Video Games

  • Trey Plays Red Dead Redemption 2

    After 8 years of impossible hopes, Rockstar delivered the hyped sequel to one of its most popular games; Red Dead Redemption 2. Set before the events of John Marsten’s journey in Red Dead Redemption, players follow Arthur Morgan, fellow gang member to John Marsten, as he tries to protect his surrogate gang family from a modernizing world that won’t suffer outlaws. Spread across a vast landscape based on southern US locations like New Orleans, players get the feeling of living and breathing life in the old wild West. Shootouts, quick draw duels, poker, hunting, RDR2 not only succeeds in matching its hype, but also as one of the best immersive gaming experiences.

  • Trey Plays Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

    The biggest update in Bioware’s Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is the first game of the series. At the time of it’s original launch, the mechanics for Mass Effect were clunky and frustrating, dragging down a fantastic story. Now remastered, Mass Effect’s gameplay feels smoother, closer to the quality of Mass Effect 2 and 3. While the following games don’t have updated mechanics, the graphics do get a boost, down to the smallest details like seeing the different fabrics of each character’s outfit, along with implementing all of the gear and mission DLC that many players may not have gotten for their original game. Thankfully, the ME:LE should be considered a success for BioWare, who has delivered disappointment after disappointment over the past few years. It’s also a relief to the gaming community as we received the game we were expecting, even if it’s a game we already loved. Now we get to revisit Shepard’s story in shiny new packaging.

  • Trey Plays The Banner Saga Trilogy

    The gods are dead, the sun has stopped, and the fate of the world rests on the decisions of Rook, a humble caravan leader, and his growing community. The Banner Saga trilogy tells a story based on Norse mythology full of giants, magic, centaurs, and a world gone mad. A simple game split into two parts; an on going narrative where you make decisions that affect the size of your caravan and your supplies, where any decision could cost you dearly, and the strategy combat encounters set on tiled sets of varying size and difficulty of maneuverability. This simplicity is a blessing and a curse to Banner Saga as it’s easy enough to understand and master, but within a long series the combat becomes almost tedious and serves as more of an annoying distraction from the narrative than any engaging challenge. While the story is excellent, the decisions you make, even the smallest and simplest, seem to come with great consequences, regardless if you choose to act selflessly and help all you can, or selfishly only caring about your caravan. While the consequences force you to overthink every decision, it ultimately seems like every choice you make is somehow the wrong one, which begins to make every choice a drag, feeling like you can’t win.

  • Trey Plays Star Wars Day: Star Wars Battlefront 2

    Star Wars Battlefront 2

    Star Wars Battlefront 2 delivers on its promise to transport gamers to a galaxy far, far away and drop them into the middle of some of the biggest battles in Star Wars history. Spanning the timelines of the three trilogies, players can choose maps and characters from the clone wars, the galactic rebellion, and finally the galactic resistance. While multiplayer is the focus, Battlefront 2 also offers single player arcade modes and an intriguing story campaign set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, though this campaign is sadly very short.

  • Trey Plays Mass Effect 3

    The reapers are here. In Shepard’s final fight to save the galaxy from the reaper threat, #MassEffect3 stays true to the formula of its predecessor #MassEffect2 with strong cover shooting and an engaging story, upgrading only a few mechanics in terms of melee combat. Though while it brings many of its over arching narratives to satisfying ends, based on your decisions, the game fails to deliver in its final moments, offering a mediocre ending; not bad, but also not that good. Despite #Bioware retroactively improving some plot points with free #DLC, it couldn’t fix the damage that was done, especially after a disastrous DLC controversy over #EA appearing to take out parts of the original game to sell back to players as day one content. Fortunately, ME3 also offered a brand new cooperative multiplayer mode that was applauded by even the most committed solo gamers, like myself, and is still active today.

  • Trey Plays Mass Effect 2

    Shepard’s return to the Milky Way galaxy in #MassEffect2 fixes many, if not all, of the technical short comings of its predecessor and offers a much darker story. Tasked with gathering an elite team for a suicide mission against a mysterious enemy threatening Earth, Shepard is again faced with decisions that not only affect the lives of his team, but the Galaxy at large. Co-starring the voice talents of Martin Sheen Yvonne Strahovski, and a host of new and old faces, each with their own motivations and relationships, Mass Effect 2 succeeds in every category, and stands as one of the best science fiction games ever made.

  • Trey Plays: Cyberpunk 2077 1.2

    I can’t think of many other games that have had a harder time getting their shit together. It’s been three month’s since Cyberpunk 2077 launched with a slew of bugs and was taken off the Playstation digital store. Now, update 1.2 has come out in the hope to fix many of the bugs facing the game, but is it enough? I originally gave Cyberpunk a 4 out of 5 because beneath the bugs, it’s a decent game. But after months of these issues, of few updates from CDPR (whom I normally sing their praises over their handling of The Witcher 3 and its DLC), I feel like the damage has been done. Yes, this new patch fixes a number of bugs, but not enough to make this the game we were promised. It breaks my heart, but I’m bumping this down to a 3 out of 5. I hope in time, with fresh DLC, and an upgraded console, I can return to Night City and enjoy this game again.

  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Review
    Final Fantasy 7 Remake via Facebook

    Hired by eco-warrior group AVALANCHE, mercenary Cloud Strife arrives in Midgar, a city run by the corrupt Shinra Corporation. Profiting from sucking the planet dry of Mako, an energy substance that serves to power their company and the city’s power grid, Shinra has no care for what its actions mean for the well being of the planet. With his friends and fellow AVALANCHE fighters, Cloud stands against Shinra’s fascist regime while uncovering the history of Mako, and the original inhabitants of the planet, the Ancients, who may hold the key to saving their world. 

    Originally launching in 1997, Square Soft’s Final Fantasy 7 has since been lauded as one of the best RPGs (role-playing games) ever made. Now, 23 years later, Square Enix has finally released the long-awaited remake of Cloud’s story for both veteran players of the Final Fantasy series, as well as new gamers who will be introduced to the city of Midgar for the first time. The reception to Final Fantasy 7: Remake has been one of enthusiasm and, so far, the game is being considered a resounding success. 

    While the original Final Fantasy 7 is a pop-culture favorite, now over 20 years later, the game is hindered by the limitations video games had in 1997. The character models looked like a hodgepodge of blocks with eyes and hair. The combat system was easy enough to play with but often left much to be desired in terms of flare. The maps of each level offered frustrating navigation when you couldn’t tell the difference between an inaccessible painted background and the door to the next level. Thankfully, Remake fixes all of that, and then some. 

    Even by the high standards of video games in 2020, Remake is a beautiful, master-crafted game and might be Square Enix’s best work to date. The city of Midgar, with its steam-punk upper city and shantytown lower city slums, looks amazing. Not only that but the city feels even more alive with people standing around talking, eating, and even remarking on your events as you play through the game. Despite its normal beauty, players can still be caught by surprise when entering Aerith’s garden full of flowers not seen throughout the rest of the slums. Square Enix has done such a superb job of making Midgar that while even changing 2D settings to dynamic 3D maps, the city still looks exactly as players have always known Midgar. Aside from longer alleys and maps, everything looks just as it did in 1997. There are even small details added to character designs of being able to see the individual materia (items that allow you to cast magic when equipped) in a character’s weapon, which add just a bit of cosmetic customization of what colors you want to showcase (I have Cloud with Mardi Gras colors of purple and green on the Buster Sword). 

    The combat system is vastly different from the original 1997 game, which was the standard JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) turn-based combat system. Remake has shifted its mechanics into a more action-focused style of fighting and button-mashing, with a small command menu that allows you to use spells and other abilities. It does offer a “classic” style of combat but as one of the few downsides of the game, this is misleading. Where many thought that “classic” would mean the original JRPG combat, this style just acts as kind of an auto-pilot, leaving Cloud to attack and dodge on his own while the player makes strategic decisions of when to use a spell or a summon. 

    One of the biggest changes to Remake, though, is the story itself, but not in the way you think. Though many gamers worried that remaking the beloved classic would change the game and story into something it’s not, Remake stays very true to Cloud’s original story, while taking intimate time to add substance and context to other parts of the story that the original never did, or never did in an overt way. For example, three of Cloud’s fellow AVALANCHE fighters, Jessi, Biggs, and Wedge, were nothing more than beloved, two-dimensional characters. Remake changes that, giving strong characteristics, backstory, and motivations as to why these eco-warriors are fighting to stop Shinra and save the planet. Other additions to the story set up some of the game’s future events and even throws new, mysterious hooded figures into the mix leaving even veteran players to speculate on who, or what, they are.

    It’s rare, though, for a game, as good as it is, to have no drawbacks, and Remake does have a few. While the action button-mashing combat is exciting and looks awesome, the camera angles can be frustrating. When locked on to an enemy, for instance, the camera can sometimes shift to behind a box or some other environmental detail that gets in the way of being able to see the fight. But, when not locked on, it can be frustrating rotating the camera yourself to find the enemy you’re trying to hit. Remake also misses an opportunity for some character customization. Sure, the characters in the original had their set outfits for the game, and the new and enhanced adaptations look amazing. But over the 23 years since the game’s original release, there have been multiple movies, game spin-offs, and even cameo appearances of these characters in other Square Enix games like Kingdom Hearts where Cloud and his friends had different outfits. I see little reason that these cosmetic outfits couldn’t be added to the game, at the very least for long-time players who’ve followed Cloud’s story over the last two decades, especially when the last game, Final Fantasy 15, had plenty of cosmetic items and outfits. Hopefully, this is something that could be added in Final Fantasy 7: Remake Part 2.

    Speaking of Part 2, there is still yet to be a confirmed release date for the next chapter of Cloud’s journey. While it was announced very early in development that Remake would tell the entirety of the Final Fantasy 7 story over multiple installments, and Remake itself has a completion run time of between over 40 hours, it’s frustrating to not be able to play the well known and loved story to completion. It’s only speculation at this point, but given the release timeline of past Square Enix games, we may not see Remake Part 2 until at least March 2021. Hopefully, Remake doesn’t take the Kingdom Hearts schedule and spend a decade between parts 2 and 3, with the mashing of other confusing games released in-between. 

    The best way to describe Final Fantasy 7: Remake is as if someone took your favorite movie and made a TV show adaptation of it. The adaptation stays true to the original film, but instead of a two-hour movie, it now has a ten-hour season to fill, and so it takes time to flesh out other characters and smaller parts of the story. Despite some of the small frustrations, of which they are tiny in comparison to the overall success of the game, Remake is Square Enix at its best and introduces Final Fantasy 7’s story to new fans, while bringing long-time veteran players back to standing beside Cloud to save the planet.

  • Castlevania Season 3 Review
    Netflix's Castlevania via Facebook

    On March 5th, Netflix premiered the third season of “Castlevania,” its anime adaptation of the popular video game series of the same name. After defeating Dracula and his war against humanity, Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), Alucard (James Callis), and Trevor (Richard Armitage) find themselves separated as Alucard tries to rebuild his castle, formerly Dracula’s castle, and Trevor and Sypha travel looking for adventure. Coming upon the town of Lindenfield, Trevor and Sypha investigate a mysterious church that is planning to bring Dracula back from hell.

    Season 3 of “Castlevania” builds on the strong foundations that were previously laid in seasons one and two, its strongest aspect being its characters. “My favorite character is definitely Alucard,” says UNO graduate Grecia Medina, who’s been a fan of the show for a little over a year. “But right after that comes Sypha and Trevor because they are great. As a group, they are comedic gold.” When not fighting against Dracula’s monsters, the series’ three main characters spend their time throwing quips at each other in entertaining battles of wit. With Sypha as the upbeat magician, Alucard as the dark and depressed vampire, and Trevor as the stoic, feigning apathetic monster slayer, their personalities compliment each other incredibly well. 

    It’s not just the main three characters that serve as protagonists, as with each season the list of characters and strong side plots grows. Season one introduced us to Sypha, Trevor and Alucard. Season two showed us Dracula’s vampire war council with Carmilla (Jaime Murray), and the two human forge smiths, who create his army of demons, Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) and Hector (Theo James). Now, in season three, we meet new characters such as Carmilla’s own sisterhood of vampires, and the mysterious Saint Germine, voiced by award-winning actor Bill Nighy. While all of these characters have their own agendas pushing them forward, it’s hard to find a character that you’re not rooting against. There are clear lines between the sides of good and evil, but audiences still found themselves hoping to see Isaac succeed in his goal of growing his demonic army in hopes of defeating Dracula’s killers, Sypha, Alucard, and Trevor. “The series is really interesting and I love how they portray each character. The art is also amazing and don’t get me started on the music. It’s superb,” says Medina.

    The quality of this show is due in large part of this being a work of passion, at least for its producer, Adi Shankar. While still relatively unknown as a filmmaker, Shankar has a popular following of his “Bootleg Universe” on YouTube where he’s made short films of popular titles like “The Punisher: Dirty Laundry” (2012) starring Thomas Jane, which gave the initial “Punisher” (2004) a second chance to be as brutally close to the comics as possible. Shankar makes these short films as a fan himself, which shows his ethics of care when handling a video game adaptation, a genre that has consistently received poor reception. “Watching the series does make me want to try the games,” says Medina. “but I find myself stuck because the games aren’t as interesting as the show is to me.” As “Castlevania” has been seen as one of the best video game adaptions, it serves as a small hope that the quality of future videogame adaptations will increase, and perhaps the Netflix series will bring new fans to the older game series.

    Trying to find something critical to say about “Castlevania” is often as hard as the original games can be. As a videogame adaptation, it presents a strong story with nostalgic characters from the games. As an anime, it strikes the balance of comedic and dramatic storytelling, mixed in with powerful and often overexaggerated fight scenes. The one negative aspect of the show is its runtime; twenty to twenty-five minutes, with only ten episodes a season that premier once a year. This show is so good it’s a tragedy that it’s so short. On the other hand, its short length may be an advantage. With such limited time, “Castlevania” delivers quality over quantity.

    “What I really hope for is a reunion between Alucard, Trevor, and Sypha,” says Medina. “I also want to see the Vampire Council of women start to move their plans into action. It’s gonna be really interesting and crazy.” By the end of season three, the main characters are left in a state of melancholy after the season’s events, especially Alucard, who may begin to understand his father’s feelings about humanity. Audiences could take this chance to play through many of the old “Castlevania” games and learn the series’ history, but as the show doesn’t strictly follow the games’ timeline, that could leave them with more questions than answers. 

  • Physical Games in a Digital World: The Fall of GameStop?
    Game Stop via Facebook

    A popular meme features a picture of dozens of video game cases and various gaming consoles with the text “GameStop be like ‘We can give you $1.99’” But, just as in sarcasm, there is a kernel of truth to this joke. The nationwide video game retailer GameStop is infamous for offering low trade-in value for games and consoles when gamers feel like they should be offered more, either in-store credit or cold hard cash. Despite these practices, GameStop has managed to keep its throne as the world’s largest video game retail store. However, due to the evolution of the video game industry, GameStop’s place at the top might not be as stable as it once was. 

    From the earliest game of Pong developed in 1958 to the newest games of 2020, the video game industry has gone through plenty of changes from the ways games are made to how they are sold. Where once video game characters were created as 16-bit squares, now they have popular actors in motion capture suits bringing those characters to life. Gamers used to frequent GameStop’s numerous locations to buy physical copies of their games, but now with digital stores offered on nearly all gaming consoles and devices, gamers appear to be buying more digital copies of games than physical.

    Over the past year, GameStop has closed nearly 200 stores nationwide, including their Canal St. location in New Orleans, LA, right across the street from the French Quarter. These closings are due to a number of stores underperforming in sales. These poor sales seem to be the cause of a number of reasons, as some gamers refuse to shop there due to its culture of pushing pre-order sales, unsatisfactory trade-in offers, and the shift to more digital sales. 

    “I think there should always be a physical retail outlet for games,” says UNO graduate student Allyson Langhoff. “Consoles are becoming more accommodating. I can see why this is happening.” Though GameStop’s closures are for a number of reasons, the easy access to digital stores via consoles or services like Steam on PCs is giving gamers easy access to their favorite games without worrying about the trip to GameStop or care and storage for a physical copy of their game. However, when looking deeper into the issue of physical copies vs. digital copies, a more balanced divide becomes clear.

    Fifty gamers were asked whether they preferred physical copies or digital copies when purchasing their games and why and the answers came to a complete tie with twenty-five preferring physical and twenty-five preferring digital. The twenty-five gamers who preferred buying digital cited reasons such as having less physical clutter, ease of access from switching from one game to another without having to change the disc, and efforts to “go green” and not produce as much plastic waste. Gamers who continue to buy physical copies enjoyed owning collector’s editions, displaying the games on their shelves, and fear of not being able to play a digital title due to poor wifi or the network being down completely. “Personally, I like having the physical copy best because it feels more secure. With digital copies, I’m always afraid something will go wrong and I’ll lose my game progress,” says Langhoff, throwing her support to the physical games side of the argument.

    Fortunately for GameStop, physical copies of games and trade-ins are only one part of what the store has to offer. It still serves as the best place to shop for gaming accessories, carrying cases, controls, memory cards, and even gaming apparel and collectibles like the phenomenally popular Pop! Funko figures. GameStop hopes to end its store closings by March of 2020. By focusing on sales in their most successful stores and changing some aspects of its sales culture, GameStop has a strong chance of holding on to its throne as the world’s largest and most successful video game retailer. 

  • Top 3 Video Games of the Decade
    Red Dead Redemption 2 via Facebook

    The past decade of video games has seen mishaps such as companies getting greedy with loot boxes and games not living up to promises made by developers. But this decade has also produced some amazing games. Before we enter the new roaring 20s, let’s take a look back at the top 3 games of the last decade. 

    (This list is my own opinion based on the games I’ve played.)

    3. ‘Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,’ Bethesda 2011

    As the Dragonborn of legend, you must discover the meaning behind the return of dragons, while a civil war rages across Skyrim. Bethesda’s 5th entry into their “Elder Scrolls” franchise, “Skyrim” takes players through an intricate narrative of war, magic, and heroism. However, players also have the option to skip the story and do whatever they want. They can lie, steal, cheat, and kill almost anyone they want to, but must also face the consequences. Skyrim offers something extra, as well, in the form of game moderations (mods). Bethesda opened up the world of Skyrim, allowing gamers to create their own content such as weapons, armor, characters, and new quests, using the same assets used to create the original game. I use mods that keep me from dying, so I can have a smooth ride and explore the world without worrying about survivability. 

    2. ‘Mass Effect 2,’ Bioware 2010

    Humanity is under attack. As Commander Shepard, you must assemble the best operatives the Milky Way has to offer and take the fight to the Reapers. BioWare’s “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of Shepard and his fight against the biggest threat the galaxy has ever faced. Similar to most of BioWare’s games, players are given control of who they want their character to be. They can choose their look, background, class, and make noble decisions, paragon, or more rebellious decisions, renegade, throughout the series that will affect the world around them in different, oftentimes unforeseen, ways. Where “ME2” excels in is its characters. In order to complete the mission, Shepard gathers the most skilled individuals in the galaxy, regardless of race or planet of origin, who all come with their own strengths, weaknesses, and histories. Add that to some polished gameplay mechanics and an epic soundtrack, and “Mass Effect 2” offers an incredible gaming experience that can be replayed either with the same decisions or totally new ones. I usually play my Shepard as a paragon, with a few cool renegade choices thrown in to keep things fun.

    1. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’, Rockstar Games 2018

    The American west of 1899 has been tamed. Arthur Morgan must keep his family of outlaws safe from the government, and from themselves. Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption 2” is the long-awaited sequel to 2010’s “Red Dead Redemption.” Throughout the story, players get to know each member of Arthur’s gang, bonding with them between missions as they hang around their camp. “Red Dead Redemption 2” also achieves a level of simulation that no other game has before. Playing as Arthur Morgan, gamers have the chance to experience one of the most authentic western experiences to date, like gambling in saloons, eating, drinking, riding and taking care of your horse, and of course exciting gunfights. And, as an added bonus for local readers of the Driftwood, much of the game takes place in Saint-Denis, an intricately designed, fictional version of New Orleans in 1899. It’s truly a game someone can escape into. The first time I beat this game, it felt like I’d just lived another life. I also sobbed like a baby at the ending. 

    This is just my list, and I know everyone will have their own top games of the decade, so I reached out to fellow gamers to hear their own favorites. “‘Nier Automata’ for sure, ‘Detroit: Become Human,’ and ‘Kingdom Hearts 3,’” says Grecia Medina, soon to be UNO master’s graduate. Maylon Waldrop, a UNO grad student says “‘Assassin’s Creed II’ or ‘Fallout 4!’” Making this list was more difficult than I thought it’d be. There are so many truly amazing games that have come out over the past 10 years, and I wish I could talk about every single one of them. 

  • The Outer Worlds Review: You’ve Tried the Best, Now Try the Rest
    The Outer Worlds via Facebook

    After 70 years spent adrift in a colony ship in space, you’re awoken from cryostasis to a galaxy owned and run by corporations, where workers struggle to survive. With the help of a mad scientist and the companions you meet, you must find a way to save your fellow colonists and stake your claim in this new galactic frontier. 

    “The Outer Worlds,” Obsidian Entertainment’s new first-person R.P.G., hits the ground running, literally, as you learn how to sprint after your space pod crashes on a new planet in the first moments of the game. Before you get to the action, though, you’re guided through the character creation section that makes “The Outer Worlds” feel like a classic R.P.G. Distributing points into categories such as strength, dexterity, and persuasion, and even choosing your characters past experiences, like a lab assistant or cashier, immediately puts the focus of “The Outer Worlds” on fleshing out your character over just picking stats that will do more damage in fights. Though what’s unique about building your character is what happens throughout the game. As you play, the game keeps track of things you are good and bad at and affects your character stats appropriately. For example, if you take a lot of falling damage, eventually your stats will change to make you slower, reflecting the damage to your character’s legs, while also giving you a perk point to use on your other character’s stats. It’s a unique way of character building, giving them just the tiniest of flaws or damage. 

    The characters you encounter and places you visit look beautiful. The first town you visit, Edgewater, is a walled-off community in the middle of a lush, colorful jungle. Inside it’s dark, and kind of bleak, giving personification to the feeling of the town’s people who are overworked and suffering from sickness. Where the graphics really shine is in the faces of the characters. They show so much emotion with the smallest of looks, moving naturally with small twitches and blinks. Speaking with these characters can be just as delightful. “It’s funny how a lot of the dialogue is like an advertisement for whatever corporate planet you’re on,” says Corey, a fellow gamer I spoke with about “The Outer Worlds.” “I think it’s realistic with all the worlds being owned by corporations.” For example, the first corporation you encounter is Spacer’s Choice (now with 30% fewer chances of a weapon misfiring!), and the N.P.C.s are ready to greet you with the company’s slogan; “you’ve tried the best, now try the rest.”

    An issue I’ve run into with “The Outer Worlds” seems to be a glitch with the dialogue. When speaking with some of the N.P.C.s (non-playable characters), the conversation would suddenly jump to another topic that had nothing to do with the dialogue I’d chosen. I thought it was a glitch, but it could have been written and recorded that way, which seems odd. My other critique is that the game is a slow burn. With all of the dialogue choices and side quests and building your stats, “The Outer Worlds” moves at a slow pace, putting the action of the game as a secondary priority under plot and character building. That may not be a bad thing, though. I just prefer more action. When encounters do happen, the mechanics of the game and the use of this slowing time feature makes for some fun gunfights. 

    To put it simply, Obsidian’s “The Outer Worlds” feels like a mix between “Borderlands” and “Fallout,” which makes sense as they were behind “Fallout: New Vegas,” one of the more popular games in its franchise. It’s a strong call back to some of the older R.P.G.s with its stat building and interesting dialogue. The graphics and mechanics of the game work well, but the action seems to be few and far between, slowing the game down quite a bit.

  • BlizzCon 2019: Blizzard Announces Plans for 2020
    Blizz Con 2019 via Facebook

    “The skies shattered and we are left staring across the veil between life and death,” says Ion Hazzicostas, Game Director on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Behind him is a large screen depicting two castles, almost mirror images of each other, one cast in blue light, the other in a bright red. In front of him is a sea of fans wearing “World of Warcraft” merchandise, some holding their phones up, recording Hazzicostas’ panel, others in costumes of their favorite characters. This is BlizzCon 2019, and Blizzard Entertainment’s annual convention where they preview all of the new games that they will be releasing over the next year, held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California.

    Blizzard’s dark, hellish R.P.G. “Diablo IV” was the first game to be announced with a new trailer. Tomb raiders are fleeing a swarm of monsters, breaking into a chamber and slamming the door behind them. They discover the treasure they search for is actually a gateway, and they become sacrifices to summon the Mother of their world, Sanctuary, into the mortal realm. What designs the demonic mother of creation has for the mortals of Sanctuary is unknown, but fans were given a glimpse at the characters they’ll be playing and the changes coming to the franchise. As of this reporting, Blizzard has announced only three classes; the Barbarian, the Druid, and the Wizard. “Diablo IV’s” biggest change seems to be in its diversion from a linear storyline and gameplay. Where past entries have been mostly single-player from one map to the next, this new chapter is opening up the world not only in the border but making it a shared multiplayer world. While I’m a fan of the series and excited for the game, this gives the impression that “Diablo IV” will be more like “World of Warcraft,” or “World of Diablocraft.”

    “Overwatch 2” was announced next, a sequel to their newer, but quickly popular series, “Overwatch.” The first-person P.V.P. (player versus player) game promises the same action-packed missions with fun and exciting heroes new and old. While I’ve been a fan of Blizzard’s games for a long time, “Overwatch” was never my style. I prefer games that are more story-centric over the jump-in quick play format that “Overwatch” takes on. However, I may now have to start getting into the game as “Overwatch 2” will include story missions, as well as new, adventuring-style cooperative missions. This is a good move on Blizzard’s part to bring in fans of their more plot-driven content. 

    Finally, the big reveal for BlizzCon 2019 was the next expansion of their popular M.M.O.R.P.G., “World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.” Following the unfortunately poor reception of the previous expansion “Battle for Azeroth,” and some fan anger over the game’s storyline being almost completely recycled from a previous expansion, “Mists of Pandaria,” Blizzard hopes “Shadowlands” can restore some faith and goodwill between them and their player base. While the new expansion doesn’t offer new races or classes as others have, they are introducing a number of character customizations that will allow players to make their hero look just as they imagined. This offers a new layer of diversity as human characters are receiving options such as different ethnicities, hairstyles and textures, and eye colors, making a stronger push for representation in video games. 

    BlizzCon 2019 didn’t offer many breathtaking announcements but had its share of interesting features to look forward to over the next year. I can’t help but feel like the lack of excitement may indicate some troubled waters for Blizzard. However much I’m ready to play “Shadowlands” (I already pre-ordered it for the bonuses…), the expansion feels like it has less to offer than the stronger expansions of the past. Even the base price of the game was only $40, much less than a new expansion would normally go for. This price drop could simply be an olive branch from Blizzard, or it could mean the company itself is struggling. Hopefully, the games seen at BlizzCon 2019 are successful enough to keep them going until BlizzCon 2020.

  • The Witcher 3 Switches to a Smaller Screen

    CD Projekt Red’s 2015 game of the year, “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” launched on Nintendo’s Switch on October 15. Now able to play the Nintendo Switch on your TV, or as a mobile device, fans of the Witcher can hunt monsters while traveling or waiting for class to start. However, moving a massive game from consoles and PC to the small Nintendo Switch comes with some setbacks. 

    The most awarded game of 2015, Witcher 3’s expansive world and variety of quests offered players hundreds of hours to fight monsters, save innocents and gave them the ability to decide which is which. Interacting with other complex characters set in a world full of bright cultures is only one of the things that make this game a masterpiece. Now, one of the best games of its generation is on one of the more ambitious consoles to date. It almost feels like the Switch is trying to prove it can handle bigger games with higher graphics as it would a smaller game on a Gameboy. So, has it proven itself?

    U.N.O. grad students and YouTubers, Gravity and Lolo with Kitty Gang Gamers, were eager to jump into the Witcher 3 for the first time. “The characters all seemed [intriguing] at first glance. I found it interesting that when talking to people you can sometimes make choices that change what happens in the game about them. Also, like, Geralt is cute,” says Gravity.

    “I haven’t played it on any other system, but it looks good. I don’t have any problems with the controls. I like that the world of the game seems huge, so there are a lot of side quests and other things to do and places to explore that isn’t just the main quest,” says LoLo.

    “So far I haven’t had any problems with the Witcher on Switch. The graphics look great when you play the game docked and has the usual image quality diminish in handheld mode. So far, I like the card game, Gwent, but I also like that I can customize the main character. I think what I also like is that, if I want to, I can be a law-abiding citizen, or I can be pure chaos and just loot everyone’s stuff.”

    One issue the Witcher 3 faces with the Switch is the graphics. They aren’t bad, and the world still looks good, but everything looks fuzzy, compared to the clear graphics on the console. Another issue I’m personally facing is that I’ve played the game to death on console. If I’m playing at home, I’d rather play the game I have played hundreds of hours on and crafted the best gear to carry with me to a New Game +. If I’m on a long trip, playing the Witcher 3 will be amazing. But at home, the Switch edition doesn’t measure up to the established console/PC. 

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition for the Nintendo Switch has all the fun and adventure that earned its title as game of the year. But the graphics do take a hit to fit the massive game on the smaller console. Newer fans of the Witcher series have monsters to hunt and a whole new world to explore, even while exploring their world around them.

  • Borderlands 3

    Not Trying to Reinvent the Wheel

    Pandora is as violent as ever as. Vault hunters and bandits fight over what awaits them inside the coveted vaults spread over the galaxy, but things are changing. The bandit clans are uniting under one banner, the Children of the Vault, led by twins Tyreen and Troy Calypso. It’s time for the Crimson Raiders, led by famed siren Lilith, to once again rise up and protect the borderlands, but at what cost?

    Gearbox Software’s Borderlands 3 is, simply put, more Borderlands. The combat is wacky and chaotic, the bad guys are insane, screaming about a meat bicycle, and most importantly, the loot is worth fighting over. In their latest installment to their “shlooter” (shooter looter) series, Gearbox didn’t try to reinvent the wheel (except for the new vehicle that is literally a wheel). They recognize Borderlands’ strengths and weaknesses and polish as much as they can, giving the fans what they want. 

    While the core mechanics and identity of the game remain the same (shoot bandits, collect loot, profit), there are some small changes that improve the game in a big way. For example, when playing with friends, Borderlands 3 now has level scaling. In past games, playing with friends who were vastly different levels than you, like level 10 versus level 30, it would put the lower level player at a disadvantage. The enemy difficulty would be too high, and there would be a lot of dying and respawning. Sure, eventually you can level up your character while being carried by your uber-powered friend, but is that a fun experience? Now, regardless of whatever level your character is compared to your friends’, enemies and loot will scale to each individual level. 

    The second big change is the loot system itself. Again, in past games, players would find loot from weapons to grenades to shields and would have to decide who would get what, which can sometimes lead to disappointment. With Borderlands 3’s new cooperative loot system, every player gets their own loot. When you open a chest and see a new shiny weapon inside, your friend will see a completely different weapon, letting you both get new guns to play with. The same goes for ammo, health, and even money. These quality-of-life changes could convince previously casual Borderlands players, like me, to put more time into the new game. But don’t worry hardcore players, if you want the old system back, you have the choice of the coopetition loot mode.

    Borderlands 3 is just fun to play and fun to look at, and my biggest critiques are only minor issues. If I had to get nitpicky, the ship that serves as your hub is confusing to get around in. Also, the Calypso twins aren’t the best villains ever. They’re more of an annoyance comprised of the worst millennial stereotypes. But to be fair, they had big shoes to fill after the fan-favorite villain Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. 

    Borderlands 3 FEELS like a Borderlands game and not some attempt to change it into something it’s not. Even the small changes they’ve made with the level and loot systems, the wacky action, the witty satire, and lowbrow jokes, the BEST PARTS of the series, remain. Because of the variety of weapons with crazy effects like setting enemies on fire or a gun that shoots more guns (yes, that’s a thing), shooting your way through bad guys in Borderlands 3 is a fun, action-packed experience.