Games

Marvel’s Avengers (2020 Game)

Made by Crystal Dynamics, Crystal Northwest, Nixxes Software BV, and Eidos-Montreal. Published by Square Enix. Available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and Microsoft Windows. The review is based upon the Microsoft Windows version, attained for free with a qualifying Intel purchase.

Where to start? This game is overly ambitious in its promises, and for the most part has failed to deliver. The good part of the game is the story, writing, and lore and everything else suffers tremendously. It’s like video game developers are doomed to repeat history over and over, not learning from previous developers on what not to do for a video game. They merely had to study Diablo 3’s failures to see how they should have done the looting and gear system. You don’t make the intrinsic difficulty of the enemies tied to the intrinsic power of your own heroes. At minute one to hundred hours, there is no difference in how strong you are. It all takes the same amount of damage to defeat the enemies. There is no sense of growth for the player at all. I am always struggling facing my foes and that should never be the case. There should always be a sense of growing upwards, of being better, and in Avengers, despite being superheroes, random robots and mere bullets can defeat you easily.

The two directors of the game should have known better but looking them up, they are both relative unknowns to the video game world. Shaun Escayg has three video games to his name, and the other, Morgan W. Gray, only has this game. I was going to ask did Crystal Dynamics fire everyone that ever worked on their games, that Tomb Raider died for Avengers, for this? Looking at their history on Wikipedia, it’s actually not far off from the truth. The creative directors of Tomb Raider did in fact leave the company. It explains a lot of the direction this Avengers game took. And what are these directions? Well aside from the difficulty being tied to your own stats/gear, which affects everything because it is the core gameplay loop experience, there’s not much else offered. You choose a mission, load in once, load in again, and then fight through a series of copy pasted hallways and dreary rooms filled to the brim with uninspired robotic enemies and occasional humanoids. Your objectives range from killing certain units, killing a group of units, standing on three different sections waiting for a percentage bar to fill while keeping enemy units off them, to clearing waves of enemies. Missions can range from as short as 2 minutes to 2 hours long. The long missions are ones in a semi-open world where you have a series of objectives to complete but you can explore around to find chests or other ways to gain loot. It’s an incredibly grindy experience that feeds back into that dopamine reward system of getting shiny new gear.

The enjoyable part of the game, that which kept me coming back to finish the campaign, aside from the emotional storytelling, is the combat. Each Avenger feels unique in their actions despite everyone sharing nearly the same exact controls, you have a light attack and a heavy attack, and a ranged attack. Through combinations of these attacks, you can unleash signature moves that are well known by all the heroes. At first, button mashing does work but eventually you need to get used to using dodge. There is a parry function but at higher difficulties, it is absolutely useless and will get you killed. And speaking of that, the game has some of the most infuriating artificial difficulties I’ve experienced in a game, and I’ve beaten Dark Souls/Sekiro and neither of those come close to the cheese experienced by enemies in this game. Despite my ever rising pool of health or willpower as it’s known in this game, enemies will two or three shot me every time. At higher difficulties, this becomes a one shot and rarely a two shot. And why? Because every enemy has an unblockable attack that must be dodged and yes, there is an indication for these attacks but most times they come from missiles or projectiles off-screen. So you’ll be fighting your enemy and out of nowhere, you’ll get hit by a stray missile and be stunned. That moment of being stunned is enough for another missile or projectile to hit you, causing your hero to be downed and awaiting revival from a friendly hero or AI.

Speaking of the AI, your friendly heroes are incredibly harebrained and coded to be nearly useless. They will repeatedly stand in front of your path, hindering your movement or blocking your ranged attacks. Each hero has a support ability, a power ability (attack move) and an ultimate ability that either boosts your strength or unleashes a really strong attack. 9/10 times when I’ve done a power ability or an ultimate ability, the AI stand right in front of the enemy I’m trying to target and ends up absorbing the impact, rendering my move pointless. One of the heroes, Miss Marvel, has a support ability which is a group heal. Now you’d assume that when she’s used by the AI, that when you have low health that she’d pop that heal. You’d be wrong. I’ve never seen her use it when I have low health and am in dire circumstances. I’ve only ever witnessed the AI pop that heal when I’m either at 75% or 50%. Both percentages I can easily manage with takedowns (unique moves that appear when an enemy’s stun meter is filled up) that grant me health regen. But when I’m in the midst of combat with numerous enemies, and so many projectiles that the game becomes pure chance, that ain’t the case. Skill is entirely removed, and I’m left at the mercy of luck. Will she heal me? Or will she ignore my downed status? Chances are 60/40 in favor of the AI not doing either.

Moving on, each hero has maximum level of 50 and a power level (gear score) of 150. Leveling up grants you a skill point to use on the vast skill trees available. Some skills are locked behind level gates while others are available from the start. At max level, you’ll have every skill unlocked. To get a power level of 150 requires a disgusting amount of time spent grinding the same missions over and over trying to get a miniscule increase in gear compared to what you’ve currently equipped. Each piece of gear has a max power level of 140 but through upgrades can reach that 150 power level. These upgrades are costly and to get a full set to 150 requires an absurd amount of materials. Materials which are gained by dismantling gear or finding it out in missions. Alternatively, you can buy materials with another material that is rare to acquire. This is clearly designed for the long haul.

Other aspects that are worth mentioning is the sheer amount of things to buy, cosmetically. You can buy them using in-game currency called units which are hard to come by and the cost of cosmetics is astronomical. Some of these cosmetics are legendary items costing upwards of 7000 units. I’ve been playing for 32 hours and I have only 7600ish units. Or you can pay real money for credits which can then unlock the items directly. Credits are also earned via each heroes’ individual battlepass that nets 1300 credits per completion. New hero battlepasses will cost 1000 credits or 10 dollars. The farthest I’ve gotten any hero is to page two of their battlepass, and that battlepass goes up to 5 pages. Like I said, they want the long haul. Playing on PC is an interesting experience because the numerous crashes, bugs, and glitches is truly astounding. We had a beta and you’d think they’d use that time to figure out if they should release on time or delay. I can confidently say that they should have most definitely delayed the game by at least 6 months or so to help iron out the kinks. I was nearly done the campaign when the game refused to load in. I had to go into the multiplayer component and was forced to watch spoilers so that I could then go back into the campaign because loading into the campaign directly resulted in an infinite loading screen. I have fallen through floors more times than I can count, I have crashed to desktop because of reasons I don’t even know. My power levels have fluctuated while I’m in a mission resulting in my death or inability to even damage the enemy. I have bought a cosmetic only to have it re-locked and now unable to use or purchase again.

Did I enjoy the campaign? Yes, I did. Did I enjoy multiplayer? No, because even that is broken and unable to find other players. I feel sorry for anyone that got suckered in by the advertising and bought this game for full price. I am happy I got it for free because I would have never bought this, and if I did, I would have severely regretted it. As much as I am a fan of Marvel and their superheroes, this game is a massive misfire. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 on Switch is by far a better game. And if you’re looking for a Marvel game to play, make it be that one and save yourself a headache.

Games

Archero (Mobile game)

Occasionally I like to play mobile games. Problem with that is most games are idle games that require no skill or need to play. You just boot the “game” up and everything is done automatically. You only need to make a few taps here and there, but other than that, you have no agency. Then I saw this game which came recommended by the Google Play store editor and after spending a few days on it, it’s become clear that app developers pay off the Google Play store editor to write praise about their game. This game deserves no praise, it is predatory at its best and downright thievery at its worst. Oh, and if you call them out for problems with the game, they’ll cry wolf to Google and have your review on the Play store deleted.

The game in question, Achero, is essentially that you control a character that shoots projectiles but only if you’re standing still. You have to move to avoid enemy projectiles, and during this time, you can’t harm them. You can acquire better gear but the item drops are incredibly rare. Instead you’re forced to spend gems to get chests which have a slight chance at giving you good gear. More often than not, the chest will contain useless items. Gems are very hard to acquire but are very easily paid for. In fact, all the currency earned in game is miniscule compared to the amounts that you can get with real money. This is pure predation.

When you start a round, you get to choose one ability out of a pool of abilities to accentuate your strength, but alas, most times these abilities are completely useless. When you level up, you can choose a new ability to add to your growing pool of abilities. The game is roguelite and so you’re forced to play repeatedly hoping for a good run. This takes all agency away from the player and you’re left at the mercy of the game. Secondly, the game is a bullet hell and often times you can’t see the enemy projectiles because your own projectiles are covering them. Also the enemy projectiles will damage you retroactively, meaning that you can avoid the initial projectile but should you quickly move behind it, it’ll magically damage you despite flying away from you.

To unlock more options of gameplay, you have to advance through the stages. And as typical of these games, the first few stages are easy as to lure you in. As soon as you reach stage 4 and then stage 5, the game becomes drastically more difficult in an attempt to force you to spend money so your character can be viable. There is a stage called expedition and it is insanely difficult with enemies that are bullet sponges and take forever to kill. Meanwhile, you die in two hits. Again, it’s made to push you towards spending real money.

I have no nice words for these kinds of developers, and as such, I will not be spending anymore energy or time discussing them. These kinds of games give all game developers a bad name and taste. And because the market is saturated with them, mobile gaming has a bad name. In fact, it’s not even considered as a gaming platform unless you have a Nvidia Shield. The only good mobile games are ports of console or PC games.

Games

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time (Switch)

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the entirety of Samurai Jack, my knowledge of the story is what the game offered.

Let’s start with the good: combat. Since this is an action RPG with hack and slash elements, the core gameplay loop is the combat. And if that is not good, or entertaining, then the entire appeal of the game will suffer. Fortunately, that core loop is quite solid in its presentation. You wield Jack’s magic sword and through combinations of light and heavy attacks, inflict carnage on your enemies. There’s also dodging, blocking, parrying, and counter attacks. It reminded me of Bloodbourne in that regard. To unlock new attacks, you have to upgrade your weapons at the store using gold. However that is not enough, in addition to upgrading the level of your weapons, you also have to level up your skill tree to unlock the moves themselves. The skill tree is quite large and features three trees: physical, spirit, and combat. You would think that physical would improve your sword damage but you’d be wrong. For some inexplicable reason, it falls under spirit. In fact, that tree is the best of them. During my playthrough on normal, I had nearly maxed that tree and had the other two half full.

What bugged me a lot in the game was that certain interactions were so painful to pull off. I had begun to question if they tested the game thoroughly, and upon reaching the credits, I was surprised to only see 5 quality assurance testers. That explains a lot of the problems. They simply didn’t play their own game enough to discover all the issues. For example, you can unlock the ability to jump super high if you hold block and then hold down and release jump. Yet on numerous occasions, Jack would not do that. It became a game of trial and error with me pressing these buttons hoping Jack would jump high. I’d say maybe half the time, it would work successfully. Another glaring issue is how utterly useless parry/block is. The amount of times I would get stun locked into an enemy combo while Jack is blocking is ridiculous. I’m holding block and the enemy is just destroying my health. Or, I would try to parry but it just wouldn’t work. I got roughly 26 parries on my playthrough. Same goes with counter attacks, time it perfectly and it wouldn’t matter because the enemy can somehow block it. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that some enemies will take hardly any damage unless you’re using the correct weapon type against them. And if you’re like me, you’re broke and out of weapons because they have durability and all of them have broken. The worst bit is the game encourages you to break your weapons because that is the only way to gain massive amounts of bushido. Bushido is used to upgrade your skill tree along with another resource which drops from defeated enemies.

The variance in enemies is nice enough for a game of this length. The issue comes in the final stage with what can only be described as lazy game development. Instead of giving us unique encounters, the final stage is you vs 50+ mobs of enemies of everything you’ve faced so far. This was fine in 1993 when Doom came out, but not in 2020. And the final boss, Aku, is such a disappointment. He was the easiest boss in the game. All that build up, and he’s a joke. The boss you fought just before him, Demongo, is easily three times as hard. What I did enjoy about the bosses was that you can’t hurt them unless you find their weak points or if you manage to counter. Like I said, I rarely countered because I could only successfully pull it off against bosses which are few. Depending on well you did during a stage, you’d get a point score and some extra gold for the next stage.

The scenery was enjoyable, and I’m sure fans of Samurai Jack will recognize many of the locations. The graphic style of the game was essentially cartoon and it worked well. Story was easy to follow along and was welcoming enough for even newcomers, such as myself, to make sense of what’s going on. I played on the switch, and despite my problems with the game, I had no game breaking bugs or crashes like I do on other switch games.

Overall, it was a fun if not short experience; my playthrough was 9 and a half hours. There is replayability if you wish to grind out the skill tree, and there are extra missions unlocked after beating the main game. If I had to compare it to another game, it would be the first God of War. Even the chests reminded me of that game. I recommend this game if you’re a fan of Samurai Jack, or if you’re just looking for a fun hack n slash game on the switch. This game is available on all platforms, and PC, and I find there’s much better titles on PC/other consoles than to get this. But for switch? Definitely get it.

Games

Apex Legends Season 6

Alrighty, I’m done giving this game any praise. As far as I’m concerned, Respawn Entertainment deserves all the vitriol and hate directed their way, all that and more. Their idea of improving a live service game is to essentially keep throwing content at you to distract you from the fact that their core game experience is built upon a heaping pile of shit. You have bugs from Day fucking One, pardon my language in this post. And instead of taking their core development team and fixing those bugs, they keep adding new guns, new maps, new legends, new shiny cosmetics that’ll keep bringing in revenue. They don’t give a single care in the world as to their average player. They cater to whales that’ll spend thousands on the game. And no, EA did not choose the prices. They did that themselves, they have become the very greedy scum that left Infinity Ward to become Respawn in the first place.

Sound is the single biggest problem in the game. All the time you will not hear a player sneak up on you, or you won’t hear their gun firing, or you won’t hear abilities going off. And since this is a battle royal shooter, sound is your biggest and best asset. Knowing where the enemy is, is half the battle. Yet Respawn won’t, or seemingly can’t be bothered to fix that issue. And then to compound things further, they keep adding things to the maps that produce sound as a way to get you distracted from gaining the knowledge where your enemy is. Too bad none of it matters because hey, they’ll not produce any sound. Only some players will.

Secondly, it’s come to my attention that they hired a former Riot designer who is infamous for his wrong stance on a champion (Kayn) so much so that he got let go, then they fixed what he refused to do, and whatya know? The champion is in an infinitely better spot now. So you went and hired this incredibly stubborn individual? Yea, that’s the direction you wanna go. That’s a designer you want on your team. He fits right in, given how stubborn Respawn is with their game. You try telling them that there’s problems with the game on their official subreddit, and guess what happens? It’s infamous by now. They called users freeloaders and a whole bunch of other names. And they wonder, oh god they wonder, why they get vitriol sent their way.

Thirdly, their servers. With the amount of money they make, sorry have made, why haven’t they given it a go and acquired better or even more servers to avoid the plague of issues. Way too many server shutdowns, way too many code leafs, way too many random crashes because the game logic can’t handle you doing something simple as using a character’s ultimate ability while using a geyser. And they cannot use Covid-19 as an excuse because all these problems existed long before that ever came around. The answer is simple and ever so infuriating, they simply don’t care about the core experience as long as the whales keep bringing them revenue. That’s it. They are the furthest thing away from a consumer friendly company.

Now onto season 6. At this point, Apex legends has been around a year and a half. What did they add this season? Well you see, they made the bright decision to lower overall hp by 25 and then to add two guns that have a less than one second time to kill. A moron could see that using any other gun is a waste of time. Evenly matched, any gun vs the devotion or the volt will lose 10/10 times. A year and a half of data and this is what they come to. My favorite lie is when the developers come onto the forums and say they look at play rates, win rates, kill rates, down rates, professional play, etc. That’s a big stinking lie. And I’m tired of hearing it. They don’t, because if they did, they would have realized that those two guns are incredibly overpowered. No, what they should be saying is, “we don’t care, we do what we want. This is our game. You can stop playing at any moment.” And guess what? That’s exactly what I’m going to do. I was a top tier player. But now, Respawn, Fuck you. Sincerely.

Edit: Final thoughts; the sunken cost fallacy is why I kept enjoying the game. I had sunk too much time into it that I felt I owed myself to keep playing. But the game is like this, imagine you’re a dog and you live in total squalor. Your owner hardly ever changes your food bowl, and when he does, oh how excited you are! And you love your owner, and everytime you play fetch, it’s so much fun! We started with a tiny little stick, but now we got a large stick! This is what Respawn has done to the average player. The game is a lot of fun, but all the bugs, terrible changes and server issues are like living in squalor. Our food bowl is the LTMs and content they slowly drip out. And the stick changing is the different seasons of the game. But we stuck by them, because like a dog we are loyal. Not anymore. Time to bite the hand that feeds.

Games

A Rant Against Nintendo

I don’t think I’ve ever used a system such as theirs that actively disables my third party purchases. They’re a company run by maximizing profits, like any other. You can only use their products, and the products they sell at triple the cost with their units. Want a new controller? Better pony up 1/3 the price of the system. Oh, you bought a third party controller for a fraction of the price? Sorry, let us push an update that not only makes your device not work anymore with ours, but disables your device from working with any other system too! Aren’t we such friendly gamers? Loved by all, such a family friendly company that we love, nay strive, to gouge our consumers dry.

Don’t get me started on HDMI cables too. Nearly half of them don’t work with the switch, they work fine with PC or other consoles but not with switch. Gotta get the right one. They would prefer you bought theirs. Oh, and game prices? Let’s talk about the “switch tax” aka any game sold on switch is marked up by nearly half compared to any other system. Dead cells, for example, is nearly 45 dollars on switch and 30 bucks everywhere else. The ability to play anywhere does not facilitate such a price increase. The downgrade in graphics most games receive to play on switch should have the opposite effect. The price should be lower or the same, not marked up. One can assume that the Nintendo store charges extra for developers if almost most games have to have raised prices.

Then we get to the joy con controllers themselves. Out of all consoles, these have the fastest fail rate I’ve ever been witness to. It’s like they are designed to fail as soon as possible, so you have to give more money to Nintendo. It’s no surprise then that there are several class action lawsuits against them for such. The joycons will drift. Then they are useless. Time to pony up another hundred dollars. My PlayStation controllers have never drifted, neither have my xbox. No controller I’ve ever owned has until the switch’s ecosystem showed up.

Nintendo is like the Apple computers of gaming companies. They took an already existing device (Nvidia shield) and touted/marketed it as a brand new device aka the switch. Then they set up their own ecosystem and can charge whatever they want and their loyal lap dogs will eat it all up. Any criticism is disguised, and brushed away. Money always wins. What a depressing reality. You’d think that actively nurturing and helping a consumer base would be the goal so they in turn reward you by purchasing your goods but it’s not. Gaming is no longer about enjoyment for the user, but how can investors bleed dry the market before moving onto the next. Given this, it’s so rare to find a game that’s purely made to be enjoyed. No ulterior motive, no microtransactions. No downloadable content. And Nintendo is definitely not where you look if that’s what you want. If I had to say where, I’d say go with a sony exclusive. Time and time again, these have been proven to be nothing but pure enjoyment for the consumer. There’s no extra purchases needed. The game is as is. One look at Ghost of Tsushima and that’s all you need to know. Review for that upcoming.

To surmise, I’m tired of Nintendo’s ecosystem. Price gouging through and through. The fun I get with Super Smash Bros is always sullied by the drift in my controller. This is one system that gathers more and more dust and is only pulled out for parties.