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.

Apex Strategies

As I mentioned in my recent round-up post, I’ve been playing Apex Legends again pretty regularly. Outside of the initial complaint of there not really being enough new content to keep me coming back, there have been some decent content patches in the interim and I’ve been enjoying myself in the game. Some observations before we get to the meat of this post:

  • I’ve found that the population seems unharmed regardless of negative press and the fact that this title fell off the charts shortly after launch while others like PUBG and Fortnite continue to be at least listed on the top income charts. I didn’t have queues to begin with and I don’t now. Wait times between games are minimal.
  • While playing the game during launch I had exactly one win. It was actually the first round I had played. I didn’t touch Apex Legends at all during the first season, but have racked up 6 more wins during season two, and honestly I don’t think my play pattern has changed. Practice makes perfect and all, but for whatever reason things have clicked and I’ve been doing really well. I’m not sure if this is a reflection on the quality of players still playing on the Playstation 4, or if it’s a reflection of personal skill growth. I prefer to think it’s the latter.

This brings me to the topic of this post. I feel like my experience being at the bottom (prior to the first season) and losing repetitively but learning the core mechanics of the game has now combined with being relatively good at the game. As such I feel pretty confident sharing some tips with you that might help you to become a better player as well. So let’s get to it shall we? Here are some of my personal tips for getting better at Apex Legends, in no particular order:

Situational Awareness:

The first tip I have for you is to try and have situational awareness. You should know if you have short-range weapons equipped, so don’t fire at long range targets giving away your position. Shooting shotgun shells at someone on top of a cliff isn’t going to do anything except give away your position, and that means getting flanked by the enemy team. Perhaps your team isn’t ready for an altercation — one guy is looting a death box and another is heading in the opposite direction. Your mini-map can help with this information in split seconds. You should also be calling out enemies seen and where you are going using the game’s ping system. Sometimes it’s tempting to be a commando/hero and go it alone, but you should stick with the group. You are more powerful as a unit than on your own (despite the fact that there will be times you will have to carry your teammates). Listen to the environment for incoming threats — the game’s sound is there for a reason, and you’ll hear the enemy’s movements oftentimes before you see them. Know your enemy’s abilities! Every playable character has special abilities, you need to know how they work and how you can respond to them. For instance, Wattson’s ultimate will protect you from air strikes, but only if you’re inside its sphere of influence!

Environmental Awareness:

This comes down to being aware of escape routes, jump stations, ziplines and etcetera. Constantly check your map for your allies and for pings. Also, pay attention to where the ring is and where it’s going next. I’ve found that in my early game sessions I used to always try to be as close to the middle of the ring as possible throughout the match. Oftentimes this meant leaving teammates behind and heading off on my own, which I clearly no longer recommend. What I have found now is that hugging the edge of the ring seems to be more effective. Not only will you be able to pick off stragglers, oftentimes they will have been damaged by the ring so they are easy pickings. You also tend to see more teams trying my old strategy and being closer to the middle so you avoid some of the bigger conflicts. Staying alive is the name of the game after all.

The rest of my tips are less meaty:

  • Holster when you run long distances. This makes a huge difference, especially when trying to outrun the ring.
  • Always try to revive or respawn teammates but be safe. Don’t dive on a downed teammate immediately. Try to make sure threats are eliminated or distracted first.
  • Don’t carry items you don’t need. Give syringes and shield cells to teammates if they need them. Use the ultimate accelerants as soon as you pick them up.
  • Keep your shields and health topped off. Don’t be afraid to use these items during fights, but be aware of how/when you can do so.
  • Don’t forget to use your grenades!! I was guilty of not using my secondary equipment very often but now I try to do so every match.
  • Don’t use finishers if you only down one member of an enemy squad. You’ll get caught mid animation if you do. I believe there is a way to shortcut the animation but I’d avoid it until it is safe to do so.

That’s all I can think of for now, but hopefully these tips stick in your head and you are able to implement them. You can see me following many of these ideals in the following video, which ended up being one of my better matches in the game and one that I remembered to record.

I Am Forsaken

It’s been a minute since I reported on my Destiny 2 progress, and well, there hasn’t been much. It’s actually been almost a month since I completed Expansion II: Warmind and almost immediately I dove into Forsaken. I had a good session, and then I got sick, and didn’t play much of anything for a couple of weeks. Then I went ahead and got distracted by a new release, World War Z and I just finally got back to playing Destiny 2 again last night. Anyhow, Forsaken picks up where we left off, and now Cayde wants you to meet up with him for some mission in the Tangled Shore. First though, we’re treated to a video of Cayde presumably being killed by a mysterious figure (pictured above) and then it flashes back to you going to meet him. Foreshadowing is tricky, especially if he isn’t actually dead, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Flashing back to the current time frame, we meet up with Cayde and wade through some enemies before being more formally introduced to this new villain who leads some rather potent looking Fallen Generals. It appears that eliminating them will be the first hurdle before getting revenge for Cayde, though at this point it’s still unclear if he’s actually dead.

After a couple of missions in this new quest chain, we’re given a new class quest that is supposed to allow us to unlock some new powers. We’re supposed to follow a signal to IO, wherein the planet is “speaking” to us and leading us on a new journey. We’ll see pulsations like this a few times while on this moon, culminating with a fight with the Taken to unlock a new portion to our skill tree for all three sub-classes. However, you only get one seed at this time with which to unlock said branches, but I assume there will be ways to get more seeds later.

I’m still the most partial to the Gunslinger sub-class, so I went ahead and opened the “Way of a Thousand Cuts” which allows you to throw a volley of explosive knives in front of you. Not as long range as our normal golden gun routine, but seems like it kills groups much more effectively. There are additional tiers to this new branch, but you have to earn experience with the ability before those unlock.

Eventually we meet Spider, who is a fence of sorts in the Tangled Shore. He’s not a very trusting guy though, so before giving us the information that we’re looking for, he sends me out to do a bunch of bounties for him. I managed to completed both the class quest and these bounties last night, and am now set to go on the offensive, with the new mission given to me sending us to go at attack those generals head on. It’s not a lot of progress, but it is progress nonetheless. Hoping to get some more time in over my days off and I’ll report back once I have something more substantial.

Warmind Complete (Destiny 2)

It took a little more time to get through Expansion II: Warmind mainly because the light levels required to complete the content jumped a bit between missions. I’m not sure exactly where I left off after finishing The Curse of Osiris, but I know that I had to get to light level 310 before I could move onto the new territory. As such, I took my time going through some adventures that I hadn’t cleared, some public quests that opened up after gaining access to some new planets, and I even played some Crucible and Gambit. I found that this time around I did pretty decently in pvp matches, but this time I chose to do a free-for-all mode so I was able to kill anything that crossed my path. Gambit is a new mode that was introduced with Forsaken, and it’s a PvPvE game type. You’ll be on a team and there is an enemy team, but you are in separate instances of the same level. You’ll kill enemies at certain points on the map in order to summon a boss monster that you need to kill before the other team. So it is competitive, but it’s most a PvE thing. However, portals will open and allow you to invade the enemy team’s instance, and if you get kills their boss monster will be healed. This play pattern continues in a best of 3 fashion. If you happen to get to that third round, you’ll no longer need to summon the boss, it is instantly spawned and you must race the other team in taking it down. Overall it was a pretty fun experience and I’ll do it again.

Once I met the light requirements, I started on this next campaign. Long story short, you are pointed in the direction of the “Warmind” which is a huge A.I. on Mercury. Or was it Mars? One of those places. Zavala fears that this machine would bring about more destruction that it’s worth, but it seems that the Hive are also trying to end the universe by summoning a worm god thing. It’s up to you to go through the tedium of getting pieces necessary to help get the Warmind back online and allow it to help you defeat the Hive. That boss battle was a bit of a chore, but overall I kept up in light level well enough between the missions that I didn’t have to try over and over again. Once completed, the Warmind tells you that he’s going to guard the universe from any and all threats. Zavala still seems nervous about having awoken this machine, and then you all go about your business as if nothing had happened at all.

I didn’t mind the story parts or the inclusion of these expansions on my way into the new expansion, but they weren’t as epic feeling as “The Red War.” I have a feeling that Forsaken will make up for that, and I can finally get caught up on the current storyline. As I finished Warmind I found that I was at nearly 340 light and just rolled over level 34. The cap is 50, so there’s still a ways to go, and I have no idea what sort of light levels 50’s have. Whatever the case, I’m still enjoying my journey through the game and I can’t wait to dive into Forsaken. I’ll check back in when I have more to share!

State of the Game: Recent Free Things

I’ve been a Playstation Plus subscriber for a few years now, but outside of a few key titles, there is little that I get overly excited to receive for free. For a time, I used to write about my experiences with these free games each and every month, but to be honest, there are months when I don’t have time to play them all or I have no interest in any of the titles. There has also been a recent change to the service, in that the Playstation 3 and PSVita systems are no longer supported, so we only get a couple of games per month, where there used to be times when we’d get cross-play PS3/Vita games and sometimes they were decent. Nonetheless, I took some time over the past week to check out some of the recent things we’ve seen through the service and thought I’d share some short thoughts on each. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Conan Exiles:

One of the offerings from this month, Conan Exiles is a title that I didn’t give a second thought to. The Survival Sandbox genre saw its height a few years ago, and I honestly never really got into any of the games despite picking up a few. As such, this wasn’t a game I was ever going to buy, but I tend to try out the free stuff given to us each month anyway. The first thing I noticed when firing up the game was that it doesn’t look very pretty. The character creation has some pretty ugly models, apparently there’s some nudity options which seem irrelevant, and the overall look of the game was muddy and overall unattractive. The introduction didn’t do anything for me. I honestly only ran around for ten minutes before uninstalling. It appears that it’s the same old shtick, but I assume there are things that set this particular survival game apart from the others, I just couldn’t be bothered to find out what those things were. I didn’t even take screenshots to share because it was that bad. I’d skip this one.

The Surge:

I was a bit more interested in The Surge on the other hand. It looked like a pretty decent Souls-Like but after learning that it was created by the same developers as Lords of the Fallen I wasn’t as enthused. I tried the latter at some point (wasn’t it free via Plus as well?) and felt that it was lacking compared to the Souls games, and didn’t play too much of it. This is still a case of a company copying a successful formula, but whereas with Lords it felt like a cheap, poorly made rip-off, in the case of The Surge the game feels like its own beast. I think the Sci-Fi setting is perhaps the reason for it not feeling like a cheap copy, but whatever the case is I actually enjoy this game.

You start off on a train to some sort of research facility, and it turns out your character is in a wheelchair. You venture further into the facility, where you get to choose your class, but it’s not so much a class as a couple of different job titles. I’m not sure what the differences are, but I went with the Lynx, which was tagged as being speedy and whatnot. I assume with the heavier class you might have different stats or abilities, but for now let’s move on — that’s what I did. You get a surgery which attaches this exoskeleton to you (though it looked quite painful since there was no sedation and quite a bit of nuts and bolts entering flesh) but the robots mistakenly say there is an issue with you and throw you in the trash pile. From there, it’s time to figure out what the hell is going on, as you are thrust into a scrapyard fighting sentient robots and talking to very few humans. The combat is action oriented and uses targeting and a variety of button presses to do things. You’ll get gear and implants that give you various abilities. It feels like its own thing, and it’s quite fun. I’d recommend checking this one out!

Path of Exile PS4:

Path of Exile obviously isn’t a new title, but it was just recently ported to the Playstation 4. Being a free-to-play title, this is available for anyone to download right now. I decided to download it just to see how an action RPG like this might perform on a console. My only other ARPG experience on a console was Diablo 3 on PS3, and I absolutely hated it. Action RPGs have been around for a very long time, and typically they are played on PCs with mouses, with click-to-move and click-to-attack mechanics that tend to not lend themselves well to play with a controller. I also have a long history with this title in particular, but only based on years, not time played. I helped to back it when it was in development, throwing some cash at Grinding Gear Games in order to play it early. I liked what I saw, but at some point I got on the Diablo 3 train and didn’t really play any other ARPGs for a long time. I’ve gone back and checked on PoE a few times since then, but haven’t ever done too much. So anyway, I downloaded and played for a bit the other day, and I have to say that this actually feels like a damn fine port!

Graphically the game looks great and it runs really smooth. I’ve seen games like this with a lot of action going on, on-screen at one time, bog down on consoles just because the processing power isn’t the same as PCs that released at the time of the console’s released. So this long later, you can imagine that the PS4 is a toaster compared to even my few year old gaming PC. Whatever the case, things look and play well. The controls are pretty intuitive, and it wasn’t too bad moving with a joystick as opposed to clicking a mouse. Instead, now you’ll be spamming that basic attack button but it feels pretty much the same. The menus are probably the only frustrating part, mainly because this game uses them quite often. You’ll want to manage your inventory, you’ll want to slot abilities into your weapons, to apply different effects, crafting, and navigating that huge skill tree. It feels like the game you already know, but stays fresh if you aren’t a grizzled veteran. I’d check it out if you’d rather play with friends on your console.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition:

This one came out a few months back but I hadn’t gotten around to trying it. A typical First Person Shooter, Bulletstorm came out several years ago. I remember when it originally released it wasn’t met with the best reviews, and playing it for a bit now, I understand why. Graphically, it looks alright, and feels like its running on the Borderlands engine. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it has graphical similarities. It’s a sci-fi shooter, with some hoorah bro nonsensical story line. It’s forgettable to say the least, and not intriguing enough to even pay attention to. This was a game that I went into feeling like I wouldn’t really care, and that turned out to be the case. The gunplay is fine. There are some cool parts where things slow down and you do some action movie stunts but overall it’s a pretty “meh” experience. I’d pass. I’ve uninstalled it.

Call of Duty 4 Remastered:

This was one of the freebies for Plus last month, and was honestly one of my favorite Call of Duty games of all time. I haven’t played much but I did check out both the campaign and the multiplayer. Unlike newer Call of Duty games, this one’s multiplayer didn’t have all of the skins and extra bullshit that has been shoehorned into the series over the years. Killstreaks were simple. The maps are still pretty memorable. I remember playing this on my PC for hours on private servers with differing rulesets, and though you can’t exactly do that now,  you can experience one of the better games in the series and that’s a plus to me. Playing through part of the campaign brought back a lot of memories as did murdering other players in multiplayer. I don’t think I would have ever paid for this, because it is pretty much just a visual update to a game that was already played years ago, but for free, it was a nice diversion.

That’s it for this round up. Happy Gaming everyone!