My E3 2018 Notes

I had a lot of fun co-streaming all the E3 events on Twitch. It will definitely be something I start to do more of in the future. I saw a lot of new games I’d like to give a first try. I’ve taken notes on what I found most interesting at E3 2018. I think Bethesda had the best overall show, but Ubisoft was a close second. I’ve highlighted my favorite announcement in each category. Let me know what your favorites were in the comments!

  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Singleplayer open world RPG. Play as a Padawan that escaped the initial purge/Order 66.
  • Battlefield V – Pretty standard lobby shooter. Large scale area control mode coming, but no details.
  • Battlefont II -New squad system, thank goodness. Starfighter mode where you dogfight with hero ships! A new large scale sandbox where you capture command posts & attack/take out capital ships?! Sounds awesome!
  • C&C Rivals – Decent looking RTS mobile game.
  • Play to Give – ? Never heard of this before? Money gets donated to charities based on player hours played.
  • Anthem – Feb 22, 2019 launch. Open world, 4 person co-op. You wear Iron Man looking suits called Javelins. You can change javelins so you are not locked into a specific class. Only monetization is cosmetic, no loot boxes.

  • Doom Eternal – Further details in August at Quakecon! Takes place on Earth. I’m hoping for open world and co-op!
  • Fallout 76 – Open world! All humans are players! West Virginia setting, the good old south! Can co-op with your friends on servers filled with dozens of players. Can transfer servers anytime. Launches November 14. Preorder now starting at $59.99 USD.
  • Elder Scrolls 6 announced. No details. Open world and co-op could make this my first venture into the Elder Scrolls universe.

  • The Division 2 – Better graphics than the original. Boss’s armor falls off gradually as you do damage? 8 person raids coming. The Division 2 is set in Washington DC. Launches March 15 2019.
  • The Crew 2 – Open beta June 21st, June 29 launch. Preorder now for $59.99 USD. Open world across the entire United States! I really liked driving in Ghost Recon, could be a match made in heaven.
  • Skull and Bones – Takes place in the Indian ocean. You can Co-op PvE to take down enemies, then turn on each other to fight for the reward!
  • Rainbow 6 Siege – 35 million players! Parabellum is a free update.
  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – Singleplayer, but looked very interesting. Battle scenes looked very realistic, and doesn’t look like a lot of stealth gameplay. Male or female character. Releases Oct 3, 2018.

 

  • Jurassic World Evolution – Take control on micro scale! Pilot the helicopter, drive the jeep, fire the darts! Sickness systems gives the game some complexity. I received a copy from the devs at Frontier Developments and will have it on stream!
  • GTFO – 4 person horror co-op shooter. Stealth gameplay is a big part, making melee weapons important too! Very intense looking whether you’re sneaking or fighting. Only 2 maps so far, that’s how careful they are about level design! Wow! Baddies have kind of a Silent Hill type horror look.
  • PuBG – Massive War Mode? No details but might be good.
  • Mavericks: Proving Grounds – New (lol) Battle Royale game, but! with 1000 players?! Massive chaos could be a good spin.
  • Hunt: Showdown – New weapons, and a new monster – THAT YOU FIGHT IN THE WATER?!
  • Maneater – Play as a shark! SharkPG?! Emphasis on roleplaying as a shark! Open world ARPG where you stalk Florida’s waterways.
  • Satisfactory – Welcome to the new Factory Survival genre! First person gameplay, similar to a survival game where you gather materials and build. You (and friends if you bring them) build industrial complexes instead of bases. Kind of an economy sim.
  • Resident Evil 2 – Remake of original RE2. No other info beyond a release date of Jan 25, 2019.
  • Just Cause IV – 3rd person, open world shooter. Multiplayer for the first time in the series! December 2018 launch! Sounds just like Wildlands!

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

I think Solo was overall a good movie. Like Rogue One, the the Force took a backseat in the storyline. Jedi are awesome, but there’s nothing like a good blaster at your side! There was obviously lots of character building for Han, like why he shoots first, and just WTF a Kessel Run is. The actor playing Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, did a good job, although at times I felt like he tried to talk his way through a little too much. Harrison Ford is a hard act to follow though.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The movie opens on Corellia, my favorite place in the Star Wars galaxy. When the lightning flashes, you can see what looks like a Victory Class Star Destroyer under construction, which I have a problem with. Corellia is famous for it’s starships, but Star Destroyers are made elsewhere. Also Corellia isn’t supposed to be Imperial occupied, but that’s pre-Disney lore so I digress. It’s hard to un-learn things that you’ve embraced, so little things like this are hard to overlook. Young Han being owned by a gangster was fitting, and I loved the diversity of aliens involved.

As Han escapes into the welcoming embrace of the Imperials, getting his Solo moniker was kind of dumb moment I thought.  I also couldn’t help but wince at the ‘Three years later’ trope. The Solo movie is supposed to be a backstory, so why skip backstory during a movie about backstory? I would really have liked to see more of Han in the Imperial Navy. Han Solo is an excellent pilot, yet we really don’t get to see how he got there.

Meeting up with Chewbacca was bittersweet for me. You know the two are going to become friends, so that kills a lot of the suspense, but I thought Han speaking Shyriiwook was silly.  Like several parts of this movie, the scene felt a little forced.

Meeting the mercenaries, and participating in the heist was all great. Lots of close calls, blaster fights, and daring stunts in an awesome setting. I’m a sucker for snow, but something about barren landscapes in general juxtaposed with high-technology feels Star Wars-y. I like that we lost some of our ‘heroes’ because Star Wars has an over-abundance of plot armor. A dash of Game of Thrones will do it good.

Finally getting to meet top dog Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), and being reunited with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is where the movie actually started for me. Another long-shot plan is formed, and the stakes are raised when Vos puts Qi’ra’s neck on the line as well. Best of all, this leads to Lando Calrissian, arguably the best performance of the movie. You can hear Billy Dee Williams’ swagger in Danny Glover’s voice! I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of him in future movies. The famous sabacc games, and introduction of the Millenium Falcon were very well done I thought.  Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3 was hilarious, and another great addition to the legacy of droids with personality. Her full designation of L3-37 was quite fitting I think.

The Kessel assault and rebellion was new, but I’m not sure I enjoyed it. I loved getting to SEE this infamous section of space, and just how a Kessel Run is made. I just feel like this was another forced scene in that it really didn’t seem well guarded enough. The initial subterfuge seemed predictable. Also when Chewie ran off to help his family, I feel like it could have been done a little better. I got hit in the feels when Chewie left his family to stay with Han, and I think that moment would have meant a lot more if it had been elaborated on more initially. I think the escape scene from the black hole went on longer than it needed too.

The final showdown with Enfys Nest was a surprise. Although for the longest time I thought they were called Infest-Nest. Again, mind-boggling to skim over backstory in a movie about a backstory.  Anyway, I knew at this point that Enfys Nest was going to be the Rebellion. The Qi’ra vs. Dryden showdown was a bit meh, though the Teras Kasi reference was awesome. Han gunning down Beckett in cold blood was also a surprise, and I think will end up going down as one of the highlights in the franchise given all the ruckus about who shoots first in A New Hope.

At first I wasn’t sure it was Darth Maul in the hologram. I had to come back and start reading some spoilers before it clicked. I always thought killing Maul was a waste of an amazing villain. I feel mixed because I really don’t see how they can bring him back (yes, I know they did in the Clone Wars cartoon, but I never watched that, and it’s still a cartoon). I am willing to see their ideas though, because I really enjoyed what little I did get to see of Maul as a villain.

The final scene where Han wins the Falcon from Lando is another winner. I think it was at Maz’s castle? I was a little disappointed when he and Chewie rode off into the proverbial sunset straight to Jabba. I feel like, again, you’re cutting backstory out of a movie meant to fill in backstory. I wish they’d explore a little bit more of the unknown with Han Solo and Chewbacca before they rushed to meet their destiny.

I realize after writing this that I had a lot more problems with the movie than I realized. It’s almost like they wanted Solo to be two different things. The start of a series of movies exploring Han Solo’s history, or just in case it didn’t work out, a single movie to tell the story of Han Solo. They tried to do both, and didn’t really didn’t do a remarkable job of either. Still, I liked Solo better than The Last Jedi for several reasons I won’t go into. Suffice to say I feel like I’ve discovered a bias towards non-Force based movies. Han Solo is also my favorite character, which I think gives me a more critical eye, as well as rose colored space goggles. I’d place Solo in my top 5 favorite Star Wars movies. I most enjoyed the screen time Chewbacca got. While Han Solo may be my favorite, I’m quickly coming to appreciate what the wookie brings to the dejarik table.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Spoiler Filled Review of Episode VIII

Last warning of SPOILERS.

Ok, now let’s get into it. I spent three days over Christmas in a group text discussion with friends about what we liked, and didn’t like, in this movie. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and several good points were made. In the end though, this is going to be a very critical review of the movie. I did not like the movie, and rank it 4th from last in the series (including Rogue One). If you loved the movie, and don’t like reading opposing viewpoints to your own, I’d suggest moving on now.

Two And a Half Hours of Finger Wagging

All that social commentary. Businesses are evil, selling to both sides to make money! Save the animals, we may need them some day! Men are useless! I felt like I was being talked at the entire movie. I hate political or social commentary in any movie or any form of entertainment for that matter. This is Star Wars, and I just want to watch some epic lightsaber duels, thrilling space battles, and solve a galactic mystery. Keep your political and social agendas out of my movies. Ramming it down my throat doesn’t make me sympathetic to your cause.

Useless Men

It was really disappointing to see every male character portrayed negatively. Poe turned out to have a god complex, only trusting in himself and his ideas. In the end causing dozens of Rebel lives to be lost. The movie really went to great lengths to dump on poor Finn. He was yet again the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz. Why was his attempt to leave treated like desertion? He was trying to save Rey, and potentially Jedi Master Luke Skywalker who she was bringing back to help! Why could’t Rose and Finn just tell Poe how they met? Or why not just explain to Admiral Holdo why Finn needed to leave? Next, Finn is portrayed as naive because he didn’t know that Canto Bight was funded by the Imperial war machine? I’m pretty sure that no matter where you live, you have a pretty good idea of who your country’s enemies are. Not to mention, he was in the First Order and probably had more access than the average galactic citizen about who The First Order’s allies were.

Meanwhile every female character gets a solid, positive portrayal. Leia is the strong leader, Holdo is the brave sacrificial hero, Rose is the undervalued, hidden gem. Even Phasma wins the fight against Finn, only to lose when Finn catches her by surprise. Strong, positive female portrayals have never been a problem. Women have always been in charge of the good guys in Star Wars. Queen Padme was always ready to get into the trenches and fight herself. Leia was entrusted with the Death Star plans. Mon Mothma was in charge of the entire Rebellion (though only showed up on screen during Return of the Jedi). Jen Orso led the Scarif assault team during Rogue One. My only problem was that the gender line was used to determine who was heroic, and who needed to go sit in a corner and think about their actions for a little while. What does it say that the greatest portrayal of women in Star Wars to date comes only when every single man fails spectacularly? Can’t women look good and strong alongside equivalent male roles? How do you set the bar for women’s equality when men aren’t even participating? This isn’t a zero sum game. Men don’t have to fail for women to succeed, and vice versa. If Chewbacca had gotten more than 7 minutes of screen time, this wouldn’t have bothered me so much.

Awful Endings For The Old Cast

I also did not particularly like Leia’s depiction. She was always looking just so tired and ready to be done with everything. The Leia I remember was a fighter. Leia talked smack to Darth Vader and a high ranking Imperial about the Death Star, Leia grabbed a blaster and blasted her way into the trash compacter, Leia demanded Lando turn around to save Luke while the Millenium Falcon was being chased, Leia volunteered for a risky mission on Endor. I would never picture Leia just sitting around, no matter how old or worn out she was. There were exactly two moments when the old Leia popped up. First was when she stunned Poe Dameron, and second when she had the blaster rifle in the hanger as Finn and Rose came sliding in with the Imperial shuttle. Showing her as resigned to her fate like this really tarnished the character for me. Much the same way they did with Luke, but a lot more kind. Poor Luke Skywalker was portrayed as a coward and a quitter. Once Kylo ran off to Snoke, WITH OTHER STUDENTS, Luke just gives up, and let’s a Sith Master start his own little academy of doom, WITH LUKE’S OWN FAMILY. Wow.

I also thought the scene where she gets back to the ship using the Force was awful. Great idea, using her connection to the Force to save her and inspire the troops, but terrible execution. It was very over the top and tacky.

The Small Things

Where are all the aliens among the good guys? There was like one token alien, and a few minutes of Chewbacca, and a few seconds as Ackbar was sucked off screen into space was it. Half the freaking Jedi were aliens in the prequals. Yoda, Chewbacca, Nein Nunb, Admiral Ackbar all played important, albeit largely secondary roles during the original trilogy. “Many Bothan spies died to bring us this information.” Remember that? The Force Awakens had Chewbacca and Maz, but in this movie, there’s that one token alien in a couple scenes. Are the alien races now siding with The First Order?

There was a lot of humor in the first half. Rey broke something, the keepers got mad. Porgs, porgs, porgs. Sea cow milk. There has always been humor in Star Wars, but I think they went a little too overboard early in this movie.

How many names are the good guys going to go through? They change their names like they change their clothes. The Republic, The Rebel Alliance, The New Republic, and now The Resistance? But they still call themselves the Rebels? The names change, but the mission and people never do. It’s really dumb. This also really adds to my social commentary conspiracy theory with the whole #TheResistance vs Donald Trump thing on Twitter. Again, leave your personal politics out of your movies.

When BB8 got in that AT-ST and started firing, I about lost it. Droids cannot kill people, unless they are war droids. Which, if you’ll notice, have gone the way of the dodo. BB8 is not a war droid, and should not be killing anyone, stormtrooper or not. If droids could kill people, why do you need pilots for starfighters? Or AT-ATs?

Star Wars on a Treadmill

Nothing happened in this movie that progresses the Star Wars story. Rey started untrained, and she finished untrained. We hoped Luke would train her, and we still hope Luke trains her. Kylo started the movie conflicted, and ended conflicted. The First Order started the movie winning the battle against the Rebels, and finished the movie still winning the battle against the Rebels. It’s going to take a lot of work for Episode IX to justify The Last Jedi. Otherwise, you could just watch The Force Awakens, followed by Episode IX, and The Last Jedi will have been a monumental failure.

The Good Stuff

There is a lot of negative in this review, but I want to end on a positive note. I may not have liked the movie as a whole, but there were still some good things in the movie. I loved the Porgs. You see them nesting in the Millenium Falcon, so I hope we see them in the future. I think it’d be a cool little change to have the Porgs start injecting some of the humor that the droids did previously. I also liked that Rey’s parents were inconsequential. She’s not from royalty, she’s just a regular person like you and I. Or at least me, because maybe someone with royal ties may be reading this. I also like the little plot twist where Luke’s momentary impulse to kill Kylo resulted in pretty much everything going downhill. Even though the impulse was fleeting, and Luke ultimately decided not to kill Kylo, the entire Republic started to fall because of that misunderstanding.

Summing Up The Last Jedi

The story this movie tried to tell was good, but thanks to awful storytelling, The Last Jedi holds zero consequences for the Star Wars universe. The biggest thing that happened were the deaths of all those Rebels aboard the transport freighters. All those off screen deaths of nameless Rebels. Do you even remember what any of them were wearing? If any of them survived would it have changed anything? If all of them survived would it change anything? How about that blazin’ lightsaber battle amirite? Where TWO JEDI defeated a bunch of guards? Bet you never saw that coming. Who were those guards anyway? If they were still alive, what would they be doing? This movie did have some character building and arguably even some world building, but it was all just background reference material. Chewie and Rey remain my favorite surviving characters. I just wish they had gotten to go somewhere in this movie.

Steel Division: Normandy 44 Review

A Wave Styled World War 2 RTS

I don’t know how, but I forgot to review Steel Division. As I was reading through all the news about the upcoming free DLC, along with the Second Wave DLC, it just kinda dawned on me. This game comes from the makers of the Wargame franchise, but I’ve never played any of those either. This was a completely new experience for me, and I’ve enjoyed over 58 hours to date. This is easily one of my top three favorite strategy games to date. As usual, I never touched the singleplayer campaign, and went straight to multiplayer.

Steel Division: Normandy 44 Breakdown

For just $39.99, you can own one of the best World War 2 RTS titles out there. Steel Division: Normandy 44 is from Eugen Systems, the creators of the Wargame franchise. You get to play from the division level, commanding one of the historical armies that battled in western Europe during 1944. That includes the United States, France, Great Britain, and Canada on the Allies side, facing off against Germany on the Axis. Each country has multiple divisions from mechanized, to infantry, to mechanized infantry and more. The Second Wave DLC is coming soon, and is adding several more divisions for various countries. There are several different maps to play on, forcing you to make choices on what you bring and how you fight. Not every map will favor armor, for example. The standout feature of the game is it’s battle phase system. This is a three phase system where you are giving a strict point allowance to bring forward troops. Each phase that allowance can change based on your division and its historical performance. Some divisions may start with lots of points and scale down while others may start small and build up.

What Makes It Fun

Wow. Where do I even start? Probably my favorite part about this game is it’s adjustable scale. You can scroll in and out of the map to whatever scale you want. You can either watch the battlefield unfold in a series of icons, or scroll all the way in to watch your MG mow down enemy soldiers as they try to cross an open field. An adjustable view is phenomenal for those games where the fixed view is too close. The 10v10 games are AMAZING! They are HUGE, chaotic, suspenseful, and incredibly fun! I like the variety of different divisions. If you want to play an infantry division, paratrooper, or even with tanks, Steel Division has it all. I also am madly in love with their battle phase system. This actually starts while you’re setting up your forces, and deciding which phase you want troops and equipment to start arriving. During games, it gives that feeling of ‘desperate hope’, trying to hold out until reinforcements. When your troops come under attack, just before the next wave is able to deploy, there’s a rush that follows as reinforcements arrive to push back enemy forces! Another great feature is the sound effects; It actually sounds like a warzone. The machine gun fire, artillery, planes – it stands out more to me than in other games. It also increases and deafens as you scroll in and out, which is a nice touch.

What Makes It…Not

I only have one complaint about this game. Not all of it is the fault of the game either, so I wouldn’t weigh this as a full strike against Steel Division. When you get into the 10v10 multiplayer mode, whichever team drops the most player connections loses, and there is generally at least one or two. The team that wins is generally decided immediately. This is quickly followed by other players tilting and/or rage quitting. This of course leads to a 10 versus 7 or 8 if you’re lucky. The connectivity is hard to blame on the developer completely, some people just have terrible internet. The tilting is completely on the shoulders of the players though.

 

The Bottom Line

A lot of Steam reviews complain about game balance. I never really noticed a huge problem personally, though I did mostly play co-op versus AI. Those medium AI units were pretty difficult, let me tell you! I have noticed lots of balancing in the patches that have come out since official release, so there may be something to it. I still recommend the game for anyone wanting something fun or just to play casually. If you’re looking for some competitive hardcore multiplayer, this probably isn’t the game for you. If they put out Steel Division: Pacific tomorrow, I’d buy it based on this game alone. While they have a ways to go given that the paid DLC has just started rolling out, a Pacific (or really any other version) is something I really hope to see some day.

Oculus Rift First Impressions

How It Started

I was semi-following along with Amazon’s Prime day sales when I found one for the Oculus Rift. The deal was $399 for the Rift and Touch, with a $100 gift card. Wow. Unfortunately it had not only sold out, but was only for a very short time (Something like 4-9 AM EST). As I began to click around, I noticed the sale ad for the Summer of Rift and a $399 price tag. I thought about it for a day or so, as I didn’t want it to be an impulse buy. I obviously decided to pull the trigger, and I want to explain to you today my experience thus far.

Price

I think the price tag of VR sets is what keeps most people away. Normal price for the Rift+Touch is $599, and the HTC Vive is $799. I personally look at VR as a computer accessory. Like a joystick for flight games, or a headset for voice comms, it’s something thadds to your experience. I’ve spent $80 on Razer gaming mice, and over $120 on headsets, so that is kinda my guiding point. Given that it’s a different gaming experience, more in your face so to speak, I think paying more is acceptable. There are headsets on the $200+ range, and I’m sure you can spend just as much on mice and keyboards as well. I don’t think $399 is the price point we’re looking for, but it’s oceans closer than $599 and $799. Given that I’m doing all the content creation, I thought it would be a good way to liven things up for me and my audience. What finally made me decide to take the plunge was that it might help me stand out a little.

Delivery

The order process itself was easy, like most online shopping stores. What I immediately didn’t like however, was that I wasn’t given a shipping estimate. Not ‘a few days’ or ‘a week’, just nothing. This in turn meant that at some point there was going to be a surprise $399 charge on my credit card. I could have driven 30 minutes to a nearby Best Buy and had the thing in an hour, which is what made it frustrating. I wanted to make sure Oculus got the lion’s share of the money, supporting them directly. Finally after about a week, and more than one unhappy support request, I got a notification that my Oculus Rift was shipping. Smooth sailing from that point, as it arrived in a couple of days. It arrived in style too. The boxes that the Rift and Touch were stored in were top notch. I’m not usually one for packaging, but I was really impressed with the cases. They look like they’ll hold up longer than the Rift itself.

Online Market

I was really surprised at how full the Rift’s online game market was. There are even free to play games. While I have read that some of the games don’t offer much playtime, for example one game is only about 5 minutes worth of play for $2.99, their prices seem to reflect that. There are a lot of cheap games for the Rift. Of course Steam has plenty of VR games as well, and they seem to be priced pretty cheaply too. I’ll have to do a little testing to determine if there is the same value in VR games that there is in regular games as far as money per time spent goes.

Expectations versus Reality

My actual time spent in the Rift so far has been mixed, but positive. Learning the controls is like learning to play on a keyboard for the first time. Adding to the difficulty is that every game has its own movement and control scheme. Some games are more streaming/content creation friendly than others. For example, King Kaiju lets you assume control of a Godzilla-esque monster. While you get to see things FPS style, the audience simply sees a pair of hands. Most games so far share the same view, but it’s a buyer beware kinda thing. Thank goodness for Twitch and YouTube right? I’m enjoying VR gaming so far, though I do get some eyestrain if I play for too long. It’s a very cool experience, and different enough from regular gaming. If the trend continues, I think I will get my $399 worth.