If our hobbies carried a title that was analogous to a job, ours would probably be something like, “Inventory Manager.” Mari Kondo would find our compulsion to hoard digital items found in games like Diablo, or Torchlight to be, “of great concern.”
Danh and I take a dive into the deeply addicting grind of loot collection. We share a common thread and propensity for these sorts of unending cycles in game mechanics.
As in the last episode, Diablo plays a sort of central role in the formation of our interests in grinding levels, material, and items in this Groundhog Day flavored digital experience. We have carved in literally 100’s of hours honing our goals, yet never quite gaining perfection. And maybe that is what brings us such enjoyment.
Attaining mastery is a lofty goal with Torchlight, Destiny, the Division, Borderlands, and so on. They are designed to hold our attention and yet at the same time allow us to feel the assent towards tangible success. We are getting there but, there are miles to go before we rest.
Did we miss something about the compulsion to find, collect, and keep loot? Are you bored of the grind? Let us know if you are enjoying the show via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers
In 1996, a small team of developers, who would later become Blizzard, created something dark, difficult, and addicting.
Diablo feels like something more than just a game about fighting in a dungeon as one of three archetypical character classes. It’s an action RPG, but it established something new. Players love loot and they will do anything for new loot.
Thus giving birth to a sub-genre, and a gameplay mechanic definition akin to metroid-vania. The Looter.
As of this writing, Looter Shooters are the progeny of Diablo with the greatest amount of universal appeal. Borderlands, Destiny, and the Division, all owe their success to the systems of play that Diablo created.
When I describe the mechanic you can see other examples in adventure or RPG games, where quality levels of loot are dropped seemingly at random, or at least when the right combination of conditions are true. Many games share this basic concept. Witcher 3, Fallout, Shadow Warrior 2, and the Assassin’s Creed Origins ( and newer ), series also use this mechanic.
It isn’t really the core gameplay loop of these titles. Or at the very least it’s an unobtrusive complimentary piece, that fuels more exploration rather than an urging the players to farm items.
In this episode my brother Robert and I give an oral history of our experience playing through the three Diablo titles, and chat about what was so engaging and interesting about them. We answer questions for ourselves about what elements in the combat, skill trees, and atmospheric elements we found to be the stand outs in the series.
Come along with us back to Tristram and beyond as we revel in our fandom of the endless loot-palooza that is Diablo.
Did we miss something about the Lord of Darkness that you want us to clarify? Let us know if you are enjoying the show via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers
2017-2018 were years of plenty when it comes to open world, sandbox-y, AAA action adventure games. Amidst this sea of excellence, we were hit with Insomniac Game’s take on Spider-Man. A game I didn’t know how much I needed until I finally got my hands on it.
Much like the Arkham series before it, and from which many of it’s designs cues are taken, you are granted the experience of being Spider-Man. I mean, in the Arkham games you are Batman but in Marvel’s Spider-Man, you feel like New York’s friendly neighborhood do-gooder.
Spider-Man is a game that feels like something new, even though it’s filled with mechanics and set pieces that we have been playing with for a few years now. How it achieves this for me is through polish and pacing. Polish in the views of the city, the ease at which you can swing around building, toss bad-guys in combat, web darn near anything and transition from roof top to black top without breaking a sweat. Pacing in story beats, combat encounters, and character perspective swaps all working in concert to tie you the player to the great characters in Spider-Man’s world.
You feel like Spider-Man.
Swinging through Manhattan is fun and kinetic. Easy to pick up but takes some practice to master.
Unlock-able costumes add a real motivation to collect all of Peters junk.
Script, story, and voice cast/performance was amazingly top notch.
The music in the game feels so full and connected to your actions. Everything feels connected and cohesive.
Good re-writes or re-working of core characters to make them more believable and engaging.
What fell flat for me
In lower difficulty, the gadgets feel like insta-wins.
The DNA puzzles.
Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 3 out of 3 stars. Which means you should go and get it ASAP. As open-world games go, Spiderman synthesizes all the great things from its Arkham parents, and then adds a levity and charm that only one web head can. If you want to really enjoy yourself when sitting down to your PS4 you really can’t pass this adventure up.
Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which talk about my 10 glorious hours with the zipline, sandbox, explosion factory Just Cause 3. So let’s take a second to appreciate Rico Rodriguez’s talents as a wire-fu demo man of the people.
Avalanche Studios has been making Just Cause games since 2002, but JC3 I think marked a crucial turning point in the serie’s cycle where a form of stunting became the primary goal of the mechanics presented to you for getting around the islands of Medici.
Sandbox and or Open World games have, what I like to think of as, gift wrapping mechanics. They But unlike many games where you have to wait for story beats to have access to the full range of traversal tools that are available, Just Cause 3 suits you up right away. The only thing the game does, in terms of upgrades, is amplify the already absurd level of versatility that your movement possesses.
JC3 wants you to get into the action immediately. In fact it seemed like every story mission was just a whip lashing me to blow up more stuff. I’m surprised they hadn’t added a DMC style grading system to rank your destruction style. Oh wait, they did think of that. Destruction challenge modes let you revisit demolished enemy strongholds and start a fireworks show that ties time and destruction into a scoring system. Seeing how I ranked against my other destruct-ologists was fun and leads players to experiment with the options without the reprisal of enemy troops.
JC3 is only the second title in the series I have played, however, for 10 golden hours I was totally hooked. This game is a rollercoaster conducted by Michael Bay’s dreams. Even the driving outperformed my expectations, a feature that frequently slips past the hardworking teams of code machines spinning magic out of thin air.
Sadly this is the part of the review where I need to explain why there wasn’t an hour 11 or further. Avalanche made a truly entertaining and hilarious game. Unwrapping the carefully folded paper and peeling back the tape on this gift of a game was amazing.
The wind got pulled out of my sails around the chapter titled A Terrible Reaction started and the plot jumped into the driver’s seat. And to be fair, Just Cause games are not about the plot. The plot isn’t good or bad, it simply exists to tie things together and give you context for blowing things up.
Just Cause allows for ample amounts of freedom and creative problem solving, but this level asks you to be stealthy while you blow things up, and while I am not against stealth in games, it really doesn’t make any sense in a game where one of the primary movement mechanics is used offensively ( eg zip-lining into an enemy ). I honestly could have done without the interruptions and exposition about what this paper thin dictator was trying to pin on our heroes. Just let me get back to destroying bases ala your favorite 80’s era G.I. JOE.
One way I would have solved this, would have been to create a popularity meter. Rico can cause destruction, and if he blows up civilians his popularity plummets and the regime rises, however, as he destroys the dictator strongholds his renowned grows. And you could tie that into NPC aggression, so in less pro-Rico areas he gets the cops called on him more often for being a disturber of the peace.
At the end of my time, I really enjoyed JC3, for what I played of it.
Rico’s voice work was fun but he could have delivered even more 90’s era action quips.
The visuals are dialed in in such a way that I never felt lost navigating Rico or knowing the direction of incoming fire.
All the vehicles are intuitive, easy to learn, and met my expectations.
The enemy NPCs are appropriately bad at catching Rico, but on the hard difficulty they become excellent marksman which makes movement even more essential to survival.
The XTREME sports angle adds something fun to the traversal of Medici that really doesn’t exist in any other titles.
Story beats, other characters are all completely boring and border on annoying.
Most of the guns feel the same-y, the weapons either have exploding rounds or they don’t.
Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 1 out of 3 stars. If you are looking for a fun but shallow distraction and you see it on sale, pick it up. It is easily the best action movie you will play. But if you want to be “invested” in a title for longer than that you may want to look to a different sandbox.
So what do you think? Are you into the Just Cause series? Have I got it all wrong? Have I got it all right? Let me know but hitting me up on Twitter or sending an email to email@example.com
Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which I take you through a quick review of Ubisofts Hack-tivist Sandbox Adventure WatchDogs 2. I’ll give you my impressions of the gameplay mechanics, and story and how Marcus plus his band of digital pirates, made good on the promise of this franchise.
There is a pattern emerging in the sort of titles I have been consuming lately. I think I have an unspeakable addiction to open world exploration games. 2017 and 2018 were jam packed with adventures across sprawling spaces that imitated San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Hyrule, and The Continent (in which Geralt of Rivia resides).
These titles share a lot of similarities. They each possess some new
set of tools to try to exploit. A system of scales to balance your
curiosity and aggression, with success. And Watch Dogs 2 is no
exception. I would say that it actually makes good on the promise that
Ubisoft made with the first Watchdogs. Great graphics, a world packed
with multiple ways to solve missions, aggression or subversion, are both
supported in fairly expressive ways.
Ubisoft Montreal created a version of San Francisco that is fun and
expressive. Filled with graffiti, tech bros, gangs, landmarks, bad
clothes, and the ability to wiretap passers by to steal money, sniff
dumb chat messages, listen in on peoples gossip, and blow their cell
phones up while they are in their pockets.
Not only cellphones, but it the developers have allowed you to
weaponize transformers, manhole covers, cars…as if the Bay were a giant
Rube Goldberg machine of destruction. Nearly every mission in the game
allows you to be as aggressive or sneaky as you want to be and the game
really expects the player to land somewhere in the middle.
And Marcus’ character is exactly the confident personality I love in a
prota-gonist. Marcus and his band of “hacktivists,” are working to
thwart a conniving egotistical tech billionaire whose master plan
actually reads like the terms and conditions to a iTunes contract. The
plot isn’t new or special, but the delivery seesaws between Mission
Impossible and Fast n the Furious in the best possible way.
The Magical Mystery Hacking Team (deadsec), is a colorful cast of
supporting characters that rally to the call of adventure. They each
represent a characitured but not repulsive image of software anarchists
cranked up to 11. Again, the character design and the world building
that Ubisoft has for us is keeping that tension between absurdity and
ONE REMAINING THOUGHT ABOUT THE STORY
Without spoiling anything there is a character in the game who dies, which is foreshadowed, but it was used as a tool to up the stakes for Marcus and Deadsec’s resolve. I don’t really like emotional manipulation that is as subtle as an earthquake. This inflection point, however well-meaning or sincere, fell flat for me.
Hacking and invasion, buttery smooth and full of hilarious moments of sheer delight. Shocking enemies through their phones is amazing.
Combat difficulty was pretty on point, Marcus’ tools are occasionally over powered, and the AI is not always equipped to react to your shenanigans.
Non-lethal weapons and evasion make you feel like a cool version of Solid Snake. Once you upgrade the taser it’s amazingly quick at sleeping people.
Visuals are excellent and what you would expect to see from the Ubisoft team.
Multiplayer invasions. Having random people jump into your game and mess with you adds some amazingly tense cat and mouse moments.
Solving environment room puzzles.
What fell flat for me
Chasing/Driving around the streets felt weak. Triggering little things like street explosions and stop light breakdowns, while fun aren’t as elegant or rewarding as the infiltration portions.
There is a main character that joins the team about half way through the game that I found to be nearly useless and uninteresting.
Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 2 out of 3 stars. If you are looking for a fun but shallow distraction and you see it on sale, pick it up. It is easily the best action movie you will play.
2018 gave us an overwhelming selection of action adventure titles to enjoy, and none of them shone as brightly as the jeweled handle of the Leviathan axe carving through our TV screens. Sony and Santa Monica studios gave Cory Barlog and his talented team of artists, what seems like limitless creative opportunity to create an engaging story accompanied by incredibly satisfying exploration and action gameplay.
The Ax, The Boy, The Gods, The Monsters, The Realms. Everything in the setting of God of War feels cohesive and expertly knit together. Kratos desires to hide within the world that appears to be falling apart, his past, and his progeny are drug into the machinations of Odin’s children.
Triple A titles should all be at this same level. It has all of the massive action moments that you want to entertain and delight but the quiet moments with Mimir in your boat telling stories or listening to the two dwarves complain about each-other’s work, really draws you in.
God of War is wracked up awards that were well earned and deserved.
Josh and I talk about some of these finer game points and we can’t
recommend it more.
If you have been on the fence about spending time with Kratos and friends, you should go ahead and get it. All the fine details in the game are pulled off with a professional grace that is impossible to ignore.
3 out of 3 stars. You need to add God of War to your list of todos ASAP.
Thanks for listening!
Tell us about your favorite God of War moment or game and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers
You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud
NieR Automata is a great game. The open-world is a well polished “End of Days,” theme-park filled with interesting combinations of realtime actions, RPG progressions, and a story that grabs your attention.
2B, 9S and A2 are designed to be sympathetic heroes attempting to prove to themselves, and you the player, that they are indeed alive. As they roam the killer robot filled husk of a battered earth, they uncover conspiracies about their nature and the other beings in the universe.
For all of it’s design aesthetic, the deeper questions being prodded at are somewhat obscured by mandatory repetition and cryptic in-game NPC dialogue. The vast and sometimes lonely feeling world, hides ideas about the self and consciousness that can be explored.
The clever folks at Wisecrack did an amazing video on the ideas that are buried in the game’s multiple endings and character experiences. Personally, these ideas would have been otherwise really interesting to me but I wasn’t as captured with the setting and characters enough to grind past three endings.
The game is worth your money, but not at full original asking price. If you don’t want to repeat yourself, you probably won’t make it through to the more compelling story elements.
1 out of 3 stars. While I enjoyed the mashup and mechanics, the repetitions required to un-earth the remaining ideas in the game proved too high a cost for me.
Tell us about your favorite cursed earth robot adventure RPG and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers
You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud
Something you create and also take with you. A reflection of you, but not of your image.
Avatars in games are not a new thing. Being represented as a 3D photo
realistic polygonal model, is a far cry from our humble start. Our
beginnings as paddle in space, or a hungry little mouth running from
ghosts, or even a plumber trying to rescue a princess.
Inanimate objects in I Am Toast, anthropomorphized Raving Rabbits, or
a simple adventurer with pointy ears and sword are us. They are extend
us in that virtual plane as we conduct their movements, agonize over
These pixel powered apparitions are more than figures moving on our
every whim. We can find ourselves attached to these surrogates,
especially the ones we design ourselves. Spending an hour or more in a
character creation screen, tweaking every possible combination until we
have designed that next perfect reflection.
My friend David Diers will tell us about his, a red headed paladin that fights to protect those less fortunate. She has had a long history with him and it is amazing.
Tell us about your an Avatar you have and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers
You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud
There isn’t anything more frustrating than losing your focus. The trance-like state that you can be in while playing games, like a spell, gets broken by choices that seem to be available.
The frequency and quality of games over the last 5 years have been incredibly high. As a pro-casual gamer it is all but impossible to keep up with the relentless release schedule. I myself am contending with a backlog of titles that, I dread, will never be complete.
With such limited time to devote to this hobby it should be easy to avoid pitfalls. The well tread loops of loot drops, discovering shortcuts to interlocking routes, mastering enemy patterns, etc… all serve to keep us in one place. Six feet from the couch.
But even with all these studios producing high-quality computer generated adventures, patterns slip through QA that can remove all commitment. Josh Hunt joined me to examine some of these dark user patterns and catalogue experiences that if removed, would have made for a flawless game.
Tell us about your favorite Quality of Life in a video game and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers
You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud
Howdy friends, this is Zach, with another Single Player episode as I attempt to promote the value of a game that you should sink some of your hard earned dollars into. Today I am your virtual sherpa to what I see is the best multiplayer shooter of 2016 and 17, even though we are in 2018.
And that, my friends is the robot buddy-cop first person shooter TITAN FALL 2.
Even though the 4th quarter of 2016 was overflowing with FPS choices, and I will get back to that point later on. TitanFall 2 is empirically a game you should be playing. Respawn Entertainment, has been continuously releasing new modes, Titans, maps, and balancing patches over the course of the games life. And they have been doing it without asking for a single extra nickel.
Oh, did I just say that all the DLC has been free? As in beer?
Yeah that’s right! FREE. No loot boxes, pay to win, blah blah, content locking expansions, etc.. Free.
And yet even with all this commitment from the studio, TitanFall 2 hasn’t been able to grow an audience equal to the first title’s.
When the first Titanfall came out, there wasn’t anything even close on the market. It had the pedigree that came from the Call of Duty series of solid gun handling and arcade like speed. Thanks to a brilliant team of passionate ex-Infinityward employees. But making a future space shooter wasn’t enough. What they added was piloting a Robot. A robot who could help smash and blast your way through the enemy team. That was the revelation. And they made it look easy. But I’m not here to talk about history.
TitanFall 2, picks up where TitanFall 1 left off, and then proceeds to kick the ball further downfield by adding a superb single player campaign. Something that many people said was missing from the original. Along with this a more refined class based system for the Titans. Plus, a few new pilot abilities, weapons, and progressions that upped the challenge in multiplayer.
They took that already delicious future combat sandwich and added more meat.
With all the accolades and praise coming out for the sequel, I am perplexed by the lack of adoption. The gameplay experience is something that is fun and addicting. If you like nimble, yet sharp gunplay, combined with some of most intuitive, albeit dizzying movement mechanics, look no further.
TitanFall 2 does something that none of the other shooters on the market seem to be able to capture or accomplish.
They set up the players for blockbuster heroic moments.
Something that Mark Brown at Game Maker’s Toolkit would describe as a positive feedback loop. Regardless of you or your team’s actual status as winning or losing, individual player moments feel like major accomplishments. Whether it’s goal denials in capture the flag, multi-kill sprees that slow the opposing team’s progress in Attrition, or narrowly escaping fire to deposit cash into the team bank during Bounty Hunt, TitanFall has an ebb and flow that builds in a cinematic way.
There are so many little examples of this sort of thing that a whole episode on all the aspects of these moments could be easily produced. And this loop makes the draw of aggressive play styles feel rewarding.
The value of these big spectacle moments can be felt as either a lone-wolf player or a team member. Combining the strength of the Titan’s skills or timing an attack on a defender will happen many times in a single match. Last-ditch efforts can snowball into a victory. And this sense of being able to turn the tables is the foundation of the risk and reward of playing TitanFall’s multiplayer.
Now I want to take a second to acknowledge the fact that while TitanFall borrows many simple mechanics from MOBAs. Think Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends. It doesn’t dwell on being a hybrid in the strictest sense. Yes there are powers on cool-down that are earned from kills and other actions. And these are for both the Pilots and the Titans.
I heard you liked cool-downs, so I put some cool-downs on your cool-downs.
Yes, there are small hordes of enemies that are at different levels of artificial intelligence and offensive power. But they aren’t anything to trifle with. They add a fuller feeling than the 6v6 rooms would be otherwise.
The multiplayer game play isn’t a horde-mode, combined with defense on laned choke points. Unless you are playing Frontier Defense. You don’t gather teammates and push behind a single tank as the clock runs down.
TitanFall truly operates as a first person shooter, with some MOBA mechanics to add layers to every match.
Level design is spectacular in both multi-player and the single player campaign.
For multiplayer, each of the starting maps has several vertical slices that pilots, and sometimes your metal sidekicks can roam around.
Part of learning these maps includes maximizing your routes to reduce travel time. Speed in each level area is critical to success and stagnation is punished swiftly.
A quick note on the single player experience. The 6-10 hour campaign (depending on your difficulty level and shooter skills), contains levels and chapters on par with the likes of Half-Life 2, and Portal. Without spoiling anything, the future planets, and massive industrial complexes contain truly memorable mechanics that are both challenging and exciting.
Visual puzzle solving in shooter isn’t something you see everyday. And in games that are strictly about puzzle solving you have time to reflect on your object. TitanFall asks you to take the new tools and then run as fast as you can. Never looking back. And it works. So well that they could have made a whole game with just that mechanic and I would have been thrilled to play it.
On the topic of the new movement options introduced in TitanFall 2. The introduction of the grapple hook has to be one of the greatest mobility augments in a video game. Pairing this tool with malleable gravity and momentum rules, the Pilot Jump Pack transforms you into a WIRE FU futuristic Jon Woo shoot em up superbeast.
So what could deflate the success of a title with such a wide range of fun and value?
Two words, Electronic Arts.
Titan Fall 2’s launch was suffocated by EA’s ridiculous plan to release it within a week of Battlefield 1. Another “AAA” shooter, whom, insert personal speculation, until now has been the real in house favorite. This coupled with Overwatche’s late year traction, seems to have bogged down the potential adoption to a shadow of what it could be.
I see this as a terrible tragedy. An opportunity to build on a solid rock and expand out further with a community that is genuinely fun to play with. Not to mention, rewarding a company, that listens carefully and reacts with quick amicable solutions.
TitanFall 2 is my hero shooter of the last two years. Everytime I hop onto a match on PSN I am reminded of why I like it so much. Everything else right now pales by comparison.
TitanFall 2 is a solid 2 out of 3 stars making it more than worthy of your money and time to play.
Thank you for listening to this week’s episode about a shooter I love, and you can find me playing on the weekends. Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know how you like the show and what you would like to hear about in the future.
Until then, this is Zach, keep playing.
Tell us about your favorite FPS games and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers
You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud