Sandbox Gaming: Too much of something can be a bad thing

“We made a massive map full of interesting things and cool sites to see, how will we get our player to explore?”
“Make them collect 5 of something, over and over again”

This idea was once kept to the boundaries of your typical MMO. Go out see the world and kill x of every animal or being you can find until, eventually the killing for experience stop and the grind for gear began.

Unfortunately the more sandbox games get released the more of a cross over we begin to see.

Its been quite refreshing playing Uncharted 2 over the last month, a game thats driven by story content and the occasional killing spree in an ancient temple. I managed to sink about 8 to 10 hours into the game which for me is a good amount of time. The problem I find with open world games is you never know when to stop the fucking around collecting werewolf dicks and actually put sometime in the story.

Final Fantasy 15 has an interesting approach to the sandbox vs liner gameplay. They essentially split the game up into both categories. The first part of the game sees your driving around with your j-pop boyband – killing the odd monster, collecting the occasion special weapon and upgrading your car. From what I can see none of this seems to be getting your kingdom back its just helping you prepare for the final story.

However even Final Fantasy cannot escape the MMO trope and you soon find yourself killing monsters over and over again for loot and exp, and of course lets not forget collecting things. Earlier Final Fantasies like 7 and 9 had an open world feel to them but managed to avoid the unnecessary repetitive quest approach which seems to be plaguing new sandbox games. Even FF10 which was a much more linear game felt open enough to give you a sense of freedom.

I must admit i managed to spent at least 75 hours in Skyrim and again maybe about 50 hours in fallout 4. A game that in my opinion was incredibly weak. I also managed to spend the equivalent on Witcher 3, again a game i felt was weaker than it previous games simply because it was a sandbox game.

Too much of something can be a bad thing

In all these games i mainly focused on the main story quest and any secondary quest which i can find meaning in, like a little side story. In some cases i get bored of the game long before i even complete it. Too much of something can be a bad thing and this is probably my main issue with sandbox games.

After sinking 45 hours into Final Fantasy XV i managed to make it to chapter 13. At this point i was pretty bored with the game but having read that chapter 13 was just bad, i dragged myself through. Now i’m on the final 3 bosses and to be honest i really don’t give a fuck any more.

Uncharted left me wanting more, so once i completed 2 i moved on to 4 (i’ll go back to 3), however when i complete a sandbox game… well you can’t really, you just get fed up and do the last mission so you can say you sort of finished it.

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Hello Games and the Hype Wagon

Its not uncommon for triple AAA gaming company to bend the truth when its comes to in game footage. It’s the norm in this industry, and one truly milked by the mobile market. It seems a bit unfair to place the blame for this dog-shit tactic purely on the shoulders of  Hello Games, but it seem to have gone that way.

This is not a review of No Mans Sky, to be honest i haven’t even played it. This is a criticism of how the gaming media handled its release.

After all Hello Games released some footage that the the gaming media latched on to and went absolutely ape-shit about, without really questioning it. The hype wagon was on true form and the carried on the wings of Kotaku and Polygon. News sites I expect to be a bit more critical of what they see in early alpha footage. Hello Games are unlikely to turn around and go “fuck guys don’t get carried away its just alpha”, they have a product to sell and like any good company they lets the hype build up. All this hype led to an excellent opening days. But after this the dark days came. Everyone came to the realisation that, although this game was revolutionary in its use of technology – substance was lacking.

Back tracking ensued and a new trend emerged. It was time to play the blame game.

So instead of realising that we (the media) lost our shit over something we where sold by a very capable marketing team, it was easier to blame it on the company instead of question why we didn’t look into thing further, why we didd’t criticize it more.

Lets not forgot what Pokemon Go promised us in the early stages of its development and what we got their was far from perfect but no one seems to be taking Nintendo to court over dodgy sales tactics.

Although Hello Games might have taken a hit on any credit for games they make in the future, you can’t question that this release (according to the figures) was a business success.

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Deconstructing Doom

DOOM is a hellish, beautiful mess of demons and half cut-up people; with big guns and “no fucks given attitude”. But where it excels at single player it falls flat on its multiplayer offerings.

….where it excels at single player it falls flat on its multiplayer offerings.

I picked up Doom early from CD keys for about £22. Normally I wont commit to a game unless it has been reviewed and deemed working on PC as most games these days come this the optional setting of being a fuck-up. You also get the option of being trapped in a console port which has no relevance to a mouse and keyboard set-up. However the developers creating Doom should know better. It started on PC and thats where it need to come from.

It turned out to be a wise investment and Doom has been an enjoyable experience

DOOMs single player is a a lovely romp through a beautifully deigned hell infested Mars colony. Its a game that gives you exactly what you expect – big guns and demon hell spawn to decimate with said big guns. The weaponry packs a punch and feels satisfying to use. Nothing beats a double barrelled shot gun, well except taking that shot gun and shoving down some hell spawns throat and pulling the trigger.

Personally I got bored of cover shooters and military sims after the first GoW and CoD 4(?), but they sold and left us with little to fill the void. With a phenixdown being thrown on UT and now DOOM I’m hoping for a re-birth or the arena shooter much to the hate of Yahtzee.

Also give us back our bestie game mode, the Death-match

However first ID need to rip-out whatever the fuck Certain Affinity did with the multiplayer and start again. First off remove the load out rubbish and make guns available in level. Maybe strip back the secondary fire to something less OP and finally randomise the power ups in the level so that players can’t just camp them. Also give us back our bestie game mode, the Death-match. The only thing I would keep is the level side of things. I see the value of a level in multiplayer if its used to match players of similar skill level.

If they can solve this I might spend some more time in the multiplayer game but at the moment I’m all Overwatch, all the time.

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Faith Restored: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Beta Impressions

I loved the original Mirror’s Edge. It had some glaring flaws, but such things were forgiveable at the time given how new an experience in gaming was being attempted. I’ve spent the past 8 years hoping for a sequel which keeps the bits that worked and jettisons what didn’t.

But DICE haven’t done that. They’ve done something far more impressive.

You see the combat in the original was almost game-ruiningly awful. They could have easily made a decent sequel by getting rid of it fighting entirely, but instead have taken a gamble at creating an entirely new combat system, and it’s astonishingly good so far, with a fantastic strafing feature reminiscent of Metroid Prime, and a focus on crowd control over damage, giving you lots of options to direct enemies into one another or make use of the environment. And no guns, thank goodness.

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Also worrying me was a move towards an open world, but it barely feels like such, as open world gaming generally implies lots of boring walking or driving to the  next location, while in Catalyst it feels more like an endless series of challenging, and fun to negotiate, levels being pulled together on the fly depending on where you are heading to.

And Mirror’s Edge still feels like nothing else. Even after 8 years there are still very few games that can bring so much enjoyment and challenge to just moving around. Hopefully it does well enough to justify EA’s gamble, and prove to their shareholders that DICE can be more than just a Battlefield factory.

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Falling with Style, or That Superhero Feeling

I’ve played a lot of games that tell you you’re a superhero, but Gravity Rush might be the first time I’ve truly felt like one.

It’s easy enough to give the main character a cape, serve up some superpowers, or set a game in a comic book styled universe, but more often than not, its more about presentation wrapped around a generic brawler/adventure/genre-may-vary, and the sense of empowerment is kept in check by the limited scope of conventional game design.

Gravity Rush works so well because you are WAY overpowered in comparison to the slow paced city life around you, and the challenges are designed to test the limits of your unique powers in full flow, not to keep them in check as you are funnelled through levels.

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Bullet points!

  • You first enter the city in a plaza next to a flashing tutorial icon, but it is entirely feasible to ignore this and launch yourself into the air and explore every peak and depth of the city before even starting the first mission.
  • I launched myself to the top of the tallest tower I could see (clumsily, due to the newness of my powers) before jumping off into the plaza, faceplanting amongst terrified citizens.
  • You are so damn powerful you can completely wreck yourself through throwing yourself around so much, but this is made all the more satisfying by the thrill of pulling off awesome superhero landings that look just right once it’s all clicked into place.
  • So much collateral damage! People and property routinely get displaced and shoved aside by the high level superheroing taking place.
  • Oh yeah, upgrade your speed attribute just by a single initial level and you can already fly so fast that Kat creates a sonic boom in her wake.
  • Your partner is a cat made out of OUTER SPACE.
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