Bigger isn’t always Better

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was one of the highlights, if not one of the best games shown at this year’s E3 press conference. They seem to be doing all the right things and taking the series in the right direction. The art style is simply gorgeous, matching that of gouache painted landscape. The exclusion of a hand holding tutorial and an open world in which I can explore is something I’ve longed for in ages.

There were so many positive additions to the game – forging, cooking, climbing, various weapons and armour, just to name a few. The new gameplay mechanics that saw Link having to consume food to stay alive, whether that be gathered through foraging or hunting. The temperature gauge, that saw him losing hearts if he was stationed in a cold area for too long, meaning Link would have to acquire warmer clothes to stay alive. It was brilliant, finally, Nintendo seemed to be getting everything right.

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A screenshot taken from the 2014 trailer when the game was set for a 2015 launch and was known as The Legend of Zelda Wii U. This is the game that I was looking forward too.

Then the exploration was shown, I managed to watch the whole Nintendo Treehouse event and throughout I couldn’t help but feel that the Map was a little sparse and empty. Now I know that towns and storyline related NPC’s were stripped from the demo due to Nintendo not wanting to show too much at E3. The map was also restricted to just 1% of the final size, in order to not reveal too much.

All that aside, I felt as though the map lacked any real density. They mentioned how Breath of the Wild’s open world is 12 times bigger than that of Twilight Princess, as if bigger is always better? Personally, I’d rather have a map half the size but densely packed full of life, something that thrives and feels lived in, where the deep forests feel overgrown and uncharted and the valleys are bursting with personality.

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Screenshots taken from the 2016 trailer. Set for a 2017 launch. The difference is all most polar oppisite compared to the screenshot above, where as this should be the better version. It’s a dreary set of images when stacked up against that of the 2014 trailer screenshot.

After playing the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 last year, the bar was set higher than ever for open world games. Traversing through those worlds made me want to explore every nook and cranny and leave no stone unturned. Both worlds were packed full of places to explore. Even walking through a small wood in The Witcher 3 proved to be an exciting experience. The grass was long and overgrown, the trees shadowing over you, danger arose greatly as bears and beasts roamed in the area, you’d feel a real sense of Adventure and exploration from the map design alone. Whereas I just didn’t get that from Breath of the Wild.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn, another open world game set for 2017. This game features a densley packed world that looks deep and condensed, similar to that of the Legend of Zelda screenshot from the 2014 trailer, but a million miles away from the most recent 2016 ones. Not a good sign.

What we’d seen in the first trailer didn’t seem to represent the full game. The trailer seemed to be rich in life and dense in nature where the game demo lacked any real personality as if the game was bare beforehand and a few trees and camps were plonked within it to give an effect of a stocked landscape. Eiji Aonuma recently spoke about the games density.

“We talked a little bit about the idea of density, how dense to make this big world” Aonuma explained. The team realised that filling the vast landscape with things to do and explore would be a lot of work.

As the team experienced moving around on horseback or climbing up to a high place to paraglide down, they realised that their desire to see what’s ahead of the next horizon grew. At the same time, the team realised some moments should be subtle as you explore. “We realised that it’s OK if there’s pocket of emptiness”

– Interview source: IGN.com

I don’t want pockets of emptiness, what good is a huge world if that’s the case? why not a world half the size that isn’t as sparse? The encampments and shrines seem to be quite similar too. I’m aware each shrine will feature different puzzles and treasures but the game seems to resemble Far Cry in a way where you traverse to different outposts in order to overcome them, something that got boring quite quickly. A similar resemblance was shown many times in the demo with Bokoblin camps and each one seemed to be a similar setup. If this is representative of how each camp in the game is going to be, it’ll grow tiresome quite quickly.

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A Bokoblin camp, again the texture and setting of the world fail to resemble that of the 2014 trailer screenshot toward the top of this article.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the Zelda game I’ve always wanted, but in terms of exploration I’m a little worried. I don’t know if it’s the lack of power on the Wii U, the stripped back demo or just bad examples used throughout their official game trailer and demos. I want this game to succeed on all levels but seeing something like the examples above gets me a little worried. This is a detrimental time for Nintendo and all I want to see is them return to form.

I hope I’m proved wrong, I hope this is just due to parts of the game being stripped back for the purpose of the demo. I’m curious to see what awaits over the horizon within the game. I don’t voice these opinions because I want to put Nintendo down or because I’m not fond of the game, I do it because I genuinely care and I want the game to be as best as it possibly can be. If the game is slated for its sparse appearance or lack of density it’ll be a blow, not just to Nintendo, but to myself and those of us that love the series.

It seems that the nature of the games industry is that “bigger is always better”, that the bigger a map can be made the better it will be, as if it’s some kind of achievement, regardless of what lies within it. In general, I’d rather have a map that was half the size and full of personality, rich and alive, as opposed to something huge, barren and boring. Let’s hope as more of the game is unveiled my worries for its lack of density disappear.

/ CR

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E3 2016 in Retrospect

Well another E3 has passed and it’s unsettling to think how fast this one has come and gone. It seems not long ago I was sitting down to watch the reveal of Fallout 4, and now it’s been nearly a year since it’s release. I’m not here to talk about what was and wasn’t at E3 or what the games are like in terms of features, gameplay, story etc. That’s all already been covered by press insiders and the likes, as always I’m here to give my opinion on the last couple of days while I sip on a freshly made brew.

I always look forward to E3, the build up before the conferences can only be compared to the sleepless nights as a child on the eve of Christmas Day. I become very excited and giddy to see what the next year holds for the gaming industry as a whole. As many of you know I’m a PlayStation and Nintendo gamer at heart, but that’s not to say I don’t like to dabble in what Xbox and the other third parties are up too.

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Gears of War 4 is looking absolutely incredible, a big miss for PlayStation fans.

Xbox seemed to have a very strong conference this year, far improved to what was shown the year previous. Every year there’s always a game from their conference that I wish would be coming to PlayStation, this year it was Gears of War 4. I’ve only ever played the first two from the series and although enjoyable I’ve failed to work through the whole series, but the latest instalment looks incredible and is sure to be making a lot of GOW fans very happy.Project Scorpio was also revealed, something to get very excited about, as of now I’m a little wary about the whole concept. I’d like to see how developers will provide the better game for the newer consoles when they will always need to cater

Project Scorpio was also revealed, something to get very excited about. As of now I’m a little wary about the whole concept. I’d like to see how developers will provide the better game for the newer consoles when they will always need to cater for the lowest denominator. However, they could take the approach of a PC mentality, where the game is able to run at low, medium and high settings. Allowing Scorpio to take advantage of the high end and the original consoles run on the low end. Still no confirmation has been made although I’m very eager to hear more.

When voicing my opinion I try to avoid the negativity surrounding games and focus on the more positive aspects of the industry, but I really can’t fathom the words to describe the EA conference in a positive way. I feel like EA is kind of going through an identity crisis at the moment, in terms of where they stand or who they really appeal to. Their conference and genre of games seem too diverse in relation to the audience in a way that their showcase is never going to appeal to everyone. Once again the word on Twitter was that there was far too much talk about sports games, with FIFA and Madden taking up most of the show. I would’ve loved to have seen more of Mass Effect personally, as well as the Star Wars game from Visceral, sadly that wasn’t the case as it appears that both titles are too far away to devote any solid time to either one.

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Dishonored II’s setting is definitely remincient of the Bioshock series.

Without fail E3 always causes me to face off against my backlog of broken dreams, all those games I pictured finishing but just never got round to. In this case, it was Dishonored. As the second instalment began to unfold on stage it reminded me that I really needed to get back to the first game. The showcase of Dishonored II was glorious. Drawing me straight into that living, breathing world. The setting, atmosphere and culture of Karnaca, known as “the jewel of the south” in game, seems to absolutely thrive. It reminds me of the Bioshock series, which holds, in my opinion, the most unforgettable setting in a video game to date.

The conference I most look forward too is Sony’s. Mainly due to Nintendo not holding a traditional conference and PlayStation being my go to console ever since I was young. Last year’s conference was described as the “Year of Dreams” due to how well-received it was. They had a lot of competition this year from Microsoft and I thought that Xbox may steal this year’s event. That was until PlayStation came out firing on all cylinders, the conference kicked off with the reveal of five PlayStation exclusives off the belt, all revealed alongside a live symphony orchestra that was playing the score along to each trailer.

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God of War made it’s triumphant return and is looking as beautiful as ever.

It was great to see God of War return, many have said that it’s a little too close to the Last of Us, yet I’d disagree. Kratos, the main protagonist of the series, has never been a character that I’ve cared much about. The God of War games always had a fantastic concept in terms of reference to Greek Gods and Norse Mythology, yet Kratos was just an angry ball of fury and the games just seemed to be a tech demo for each console. However that changed with the reveal of this new title, Kratos seemed to convey more emotion in that one trailer than all three games previous. The game looked stunning and I can’t wait to see more of it and who can deny Kratos’ new epic beard.

I was also blown away by how great Horizon: Zero Dawn looked too, the animations when taking down the mechs were incredible. The fights seemed to convey the protagonist in the form of a dancing duel with the walker while using whatever she had in her arsenal to take it down. it’s so great to see the folks at Guerrilla, who’s portfolio consists of nearly nothing but the Killzone series, excelling on every level in order to create a fantastic looking game with a truly unique concept.

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In terms of sheer beauty, Horizon definitely took the show for me. The game is shaping up to be one of the best I’ve seen.

The pacing of the Sony show was total perfection and every game they revealed was something that genuinely interested or intrigued me. The surprise of the show was definitely the Crash Bandicoot remastered collection, I never thought the Bandicoot would see the light of day again, but as promised the three greatest crash titles will be remastered from the ground up. A highlight was seeing Hideo Kojima unveil his new game while uttering the words “I’m Back” with a smile beaming across his face, it was certainly a special moment for the fans. A truly magnificent way to round off another great year of games for Sony.

Last but not least was Nintendo, although they were showing the least amount of games I was fully aware that Pokemon Sun and Moon and The Legend of Zelda were the only ones being shown. It was great to see new additions to generation 7 of the Pokemon franchise, although I do feel as though more could have been shown, especially the next evolution line of the starter Pokemon.

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It was brilliant to finally get an in depth look at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and what an incredible one at that. 

The Legend of Zelda was finally given its title, Breath of the Wild. I have a lot more to speak out on about the title, which will be coming in my next post, mainly to talk about my biggest gripe with the game. However, the game looks beautiful. The art style is right up my street and the general design aesthetic in terms of monsters, clothing, weapons and architecture is just stunning, going as far as to exceed Windwaker on a visual level, in my opinion.

All in all, it has been a fantastic E3, There’s so much to look forward to in the next year. Not only are all these great games coming out in the next year and onwards, but we have the reveal of the NX to look forward to along with VR and the 0.5 releases of PlayStation and Xbox. Certainly a lot to look forward too.

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War… War Never Changes.

Wednesday just didn’t seem real to me. When the announcement was made and the count down released I completely lost it. It was finally happening. I’d waited so long for this, and what a trailer it was as well! We were totally spoilt. I honestly thought we would have gotten an image of the logo and maybe a slow pan of that at most – Boy was I wrong. I think I kept my browser open for the majority of the countdown. This was a great move I thought, allowing the hype to build and expectation rise. Which totally paid off when the trailer dropped.

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Literally just over an hour into the countdown and I couldn’t contain my excitement.

I appreciated the honesty of the reveal, because this is the way the final game is going to look, they could have shown us a high rendered trailer that wouldn’t of been anywhere near the likes of what we were going to get in the final release – similar to what a lot of games have done in the last year or so, resulting in a huge graphical downgrade *cough* Watchdogs *cough*.

All of the trailer was created using in game assets, so what we see is more than likely what we’ll get. I didn’t expect a Fallout game to be so colourful either, the environments and visuals looked so vivid and completely popped as opposed to it’s predecessor that consisted of a grayscale with washes of green and blue.

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It was great to see events before the destruction, I’d love to get to experience what the world was like as an introduction to the game.

I’d like to talk about the trailer for a minute, some good, some bad. There has been a ton of controversy surrounding it and a lot of people are being very negative about the way the game looks visually. Fair enough, it isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but that’s not where Bethesda really shines.

The mechanics did seem a little off at first, the way the dog conveyed it’s movements within it’s animations – it all seemed a little sloppy and clunky, it didn’t seem to move naturally within the environment. This is similar to what we may have seen in the likes of Fallout 3 so I can understand people complaining about that aspect.

The models weren’t the best looking and the baby on the bed doesn’t look as natural to me as it may do in other games, to be frank I first thought they were picking a doll out of it’s crib and not a baby.

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Some of the character models do seem a little rigid, hopefully we’ll be able to take a closer look at E3 to see if this concern is rectified. 

But this is Bethesda, their distinctive graphical style is noticed straight away across the likes of the elder scrolls series and fallout. They proudly showcased the jankyness of Fallout in all it’s glory, that weirdness has always been there. The strange reaction you have with some NPC’s as a user.

I mean, imagine what Fallout 3 would have been like without Vats, the game would have been borderline unplayable, especially in the gun mechanic department. I’m not entirely sure what people were expecting? Personally I feel like the game looks a lot better than I thought it was going too. But high fidelity graphics are not the main reason I played, or am going to be playing Fallout for, although personally I think they done a good job.

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Fallout 4 looks to expand on the towns and cities it . It looks as though the communities and urban areas are going to be a lot larger in this instalment.

The gameplay itself was the reason why I fell in love with the Fallout series – exploring the setting, interacting with the eccentric characters that roam the wasteland and getting lost in the post apocalyptic surroundings. I didn’t ever expect to go to Fallout for the graphics, animations and mechanics. It something that it’s always kind of stuttered with.

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The way colour and lighting is used throughout the trailer really reminded me of Bioshock in some places, specifically in the image above.

Did people really think Bethesda were going to emphasise the way the game looked after never doing that in the past with the likes of Fallout and their elder scrolls series? those games have always been clunky. It’s not like Fallout 3 was a pretty game and it seems there’s a lot of hyperbole about this game, people are already saying it looks like Fallout 3.

I feel like a lot of people who are saying that couldn’t have possibly played Fallout 3 or New Vegas, If you think that this trailer looks like fallout 3 I advise you to pop the game back into your machine, take a quick gander at it, then re-watch the reveal. The beauty of this trailer is that it’s all in game, it isn’t pre-rendered at all.

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The lighting effects look absolutely stunning. Hopefully we’ll see live weather effects in Fallout 4.

Fallout has never been a game that has ever cut to insanely beautiful cut scenes, everything has always used in game assets to replicate the story and to present the goings on throughout your journey. Personally I was surprised by the negativity, considering how long we’ve been waiting for the game – which is approaching a decade.

I want a pretty game, but I’d rather a game that is fun, interesting and sucks me in – wouldn’t you agree? I want to get lost in that world, not hung up on what things look like, sure I don’t want it to look awful. But it hasn’t kicked that much of a fuss up with me from what I’ve seen so far. 

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What seems to be some kind of fort containing a lick of green paint is guarded by raiders of the wasteland.

Speaking out of total speculation, it looks like we may get to see the world of Fallout before it went to pot, although I don’t think this setting will play a key role in the game. It’d be great to at least see a portion of the setting and experience the game before the bomb inevitably drops, similar to how the introduction played out in fallout 3, where you started as a baby and progressed in age until you were cast out of Vault 101 onto the open plains of the wasteland.

We know very little about the game, no features have been confirmed as of yet, we don’t know anything about the characters we can see within the clip and nothing has yet been revealed. There’s a lot of familiar monsters such as what looks like a Deathclaw and ghouls, there’s also Airships and the iconically recognised Brotherhood of Steel. Bobble heads, Nuka-Cola and other familiar brands are still scattered about the wasteland.

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A Death Claw roams the plains for it’s next victim. Argghhh, Death Claws!!

I was quite surprised of how much of it we got to see, especially compared to the kind of reveal trailers that released when Fallout 3 and New Vegas came. Obviously a whole ton of content will be showcased at the E3 press conference. This is going to be a significant game, what we’re going to find out at E3 is presumably when the game is released.

I suspect we’ll see full gameplay and I still have a strong feeling the release date will be imminent and we’ll be playing the game before the year is out. I think Definitively they will have to have a date reveal at the show, my assumption is that they’ll either have a specific date in 2015 if not then a suspected quarter within 2016.

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We see a return of many familiar faces – Human, Monster and Robotic. Although they look such much better at next gen.

So the speculation of Fallout 4 coming to the previous generation (PS3/360) is untrue. Which is a great decision from Bethesda, from my point of view. I know a lot of people haven’t made the transition yet, but if a game is being developed solely for next-gen the developers are then able to harness the power of the new machines and aren’t held back by the old consoles, quite frankly if you are that serious about gaming I can’t understand why you’d haven’t made the jump yet.

A few people are confused as to why Bethesda have chosen to open their mouths about the game just a few weeks before E3. Pete Hines is the head of marketing PR at Bethesda and seem like a very smart guy. He and his team would have realised the chance of this game leaking prior to E3 would have been very strong.

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A Dog roams the shadows in this brilliantly lit underpass. I really can’t understand the negativity around the visuals of this game.

Announcing Fallout 4 not only allowed Bethesda to own the day, have video game sites go nuts about them, trend on twitter world wide and have their official announcement trailer reach nearly 10 million views in it’s first day, but it created a such a buzz within the gaming community that nearly everyone is going into the expo talking about it beforehand.

I have very high expectations for this game. I seriously cannot wait to see more of it. I can’t wait to step out of Vault 111 and experience this world once again. A few of you may remember the article I wrote about re-visiting Fallout 3 and just how much that game meant to me. It seems like 2015 is shaping up to be one of the finest years for entertainment, especially for me personally.

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Vault 101 is a distant memory now as we began out new journey from Vault 111.

Most of the films I grew up with are either being reissued or sequels to those series’ are being released – Mad Max, Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys and not to forget Star Wars, as well as an announcement of a new Ghostbusters. Not only does it feel like one of the best years for films but for games too – Star Wars: Battlefront, Metal Gear Solid V, Fallout 4 and E3 is still around the corner.

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“Lets go, pal”.. Did anyone feel a similar vibe to the Star Wars Ep 7 trailer at this point?

I personally can’t think of a better year, that has appealed to me more, for both mediums. And it’s even better to know the majority of the above is still all to come. So bring on E3 I say and lets potentially see what the rest of this year has in store.

/ CR