Pokemon Sword and Shield Review: A Fulfilling RPG, Until It Isn’t

Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pokemon Sword and Shield is Game Freak’s latest endeavor in their main series Pokemon games. It’s been three years since the release of Sun and Moon so anticipation for the eighth generation is huge. Several controversies leading up to release cast some doubts regarding Sword and Shield’s ability to deliver quality content. With over half of the 890 Pokemon gone, does the newly added content make up for it? Yes, for a while at least.

Pokemon Sword and Shield: The Gorgeous Galar Region

Pokemon Sword and Shield - The Gorgeous Galar RegionLet’s start out on a positive note. At their core, Pokemon Sword and Shield are both still quality RPGs in their own right. As expected, Game Freak has nailed the concept of forming a team, beating gyms, and becoming a champion that all fear. On the way to winning it all, I got the pleasure of exploring the Galar region.

As a native Brit, I was pretty excited to see Pokémon’s fantasy representation of my homeland. Aesthetically, they smashed it. Many of the UK’s famous cities and attractions get representation. Motostoke is a clear nod to Manchester. Hammerlock seems to be based on England’s second city, Birmingham. Even more, niche historical cities like Nottingham and Bath get interpretations with their in-game counterparts, Ballonlea and Circhester.

Graphical fidelity aside, from an artistic point of view Pokemon Sword and Shield is beautiful. I honestly thought the Alola region was the pinnacle of design for the series, but they’ve gone above and beyond yet again. Exploring the Galar region’s many sights with my team has been a truly blessed experience.

Dynamax and Gigantamax

Dynamax and GigantamaxReplacing Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves, Dynamax is this year’s new battling mechanic. At first, I was very unsure about the idea. It looked kind of goofy and awkward in the trailers. After twenty hours of playing Pokemon Sword and Shield, I’ve come to accept it’s an okay mechanic.

Functionally, it actually serves as a kind of mix of the two other previous mechanics I mentioned. Your Pokemon change form (Mega Evolution) which grants them access to special, flashy moves (Z-Moves). Game Freak has argued that Megas were overpowered but Dynamax is supposed to be balanced.

By ‘balanced’ they apparently meant Dynamax Eternatus having a stat total of 1125. That dwarfs Primal Rayquaza’s 780, a number deemed so high it was banned from Uber tier. You know, the Smogon competitive tier literally designed to accommodate broken legendaries. It scares me as to what they’re planning to do in the future. Primal Arceus might end up with a stat total exceeding 2000. That’s presuming they ever decide to care about Mega Evolutions again.

If there is one major balance advantage to Dynamax, it’s the limitation placed upon it. Pokemon can only stay Dynamaxed for three turns. I can imagine in competitive battling there may be stalling tactics to waste the opponent’s Dynamax.

A handful of Game Freak’s favorite Pokemon feature signature Gigantamax forms. Whilst functionally very similar to regular Dynamax, they have unique looks and special moves exclusive to them. To emphasize, select Pokemon look different after transforming and use moves exclusive to themselves. Sound familiar? Yeah, Dynamax is just a marginally worse version of what we’ve already had in past games.

What We Didn’t Get From Past Games

What We Didn't Get From Past GamesSpeaking of past games, it’s frightening how much hasn’t made its way into Pokemon Sword and Shield. Frankly, there’s too much for me to cover so let’s crank out a list featuring things you can’t do in the new games.

There’s no Mega evolution, no Z-Moves, no Battle Frontier, half of the Pokemon are missing, only one region is playable, many animations and models are reused, no Global Trade System, no Pokemon Contests, no Secret Bases, no Game Corner, no Dream World, and no unique wild encounters like hordes or S.O.S.

Perhaps a bigger sin than any of that, Pokemon Sword and Shield’s post game is pitiful. There’s a 90-minute story where you and your rival Hop go on a quest to capture the front cover legendaries. It explains some of the lore behind Zamazenta, Zacian, and the two heroes they once worked alongside. By the way, there are only new three legendaries. What’s worse is you can only catch two of them in each version.

After you’ve finished that, you’ve finished all of the meaningful post-game. Of course, half-completing the Pokedex for the Shiny charm is still an option but that’s a given. And whilst we’re on the topic, good look actually completing the Pokedex. With the Global Trade System dumped, trading for version exclusives is now way harder than it needs to be. I suppose you may as well go out and by a second copy for $60. I’m sure that’s what Game Freak is betting on.

Legendary Tier Soundtrack

Legendary Tier SoundtrackNow I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk OSTs. Specifically, how incredible Pokemon Sword and Shield’s soundtrack is. Composers Junichi Masuda, Go Ichinose, and Minako Adachi have all outdone themselves. From epic battles to peaceful forest exploration, Game Freak’s latest RPG does it all.

I have nothing but praise for the Gym Leader Music theme in particular. It is easily the best of its kind across all the main series games. Much like fifth-gen, the music changes depending on how the battle develops. There are separate sections for the beginning, Dynamax and the gym leader’s final stand. My favorite part is how the final stand section integrates the fan’s cheering into the song itself. It reminds me of those passionate European football nights where your team puts everything on the line.

SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS PARAGRAPH! Similarly, the battle with Chairman Rose has a genuinely epic antagonist theme. It’s a very over the top, almost Dark Souls-like theme that’s there for one reason. To make the player realize they have to win this battle. The fate of Galar depends on it. Whilst we’re in a spoiler-heavy zone, I’ll use the chance to praise Eternatus, the coolest looking legendary to date. He’s a big boi. Regular Eternatus is 20 meters tall. Dynamax Eternatus stands at a staggering 100m. In contrast, Wailord is only 14.5m tall. Unfortunately, Sword and Shield’s questionable scaling makes both look relatively small.

Final Verdict

Final Verdict on Pokemon Sword and Shield ReviewPokemon Sword and Shield are perfectly serviceable Pokemon games. If all you want is a solid 15-hour experience filled with gameplay action, this is the Pokemon title for you. Game Freak has done a great job of avoiding stretching out mediocre content. However, I have serious concerns over its long-term replayability. The current post-game is poor. I’d be very surprised if Game Freak added content at a later date. After all, they’ve never bothered before.

After they cut over 400 Pokemon, I guess I expected more than a watered-down, passable experience. As a result, this is a difficult recommendation at $60. As a dedicated series fan, you might get value out of Sword and Shield. On the other hand, casual consumers will likely be left wanting more. Nonetheless, Pokemon Sword and Shield are not bad games. They just run out of good content to offer way too quickly.

Pokemon Sword First Impressions: The Hate Train Has Slightly Derailed

Pokemon Sword

Pokemon Sword

Leading up to its release, Pokemon Sword and Shield received some hate for the Dexit controversy. Developers Game Freak decided to cut many Pokemon from the game to save time. In total, Pokemon Sword and Shield’s Pokedex supports just over 400 Pokemon. That’s less than half of the total Pokedex across all regions. However, my first impressions of Nintendo’s latest JRPG are very positive.

Pokemon Sword: Dexit Doesn’t Matter As Much As You Think

Pokemon SwordMy favorite Pokemon, Emolga, has been cut from generation eight. It sucks. The question is how much of a negative impact does that have on my playthrough? A little for sure since Emolga is usually a lock for all of my teams. Generally speaking though, I got over it pretty quickly.

Here’s the thing with the Galar region. Many of the new environments are very open and encourage exploration. Actually seeing wild Pokemon roam free is far more fulfilling than just discovering them in grass patches. There’s a genuine feeling of surprise when you see something exotic or unexpected in the flesh.

For example, I encountered a level 32 Haunter within my first hour of playing Pokemon Sword. The idea of a Haunter just roaming around was cool enough, but the surprise of its strength panicked me. I had to find a way out of the battle before it swept my team. Fortunately, I had my trump card. Ninjask.

NinjaskNinjask is a bug type Pokemon with a staggering base speed of 160. That makes it the second-fastest Pokemon in the entire national dex, after Deoxys Speed Forme. Despite being less than half the level of the opposing Haunter, Ninjask’s crazy speed let it escape on the second try. Somehow, it managed to tank a Hex to the face.

I’m not saying these experiences couldn’t happen with the entire Pokedex present. Obviously, they could. However, I think Game Freak deserves a degree of credit where due, By sacrificing a large portion of the Pokedex they have managed to find time to enhance the encounter experience. I imagine if we had all 800 Pokemon they’d have just rushed in a generic old-school system instead. The lack of Pokemon sucks but there’s still plenty to fill the Galar region and create experiences like these.

It’s Not the Prettiest Game

Prettiest GameMany haters like to exaggerate generation eight’s visual shortcomings. Pokemon Sword and Shield are not ugly games necessarily. In saying that, even for Switch standards they are underwhelming in certain areas. Specifically, some environments feel lazily implemented and poorly rendered.

There’s a clear resolution issue present too. Certain edges or angled lines are very jagged due to a lack of pixels to accommodate them. Pokemon Sword and Shield runs at 1280×720, 30 FPS at all times. I didn’t notice any resolution upscaling in docked mode. As a result, the docked mode can look pretty unimpressive. Stretching out a 720p image that far is a recipe for disaster.

This is disappointing because we know full well the Nintendo Switch can perform better. ARMS runs at 1080p, 60 FPS when docked. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also manages to comfortably hit 1080p, 60 FPS in docked form. Even an open-world game like Super Mario Odyssey can hit 900p, 60 FPS most of the time.

Super Mario Odyssey

The only conclusion I can come to is that Game Freak just doesn’t understand Switch hardware as well as other first-party Nintendo developers. That seems to be the only logical explanation for the dire pop in too. I’d say Pokemon can appear invisible on screen as close as 10 meters away. It hurts what is otherwise an excellent opportunity for open-world exploration.

For clarity, I don’t think Pokemon Sword is a bad looking game. Pokemon models, as well as the character models, are well done. Equally, the cities and towns look better than ever. The environments whilst battling are pretty clean and, most important of all, I’ve yet to experience any significant frame drops. The visuals may not be ground-breaking but they’re not bad enough to really impact general gameplay.

My Opening Verdict

My Opening Verdict on Pokemon SwordIt’s still very early days and I’m certainly in no position to review this yet. Honestly, I’m only three hours into the story. A proper review will follow either on Monday or next week, but early signs do suggest this is better than the haters would have you think.

At its core, Pokemon Shield is just that, a Pokemon game. You explore an exciting new region, collect Pokemon and try to become the champion of Galar. It has plenty of new, interesting characters as well as arguably the best new Pokemon we’ve seen in years. From the Pokedex leak I can already tell there aren’t many new Pokemon I don’t like.

A defining moment going forward will be when I get to properly check out the new raid battles. Currently, I’ve only done one and it was against Rufflet. It wasn’t very fun as the Rufflet’s move set was so dysfunctional I didn’t have to try much. I and my adorable little Yamper just Nuzzled baby America Bird to death.

For now, that’s all I have to say. Hopefully, I can come back and give a proper verdict and breakdown after playing through the entire game.

Be sure to let us know in the comments back you think about Pokemon Sword and Shield. Were early concerns justified or was the hate unfair? We’ve love to hear what you have to say.

The Failure of Modern Video Game Critics

Game Critics

Game Critics

Why Did You Want To Become a Games Journalist?” My class was asked this question in a charming first-year university discussion about the purpose of journalism. At first, it may seem like a huge topic. To answer that you have to first understand what journalism is. What does it mean to be game critics? What inspired you to get involved? I understood that my lecturer Mick Temple was trying to drive these kinds of thoughts. For me, it took less than a second to know the answer.

I want to use my voice to protect consumers,” I answered to the class. It wasn’t a noble answer or anything to be admired yet several class members acted as so. Their response caught me off guard. After all, isn’t this what every critic or journalist thinks? After reflecting on it, I began to understand the shortcomings of modern critique.

A lot of the reviews I have read in my lifetime were not all that great. Not because the writer wasn’t talented or passionate, quite the opposite actually. Most trained critics are fantastic artists who weave complex language effortlessly into their work. Rather, they were all far too forgiving.

One reason I suspect this is that the case is many critics’ lack of defined self-purpose. When asked that original question no skilled writer should ever have to hesitate. If you do, start over. I believe many reviewers and journalists have forgotten the purpose of their art. Overtime they care less about the consumer and more about their paycheck and, worse, pleasing publishers.

Publishers’ Power Over Game Critics

Publishers' Power Over Game CriticsI have never been afraid to rip into a terrible game, regardless of the publisher. If an editor turned around to me and told me to down tone an honest review, I’d quit. An awful trend in game critique over the years has been the increasingly obvious pandering to publishers. For example, NBA 2K17 managed to score 90% on Metacritic despite being fundamentally broken. For me, an 8/10 is an exceptional score. Other critics use this as the ‘above average’ mark instead.

Want proof of this? Look at game critic Jim Sterling’s 7/10 review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. By all common-sense standards, a 7/10 is a damn solid score. When Nintendo fans found out about this, they acted as though Jim Sterling had attacked their baby. In their eyes, a good score had to at least be a 9/10. After all, every other critic threw 9s and 10s Nintendo’s way.

Score Dilution

Score DilutionScore dilution has resulted in games receiving ridiculously high meta scores. Modern Warfare does not deserve an 82. Anyone who has played more than an hour of multiplayer should realize that. Overwatch, at launch, was nowhere near a 91. Don’t even get me started on Battlefield 1’s hilarious 87.

I’m not saying that publishers are paying off critics for good reviews. That doesn’t often happen anymore. Critique is far more ethical and transparent in that regard. However, I believe the culture of reviewing today has formed as a result of that precise dark past. Film critique has it right. In the film industry, critics aren’t scared to bomb a movie for being crap.

Consider that Fallout: 76 got a 52 on Metacritic. Undoubtedly the worst notable release of the decade scored an effective 5/10. When you think about it, 5/10 isn’t that bad. Fallout: 76 was a 2/10 at most yet modern game critics are scared to give that kind of score.

Publishers have far too much power over the fate of reviews. By holding review copies and selecting who gets them early, they can bully media companies. Imagine being a smaller games media site and getting offered an early review code for a huge AAA game. However, there’s an unwritten catch. If you don’t like that game and give it a bad review, that publisher will never send you another review code. They know you need them more than they need you.

Developers are Still People

Developers are Still PeopleOf course, there’s a clear counter-argument to this. The developers that work on these games are still people. Mindlessly shredding into their product isn’t useful. Naming individuals even less so. However, within a reasonable level of respect, critics should not care about this point.

The way I see it, there are two problems. On one hand, maybe you feel bad about slamming a game and hurting the people involved. Frankly, get over it or give the review to someone else. No one’s asking you to name anyone. If a game is bad, acknowledge it and let your consumers know. That’s your job as a game critic. If you allow the concerns of developers and publishers to become a factor, your review will suffer.

The other possible outcome is that you know someone involved. With the world being as small as it is, many critics are familiar with developers. Personally, I think this is a generally unhealthy relationship to sustain. Perhaps this sounds harsh but I’m of the opinion a critic should never befriend a developer. Why? It’s impossible to critique a game honestly when personal connections are tied into it. If you really want to befriend those in the industry, that’s fine. Just be sure to never cover their games ever again.

Final Verdict

For clarity, this piece is not designed to target any specific industry experts. Instead, I’m just ranting about the state of modern game critics on the whole. Many critics have gotten too soft over the years. Video games are the most revolutionary form of recreational art history. Let’s hold publishers and developers to those standards.

Has modern-day critique gotten soft or is there no harm in game critics being more forgiving? Should developers be held responsible for poor products? Is a degree of sympathy due to crunch time culture justified? Let us know what you think down below in the comments.

Top 5 FPS Games To Play in 2019

FPS Games

FPS Games

FPS games have been extremely popular ever since the emergence of classics like Wolfenstein and DOOM. It’s been 25 years and the genre has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings. The wide variety of choices available now can feel a little overwhelming for many. Well, there’s no need to worry. I’m here to breakdown the FPS genre and tell you the five games most worth playing in 2019.

Apex Legends – The Premier Battle Royale FPS

Apex Legends - The Premier Battle Royale FPSI’ll be honest in telling you that I am not the biggest fan of battle royale games. I’ve played just about every popular battle royale on the market, but most fell well short of my expectations. A lot of them are just poorly made like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and H1Z1. However, not all of them are buggy messes. Games like Fortnite and Realm Royale are perfectly functional but don’t synchronize with me well on a personal level.

Needless to say, I’m guessing this isn’t exactly an introduction to Apex Legends for most readers. EA’s battle royale phenomenon has performed incredibly well since its release earlier this year. The main reason I can recommend Apex Legends so confidently is that it’s the only FPS battle royale I believe is well made and fun to play.

First of all, Apex Legends borrows its gunplay straight from the excellent Titanfall series. Anyone who has ever played Titanfall should be familiar with how satisfying guns feel. On top of that, developer Respawn Entertainment has shown fantastic developer support for it. Each season sees a new map, weapon, battle pass, and legend all come to the game at once. These mini-expansions keep gameplay fresh and exciting.

Unfortunately, Apex Legends’ biggest downfall is what it didn’t borrow from Titanfall. Instead of implementing Titanfall’s top tier wall-running and mobility system, Apex Legends opts for something more barebones. Certain characters still have mobility options, but the overall pacing of games is a little slow for my liking.

The excitement of rolling out with a squad to try and be the last alive isn’t done emulated well in many competitors. Whilst Apex Legends still isn’t perfect, it’s the best in its sub-genre by far. It happens to make for a great Twitch viewing experience too.

Borderlands 3 – The Best Co-op Experience

Borderlands 3 - The Best Co-op ExperienceHigh octane, competitive multiplayer isn’t for everyone. Many players would prefer a good old-fashioned run and gun story-focused adventure instead. Frankly, in 2019, that’s a more difficult ask then you’d think in the FPS market. Releasing an FPS in this day and age without multiplayer is the anomaly, not the rule.

However, those that desire a story-driven FPS aren’t completely out of luck. Gearbox Software’s legendary looter shooter series Borderlands has you covered. Released last September, Borderlands 3 has been a game that fans have waited years for. There were worries it would disappoint or go down the dark path of microtransactions and loot boxes. Fortunately, not even 2K Games could ruin this gem.

Borderlands 3 is basically just more Borderlands for those familiar with the series. Gearbox didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. The result is what plays out like another Borderlands 2 with improved visuals and better thought out skill trees and characters. This might sound like a negative to some, but the truth is massive change wasn’t needed. Borderlands 2 was one of the best games of its time so making another game just like it works fine for me.

Perhaps Borderlands 3’s best selling point is its co-op first design. Playing through this with a friend, or two, or three even provides some of the most hectic and hilarious gameplay out there. It’s incredibly fun to discover explore new vaults, funky weapons, and crazy enemies together. For those looking for a more competitive experience, end-game Borderlands can get brutally difficult. Without the right build and approach to fights, you’ll get destroyed by just about everything.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – A Mechanical Challenge

Counter-Strike, Global Offensive - A Mechanical ChallengeCompetitive FPS come in all shapes and sizes. The vision many gamers have of these kinds of games tends to be pretty distant from reality. Many core FPS titles are not overly focused on aim but rather more so on positioning, teamwork and game sense. This is what makes Counter-Strike: Global Offensive so unique. CS: GO is an old-school aim first shooter.

Mechanics are everything in the world of Counter-Strike. Thanks to the immense pacing and one-shot kill capabilities of weapons like the AK-47, second-rate aim doesn’t cut it here. Sure, game sense still matters but CS: GO is legitimately an FPS where mechanical skill can carry single-handedly.

It’s in this arena many pro players for other popular FPS titles honed their skills. After all, if you learn to aim well in CS: GO, you can aim in just about any game. Consider this to a polar opposite of Borderlands 3. On one hand, you have a casual and fun looter shooter. On the other, a twitchy, reaction focused competitive FPS where the main goal is to click heads.

Those who enjoyed older Call of Duty titles might get value out of CS: GO. If truth be told, I struggled to enjoy it. For me, teamwork focused gameplay tends to be more enjoyable than prioritizing individual skills. However, it’s difficult to argue that for a certain group of very competitive players, there is no better game on the market.

Overwatch – A Trial of Game Sense

Overwatch - A Trial of Game SenseIf CS: GO is a trial of mechanics, Overwatch is a trial of game sense. Over the three years since its release, Overwatch has shifted from a traditional FPS to a more MOBA style of gameplay. Many heroes do not require much mechanical skill but rather demand excellent game sense, positioning, and prediction.

For example, Reinhardt is a German knight who comes equipped with a big shield. His primary hammer swing is difficult to miss, and his ranged fire strike has a huge, forgiving hitbox. However, he is by no means easy to play. The best Reinhardt players rely on predicting their match-up’s moves to win duels. They also need to coordinate with the likes of Zarya and Ana. Without this back and forth a Reinhardt player can become overwhelmed quickly.

Almost every hero in Overwatch is like this. Of course, DPS characters like Soldier: 76 and Widowmaker are more focused on mechanics. However, even then Widowmaker’s ultimate is best used to provide intel for your team. Equally, Soldier:76’s biotic healing field gets the most value when used to heal teammates rather than yourself.

Being able to read between the lines and understand why a play has or hasn’t worked is what Overwatch is all about. It’s for this reason that I believe this is the best team-based FPS on the market. However, I will concede that its Competitive Mode is flawed. Since Overwatch is so focused on being a team-based game, when you get uncooperative teammates it’s very noticeable. Toxic throwers and smurfs are sadly all too common.

I consider Overwatch to be one of those love-hate games like League of Legends or World of Warcraft. You’ll keep coming back to it for those sweet moments but there’s going to be a lot of frustration in between.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege – Legendary Levels of Development

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege - Legendary Levels of DevelopmentAt launch, Rainbow Six Siege was not a very good game. Early reviews had it marked as a passable but buggy multiplayer-focused title. Its sales reflected this. Siege only shipped 76,000 copies on day one. For comparison, Final Fantasy XV managed around 5 million sales in the same time period. Early signs suggested that Siege would become Ubisoft’s biggest failure to date.

However, here I am four years later recommending it to you as a top-tier FPS in 2019. What changed? Simply put, Rainbow Six Siege has benefited from the best post-release developer support I’ve ever seen. Rapid patches one after another fixed many bugs and balancing issues. On top of that, its business model is considered to be very fair. Dedicated players can comfortably purchase any new operators with in-game currency.

Speaking of operators, Siege launched with just 20 available. Four years later, there’s now a far more impressive 50 to pick from. Equally, many more maps and even game modes have been added over time. Siege is a good example of AAA developers actually caring about their player base. It’s a rare thing in this day and age and a very welcome change.

As for its gameplay, Siege sits somewhere in the middle of CS: GO and Overwatch. Like CS: GO, the time to kill is very short and possessing good aim is essential to playing in the higher ranks. However, game sense is crucial here. Understanding how operators interact with one another and how to get value is important for consistent success.

As FPS go, Siege also offers the second-best team-oriented gameplay available. It falls a little short of Overwatch in this regard as Siege is definitely more individual. Still, there’s no doubting that well thought out cooperation between two or more experienced players produces results.

What Are Your Thoughts?

That wraps up the five best FPS games to play in 2019. Of course, there are certain disclaimers to note regarding games on this list. For example, Overwatch’s development has stalled recently due to Blizzard focusing on its sequel. Similarly, CS: GO doesn’t get many game-changing updates. It’s stagnated somewhat after all these years.

Let us know what you think. Are these the five FPS games you would have picked? What better FPS games did we miss out on? Be sure to drop your thoughts down in the comments.

Pokemon Sword & Shield: The Big Leak Broken Down

Pokemon Sword & Shield

Pokemon Sword & Shield

It’s the season of leaks in the video game industry. We went into Blizzcon pretty much knowing everything Blizzard had to show. Similarly, a massive leak just dropped about Pokemon Sword & Shield revealing tons of new information. Of course, avoid this article if you want to experience Sword and Shield as a fresh experience. You’ve been warned.

Pokemon Sword & Shield Will Feature 400 Pokemon

Pokemon Sword & Shield Will Feature 400 PokemonPerhaps the most significant part of this leak is that we now know the entire Pokedex for Generation 8. In total, Pokemon Sword & Shield will feature 400 Pokemon, not including any mythical Pokemon. Given that we know there are 94 new Galarian Pokemon, that means only 306 previous-gen Pokemon have made the cut. That is less than half of what Gamefreak could have picked from.

There are both pleasant surprises and shocking exclusions. On the one hand, it’s really cool to see both Type: Null and Silvally listed. This means that the likelihood of Gladion showing up is very high. However, quite a few of my personal favorites have been cut. Most tragic of all, my favorite Pokemon Emolga is nowhere to be seen.

One of the stranger omissions of this list is the general lack of legendaries. We know that Zacian, Zamazenta, and Eternatus are legendaries, but little else seems to fit the bill. Some leaks suggest Mew could follow and presumably a few more mythical Pokemon could be revealed on release. However, the fact still stands that many iconic legendaries are nowhere to be seen. No Weather trio, no Creation trio, and no Legendary Birds or Titans. Having a lack of legendaries would hurt Pokemon Sword & Shield’s competitive viability.

Galarian & Gigantamax Forms

Galarian & Gigantamax FormsThe leak confirms thirteen new Galarian forms. Thankfully, Game Freak hasn’t just pandered to first-gen fans. Several other non-Kanto Pokemon are receiving a Galarian makeover like Stunfisk and Darumaka.

Interestingly, it appears as though some Galarian forms will have unique evolutions. For example, Galarian Corsola evolves into Cursola whilst previously it didn’t have an evolution. Equally, Galarian Yanmask can now evolve into Runerigus instead of Cofagrigus. It’s difficult to say if these evolutions will be available to any regular forms too. Honestly, we might not even find that out until the Sinnoh remakes eventually release. Although, that’s just pure speculation as Sun and Moon allowed for non-Alola forms to be caught too.

On top of Galarian forms, the Pokedex leak also revealed all of the Gigantamax forms. As a quick reminder, Gigantamax is Pokemon Sword & Shield’s new feature where some Pokemon have unique giant versions. In total, there are seventeen unique Gigantamax forms confirmed. Over half of these are for new Gen 8 Pokemon. Of the remaining nine, eight of them are for Kanto Pokemon. Fan favorites such as Charizard, Pikachu, and Lapras will all get a new giant form.

Mono Type Starters

Mono Type StartersWith the reveal of the Pokedex also comes the reveal of the starter evolutions. Surprisingly, none of the starters will ever gain a secondary typing. The last time none of the three starters gained a second type when evolving was way back in Johto. Since then several starters from Mudkip to Rowlet have all gained a second type. In fact, in the last two generations none of the six starters remained mono types.

However, Pokemon Sword & Shield’s three starters will always be pure grass, fire and water types respectively. The overall reception for the starters has been very mixed. Some feel they are underwhelming, and others go as far as to say they’re flat out ugly.

Personally, I lean on the more positive side. Unlike many previous generations, I don’t think any of the starters have a bad final form. Equally though, I don’t believe any of them are top tier either. If I had to say, I’d give Cinderace a 6/10, Intelleon a 7/10 and Rillaboom an 8/10. At the very least, they haven’t ruined any of the starters as they did to my boy Litten last gen.

For now, that’s all we know. Pokemon Sword & Shield drops for Nintendo Switch on November 15th worldwide.

Do you like the new Galar Pokemon? Are you second thinking which starter you’re going to pick? Be sure to drop your thoughts down below in the comments.

Fallout 76: A Story of Failure and Deceit

Fallout 76

Fallout 76

Fallout 76 has gone down in the history books for all of the wrong reasons. Bethesda promised so much for their newest Fallout game but just about every promise has been broken. Their latest announcement of Fallout 1st feels like the final straw in an ongoing series of betrayals.

Furthermore, it doesn’t look like Bethesda plan to stop anytime soon. So before they go on and destroy their once beloved brand any further, let’s recap everything that went wrong. This is Fallout 76’s story of failure and deceit.

It Just Works!

Fallout 76: It Just WorksFallout 76 was first announced at Bethesda’s 2018 E3 conference. Given that it had been three years since the last Fallout, fans were anticipating a new game for the fall of 2018. Well, at least at the reveal, they weren’t let down. Bethesda’s director and executive producer Todd Howard announced a prequel to the entire series, Fallout 76.

Even before we had seen any gameplay, the promises started. Todd Howard told the audience Fallout 76 was Bethesda’s biggest Fallout yet. He went on to describe an amazing new world. It would be four times the size of Fallout 4 and support new visuals developed with ground-breaking technology. Mr. Howard even had the audacity to claim Fallout 76 supported sixteen times the detail of previous games.

Then followed perhaps the funniest, or saddest, sentence of the entire presentation. “One of the great things about having a fully dynamic game engine is all of this just works.” Todd Howard told us the new game engine was to thank for how well Fallout 76 functions. In retrospect, he basically called out his engine development team for doing a bad job. Ironic considering I’d bet it was his set deadline that screwed them over.

Turns Out It Didn’t Work in Fallout 76

Turns Out It Didn't WorkLater that year on November 14th, Fallout 76 officially launched. There were some early concerns pre-release regarding texture quality but nothing too major. As far as fans were concerned, this was going to be the online co-op Bethesda game we’ve all dreamt of for years.

On day one Fallout 76 needed an impressive 48 GB patch to presumably fix an even more broken version of the game. After the update, it didn’t take long for players to figure out what the main problem was. From the outside, it seemed as though Bethesda had forgotten to bug test the game at all.

Players experienced visual bugs that removed entire segments of that massive world Todd Howard previously boasted. It’s hardly four times the size when half of it doesn’t spawn in. The visual bugs were one thing, the server issues were another. Players were constantly being disconnected by the stupidest of things. For example, having multiple nukes launched at once would close the entire server. Just a friendly reminder that the nuke system was the key selling point of this entire game.

The worst bugs of all went as far as to affect the platform they were being played on. PlayStation players suffered error CE-34878-0 which forced them to reinstall the game. Yes, that includes the 48gb day one patch too. Meanwhile, some PC players had their systems crash when leaving Vault 76. Bethesda’s advice? Make sure your computer meets the system requirements. That was all they had to say.

Inevitable Exploitation

Inevitable ExploitationActually no, I’m not talking about any dodgy Bethesda business practices, for once. I mean sure, their censorship of criticism shortly after the release wasn’t exactly angelic but it happens… I guess. Instead, I’m talking about how this broken game had a few exploitable glitches that vaporised Fallout 76’s progression system.

Some of the funnier bugs included infinite inventory, sonic running speed, and various wall clipping. Some of the more serious issues included an invulnerable player, infinite cash and an unlimited supply of EXP. Of course, Bethesda would not tolerate such unfair play. They handed out various bans to the worse offenders or at least who they guessed were the worst offenders. Bethesda didn’t actually know who to ban so they just gave it a good go.

Fortunately for them, these wrongdoers were given a get out of jail free card by the ever-selfless Bethesda. All they had to do was provide an essay on why “the use of third-party cheat software is detrimental to an online game community.” This approach isn’t too different from what primary schools make naughty kids do. Still, it could be worse.

Cheaters could have gotten access to the developer room and looted thousands of the rarest items in the game. They could have sold all these goods on a black market for real money. Dare I suggest maybe they would even go on to destroy the game’s economy through mass inflation. It’s a good thing that totally didn’t actually happen. That would be ridiculous for the developers of a AAA game to not have considered this obvious outcome.

Less Dark Rum, More a Dark, Dark Tale

Less Dark Rum, More a Dark, Dark TaleThe Silver Screen Bottling Company was made responsible for creating one of Fallout 76’s pre-order bonuses. The bottle itself cost $80 and was expected to be a premium collectible for dedicated fans. However, the final product wasn’t even made of glass. Instead, the outer case was a cheap plastic overlay for a generic bottle of rum.

So it’s not going to make for a good shelf piece. What about the rum itself? Certainly, I’m no alcohol critic but the more qualified YouTuber Nick Drinks had some strong thoughts on its shortcomings. His highest praise of the rum stated: “it’s not quite medicinal but it has a cardboardy type fake flavoring.” More worryingly, after his first taste, all he could bring himself to say was “that’s terrible.

The general consensus is that the Nuka Dark Rum was just a cheaply made plastic case containing even worse quality rum. Bethesda’s $80 retail price was seemingly just based on their delusion of Fallout’s brand value. They even pulled a similar act with the Fallout 76 duffel bag too. Players were promised a nice canvas bag but instead got sent cheap nylon bags. To be fair, Bethesda did later fix this problem. It took them seven months but it’s better than just accepting the outcome as they did with the Nuka Dark Rum.

Fallout’s 1st To Grab Your Money

Fallout 76's 1st To Grab Your MoneyGiven everything you’ve read so far, it’s fair to say Fallout 76 is a failure of a video game. However, there’s always an opportunity for redemption in gaming. All it takes is a passionate, legitimately apologetic team who wants to prove a point to their fans. However, even more so than that, it takes a publisher who gives a damn about what people think. Fallout 76 doesn’t have such a publisher.

Even after all of these issues Bethesda are still trying to find ways to milk this tragedy of an RPG. Instead of providing in-demand features to eager players, only those who pay into Fallout 1st get access to these updates. What is Fallout 1st? A new paid service for $11.99 a month designed to exploit the most dedicated 1% of 76’s player base.

For $12 a month you get private worlds, unlimited storage, and monthly atom supplies. Unbelievably, that’s pretty much it. No new content and no meaningful goals or accomplishments. You’re paying $12 a month to get a slightly more functional version of a cripplingly broken game.

Refunds In the Land Down Under

Refunds In the Land Down UnderThe final update we have on Fallout 76 came from The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This commission is responsible for the protection of consumers from company exploitation. They have determined that Bethesda and their parent company, ZeniMax, owe Australian consumers a refund for misleading them.

Whilst they were originally uncooperative, ZeniMax has admitted it was “likely to have misled,” some consumers. Not over the quality of the product, mind you. Instead, they admitted their move to refuse refunds for many customers wasn’t actually legal. So if you’re Australian and brought Fallout 76, you might be due a refund.

The Future of Fallout 76

The Future of Fallout 76This has been a disaster since day one. Bethesda has managed to lie and break their promises so much that Fallout 76 is now a dead game. Just to artificially inflate sales figures they had to put it on sales as high as 50% in just its first few months. You can pick Fallout 76 on PC up for as little as $15. That is shocking for a AAA game released just over a year ago.

As far as I’m concerned, Fallout 76 doesn’t have a future. Bethesda is reluctantly supporting it right now because they have to. Their development cycle plan probably already had work put into it. I reckon once it runs its course you can expect to see a sudden lack of development. In fact, I’ll put a date on it. In the next 18 months, Bethesda will abandon Fallout and focus on getting the likely superior Elder Scrolls VI out instead. And thus, the sad tale that is Fallout 76 will come to its end. When everything is said, perhaps that’s for the best.

FIFA 20 Review: Park The Bus Edition

FIFA

FIFA 20 is Electronic Arts’ latest installment in their hit football simulation series. Recently, FIFA has been put under pressure regarding its aggressive loot boxes. Given that it’s more important than ever that EA delivers a quality product to show that they still care. Unfortunately, I’m not sure they’ve quite achieved in doing so.

The Dreariest FIFA Yet

The Dreariest FIFA YetLast year’s FIFA was not well received by fans. It felt sluggish and rewarded low skill, high reward tactics. For example, competitive Ultimate Team defending was based on holding A to jockey the attacker. There was little else involved outside of occasionally manually tracking runs made behind.

EA has made efforts to raise FIFA 20’s skill ceiling. Several new mechanics such as timed tackling and precision dribbling have been introduced. However, if it’s a competitive game you are looking to play, the experience isn’t much better.

FIFA 20 badly fails to encourage different types of play. Several core aspects of the sport like crossing, heading and long shots don’t function properly. Due to how difficult it is to pull them off consistently, players are encouraged to only shoot inside the box. Since the aim of the game is to prevent players from entering your box, park the bus setups are very popular.

Every game of FIFA 20 feels the same. Both players sit back as deep as possible and try to counter-attack one another with pacey forwards. The lack of variety in playstyles gets old quickly. Each game becomes more of a chore than the last.

To be fair, that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed Ultimate Team. It’s just that I feel FIFA 20 lacks those exciting moments that older titles could deliver on. You go into each and every game knowing exactly what to expect. Given the fact I’ve only played as high as Division 4 too, I can only assume it’s even worse at the top level.

Squad Building Fun

Squad Building FunSince their introduction in FIFA 17, Squad Building Challenges have consistently been Ultimate Team’s best feature. The core premise has players build teams that fit specified criteria. For example, you could have to put together a team that features at least 3 rare silvers and 7 Premier League players. Later SBCs get more complex and can require several teams built to acquire a special one-off card or pack.

SBCs are a brilliant feature that allows for non-meta cards to gain and retain value. Case in point, I recently sold a 74 rated Opara for 5k coins. Not bad for a random silver card who no one wants in their actual squad. These challenges also provide an excellent gameplay option for those not into the competitive side of FIFA.

It’s no secret that FIFA can be a very stressful game to play. Even before the gameplay problems I’ve outlined, past titles could still be infuriating. In previous years single-player modes like Career Mode and Squad Battles could alleviate some of this stress. These were good options for players looking for a more casual FIFA experience.

However, in FIFA 20 I found SBCs fill this role instead. Coming up with a complex solution on your own to get a quality pack or player is very satisfying. You’re not rushed by anything or anyone and can take your time to lay out all the options you have.

Meanwhile, single-player matches are surprisingly stressful this year. Especially when you begin playing on World Class or above. The A.I use sliders to make both their overall and chemistry not mean all that much. They also play incredible tiki-taka, possession play as they flawlessly pass around you. Only true masochists should even attempt Ultimate difficulty.

Those Classic FIFA Sports Game Bugs

Those Classic Sports Game BugsI never noticed it growing up, but sports games are pretty badly made. From NBA 2K20’s crashing and lack of stability to WWE 2K’s, well, everything. Honestly, FIFA isn’t as bad as 2K’s trashy sports game, but its tiny development cycle is still very much apparent.

One issue I found is that in career mode teams rotate their squads far too often. On paper, this doesn’t sound too bad. Football teams do this all the time, right? Perhaps but I doubt Chelsea would play their entire reserves in the FA Cup Final. Even poor Van Ginkel himself probably wasn’t expecting to start that game.

Tragically, I’ve yet to play the Volta game mode at all. Of course, I intended to play it for this review, but it’s so broken I can’t. Whenever I put in a player name FIFA tells me it contains “profane text.” I tried my actual name, the front cover star’s name and even just calling myself A Footballer. Yes, according to EA literally being called A Footballer is profane.

These are only the game-breaking bugs too. All the usual smaller but definitely noticeable issues are also buried deep in the code. I saw a Reddit post where after winning the Women’s World Cup all the officials around the podium stood their T-Posing. Someone else managed to pack an Ousmane Dembele with no contracts and zero owners. On their own, these bugs aren’t a big deal. However, when added up they indicate a serious lack of care and quality control.

FIFA 20 is crying out for a few more months of development. The reality though is that forced annual releases will always hold the series back. Unfortunately, there’s only so much a team can do in such a short period of time.

Final Verdict

I can’t honestly tell you that FIFA 20 is a good game. Sure, it’s functional but what does really mean. This is supposed to be an industry-leading simulation for the largest sport on the planet. Simply put, it doesn’t live up to that. Instead, we’re left with an okay but unsensational filler title that will make EA a quick buck. If all you want is a passable football game, then this is still a better option than PES. However, make no mistake, this is one of the worst FIFA games I’ve ever played.

Do you agree with what we have to say? What game mode are you enjoying the most? Has EA done enough for you to make FIFA 20 stand out? Let us know in the comments what you think.

Everything We Know About Pokémon Sword & Shield

Pokémon Sword & Shield

Nintendo recently announced a 24-hour live stream for Pokémon Sword and Shield. We don’t know much about the Livestream, but it’s thought to show off Galar’s Luminous Maze Forest. Since we’re about to get a tonne of new information, it feels like a good time to recap. So, here’s everything major we know about Pokémon Sword and Shield so far.

New Pokémon

New PokemonIt wouldn’t be a new generation without some fresh faces. The Galar region will introduce players to a large variety of new Pokémon. As of writing this article, we know of 18 new Pokémon. We can also assume that the starters Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble will have two evolutions each. That brings the confirmed number up to 24. The least new Pokémon ever added to a region was 72 in Kalos. Given this, you can expect many more to be announced for Galar.

So, what are the highlights? That depends on your tastes but it’s clear Sirfetch’d captured many fan’s hearts. An evolution of Farfetch’d, Sirfetch’d is a pure fighting type that uses a Leek as a sword. Also, it weighs 117kg for some reason. They must be some very heavy vegetables.

I’m sure Nintendo was thrilled when they came up with the pun Polteageist. Yes, it’s a sentient teacup. The classic ghost type trick where they make daily items come to life. Similar to Chandelure, Dhelmise, and Aegislash.

My personal favorite is Drednaw. This alligator snapping turtle is the water/rock type we always needed. I mean no disrespect to Carracosta, Relicanth, and Corsola, but they’re nothing special. Corsola is based on literal coral. Drednaw is a mix of a badass turtle and a god damn dreadnought. What’s cooler, a warship or some ocean plant?

There’s a little too much for me to cover here but feel free to check out the full list. On the whole. I’m impressed with the new Pokemon we’ve seen. There’s a good amount of variety and some very interesting designs.

Version Exclusive Content

Version Exclusive ContentPokemon Sword and Shield is the second Pokemon game to feature version exclusive gyms. In Pokemon Sword, you’ll face Bea, a fighting type expert. In Pokemon Shield, ghost type specialist Allister stands in her place. It’s very possible that more exclusive gyms will be announced closer to release.

Nintendo hasn’t been too open about version exclusive Pokemon. In fact, we only know seven differences so far. Of course, each title will have a different cover legendary. Pokemon Sword is represented by Zacian whilst Shield has Zamazenta. I’m crossing my fingers for a Loch Ness inspired legendary,

Pokemon Sword will have two dragon type exclusive evolution lines. Both Deino and Jangmo-o’s lines are unavailable in Shield. However, Shield will get both the Goomy line and Larvitar evolutions. Regardless, I wouldn’t overly worry about version exclusives. Modern Pokemon games make trading for exclusives very easy through the Global Trade System.

A major negative of Sword and Shield is the lack of all Pokemon. Nintendo has already confirmed the eighth generation won’t include the entire Pokedex. There’s an obvious worry that your favorite Pokemon could end up getting cut. Nintendo has not yet disclosed if any popular Pokemon won’t make it to Galar.

The Galar Region

The Galar RegionThe Galar Region is based on the United Kingdom. This isn’t too much of a surprise with Gamefreak moving towards foreign locations in recent games. Unova was the US, Kalos was France and Alola was Hawaii. Galar’s champion is the talented trainer Leon. Leon is the brother of Hop, the player’s neighbour, and rival. Leon has “never been defeated in an official Pokémon battle.” Finally, his signature Pokemon is Charizard.

The design of Galar’s map suggests players will work their way north to the Pokemon league. A small village like settlement can be seen all the way down south. At the top of Galar sits a glorious, London inspired capital. I’d predict this is where the Pokemon League will be. There are a couple of small islands on the outskirts of Galar. Potentially, these might be areas to explore or just decoration to fit the UK theme. Regardless, a Channel Islands inspired area could be fun.

Dynamax

DynamaxEvery new Pokemon game features a big new mechanic. In that sense, Sword and Shield are no different. Dynamax is a weird hybrid between mega evolving and Z-moves. When used, Pokemon will grow to several times their own size for three turns. This increases their stats and lets them use powerful Dynamax exclusive Max Moves. Dynamax can only be performed in special areas like gyms. Presumably, Dynamax Wailord will be a magnificent sight.

Raid bosses appear in both Sword and Shield. These raid bosses start out as Dynamax Pokemon. When captured, they will return to their regular size. This is very similar to how Pokemon Go handles raids. During raids, only one trainer will be able to Dynamax their Pokemon. When fighting raids, you can either team up with friends or just use A.I. Disappointingly, only one player will get the opportunity to catch a raid Pokemon. It’s likely that raid Pokemon will have better IVs and hidden abilities.

Miscellaneous Details

Miscellaneous Details of Pokémon Sword & ShieldThere are of course many smaller features that are difficult to all fit in. Given that, here are five smaller details that may be of interest to you:

  • After the success of Alolan forms, Nintendo has confirmed Galarian forms will be in Sword and Shield. Both Weezing and Zigzagoon have Galarian forms.
  • The bad guys this time are Team Yell. They support Marnie and will do anything to make sure she becomes a champion.
  • Gym battles take place in stadiums rather than traditional gyms. In Galar, battling is a spectator sport. This is a nod to the UK’s footballing culture.
  • Developer Shuntaro Furukawa confirmed Sword and Shield had been developed with handheld gaming in mind.
  • Pokemon Camp allows you to pitch up a tent and play with your Pokemon. This seems to be the new Pokemon Refresh system.

And that’s about everything we know so far. I have no doubt the upcoming 24-hour Livestream will announce plenty more though. I know I’m excited to give it a go.

Let us know what you think of Pokémon Sword & Shield. Are you bothered by the Pokedex cutdown or can you see the long-term benefits?

Modern Warfare Open Beta First Impressions

Modern Warfare

Modern Warfare

I’ve been playing the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Open Beta throughout the weekend. My relationship with Call of Duty is a long and fractured one. I fell out of love with the series a fair few years ago. There’s always that time each year where I tell myself maybe I’ll rekindle my love for it once again. Unfortunately, after playing five hours of the open beta, a cruel reality has struck me down. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is not a game I enjoy.

Gun Balance

Gun BalanceIt’s no secret that of the major Call of Duty studios, Infinity Ward has the worst balancing team. Many of their older titles feature dreadful gameplay balance from top to bottom. Call of Duty 4’s M16 could one-shot burst anyone in the game. Modern Warfare 2 has a ludicrous amount of game-winning, momentum stacking killstreaks. Let’s not forget how dominant Modern Warfare 3’s MP7 was either. That thing straight up didn’t recoil.

The Modern Warfare reboot is no exception to this tradition. The gap between the best gun and the worst gun is hilarious. Currently, the M4A1 is the best gun by far. It suffers from little recoil and can delete enemies from just about any range. Equally, shotguns don’t exactly work as intended. They fail to one-shot far too often which makes it better to hip-fire with a rifle instead.

Modern Warfare’s big issue is that Infinity Ward doesn’t seem to have compared between guns at all. For example, in the assault rifle class, the M4A1 outclasses the AK-47 at almost everything. The AK-47 fires slower and has at least triple the recoil yet doesn’t seem to do more DPS. Equally, both the MP5 and MP7 seem to completely outclass every other SMG.

One of the best parts of games like Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3 was the gun balance. Weapons were designed specifically to fit different situations and niches. Of course, the ASM1 and BAL were strong but on the right map, other options became very viable. Modern Warfare completely lacks this. If you want to do well, just pick the M4A1 and call it a day.

Map Design of Modern Warfare

Modern Warfare Map DesignThe maps are hit or miss. In truth, it’s difficult to judge them in the game’s current state. This is because spawning is atrocious. It’s not uncommon to spawn in the middle of the air and immediately fall to your death. On one instance, I was playing Ground War and spawned in a room with at least ten enemies.

Modern Warfare was initially going to have no minimap. This would have been a theoretically good change. Modern FPS are moving more towards communication and scouting based gameplay. Infinity Ward could have brought an end to the red dot chasing culture of Call of Duty. The no minimap design doesn’t work in practice. This is because Modern Warfare’s sound design is poor. Friendly footsteps are too loud. It’s also difficult to establish an enemy’s location on sound alone. Compared to a competitor like Overwatch, it’s impressive how weak CoD’s sound design really is.

The best map I played was probably Hackney Yard. Spawns aside, it has some really nice design features. Points have several entrances making it difficult to camp them. This allows you to get value out of niche Field Upgrades such as Deployable Cover. Being able to take that little extra bit of space can help lock down an objective.

For the most part, the Field Upgrades are unbalanced. Stopping Power Rounds drastically increases bullet damage for one clip. You can get this roughly every 70-90 seconds. When its off cooldown, you are practically guaranteed to win your next gunfight. Anything that gives you a won gunfight is too strong in my eyes.

Gameplay Flow

Gameplay FlowTo Modern Warfare’s credit, I cannot pull out the cliché of “it feels like another CoD game.” Seriously, it really doesn’t. Modern Warfare plays like no Call of Duty title before it. Maps are far larger, and the gameplay is slower than ever. I find on Ground War this is beneficial. The slower-paced, vehicle-centric combat creates a more casual version of what Battlefield used to do so well.

However, this doesn’t translate well to traditional game modes. Team Deathmatch and Domination are painfully slow. Especially, with how strong assault rifles are, players are encouraged to sit in one area. Run and gun playstyles are sub-optimal on most maps. This is very noticeable on open maps like Azhir Cave. In most of the games I’ve been in, it’s very rare to see someone get more than 25 kills. Considering lobbies are 10 versus 10, that’s quite the feat.

Mind you, on PC at least, you hardly ever get full lobbies anyway. Modern Warfare features neat cross-platform input-based matchmaking. Regardless of platform, keyboard players will face other keyboard players. The main benefit of this system is that you can finally use a controller on PC and still compete equally. The downside is that keyboard lobbies are relatively unpopulated. Perhaps it’s no surprise given how gamepad friendly Call of Duty has always been.

Final Thoughts

Whilst not awful, I didn’t particularly enjoy Modern Warfare’s Open Beta. There are just a few too many flaws getting in the way of the overall experience. The quality of the PC port was a nice surprise, but the actual gameplay falls flat on its face. If I’m frank, I don’t think Infinity Ward can fix these problems either. I’ve never seen them make a game with good balance. Tragically, I think Ghosts got the closest and I reckon most of us can agree that was a fairly poor game.

If they prove me wrong, then maybe I’ll do a 180 and give it a proper second chance. For now, this feels like the latest in a long run of mediocre Call of Duty titles. Be sure to comment below what you thought about the Modern Warfare Open Beta. Do you like the new direction Call of Duty is going in or would you prefer an old-school styled FPS instead?

RuneScape: A Brutal Fall From Grace

RuneScape

RuneScape

It’s easy to forget now, but RuneScape was once a serious player in the gaming market. During its peak in 2009, RuneScape could reach 250,000 players online at once. Ten years later, this number usually sits around just 80,000. So, what went wrong? This is a tale of development mistakes and a refusal to listen to fans.

Death of PvP – December 2007

Death of PvP - December 2007It’s debatable when the fall of RuneScape truly began. Personally, I believe the 2007 changes to the Wilderness acted as the ignition for its decline. Previously, most player versus player content took place in an area called the Wilderness. Unlike the rest of Gielinor, players are not protected here. Death in the Wilderness means losing all but three items on you.

This structure encouraged a revolution of PvP hunting. Players would look for targets who were potentially carrying valuable items to hunt down. Jagex encouraged this by adding more high risk, high reward content to the Wilderness. For example, Level 3 Treasure Trials that can give rewards worth billions often take place in the Wilderness.

In December 2007, Jagex made a rash choice. In an attempt to counter the ongoing scamming problem, Jagex removed open world PvP. The Wilderness was no longer a dangerous region. Bounty Hunter was added as a makeshift replacement. A specified zone within The Wilderness for players to fight it out.

We’ve actually been thinking for quite some time that the Wilderness was a bit on the big side, and it can get quite hard to find other players to fight.”

Wilderness Changes, Bounty Hunter and Clan Wars! – 10th December, 2007 (CAPTION FOR ABOVE QUOTE)

RuneScape’s player base hated this change. After all, Jagex had effectively ruined PvP just to counteract the 1% of scammers. They knew they messed up too. Less than a year later, designated PvP worlds were introduced with the old Wilderness in place. In February 2011, all PvP changes were reverted.

 Goodbye Free Trade – January 2008

RuneScape: Goodbye Free Trade - January 2008Whilst one development team worked on Bounty Hunter, another worked on improving RuneScape’s trading system. At its most basic, RuneScape’s trading is brilliantly simplistic. Players select what they want to trade, review if they agree with the trade and finally confirm the transaction. RuneScape’s trading even gives players multiple confirmation screens to counter potential scamming.

Unfortunately, Jagex did not feel that the system was doing its job well enough. They wanted to kill off real-world trading for good. The aforementioned PvP changes had been introduced a month prior. It was now time for Jagex to give free trade the noose too.

A trade limit was introduced to prevent uneven trades ever happening again. Jagex’s idea was simple. If players couldn’t trade valuables to other accounts without receiving a fair fee back, scamming was no longer possible. Technically, they were right. This even had the nice side effect of minimizing account hacking too. After all, why would people bother hacking accounts when they can’t transfer items?

From the community’s point of view, these benefits did not outweigh the negatives. Just like the PvP changes, Jagex was taking away player freedom to prevent a tiny percentage of scammers. Whilst problematic, no one asked for Jagex to act this aggressively. At the end of the day, those that get scammed are probably to blame.

Player naivety is the primary cause of scamming and hacking. Surely teaching players about account security was a better option. Hilariously, Jagex apparently agreed. Just two months after this update, the Stronghold of Player Safety was released. Despite this, they would not remove trade limits until February 2011.

Predatory Microtransactions – April 2012

Predatory Microtransactions - April 2012After the reintroduction of free trade and PvP, RuneScape experienced a short but sweet golden age. Players now had their old school RuneScape experience back but with more content than ever before. This didn’t last long. One year after free trade and PvP had been reintroduced, Jagex added something far eviler. RuneScape entered the modern age of microtransactions and loot boxes.

Thus, the Squeal of Fortune was incarnated. Players could now purchase spins with real-world currency. The most expensive transaction possible set players back $99.99 for 200 spins. The Squeal of Fortune didn’t just hand out cosmetics either. Rewards included sizable gold and EXP drops. Unbelievably, Jagex had legitimized the ability to purchase in-game progress. After all of those years of trying to prevent real-world trading, they were now profiting off of the same concept.

Three months after the Squeal of Fortune, Solomon’s General Store followed. This store did only sell cosmetics but the sudden increase in microtransactions was alarming. Needless to say, Jagex didn’t stop there. In 2013 purchasable bonds were released. Bonds could be purchased with real money and then sold for in game gold to other players. Later, the Squeal of Fortune would be rebranded as Treasure Hunter.

As recent as 2018, Jagex is still finding new ways to monetize RuneScape. Inspired by Fortnite, the RunePass allows players to earn rewards as they climb up tiers. Interestingly enough, despite having a far smaller player base, RuneScape 3 actually generates more income than Old School RuneScape. Sadly, that shows the power of microtransactions. Everything discussed here is still present in the live game. More worryingly, unless the law forces them to, there are no signs Jagex intends to slow down.

RuneScape: EasyScape – April 2012

EasyScape - April 2012EasyScape is a colloquial term used by the community to describe RuneScape’s gradual movement toward easier gameplay. Historically, RuneScape was a very difficult game. In RuneScape 1, now known as RuneScape Classic, leveling skills to 99 was effectively impossible. No efficient leveling methods existed at the time. Even as late as 2012 skills like Prayer, Agility, and Runecrafting were still very time consuming to train.

The EasyScape culture didn’t begin in 2012, but it definitely began to speed up around then. Perhaps the biggest culprit of all is Runespan. Runecrafting is a skill in RuneScape that allows the crafting of runes for Magic. For the longest time, training this skill had to be done via the Abyss.

Abyss running is risky business. Players have to enter the Wilderness and risk becoming a victim of player killing. However, the benefits are significant. Players will receive 2.5x more exp per rune than a traditional altar. Also, the Abyss greatly shortens the journey to most Runecrafting altars.

Many players enjoyed the grindy risk versus reward model Runecrafting was known for. In April 2012, the Abyss died. Runespan introduced AFKable Runecrafting. Whilst the Abyss is technically still better EXP per hour, the sheer effort involved is generally not worth it. Outside of power leveling, most players today train Runecrafting with the much easier Runespan method.

An extreme example of EasyScape can be seen in melee training. Old School RuneScape’s peak exp per hour for melee sits at around 160,000. In comparison, some efficient area of effect Abyss training on RuneScape 3 can harbor up to 600,000 exp per hour. That’s nearly four times the experience.

Evolution of Combat – November 2012

RuneScape: Evolution of Combat - November 2012The Evolution of Combat update, released in late 2012, aimed to add a skill curve to RuneScape. Jagex had already shown signs of interest in introducing a competitive environment. Bounty Hunter featured full MMR and ranked placement features. In Jagex’s eyes, RuneScape had a core problem that prevented it from becoming a skill-based title. It’s combat.

RuneScape’s traditional combat is primarily luck-based. You click on an enemy and hope for the best. Players can control equipment and stat modifiers to increase their odds but have few options during combat itself. Old School RuneScape still employs this system.

However, RuneScape 3 uses the newer Evolution of Combat. Commonly referred to as just EOC, this system adds a whole new level of complexity to combat. Rather than just clicking and hoping for the best, players have to now use cooldowns to increase their effective damage and sustain. To Jagex’s credit, this has made RuneScape 3 a far more skill-based game than Old School. There is no content in Old School RuneScape near as difficult as the end game raids of RuneScape 3.

Jagex took a sizable gamble that adding a new combat system could potentially attract new players. Perhaps it did but the sad truth is it ended up scaring off far more. For many, these drastic changes in combat spelled the death of RuneScape. It was no longer recognizable as the game they grew up with. This update caused the largest divide in the community to date. In protest and annoyance, mass quitting ensued.

Lessons Learnt

Lessons LearntRuneScape is a fantastic case study of poor game development. Jagex had the world at their fingers but bad decision one after another had everything slip away. If Jagex just listened to their community, this would have been avoided. I don’t believe Evolution of Combat killed RuneScape as many others proclaim. Instead, it was the final straw following several other far worse decisions. The player base lost trust in Jagex.

Jagex has moved in the right direction in recent years. It’s disappointing to see microtransactions still so prevalent, but content updates have widely improved. They are also putting more time into balancing new updates so that AFKable activities provide worse experience rates. RuneScape’s recovery to its former success seems unlikely. MMORPGs are on the decline. The grind is just too much for most people. Generally speaking, MMOs no longer experience growth. Just steady decline. Regardless, it should be interesting to see where RuneScape goes from here.

What do you Think About RuneScape

Be sure to let us know what you’re favorite MMO is below. Do you think MMORPGs can ever become prominent again? Are Jagex responsible for RuneScape’s decline or was it inevitable?