All right. Strap yourselves in, folks, because this is when we have to start talking about narratives and story and intended emotional reactions. In short, this is where World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth becomes a seriously messy piece of work, because this is an expansion in which the game posits that maybe colonialism is super great and native peoples are evil villains in league with dark powers.
Yes, that’s a thing that happens. No, we’re not going to leave it there, but I’m trying to minimize spoilers before the cut.
I’ve said on Twitter before today that the game feels like a $500 million movie with $50 spent on the script, and that still rings true. A ton of effort has been put into the presentation of this expansion, and there’s nothing to do but praise all of that; there’s honestly very little to fault in any part of the presentation of the story. The faults all arrive once you start examining the actual text of that story. And boy-howdy, that’s a mess.
Fair warning, people, there will be spoilers below.
The first part of this first impressions series yesterday was all about the mechanical changes made for this expansion. This time, I don’t want to talk about the mechanics of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth; I want to talk about the actual content. Not the narrative text, but just the actual moment-to-moment stuff you’re doing in the game. Which, I think, is what this expansion is going to be judged on at this stage by a lot of people.
Put simply, the game could have the best combat it has ever had with the best gear enhancement system conceivable, but if the actual things you had to fight were a boring slog, no one would like it anyway. Solid content covers a multitude of sins.
There are several people who would likely argue that Legion had some of the best content we’ve ever seen in WoW, and while there’s room to debate that, I think it’s definitely worth considering. So BfA started off on something of the back foot, and that was exacerbated by the fact that it has not one but two continents to fill out almost entirely separate.
Picture this: an underground dungeon that gets progressively more challenging — and rewarding — the deeper you go, and there is no end. Not no end in sight, but no end. An infinite dungeon. Does this sound like a dream come true to you? Well go ahead and smile because Path of Exile
is delivering just that on August 31st (unless you play on Xbox One, then you have to wait until September 3rd). The next league is aptly called Delve, and its all about descending into a never-ending mine shaft, reaping rewards while staving off the dangers in the darkness — with the darkness itself being one of those dangers!
While that info alone might be enough to keep you entertained for a bit, we know you want more. So I had a little chat with Producer Chris Wilson to learn more about this intriguing idea with its new mechanics and features to pass it all on to you. And who knows? This might be just the beginning: Wilson called this “Path of Exile’s first infinite dungeon,” which would lend you to believe that more numbers could follow.
While I have been an MMORPG fan for a very long time, I was also a comicbook fan long before the MCU was a thing. X-Men was my comic of choice. There had to be about a dozen different X-Men titles at one point or another, and many times the characters in those different storylines would cross titles. In fact, a worldwide favorite character like Wolverine could appear in a half-dozen titles in the same month, and that always confused me. How could one person appear in so many places at once? Now, I understand that there was some fudging with the timeline, and it really wasn’t all at once. But he was involved in so many different adventures and troubles that he became the only connecting thread between some of them.
If viewed from a certain perspective, it could be assumed that Wolverine was the cause of trouble that he ran into. Trouble seems to follow him like murder followed Jessica Fletcher. This is the way I’m starting to feel about my character in Elder Scrolls Online. Everywhere he goes, trouble and death seem to follow. In fact, with as many people who have died around my character in ESO, I’m surprised that there is anyone left on the continent of Tamriel at all.
I experienced a couple firsts recently that you may not have expected from me, and they can both be summed up in two words: Old School RuneScape mobile. Why so unexpected? Well for one, you might not have expected me to try OSRS (can I call it that?) because I started playing RuneScape only recently; I had no nostalgic draw to the game back in that iteration. Two, I am not a mobile player. I just don’t play any games on mobile, preferring my gaming time to be at my PC. But hey, doing the unexpected can be fun, and I am all for new experiences! This experience included sitting down with Jagex’s Senior Communications Manager Jon Wilcox and Product Manager John Colgrave, who shared info and answered questions as we worked our way through the tutorial together.
Now the question is, how was the experience? Would I continue to play on mobile even though the full cross-platform play allows me to move my game seamlessly back to the PC whenever I want? That’s what we are here to answer.
I know I took more than a moment to explain why I liked the new Rishi stronghold
coming to Star Wars: The Old Republic
in the next big update. It seems that the development team has a little more freedom to really listen to its fans and add items to this stronghold to move it from being a good stronghold to a great one.
I’ve clearly been critical of many of the things SWTOR has done over the year, and I rarely give it amazing scores on my yearly reviews. But I’m still a fan, and it’s improvements like the Rishi stronghold that help keep me interested in what BioWare developers are doing. On a scale that includes jumping the timeline forward 5 years and killing off major characters, creating a PvP stronghold ranks rather low, but I’m surprised at how much it actually helps to create an enjoyable game.
The final round of PTS changes hit this past weekend, and I spent some time goofing around and diving into these additions. Let me highlight some of the changes.
Geode expansion has been a game-changer – and I mean it in more ways than one.
The latest update/expansion to the colorful voxel-based game did indeed offer a major big change to the game as players knew it. Launched a month ago, Geode introduced not just a new zone but a whole new world filled with new NPC for Trovians to visit and work with. More than that, the entirety of the activities offered there are non-combat! That is quite a departure from how the game worked before (and how it still works in Trovian lands).
But that is only half the story: Geode is a game-changer for me personally. It drew me into the game. Despite all of the neat and fun things Trove had and did prior to this, I never felt a hook. Previously, I’d hop in to peek at new content or play through an event just to get a mount or ally, but that was it; once I had my new little friend, I’d leave. With Geode, however, I have been logging in regularly every week. Now I am a player, not just a visitor. Here’s how it hooked me.
It’s been nearly a year since I met with Frostkeep Studios at PAX West and got an early first-hand look at Rend, the three-faction fantasy survival sandbox with a timer. And I’ve been waiting since then to be able to play for myself; I saw the housing and learned about pet taming, and knew I wanted in. Even though I don’t play PvP for PvP’s sake, I liked the sounds of its implementation in Rend. And the whole thing about the temporary lifespan of the server? Newer information (namely that I can use ascension points to keep my favorite pets with me!) has helped alleviate that trepidation.
And now, finally, I’m in! The question is, what do I think about it? It is still in development — it is only closed alpha at the moment — and it shows. But there is also promise. I already know I am going to be playing it more. Here are my first impressions of surviving in Rend.
If something goes wrong with Frostkeep’s early access launch of Rend, blame me. While I was at the office, I distracted Co-Founders Jeremy Wood and Mat Milizia, caused an update to get rolled back because I was offered the chance to play with cheats, stole someone’s chair, possibly delayed Global Communications Director Michele Cagle’s GamesCon prep, and pointed out to the team that the new bald and clean-shaven character customization options were missing. We’ll also go ahead and take credit for the Ascension system being implemented, getting icons, and Wood finding a major long-term gathering bug the night before because clearly Massively OP is important enough for the devs to come in at 3 a.m. just to prepare for us.
All jokes aside, I recently had a studio tour with Rend‘s creators as part of the game’s ramp-up for alpha this week. The team’s working hard and losing sleep, but they’re nailing it. It may not be perfect, but the Frostkeep is making my job a little harder because very soon, you’ll see just how in touch with the MMO and survival genres Frostkeep is. There’s a reason we awarded Rend Most Innovative PvP at E3 2018.
Early access for Rend is just around the corner, which means hype for the game is picking up. Frostkeep recently invited us to check out its studio and dive back into the alpha and see how the game’s been unfolding. While there’s an embargo preventing us from taking pictures or videos, we’re allowed to talk about our experiences, and talk we shall! We should first note that the game isn’t a traditional MMORPG, but even in its alpha state, it seems to be doing more right than most other games firmly entrenched in the genre. And that was before a recent patch that finally fixed a bug that threatened the game’s early access reception.
To prepare for my studio tour, I hit the alpha servers over the weekend, going through the newbie experience a few times on two different servers. Alpha is the key word here, as the game really was in a rough state at the time. Nodes being unharvestable, factions largely being glowing tattoos attached to a two-sentence description, almost no visual customization… things that sound terrible for a game but are normal for an alpha. Even the game’s basic tutorial wasn’t always working properly.
It’s year two of Pokemon Go. While there’s always room for improvement, enough has changed that I feel comfortable recommending the game to at least pre-World of Warcraft MMO fans. Why them and not the greater MMO community? Glad you (hopefully) asked! Unlike most true MMOs, POGO is still in its early infancy in terms of in-game community. Much as in early online games, players may be able to have a friend’s list, but not only is basic chat lacking but so is guild/clan support. There’s no party system, which means no group finder, let alone instanced content that lets you join in with little to no effort.
Like old school MMOs, POGO players have to use a lot of out of game tools for their communities, but there’s enough going on that fellow Massively OP reporters Brendan Drain and Tina Lauro Pollock have renewed their interest in the game. While Brendan had previously attempted some casual raids, both he and Tina had quit entirely. As the game just had not one but two events this weekend as part of its second year anniversary, we decided to try moving out of our comfort zone and looking at the game’s community from new perspectives. Brendan and Tina tried jumping in for the events for the first time, while I tried playing outside my usual community, with mixed results.
Many fans, including me, are talking about still riding high after Warframe’s
amazing TennoCon 2018 announcements this past weekend. That was some pretty epic stuff (I have to admit I wonder how on earth they will manage to top themselves next year!). I was excited to share the news about Fortuna and Railjack
with you as fast as I could; the only downside of that was it was too brief to add in many of the deeper details. I couldn’t include the insights and commentary that Game Director Steve Sinclair
and Live Operations and Community Producer Rebecca Ford offered when I chatted with them. If only there were a way to impart that extra goodness to you and add in my own impressions. Oh wait!
While there’s certainly more to learn about the upcoming expansion/updates, here’s a bit more information about the underground all that cool stuff we can’t wait to experience for ourselves.
What does a great game look like to you? More and more it looks like Warframe
to me. Looks and
sounds like I should say. Have you seen
from this year’s TennoCon? I found them pretty amazing. And part of that amazingness comes from the look and the sound of it all; the gameplay content wouldn’t have half the impact without the integral contributions of the art and sound departments.
At TennoCon Live 2018 I got to learn a bit more about these aspects of Warframe. Of course, no panel would be complete without a reveal or two, and we were treated to a few fun ones, from the two new ‘Frames and skins to the introduction of pet skins to the discovery of Creative Director Steve Sinclair’s hidden voice role in game.