How 2023 ended:
Win next week and the Green Bay Packers are in the play offs!
I can confirm that 2023 was a year and with it came some disappointments.
With that said the game we got is what we should probably have expected. It is the same game engine behind their other games, like Skyrim, and performs exactly the same. The challenge with Starfield is it's not a single terrestrial world and thus ends up with far more loading screens to get players between planets, ships, space, buildings, etc.
Add onto the loading screens a combat system that is lackluster, a story that is nonsensical, and a myriad of systems that never make sense when brought together and you have the biggest gaming disappointment of 2023 and possibly the last decade. How this game sold 10+ million copies is beyond me. Had I not gotten my copy with my new graphics card purchase I'd of hit refund on Steam within the first hour.
If you told me Rebel Moon was a movie about Starfield I would believe it. Story that makes no sense? Check. Every cliche under the sun (ha!)? Check. This movie doesn't deserve the words I've typed let alone more words. Such a disappointment. Do better Netflix.
Some may find this surprising considering 91% of my game time this year has been spent playing New
World, but I can't help but admit that the end of year really soured my mood on the game. We did get the Rise of the Angry Earth expansion which did bring amazing features like mounts, but it was very lacking in content. The five extra levels (cap raised from 60 to 65) were laughable as far as effort-required and the new story + zone lasted all of an hour. I hate to admit it but that was NOT enough to be worthy of the title "expansion". I'd rather have had this delivered as a seasonal update.
The lacking expansion would have been fine as it was coming right before a big set of new features that were listed on the road map. Then the road map was updated -- and this is why New World is on my disappointment's list -- they literally canceled the majority of the road map and delivered almost nothing. Instead of the expansion being a launching pad into the future it was a speed bump that most players were done with the first week it came out. I am still a huge New World fan but find myself less interested each update.
To cap it off we did not get a 2024 road map yet and instead have been asked to come back in May for "something big" which is mind boggling considering the number of items that were good enough to put on a road map before and are now many don't even sound like they are being considered. How does that happen? I can get a one off feature being dropped but the majority!? What the heck.
What can I say. We entered the year worried about whether Jordan Love was the future QB of the Packers. Little did we know the age-old Green Bay Packers "worst defense in the league.... again" was the real worry. If we make the play offs... it will be a miracle.
I knew I was in for a ride when in my first game I started the match out with a building collapsing around me and players making a mad scramble up the crumbling pieces to fight over a cashout box. A lot of games promise destruction, but there is nothing quite like the destruction that The Finals allows for. Destruction is as much of a strategy as coordinating movement with your team. Objective on the floor above you? Destroy the floor and bring it down to you. Team defending a hardened upper floor in a building? Bring the entire building down like a lumberjack bringing down a tree.
To go with destruction there is also a plethora of traversal options for players (worth noting that destruction itself is a traversal option). Grappling hooks, ziplines, wall running, invisibility grenades, and anything a creative mind can come up with like jumping on an exploding bottle and hitting it to send it off like a rocket.
The game breaks down into three classes: light, medium, and heavy. Light is light and mobile but are paper thin. Medium are the support class and the main healing class, but is no chump as they are able to dish out damage. Heavy is a bulldozer; whether sledge hammering down a building or Juggernaut-style charging through walls (in fact it makes me want to say the line every time I use the charge ability).
Each class has access to it's own set of gadgets and primary weapons so each class can carve out its own role. The game also allows a backup inventory that can be changed out between respawns. The backup is not a full selection so there is decisions to be made going into matches. This isn't that much of a concern in quick play matches but I suspect it will be a big part of competitive play. For my casual games so far it's been nice to be able to change stuff up to try things out inside of a match instead of having to wait between matches.
What I like most about The Finals is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. There are so many "that doesn't make sense but I'll allow it" moments. The moment I realized you can melee attack an exploding barrel while holding it to "prime" it's explosion like a grenade was awesome. Seeing folks slap C4 to casino chairs to use as mobile bombs, watching someone climb a building using turrets as a ladder, and using fire bottles as rocket sleds (stand on top of them and shoot the valve to give it a whirl) are all amazing moments you don't find in other games these days.
The shenanigans may also be what gives the game a shorter shelf life than other FPS games. For every eye catching moment there is a "what the..." moment to go with it. Much of those moments take away from an otherwise sensible objective-based game. The disparity will grow between players who know the game's hi-jinks and those that are just jumping in for some fun which may leave this game to just the ultra competitive crowd which would be a shame. Matches are becoming more and more lopsided as each day passes and for those of us not interested in rank play that may end the fun sooner than later.
Over all the game is a blast to play and since it is free to play I would encourage anyone interested to give it a try. If anything just load up the heavy class with a sledge hammer on the practice map and enjoy destroying the buildings there.
Can a defense play any worse when it matters more? Clock managmenet? Who needs it! Got any more gadget trick plays that don't work for that crucial 2 point conversion? Packers basically said "hold my beer" and "found out".
This is hands down the best holiday event video I've ever seen for an MMORPG. As one commenter on Reddit put it "not the update we wanted but the update we deserved"! My hat off to the New World team putting this together!
Just a random thought for the day as I had no creative energy for any other post. I recently re-watched Groundhog Day for the first time in decades and it was as good as I remembered it to be. It was a delight to be able to share with my teenager as well. One thing stuck out to me at the end of the movie: it never explains the mystery of how it all happened and that is part of what makes it such a great movie.
I think modern story telling, especially in games, could learn a lot from Groundhog Day. So many movies, books, and games go out of their way trying to explain the mystery. Anyone remember the Lost television show and it's eventual attempts at explaining the great mysteries of the show? I do and it just didn't work.
This doesn't mean always explaining the mystery is a bad idea. Sometimes story tellers nail it. If you've played Bioshock there is a lot of mystery to start that game and eventually it pays off in an amazing reveal. So it can be done right, but it so often is not or the mystery is explained when it didn't need to be.
Brandon Sanderson is an author who I feel falls into this issue a good bit in his stories. He painstakingly goes over details of his worlds to the point where there is little mystery left and when mystery is a big aspect of his story, such as in Elantris, the eventual explanation was so unsatisfying (really; it was just a drawing a single line!?!?!). I still like Brandon's books, but I do wish he'd sometimes just leave the mystery to us vs a need to have everything fit neat and tidy into the Cosmere.
So if you are an author, game writer, or screen writer please take a moment to consider why a mystery needs to be explained at all because chances are it doesn't need to be. Sometimes its better to just not know so we can enjoy the story.