NO RULES, SKATE EVERYTHING

This article was originally posted on July 17th 2020 on Haywiremag.com. If you wish to view this article at it’s original site, please do so by clicking here. Otherwise please feel free to read on.

The year was 1999 and fans eagerly watched as Tony Hawk would have his turn at the vert event at the Summer X Games in San Francisco. Everyone watched as The Birdman carved up and down the half pipe, there was a sense that he was working his way to big. With every passing moment, the crowd grew more impassioned. Fellow skaters stood by, performing their own sacred rituals hoping for something amazing. Tony went up the two verts, gaining momentum, until the time was right. In one moment he spun around two and a half times in the air, landed, and remained on his board. The crowd exploded in a burst of energy! Reporters, fans, and competing skaters all charged Tony, yearning for just a couple of words from the man who did the impossible. Only a few weeks later would Tony Hawk’s name become synonymous with the skateboarding video game genre. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater set the bar so high that it still resonates as one of the best skateboarding games of all time. The 1999 hit remains as a staple even when sized up to today’s games. As we eagerly await the arrival of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 & 2 remakes, let’s explore how this franchise became the biggest, most influential skating game since 1987’s Skate or Die

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Destiny has an Identity Crisis

This week over at Seasoned Gaming I wrote about Destiny 2, and how the psychological implications of it’s addiction leads the game to drift in a landscape of issues.

I know, I said last week that this one would be a bit more laid back, but I have failed to do so.

I had a lot more to write about this topic, but my writing was already 6 pages long. Talking about lore and other addictive practices would have turned this into an all out dissertation. I’m usually cool with that, but it’s been a really rough week of me forgetting what day it is. So please hit the link up top and let me know what you think.

Peace

Xbox Event: My Thoughts

In the first of a series of digital events, Microsoft held an online event showcasing series of game trailers. These trailers were used showing in-game graphic capabilities that utilized the Xbox Series X hardware. This event was approximately one hour long total, with the first 27 minutes displaying a series of trailers while the last half featured interviews with the creators behind some of the games we saw.

The lukewarm affair was met with a slew of criticisms. As much as I love Microsoft and the work they have done in the past, this event is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to building up my excitement for the future of Xbox. My feelings may be quelled for the time being, and in this moment of clarity, I have to say that Microsoft is at least trying to get people excited, and that is much more than what other companies have been doing lately.

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Half-ass Completionist

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A couple of days ago I thought it would be fun to do something I have never done before, because these days all I have is time.  I decided it was time to fully explore the expansive universe that is Kingdom Hearts.  I played the main Kingdom Hearts games when they initially came out; 1,2, and 3.  But the ones in between I missed out on.  Getting the full experience is something I figured I could dedicate time to now. Plus the ending to the third one was lukewarm to me but incredibly awesome to die hard fans who purchased several devices and endured many years of exposition.  So why not give it the old college try? Much like college I discovered something about myself and gained some additional pounds. 

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Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Spoiler Edition

 

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Alright, put the kids to bed, turn off your cell phone unless you are reading this on your cell phone then please keep reading.  Let’s get just cut into the meat of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. There is a ton to discuss and I have a lot of thoughts about many aspects of this game.  I previously reviewed the game and went over some of the more superficial aspects without spoiling the plot. I recognize that there are people who have yet to experience the original title and I felt it was necessary to split this into a two part review for the sake of those who wish to be surprised.  Even as someone who played the original many times over, I am left pleasantly surprised, and eager for more.

(EDIT 4/29/2020 – I have slept on the game more.  I have had conversations with many people about the game and I have come to understand more of it.  It took a while to really let it sink in, but I figured with new information comes new aspects, and I will be changing this piece with my new perspectives.)

Note: Before I go any further I will state that there are plotline spoilers in this article.  I specifically left this whole three pages out of the original review so I didn’t spoil anything for people who haven’t played the original game.  If you have completed the game, and it seems possible that you did by now, then please read on.  If you do not care about certain elements, then read on.  If you are not buying this game out of sheer resentment of Square for not releasing a full game; then you might want to turn back.  Or read on.  Either way, consider yourself warned.

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Final Fantasy 7 Remake Spoiler Free Review

 

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When I was young and didn’t feel like going to school, I did what every kid would do: try very hard to convince my parents I was sick.  After spending a lot of time putting on the most lackluster performance of someone being sick, I finally convinced them to let me stay home.  I spend the better part of the day laying in bed, playing Final Fantasy VII. When kids worried about their test scores and what Nathan was going to do during lunch, I pondered the events that would transpire after I left Cosmo Canyon.  Ah, to look back on the problems I had when I was young.

Final Fantasy VII was the first game that impacted me on an emotional level.  It was the first game that made me think about what a story consisted of. It introduced me to the concept of storyline twists, what villains were made of, and what it took to become a hero.  It showed me that people change and evolve, and perhaps people that didn’t care about others could become attentive and strong leaders. The game taught me about loss, how to cope, and how to move on.  

I know that I was not the only person to have similar experiences with this game.  Final Fantasy VII became a staple in video game culture to the likings of Legend of Zelda and Mario.  Cloud Strife, with his giant buster sword became an icon, and so did his counterpart: Sephiroth. Seeing an eventual remake of this game was a no-brainer.  But what time is the right time?

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The Price of Power

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Back in December of 2019 a lot of speculation on the next console for Microsoft was put to rest.  During the annual Video Game Awards, Microsoft revealed the newest addition to their family: The Xbox Series X.  The most powerful console that Microsoft has ever made.  Sure, this is rhetoric that we have heard before, but it’s not necessarily false.  Let’s be honest here, every console they release should be the most powerful console they have ever made.

Several months later and we have all been waiting to hear what Sony was bringing to the table.  With the huge instant success of the Playstation 4, we are all eager to hear more about the Playstation 5.  Will our wildest dreams of next generation power come into fruition?  Will the rumors about full backwards compatibility down to Playstation 1 games hold true?  We had a lot of question, and still many remain unanswered, but as of recently we have a clearer idea of what Sony will be focusing in on with the Playstation 5 (PS5).  Continue reading “The Price of Power”

Review: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

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It’s not often I find a good Star Wars game.  I feel that most titles holding the Star Wars license to be rather dull, uninspired, and a bit cash grabby.  After the situation involving Star Wars: Battlefront II and their lootboxes; it’s very easy to dismiss any games that have the EA (Electronic Arts) logo on it and claim to be a good Star Wars game.  The bad taste that EA has left in our collective mouths is only whisked away by this Respawn Entertainment developed zesty pallet cleanser called Jedi Fallen Order.  Jedi Fallen Order has a lot to unpack and a whole lot more to prove.  Between EA stating that “single player games dead” and Respawn trying to prove themselves as a powerful developer; Jedi Fallen Order seems to be a title that brings balance to the force in so many ways.

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Jedi: Fallen Order

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“Hell has frozen over” is the only thing that I can think of.  Upon my last post about this very same thing, it took me hours to put together my thoughts, cite sources, and more.  I thought that I was going to have a well planned and thought out argument about the stance that EA has taken when it comes to their attempt to keep the Star Wars license.

I was wrong.

Yes, you guys get to read the phrase that I only uttered to my wife when I say we don’t have something and she finds it.  Usually I take pride in my thoughts and predictions but the fact remains that EA and Respawn has taken a complete 180 degree turn from what I was expecting.  Looter-shooters are the current hot trend of the year, and to see EA turn that concept around and release a single player game that is devoid of multiplayer functionality as well as no microtransactions doesn’t make me think that hell has frozen over, but it is is now just a gigantic ice cube.  I don’t know what Respawn did to melt the icy heart of Andrew Wilson, but I would like to know the tactic.  Perhaps they pointed out that every game that did have a multiplayer component (Battlefront 1 and 2) just didn’t take off?

Respawn has been known to deliver great campaigns.  After all, the team is responsible for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2.  They helped deliver great experiences such as the “All ghillied up” mission which remains as a modern masterpiece and a pure example of how to build tension.  They were also responsible for the “No Russian” mission that despite being controversial, helped usher in a new form of maturity into the modern gamesphere.

I will also not hesitate to mention Titanfall 2’s campaign, as that is another great example on how to tell a great story while not taking away from the action.  Titanfall 2’s campaign is a short and sweet package that anyone can overcome within a day’s time, and even though it lacks the complications that we have grown accustomed to, Respawn did a great job of making me feel immersed in a world that I care deeply about.

This is why I have faith in Respawn.  They are not the Bioware of yesterday.  Passion to make good games seems to be something that is almost lost in the AAA industry.  Granted, every so often we get these tiny love letters of games released, it’s something we do take for granted.  Independent games seems to be where passion thrives these days.  It’s unfortunate that small studios will never be able to pump out games as graphically pleasing as Red Dead Redemption 2.  I’m not saying they never will, but I have yet to see something so graphically superior.  Alas, we cannot forget that for every Anthem and Division that lacks story, we always have an Undertale, Firewatch, or Soma.

(Granted I wasn’t a huge fan of Soma but a lot of people liked it so I wrote it.)

I cannot help but be excited for yet another holiday season filled with the spirit of Star Wars movies, games, and grapes.

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What is Jedi: Fallen Order

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A long time ago, in a studio far, far away (from me)… word spread that the Disney acquisition of several properties.  As Disney gained the rights to Star Wars millions cried out in terror and were instantly silenced.  That will due with the underhanded Star Wars quotes for the time being.  Either way, I am sure we are all interested in the next big Star Wars game which will be revealed on Saturday, April 13th 2019.

One thing did come to my mind like a Vietnam flashback and that was the immense loot box controversy that was had when Star Wars Battlefront 2 launched.  Essentially what happened there was that several highly powerful items and abilities were locked behind loot boxes.  These loot boxes could be gained by playing the game and saving points that were rewarded at small increments at the end of every match. Or by outright buying loot boxes with real cash money (sucka).  This means if you had a large enough bank account, you could have one of the must unbeatable builds in comparison to others who may not have deep enough pockets.  I’ll even go as far as to state that I was granted a special edition copy of the game (for free) and the loot boxes that came with that edition did give me an upper hand.

But time has passed since then, and I like to believe that EA has loosened it’s grip on it’s developers as laws against loot boxes are starting to diminish in various countries.  Currently as I type this, some countries have limits on how loot box economies operate or straight up ban them. Belgium recently banned the practice, and the FTC is currently investigating if the tactic is in fact gambling.  It absolutely is, but we need to waste a ton of tax payer money for someone to go “Eh… I guess?” and have nothing come of it for the next several years before another congressman has their kid blow $4,000 on Fortnite stuff.

Either way, this is something that has been a big worry for gamers.  Revealing this title is something that is special as it is the third Star Wars title released by EA within six years. Sorry, I don’t count the mobile ones.  They exist purely to separate the player from their wallet.  Plus they are so thin and void of any actual gameplay.  I tried one of them that played like Diablo but then they got rid of that one for some reason.  Now we got these lame “collect heroes” games and they aren’t good.  But I digress.

The big question that hangs in the air like Captain Antilles in A New Hope; what kind of game is Jedi: Fallen Order (JFO)?  There are many things to consider and think about when it comes to what this game could possibly be, and I am going to go into some length to tell you exactly what I think it is.  Let’s go!

The Reveal

Jedi: Fallen Order was revealed at E3 2018.  I’m sorry… it wasn’t really revealed.  Vince Zampella was sitting in the audience and was approached as a part of the show and was questioned about the game.  There was no trailer, there was no breakdown of what players will be doing in the game.  We did get some information and if you do not want to watch the video (trust me, it’s cringy) then I will deliver the basic information in nice clean bullet-points.

  • You will play as a Jedi (yes, that was a question asked).
  • It takes place during the “Dark Times” of the Jedi, specifically when the Jedi are being hunted.
  • It’s not a good time.  Seriously, watch the video if you want to know why I typed this.
  • Release is planned for Holiday 2019, which is soon.

Since then, Respawn has been pretty silent on the title but that didn’t stop them from releasing the huge hit: Apex Legends which shares EA’s view of the future of gaming and that is the dreaded words: Live Services.

The Live Service

Live service games are titles that you usually can only play online, have more longevity when it comes to additional content, and typically offer free content with microtransactions acting as the supplemental style of monotization.  That means that instead of offering map packs and splitting the playerbase, they keep everyone together but tie some cool looking cosmetics behind in-game purchases.  Want to look like your edge lord poster child for the dark side?  Pay up $10 and you can!

In an article published back in October by Game Daily Biz, EA is going to double down on live services as that is where their major source of income comes from. I don’t blame them for wanting to jump into this area since it seems to be the best of both worlds for players and publishers.  Players get content over a year or so while publishers can still possibly guilt players into buying microtransactions.  Who knows what we are going to get with JFO?  All that matters is that EA is looking to make tons of money from this title, and they absolutely will.  As long as players are quick to forget EA’s past.

If I were to guess, and I am going to do that a lot, I can say that we are going to get a live service game.  After all, EA has also stated that single player experiences are dead, despite proof saying that they are liars.  I mean, look at games such as God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Red Dead Redemption 2; but the trick is that those games are leagues ahead of any single player experience that EA has ever released in decades.  These are good, solid titles that are being held high above the others.  When was the last time EA had a game that good?  Mirror’s Edge perhaps?

On top of that, Anthem also seems to be slowly bleeding out after Jason Schreier from Kotaku delivered a devastating punch and revealing the mess that Bioware is in.  I’m not going to source that one to you, there is plenty of internet to find that.  Just Google “Anthem” and the autofill should place “is bad” next to it even if you don’t feel like reading.

The Genre

This is where we are going to be nothing but skeptical.  Although, my skepticism is very much based in reality.  It’s like hearing your friend tell a story that is true, but it’s your friend who lies a lot, so you don’t really know what to think until he drags that body out of his closet to show you that yes, his father was in fact trying to kill him.  Hopefully I didn’t lose you there.

Clearly, JFO will have some level of action to it because a game where you are a Jedi and can’t hit things with lightsabers just seems stupid and needless.  It’s just as needless as the Star Wars Kinect game that released back on Xbox 360. I mean, a Just Dance rip-off in the Star Wars universe?  Sure, I guess.  Whatever.  Actually, it sounds ridiculous, but thinking of a game where you are a Jedi and all you do is talk and not hit things with neon glow sticks is like Telltale Games making the Punisher into one of their games; it would be terrible.

We shouldn’t expect it to be a Battle Royal game, because they tend to release for free and use a mass of microtransactions as I have stated before.  The only problem is that Apex Legends have released and is making a huge impact on the Battle Royal genre, going as far as even taking players away from Fortnite.  Plus it would turn out to be a bunch of Jedi running into an open field.  Actually, make that.  I want to see that at least once.

It could be an RPG but not in the same way as the Bioware classic, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  You know, that game from the time that Bioware was actually a good developer.  How could you forget?  Apparently they did.

I can’t see the traditional RPG mechanics working in this title.  It doesn’t seem like the combat style would even work, and The Old Republic (an MMO) has a style that wouldn’t translate well the the console market.  You can try to make MMO’s for the console but none of them will live up to the PC counterpart.

I can’t see this being a racing game.  Or perhaps it can be?  Who really knows?  We already have Super Bombad Racing and I don’t think anyone can top that one.  Let’s hope for an HD remaster, huh?

This leads me to believe that we are looking at a mixture, possibly an action based game with some RPG mechanics to it.  Think of Destiny but with Star Wars, and it would be a hit if it is made well.  This would place it into the “looter/shooter” genre of titles, with this one being one of the games that features mostly light saber action.  So maybe it can be a “looter/saber” game.  You can use that EA, that one is free.

I did say “made well” which is a big factor in all of this, to be honest.  If the game sucks, well this will be just another one in the shallow ditch that is EA’s Star Wars games.

Mechanics

We are now going further into the skepticism trail here, and what I say will most likely not be what the game contains. I would like to address that this is what I think the game might consist of based upon my evidence.  Some of you may like it, some of you might not, but this is what I can see how it will play out.  This entire section is diving deep into what I think this game could feature.  It will be very serious, and if you wish to turn back now, you can.  I wouldn’t blame you.  Or at least jump to the conclusion and skip all of this.

Based upon the setting, it makes perfect sense that the title would be a “looter/saber” game.  You have a ton of Jedi going into hiding and running away from the Empire.  This is perfect for a Player vs Environment (PvE) type of gameplay with maybe some light elements of player vs player (PvP) elements.  I could see the PvP being presented in a way where the Jedi are training each other in various combat styles, almost directly similar to how Destiny presents it’s PvP mode.

The PvE mode is easily implemented by giving the players stories that they must complete within the several worlds or galaxies that the players explore.  Since EA is doing the live service style, don’t expect there to be an actual ending.  You will get a soft ending with whatever threats your current existence, possibly a Sith Inquisitor, and have you kill it with a team of three to four other players.  The real, bigger threat will be something you never see for at least a year down the road when they can say it’s a “major expansion” and charge you $40.

You notice how I say “other players” there?  That is a part of the live service, you will always be teamed up with others in order to take down the threats and help you escape, with the option to play solo if you wanted.  Having a social landscape is also pretty par for the course when it comes to the experience.  Plus, and this is a big one, vanity drives the players to seek out greater challenges and look cool as hell.  If you see another player with an awesome gear setup, then you would most likely want to obtain that as well.  If you wanna look like a pink robed Jedi, then by all means, defeat that lair boss.

This is where the higher, more intense RPG mechanics can come into play.  You could have a lightsaber that evolves over time as you either find other sabers that belonged to the fallen Jedi (think of exotic weapons such) via missions that send you out to the planets where you can investigate what happened to your master.  Armor could also come into play depending on perhaps what kind of Jedi you are.

So I can say that there might be a class system, although I can’t determine if it will be a situation that you can freely change (think Anthem where you can change Javelins at the fort) or Destiny where you have several characters that you must level up over time.  The lore of Star Wars tells me that it may be the latter of the two, with every one of these “classes” being locked and you having to go through the content several times.  This creates longevity in the content, making you want to max out each of your “classes” and giving this almost artificial feel to making the gameplay meaningful.  This also makes it easier when it comes to itemization and gear sets.  Heavy, medium, and light armor is easy to assign to the different roles and what not.

Although, a third option could exist where your powers can be mixed and matched depending on how you want to play.  Weapons and gear might actually matter more than one thinks.  If you have a single bladed saber you might be faster, dual wield might be fast but more chaotic, and the infamous dual-sided blade might be clumsy but deal good damage when used correctly.  This makes me think that the gameplay would exist on the same level as let’s say Dark Souls, where every button tap matters.  Heavy armor would offer more protection but at the cost of endurance and speed.  I can’t see many people wanting to do that though and might seem too advanced for some casual audiences.

If it was me, I would say make each class it’s own separate idea.  Give three main classes: Guardian, Sentinel, and Consular.  If you are familiar with Star Wars games and lore, you would know those.  The Guardian focuses on heavier armor, strong attacks, and being an outright tank.  The Sentinel being a damage type class, focusing on rapid attacks.  The Consular being a class that is focused more on the mystical powers of the Jedi.  Although each one could possibly have subclasses that really allow you to bend each class to your innermost will.  Want a more melee based dual-blade saber user, maybe you can do that.

Endgame content would be a constant loop of blowing up Empire bases and getting as many cool items that you can get your hands on.  The constant loop would be getting the best looking saber crystal that allows you to run around with that black saber, or the neon green one that pulses perfectly to Darude’s Sandstorm.

Conclusion

Sure, the last part is totally the innermost want from a Star Wars game.  I know that.  If this didn’t read like some fanfiction then I didn’t do my job correctly.  Let it be known though, that this type of game is something that EA would want, especially with Anthem flopping.  Now you could say that EA would be competing with themselves when it comes to this kind of genre.  But that is to say that we live in a world where Anthem exists as a good game.  Something tells me that EA knew the mess that Anthem was in, and since EA likes to have their hands in many pots, this is what they opted for.  After all, who doesn’t want a really good Jedi based game?  It’s every fan’s dream.  Or perhaps mine.

Who knows, perhaps everything I stated could be wrong.  Perhaps EA wouldn’t care about what the current trend in gaming is.  Maybe they could throw all caution to the wind, and blindly trust Respawn with this game.  Maybe Respawn is making a totally different, and introspective type of title that we were never expecting.  Like if Wes Anderson made Star Wars. Maybe I am just a man with a blog and a dream of a game that just works on the day it comes out instead of waiting months before it becomes actually playable. Maybe, what we get is Jedi Knight 3, and if that is true then I’ll just be happy that EA is actually doing something with the Star Wars license besides being a goddamn casino.