Eye of the Storm

The stages have been pulled down, the queues are finally gone and the dust has settled from Gamescom 2017. This is the first year I attended the yearly games show as an official member of the press and so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts. Living in Manchester it is neither cheap nor easy for me to get to the event and being partly disabled makes this a particularly grueling journey. All considered though, I still wouldn’t have missed this years Gamescom for the world. One major advantage of being allowed in a day early is that there is more space to breathe, look around and take in the spectacle of Gamescom. If you have never been before the Koelnmesse Centre is a gargantuan structure on the banks of the river Rhine, comprised of eleven aircraft hanger sized halls, connected with corridors and small open spaces. Considering the sheer scale of the event it is ridiculously well organised and I take my hat off to all those hard working folks that make it happen. 


Even though I had a list of priority games I wanted to see, walking in with my press pass made me feel like a dog that hadn't been for a walk for twelve months: I wanted to piss on every metaphorical tree! First stop, Destiny 2 for a hands on with the PC version running in glorious 4K. The open/close PC beta has since happened so, for now, I’ll just say I was impressed how well it was running. A t-shirt and can of Monster was also much appreciated.

My next stop was the Microsoft stand which took some effort to get into due to it being cordoned off and guarded by some quite rude security. However being part ninja I was able to sneak my way in (via the free pastries) and finally got to play Cuphead. This little gem is a stylised action platformer with a 1930’s theme. What is also great is that under this unique aesthetic there is a very competent game that reminded me of the classic Gunstar Heroes. I’ll run the trailer below and let you soak up all that old school goodness: I’ll be reviewing Cuphead on release this autumn.

There are always game stands where you know what you’re going to get and so unless you have a queuing fetish your time will be better spent elsewhere. One gaming series that I have always followed is Assassins Creed, even the bad ones like Unity and AC3 have been a guilty pleasure of mine. There is no denying that things needed to evolve; despite Syndicate being amazingly well made. Assassins Creed Origins is Ubisoft answering their critics and according to them, changing a few fundamental aspects of the gameplay. The setting this time around is Ancient Egypt and initially, I had worries about the desert being too flat: however this is not the case with verticality everywhere. As always the art team has outdone themselves with sumptuous historical details and this is one of the main reasons I love AC games (even the bad ones). As for a jump forward in gameplay, while there are certainly some refined systems, like combat and navigation, I didn't see the revolution we've been told about. However, for now, I'm happy to report Origins looks stunning and if you are a fan of the series then you’ve got something to look forward to.

I’ve always loved the Farcry games, towers and all. I guess like Assassins Creed; folks are hoping the series would evolve a little. Unfortunately, we are currently going through a period in gaming where not many big studios/publishers are willing to take chances. At the end of the day, you know what you are getting with a Farcry game and I love the rural America setting this time around. I suspect it might be a bit close to home given what is going on in Murcia right now, but if art can imitate life then I’m all for gaming to be part of that.


I also got a chance to try out Shadow of War from within the impressive stand at Gamescom. I thought the first game was fabulous as it surprised a lot of people with its fast combat and unique Nemesis system. The sequel is also looking just as good, with slick visuals and a more refined combat system. When the first game was released it came to light that Warner Bros had been paying popular YouTubers to give Shadow of Mordor biased praise, which is ridiculously stupid considering it didn't need this help. Now once again Warner Bros seem intent on shooting their own toes off by infusing micro transactions in this single player game: something they’ve been heavily criticised for. I won't sugar coat my opinion, this is a greedy move and it’s clear these micro transactions have been baked into the gameplay loop. Now you can lose orcs lieutenants permanently but oh look; you can also buy new ones with real cash as well as other consumables. Not happy to stop with the self-sabotage there, they have also been accused of profiting from the death of one of their own developers. While working on the game Michael Forgey sadly died of cancer and as a result, Monolith decided to offer a piece of DLC in his memory. Not free (of course) but stating that profits would go to support his surviving family. It was this week that Total Biscuit exposed something troubling with a look at the small print, indicating that many of these game sales won't go to the family of this deceased developer. Warner Bros has since come out and stated that both they and Monolith won’t profit from these sales. So the question begs, where is the money going? You can check out Total Biscuits video here.


In the last few years, it’s like all the big game companies got together and decided to have a ‘who’s the biggest dickhead’ competition: even YouTube got invited. Although EA and Activision were always favourites in this race, Bethesda seems to be now racing ahead of the pack. All these shenanigans deserve their own article but for now, I just wanted to touch on Bethesda latest scheme to make money. After their last ham fisted attempt at milking money from game mods, you would think they would have stayed clear and stuck to making good games. Unfortunately, the chance to nickel and dime their loyal fans was too tempting to pass up and so we have now been given the Creation Club. 


Modding is one of the most interesting parts PC gaming, creative folks who love to keep their favorite games going well beyond their vanilla borders by pouring their talent into creating free updates for us. This love of creating game content is night and day from the bean counters within the massive companies that have now set their sights on modding for another source of revenue. According to Bethesda, this was a new idea that would make sure talented mod makers would see some money for their toils. You’d think such a generous gesture would be based on the creators getting a cut of every mod sold from the store, funnily enough, it’s based on thresholds passed. If the Creation Club had launched with high-quality items, unique to the platform that would be something: but it seems not. Pretty much everything you can buy so far is available for free elsewhere and to make matters worse; reports now say there are tight limits on the size of mods. Bethesda, will you please stop trying to squeeze money out of gamers and get back to, you know, making games.

Last week I and my happy band of PC gaming chums got to try Destiny 2 in the closed/open beta. It was a short beta to be sure but from previous experience, this isn't a bad thing. I was looking at two main factors: how did it run and how did the multiplayer hold up. There is no denying that Destiny 2 looks amazing on PC, runs like greased-lightning and has a tonne of options you would expect on a good PC port. Playing with a mouse and keyboard is also a joy and allows for razor shaper controls. The multiplayer also felt surprisingly fast and responsive, the predicted problems related to no dedicated servers didn't appear for us but of course, a live game might change that. Out of the group of players who tried the beta from my gaming community, most loved it, some thought it was ok and a few didn't like it at all. Destiny was an MMO styled shooter for casual players with some degree of challenge but the hard work came in the form of repetitive grinding. I like many was hoping we would see a massive leap forward with the new game, alas we have not. That doesn't mean we can't enjoy what is here, as long as we go in with realistic expectations. Destiny 2 is now out on console and is getting mixed but overall good reactions, with some outcry over the micro transactions. I’m not really going to think about it now until we get near to October 24th. If you are planning on playing Destiny 2 on PC and you are short of a group to play in my gaming community Exterminatus still has places. 


It really does seem like our beloved games industry is going through something of phase, where the larger developers and publishers are making some very silly decisions. I must apologise for what is quite a negative blog post, I hope we see a shift soon where decent developers like CD Projekt Red take the lead and it once again becomes about making a great game (not a great profit). If you haven't already please check out my latest reviews of Darkwood and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, both amazing games. You can also expect reviews for Life is Strange - Before the Storm and Divinity: Original Sin 2 this week. Thank you for reading my latest blog post and I will check back with you guys very soon, take care for now.