Yes, Star Wars Battlefront releases this week. Yes, I have a copy pre-ordered for PS4. And yes, this will be a great week for gaming.

What’s your favourite Star Wars game? ONLY STAR WARS! No other space operas need apply.

Wednesday, 8:19 am – Ricky

Well Gavin, you gave it the old college try! MM was a divisive Zelda game back in the day; I’m looking forward to giving it a try, but suspect that I’ll encounter the same frustration with the timer. Maybe I should just borrow A Link Between Worlds from you instead, Gavin?

So, about those Star Wars… After spending about 5 hours with the game yesterday and ranking up to level 10, I can confirm that the game is everything DICE billed it to be: Play as iconic characters on the battlefield, play using iconic ships and vehicles, and play as bantha fodder (AKA a stormtrooper or rebel soldier). I can’t begin to explain how much fun I had – suffice it to say, I want to play more. The visuals are amazing – I actually stopped multiple times as I made my way through each map to stop and take in the details of the world and the battle raging on around me. As we expected, the sound is immersive. The “pew pew” of blaster fire, the whine of a TIE fighter, and the squawks of Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor all contribute to the most authentic Star Wars video game experience I’ve ever had.

One of the primary complaints about the game that I’ve seen so far is that there’s a lack of content. As someone who plays multiple games at the same time, I couldn’t disagree more. Between the 10 or so multiplayer modes (I didn’t actually count, but played at least 5 different ones with more left to dip in to), the Battle single or co-op missions, and the Survival wave-based single or co-op missions, there’s enough content there for me to enjoy until the first DLC drops – the Jakku map will come out a couple of weeks before the movie, and will be free to all players. In a related complaint, the Season Pass for the game is $70 CAD, and they’ve detailed what’s included:

  • Over 20 new pieces of galactic tech including weapons, vehicles, and Star Cards for both Rebels and Imperials
  • Four more heroes and villains for you to fight as or against
  • 16 additional multiplayer maps featuring new locations
  • Four exciting new game modes
  • Two-week early access to each expansion pack
  • Exclusive “Shoot First” emote

Of course, there are two things people are harping on: The cost ($70 is basically a new game) and the lack of content in the base game vs. the proposed DLC. People want to know why this DLC wasn’t included in the base game, given how “barebones” they claim it is. I’ll break down three reasons:

  1. EA likes money, and DLC is a good way to get more money. Plain and simple.
  2. The content isn’t actually ready. You can’t slap something on to a disk or on the back of a box if it’s not ready. It takes time to concept, code and create things, not to mention balance test these new things vs. the base game items. We constantly state that we want developers to release finished products: Well, this is literally THE BEST ONLINE GAME LAUNCH I’VE EVER EXPERIENCED. I didn’t have a single bug, issue, crash, empty lobby, dropped server… nothing. It was seamless and flawless, and that’s what we really want from our new games.
  3. There’s this little thing call “The Force Awakens” coming out this year, and “Rogue One” coming out next year. Just like the “Battle of Jakku”, perhaps this content – heroes and villians, weapons, maps, etc. – are based on this unreleased media? I have to assume at least some of it is, which means you can’t put it on the disc up to a year in advance. Also, see point 2: If you’re taking cues from unreleased media, you want to make sure you’re aligned with the source media.

That’s my POV, and people can take it or leave it. Am I looking at this from a defensive position given the property? I mean, I own more Star Wars merchandise than anyone else I know. Sure, it’s possible that I’m going to defend the game simply because it’s Star Wars. Everyone needs to form their own opinion, which is why there are reviews. Just remember to be a bit critical of the content you read, and look at both sides. In the end, it’s your money and you decide when and how to spend it.

OK back to day dreaming about bringing down an AT-AT with an A-Wing toe cable.

Yeah, I did that.

Tuesday, 9:05 am – Gavin

Majora’s Mask update: on the subway ride home last night, the timer nearly ran out as I was approaching a temple, so I had to play the Song of Time to reset the timer.  In the process I lost the stuff that I needed in order to access the temple, as this is part of the mechanic of turning back time.  Logically consistent, but sheer lunacy for me as a game player.

I am not even joking about how done I am with that game.

Monday, 1:26 pm – Gavin

I regret to say that I have not played all that many Star Wars games in my life.  I have Ricky’s copy of KOTOR sitting on my shelf right now, and I’ll get to it whenever, but there’s always been a Star Wars-sized hole in my gaming life.  I mean, I don’t really need to plug that hole, but yeah, it’s a notable absence.  I did play Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire for the Nintendo 64 back in 1997, starring DASH RENDAR instead of any original characters.  It started with the Hoth battle and moved on from there.  I didn’t play it for too long because it was on a rented console, but hey, it was fun!

I started up The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on 3DS last week (again, borrowed from Ricky).  This is now my 8th Zelda title in 12 months – I’d said I was going to take a break from them, but I wanted to see what this one was all about.  I’m a few hours in, just about to make it to the first temple, and while the game has a very interesting tone, I can already tell that there are things I’m not going to like about it. The game runs on a timer (72 in-game, not real life hours) and if the timer runs out, the world ends and you die.  However, you have the ability to turn back time and reset the timer.  So, there’s the first thing I’m going to hate.  Limiting the in-game systems like that only works if the player wants to participate in that system.  I hate timers in levels.  I’ve always hated them.  No game has ever been improved by the inclusion of a timer, with the possible exceptions of Super Metroid, Metroid Prime, and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.  Putting a timer in a game that I’ve typically played as a slow and steady exploration game is not going to work for me.  I’m playing it through in case I’m wrong, because that could be pleasantly surprising, but I have a feeling that’s going to be a dark cloud over this game.

I didn’t realize it when I was playing Ocarina of Time, but this video really nails some things that I actually don’t like about that game:

It’s true.  You are always waiting.  Control is taken away from you and you’re just waiting for the opportunity to do something.  Many enemies have this attack pattern where they’re invulnerable until they choose to engage in the next phase of their attacks, so you’re always just waiting for that phase to be over.  Some of them don’t even attack you during that first phase, so you’re just waiting like an idiot.  Between that and the momentary scenes where you open a chest, or when a door unlocks, the game is made longer than it should be.

The same issue is definitely there in Majora’s Mask (especially considering it was made using the same engine and using the same assets).  The premise of the game is that you put on different masks to get different powers.  The first mask you get is the “Deku Mask”, a mask that turns you into a Deku Scrub (a small, anthropomorphic arborous creature.  You frequently need to switch between wearing this mask and taking it off.  And with each instance of taking it off or putting it on, there’s a five second cutscene.  That got old on about the second attempt.  There seems to be a lot of padding in this game that just isn’t fun to deal with.  I hope that that’s done now and I can just enjoy it.

Otherwise, so far, it’s Zelda.  Whatever.  By now, you probably now if you like them or not.  I’m not crazy about Majora’s Mask so far, but I’ve just made it to the first dungeon, so we’ll see what the game has in store.

I also started and beat Battlefield 3 over the weekend.  I picked it up dirt cheap in the Origin Hallowe’en sale and thought I’d give it a go.  It’s a modern military shooter, and that’s all you need to know going into it.

The pros:

  1. Sound design is spectacular.  Weapons have a really authentic and impactful pop to them.  Every gunshot sounds significant, and battles can get absolutely cacophonous.
  2. Narrative delivery is interesting.  Everything was told in retrospect by a Marine being interrogated in an office.  That’s how they jumped between missions and linked each mission together.  It was refreshing and interesting.
  3. The main characters seem to be generally interesting and have some chemistry.

The cons:

  1. A few technical glitches, including smoke that was too thick to see through at times when that was not appropriate given the circumstances, which meant that I needed to rely on my damage indicator to know where the enemy was.
  2. Not significant variety in mission locations, to the point that everything tended to run together.  There were a few open locations, but every urban environment felt and looked the same.
  3. Missions were very derivative of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.  It was almost like they were just ticking off boxes as they went.  “Sniper mission, defence mission, aerial mission, thermal camera mission”, etc.  And the sniper mission was definitely worse than “All Ghillied Up” in MW.

All in all, I’m glad I paid $3.00 for it.  I will not buy these when they come out because the entire campaign took me about 6 hours, but as a discount Saturday time waster, it served its purpose and then some.  The sound really was terrific and added an entirely new element to the game, and makes me think that Battlefront will be equally outstanding, since it’s being done by the same team.

Monday, 9:49 am – Ricky

Not a lot of gaming time this weekend, but I’m still making progress in The Witcher 3 while staring down the barrel of Fallout 4 and Battlefront. No shortage of games to be played!

I will one day provide more detail than just “Oh man, Witcher 3, so good”, but today won’t be that day. It’s the kind of game I want to experience without judgement, and then come to a fully informed conclusion about the experience once I’m done. In the meantime, I won’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes good stories, characters and a living breathing open world.

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