TellTale Games to Rise From the Grave?

It’s been almost a year since TellTale Games went under. It was a sad time, but also understandable. The company had honed in on a particular type of game to the point where it started to feel lackluster. Characters from cool IPs can only hold your attention for so long before there needs to be something new done with your games. Whatever the case, it was disappointing for me and other players who had already purchased what would become their final game, the final season of their long running Walking Dead series. After two episodes the company announced its impending closure, and we were left with a sour taste in our mouths. Thankfully, Skybound (owned by the creator of The Walking Dead) decided to open up a games division and promised that they would be finishing up the series themselves.

Within six months I would write my final post about a TellTale game, one of a long line of posts about their games. Or so I thought. I was sent a message by a friend on Steam the other day with a link to this article (thanks Hurt!). It appears that a holding company called LCG Entertainment has formed and is picking up “key assets.” From the article:

The new company will be focused on “re-releasing select games from the studio’s back catalog and developing new games in some of the company’s best-selling brands,” according to the announcement.

Good news for people who haven’t been able to play those older games for whatever reason, as I suppose at some point you would no longer be able to acquire some of their better options such as The Wolf Among Us or Tales From The Borderlands. Re-releasing means some of them may end up again on newer game consoles, which are looking to be a thing by next year. More exciting though, is that they have said they got licensing rights to TWAU and Batman both of which I really enjoyed and would play another season of.

The article goes on to talk about how they have acquired talent that worked for the original company and are offering freelance positions to some of those that were let go last year, with full-time positions to come in the future. I think that’s great, particularly if they didn’t get a steady job by now, they can go back to something more familiar. It should also keep some of what we’ve come to expect from this style of game intact. I for one look forward to some new games as well, that are completely different than their norm. Something on the level of Detroit: Become Human would be fantastic. I guess we’ll see what the future holds, I’ll try to keep up on this story as things progress.

Apex Legends Doing EA Things

Earlier this month, Apex Legends, coming off of an uptick for me with the release of the second season and some overall changes, boasted about a new “Iron Crown” event. With it, came a number of new things to check out:

  • Limited-Time Mode – Solos
  • Octane Town Takeover
  • Double XP for Top 5 and Wins Weekend
  • A special Iron Crown Collection Pack and Iron Crown Event Store
    • With Bloodhound Heirloom Set Preview
  • Exclusive event challenges with free loot

Sounds good right? A new queue (which is actually rather fun, more on this later), an updated part of the map (this sort of thing has happened before, but it keeps the map interesting) some XP boosts, and free to earn loot. A new limited time store with micro-transactions are fine, but then they went and did the whole EA thing and made these loot boxes with % chance for awesome skins and why can’t we just outright buy this shit or grind for it??? At least that seems to be the way things went. I didn’t keep up with the news much because honestly I’ve been just trying to do enough to keep my Blaugust post total on pace and otherwise it’s IRL most of the time. Whatever the case, Respawn back pedaled almost immediately, which is better than the reaction EA had back when this was going on with Battlefront 2.

  • Starting on 8/20, we’ll be adding and rotating all twelve of the event-exclusive Legendary items into the store over the course of the final week of the event for the regular Legendary skin cost of 1,800 Apex Coins. You will still be able to purchase Iron Crown Apex Packs for 700 Apex Coins if you choose. The store schedule for the week will be as follows:
  • For future collection events, we will provide more ways to obtain items than just buying Apex Packs.

So at least there was some feedback. It sucks that devs are constantly doing this sort of thing, but at the same time it shouldn’t take this sort of crack back for them to realize they should just do it the right way in the first place. But the discussion has been going on for a long time so I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Whatever the case, they have now plotted out a bit of a roadmap with things to expect, and basically promise not to lock exclusive stuff behind lock boxes. Or something to that effect.

  • One or more new gameplay changes such as permanent and limited-time modes (Ranked or Solos respectively), map updates and town takeovers, balance changes, new characters, new weapons, and more
  • New free progression content via challenges or the free Battle Pass track
  • Purchasable cosmetics via Battle Pass, Packs, and/or the Shop

Season Launches 

At the start of every season, you can expect a major map update, a new Legend, new loot items (weapons, ordnances, etc.), meaty changes to the Legend and weapon meta and balance, updates to our Ranked mode, and potentially new features (like we introduced in Season 2 with Ranked mode).Every season will also feature the release of a brand-new Battle Pass.

Themed Events

These events will generally occur during a season and bring with them a limited-time mode, event challenges that let players earn cosmetics, and a mix of event limited and evergreen cosmetics available for direct purchase. These events may also include a town takeover or small map change, and potential extensions to Apex Legends lore. Legendary Hunt was an example of a Themed Event, with the next one coming early September focused on a certain Phase Expert.

Collection Events

Collection Events will also take place throughout the season and deliver a limited-time mode, event challenges where players earn cosmetics, and a set of event limited cosmetics available via Event-specific Apex Packs or direct purchase; it’s your choice. Like Themed Events, Collection Events may also feature a town takeover or small map change.

So it seems there will be reasons to check in with the game from time to time, particularly if you’re kind of over the base experience. Most MOBAs used to have these sorts of limited time events, as grinding 5v5 on the same map over and over can get tiring and having a way to break that up keeps people playing your game. Skins and things will keep a particular type of player engaged, but most are going to stay more interested in your title when they have more activities to participate in. As for me, I enjoy the base gameplay loop, but I also like having new game modes once in a while. New characters, alternate progression. Give me something to work towards.

Developer Appreciation Week: Gearbox Software

Developer Appreciation Week (or DAV) is technically coming to a close, but I thought I’d squeeze a post about the topic in nonetheless. I haven’t really been following any of the scheduled stuff this Blaugust, but as it is I haven’t really needed any help getting topics down. Having to rush and blow through several posts in a day has left me looking for inspiration though. I’m leaving to Vegas on Thursday morning, and won’t return until Sunday night. As such I’ve been writing ahead for those days to have scheduled posts, and well, here we are. From what I can recall I have written a DAV post in the past, and I believe I included a couple of developers in it. This time around I wanted to pick someone different, and with Borderlands 3 releasing just around the corner (and my own personal time spent with the series recently) I realized that I have rather enjoyed much of the content put out by Gearbox Software.

When doing some research to make sure I had my facts straight, it turns out that my relationship with the company goes much further back than Borderlands, thought that’s the IP that I’m most connected to at this point. Nevertheless, way back in 1999 Gearbox developed Half-Life: Opposing Force, the expansion to the original Half-Life. I loved that expansion and played it while still in high school. It appears that I may have touched on some other games that the company developed as well, but my relationship wouldn’t get as serious until early 2010 when I purchased my Playstation 3 and a copy of the original Borderlands. I would go on to buy all of the expansions, level up a couple of characters to maximum level along with beating the end game raids and things. I basically 100% that game before playing it over again with my best friend once he got a copy as well. By the time Borderlands 2 had released, I had it pre-ordered and also picked up the season pass. I bought most if not all of the DLC too, and in some cases it felt less than worth the money, but I didn’t care due to being obsessed with the gameplay and wanting every new experience I could get.

Games like Destiny or The Division couldn’t exist without Borderlands before it. By that note, I don’t think Borderlands would exist without RPGs like Diablo either. Nonetheless, Borderlands solidified the FPS-RPG hybrid as a viable model, something that can be monetized and of which a whole universe can expand. Unfortunately developers typically need publishers, and 2K being the evil corporation here might have something to do with some of the negative press around said monetization, though at this time it has become the norm of the games industry.

The company isn’t without blemish though. Besides the games that I’ve mentioned, they had a fiasco over Aliens: Colonial Marines, but that has been better documented elsewhere. It could also be said that they lost the battle of the hero shooter, as their game Battleborn released near games like Blizzard’s Overwatch or Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins, both of which seem to have seen the most success (Quake Champions is the last game of this nature that I can recall coming out, and even it seems to be more successful than Gearbox’s entry).

It’s likely that we’ll see a return to greatness with Borderlands 3 though, and I fully hope for that outcome. Borderlands does the looter shooter thing right, is easy to jump in and out of with friends, has a humourous and well put together storyline and I just hope for the best for the company’s return to the series. We’ll know soon enough, Borderlands 3 releases on September 13th, which is just a couple of weeks away. You know I’ll be there from the start to dive in head first.

Thoughts on Steambirds Alliance

When Steambirds Alliance showed up in my Steam discovery queue, I was surprised by its description. It was tagged as an MMO, but also as a shoot em up (schmup). I happen to enjoy bullet-hell style games, and have played them since childhood, but I didn’t see how you could turn this sort of concept into an RPG, let alone an MMO. Color me interested, particularly when I found out that it was in Open Beta and free to download to try out. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but after a session with the game I found it to be intriguing. Many of the concepts that you’d expect from an MMO are present. There is crafting. There are different ships that could correlate to classes. There are quests. You level up. You get gear. There are open world parts, and dungeons complete with bosses. There is a central hub city where you can group up with other players and it works sort of like Marvel Heroes, where the open world is wandered by all, and if you participate in battle you get your own share of the XP. It does actually become a bullet hell at times too, so the schmup portion of the game’s design is true to its roots.

Being in beta, I’m sure there are still kinks to work out. The tutorial was good enough, but didn’t really describe the fact that you don’t really sell your loot, you just drop “trash.” There are features that don’t open up until you’re level 5 or level 20. I have no idea what crafting is like due to this level restriction, though I will admit the levels come at a rapid clip. There is a story that loosely translates to birds hating cats and cats ruling the world currently, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Then again, when is the last time you cared about the story/quest text in an MMO? It doesn’t look bad but it definitely doesn’t feel AAA. Not that being indie is a bad thing, but it doesn’t really feel like a top notch game, but that could also be due to the fact that it’s a schmup MMO mashup and that’s just weird to begin with.

Honestly I don’t think it’s a bad game, but I have only scratched the surface so far. I had to play it to sate my curiosity, but I’m not sure it’s something I’ll play more of. One thing that makes the schmup genre fun is the fact that yes it is challenging, but there is an end to the game and you can say you beat it. Turning that concept into an MMO either means eventually things become trival or you get bored because by now you normally would have beaten several games in the genre. I’m not sure what to think about this one, but I wish them luck in their coming launch. Seems to have some sort of population, I saw dozens of people playing during my session. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re bored and want something new, or if you’re as curious as I was about this bastard of a game concept. If you’re already playing a more traditional MMO I don’t think you’d be into this one.

Reconnecting with Borderlands

When Borderlands 3 was revealed at this year’s E3, I knew it was a game I’d have to play. The best looter shooter out there, in my humble opinion at least, it’s been a lot of fun over the years and I look forward to co-oping my way through it with my best friend come September. At the same time though, a brand new DLC for Borderlands 2 was announced, called Commander Lilith & The Fight For Sanctuary. Coincidentally, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection was one of the Playstation Plus free games for that month, so it turned out anyone with a PS4 would be able to grab this DLC and play right away. It was free for a time as well, so that was an added bonus. Also, for those not familiar, The Handsome Collection collates both Borderlands 2 along with it’s plethora of DLC and Borderlands The PreSequel as well. I’ve talked about the latter, as it was a game I played a little bit but never completed — nonetheless my best friend has expressed interest in playing that one as well. I suppose that could be done before the release of the proper sequel, but we’ll see.

Another nice touch, for those of us who played the original game on Playstation 3 and can’t seem to find our save files on the cloud, you are able to create level 30 characters right off the bat in order to jump right into the new DLC. This is where me and my best friend started out. During my first playthrough of Borderlands 2 (back in 2012 I think it was?), I played Zero, while during our co-op jaunts I would play Lilith. This time around I decided to play Axton, the Commando. My friend went with the Gunzerker, and away we went. As the notice above states, this DLC bridges the story between Borderlands 2 and the new game, so you probably should have already played the other games before this. I guess that means if you are worried about spoilers, you should probably avoid reading the rest of this post as well.

The game is still running on the same engine that it always has, but it does seem to run a bit smoother on PS4 as opposed to the PS3. It probably looks a little sharper too, but my memory of the details is hazy, and that’s fairly unimportant. The storyline picks up a while after the end of Borderlands 2, where the vault hunters had found a vault key that functioned as something of a map, and you now know that they are vaults all over the universe. This could potentially make the series infinite as long as the company continues to want to make new areas and new stories. Most of the story is revealed in the game, with characters speaking to you and events happening as you play. There are cutscenes sprinkled throughout, and they tend to be a similar flavor that you’ll know and love (if you’re a fan). So far we have been introduced to a new bad guy who has created a sort of gas that transforms humans and creatures alike into these mutant plant beasts. He attacks Sanctuary and takes it over, and we have had to go and clear out another location called “The Backburner” in order to have a functional base again. Familiar characters pop up along the way, and some can be recruited to your base of operations. After a few missions, it’s clear that there is a lot to do in this DLC.

Otherwise it really is more of the same, but that’s not really a bad thing. I always enjoyed playing the Borderlands series, though I haven’t really reached the end game since the first iteration and I definitely haven’t put the time into the other games outside of completing main campaigns. I think this little foray will whet my whistle for a bit, but once Borderlands 3 arrives I can’t wait to dive in full force. My recommendation is to play this first if you’ve already completed the other games, but if you’re not a fan of the series, then carry on and have fun with your thing!