Early Impressions: Wolfenstein Youngblood

I’ve been looking forward to the newest edition of Machine Games’ Wolfenstein series, and it finally arrived this past week. Wolfenstein Youngblood is a game I had considered pre-ordering, but with how easy it is to get burnt these days, I decided to wait. Releasing on my payday was good for me, and thankfully it also didn’t run the full $60, instead being a $30 game on day one. Something came up that day though, so I didn’t end up buying it until the following afternoon. In the interim I read the “mixed” Steam reviews and it seems that most people were panning the game as not being a traditional Wolfenstein experience. Many compared it to other looter-shooter style games such as Destiny or The Division. It doesn’t have much of a story, the AI is poor and co-op is forced, etc, etc. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

There is no doubt that this is a game created using the same engine and made by the same team and past Wolfenstein titles. The gameplay is smooth, graphics crisp and the mechanics are sublime. I enjoy running around and shooting nazis now as much as I did back in the original. As far as story goes, it is true that it is not as straight forward as the previous iterations — you’ll get some tidbits via cutscenes, but the majority of the dialogue comes from characters you’ll interact with and from the sisters talking among themselves during levels. I’m about 7 hours into the game, and I feel like the story has pieced together well enough, but it’s not to the same level as when B.J. was at the helm. Whatever the case, I don’t find this to be a major downfall, particularly when we’ve all been playing this style of game for decades and the point is to shoot stuff and blow shit up… story used to not even exist. I’ll admit I really enjoyed Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus‘ story, but it wasn’t integral to my enjoyment either.

Gameplay is core to me in this style of game, and there is a weird amalgam of concepts that have been thrown together here, and yet they seem to work. This isn’t a looter-shooter, because you don’t constantly swap out gear or get different colored upgrades. It isn’t open world, because there is a “safe zone” called the catacombs and this is where your base of operations is. You will get new people residing here along the way, and most will give you quests. This is also the hub from which you sort of teleport (it’s explained as using the metro system) to different parts of Paris, or at least this world’s version of it. Story missions lead you to a point where you must beat several bosses at different locations, but it will end up where you won’t be able to progress immediately, instead needing to do some side missions (from the aforementioned quest givers) to gain experience. This is where I would correlate this game to other titles like Destiny, but it’s mostly just a co-op FPS with some light RPG elements and not quite the psuedo-MMOs that Destiny and The Division are. Enemies can become bullet-sponges after a time, but I can’t think of too many games where this isn’t the case, so I don’t understand the complaint. I have found that so far the AI isn’t terrible (as I haven’t wanted to play with randoms and I don’t know anyone personally that has this game on PC just yet), but I can see where it might become a liability in later stages of the game. Regardless, I don’t really see why the criticism is being laid on so thick. This is a fun game for $30, and thought it’s not exactly what we’re used to from this company, it isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a buggy mess like some of the other games in this vein have been either.

Instead of having new guns pop up all the time, instead you’ll collect coins throughout the world and can use them as currency to upgrade your predetermined set of weapons. Each item has a list of parts that can be upgraded, and from there you get some branching paths so you can optimize each as you see fit. As you gain experience you’ll gain player levels and with that comes perks that you can use to get different powers, have more health/armor, dual wield and other cool things. You really get to play the way you want to and I think that’s pretty cool for an FPS. There are a ton of collectibles in the world for those achievement hunters, and you can read/listen to those as you like. Easter eggs are around too… including an arcade cabinet housing the OG game.

Overall I think this game has a lot of potential. Future DLC could see this expanding into a psuedo-MMO, but it’s not quite there yet. Whatever the case, if you’re a fan of this series I think you’ll still like this title. Worst case scenario, it should be on sale by Christmas time.

Developer Appreciation Week: Two For One

The third week of Blaugust was scheduled to be “Developer Appreciation Week,” which is something the blogsphere has put on in the past. I’ve never participated in this particular event, and thought maybe I should make at least one post related to it to not only stick to Bel’s schedule but to also actually show some appreciation. Those of you who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I tend to only write about games I enjoy, so I have heaped praise on many a title over the years. I’ve not really hyped up a developer before though, and in this case, the one that I’d like to show my appreciation for is Bethesda.

Bethesda is responsible for one of my all time favorites in The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. As developers of these huge open worlds, they have whet my appetite for a deep single player RPG experience. I’ve had my dislikes too, but overall games like Fallout 4 and Skyrim were amazing titles and gave me a love for single player games that I hadn’t felt since before I got into MMOs. I poured countless hours into their big open-ended RPGs and loved them, and then we got the ability to toy around with mods on top of that and by that point you’re putting MMO hours into a single player game. They got me hyped up again this year with the teaser trailers for the next Elder Scrolls game and another game that’s taking their formula to space, not to mention Fallout 76 which will finally bring a multiplayer aspect to one of their beloved worlds. Bethesda’s been a favorite company of mine for a long time now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Not only are they developers of games that I love, they also publish for another big name in the industry:

id Software is single-handedly responsible for turning me into an FPS fan. Wolfenstein, DOOM, Quake and all of the iterations over the years have been great, and now that Bethesda are publishing them I feel like the quality has gone up a notch or two. I have not been disappointed with any of the recent remakes/reboots of these franchises. The sequel to the last DOOM is coming by next year, more RAGE, Quake Champions is still being developed as we speak (but is very fun already) and the next chapter in the Wolfenstein series is coming as well. Not only do these games push the envelop graphically, they have come a long way in their story-telling and just how damn smooth and fast you can expect an FPS to run. id Software spurned a whole genre that has seen countless copies and iterations but can all be traced back to early 3D outings by this team. Without either of these companies, these genres would not be what they are today and for that, I thank them. Looking forward to making new memories with these companies’ games.

Sailing to Far Harbor

Having finished off my trek through the Wolfenstein games, I decided to get back to my playthrough of the Fallout 4 DLC. I finished off Automatron last month, and was now ready to head off into the Far Harbor DLC, which is one of the larger scale content pieces added to the game. The quest to get started begins by heading to Stadium City and picking up an assignment from Valentine’s Detective Agency, where you are to meet a family who’s daughter has gone missing. Heading to their house on the edge of the map took some time, but once there the family is straight to business. He thinks someone has kidnapped his daughter, while the mother thinks that she has left. Her grandfather died and had been her closest friend, spending time with her tinkering on various projects. Listening to some of her holotapes, it seems that she has made contact with some Synths on a far off island, and it seems that she is confused about her heritage. Either way, Mr. Nakano lends us his boat so we can head to Far Harbor.

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Once there, we are greeted by one of the leaders of Far Harbor along with some of the locals. Immediately there are some big monsters that are laying siege to the town, so you jump in to help eliminate them. Afterwards, you let the people know why you are there, and you’re sent to the tavern to recruit “Longfellow” who will take you to Acadia, where Kasumi was said to have gone. Longfellow makes you buy him some whiskey before heading out, but leads you through the fog to get where you are going. It turns out this fog is radioactive and there are a couple of other factions on the island outside of the Far Harbor folk. The Children of the Atom (a name we’ve heard before) have a headquarters here, and are said to worship Atom, and this is said to be “his land,” probably due to all the radiation. Anyway, they seem a little crazy, but we only had a short interaction with one of their members. The other faction are these synths in Acadia who have fled the mainland and created a stronghold so that they can live freely. Longfellow gets you to Acadia and then takes off, and inside you find DiMA, who is the synth’s leader. He talks in riddles to a degree, and tries convincing you that Kasumi is a synth and that’s why she belongs in Acadia, while also trying to confuse you on the subject of whether or not you are a human. In the end we find Kasumi and she’s not going anywhere, but it’s hard to tell if she’s a synth or not, as most of these synths look like humans. The leadership of Far Harbor and Acadia have given me a multitude of tasks to complete, and that’s where I left off after this first session. I have a feeling it’s going to take me a while to clear Far Harbor, but I’m looking forward to the adventure!

The Old Blood Complete

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood ended up being quite a bit shorter than the other two titles from MachineGames. Being a prequel to the events of The New Order, and only 8 chapters long, I had estimated that it would take me around 8 hours to complete — but I managed to finish it off this weekend after having spent just over 5 hours on it. As I said in my initial post on the game, it looks and plays much like the other Wolfenstein games from this company, but there are a couple of big differences.

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The first major difference is the inability to manually save, and despite there being frequent check points where the game is auto saved, you’ll still end up dying quite a bit — even on the normal difficulty. Some checkpoints are harder than others, and for the most part it’s a manageable difficulty but I did find it more challenging than The New Order and New Colossus. The other major difference is that this title is pretty story light. The other two games were very cinematic in look and feel, and while this game does have some cut scenes, there are very short and to the point. Everything is very short and to the point. Your mission here is to find out the location of Death’s Head’s hideout, and it takes the entirety of the game to do so. You’ll start by infiltrating Castle Wolfenstein, and eventually escape and fight your way through the nearby town of Wolfsburg and finish things off in the catacombs underneath the city’s graveyard. At some point Nazis start turning into Zombies and its a bit reminiscent of the DOOM games, culminating in a final fight against a huge mummy monster thing. You’re rescued by Fergus, and he will be your buddy through the next two games until his untimely demise in The New Colossus.

Overall it’s a short romp with less focus on story and more focus on killing Nazis. I enjoyed it, and it did fill in some story gaps from the overall epic. I’m very curious to see how things go in Youngblood, but we have to wait until next year to find out. That one being co-op is exciting, I’ll have to try and find a partner to play it, or perhaps pick it up on PS4 and play with my bff. One way or the other, my journey through this alternate timeline is complete for now, and I’m satisfied with the experience. I’d recommend all three Wolfenstein games highly, particularly if you enjoy killing Nazis in your spare time!

The Old Blood

You’ll have to pardon my absence over the last few days, I went on a mini-vacation for Independence Day to visit family and was pretty disconnected during that time. Just before we left, I finished off Wolfenstein II and was thrilled with the game. When I was nearing the end I got to talking with my lady and she was asking if there were any other Wolfenstein games out there, and aside from the original and older reboots, there was a lone game I had yet to play. Back in 2014, Wolfenstein: The New Order released and I played through that one, but when its prequel released in 2015, it was overlooked. The Old Blood is a prequel to The New Order, and thereby another game in the series that I hadn’t played and wanted to. It was still discounted via the Steam Summer Sale while we were having the conversation, so for $10 I would be able to complete my collection and potentially fill in some plot holes. I didn’t start it until we got back into town last night, but I can already tell it’s going to be enjoyable.

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What I have gathered so far, is that this game takes place in the 40’s, and at least starts in Germany. You’re still B.J., but you’re a younger version of him compared to the other games. In this timeline, you are facing the Nazi war machine head on, but the Allies are clearly losing the war. Continuing on, during the events of The New Order, the war is over and the Nazis control America. During The New Colossus, B.J. and co manage to start a revolution during the 1960’s and potentially start the downfall of the Nazi regime… we were teased with Youngblood during E3 this year, and that is supposed to take place during the 1980s and focuses on the twin daughters B.J.’s lady is carrying during The New Colossus. Perhaps then they will finally force the Germans out of America? Time will tell.

Back to The Old Blood. Thankfully because it is a prequel, playing it after the other two games hasn’t really affected the telling of the story. You’re undercover as a Nazi officer and entering into Castle Wolfenstein it seems. Much of the set design is reminiscent of the old Wolfenstein games we played decades ago, being a big sprawling castle and having a ton of Nazis inside to kill. There seems to be more puzzling portions, and you’ll gain some different abilities as compared to the other titles. One piece of equipment becomes a mainstay in your inventory – a big metal pipe. You can use it to climb walls, pry open doors, and most importantly stab people in their necks. Otherwise it’s a very similar game made by the same developers so you should feel right at home. I know I do. I’ve enjoyed the couple of chapters I’ve played through, but this does feel like a game I’ll complete faster than the others. At this time The New Order took about 10 hours, while The New Colossus took just under 9. I’m a couple hours into The Old Blood and on chapter 3 of 8 so I assume this one will clock in around 8 hours at this rate. Either way, still fun to be blasting Nazis and filling in story gaps.

I will report back once I’ve completed it, most likely by the end of the week if not sooner.