Bethesda @ E3

As some of you may know, Bethesda Softworks announced in February that they will be hosting their first ever conference at the Electronics Entertainment Expo in LA this year.  Given Bethesda's blockbuster lineup, this has led to a lot of hype surrounding the conference.

First, I'll write some thoughts before the conference about what I think they'll cover.  There was the announcement of Fallout 4 just last week, so we know they'll go more in-depth with that during their hour conference.  Secondly, someone was 'accidentally' live streaming a conversation at Bethesda just last night talking about Dishonored 2..  This was one that many had hoped for, but was never really expected, so they'll most likely officially announce the game.  We know id Software has been working on a new Doom for a while now, and that's also expected.

After that, it's pretty much up in the air.  Elder Scrolls Online has been out a while now, so I expect an announcement for an expansion.  It recently came to the console generation, so I would almost expect any expansion to be much cheaper for them - or staggered to allow the consoles the same amount of time with the base game as PC users had.  Unfortunately, I haven't delved too deeply into ESO so I don't know where I stand on the matter.  However, what I *do* expect is an announcement for the next numbered sequence in the long-heralded game.  They'll have to do a lot to top Skyrim, but I can't imagine they'll announce their own conference and exclude any of their franchises.  Personally, I want to either see the Summerset Isles or Hammerfell.  

Further, Bethesda could even surprise everyone and announce a sequel to Rage.  I consider this to be a long shot, simply because id has been confirmed to be working on Doom, but perhaps Doom is practically done and they've had time to prep some Rage footage.

Anyway, the above was written at 9:30pm, half an hour before the conference.  I will finish this with the real announcements after I nerd out on it.

Alright, after a very inspiring opening video, Bethesda has decided to change it up somewhat and decided not to show a trailer for Doom, but instead to show true gameplay.  It looks just as spectacular as I expected it to be, as they showcase a few of the amazing weapons and many different finishing moves on the myriad of enemies.  They also showed off a bit of multiplayer before returning to the singleplayer and showcasing a level in Hell.  They also announced a custom map too for the game, titled Doom Snapmap.  Every copy of the game will get this, and will allow modders to shine wherever they may play.  It looks very in-depth, and could aim to shake up the idea that PC gamers get all the mods, that's for sure.  The game is currently slated for a Spring 2016 release.

They also spoke a bit about Battlecry, a team-based shooter reminiscent of Team Fortress.  It looked very cel-shaded and not entirely up my alley, but it looked good.  They're now accepting beta applications at the Battlecry website, and if you apply before the 18th, you'll receive priority beta access and special in-game items.  I'll probably skip this one, myself, but it does look like it could be fun.  This one should be getting a 2015 release.

As mentioned in the second paragraph, Bethesda officially announced Dishonored 2.  After a very polished trailer, it introduces a new character, Emily Kaldwin, and shows her moving fluidly through a much brighter city than the previous game - though this city is also in the throes of a plague.  The Outsider makes a return appearance, and takes place in Karnaca, and you can choose to play as Emily or Corvo, who also makes a return (It's possible that he's the one who trained Emily?  They didn't explain any of the story, but probably for good reason. There isn't a release date as of yet, but they did announce a remastered definitive edition of the previous game, which is coming this fall.

Moving to their MMO, ESO appears to be getting an update which allows players to enter the fallen Imperial City - possibly as a raid instance, since it appears to be quite intricate. Further, they mention Orsinium, so maybe we'll get some backstory on the orcish homeland.  After those small tidbits, they show a screen that I wanted to see from the beginning: the Dark Brotherhood note.  That was enough to get me to possibly consider getting back into this game, since I've always loved the Dark Brotherhood.

More on the Elder Scrolls front, they announced Elder Scrolls Legends, a strategy card game that sounds a lot like Hearthstone.  They mention mobile devices, but the game appears to mimic Hearthstone and will release on PC and iPad.  Slated for a 2015 release, they didn't show any gameplay or anything about the game, so I'm very curious to see how it plays.

Finally, they get to the showstopper: Fallout 4.  As suggested by the trailer, we finally see the beginning of the war.  It starts out with some gameplay of real face sculpting.  You can not only select pieces of a face and make changes - no sliders! - but you can also choose a male or female character.  That in itself, is huge, especially after the deadly...fallout (bad joke, am I right?) from Ubisoft last year saying how hard it was to animate a female character.  Further, your in-game child is generated based on the couple that you create during that opening sequence.  I don't know what purpose that will have, but it's fascinating that you can modify the character you don't choose and still have those choices make a difference in your game.  Further, they appear to have made it fully voiced, even with the ability to choose a name; they have pre-recorded over a thousand of the most popular names in use, so that you can use your name and still be able to have full dialog.  Obviously for people like me and others, you won't have your name in-game, but it's a huge step forward for RPG immersion.

As for the story, they didn't reveal much aside from saying the bulk of the game takes place two hundred years after the war begins, and that you are the sole survivor of Vault 111.  You can choose between First or Third Person Perspective, as well as being able to do basically anything; you are never locked into dialog - you can turn and leave after starting a conversation, or you can shotgun people in the face.  It's a very dynamic approach to conversations, one that I've not seen used in that form before.  They also showcase the dog seen in the trailer, and apparently he counts as a true companion; you can issue orders to him, he can fight alongside you, and you can treat him like a real friend.  It's very interesting.  They've also mentioned a layered armor system.  While they didn't quite explain this very well, I believe it means that you'll be allowed to fully customize your loadout.

As for the Pip-boy, they've spent a lot of time crafting it, giving it real heft; your protagonist finds it outside the vault when he leaves, and it can be given upgrades - they mentioned games that can be played on your Pip-boy, which means I'll probably waste so much time on that it will be utterly ridiculous.  Finally, they announced Fallout 4 Pip-boy Edition, which has a real Pip-boy, which you can add your phone into and use the second-screen app for Fallout 4 - you won't need the Pip-boy to use the app, but it certainly adds a measure of flair to the whole thing.

They segued into a new game they announced as well called Fallout Shelter.  On iOS devices, you can make your own vault, where you're the overseer.  It takes clear inspiration from such games as FTL and XCOM, where you can build a vault and try not to kill everyone.  It's free to play and does not have a paywall; there is no pay to win.  Even better, it is out now.  I plan to play it for a while to see how lost I get into it.

Luckily, they weren't done with Fallout 4.  You have the option to salvage pieces from the world to rebuild your home.  The limitations are currently unknown, but it shows them tearing down a burned down house for resources, which are then used to build a home.  Through this, you can build your own town, and NPCs can show up and populate the town that you built.  Further, it will be attacked by raiders (Todd Howard all but confirmed that you will have to defend it) so it has a form of Tower Defence built into it.  It seems super ambitious, but everything about this game seems to be that.  Case in point, you can not only build multiple towns - and even set up trade routes between them - but every item has a purpose; it can all be salvaged and used to craft weapons and armor.  There are 50 base weapons and over 700 modifications for those weapons.  Even better, you can also have your own power armor.  It's all very exciting stuff, but they saved the best for last: Fallout 4 will grace the world with its presence on November 10, 2015.

So, as for my predictions, I was about half.  They announced stuff for ESO, but no numbered entry - though that was a tad hopeful, since they were already working on Fallout 4.  They didn't announce anything for Rage, but again, id's already super busy.  All I know for sure is that I'm going to preorder this almost as soon as I get the chance, since it looks so amazing.  All in all, this was a huge start to what I hope will be a spectacular E3.  I plan to do similar reviews for a couple other conferences that I plan to watch, so stay tuned for those

Warlords of Draenor Review

Warlords of Draenor is the fifth expansion pack for the acclaimed MMO World of Warcraft.  It was released on November 13, 2014 by Blizzard Entertainment, and is exclusively for the PC.

Before the review, a bit of backstory.  For those familiar with WoW lore, Draenor is the name of the planet from the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.  However, in TBC, we were dealing with a broken world, a planet absolutely destroyed by the influence of the Burning Legion, a horde of demons hellbent on destroying everything in their path.  TBC was when I started my first true character - my *first* character was on a friend's account so it didn't count - a Blood Elf Paladin named Viriatus.  As I leveled through Outland (the new name for Draenor in TBC) I fell in love with the lore, with the models, and everything about WoW; a love that still goes strong today, despite all the bad press WoW seems to get.  So, when I heard we were going back to Draenor, before it was destroyed, I was at once excited and reticent.  On the one hand, I feared for my memories: what if, in going back to areas I remember from TBC, the lustre from there disappeared and I realised I hated the game?  On the other hand, what if everything they did with the expansion was what I dreamed of and more: A new history for the planet I had so much love for?

Luckily for me and my memories, I absolutely loved the new take on the planet I held dear.  Indeed, my favorite new area has to be Nagrand, which was also my favorite area in Outland.  It nicely wraps up the story that we were given going in, and leaves enough questions to make us wonder what we were going to be doing next.   Going through the opening zones, I felt confused.  After all, we entered the new Dark Portal in pursuit of Garrosh Hellscream, son of Grommash Hellscream, and the final boss within Mists of Pandaria.  The story given was that Garrosh was saved from trial by a renegade bronze dragon, who sent him back in time to Draenor pre-destruction, where the Iron Horde was built and turned loose against Azeroth.  

However, when we enter Draenor for the first time, not only do you not see Garrosh until the absolute end of the instanced Tanaan Jungle, you barely encounter the Iron Horde in the zones following.  All the lore we were getting in the leveling zones was great, but I wanted to see the culmination of the story I saw unfold in the Siege of Orgrimmar.  We met the Frostwolves, the Laughing Coffin, the Arakkoa and even helped drive the Iron Horde out of Shattrath, but I managed to level to 100 before ever encountering Garrosh again.  Luckily, the story had quite the satisfactory ending, one I will not spoil so early in the expansion cycle, since I believe it's something everyone needs to see for themselves.

Following that, the game returns to what we've grown accustomed to.  We grind for gear to get into heroics for better gear, which we then have to grind for more gear to be able to get into raiding, et cetera.  The monotony is broken by the addition of level 100 rare elites that drop gear that can help you bypass a bit of grinding, and by the Garrison.  The Garrison is, I feel, one of the best additions to the game in a long time.  Not only is your character finally being recognized for all the work he or she has done for their respective faction, but you finally get to feel like you're actively changing the world around you.  Garrisons effectively put you in the driver's seat of your own thriving base of operations in the opening zone for your faction.  Your choices on outposts within your garrison are limited, even at max garrison level, but even with that limitation, I start and finish every game session in my garrison.

The graphical upgrade of the character models seem quite unnoticeable, but that may be because I play a Blood Elf primarily, one of the few races to not get an update at this point in time.  I've read Blood Elves will get their upgrade in the first major content patch, but we'll see when that day comes.  What was noticeable, however, were the zones.  The zones in WoD are some of the best crafted zones in the history of WoW.  From the beginning, in Frostfire Ridge, to the end in Nagrand, I was in awe by my surroundings.  Especially in Nagrand, you can certainly see the depth Blizzard went to making this expansion look amazing.

One last bit before I wrap up: dungeons and raids.  As a healer, I feel the changes made to dungeons and raids negatively impact us - it's far too easy at the time of writing for idiot DPS to die to stupid avoidable things (My main is a Discipline Priest, with Shadow as my off-spec.  I did dungeons as Shadow to figure things out, see where the damage spikes are, etc; I found myself dying to things that didn't have as big a 'tell' as previous expansions) that I feel if you are not an amazing healer, you are simply going to hate your life.  Also, tying Heroic queues to the 'Proving Grounds' is a laudable goal - teaching people their role is great in theory - but as a healer that specializes in single-target healing, getting through the proving grounds had to wait until I got to higher levels of gear before I managed to even queue for Heroics (Despite having healed respectably as tank healer in Highmaul not hours before).  I will say, however, that dungeons and raids are far and away more interesting than previous games.  Grimrail Depot is fun, despite having much avoidable damage that people cannot seem to figure out how to avoid.

My final verdict: as stated previously, I love World of Warcraft.  I'm in for the long haul, even though I may lose interest and disappear for periods of time.  Warlords of Draenor is one of my favorite expansions, and I'm hoping that my guild manages to complete Highmaul before Blackrock Foundry opens up - it's definitely very exciting to actually be able to do content when it is relevant, even if you're not the first ones to drop bosses.  I'd definitely recommend WoD for anyone who feels able to justify the subscription. 

Rogue Legacy Review

Rogue Legacy is a 2D sidescrolling roguelike that was released on June 27, 2013 for Microsoft Windows, October 16, 2013 for Mac and Linux, and July 29, 2014 on PS3, PS4, and Vita. This review is for the Vita, but it should translate well to any system.

Aside from a short tutorial at the beginning, it doesn't seem to emphasize the story. Throughout your playthroughs, you encounter journal entries around the castle that flesh out the story. The main foyer of the castle also contains a massive doorway with recesses for the 'bosses' so it's possible there's a true story that I have yet to truly find.

The gameplay is solid. The enemies move predictably enough to plan out your attacks, while your character moves just slowly enough at times that if you miss a strike, you can easily die. And you will die. The game is designed around using the money you gain on each dungeon run to upgrade your character's stats. Further, the game has a system that keeps you from banking your money: before you enter the dungeon, you encounter an NPC named 'Charon' who takes all of your money - which can be lessened by the aforementioned character upgrades. Given this, you need to be mindful of your upgrades before entering each time. If you don't find enough gold in each run before you die, you're forced to start over with no money.




When you begin, you get to choose between three randomly generated characters. They have a randomly generated class (which determines how you play each run), a randomly generated spell (though if your class is archmage, you can switch between spells) and randomly generated traits. Some traits are meaningless, while others change the way the character plays. Alzheimer's, for example, make it so your character can't use the map setting - however the normal in-game minimap works as intended. Dwarfism makes you really tiny, and Gigantism makes you huge. However, Flexible and Clumsy in the above image appear to have no real use. Some traits are awesome to have (ADHD makes you move faster and OCD gives you MP for breaking objects) while others are annoying (Near and Farsightedness make some portion of your screen blurry, and Dementia makes you see enemies that aren't there), but all of them brings a new flavor to each playthrough.  You can have at most 2 traits, or as few as none, so each new heir keeps things exciting.

You start out with a few classes available, and you unlock other classes through gold. Each class also has a boosted version, which have a special ability that makes them unique - the Barbarian King, for example can shout (reminiscent of the Unrelenting Force shout from Skyrim, which is an amusing nod to that series). Once you choose your class, you begin on the manor screen, where you buy character upgrades. After running by your vendors and paying your toll to Charon, you're on. Each dungeon is randomly generated, though you can pledge some money to a vendor to keep a certain layout. Unfortunately, I'm not too familiar with this feature, but the idea is spectacular.

The dungeon itself is divided into 4 distinct sections: The Castle, The Tower, The Forest and The Dungeon. Each area has a certain level range within it, with The Castle being the lowest. Each area also contains a boss which, when defeated, does not respawn. This makes death a little bit easier to complete your mission...if you can survive the journey to the next boss.

The best thing about this game is that it was cross-buy and cross-save, which means you get three games in one and you can play on any system at any time and keep your current status. This made the $16.99 price tag worth it for me.

Final Verdict: Buy.  The first bit of the game is annoying, but once you get a handle on the enemies and survival, it makes the rest of the game fall into line relatively easily.  I've never been a big fan of roguelikes, but this kept me entertained for hours, so I'm curious about trying other roguelikes in the future.

PC Review Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

         Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by 505 Games.  Released as an Xbox Live Arcade title in August of 2013 and later on the PC, and PlayStation Network in September of 2013.  Brothers will have you engaged in the determination of how far two sons are willing to go to save someone they love. When their father falls deathly ill his sons are tasked with retrieving healing water to save him.  

The music is composed by Gustaf Grefberg.  Each track complements the game play very well as well as conveys the feelings of each the brothers for each other and what is happening around them.  The graphics are amazing using the Unreal Engine 3 shows off water effects, dynamic lighting, and breath taking scenery. 

       Along the way you meet some interesting characters that will need your help and in return will also help you to your own goal. Each brother has their own strengths and weaknesses to solve each obstacle they face together.  The older brother is stronger is used for pulling heavy levers and lifting the younger brother to higher places.  The younger brother being the smaller of the two is able to fit in between metal bars.

         It may seen that Brothers is a cooperative game for two players, but it is not; it was designed to be played with only one controller.  The right analog stick and trigger are used to controller the younger and the same is true for the right and the older brother.  It does take some time getting used to controlling both brothers at the same time.

          Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is not a very long game, but its unique game play and engaging story will have you glued to the seat until the end credits.  This a must buy just to experience the great game.  Available on Xbox Live, PC with keyboard and controller, and PlayStation Network.

Source:  Brothers Starbreeze Studios Steam