Shadow of War: What We Know so Far

IGN has been doing a series of “IGN First” videos on Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

These videos have been the only true source of info about the game.

For the full playlist of the videos, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1nJJfWXmkY&list=PLraFbwCoisJBcj8K0eIfjqNK-j5X_4YTw

The most recent video (below) gives us a bit more info about the new Nemesis System and how it relates to fortresses. Fortresses will have ranks that show the player how hard it will be to defeat, and the fortresses can be made easier if some of the war chiefs are killed first.

 

The video also showed how the design of the fortresses change depending on what clan the overlord of the fortress belongs to.

Once the player has control of the fortress, they can change the overlord at will.

What earlier videos have shown is is the confirmation of Minas Ithil being a major part of the game, as I predicted in my Shadow of War Announcement article.

Minas Ithil.png

The city appears to be an absolutely massive open-world environment which will factor in to the main story-line substantially.

Nazgul as fight-able enemies have been confirmed, and it has been shown that there are many new types of beasts that can be ridden, like ice graugs and fire drakes.

Another exciting new change that the new game is bringing is the expansion of the RPG elements.

The skill tree is shown to be much larger with more branches, and the addition of gear is a very welcome change.

The skill tree is much more like a familiar video game skill tree, where there are many different abilities that can be unlocked, and these abilities can be upgraded in different ways. This will allow for a greater level of choice in how players upgrade their Talion.

Gear can be won off of enemies, much the same way the previous game had captains drop runes. When a captain is killed, a random piece of gear (sword, dagger, bow, armor, cape, or ring rune) is dropped. The tougher the captain, the better the item dropped is.

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The stats for the gear seem pretty in-depth. There are also gems that can be added to gear to add other bonuses.

The story of the game has something to do with Talion and Celebrimbor forging a new ring of power, as well as the fall of Minas Ithil, but what the main objective of the game is is not yet clear.

A large part of the game seems to be conquering areas of the map which involves the new Nemesis system and the awesome fortress siege gameplay featured in the gameplay walk-through that I have already written about in-depth.

How many territories there are to conquer or how many open-world environments that will be available to explore have not been revealed yet.

The hype for this game continues to build, and some have even said that this will be the game of the year for 2017.

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Video Games Are Better WITH Stories

I don’t know if I have ever read something that managed to simultaneously be so arrogantly intellectual and completely idiotic.

I’m talking about the article The Atlantic posted yesterday written by Ian Bogost, titled, “Video Games Are Better Without Stories.”  Just reading that title made me want to throw up.

Seriously?

Sure, games without stories can be fun, but if there was no value to story-based games, why would anyone buy them?

The article was written, in part, to praise the innovation of the new game, What Remains of Edith Finch.  The author’s point was that Edith Finch breaks the mold of conventional storytelling, instead focusing on an interactive environment.

Bogost likes this so much, he goes on to conclude that games should just do away with stories all together, claiming, “Film, television, and literature all tell them better. So why are games still obsessed with narrative?”

Who says that film, television, and literature are better at telling stories?  They are different mediums with different methods of telling stories, and I think they all have their strengths.  That’s why I love television, movies, books, and video games.  They all have story-telling strengths.

But, apparently, games are on trial here, so I have to defend them.

I have already written about games as an art form, but here are the strengths that only games have in narrative specifically:

Choices

The-walking-dead-choices

Television, movies, and books all fail to give the viewer the element of choice.  Bogost’s bogus article begins by basically saying real choices can never be made in games, because there will always be limitations.

What is wrong with limited choice, though?  Too much choice, and a story stops becoming a story and just becomes a flat, simulation.  Games like The Walking Dead or the Mass Effect series use limited choice amazingly well.  The story is still being driven to a limited number of directions, but the fact that the player had a bit of input into the narrative, makes it so much more relatable.

Having to make fast decisions, but still having people die made The Walking Dead powerful.  I really felt the losses and felt the hopelessness of the situation, instead of watching a show or reading a book where you can yell at people for making the wrong choice.

In a game, it was you that made the wrong choice, or sometimes, there was no other choice, and that makes the loss feel that much worse.

There are many ways that limited choice makes the narrative more impactful, and this is something only video games can do.

Timing

the-last-of-us-sunset

When watching a movie, a mood or location is established with a couple shots that do not change in length no matter who watches the movie.

In games, when a setting needs to be established, players have all the time they want to explore, talk to people (in some cases), and get the sense of mood and where exactly they are.

This is done exceptionally well in The Last of Us, where setting is crucial to the mood of the story.  When playing, I could control how quickly I moved through the settings, so that I got a better sense of the mood.

You do not have that control in other media.

Environmental Storytelling

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There are other things I could praise video game stories for, like being able to interact with characters, seeing the story play out from different perspectives, immersion, but what I want to focus on is the particular type of video game story-telling that Bogost also focused on.

That is environmental story-telling as done by games like Bioshock and Gone Home.  These games place characters in an environment where the player can piece together a story by finding evidence or voice recordings that are lying about.

Bogost seems to think that this does not count as a form of story-telling.

“Are the resulting interactive stories really interactive, when all the player does is assemble something from parts? Are they really stories, when they are really environments?”

“Are they really stories”??? Merriam Webster defines stories as “an account of incidents or events.”

So when you find an audio recording that has an account of incidents or events, how is that not a story?  Seriously?

I’m sorry, but this is so ridiculous.

Environmental Storytelling is beautiful because it forces a player to sift through information until the story finally comes together, and the truth dawns on them.

This is a beautiful moment, and it is different with every player.

I am sure that Bogost is a very intelligent man, but I am not sure he has ever played a narrative-based game before.

Stories are beautiful things, and I will take a good story in any form.  Books are beautiful, long works of fiction.  Movies are short, succinct tales.  TV shows are long, drawn-out journeys with many twists and turns.  None of these can give you the immersion of a well crafted narrative-focused game, though.  The choices, the time invested, the challenges overcome, all make the pay-off of the narrative so much more real.

Stories make games so much better, and I hope they never leave the gaming world.

Here’s another link to The Atlantic’s article so that you can read this insanity for yourself: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/04/video-games-stories/524148/

Thank you for reading, and God bless.

Rumors of A Knights of the Old Republic Reboot

Many people, including me, consider Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to be the best Star Wars game ever made. It had great characters, dramatic plot twists, interesting locations, and fun RPG elements.

Recently, game journalist Liam Robertson revealed that he had learned that game developer BioWare’s Austin team was working on Star Wars games, and aparently one of these games is a remake of KOTOR.

Here’s the quote:

“I’ve learned now that (BioWare Austin is) pretty much now exclusively working on Star Wars games and they’re going to be doing that for the indefinite future. What they’re currently working on right now, and I have this on good authority, is a sort of remake/revival of Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t know when this is set to come out, but it has been in development for a little while now. I don’t really know how that game’ll end up. I’ve heard that it isn’t exactly a remake anymore, but it started as a remake/revival. Now it’s kind of going from that blueprint in sort of its own original thing. I guess we’ll see what that turns out to be, but they are prototyping it right now.”

Well, I leave it to you if you believe it or not. Either way, we know that there are always going to be Star Wars games (at least, for the foreseeable future), and we never know how good any of the games will be when they come out.

Still, we can’t help but hope that this game will make a comeback!

Thank you for reading, and God bless.

New Character Introduced to Overwatch

Overwatch is a truly great competitive multiplayer game that has much to entice gamers into playing. One of the greatest features of Overwatch is the free DLC. The third free character has just been added to Overwatch, and she seems pretty cool.

The video above from GameSpot’s Youtube channel is the released origin story of the Orisa. Apparently, the new character used to be just another model of a generic battle robot, very much like Bastion. However, this robot was rebuilt and reprogrammed by a little girl named Efi to be a new hero.

Orisa is a new tank with supportive and defensive abilities. Right now, she has 400 health, which is less than all the other tanks. There is a strong possibility that she will be modded before the next competitive season at least once, since she has been withheld from the current season, but here is a list of her abilities and how they work as of now.

Fusion Driver

Orisa’s main weapon holds 150 shots, deals 12 damage per shot, and shoots at a rate of 12 shots per second. It seems to be a great tool for spraying the enemy and spreading out damage among their ranks in order to support your teammates.  It is not accurate or powerful enough to be great at eliminating single targets, but it is still a powerful gun for a more support-oriented hero.

Protective Barrier

This is the real meat of this character. It has a barrier, much like Rienhardt’s shield, but stationary. The shield has 900 health points to Rienhardt’s 2000, but Orisa has the ability to shoot while using it. It is on a 8-second cool down that starts after placement, not after the barrier is destroyed, so it is fairly easy to move. After playing as Orisa, I like the barrier much better than Winston’s, because it does not time out. I am not sure I like it better than Rienhardt’s though, even though it is nice to be able to shoot while using the barrier.

Halt!

This ability functions like a Zarya ult in that it sucks enemies into it, but it is smaller, and it does not hold them.  It can be nice to slow enemies down or draw them from cover.

Fortify

Fortify makes Orisa take less damage for 4 seconds and also be immovable. This second part is more interesting because it basically makes her invulnerable to effects that would move or stun her, like Rienhardt’s charge, Lucio and Pharah’s boop, or Road Hog’s hook.

Supercharger

Her ult is not the most exciting, but it can be very effective if used right. Orisa’s ultimate has her place a destructable object that projects damage boost beams (like Mercy’s) to all allies around it.  It can be very effective if the team is bunched together, as they will all gain a 50% increase to damage, and it is best if used behind Orisa’s barrier, because enemy’s can destroy it like Symmetra’s teleporter and shield generator.

All in all, the new tank seems to be a promising addition to the Overwatch team.  I personally plan on using her in payload defense games, but I am sure there will be many interesting strategies in how to use her.

Shadow of War Gameplay Trailer Looks Almost Too Good to be True

Middle Earth: Shadow of War from Warner Bros released a brand new gameplay trailer, and everything looks incredible, to say the least. Watch below, and keep in mind that this is alpha gameplay, and the gameplay shown is on “god mode” (infinite health, infinite arrows, infinite combat finishers), so do not be worried if the game looks too easy.

The biggest star of this trailer was the Nemesis System, just as it was the star in the previous game. Many thought that it would be impossible to improve so much on the previous Nemesis System, but this trailer promises that the game will do just that.

Improvements to the Nemesis System shown revolve around allies mostly.  In the first game players have limited relationships with the orcs that they dominate, but this trailer promises that the game will allow players to give them more jobs, use them in attacking strongholds, and develop more complicated relationships with them.  They appear to also be able to betray you, as well as step in to save your life when being attacked by an enemy captain.

Shadow of War.png

Many other interesting new elements are shown off in the trailer. The open world seems to be much bigger, judging by the map, and there seems to be many other areas in Mordor that are now open to explore, including Cirith Ungol and Minas Morgal from the movies (although, I already talked about how Minas Morgal will probably appear first as Minas Ithil in my analysis of the cinematic trailer).

Another improvement is the RPG elements. Equipping new armor is shown, as well as XP leveling up. There was some leveling in the first game, but it was limited. Let’s hope that more RPG elements don’t ruin the great hack-and-slash gameplay, but I doubt that they will.

Shadow of War.png

Of course, the entire trailer shows off taking a fortress, and this appears to be an event that will happen several times throughout the game as the player takes over the many fortresses within Mordor.  There are armies to lead and defenses to overcome. The trailer also mentions that fortresses need to be defended as well. How much control we have over our attacking armies and our fortresses’ defenses remains to be seen.

And I can’t write this without mentioning the drake.

You can ride flying fire drakes now!

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Do I sense potential aerial combat with the Nazgul on fell beasts that we saw in the cinematic trailer?

All things considered, it is important to note that this is alpha footage, and this means two things: first, the graphics and animations will likely improve, and secondly, the gameplay elements will probably change.

Hopefully we don’t lose too much of what we see in this trailer in the final game.

The trailer also announces different versions of the game that can be pre-ordered with a pre-order bonus of a sword and some special orc captains.  The Standard Edition is the pre-order of the basic game. The Silver Edition comes with the game plus two future expansions to the Nemesis System.  The Gold Edition comes with the game and the complete season pass, the two future Nemesis System expansions and two story DLCs.  There is also a Mithril Edition that includes everything in the Gold, but also a statue, a collector’s steelcase for the game, and other collectibles.

The game releases on August 22 of this year, so we have five months to wait and see if the game can live up to the promises made by its trailer. If it turns out to be as good as its trailer, I think we have a potential game of the year on our hands!

Thank you for reading, and God bless!

Middle Earth: Shadow of War is Announced

Monday Warner Brothers announced the sequel to the critically acclaimed Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor with an epic cinematic trailer that you can view below.

The trailer shows Talion and Celebrimbor, the protagonists of the first game, forge a new ring of power inside Mount Doom. How this will effect gameplay, we have yet to find out, but seeing how the rings of power are such an important part of the world of Middle Earth as written by J.R.R. Tolkien, this is a major bit of news about the new game.

Also shown in this trailer are more human characters defending a city, which appears to be Minas Ithil, known by fans of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy as Minas Morgul home of the Witch King. Die hard fans will know that the city was named Minas Morgul after (spoiler alert) it was taken by The Witch King, a Nazgul and servant of Sauron, from the people of Gondor, and seeing as we see the city under attack from Nazgul, it is a safe bet to say that we will get to see this happen in Shadow of War.

Another interesting reveal for Tolkien fans is the Balrog (fiery horned demon-like creature) seen with the forces of Mordor in the trailer. Fans of The Lord of the Rings will recognize this as the same type of creature that Gandalf fights with. Even though Balrogs have never been shown to serve Sauron, in Tolkien lore Sauron and the Balrogs were both servants of Morgoth so it makes sense that they would work together again.

As a long-time Middle Earth fan, the prospect of possibly fighting both Nazgul and a giant Balrog in Shadow of War is both terrifying and exciting. Seeing Minas Ithil/Morgal in its glory is also thrilling. We will see exactly what the developers have planned for these characters and places as well as what having our own ring of power means in the future.

We do not have that long to wait for some of our questions to hopefully be answered, for as the reveal trailer says, we will be getting a gameplay reveal trailer on March 8.

Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle Earth has many diehard fans, myself included, and Shadow of Mordor did not only make good use of that IP, it was also an extremely fun and innovative game. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was a critically acclaimed game, winning the Game Developers Choice Awards game of the year. One of the things that stood out about the game was it’s innovative Nemesis System that allowed for unique and interesting orc captains to be randomly generated in the game. The orc captains would also build enmity with the player character and remember the player’s actions.

It is unclear as of yet if there will be any more innovations, but if the great mix of combat and stealth in the first game, along with the Nemesis System, make their way back into Shadow of War, it’s safe to say that it will be another fun game.

Thankfully, it looks like gamers will not have long to wait to step back into the hostile battlefield of Mordor, as Middle Earth: Shadow of War is given an August 22 2017 by the trailer.

Nintendo Switch: Pros and Cons Before Release

Cover photo credit: Nintendo

The Switch appears to be changing everything when it comes to mobile gaming. The system is doing things that have never been done before. However, not everything is perfect about this new console, and there are a few things that should be looked at before putting up the $300 for the new console.

1. Power

The Nintendo Switch promises to have more power than a 3DS, and the games that have been shown to play on the Switch look beautiful, so graphics and power may not be that much of a concern. However, the Switch is not just a mobile gaming device, it is Nintendo’s new console, so if one were to compare it to the PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, it does not stack up. It falls so short that the developers at Respawn laughed at the notion of making Titanfall available on the Switch, and many other developers see it as a problem too. Now, to many gamers, like myself, graphics are not the most important part of games, so this is not an issue; but many players consider graphics to be very important, and they might want to think twice about the Switch.

Gray Portable

2. Battery Life

The stated battery life of the Switch is 2.5-6 hours of game time. This is a problem for some people because larger games like Zelda are most likely take up the most power, making it closer to that 2.5 hour margin. That may seem like plenty of time until one considers that many wish to use the Switch because they travel a lot and don’t have access to outlets in a plane or on the go. This is also less battery life than the 3DS which lasts a minimum of 3.5 hours. Fortunately, though, the Switch is easy to charge. The device itself charges when put in the doc, and the controllers charge when attached to the device. It also looks like there will be a car charger available for purchase. The whole charging process is pretty streamlined, but if the 2.5 hours of battery life is too short for you, this might not be the mobile gaming system of choice for you.

Joy Con Pair Blue/Red

3. Pricing

The Switch comes with the dock, console, two Joy-Con controllers, Joy-Con grip for playing with the system docked, an HDMI cable, an AC adapter and wrist straps for the controllers. This is all for only $300, which is a nice, generous price, especially at launch. The only problem is if players want to expand their arsenal of accessories. A set of two Joy-Con controllers sell at a steep $80, and one Joy-Con (either right or left) can be bought for $50. These are pretty steep controller prices especially considering how small they are. The Switch’s Pro Controller, which is comparable to a $60 Xbox One controller is $70. Also, with the Switch’s mobility, it would be nice to be able to have multiple docks at different TV’s, but the price of the dock and it’s cords alone is a whopping $90. Of course, being content with everything that comes with the $300 price tag is an option.

4. Games

The most important part of any gaming console is the games available on it. Sadly, just as was the case for the Wii and Wii U, the Switch is missing much 3rd party support, so do not expect to play your favorite non-Nintendo games on the console. Bethesda and Ubisoft have said they would make games for it, though. More importantly, many exciting Nintendo properties are coming. Breath of the Wild looks absolutely breath-taking (pardon the pun). A brand new 3D Super Mario is on the way too, and it looks gorgeous. The fact is, there is no other place to play great Nintendo games than on a Nintendo console.

Summary

Whenever it comes time to make a purchasing decision, one must figure out what is most important to them. If someone wants the most cutting-edge graphics quality system, the Switch is not for them. The Switch is, however, the highest level of mobile gaming ever seen, though, and it looks to have beautiful games. Sadly, the price of accessories are steep, so it may be worth the wait to see if Nintendo lowers the pricing in 6 months or a year.  Also, it is always smart to wait until something has been released and other people have the chance to try it to give their opinions. However, if the games at launch look interesting to you, and you think the $300 is worth it, go ahead and give it a shot.

Thanks for reading, and God bless.