Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

My 8 Favourite Chapters From Octopath Traveler

So I recently beat the final boss of Octopath Traveller, pretty much bang-on two months after launch and with a 90 hour save file to show for it. The game’s alright, I guess.

Lukewarm jokes aside, my deep appreciation for this itch-scratching JRPG gem lies mainly with the things for which it has been widely praised – Its astonishingly unique visuals, its wonderfully dynamic soundtrack, its deeply strategic combat. If people at large seem to have a bone to pick with Octopath, that bone is firmly lodged in the story department.

The game’s atypical approach to story structure – eight individual stories that stay separated from the wider party narrative outside of a handful of short optional skits – may irritate those who weren’t prepared to find such an approach in an RPG that appears so traditional at first glance. But as someone who has played a hell of a lot of JRPGs, I for one welcome the refreshing ability to tell some of the most focused, character-driven tales you can find in any title of Octopath‘s ilk. Bound by a less plentiful budget than is usually afforded to more known Square Enix RPGs, the game’s writers had to employ a simple combination of rudimentary animations, on-point musical cues and tactfully distributed voice acting to sell eight different four-chapter stories despite repeating a very similar contracted three-act structure 32 times.

Sometimes this works better than others, and though factors like the order in which you see them (the game is very open) and your own personal tastes and background will determine which of Octopath‘s story chapters stand out most for you, these are the eight that I enjoyed the most. Spoilers obviously abound, so read on only if you’ve finished the game or don’t plan on playing it any further / at all.

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8. Cyrus Chapter 2

Ah, Cyrus. As one of the later characters I met on my journey, I initially found his idealistic head-in-the-clouds indifference to the feelings of those around him to be a grating character trait, but by the time his introductory chapter is over that same trait has been turned into a joke at his expense and he is suddenly an endearing, not to mention mechanically essential, part of the octo-squad. His second chapter beats his first one onto this list, however, thanks to the way it uses this endearment to maximise the impact of a shockingly macabre turn. In the mining town of Quarrycrest, you get to see the full range of Cyrus’ strictly-academia reactions to everything from light jabs at his obliviousness to demonic blood rituals. If you haven’t done any third chapters by the time you see this one, the ghastly introduction of supernatural body horror into the world’s lore makes for some decently-paced foreshadowing.

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7. Tressa Chapter 2

The other major chapter taking place in Quarrycrest takes on a rather different tone. It sees the wholesome, naive aspiring merchant Tressa attempt to make her fortune by selling shiny gems in a town ultimately under the control of a despot of sorts who believes that very fortune belongs to him by right. It builds to the confrontation with said megalomaniac by first introducing one of Octopath‘s best supporting characters, Ali. A cocky young merchant with an existing bag of tricks and sales techniques, Ali serves initially as a cheeky antagonist and eventually as an ally against the larger evil at hand, in both cases encouraging tremendous growth from Tressa. Though more of his character is developed in later chapters, in Quarrycrest his relentless-yet-principled attitude to the art of selling solidifies him as an indispensable addition to the game’s considerable secondary cast.

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The Whirlwind That Was E3 2018

E3 week is over for another year! The conferences have come and gone, the show floor has closed, the Youtubers and game journos have pieced together their wrap-ups and are now piecing together their minds with some well-earned rest. So it’s time once again for me to pick out the trends of the show and throw forward my own general thoughts on the delirious highs and confusing lows of the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

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Samurai Spirit Abounds

Every year at E3 there’s always a videogame feature or aesthetic concept that seems to rear its head suspiciously frequently. Examples from past years that come to mind include the neck-snapping animations of 2013, the dog companion focus of 2015 and of course the piracy outbreak of last year. This year pundits were ready for the deluge of “battle royale” mode additions to both existing major franchises and new projects, but aside from the very first game of E3, Battlefield V, that would-be trend was nowhere to be found. Instead, the feudal Japanese period stepped up into the thematic void with considerable style. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the much-discussed next game from Dark Souls developer From Software, led the charge and evoked imagery from last year’s runaway success Nioh. It was fitting, then, that Nioh 2 also brought the samurai goodness later on in the week. However the decidedly AAA polish of Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima probably took the greatest share of the conceptual spotlight, presenting an absolutely jaw-dropping interpretation of a painterly Japanese countryside soaked in blood and fire.

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Live Music, Live Music Everywhere

What do you do when some of your colleagues and competitors are putting forth pristine, pre-curated, glitch-free video presentations? You leverage the unique strengths of the live platform and you leverage them hard. Bethesda, Ubisoft and especially Sony really went in on the idea of live music performances during their 2018 shows. The former even performed an entire song at the top of proceedings courtesy of Andrew W.K. and a live band. Ubisoft’s almost-annual Just Dance series medley was moved to the top of the French giant’s own spectacle, which was odd but arguably a smart move given how previous instances have affected pacing. Sony packed two separate instrumental performances with tonal ties to two of the company’s biggest games, while the entirety of its Dreams footage consisted of adorable/unsettling animated creatures blaring their own musical creations. Your mileage may vary on the value of these interludes but if you ask me they added just the right amount of E3 zaniness. Continue reading

Replaying Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Xbox One X in One Day – A Reloaded Report

That’s a mouthful.

I come to you on this day, in this year where I seem unable to play anything but old games, with another old game. This time, in an attempt to force some words onto the keyboard, I do so in the form of a self-imposed challenge.

The day? April 23rd. I’ve given myself 24 hours, knowing that I have another day off afterwards to sleep in if this gets out of hand.

The idea? To play the Nintendo 64’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day – one of my all-time favourite videogames – in a format I have never experienced before and under a time limit in keeping with the game’s theme.

The inspiration? The release of original Xbox remake Conker: Live & Reloaded on the Xbox One family of systems in mid-April this year, meaning I finally get to play it after fifteen years of unresolved jealousy at original Xbox owners and the odd serving of sour grapes.

The goal? To see how it holds up, naturally, but also to try my hand at a stream-of-consciousness style of writing.

Let’s do this.


Pre-Challenge The download size of the game was a little heftier than I was expecting at roughly 5GB, but I really have no point of reference for original Xbox stuff. Those fancy character fur shaders must have been mighty space-heavy back in 2005. There is the matter of all the recently-released backwards compatible Xbox games running at 16x their original pixel count on Xbox One X, but to my knowledge there wasn’t a lot of texture replacing going on, so the file size wouldn’t have been inflated all that much. Anyway, I had to wait more than I had initially budgeted time for. Alas.

Pre-Challenge The main selling point of the Bad Fur Day remake when it first launched, apart from the graphical improvements, was the entirely fresh Xbox Live-supported multiplayer. Sadly Microsoft hasn’t re-launched any servers to coincide with these new OG Xbox titles (why would they?) but the game supports a mode against AI bots, so I decided to give it a quick spin before the day of the main run. Scrolling through all the maps and character classes hurt just a tiny bit, because the whole shebang looks like exactly the kind of thing I would have loved to play in its heyday.

Class-based, objective-heavy gameplay in the mid-2000s a la the original Star Wars Battlefront (which is also releasing via backwards compatibility this month) would have been incredible, especially given the artistic similarity to the already excellent and well-worn splitscreen modes of the N64 BFD. This new multiplayer suite even has a story from the looks of things! But I could never justify buying an Xbox just for one game (or two, maybe, counting Halo: Combat Evolved). If I had been five years older, though…

05:49 In the game, Conker starts bleary-eyed and hungover, and while I figured a heavy night of drinking might not be wise before this challenge, starting early was always going to be the way to go. Immersion is one thing, but there’s also the matter of time and its perpetually short supply. Truth be told, I made my brother do this challenge a few years ago with the N64 original, and while he had never finished the game before that day, he also wasn’t pausing frequently to write about his thoughts, and he went rather definitively into the A.M of the following day. I’m not big on binge gaming in general, usually needing to get up and do something else after two or three consecutive hours, so I expect to face some motivation challenges over the course of this day. It’s too early to boil the kettle and wake the house up so I splash my face with some new icy face gel product, grab my brand-relevant Sea of Thieves Xbox controller, and get stuck in.

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7 Things We Learned At E3 2017

Somehow another whirlwind year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo is over, and with our collective wallets looking nervously over their shoulders once more, it’s always fun to work out the trends that define the year’s most bombastic videogame event. Doing so is one of the clearest ways we have of determining where the larger industry is at during a given year, so here are my takes for 2017:

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We’ve Been Spoilt in Recent Years

Judging by the prevailing consensus on the suite of 2017 E3 press conferences, you’d swear almost nothing good was announced – Never mind the complete and utter deluge of news. Looking at all the new games, new footage and new details we have been inundated with over the last week is an exercise in pure exhaustion – with future-minded budgeting an exercise in futility – and yet the lack of so-called “hype moments” has left many feeling slightly empty. Of course this was inevitable, especially regarding Sony, as after two consecutive years of bombshell-laden shows lacking release details and/or real footage, the company’s proverbial chickens have come home to roost. Hype moments did arrive (see below) but when they don’t come from the current industry leader, the impact ain’t quite the same. Nonetheless, I genuinely believe that all things considered, 2017 was a pretty great E3 to watch, mostly because…

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(Almost) Every Publisher is Improving Their Stage Game

There’s no guarantee that this trend won’t reverse immediately next year, but when compared to 2016, the majority of the E3 conferences have largely improved in leaps and bounds when it comes to window dressing and pacing. EA didn’t seem to get the memo, but Microsoft and Ubisoft seemed to take direct notes from Sony’s remarkably snappy game-after-game 2016 structure, while Bethesda seemed to look more to a Nintendo Direct-style format by wrapping their titles in a charmingly consistent theme park aesthetic. Sony, meanwhile, took what they did last year and cranked it up by matching each major game showcase to a specific mix of lighting tricks, props and even live actors, as Nintendo squeezed a few megaton announcements into the company’s shortest show ever. It’s easy to forget that 2017 brought us fewer awkward stage interactions and irrelevant media distractions than we’ve had in recent memory, which is surely worth acknowledging.

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My 10 Favourite Reveals From E3 2015

And so another year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone, and I have to say this one was a real peach. Despite an astonishing number of pre-show leaks, there were still some real megaton surprises on show, while known titles just got better and better in prospect. Here are my picks of the event.
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10. I Might Actually Be Into Fallout 4

I’m not a Western RPG guy. I’ve tried to get into them over the years, but for one reason or another, it just hasn’t happened. I knew Fallout was a big deal, but the hype around and New Vegas came at exactly the wrong time in my life. The extended gameplay reveal of Fallout 4 at Bethesda’s E3 press conference, however, has my interest well and truly piqued. The customisation options are off the charts, and man, those base building mechanics alone…


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9. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros Looks Fantastic

I’ve made no secret of my affection for Nintendo’s “Mario RPG” franchises on this blog in the past, so to see both of them merged into one incredibly crazy 3DS game is a bit of a treat to say the least. The opportunity for the kind of quirky, often hilarious banter both series are known for is clearly ripe. The game is coming this year, too, which is a very nice bonus even if there are so many games oh my goodness so many games TOO MANY GAMES TO PLAY.

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Get KE3N

It’s almost time for yet another annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, which still seems to bring the goods again and again even in today’s leak-heavy internet age. This year, instead of the customary five press conferences, we have eight to take our sleeping hours away. EIGHT. Like, eight of them. If you plan to watch them all, best of luck to you. What a treat, though!

Once again for those Sydneysiders and Melbournians (etc) who are keen to watch any of the conferences but can’t be bothered looking up and cross-referencing time zones to work out when they have to get up, I’ve written them up right here, so look no further.

All times are in AEST.
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12noon JUNE 15TH
BETHESDA

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: The recently released console versions of The Elder Scrolls Online, the long-awaited Doom reboot, plenty of information on the juggernaut that is Fallout 4.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: Dishonored 2 would be very nice indeed.
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2:30am JUNE 16TH
MICROSOFT

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: Single player gameplay debuts for what could potentially be the best line-up of console exclusives this holiday season – Forza 6, Rise of the Tomb Raider, the Remastered Gears of War and Halo 5: Guardians. Not to mention the reveal of Rare’s next big game.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: Specifics on Quantum Break‘s release plans, a significant slice of attention towards awesome indie titles like Cuphead and Inside.
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6am JUNE 16TH
EA

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, the first official gameplay showings from Mirrors Edge: CatalystStar Wars Battlefront and the new Criterion extreme sports game, the shape of the new Mass Effect, sports games aplenty.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: The other Star Wars game. The one Amy Hennig is working on.

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8am JUNE 16TH
UBISOFT

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: The normal serving of Assassin’s Creed and Just Dance footage, more info on The Division and Rainbow Six Siege, some as-yet unknown surprise that will inevitably get everyone talking about how cool it could be.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: Same as last year – a new Rayman game, or the reappearance of Beyond Good & Evil 2.

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11am JUNE 16TH
SONY

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: Project Morpheus, the insane success of the PS4, Uncharted 4, Drawn to Death, Tearaway Unfolded, new Destiny stuff, lots and lots of juicy third party/indie partnerships.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: Persona 5 please. Lots more indies on Vita, too. And seriously, where is Gravity Rush 2?

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2am JUNE 17TH
NINTENDO
(via “Digital Event”)

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: Always the toughest to predict, but surely at least the new Star Fox game for Wii U, plenty of new amiibos, that leaked Hyrule Warriors 3DS port, the next main Pokemon game, Splatoon DLC plans, Mario Maker.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: It’s about time for a new Metroid game. Also, please please please let that Paper Mario rumour be true…

NOTE: Nintendo is doing their normal thing again and spreading their content out over the length of E3. These additional times might be useful for Nintendo fans:

12:40am June 15th: Dedicated Super Smash Bros for Wii U / 3DS “New Content Approaching” Live Stream

8am June 15th: Nintendo World Championships 25th anniversary edition

June 17th-19th (schedule TBC): “Treehouse Live @ E3” Presentations

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3am JUNE 17TH
SQUARE ENIX

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: A solid chunk devoted to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the unveiling of the long-teased new Hitman game, my potential game of the year Just Cause 3, some Heavensward: Final Fantasy XIV mentions, that new online robot shooter Figure Heads.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: With the confirmed lack of Final Fantasy XV at E3 this year, surely there’s some big Kingdom Hearts 3 stuff to show?

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10am JUNE 17TH
PC GAMING SHOW (Presented by AMD and PCGamer)

THEY WILL TALK ABOUT: Plenty of tech talk, Epic’s highly anticipated Fortnight, who knows what else? It’s the longest and most diverse conference on the schedule, so let’s hope it’s also one of the most exciting.
I HOPE THEY TALK ABOUT: Overwatch, Overwatch and more Overwatch. Come on, Blizzard, let’s get the whole world hyped.

Xbox One vs PS4 Impressions

Yes, I’m that guy – I had to have both.

Awww, look at them just co-existing harmoniously...

Awww, look at them just co-existing harmoniously…

The next generation of gaming is now well and truly here, with the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One joining the 3DS, PS Vita and Wii U in one big dysfunctional gaming family. At the time of writing I have had just over a week with the Playstation 4 and a fortnight with the Xbox One, meaning I am just about ready to talk about what has and hasn’t impressed me about the brand new consoles. I’ve divided things into sub-headings for easy reference. Note that most of these photos were taken very late at night with a combination of caffeine, minimal sleep and of course excitement, so they are a little on the awful side if you look at them too closely.

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