Beta Impressions

So apparently Crystal Dynamics decided that there would be a beta this weekend for their new Avengers game if you had enough faith in the property, and their development of it, to pre-order.

It’s not exactly how I remember the dialogue from that level but the point stands.

Since the first E3 trailer I’ve been skeptical at best about what the end result of this game would be only sure of the fact that it would have an insane amount of marketing behind it and due to Crystal Dynamics it would probably look pretty good. As far as the actual mechanics of it I assumed it would be competent but rushed and include a lot of good ideas that were not fully realized for a myriad of factors.

While it’s not perfect I have to say… I was wrong.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. The controls are sluggish and unresponsive especially in the wake of playing something like Ghost of Tsushima which, while not as hard as something like Sekiro or Dark Souls, requires a certain amount of pinpoint timing and reflexes to master the combat. On the other hand while Avengers starts you out with the ability to perfect dodge/parry and counter the mechanic is lost in a game that seems to want to be an arcade brawler like MUA 3 but slower and more technical. Made worse by the fact that attack indicators can get muddied or lost in showers of particle effects, destructible environments and rag-dolled enemies and worse, a target lock that sits directly over top of them. In addition to that the game desperately wants you to be mashing the attack buttons but will often punish you for doing so when you try to dodge only to realize you’re stuck in a combo animation.

Now granted I have been playing on Brutal difficulty which generally forces players to eschew the “fun” way to play the game and instead requires you to think and act tactically to pick apart encounters. Which is fair, however again I feel they could have done a better job balancing the difficulty against what is admittedly a very enjoyable combat system that suffers from it’s own mixed messaging. As always your mileage may vary so don’t just take my word for it. To the games credit even at parts where I got stuck trying to solve certain encounters I had fun retrying until I managed to beat them. As frustrating as it can be it did manage to keep me engaged throughout.

On the control side the camera can be a bit of a nightmare although with third person brawlers that is sort of a given and with the myriad ways the characters move it was probably difficult to find a balance that worked for most of them. Hulk especially suffers while on indoor maps which unfortunately is a large portion of time you spend with him in the beginning of the beta. At first it’s fun to wreck rooms while throwing enemies around but soon it’s just a battle to see what is going on as you leap around claustrophobic laboratories trying to regain your bearings. To that end there are an impressive amount of options to customize things like camera snap-back, view distance, auto-aim etc that I feel most people should find success tweaking it to their liking. For the slightly pickier among us it will probably still lack some of the option granularity we normally prefer.

Lastly there are some QTE style moments as you progress through what serves as the beta’s prologue but it’s entertaining and flows well and quickly enough that I don’t think it will be too big an issue.

Monetization. I know this is the boogeyman we’ve all come to fear these days and unfortunately it is alive and well in this game with the one tiny sliver of hope that it seems to be strictly limited to cosmetics. All of which also seem to be able to be earned through the regular course of playing the game with the option to purchase currency to rapidly acquire things you may want for your favorite characters. I am notoriously against predatory monetization but unfortunately for those of us who advocate against it but still have to live in a world where it’s very prevalent, this is as good as it gets for now.

Now, for some of the good.

The combat and mechanics of each character are distinct, varied and hugely entertaining to play with. Few things in recent memory have been as fun as using Hulk to pick up an enemy to beat other enemies to death with. I also cannot stress this enough the enemy you are using as a weapon also takes damage as you hit things which means the stronger the enemy you pick up is, the longer they last. Because of my morbid curiosity I did test to see whether or not they take damage if you swing them to destroy pieces of the environment.

They do.

Even for as straight forward as the Hulk is in combat he is immensely fun to use and does pretty much all the things you expect and want him to do which should be enough to please fans of the character and people just looking to enjoy the game.

Next up is Iron Man and I have to say I cannot believe it took this long to get a game which actually makes him fun to play. I spent a decent amount of time with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 because I enjoyed the previous games and mechanically Iron Man was about as boring as it got. For some reason most if not all his iterations lack melee moves or worse lack the sort of integrated combat style he’s known for. Iron Man is at his most entertaining when he combines brawling with the use of his repulsor blasts, smoothly alternating from one to the other. In this game, for me at least, they finally have the mix right where Tony can mix it up in close combat before transitioning into some brutal juggling with his repulsors. I was completely ready to ignore Iron Man for the majority of this game but he very quickly shot to the top of my Will Use As Much As Possible list.

Well done, Crystal Dynamics.

Good old Captain America is in the lineup and again the combat is incredibly fun, so far where I am at I’ve only gotten the chance to use him once but he is very well realized. Mixing acrobatics with his aptly named super, Brooklyn Brawler he represents the Cap we’ve come to all know and love as played by Chris Evans. What I find surprising is that for as much as I liked Cap I think he’s probably middle to low on my list of favorites so far. It’s a shame since usually he’s the one I settle on in Marvel team up games because he’s generally one of the more balanced in melee and ranged but not as much the case here.

Black Widow has the honor of being the character to take you through your first boss fight which I wont spoil although I believe they appeared in a trailer already, but just in case. Her arsenal of skills is much as we remember sporting a pair of pistols, electrified tonfa and a dizzying array of acrobatic moves to keep your enemies off-balance. One thing I want to mention in particular here is how familiar a couple of the boss encounters are to the duels in Ghost of Tsushima where you go one on one in a battle of moves, parries and, counters looking for openings to get in for damage. Sometimes they are designed that way and other times you simply work to clear battlefields of low level trash so you can go mano-a-mano with a bruiser. Either way I am a huge fan of how they turned out.

The God of Thunder makes an appearance of course and much like the others he’s in fine form throwing Mjolnir to and fro through enemies here and there. He’s the first character you get your hands on and then sadly for the last little while I haven’t had a chance to play him again so my impressions of him were pretty brief. He seems fun and also had one of the more enjoyable audio cues when you hear Mjolnir clang off of enemy skulls. I look forward to trying him out a bit more in depth and getting a better feel. For the moment at least I’m intrigued, we’ll see where it goes if he’s available to play anymore in the beta at all.

Last but absolutely not least is someone I wasn’t expecting to see in this game but am absolutely delighted she’s in it, Kamala Khan a.ka. Ms. Marvel. She was probably one of the wackiest superpowers but that in no way diminishes what a riot she is in this game. Basically it’s Elastigirl from The Incredibles gone serious, although not too serious since she’s a teenager and newly minted member of The Avengers. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is that you’re getting into with her character but she is just plainly a joy to play and not only that but she packs one of the only healing abilities I’ve seen thus far in the game. Definitely one of my top characters to use going forward after release.

Overall there is still much more to cover including gear loot, rarity, skill customization, the story, multiplayer (Which I have no tried properly yet.) and probably a few things I haven’t even seen yet. For now my overall impressions are very positive in spite of my disagreement with some of their mechanical implementation. I hope that some of that might get smoothed out at the final release but since we’re a little less than a month away I’m fairly sure this build is as close to the final one as we can get save for a few bug fixes here and there. I don’t think that I can recommend for sure that people should pre-order the game but if you’re on the fence I definitely think you should keep an eye on it and look for further reviews from sources you trust.

One of mine tends to be Skill Up and he had this to say today–

While I am disappointed that his first impressions of it were so negative it just goes to show that even people you trust may not always know what you will and wont enjoy. I look forward to his video on it because I always like to hear opinions that differ from my own but personally, I actually am looking forward to the release of this game. I think it will be a title that will entertain me for a while, warts and all, and sometimes that’s all I need in a game.

I hope your weekend is going well and you’re getting plenty of time to relax. Until next time take care of yourselves and I’ll talk to you soon.

  • Anthony

It’s Frīġedæġ

And it couldn’t come soon enough.

Today Sophycles of Histastrophe! fame posted the above news and I have to say I was initially ready to dump on the idea due to the movie being a disaster and the fact that they’re still pushing a sequel to it. I won’t lie, I sometimes have a hard time separating my hatred for one part of a property from something that may not have earned that level of ire yet. The more I thought on it though it actually seems like a fairly fresh idea regardless of how saturated the market is with superhero properties, both excellent and horrifying. While Suicide Squad the movie may have had a rough go of it I can actually see myself getting excited about seeing it as a game property and thats before we even touch on the pedigree of Rocksteady and their history with the Arkham games. While not all perfect you’d be hard pressed I think to find any superhero that has been done justice like Batman was in that series of games. So for now at least we can rest that the idea of a Suicide Squad game or series of games is in the best hands it can be and I am excited to see what they come up with.

Personally I hope that they find an interesting way to work in the squad aspect of the property because even with recent releases like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 we haven’t really had a truly current or next gen ensemble experience. Grand Theft Auto 5 I think had one of the best iterations of an ensemble cast in recent memory and I’ve been waiting for another game to elaborate on it. Suicide Squad I think might be the perfect opportunity to explore that strange area of Me, Myself and, I couch co-op. I can’t say I’d be angry if they included actual co-op either online or local but I still think there is more that can be done in that weird solo co-op space.

Now for the really important question, as far as starting roster of characters goes… who would you want?

I don’t honestly think that my first pick needs any introduction but for our leading badass I’d love to see none other than Dr. Harleen Quinzel a.k.a. Harley Quinn

The cover of Batman: Harley Quinn #1 — For my money it’s unfortunate there is no version of this cover sans the Joker, at least that I know of. It’s one of my absolute favorite depictions of Harley. Either way it’s a stunning piece of art.

I won’t waste your time with a list of reasons why but suffice it to say if you’re my age and you grew up with Batman The Animated Series then Harley Quinn should have a special place in your heart. Other than that I don’t know what to tell you, she’s awesome and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching her grow as a character over the years. I hope this is yet another step in her journey that we can all enjoy.

Second pick for me goes to King Shark

I’m not even sure he can read.

I’m going to be straight with you, I didn’t get a chance to own any Street Sharks toys as a kid and I don’t think anyone even remembers the show anymore let alone wants to make a video game of it. And no, Maneater regardless of how hilarious it is, doesn’t count. So this is as close as I’m going to get and I won’t let anyone trample on my dreams.

Give him to me, Rocksteady, you know you want to.

Third I think I’m going to have to go with a woman who needs little introduction, Enchantress

I tend to have a soft spot for characters who struggle to control an evil aspect of themselves while trying to do good. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy characters like Venom so much in their strangely cruel but helpful ways, even Joker occasionally has a redemptive moment amidst the string of horrific crimes he commits. They are characters that will continually tease along that little bit of hope that one day they might overcome their darker sides and live a life of good. Naturally it will never happen but the point is that it could. The Suicide Squad is definitely a home for some perfectly ridiculous “villains” but Enchantress is definitely one with a better story and characterization than most.

Lastly the fourth spot for me is a bit of a toss up where I can’t help but want to even out this team of mostly close range brawlers with someone like Deathstroke or Deadshot because otherwise they won’t be able to raid worth a damn. On the other hand I kind of want to see Power Girl in the game, boob window jokes aside, just on the off chance we get to see a take on one of my favorite comic covers–

As odd as it seems Power Girl did spend an arc with the Suicide Squad and her interactions with Harley were always a real highlight and I think seeing them both in a game together would be fantastic. To be perfectly honest there are a myriad of characters you could throw into that fourth slot that be okay but hopefully Rocksteady will give us a varied roster to choose from so we can mix and match our own squads from the history of the comics.

I think that was the biggest news I wanted to touch on this week, other things that piqued my interest were a show called Lovecraft Country

I am a big fan of Lovecraftian lore and this looks right up my alley for numerous reasons including the cast and overall feel. Very excited to check it out in a couple weeks.

The other thing was that Horizon Zero Dawn released on PC and while the reviews for it have been a little mixed on the technical side it was one game I have not yet played but would really like to. It’s been on my to play list for a long time and I should probably remedy that.

I hope you all have had a good week and can look forward to a little down time and relaxation the next day or two.

Stay safe and until next time, have a great weekend!

  • Anthony

It’s Not Friday But the Week Is Over

Once upon a time when the end of the week rolled around I tried to do a wrap up of a few things that piqued my interest but didn’t really necessitate an entire post on their own. I scrolled around last night and today to see if any tasty carcasses had washed up on my news feed that I felt like commenting on but alas, not really. I don’t really feel the need to talk about the whole Tik-Tok controversy or Avowed supposedly being a new, denser Skyrim.

So we’ll take it slow this week and just talk about a game which has kept me coming back for a couple weeks now–

Ghost of Tsushima

It’s rare these days, at least for me, to run into a game title that there is little to no controversy about. It’s teased, it’s released and the general consensus is that it is excellent and we all move on. No real surprise in that games both terrific and terrible tend to fade from the topic of discussion much faster than ones which are inherently divisive. Ghost of Tsushima has to proved to be one of the former for me, it’s great.

What else can I say?

Not much unfortunately because I feel like it deserves to have something said about it, even repeated by those who have enjoyed it. To let the developers at Sucker Punch know that they succeeded in the best way possible, in my estimation, because people are too busy playing it to be picking it apart. I do not believe the title itself is revolutionary either in it’s mechanics or story although it does provide a few key improvements on certain RPG staples like it’s Divine Wind feature. We’ve all become painfully familiar with things like quest and objective markers in games as they are nearly ubiquitous as a design inclusion. They help you move smoothly from place to place in the game by never letting you get hung up or confused on what there is to do. Ghost of Tsushima dresses up these usually unimaginative HUD elements as the non-proverbial wind at your back as you run or gallop across the landscape. Admittedly it is a small thing and yet it adds so much to the overall seamless feel of the game world and how we interact with it.

The one thing I did want to touch on specifically was a particular mythic quest which are a small handful of long and somewhat difficult missions to unlock additional powerful equipment and abilities. Based on stories and bits of information you hear in certain locations around Tsushima by a musician named Yamato. One of these in particular I finished the other day was called The Six Blades of Kojiro which is a series of duels you fight all over the island. It’s hard for me to articulate exactly why but this series of battles was one of the most engaging things so far in my twenty plus hours with the game. Each one a beautiful set piece and challenge to overcome coupled with small bits of dialogue between Jin and his opponents. In the overall scope of the game the encounters themselves are brief but still manage to stand out even among some truly great story duels that are not optional.

I think for my money that is where Ghost of Tsushima truly hooked me by taking the time to give me these intensely personal moments amidst the ever mounting, almost comical, mountain of bodies left behind as Jin and I march north to confront the Khan. After all that I still find myself leaning forward and scooting to the edge of my seat when a duel comes up.

Like I said at the start there really isn’t much to say in general about the game, I could spend a long time nitpicking or trying to find the tiny nooks and crannies that haven’t been loved on by everyone else but there’s no point. If you have the time, money and, ability to play this game you should. Even if it doesn’t end up being your favorite of the year or even top five, although I can’t see why it wouldn’t be, for one reason or another I have no doubt you’ll at least enjoy what time you do spend with it.

When it comes to spending my own money that is all that I can really ask.

I don’t know what next week is going to bring but I figure I’ll leave you with some mini-painting progress pictures and what is up next for those.

First up is another set of stormtroopers although the bases are still unfinished, I haven’t decided exactly what I want for the flocking but it’s on the to-do list. Suggestions are always welcome, do we want some jungle terrain, desert, forest or god forbid… snow?

As far as what is coming next I figure we’re probably past due for some good old father-son bonding time.

Given the lightsabers and the uniqueness of the models I’d like to really focus on small details and lighting to make sure I do them justice, I have a few ideas that are just untested so we’ll see what happens.

I bit the bullet and bought my copy of DOOM so I can sit down and watch it, make notes and start cutting footage I need for the post. It’s still a bit down the road but the prep-work has started.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you all have a good rest of your weekend!

Talk to you again soon.

  • Anthony