Thoughts on Jedi: Fallen Order

The last time I played a Star Wars game that I actually enjoyed was the Battlefront reboot that came out a few years back on PS4. I played that one pretty regularly for a few months, but as most lobby shooters tend to do, it eventually lost steam and I stopped playing. It didn’t help that it was produced by Electronic Arts, who are notorious for bad DLC/RMT practices, and I didn’t end up shelling out for any of the map packs. Later, they would release a sequel and Battlefront II was pretty universally panned about said price gouging so I avoided it altogether. Beyond that, the only other Star Wars game I’ve played in the last decade was Bioware’s The Old Republic MMO, but it too was lacking and never stuck with me. I was skeptical about Jedi: Fallen Order until I started seeing videos and had friends at work telling me it was really good. Compared mostly to the Souls games, it was said to have “difficult” combat that relies on timing rather than button mashing. I’m hard pressed to actually make this comparison myself, because it is in no way anywhere near as difficult as the Souls games, but I can see why people made the commentary. I would also compare it to games like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, in that you have a lot of running around jumping and climbing on things, but it also has some psuedo RPG elements in that you gain skill points and there is a skill tree, though much of it is locked until you complete parts of the storyline to “repair your connection with the force.”

Visually this title is stunning. I’d put it right up there with the likes of Uncharted, because it has a cinematic quality that isn’t present in most console games. This is probably due to the fact that we are coming to the end of this console generation and the machines have already been pushed to their max, but I’m still impressed that this several year old hardware can make such pretty pictures. The voice acting and motion capture of real world actors is top notch as well. The red-head kid from the TV show Shameless is Cal Kestis, our main character. Forrest Whitaker makes an appearance, and the lady from Mad TV (I can’t recall her name) is one of your crew mates who has some major parts influencing the story.

From what I can tell, this game seems to take place somewhere between Episode VI: A New Hope and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. There is talk of “the purge” where the Empire was able to basically eradicate all of the Jedi but there’s also talk of the Clone Wars and things that happened during Episodes I-III. Whatever the case, Cal has been working as a scrapper on a junk planet though you can tell there is more to the story. Eventually it is revealed that he was a Padawan receiving training from a Jedi Master but that Master was killed during the purge and he had been in hiding ever since. The Empire comes to the junk planet and he must reveal himself as a force-sensitive individual, barely escaped on a ship called the Mantis, piloted by an alien named Greez. Cere is his companion, and also your antagonist for a time, who pushes you to reconnect with the force and rebuild the Jedi order. There’s much more to it than just that, but I can’t say anything else due to spoilers.

Eventually you’ll lead your rag tag team to several different planets, where you and your droid companion BD-1 will learn new skills and open up new areas as you go. In this sense there is a feel of a Metroidvania, because new areas will become accessible only after unlocking certain skills/abilities for Cal/BD-1. There are a bunch of collectibles, chests and “echos” to locate on each of the planets, and if you are the completionist type, you’ll probably want to make side trips back to these planets as you progress the story and unlock these new abilities. Eventually Cal will have a bunch of different force powers and lightsaber abilities and the combat gets really fun. Boss fights can be pretty intense, but once you get the hang of your powers everything starts to feel pretty easy. I didn’t really feel challenged throughout the game, but I didn’t play on the harder difficulties where perhaps the game would actually feel Souls-like.

Overall I thought it was a great game. Perhaps not worth the full $60 price investment unless you are a diehard fan, but I was lucky enough to get this as an early Xmas gift from my girlfriend so I wanted to play the shit out of it so she felt that she got her money’s worth. It won’t be long before it goes on sale though, so if you can get it for even $10 off I’d jump on it. It will give you a few weeks of fun.

Apex Legends Season 3 Begins

It’s been a couple of weeks since season 3 of Apex Legends kicked off, and though I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, it’s probably better that I didn’t jump the gun. I’ve played quite a bit of the game as of late, mainly because last season I was gifted the battle pass by my lovely lady, so I was in a mad scramble to at least get her money’s worth. This season I wanted to get in on the action right from the start, so I bought the pass on day one and have been able to keep up with all of the challenges much easier. I also have plenty of play time in this season to share my experiences with the newest changes to the game. What were the big changes?

  • New Map
  • New Legend
  • New Gun
  • New Cosmetics

Initially I was curious as to what would happen with the old map that we had all gotten used to. This isn’t a traditional move by Respawn — most battle royale games keep the same map for years, only making adjustments (which the team had done on the prior map throughout the year). When I first logged in, I was anticipating having the ability to choose between the maps, but that wasn’t an option. We’re stuck with the new map for the time being, but we’ve already heard that the old map will be making appearances. In the announced Halloween event, there will be new skins and whatnot to earn, but also a “nightime version” of the old map. So perhaps at some point we might see a playlist with other maps included, but for now, we’re focused on learning the ins and outs of the new one. As you can see above, it’s roughly the same size as the last map, but everything looks a bit different.

It’s a bit prettier in my eyes, mainly because I don’t really care for the bland color scheme of desert biomes. Here we instead have pops of red and white, due to lava and snow respectively. Overall it looks greener and more alive. I also like the addition of industry, with cityscapes and even a train that moves around the world. It feels better in many ways, but then I don’t like how wide-open some areas are. I’ve been picked off by snipers one too many times, I suppose. Whatever the case, it’s a well balance map and I feel like there is less competition to land in one or two places, and instead people spread out a little more. It also feels like the weapon distribution is better, as I don’t seem to come across 5 Mozambiques in one building anymore, nor do I feel undergeared before leaving the first area where I land. I suppose part of that is luck and experience, but whatever it is, it feels more balanced.

The new character, Crypto (pictured in the logo above) is a “surveillance expert,” and is another tactical legend, finally. We’ve only had Bloodhound for so long I was beginning to think they gave up on the archetype. He’s actually better at surveying than Bloodhound, but does so in a different way. He has a little drone that he can take control of, but when doing so he is vulnerable. He gives sight to teammates when his drones see enemies, and can also shoot off an EMP blast from the drone itself, which destroys some equipment and drains shields. Otherwise, he’s pretty much just another dude with a gun. I was able to unlock all of the legends prior to his release, but don’t have the currency saved for him just yet, so more on that once I try him out.

I also haven’t really used the Charge Rifle, which is the new gun added with this patch. I have however been decimated by it. It’s an energy sniper rifle that charges up shots and when they hit, they hurt! Again, I haven’t used one much (though I’ve had some stellar games with the Triple Take, the “other” energy sniper rifle) but I think it seems a little overpowered at present. I’m sure some adjustments will be made.

As far as cosmetics go, buying the battle pass unlocked a couple skins for legends right off the bat, and early on we unlock a “gun trinket” which is that little ornamental ball thing on my R-301 above. It’s not terrible, and some of them are okay to look at, but it seems like a wonky thing to give a shit about. I guess more customization is fine, but Apex is starting to go the way of Fortnite, and clown pants comes to mind. Some of the skins and things are pretty awesome but at some point we’re all rainbow brite running around like an idiot.

One last thing before I go. I thought I’d drop my Season 2 stats here to make comparisons when the next season starts.

Thoughts on Apex Legends

Respawn Entertainment, creators of the awesome Titanfall series, has now thrown their hat into the Battle Royale ring, like many other studios before it. The budding genre is already becoming over saturated, but some gems peek out from the chaff from time to time, and I believe Apex Legends is set to do just that.

I’ve played a handful of Battle Royale games and have found only a couple of them to be to my liking. Apex Legends ticks a few boxes for me that others have not. I prefer the forced first person perspective (which was also a plus in Black Ops IIII) because in any third person shooter, you can utilize the camera angle in relationship to your avatar to see around corners in a way that wouldn’t be physically possible in real life. Being a sort of spin off of the survival genre, Battle Royale succeeds when you are forced into this camera position and need to utilize your senses to outlast the other players in the round. I also enjoy the team-play aspect of groups of three. There are only three classes of legends in the game, so you can make a balanced team with only three players. The voice chat works, but it also is entirely unnecessary. The “jumpmaster” feature is also great for keeping your team heading to the same place on the map and not being picked off elsewhere.

The map feels large, but you can still traverse much of it fairly quickly. There are no vehicles, so everything is done on foot — thankfully there isn’t stamina to worry about. The weapon and gear selection feels adequate and the gunplay is excellent. I do miss the double-jumping and wallrunning of Titanfall along with the ability to call down and pilot mechs, but I understand why they didn’t go that route. I’m hopeful for an additional game-mode that will allow the use of mechs sometime in the future but it doesn’t seem likely. Still, there are a variety of skills to use via the different legends, so it still feels varied enough.

Typical of most Battle Royale games, you’ll have rounds where you are one of the first teams eliminated, and other games you’ll be the last ones standing. My second match ever when this good, as I was playing Gibraltar and our team was the first to the circle of safety so we set an ambush. Gibraltar’s ultimate ability calls down an air strike, so when I saw the enemy team coming I dropped it on them and managed to take they whole team out in one go. Since then I’ve managed to be in the top ten several times but haven’t won another round. Rumor has it that there are plans for solo/duo queues coming soon, but actually think the team co-op is a better approach. Even playing with randoms it has been a good time.

The game looks great and runs smooth. I think it’s a blast. At least Respawn seems to have done their homework, as they’ve taken some of the better ideas from the competition and included their top-notch FPS gameplay to the mix while avoiding some of the over-the-top design choices. When loading up for the first time you’ll have access to six legends, with two being unlockables. There is a micro transaction storefront, but no power is being sold — just fluff skins for Legends and weapons. You can buy in-game currency to speed up your unlocks or to outright buy skins, or you can just unlock them with scrap parts eventually. I still don’t have enough in-game currency to unlock a new legend, but it doesn’t seem like it will take that long to get there. Honestly it’s probably worth throwing a few bucks at the company just to make sure the game doesn’t disappear, but I’d rather buy a “unlock all legends now and in the future” package than skins ala Quake Champions or SMITE.

No matter the case, the game is out now, and is Free to Play. I personally don’t have Origin installed so I downloaded Apex Legends on my Playstation 4. If you’re a PC player you’ll have to get this via Origin. It probably looks even nicer there. I’d give it a whirl if you enjoy the Battle Royale genre or need a new FPS in your life.