were times when you could cut the tension with a knife, I was so still and quiet, trying not to make a sound. Until Dawn uses the mechanics in the game very well. They are used to keep you engaged, and tense.

Tense isn’t the Same Thing as Scary

Until Dawn isn’t the scariest game that I have ever played though. While the mood is certainly analogous to a slasher movie, the fear factor is often closer to that of a psychological thriller. It isn’t scary enough to keep you up at night, but it definitely makes you feel uneasy as you play it. The game is good, but ultimately, it’s greatest downfall is that it isn’t as scary as it could be. A contributing factor to that could be the threat of death isn’t as real as it is in other games. When a character dies, it is unnerving, and undesirable, but as a gamer, it doesn’t set you back any. The game goes on, and there are still other characters whose lives are put in your hands.

The Verdict

Until Dawn was a very tense game, with a lot of spooky moments.I have played through it once, and I watched my wife play through it, and the butterfly effect is a great thing that they put in the game. The different choices are interesting, and it is very interesting to see how a seemingly meaningless choice can affect the rest of the game. The game play mechanics were perfectly crafted for this type of storytelling. I certainly enjoyed my time with Until Dawn, even though it didn’t scare the pants off of me.

As indicated by the title, Until Dawn is more like a playable movie than a Video Game, but that isn’t a bad thing. If you are ever in the mood for a slasher flick, and a video game at the same time Until Dawn is the perfect choice for you. With more positives than negatives I give Until Dawn a final score of 8.5 out of 10.

Far Cry Primal is a Far Cry from Far Cry

Far Cry Primal was announced today as the newest installment in the popular Far Cry franchise. It takes place in the year 10,000 BCE, and follows a hunter through his life as humans are first settling in, and moving on from their nomadic pasts. The game looks very interesting, and I look forward to playing it when it comes out in a few months. It incorporates a lot of new elements that I haven’t seen before in video games, and will certainly be something new for me. There are interesting crafting mechanics, where you will have to create new weapons out of the bones of your prey, as well as other things that you can scavenge. It has a very intriguing predatory system, where the scent of your fallen prey will attract new predators to the area. It seems to be a very unique game, that could be a wonderful experience, but I’m not sure why it is a Far Cry game.

Far Cry has always been one of my favorite video game franchises because of it’s intense, fast paced action, and it’s ability to make you feel like a total bad ass. It has been about firing grenade launchers from miniature helicopters, and fighting tigers with flamethrowers driving off cliffs, jumping out of the car, and sailing to safety with your parachute. Far Cry has historically been very good at making you feel like the star of an action movie, without making it scripted. In my opinion, it is the epitome of unscripted action in video games. I’m not sure that Far Cry Primal will follow in the footsteps of it’s predecessors.

While Far Cry Primal looks like an excellent game, I’m not sure if it will be an excellent Far Cry. From what was shown in the trailer, it looks like you will be a hunter, using spears, and clubs to take down your prey. This means that you have to get close. Since there are no vehicles, wing suits, or firearms, getting close to your prey will inevitably involve being sneaky, and slowly walking through the underbrush, trying to make sure the deer don’t notice you. Far Cry games have allowed stealth options in the past, but they were just that, options. I don’t think that there is a viable option to hunt deer “guns blazin’.”

While I am talking about guns, there is another large disconnect in that realm as well. In the other Far Cry games, the only melee weapon is a knife, while there are a plethora of ranged weapons. From rocket launchers to bows, and everything in between, Far Cry certainly has a diverse pool of ranged weapons to choose from. Far Cry Primal on the other hand seems to be focusing on the close quarters combat, with only bows, and spears making the list for ranged weapons. Even so, the ancient bows shouldn’t have nearly the range of current ones, and realistic distance that a spear could be thrown is not very far at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited to see more of this game, as all of these elements do sound like they could make a great game, I just wonder why they would label it as a Far Cry game instead of making it into a new Intellectual Property. It seems so different from, not only the other Far Cry games, but any game on the market right now. I find it an odd choice that they would want to associate this game with such a well established franchise.

I guess at the end of the day, the Layman wins. He is going to buy the game with the familiar title before the one he has never heard of. New IP don’t sell as well as established franchises, but it may be a little misleading. This game might be an action packed primordial game, one deserving of the Far Cry title, but from what I have seen, it doesn’t look like it will attract the same fan base as the other Far Cry games. I know a few people who are huge Far Cry fans that might not give this game a second glance because it doesn’t have guns, and explosions.

On World Building

I am relatively new to the realm of being a GM, with only about a year and a half under my belt, but I have had a realization recently that maybe other people haven’t had yet. I just finished watching an anime that I found while randomly going through titles on Hulu called “Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?” It is a good show, and I would recommend it, but that is not what I am talking about today. What I realized while watching the show is that a good campaign doesn’t have to be sprawling.

The show is set up in a way that is very reminiscent of a classic fantasy RPG, where the characters level up despite being real people, and adventuring is huge occupation in the show. While watching it I thought about what elements I could use in my RPG games, as I always do, and something hit me. Even though only one season of the show is out right now, it is very clear that it is being set up to last longer than just this one season, but it takes place in one city, and it’s accompanying mega-dungeon. This interested me because when I make long term campaigns, I usually make the adventurers go out and adventure, making a sprawling, albeit shallower world that the players exist in. The reason I would do this is because I thought it would feel redundant if I kept them in the same place, but I have come to realize that is not true. There are plenty of TV shows and movies where the characters will stay in the same place, but it doesn’t make them redundant, it makes them richer.

I may have been basing my decisions off the video games that I play, but just because they are games, doesn’t mean they should have the same worlds. Most video games show a journey, where the player starts in one place, and ends in another, but role playing games are different. Something a video game has to have that a movie or TV show doesn’t is the gameplay. The gameplay is something that is hard to maintain in a video game if you don’t keep moving forward. You may think this is the same when you play a role playing game, but it isn’t. Role playing games, in my opinion, should be more about the cooperative story telling than the gameplay. If my main concern were how it played I would be playing a wargame. When you look at it as more of a story than a game, it doesn’t seem weird to keep players all in one place.

For my next campaign, I am going to try something new. I am going to set it all in a single location, and not venture too far from it. I have tried having a home base, where every adventure starts, but I haven’t experimented with having the entirety of the story take place in a small area. I think that it would make the location much richer, and I think that having repeat locations may make the players more invested. Instead of asking what is around every time, they can remember where they have already been, and base their decisions off of that.

To Narrate, or Not to Narrate

Any Game Master worth his dice knows that an RPG is not a story that the GM tells the player, it is an interactive experience, where both parties participate in telling the story. The question I want to address today is how much should the players be telling the story?

In most instances, the player will be in control of what their character does and how they do it. The GM will give a scenario that the players need to deal with, then the players take control of their characters, and deal with the issue (Usually in the complete opposite way the GM expects.) A lot of GM’s will allow their players to narrate a little bit more than just their character, but there is always a limit to the players control of anything that isn’t their own character. What I want to discuss is how much control the player should have over the world around them.

For many GM’s, letting a player control more than just their character seems ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t do it. When a player suggests that they take a course of action that was not planned for, you are letting them change the world when they try to use a backdoor that you hadn’t created before. Sure the GM is describing it, but the player created it, when they suggested it in the first place.

“Can I do ____?” Almost every GM has heard this question, and as long as the request is reasonable, the answer should be “Yes,” or “If you roll well enough.” The players power over the world will often end here, but should it? Often, the GM will explain to the player how they would be able to pull off such a feet, but I believe, depending on the game, this should still be in the player’s jurisdiction. It should be noted that if the goal of your game is for it to be very gritty, or a horror game, where players aren’t supposed to have a traditionally fun time with laughing and excitement, limiting the player’s control is probably for the best, but if you just want to have a good time, and create a fun, crazy story with the players, they should be allowed to control the world however they please, as long as they don’t break the game.

The normal answer to the player saying “Can I build a shield from the remains of this wagon?” is to require a roll then if they succeed, the GM will start describing how the player player’s character pull a wheel off the wagon, then starts covering it with boards, or other materials. I suggest instead that the player describe what they do, and how they do it with (near) complete freedom. This does two things. First, the player now becomes more attached to the item, since the player made it instead of the GM. Second, the GM can now use his creative thinking for something other than describing player actions. The player should be allowed to describe the wagon, and what is on it that it can make a shield out of.

Player backgrounds are often ignored by GM’s in favor of what is on the character sheet. If a PC wants to distract the guards with an epic saxophone solo because they played the saxophone in high school, but they don’t have any bardic abilities on their character sheet, they should still be allowed to play the saxophone. Why? Because it is more fun. If you want you can require a roll, but it should still be allowed. If there isn’t a saxophone around, then let them find one, and for the most fun you should let them describe why a saxophone was left in the dungeon.

Earlier, I mentioned that the players should be allowed to affect the world in any way they want, as long as they don’t break the game. What I mean by that is that they shouldn’t be allowed to call in a nuclear missile to destroy their enemy. You may allow it, but it will likely make for a shorter, boring session. The secret third option is to let them break the game, and then try to one up them. When the players do something ridiculous that is potentially game breaking, make it a game of bigger fish, and find something to break their game breaking creation. When done properly, this will give the players an even more difficult situation in the future. When your players called a nuke to destroy the city, the players find out they had been training wizards to ward off incoming attacks. Now they not only have to deal with whatever was threatening them from the city before, but now they have an army of wizards to deal with too! This will make for a fun session.

I believe that players should even be able to manipulate the past, just like the GM can, as long as they can explain why. If a player wants to dress like a rabbit to avoid suspicion, (I don’t know why they would try that but let them) all they should have to do is explain why they have a rabbit suit in their pack, even if it isn’t on their character sheet. These are Role Playing Games, not combat simulators. Who cares if they change things, as long as everyone is having fun.

When the players are allowed to contribute to the world, they are more likely to have a good time, because their contributions are what they want to see. GM’s are not all knowing, and can’t perfectly cater an experience to a group of players no matter how hard they try, so why not let the players make the world into what they want it to be? And when the players are having a good time, the GM will also have a good time. Next time a player asks if they can do something, I urge you to get them to tell you how they are going to do it, and even better, why the situation is set up so they can make this attempt.