Compiling my favourite games of all time

Around Christmas time I got an idea for a future article on this website; compile a list of my favourite videogames of all time. I mean what better way to demonstrate the sorts of games which I have enjoyed and always cherished? It didn’t sound that difficult however in reality I have found it one of the most time consuming pieces to write for this site.

Not just because of the sheer number of videogames that exist or I have played over the years. What makes the task much harder is actually limiting it to a finite number of games there by putting pressure to be very selective. In addition just knowing when nostalgia is biasing your view or recognising the ‘new hotness’ isn’t that great after all, is very tricky. It can also be really difficult to rank games in a particular order.

In one particular instance I can think of one long revered game that was considered genre defining, and yet I couldn’t decide whether I preferred it to a much less heralded more modern game in the genre. A game I loved just as much. It has been very difficult to separate whether I preferred the older game or whether its greater impact is weaken by the fact that actually I’ve probably played more of the lesser, modern game.

Either way I have at last completed the task. After months or slowly working on this list I finally got to a list of my top 50 favourite videogames of all time. It might not be perfect but for now is probably largely there. One of the great things about compiling your list of favourite videogames ever is that it can’t be wrong. It won’t be the ‘best’ videogames of all time just the ones I liked the most.

Of course even with that said no list can be complete unless you have managed to play every videogame that exists and therefore I’m sure my favourites will have gaping holes populated by games I’ve yet to get around to playing. But that might make interesting to keep updating the list and see if it does change over time.

Anyway over the next few weeks I am going to publish my list for people to agree, or more likely disagree with. On the list are likely to be some common and obvious games that most people love. However there will some more curious and surprising choices. And as mentioned this should help to define more about me and help explain why I like certain videogames more than others.

Generation 8.5

When the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X were first rumoured I was relatively negative as to their existence. As a then mostly PC player with occasional console use the introduction of these machines felt like a way for the manufacturers to increase profitability rather than meet a specific consumer driven need. However as the two year anniversary of purchasing a PlayStation 4 Pro has passed (over a year with the Xbox One X) I thought I would write down my musings on the new ‘enhanced’ consoles and my experiences with them.

I’ve written this a few times now, but PC gaming is getting more expensive. Rising prices on many components including Graphics Cards, CPUs and monitors amongst others have really dampened my enthusiasm for gaming on PC. Made worst in the UK as the value of sterling has decreased (something PC components seem very sensitive too). This meant that last year I transitioned away from buying games on PC and buying or rebuying them on consoles instead. I even downsized to a gaming laptop.

I have a pretty even spread of titles across both the Microsoft and Sony ecosystems. So obviously now more of my gaming time has been spent on console versions of games which has been reflected in this blog. And surprisingly what I’ve found is a much better experience than I thought. As primarily a Xbox 360 gamer last generation, I moved towards PC again around 2012 and had limited experience of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in their early days. It was Destiny that really made me play the new consoles but I think like many I preferred the better visuals, framerates and cheaper prices of games on PC.

The new consoles in my mind are more the machines we should have had at their release in 2013. What I mean is that the more powerful internals go some way to addressing the underpowered base consoles. And indeed on the hardware side it isn’t difficult not to admire the Xbox One X specifically. Smaller than the PlayStation 4 Pro yet very quiet and overall feeling like a more premium piece of hardware.

From a software point of view whilst the PlayStation 4’s dashboard remains relatively similar to its original version, the Xbox One X came with a changed and improved user experience. Unshackled from the Kinect the UI is faster, cleaner and nicer to use. Albeit still weaker than the Sony offering. Microsoft announced this week that it has stopped all Xbox One backwards compatibility work to focus on the new hardware. However Microsoft’s backwards compatibility is a massive strength and a great feature. Even recently I’ve been enjoying Mass Effect 3 and knowing games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic have been enhanced for the Xbox One X is a massive selling point. I love Microsoft’s efforts with backwards compatibility.

Often PC fans will joke about the lower framerates, resolution or graphics of consoles. However even as someone who has spent lots of time on certain PC games I can’t really say playing a game on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 bothers me that much. Take Doom (2016) for example. It might look slightly better on my PC and run at a higher framerate however it still looks great on my 4K TV particularly with the Xbox One X patch. I certainly don’t feel that the experience is in anyway worse. Right now it is hard to argue with the value offering of Sony’s and Microsoft’s consoles versus a PC. That isn’t to say that a console is the best solution for everyone however moving away from expensive PC hardware feels liberating.

And indeed even though many console games remain at 30fps there are an increasing number of PlayStation and Xbox One games at higher framerates now. Particularly eSports or multiplayer games. However there are some games which even allow a choice between higher framerate or resolution, such as the Xbox One X version of Rise of the Tomb Raider. With much better AMD Zen 2 CPUs next generation this will likely be something that only increases further.

Whether either enhanced console is worth it, is a subjective opinion. Some games don’t necessarily make the full use of their extra power and arguably the base experience is fine. However for me particularly in this era of 4K UHD and HDR the newer PlayStation and Xbox One consoles have come into their own and they have been a nice plus. Whilst I will always be a multiformat gamer I don’t regret buying these two machines. Although perhaps not without irony, as I begrudge the perpetual PC upgrade cycle, we might still see enhanced versions of the next PlayStation and Xbox in the future.

My thoughts on E3 2019

So another year and another set of E3 live streams passes by. Often I tend to keep up with E3 more by accident rather than passionately following events. However this year I’ve managed to see quite a bit and I thought I would write down my thoughts. Obviously the way things are presented to those of us not at E3 is probably a very different experience to those actually there. Particularly as we miss out on the show floor and playable games. That said I can only talk about what I saw and so outline my thoughts based on the conference schedule.

Google

Hard to criticise the Stadia showing. They have an impressive list of publishers, games and some influential people at the helm. The initial founders pack due in November this year seems to be good value (£119 in the UK). And the two types of account; Base (free) and Pro (£8.99 per month) make a lot of sense. Also they might just beat Microsoft to market. Like all these things success may depend on the service being good enough and latency deemed acceptable. But there are billions of Chrome and Android users out there.

Electronics Arts

Unless you were in to an existing EA game, the series of lengthy live streams wasn’t particularly notable apart from the unveiling of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. I am genuinely not sure what to think of this one although it was nice to see a fairly lengthy demonstration of the gameplay.

Microsoft

Microsoft have been praised over the last few years for their E3 shows. Even though they often are filled with CGI trailers, multiplatform games with very little new IP. Microsoft’s show format was the same this year although a few notable exceptions. Cyberpunk 2077 surprised with a release date and Keanu Reeves. It felt like the big standout from this show was just how impressive Xbox Game Pass has become. The new PC service has been well received and Microsoft were keen to remind us many games would be ‘day one’ on the service. Forza Horizon 4’s LEGO Speed Champions DLC looked brilliantly light-hearted and fun.

There was very little time spent on either xCloud or the announcement of new hardware. The Project Scarlet announcement seemed to mirror 2016’s Xbox One X acknowledgment. The hardcore fans probably understand the specifications Microsoft name dropped but the announcement lacked the impact of Sony’s recent instant loading demo.

Bethesda

Yeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!! Bethesda’s show used the lure of The Elder Scrolls Online freebies for those watching. Which is great although with short notice and a US friendly schedule perhaps there can a better way of accommodating non-US players in future (1.30am BST in the UK!). Last year Bethesda’s show was probably one of the more memorable. However this year most content shown was for existing games. In more ways than one Ghostwire: Tokyo stole this show. A great concept in the CGI trailer. Beyond this a lot of time spent on mobile games which I didn’t personally find interesting.

PC Games Show

Loads of interesting games shown, but I did like the look of Valfaris (2d retro style platform shooter like Contra), Griftlands, Cris Tales (just looks uniquely beautiful) and Songs of Conquest. Although there has been criticism of the Epic sponsorship this year, the format of this show does work really well. Particularly the presenters. I really enjoyed Larian Studios talking about how they’ve tried for a few years to get the Baldur’s Gate 3 licence.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft opened strongly with Watch Dogs: Legion gameplay. And then unless you are particularly invested in one of their existing games not much afterwards. Mirroring a larger trend with E3 this year. Personally disappointed if Rainbow Six Quarantine is just Co-Op PVE. As a solo player I would love a Rainbow Six game to play. Gods and Monsters might be interesting though we didn’t see anything of it.

Square Enix

Square Enix got off to a good start and had one of the better shows. Seeing Final Fantasy VII Remake in action and hearing the developers passionately talk about the game was excellent. Also loads of other games; Dragon Quest Builders 2, Dragon Quest XI (Switch), Kingdom Hearts 3 DLC, Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers, Dying Light 2, Outriders and Final Fantasy VIII Remastered. I liked the look of their overhead racing game: Circuit Superstars.

The only let down was ironically the Marvel Avengers unveiling. A poor trailer which probably lacked impact in part as it isn’t related in anyway to the iconic Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also didn’t help that Square Enix talked about lootboxes, business model, exclusive PlayStation 4 content and roadmaps before we’ve even seen the game.

Nintendo

A short and snappy Nintendo Direct where Luigi’s Mansion 3 opened the show and looked great. The anticipated The Witcher 3 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 also impressed. More was seen of Pokémon and Animal Crossing, although the latter is delayed until 2020. However perhaps the real measure of the success of the Switch is the flood of multiplatform games from third-party; Dragon Quest Builders 2, Alien Isolation, Minecraft Dungeons, Dauntless and Wolfenstein Youngblood etc. An impressive mix of old and new games sometimes releasing alongside other formats. And finally Nintendo confirmed a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A very good showing.

Overall

A quiet E3 which reminded me of the show in 2012 as games like Watch Dogs were shown before the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One became reality. From a trends point of view this years E3 Live Streams included; lots of CGI trailers, a lack of games probably due to the impending new consoles and number of existing Live Services games. Although there were a few games which I am interested in but perhaps the fact there isn’t much more provides a little relief for those of us that need to spend the next 12-18 months catching up with our backlogs.

My changing buying habits

As this year’s E3 is underway with loads of new videogames being announced I’ve recently thought that during the current generation I rarely buy videogames at release. I’ve written about this before but I wanted to do some further investigation to see if I could actually prove some of this.

Indeed since creating this website I had identified 14 upcoming games that I was most interested about in the 2018 and 2019 release schedules. And of those 9 have since been released. However I have only purchased two of those games; Marvel’s Spiderman and The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr. Crucially only the latter was actually purchased at release.

So I then looked into how many games were purchased by myself before or on the release date over the last four years. I found the following list of games.

  • Far Cry 5 Gold, Mar 2018
  • Monster Hunter World, Jan 2018
  • Destiny 2 Digital Deluxe, Sept 2017
  • Zelda Breath of Wild, Mar 2017
  • Forza Horizon 3 Ultimate Edition, Sept 2016 (2 days after release)
  • Destiny: Rise of Iron, Sept 2016
  • Doom, May 2016
  • Trackmania Turbo, Mar 2016 (6 days after release)
  • The Division Gold, Mar 2016
  • Fallout 4, Nov 2015
  • 6 MMO Expansions – all pre-ordered:
    • The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind (2017)
    • The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset (2018)
    • The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr (2019)
    • WoW: Legion (2016)
    • WoW: Battle for Azeroth (2018)
    • Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire (2017)

Findings

It means I have purchased a total of 10 videogames and 6 MMO expansions over the last 4 years at release.

  • An average of 4 videogames per year.
  • Only one purchased in 2019 (The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr).
  • 4 PC releases were all purchased from a reseller with fairly hefty discounts (GreenManGaming & Humble).
  • Only one purchase was physical (Wii U).

Even new consoles didn’t result in buying new games. With the purchase of an Xbox One X (Feb 2018) and PlayStation 4 Pro (May 2017) I didn’t buy any new games. Either playing my existing library or picking up games in sales. This seem different to previous hardware like my Wii U (2014 – 2017), launch PlayStation 4 (3 games) and original Xbox One (1 game) amongst others.

The last generation for comparison

Now unfortunately I don’t have numbers for the last generation of consoles, or before 2015 as it would take an immense number of hours to compile. However I know that I purchased large numbers of games at release – every Halo, Little Big Planet, All Forza’s, Super Mario Galaxy 1/2, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Battlefield 1943/3 etc. And this list would be massive. Particularly as the number of games I owned on Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 was over 200 at one point. On disc alone. And that is not including formats like Nintendo 3DS or Wii U where I also purchased numerous games as they released.

Indeed during the last generation many more games were cheaper and with much less monetisation. Buying games was the only way to get new games to play. Free-to-play or subscriptions hadn’t really landed yet. Also live services hadn’t happened meaning you tended to play a game and then move on to the next. Therefore I suspect games purchased at launch would probably average 15 to 30 a year. Maybe more.

So therefore it is probably undeniable that over the last few years I am buying less games at release and therefore less at full RRP. A downward trend over previous years before.

Conclusion

Of course some of this slowdown in buying games at release could be more about myself, i.e. getting older or being a parent. Or indeed having a huge backlog of games to play. However there are some clear patterns which definitely fall in line with the wider trends within video gaming.

  • I don’t shop at Retail anymore. Even when I buy physical games they are from online retailers.
  • I’ve fully embraced Digital on all formats.
  • There is a limit to what I will spent on single games. As the price gets lower then I am more inclined to take a punt on a new game. And therefore if I see something approaching or over £100 I’ll likely not bother as I worry about missing out on something with the ‘standard’ version.
  • Although I will spend more on a Live Service. Particularly those that are around for years, such as World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online.
  • Easier access to more games. With Game Pass, Games with Gold or PlayStation Plus I’ve got loads of games to play.
  • I’m not trading in games and therefore buying less. Something I would do a lot during the last generation. I think this is a major reason for declining retail UK sales figures tracked through GfK Chart Track.
  • I don’t ever pay full price for PC games outside of MMO expansions.
  • Live Services videogames are making me think twice before buying.
  • I have spent money on Free-2-play games. F2p and other business models are clearly disrupting the market.

So there we go. The short of it, is that I can be reasonably certain I am buying less games at release or at full price. However with Games as a Service and Live Services probably spending more but on fewer games.

Although I am certainly still buying more games though. But these are mostly digitally, often with big discounts after they have been out a while. And I don’t think that is a bad purchasing habit. Picking up the games cheaper, after bugs have been ironed out and business models become clearer (i.e. microtransactions introduce a month after release). It also feels a bit less bad if it takes longer to start playing a game. But it means that I may lose interest and desire to buy a game in the long-run. Something I have experienced recently with The Division 2.

Perhaps what is more interesting is whether this is the same for many other people and whether there are significant numbers who are all buying less games, but spending more on those we do play. Unfortunately that is not a question I can answer beyond my own spending habits.

The Epic PC debate

The ongoing debate about Epic Games Store (EGS) is getting boring and tends to go around in circles. There I said it.

The latest game to announce being a timed exclusive to EGS is The Outer Wilds, from developer Mobius Digital. A small indie game that used crowdfunding but has really angered backers who regard it as having gone back on previous promises to deliver the game on Steam at release. As more and more games have been confirmed as exclusive to EGS we continue to see a similar uproar from many PC gamers.

If you go to any internet forum or reddit there are those who see Epic doing good, creating competition and perhaps making Valve up their game when it comes to their dominance over PC gaming. Often stating ‘it’s just another launcher‘ or it is like Amazon Prime or Netflix streaming services. On the other side of the debate Steam fans see rising prices due to reduced key resellers, loss of features and forced exclusives.

Stitched screenshot of the Steam and Epic Games Store main store pages.

I understand both sides of the debate but do get bored at the often poorly made points of those defending Epic’s new storefront. You see EGS is far from another launcher. It’s a service, a platform, which is in effect a walled garden. No one knows whether it’ll even exist in five or ten years (*cough* Desura). And when one of these services no longer exists then your whole library of games is gone. Forever.

Comparisons with the streaming services like Netflix are nonsensical. With subscription services you are never emotionally invested in them. You watch your content and then stop paying if you wish. You don’t lose anything. On platforms like Steam or EGS you are actually buying games. You build up a virtual library of games on virtual shelves. As your spend more and the library gets bigger the perceived sunk cost becomes even more. It makes it difficult to detach from the service. Media streaming services like Netflix are actually closer to game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass or EA Access.

More often that not even when people explain the huge number of features that are available on Steam those on the Epic side don’t always acknowledge those points. Epic may well improve their offering but the list of features on Valve’s platform is immense. Even in the last year we’ve seen native DualShock 4 support, Proton (so Windows-only games on Linux) and a completely rebuilt Friends client (think Discord). The claim that Valve don’t work on Steam anymore seems to be based on personal opinions rather than actual fact.

For years Valve have been seen as the guardians of PC gaming, arguably even more than Microsoft. At a time when Microsoft was pushing the wholly underdeveloped Games for Windows-Live initiative, complete with plans to charge for PC multiplayer gaming. Valve were building a complete PC-based gaming ecosystem. Full lifecycle from store purchase to playing games. With new features like Big Picture Mode, Achievements, Community Market, In-Home Streaming, Proton Linux support, SteamOS, Cloud Saves, Broadcasting, Steam Works, Wishlist etc. If you use these features then the removal of them matters. Even though it’s a tiny audience some players may have been looking forward to The Outer Wilds on Linux. However as a game on a Windows-only client that leaves them in the dark for now.

Of course the 12% fees for developers on Epic versus the higher charges on Steam may help developers bring new games to market but consumers don’t necessarily understand or directly see the benefit. Something Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has noted. And it isn’t the first time PC games have been exclusive or paid to be kept away from competitors stores. Actually the Oculus Rift storefront for VR did this first. Furthermore it is arguably the only valid strategy Epic Games have to displace a mature and very established competitor. Consumers won’t buy games not on Steam unless you remove that choice. Exclusive content has been used for decades to entice gamers onto competitors products and services. And it is ironically competition, even if not as PC gamers might want.

Although I am a multiplatform gamer, unexpectedly I’ve found myself sucked into this debate on EGS. Trying to explain why PC gamers are angry at Epic or the publishers and it gets really difficult not to have sympathy with those criticising Epic. Often the conversations descend into hostility and toxicity. I can’t fathom those defending anti-consumer practices when it comes to exclusive platform games. Certainly I understand the use of exclusivity deals however I’ll never defend the tactic.

Interestingly Epic yesterday announced a huge month-long sale on their storefront, which has generated some goodwill. The sale essentially sees Epic offering £10 off for games over £13.99 to bring some quite significant percentage discounts on lower priced games. But this sale is arguably a good tactic for consumers and a way to drive them towards EGS. Or at least might have been, but since the sale started many publishers have removed their games from the sale. This was arguably the first good thing we had seen from this new storefront. At least for consumers. Although for now I’m just going to stay away from the Epic vs. Steam debates.

The Division & Destiny sequels

Over the weekend I saw streamer MarcoStyle mention he intends to move away from The Division 2 and play other games. Whilst this isn’t really news. Streamers constantly change games or move on from things. It seems to be a case of another of the more well known original The Division streamers moving away from the series. I remember before launch comparing The Division 2’s launch with that of Destiny 2 and that it would face the same challenges. And after watching the launch of Ubisoft’s latest Division game it feels like there are similarities.

In September 2017 Destiny 2 launched to good reviews (84 on OpenCritic) but within weeks faced a backlash from the community over a number of issues; a reduced feature set, lack of endgame content, changing XP rates and egregious microtransactions. We never saw sales figures but it’s likely that the game was successful although by the time of Destiny 2’s first expansion, Activision Blizzard stated publicly it wasn’t happy with sales of Forsaken. How much that led to the breakup with Bungie is speculation, although it’s hard to imagine that overall revenue and microtransactions sales didn’t play a part in the decision making process.

The Division 2 also launched to good reviews (83 on OpenCritic) and there appears to be criticism of lack of content and broken builds although praise for some of the new content in the game. Interestingly MarcoStyle specifically called The Division 2 endgame more casual in his aforementioned video, stating that it felt like it was more for people who only play a few hours a week. Similar criticisms were levelled at Destiny 2 at launch.

We have heard nothing on the sales figures from Ubisoft about The Division 2. Odd given they were very vocal about the first game’s launch setting company and industry records. The March 2019 NPD figures (physical and digital USA sales figures) included some news :

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 was the best-selling game of March 2019 and is now the second best-selling game of 2019. Launch month sales of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 are the sixth highest in history for an Ubisoft-published game.

NPD March 2019 (ResetEra post)

This probably explains why there have been no press releases about sales because unlike the first game it has set no milestones by the looks of it.

Of course this isn’t meant as criticism of either game and there is much detail around how the games are different. The Division 2 is about to get its first Raid and that will probably boost player engagement. And Destiny 2 players seem to love the Forsaken expansion. This is no ‘hot take’ and maybe stating the obvious given both games are similar Live Service games from large western publishers. It simply has been interesting to observe how the games have launched very similarly; good reviews, limited or lower sales after a very successful first game, tailing off player engagement and criticism of endgame content. And indeed what is also probably true of both is that the developers moved onto the next games straight after launch.

I am still torn on whether to pick up The Division 2 at some point. I really enjoyed the first game and it was streamers like SkillUp and MarcoStyle who helped me master some of the metagame. The beta for The Division 2 left me cold and I got the distinct impression it was more of the same albeit improved. Recently I have been enjoying shorter, narrative experiences and looking forward to being able to try new games all the time. With one game already my Live Services game of choice, I’m not that keen to start more. I just don’t need more games as a service at the moment. And that continues to be a reason why I’ve not purchased The Division 2.

Update 17th May 2019: Since publishing this post, Ubisoft confirmed The Division 2 didn’t meet expectations. There are probably many reasons for why; fatigue with GaaS games, lots of competition, Fortnite and people bouncing off the first game hard. Although probably more interesting is the why are all these AAA, big budget, western developed GaaS games failing to meet expectations? Maybe a thought for another day.

My thoughts on MMOs in 2019

This summer is going to see some excitement around MMOs. In June we will see the new chapter; Elsweyr for The Elder Scrolls Online. Shortly followed by the Final Fantasy XIV expansion; Shadowbringers in early July. On top of that World of Warcraft: Classic will finally arrive in the summer and rumours of a possible new World of Warcraft expansion being announced at Blizzcon 2019 are beginning to circulate. And finally even Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting a new expansion; Onslaught in September 2019. So there is a fair amount of new content coming for some of the more established MMOs.

With this in mind I thought I would write a very quick summary of my thoughts on how I feel about some of the most popular MMO games, given that MMOs and similar Live Services games have often dominated my playtime in recent years. This is concentrating on existing games rather than brand new MMOs that are yet to be released.

Currently playing: The Elder Scrolls Online

I’ve written about this before and I don’t need to say too much other than this is my current MMO/Live Service game of choice. I’ve already pre-ordered the latest expansion; Elsweyr. The only issue is that I don’t feel the hurry to jump into this new chapter content straight away having played a fair amount of the game in the last few months.

Given up on (for now): World of Warcraft

I made the mistake of picking up Blizzard’s 6-month subscription offer back in October and I haven’t played the game a great deal. In truth I’ve barely spent much time with Battle for Azeroth’s new content. My 2018 return to the game saw me playing more Legion content and catching up on old zones by levelling new characters. I’m struggling to find enthusiasm to play World of Warcraft anymore at the moment. So for now a good break from the game is probably the wisest choice.

In addition World of Warcraft: Classic doesn’t hold much attraction for me. I only started playing the game during The Burning Crusade expansion and even though I enjoyed the demo of Classic last year I don’t think I have the appetite for the original game. This is going to get a lot of attention though and for those players interested, whether they are reliving old memories or not, this should provide a fascinating experience. As a streamer recently said this is probably more akin to a seasonal event but will likely generate some interesting stories.

Not played in a while: Guild Wars 2

I’ve written about the original Guild Wars recently saying how I never spent enough time with that game. And unfortunately the same is true of Guild Wars 2. At the moment I’m enjoying The Elder Scrolls Online too much to go back to this. It’s a shame because I do have content I would like to experience like the Personal Story and Living World, but for now it isn’t happening.

Would love to try: Final Fantasy XIV

This seems to be the de facto recommendation for players looking for the best MMO in 2019. And for good reason. Square Enix’s MMO seems to have gone from strength to strength since the 2013 relaunch A Realm Reborn. However whilst I would be keen to give it a go, as ever with any Live Service like this, I’m trying to hold off because of the time and cost commitment. In addition it also sounds a bit like World of Warcraft in that for solo players there is a lack of endgame content (i.e. not even using LFG). And that is a slight concern for me if I got into this game.

Previously played: Star Wars: The Old Republic

I played Star Wars: The Old Republic for a few months when in came out in late 2011. And from the sounds of it a lot has changed in the last 8 years. Indeed this always played a bit like an offline RPG and there might be more content for solo players now. However whilst that appeals somewhat this might remain a once visited memory for me. It is good to see a new expansion arriving in September though.

The ‘not quite MMOs‘, but in the same category

Might be done with: Warframe

This is probably sacrilegious to write in 2019. Digital Extremes looter extraordinaire is the darling of most on the internet right now. And again for good reason. However I feel removed from this game, currently struggling to get back into it. The never ending and constant release of new items to collect along with more group oriented modes recently introduced has cooled me on this game. So why might I be done with it? Well it’s more about catching-up and having already amassed nearly 400 hours in a 18-24 months span I did get a little bit exhausted with Warframe.

Need to play: Path of Exile

Similar to the previous game, I feel a bit burnt out on isometric ARPG games in general which has impacted how many I’ve played recently (i.e. not many). Also the short seasons in Path of Exile mean I feel I need to jump in with a view to commiting for a month or two. And there are simply too many other games requesting my time at the moment. In no way a criticism of this game. At some point I will give it a proper go.

2019 is all about…

The Elder Scrolls Online will probably be the MMO/Live Service game I play most in 2019. With a new Chapter coming and a game I still find incredibly engaging it is hard to imagine playing something else instead of this. As noted there are a few games that are tempting or I would like to play again but when it comes to MMOs I feel less is more, and actually concentrating on one game is the best decision.

I haven’t really kept an eye on upcoming future MMOs and therefore there is a chance something emerges that takes my interest but is probably unlikely.

Do some video games age badly?

There’s a moment in one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpieces where one of the characters realises that some things change so much that you can’t go back to things as they were before. And sometimes when playing an old videogame I think you may experience something similar.

This past Easter weekend the news leaked that some fans had been running a private server of the long since closed down MMO City of Heroes for the last six years in secret from most of the community. This on top of recent bad news about another fellow NCSoft studio; ArenaNet had made me want to play Guild Wars again. Not the 2012 sequel that most now know but the original 2005 Co-Op RPG game that came first; Guild Wars.

You see Guild Wars is a game I’ve played before. Actually I’ve had a number of attempts to try and play it. I played the 10-hour trial more times than I care to remember when I kept debating whether to drop money on the game. Guild Wars is one of those games that I’ve never played for as long as I should have, much like it’s sequel. The laundry list of things I have to do is still large, but at the very least I still harboured a desire to play through the main campaigns.

Guild Wars 1 screenshot.

Guild Wars is still an exceptionally beautiful game

So this past weekend I downloaded the installer and started the process of logging onto a game I hadn’t played for years. Surprisingly a relatively painless process and it didn’t take that long to get up and running. However almost as quickly as I had managed to log into the game I was hit by a strong sense of disappointment. And not just because of the reorientation process, i.e. there’s a lot of learn again but because it just wasn’t the same. The movement, skills based combat and interface felt a step back. Everything felt old, not surprisingly given how long ago the game came out, but worse still the overwhelming feeling whilst playing the game again was of wanting to play something else instead.

In other words the game compared unfavourable to some more modern games in my current library. Now of course this is unfair to Guild Wars. If was and arguably still is a great game but however irrational of me, I can’t shake the feeling that playing the game again doesn’t feel ‘right’. Knowing somewhere deep inside that maybe the chance I had to play this game has come and gone. Perhaps I’ve simply left it too long and the game’s time has come and gone.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this. Far from it. Although here I am writing about a game I’ve played before, you can also play a game many years after its release and still go through a similar experience. One time I remember in the early millennium finally buying Perfect Dark and Excitebike 64 on the Nintendo 64 years after release. Excitebike 64 still felt fresh and fun, Perfect Dark however felt juddery, slow and archaic. No matter how much I tried I just couldn’t get to grips with Goldeneye’s successor and it was a game I should have loved. Probably not helped by the newer First Person Shooters, like Halo, that had arrived in the years following. I even remember posting about Perfect Dark on an internet forum at the time and being meet with similar feelings as my own. Many also felt that as a game it had aged badly, or as least not as well as some of it contemporaries.

One thing is for sure, videogames do age. Both technically and conceptually. Some naturally much worse than others as some genres really develop over time. But the fact is that we players who play video games do also grow and change. And that can affect our opinions and reactions to older games. And therefore this is perhaps as much a comment about me rather than any critique about Guild Wars.

However almost as quickly as it took me to load the game, my adventure with Guild Wars comes to an abrupt end. Again. Maybe for the last time given that some day ArenaNet and NCSoft will turn off the servers. Although who knows as maybe as I may try the game again some day.

Whatever Arenanet is considering working on next, maybe a game that is truer in nature to the original Guild Wars, than its sequel ever was, might not be a bad thing. Hell I might even get around to playing it properly in a more timely manner this time. Maybe.

Coincidentally this post is being published to the day of the release of the original game; 26th April 2005. This wasn’t planned, just a happy accident I realised as I looked up facts about the game. So Happy 14th Birthday Guild Wars.

Borderworlds

Something must be in the air as recently I’ve started to think about the Borderlands videogames again. And no, this was before I found out about the long-rumoured next game being unveiled today. It was a videogame series I hadn’t really thought about after completing all the content of the second game nearly four years ago (aka True Vault Hunter Mode). In fact not only that but spoiler alert, I’ve purchased The Handsome Collection on PlayStation 4 a few days ago and have been playing it.

I still remember playing the first game upon release. It was a game I fell in love with instantly. The second game although largely more of the same did everything better and had a much more enjoyable and memorable story. Primarily due to the brilliant main villain and resurrecting notable characters from the first game. Simply put Borderlands 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. Indeed when I get around to compiling that list and publishing here as a post one day, you’ll likely see that game somewhere in my thoughts.

Borderlands 2 screenshot

Borderlands was far from perfect and the sequel very felt like a live service game before there really were live service games, i.e. mountains of DLC and add-ons sold for the sequel. However going back to play Borderlands 2 in 2019 still reveals a very solid, super fun, loot-o-rama of a first-person shooter with some wonderful set pieces. The bosses, story and humour all combine brilliantly. And no matter what level the rewards feel worthwhile with an abundance of uniquely crafted guns. Any item drop can be a potentially better weapon and upgrade your character. Borderlands even to this day has unique importance placed on its massive storylines. Unlike other loot based games where the story is more of a tutorial on the way to the endgame.

Yet that endgame is precisely one big area where a new Borderlands will need to improve upon. I don’t think replaying the whole story again is going to cut it anymore. It will need a more dynamic way of players engaging with the game after the story has ended.

Did you say Boom?

I thought about writing what I would like to see in a new instalment, but really I just want to be surprised. I would love to see the same level of innovation and execution that helped to launch the series back in 2009. 2K Games and Gearbox have released three Borderlands games that have all largely been exactly the same formula and not really changed anything from the original game. Whilst that might have worked on releases separated by a few years I do think Gearbox must do more on any future game particularly as times have moved on.

Although from a consumer point of view, that brings about probably the major worry. Will the next Borderlands be a microtransaction-riddled nightmare? As we’ve seen time and time again recently the balance between developers and publishers desire to make profits and not ruining a game’s design is very difficult to get right. Also ‘supporting’ a new game with actual new regular content and not just new events and microtransactions will be important in my view.

Either way, I look forward to seeing what Gearbox has been working on. If they can build on the uniqueness of Borderlands then it might be time to return. Vault Hunter.

Bad Influence

Twitch has helped to bring about a revolution in the way we can keep up with video gaming. It’s easy to watch very skilled players, eSports tournaments or learn about new games. It has given options to those fed up with videogames being ignored by mainstream media. And along with YouTube makes it exceptionally easy to watch videogames.

For older gamers it seems clear to me the success of Twitch is sometimes met with confusion. That success is certainly quantifiable in cultural impact and it’s clear some people wonder why streamers receive donations just to ‘play games’. Ironically not comprehending that Twitch (along with Discord and Reddit) are for many younger gamers the new videogames forums. People are just as likely to engage in the community than be on Twitch for the streamer.

The news that Ninja was paid $1 million by EA for advertising Apex Legends, has again really brought home just how MUCH money people are making from Twitch. Likely a fraction of what a more mainstream celebrity would be paid but nevertheless raises eyebrows. Whether people are earning too much is definitely a popular debate that keeps being raised whatever your view.

As I have found myself using the service more and more over the past few years I have started to think about the impact. On the plus side it is an easy way to find out about new games and very quick to engage with a new community of videogame fans through Twitch chat. I have often found that I have been able to easily ask specific questions about new games.

However it seems to come at a price. Firstly, I am very aware of what a time sink it can be. It’s so easy to spend more time watching a livestream than a video on demand but this might not be the biggest issue. Perhaps the most obvious negative is that games are spoilt. The sense of surprise and discovery taken away. In addition I have noticed it’s also common for other popular media to be spoilt as well. It seems many don’t think about spoilers when blurting out the ending to the latest movies in chat. Which can make watching Twitch the equivalent of a game of chance when it comes to avoiding spoilers in popular media.

Also I don’t want to watch paid adverts. There arguably needs to be much clearer warning than having ‘#ad’ in the title. And I am not convinced these streaming sites are doing anywhere near enough to police their own users.

Twitch definitely has some unique content and it can be a fun platform. Not just watching games being played but also real life events. However more and more I am conscious of the negatives. And that’s the point I’m at with this blog post.

So with this in mind I’ve started to make a concerted attempt to stop using Twitch. Overall it feels like it will be a more worthwhile use of my time and may help playing my actual games instead.