2018 Review: In numbers (not that many!)

As we are coming up for the end of year I wanted to have a look at my progress against my backlog since I set this website up around five months ago. Originally my intention was to setup up a WordPress site from scratch, learn new skills, as well as being able to track how many games I own, or have access to. Sites like Grouvee are very good at logging games but generally very bad at a timeline view.

2018 in numbers

  • Backlog: Increased by 12 (264 to 278)
  • Played: Increased by 3 (192 to 195)
  • Completed = 2
  • Abandoned = 1
  • Played = 6

So overall not that many games played, or completed although as a whole I think I managed to play a total of 17 games this year. However I only set-up tracking along with this site in July, so there may be a chance that I’ve missed a game or two. However this number excludes retro games like Tetris on the Nintendo Game Boy.

There is a discrepancy in my figures on Grouvee because I’ve realised I have played 6 new games for the first time since setting up the website: Rage, Fortnite: Save the World, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, Forza Motorsport 7, Dying Light and Starlink. Everything else was either played earlier in the year or I had started playing before. I believe the discrepancy is simply that I am not regarding a game as played on Grouvee until I am done with it (i.e. Rage).

However what is clear is that I have been playing GaaS/Live Services games and when I’m not playing these sort of games I do speed-up considerably at progressing in other games. I’ve written about this before. In addition other projects such as buying a new PC, upgrading my Unraid server, house DIY and work etc. have also played their part in limiting my time playing games.

With regards to purchasing new games it doesn’t appear too bad. However some of this is rebuying games on Xbox Live or Playstation Network which I already owned on PC and therefore hasn’t increased the numbers. Also free games from Games With Gold, PlayStation Plus or Game Pass reduced my new purchasing a little bit. Although I don’t add these onto my backlog figures, overall I nearly acquired 100 new games in the time of setting up the website. Most of these will be free games.

2019: the year ahead

I suspect it going to be hard to ignore The Division 2 in late February although I would like to avoid the launch and see what the game is like first. Partly because of how other similar games like Destiny 2 went, but also to allow time for microtransactions and the overall business model to settle. There are a few games like Anthem and Days Gone that are also intriguing to me.

Beyond that I missed out on a number of big hitters from the second half of this year that are on my Wishlist. Namely Forza Horizon 4, Marvel’s Spiderman and Red Dead Redemption 2. Depending on sales these might be games I pick up sooner than later. I do have access to Forza Horizon 4 via Game Pass but am put off by not having the VIP pack (earn in-game credits 2 times faster).

I would also like to buy a Nintendo Switch but with a hardware revision rumoured in the second half of 2019 this will be put on-hold for now.

And other than that probably continuing to move away from PC gaming. I am still playing many PC games but the fact is with the sharp increase in the cost of PC components (particularly in the UK) I have therefore stopped buying as many games on PC. And this is something I intend to continue with as we see new Sony and Microsoft consoles in the near future. Dying Light, Rage and Inside are all good examples of games I purchased or played on console that previously I would have picked up on PC.

Realistic targets

It would be nice to complete or shelve somewhere in the region of 15 to 25 videogames in 2019. I think that might be hard but achievable. Certainly I would like to have played at least double the number from this year. As the first full calendar year of monitoring this will be interesting to see if I can meet this target.

Anyway an early ‘Happy New Year!’ for everyone who read this far. Thank you.

Pass on Game Pass

UPDATE 12th December 2018

Basically I did a complete 360 (excuse the pun) on the below thoughts and took up an offer for £18.97 to extend Xbox Game Pass for 6 months. The reason being: Ashen, Ori and the Blind Forest and a couple of other games still being on the service that I want to play. Ashen is only a few days old and £33.49 just to buy, so I figured given as I may not enjoy it is worth a punt for more Game Pass time instead.

Even with this U-turn I still think my thoughts from a few weeks ago are relevant. Game Pass isn’t for everyone and ideally with my backlog I shouldn’t be looking at more games!

Original Post

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass seems like an easy sell. Over 100 games at your fingertips for only £7.99 a month. Or even less if you take up one of the current offers, particularly in the current Black Friday sales. So what’s there not to like?

To be honest; not a lot. It’s a great service and adds an another option for playing games. Since getting my Xbox One X earlier this year I’ve used Game Pass offers to catch up on a few old games and complete Halo 5 and (hopefully) Rage (Xbox 360).

Microsoft haven’t delivered my free month of Game Pass from their recent PayPal offer (and they have done nothing even after raising with their CS). This has meant I’ve had to decide whether to continue subscribing. And it has made me realise there are obvious scenarios where Game Pass just doesn’t work as well, including:

  • Already have a large backlog
  • Limited amount of spare time to play games
  • Have multiple gaming platforms, or Xbox isn’t your main console
  • Spend a lot of time in particular games

Add to this you never own the games, so if they disappear off the service then you can’t play them anymore. And the games are always minus DLC or expansions being base versions to encourage you to spend more money on extra content for those games.

Even with all of that said Game Pass is still a fantastic way to play a huge number of games for a reasonable sum of money. And if you only game on Xbox it’s almost a no-brainer. Indeed it’s a shame Microsoft can’t do away with mandatory fees for multiplayer and merge Gold and Game Pass into one unique premium service. That would be a game changer in the battle against Sony.

However I’ve come to realise Game Pass is just not for me. I have struggled to play more games despite there being a number on the service I would like to experience. Simply due to a lack of time and a large number of other games competing for my attention. As with any subscription you almost feel under pressure to use it. The risk is that you end up paying more money to Microsoft whilst still buying other games you want to play. And realistically even for the small amount I have played I could have purchased the games I ended up playing. Indeed this is what I’ve done this month. £9 (80% off) during the current sale for Rise of The Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration. Which includes everything that came with the game when I want to play it.

That seems a better deal to me at the moment.

When the ideal product just doesn’t exist

For a while I’ve wanted some wireless headphones, with a microphone to use on all formats; so PC, Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4. And possibly Nintendo Switch in future. Nothing too fancy, just some budget headphones with reasonable sound quality and microphone for times when I need a wired headphones.

So if you want a wireless set of headphones just for the PC. Easy. Lots of choice, either through proprietary wireless, or Bluetooth. And as my Creative SoundBlaster X7 supports the AptX codec there are even more options. However I want something that works on the Xbox and PlayStation lots of these products won’t work with both consoles. There are some interesting budget options for each console such as the PlayStation Gold Wireless headset or the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 (both under £100).

However once again neither option works on both formats. The PlayStation Gold Wireless will support Xbox through a wired connection to the controller but won’t work with the SoundBlaster X7 through Bluetooth and require the use of the included USB dongle. The Turtle Beach Stealth 600 use the same proprietary connection as an Xbox One controller but again won’t work on PC without a dongle. There are more expensive offerings such as the Astro A50 or the Plantronics RIG 800 series but again have the exact same problems. So in summary I can get a reasonable set of Wireless headphones that works well with one format, but not all.

So given the complexity and restrictions of the products I’m just going to accept defeat and give up looking for now. For the few times I need voice comms on console I will just use an old Astro A40 headset with the controller port.

However I do hope that the next generation Xbox supports external DACs and AMPs like the PS4 does. If it does, it would make setting up a half decent set of headphones and microphone much easier. Currently the PlayStation 4 supports external devices like the SoundBlaster X7 with wireless voice comms (via the BT-W2 Bluetooth adapter) which makes life much easier, whilst the Xbox One doesn’t. This means at the moment the Xbox One feels a bit of a mess, and unnecessarily restrictive by comparison.

The Division 2 pre-order mess

I wrote a short while ago about some of the games I was most looking forward to in the next 12-months. And following a couple of hundred hours on The Division, its sequel is one such game.

I finally got around to looking at the different versions available and it’s a mess. Far too many versions across physical, digital releases and different regions. In the UK it’s £87.99 for the Ultimate Edition on Xbox Live, which is the only way to get all of the content including the additional stash space. Although the descriptions are very unclear and include no explanation of what you are actually getting for your money (i.e. how much stash space for starters). I would imagine it’s bare bones content and probably a waste of money that will be minuscule in comparison to what Ubisoft sell in their in-game cash shop. It’s no wonder the reception to this news on Youtube and Reddit has been so very negative.

However all of this nickel-and-diming such as the pre-order items, very expensive complete versions, inevitable microtransactions (and lootboxes), Year 2 passes are seriously dampening my enthusiasm for this game. I’m put off Red Dead Redemption 2 for similar reasons but certainly because it is so expensive for the full version. I know The Division 2 isn’t doing anything different from other major releases, but it still doesn’t make it hard not to stomach. It’s also a shame that Ubisoft can’t come up with a fairer business model.

Given that I regretted buying Destiny 2 (now a freebie on PlayStation Plus) on release and I didn’t really start playing the first game in earnest until patch 1.4 landed, the sensible thing to do is going to be to wait for the inevitable price drops. Or when I’m ready to play the game.

However as ever this means not crumbling and giving in when the ‘new’ game allure hits and Ubisoft ‘advertises’ the hell out of the game through Twitch and Youtube. Going to try and be strong.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition Review

I’ll be off Azeroth, catch you later Hyrule. In the land of Skyrim.

Recently I’ve purchased and started playing Skyrim. Again. This is the third time I’ve purchased Skyrim. I first experienced the game when it launched on Xbox 360, and a second time on PC. This time I’ve picked up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition on Xbox One. This is probably indicative of how long the game has been out, as well as how many formats the game has been ported onto.

It’s difficult to believe that it has been so long since it was released. However it still plays as well as it ever did and its opening moments, particularly the first dungeon, are still a highlight. And even with the newer versions out now, it was still impressive as to how good this game looked on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The Xbox One X version runs at dynamic 4K resolution at 30 fps, pretty rigidly sticking to this target. It includes access to mods through the Bethesda Creation Club. Although nothing on the scale of the PC version. The PC version will run at higher framerates or look better but this is one of those games where the half refresh rate doesn’t hurt the game too much. Fast pace moments are less common than slow scenes dialog with NPCs or inventory management etc.

Audio is still powerful and atmospheric, controls and the user interface works well on a controller. Quests are engaging and the world is still stunning. That being said the game has aged in places and it show its roots as being a game from the last-generation. Combat particularly can be messy and doesn’t work as well as peers from its time such as Dragons Dogma or Dark Souls. Ranged DPS and magic can be quite technical and refined but close range melee combat lacks finesse. It often feels like button mashing rather than anything more strategic.

When I first played Skyrim I didn’t understand all of the mechanics having not played much of Oblivion or the earlier games. However since having played The Elder Scrolls Online I’ve got a far greater appreciation of the lore and world. And in this sense Skyrim, and the Elder Scrolls games in general, really excel. It is a rich, vibrant and lore heavy world full of character which is believable and somewhere you want to explore.

I’m not sure I’ll ever complete the story or play this game to completion. But I do look forward to finding new things on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition. Overall it is an absolute classic videogame and the Xbox One X version is a bargain for the amount of content. It is disappointing it lacks a selectable higher fps mode or the VR option of the PlayStation 4 and PC. But it feels like a solid version otherwise. It is still loaded with Bethesda open-world jank. Even within a few hours I’ve seen an NPC get stuck on a chicken and a moose trying to run into a fence amongst other things. And seen the game lock up the Xbox One. Still hard not to love it and enjoy it though.

Played on Xbox One X. Previously played the original release on PC and Xbox 360.

Titanfall 2 Review

A great first-person shooter, that is perhaps almost perfect.

I rather enjoyed the first Titanfall. Although I didn’t pour hours into it, it did give me around 15-20 hours of some great entertainment. Unfortunately like many games of its ilk I got bored and moved on to other things.

In some ways I felt Titanfall was a true follow-up to Call of Duty Modern Warfare. Particularly given how so many of the people made both games after the founders of Infinity Ward split off to form Respawn Studios. Whilst Call of Duty settled into yearly map packs, Titanfall delivered a more evolutionary take on the twitch run and gun gameplay.

I picked Titanfall 2 up for just over £8 on Xbox One to primarily enjoy the campaign (I will conveniently forget about also buying it on PC, sigh). And in the main really enjoyed it. Game looks, sounds and feels perfect at times. Graphics are stunning on Xbox One X at UHD.

The campaign took me just over 10 hours to complete, so it’s clear I took a bit longer than most to complete it. The campaign is definitely worth a play through at least once primarily because the ‘gunplay’ is just so good. Everything feels right, not just whether it’s the shooting, running about, the wall running and parkour or the sense of power when you board your titan. The pacing and level design is pretty much spot on although I have a few quibbles such as the ‘show where to run’ as too much signposting, the boss battles being overly easy apart from one, collectables being lazy and the ending section being annoying. That said these are very minor complaints.

With regards to the multiplayer I can’t really comment in that I have little interest to try it more. It’s very good and feels like an evolution of the first game with lots of improvements, but I’ll probably move onto other games now. I do wish Titanfall 2 had more PVE content because as it feels that technically it’s there and ready for it.

Anyway a great sequel. The campaign is worth playing if you enjoy single-player First Person Shooter games and the multiplayer is one of the best out there.

Played on Xbox One X. Previously played on PC.

My most anticipated games for 2018/19

At the height of a crazy hot summer, it might not be the obvious time to think about games that aren’t out yet. Still here are my thoughts on some of the games I am most looking forward to over the next 9-months or so. Particularly after the recent annual E3 show in June.

Definite

Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One) – a great series, particularly the last release. Now prefer these to the main Motorsport entries.

The Division 2 – the first game was a flawed diamond, but I still racked up over 200 hours playing it. Concerns are that the map is ‘only’ 20% bigger and whether Massive/Ubisoft abandon the game after the main release and DLC as they did with the first game. The first game was crying out for proper paid-for story/PVE content for years 2 and 3.

Likely

Marvel’s Spiderman (PlayStation 4) – looks really interesting but given the backlog I suspect I might be able to save some money and wait for a sale.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – love the first game. Main worry is how riddled this will be with microtransactions. However if single player is unaffected then I will pick up. Makes sense to watch the early opinions and reception roll in.

Would like but no deal

Fallout 76 – genuinely intrigued but the complete lack of detail so far and the possible huge monitisation/PVP element is a total put off.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – looks very much like the 2017 AC, which is still on the backlog so may as well leave this one.

Destiny 2: Forsaken – regret buying Destiny 2 so not going anywhere near this. Worried for the future of this franchise given the pressure the contract places Bungie under. Suspect that future sequels like Destiny 3 (2019) will stick to the ‘cut and paste’ four areas, campaign, PVP and lack of content model that the first two games have been. Arguably a GaaP with some support rather than a true GaaS/Live Service. Also as a solo-PVE’er Destiny 2 seems to be refocusing on grindy, group activities again. Which is fine, but not for me.

July 2018 Update

After numerous hours typing away at the keyboard, I have finally managed to log every videogame I own on Grouvee. Yay! Took ages but hopefully worth it. And therefore this post is also my first ever monthly progress update against my backlog.

There are some Nintendo Virtual Console games on Wii and Wii U unaccounted for, but I’m not going to list them as these online services are either gone or probably won’t be around much longer.

So that’s 1035 games in total, of which 275 are on my backlog. I’m currently playing through 7 games and actually have already completed nearly a fifth of all games I own. Time to start playing some games.

Xbox Ultimate Game Sale/PSN Summer Sale – new game pickups

Just because you can clearly never buy enough games to play, I have also purchased the following in the summer sales;

  • Prey – fancy playing this, not worried about Mooncrash DLC atm.
  • Doom/Wolfenstein 2 Bundle – good price for two!
  • Dishonored The Complete Collection – Dishonored 2 is Xbox One X enhanced, and only £1 more than the complete sequel bundle so it includes the original game as well.
  • Everybody’s Golf

I also purchased Fallout 4/Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition digitally in these sales so I can own sell the boxed disc versions.

Ps. Picked up 3-months of GamePass for £7.99, plus a month through MS Rewards, so that’s 4-months taken care of. Seems a good deal. That’s Forza Horizon 4 taken care of at least.