League of Legends Ports and Other Riot Games

I can’t recall the actual day, but recently Riot Games had a 10th anniversary livestream featuring League of Legends and other stuff. First of all, what an accomplishment to keep LoL going for ten years and building the Esports community up around it. Professional play has gone from some nerds in back rooms of warehouses to huge arena-filling events with famous live performers and a quality of production rivaling ESPN and other mainstream outlets — all of this on what I’m sure is less income and all done over the Internet eschewing traditional TV outlets. I started playing LoL back in 2011 which was around the end of season 1 heading into season 2. I’ve seen the majority of the champions release, I’ve seen a ton of events and in-game happenings along with changes to the game, its launcher, the main maps/modes, and Riot itself. I’ve watched the World Championship nearly every year since I first heard about it. I’ve watched regular season games of each of the major regions, even participating in their Fantasy League (like Fantasy Football) for a couple of seasons. I’ve collected vinyl figures, owned T-shirts, and have a rather large poster hanging on my wall. You could say League became a major part of my life, despite the fact that I haven’t really played very regularly in the past couple of years. Still, when I heard the news coming out of this live stream, I knew I had to talk about it. To be fair, there’s even more that was announced that I’m not going to touch on, but IGN has a great article encapsulating all of the news.

What excited me the most out of all that was said during the live stream was that League of Legends will be ported to consoles and mobile. Called “Wild Rift,” this version of League is not a direct port, it’s the same game rebuilt from the ground up for these other devices. I’m not a huge fan of complex games on mobile phones because usually the screen isn’t big enough and touch controls can be pretty wonky… but on console, I’ll play the shit out of this. It’s not so much that I dislike the game on PC, no, I’d rather play it there. But I have friends who don’t own PCs and probably never will, along with having never played LoL before and I’d love to introduce it to them. Also, the potential for a nice long trophy list makes the trophy whore in me lick his lips. I did play a different MOBA on PS4 recently and it had some fairly intuitive controls, so I assume if they are anything like that, this version of the game will be very enjoyable even with a controller in lieu of keyboard/mouse.

Teamfight Tactics, which I wrote about when I first tried it (and I’m still not into this auto-battler genre) is getting ported to mobile now as well. This makes sense since their main competitor DOTA Underlords is also both on PC and mobile. I assume this would probably be more fun on a mobile device since you can be doing other things while playing it. I get bored too fast with this type of game so this news wasn’t particularly interesting to me.

Legends of Runeterra is new. It’s not an existing game getting ported to other devices. It’s free-to-play. It’s a card game. That’s really all I know. The above trailer will give more detail than I can. What I do know is that I do enjoy card games. I just haven’t really found a digital one that I can play for a long term. I did play Hearthstone for quite a while, but then it got stupid (as Blizzard games tend to do). I can’t get into any of the Magic: The Gathering digital versions because I simply like playing the paper version so much more. This is a world/lore that I enjoy, and depending on what they do to make this stand out from the competition, this could finally be the card game I play when I need a fix.

Project A, as it’s being call at this juncture, is Riot’s attempt at a tactical FPS, but also looks to be a hero shooter. So think games like Paladins or Overwatch. I’m intrigued by this one, mainly because it’s such a far cry from a MOBA and this company has only been known for one game for so long. A card game based on the world is great and all, but I’m a FPS player through and through, so this is very appealing. My hope is that they do something different enough to make this feel better than existing games on the market. Graphically it looks okay, but I think that will get bumped up a notch when it gets closer to release. Gameplay looks fine, but I want some heroes with crazy abilities and I want tight gunplay. I’d also like to see some objectives and things that are different from what’s out there, but time will tell. Keeping an eye on this one.

Project L was announced as a fighting game. If this is 2-D hand drawn and plays like a Street Fighter title, I’m all in. If we’re looking at more of a Tekken style fighter, I’m less excited. We’ll have to wait for more details but I love me a good fighting game and Riot has already developed so many cool characters I’d love to fight as them. It’s unknown if that’s what’s happening or if all of the characters would be original. Also keeping an eye on this one.

Lastly, stuff that isn’t game related. A documentary about LoL called “League of Legends: Origins” was released on Netflix the other day and I watched it. It was a really good look into the origin of the company via Ryze and Tryndamere, along with the rise of the game itself and Esports. Basically all stuff that I lived through, but fun to see it in a different context. If you haven’t paid attention to LoL or Esports, or just don’t “get it,” I’d recommend giving this a watch. Also, an animated series called “Arcane” is being developed and looks to deal with stories about LoL characters. You can watch the trailer above, it looks really cool and I’ll definitely watch it when the time comes.

That’s all I’m going to touch on today, but some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline. There were a few other tidbits in the article I linked at the beginning of this post, so if you haven’t had your fill you can read more there. What do you guys think about Riot Games finally branching out?

Early Impressions: Borderlands 3

The king of Looter Shooters has triumphantly returned. I first played Borderlands back in 2010 upon purchasing my Playstation 3 (it was actually the first game I purchased during that generation) and instantly fell in love. The 3-D but cell-shaded art direction, the sense of humor, and most importantly, the RPG progression and loot system all hooked me right in. Truth be told, I played that game more than any other in the series, maxing out my character level and completing all of the DLC, also collecting the platinum trophy. I would play through it again a second time with my roommate, and from there he was hooked too. We purchased the sequel on day one. We played through it a couple of times but I only scraped the surface of the DLC, only coming back to the game most recently to play through the added DLC that bridged the story gap between sequels. Despite Borderlands: The PreSequel being a similar type of game and one that bridged the story between 1 & 2, it didn’t hold my attention long enough to finish it, and once we had the proper release of 3, I knew I probably wouldn’t go back. Having played the newest game, I can confirm that going back to the older games would be difficult. So many quality of life improvements have me spoiled and I’m not sure I could do without them again.

Fans of the series will be familiar with the above splash screens — each time we’re introduced to a new/returning character or a boss, we’ll get these art pieces displayed across the screen for a few moments, and then either the fight or dialogue proceeds. So far, nearly every character that has existed in the series has made an appearance, outside of those that are now deceased (Handsome Jack, Scooter, etc). I picked up the game a few days after release when I got paid, and my best friend got his copy as well. Once we decided which classes we were going to play, we got down to business. The new classes are sort of a mixture of new and old ideas, where my friend is playing the Operative that is most similar to the soldier class from past games in that it gets a flying drone that functions like a mobile turret. Whereas I’m playing the Gunner who gets to summon a bad ass mech suit and blows shit up real good.

As I was speaking of quality of life improvements, one thing I really like is the fact that you no longer have to collect cash, ammo or health vials, you just have to walk close enough to them and if you have the space/need, you’ll collect these pieces automatically. That alone sells this game, as there is a lot of looting to be done and I can’t be bothered to click on each dollar bill I see. Gunplay is also improved in my eyes. This is a new engine, and despite the fact that the game looks the same as it always has (with improved visuals of course) it runs smoother and I feel that the controls are more precise. Gun fighting always felt a bit floaty in the earlier titles and it feels like that’s been tightened up. I heard complaints that the game didn’t embrace a more open world model, but I don’t think that’s an issue. It’s always been sort of an instanced shooter, with dungeons and a world that feels like some MMOs I’ve played. Fast travel is still there, but the ability to actually leave Pandora presents itself and soon enough you’ll realize you can explore places you hadn’t heard of to that point. Vehicles are back, and there are multiple varieties, but now you can customize and upgrade them which is a nice touch. Vehicles will appear in certain areas that you can steal in order to get more parts for yourself as well. Changes to the skill trees means that you get multiple ways to customize your character, and you’ll be able to further augment your ultimate ability in ways that hadn’t be available in the past.

The new antagonists aren’t as interesting as Handsome Jack was. Nor are they as funny, but they serve their purpose. A pair of Sirens that have formed a cult and feed on their followers, they seem pretty twisted but also non-threatening. We’re working for Lilith and fighting for Sanctuary, which is now our flying space ship after the city itself was destroyed. A corporate war is raging, and some of the planets you’ll go to house complexes where these corporations have weapons and armies stashed, and it’s our job to fuck shit up. We end up working for Rhys as well, but in the process are putting together vault keys on other planets. It’s not quite as engrossing, but the mechanics and gameplay are still amazing, so I’m not as keen on the story anyway. I’ve put in close to 20 hours so far, but am exclusively playing with my best friend for the time being. I think after we complete the main story I might start up some new characters, but we also know DLC will be out soon enough, so there should be more to do soon enough. I’m having a blast so far, and I haven’t been this hooked by a game in a while. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re bored with the Destinies and Divisions out there.

Thoughts on Beyond: Two Souls

I spoke very highly of two of Quantic Dream’s games already, and had mentioned that I would also be diving into a third game that came out in between Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human. That game, is 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls. This is going to be a relatively short post on the subject, because unlike the previously written about games, this one didn’t sink its hooks into me like the others did. I’ll now attempt to explain why.

Graphically, the game leans more towards the Detroit side of the scale rather that the first game, mainly due to the fact that the latter two games came out on PS4 while the former came out on PS3, so that explains the difference in fidelity. That isn’t to say Heavy Rain looked bad, it was just a sign of the times. It still had a better story line than this game, as did the third chapter. You begin play as a little girl, and there are various current time frame and flash back scenes that lay the ground work for the story. It seems that as a little girl, your character has an “imaginary friend” that ends up actually being some sort of entity that has a link with her. It’s not so much that she has control of it, but more so that she can ask it to do things. In gameplay terms, yes,  you do control this entity at certain points, and are able to choose to listen to commands or not. There’s still branching dialogue choices and things you can do that affect the story, but the story itself was less grounded in reality and I think suffered because of it. I realize that robots becoming humans is also currently far-fetched but still something I anticipate could happen whereas this spirit/entity is complete bullshit and made it harder for me to suspend my disbelief.

I do however, think it’s cool when games get fully motion captured actors and portray them as themselves in games. Willem Dafoe ends up being the girl’s “handler” so to speak, and it appears as time goes on, she becomes more than just a girl with a pet, and more of her own CIA spy bad ass. That’s cool and all, but it’s less cohesive with all of the jumping around the game did. Heavy Rain ended doing some flashback stuff but it made sense when they did so. Detroit: Become Human ended up making more of a beeline to the end of the story but you played multiple characters so you could tell it was all happening simultaneously. Beyond: Two Souls ends up making a stack of layers that when unshuffled makes sense, but otherwise seems like a mess. This is probably why they included an option to play the game in chronological order, but I wanted the “authentic” experience.

What frustrated me the most was controlling the entity. Early on you have to fly through walls to “cheat” and see what card a person is looking at so that you can match it to a card on the desk in front of you. Then Willem Dafoe asks you if you can do anything else (at this point they seem to think she is psychic/telekinetic) and you can throw shit around the room. Like the other games though, this is controlled via QTE/weird button combinations and it just didn’t do it for me. There’s some forced stealth with an invisible spirit and that’s where I drew the line. It just simply didn’t hold my attention like the others. As it stands now, I can’t recommend this one, but if you are a fan of their other games, you might be able to power through it. That’s all I have to say about it, so I’ll see you all next time!

Thoughts on Heavy Rain

Back in July, I wrote a post about a surprise hit for me, Detroit: Become Human. It happened to be a free release via Playstation Plus that month, and I decided to try it on a whim. I usually try out the free games each month, but oftentimes they simply aren’t for me and they get uninstalled. No harm no foul, considering no money spent (unless you count that $60/year fee, but it’s awesome value no matter how you look at it). It turned out that this was a game that would hold my interest, which isn’t something that happens very often to me anymore. Besides the base game, the Plus offering included a digital artbook, soundtrack and a copy of the company’s first Playstation title, Heavy Rain. We already went back in time a little bit with Detroit: Become Human (released last year), but end up going even futher back to 2010 with Heavy Rain and to some degree, it shows. This is the same style of game, but it’s not nearly as pretty. The controls are a little clunky as well, but the story is good, and that’s really what matters in this genre. Actually, part of what I said about Detroit: Become Human applies to this game as well:

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of narrative, story-rich games that don’t necessarily have a lot of game play so to speak. These types of games range from adventure titles to interactive story books. I’ve been a fan of some of the TellTale Games series, though now that the company is defunct it’s unlikely we’ll see more of those unless another company picks up the reigns. Another recent game of this style The Council was very good and had basically no game play whatsoever — yet the story was intriguing enough that simply controlling a character through a story arc and making some minor decisions was fine by me. Detroit: Become Human lines up pretty well with this assessment — I’d go out on a limb and call it a QTE game, because outside of dialogue all of the action is controlled by various timed button presses and other motions with the controller. Honestly this is one of the first games I’ve seen that uses the controller motion technology along with the touch pad on top of the normal controls — that part was pretty cool, but also kind of annoying at times.

Unfortunately, with games like these requiring you to be on the ready to quickly press buttons at any moment, so taking screenshots ends up being sort of difficult. As such I tried to include some pictures that show of some of the neat features of the game, but those that wouldn’t really spoil anything. But, the game is nearly ten years old, so if you haven’t played this you probably don’t have any interest. Whatever the case, there is an intriguing story here that I’d love to spoil but I won’t. Suffice to say that you can play as four different characters, and each have their own part to play in the story, along with interacting with each other before the game is over. There are branching parts based on your decisions, and clearly there were places where I could have chosen to go another route, but unlike Detroit, you don’t get the branching graph that shows you exactly how things could have gone. Obviously that was something that was thought of later on in the company’s game repertoire.

A true detective story, Heavy Rain is doing its best work while trying to convince you who the killer is. I really didn’t suspect the character who ended up being guilty, but as the story unfolded I wasn’t disappointed with it. I suppose there are other ways things could have ended up, but I don’t really see the point in playing through a thousand times. I made my choices and I enjoyed the ride, but I don’t intend to go back for more. The same happened with their other game, and I don’t feel bad about it.

One other note: I didn’t realize that Beyond: Two Souls (2013) was also produced by Quantic Dream, and it was also a free Plus game a while back. I went ahead and downloaded that one and intend to play through it soon. So expect more about that later on this month.

Thoughts on Genesis

Periodically I check out the free section of the Playstation Network just to see if anything catches my eye. I like trying new games for free, even if the free to play model isn’t the best way to go about doing things. It’s been a long while since I played a new MOBA, seeing as how Survival Sandboxes and Battle Royales took over that flavor of the month slot for a few years. I guess Auto Chess is a thing now, but it’s awful and that’s all I have to say. Enter Rampage Games and their new title, Genesis.

As MOBAs go, this one seems to fit the standard build. From the main menu you’ll have various sub-menus with stats about characters and weapons and things, along with leaderboards, a storefront with virtual currency and skins along with chat and mail systems. This is all pretty standard faire, and though its not revolutionary, it is pretty slick and intuitive.

Contrary to most MOBAs, there is a story of sorts. I know that League of Legends used to do various text-based story updates for a while, but I never really paid attention. Their cinematic videos were more well received but didn’t tell a story as much as they looked pretty. In the case of Genesis, it is said that our universe was basically expanding beyond the point of no return, a tear in space/time happens and probes are sent through. A whole new galaxy exists on the other side, so the best warriors of our universe are sent over to explore. From there, alien life forms are encountered and it doesn’t really explain how we get to a MOBA setup, but let’s be honest — story doesn’t really matter in this style of game.

What does matter is the gameplay, and as far as that goes, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from the genre. Like, the map isn’t exactly the same as in a game such as League of Legends or DOTA 2, but the general concept is the same. There are three lanes. There are neutral jungle creep camps. There are towers. One thing that’s a bit different is that there are specific places on the map where you can place wards (called “observers” here) and you can’t buy them from the store. Another twist is a variety of buffs that hang out on the battlefield such as healing packs, defensive shards and others. Otherwise we’re looking at staple concepts from the genre.

Another feature that LoL may not have but I have seen in other MOBAs, is the ability to purchase items for your character while still out on the map. Other games did it in a way that a critter would run off to buy and bring you back your items, in this case you can just straight up buy items while away from the home base. I don’t mind this, though it can lead to some unfair power spikes during a fight, but I guess the same thing goes for leveling up mid fight and getting a new ability, which I’ve seen happen many times in other games. The game defaults to automatically give you reminders when you have enough gold to buy something and a simple press on the d-pad will buy the item. I spent my time with the first few sessions focusing on the gameplay pros and cons rather than trying to learn new item builds. The game will automatically recommend items to you which is nice, especially being new to the genre. Skills are automatically leveled up as well by default, but these features can be turned off. Personally I’d recommend using the help until you have a better feel for the game. It can be a little wonky if you’re a PC MOBA player and now have to adjust to a controller. One stick controls movement, the other controls skill shots. Skills are used with various button presses, but it definitely feels different than other games I’ve played. Same difference?

Overall I think it’s a pretty fun title. I enjoyed myself for what little time I played. If nothing else it’s free (I do believe it is on PC as well) so you lose nothing by trying it out. Craving a new MOBA experience? This could be the one for you.