2016 Preview Day 5 (Paragon – Severed) – ALSO BLOG UPDATE

I have finally gotten around to writing Day 5.  I know it has been a while, but I won’t make any excuses.  I’m back, and I plan on having this and the remaining two entries out by the end of this week.  I also planning on finishing and writing a review of The Witness in the upcoming days.  After that, we will see where things go.  This month, I plan on playing XCOM 2, Firewatch, and Street Fighter V.  I hope that I can sufficiently cover all three of them.  I also have a plan to write about Persona 4 Golden if I ever get around to finishing that game.  I’m close, but I’m holding off mainly because I don’t want it to be over.  That’s a really special game that I have a lot of thoughts about.  Other than that, I also plan on writing about news more often.  Earlier, I was so dedicated to this feature that I didn’t write anything else.  However, I’m going to stop being beholden to anything like that and write about news if I have something to say.

Now that that’s out of the way, let us move on to Day 5.  Day 5 consists of a game where people go into televisions, a game that also contains a live action television show, and a game that cannot be played on a television.  It also has three Xbox One exclusives and was going to have four before Scalebound got delayed.  In fact, now that I’m looking at it, this list doesn’t have a single game that will appear (or at least launch) on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.  Weird.  While that sucks for a lot of people, I like that these tow machines are forming their own identities.  Now, on with Day 5.

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Paragon
Developer: 
Epic Games
Publisher: Epic Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

If there were words I thought that I would never say, “I’m interested in this MOBA” would be high on that list.  I have friends that are really into League and DOTA, but despite their best efforts I have never been able to get into those games.  But Epic’s new MOBA Paragon has actually managed to peak my interest.  There’s a few reasons for this.  The first is that it looks pretty awesome.  It is the first MOBA that is technically impressive, and that goes a long way.  When you spend hours looking at a game, you don’t want it to have an off-putting art style.  It’s also on a console and has “console tendencies”.  I realize that Smite is also a console MOBA, but the action focus of Smite is a little overstated.  Paragon, on the other hand, does have some action chops.  It also animates in a way that makes all of you attacks seem like they matter.  It is the only MOBA out there with gameplay that is immediately satisfying.  I don’t know that I’ll become a big, competitive Paragon player, but if one of these games is going to get me, it’s going to be this one.

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Persona 5
Developer: 
P Studio
Publisher: Atlus
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Release Date: Summer 2016

I’m currently playing through Persona 4 Golden on my Vita.  This is my first experience with the Persona series, and I plan on writing something about it soon.  That game has been an eye-opening experience, and I now get why people love this series so much.  Needless to say, my enjoyment of Persona 4 has definitely increased my excitement for Persona 5.  Persona 4’s strengths clearly lie within its narrative, despite a more than competent battle system.  I can only hope that Persona 5 builds an ensemble cast as strong as the one in Persona 4.  That can’t necessarily be garnered from trailers, but the improvements to gameplay can.  The one problem I have with Persona 4’s gameplay is that the dungeon crawling is a little clunky.  They build a system that makes positioning important but then make the camera controls slow.  Persona 5 seems to add more action to the dungeon crawling and even has a cover mechanic.  If they can shake up the gameplay enough to make it as engaging as the social link side of the game, then they have done everything I would want them to do with a new Persona.  The other thing Persona 5 has going for it is that it oozes style.  The menus in Persona 5 have more style than most whole games.  I have watched the first trailer dozens of times because it is just so damn cool.  Despite loving the tone of Persona 4, I also like the fact that they are changing things up and completely dig the tone set by the trailers so far.

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Quantum Break
Developer: 
Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: April 6, 2016

I really enjoy a well made third person shooter, and Remedy Entertainment has a great history with those.  Max Payne redefine how third person shooters played, and Alan Wake was a game with an insane and well realized world.  Those are the two things I am looking for out of Quantum Break: great shooting and world building.  Let’s start with the shooting.  I think the Gamescom 2015 demo gives us great insight into the philosophy behind this game’s design.  After a trailer for the live action show (I’ll get to that in a minute), it pans up on the main character leaned up against a piece of cover.  It looks so much like a last-gen cover shooter that I almost roll my eyes.  Then, protagonist Jack Joyce sends out a time pulse and starts running around the battlefield while all of the enemies are frozen.  From here on out, he is using his multiple time abilities almost as a replacement for traditional cover.  Instead of hiding behind a wall, he creates a time shield.  He freezes enemies around a car and then fires a bunch of bullets into the time bubble he created.  When that bubble disappears, the bullets go into the car and all of the enemies surrounding it die in the explosion.  With Quantum Break, Remedy is trying to invigorate a stagnant genre with new mechanics and a smaller focus on cover.  It has yet to be seen how new those mechanics will feel six hours into the game, but it is nice to see them trying something new.  On the other side of the spectrum is world building, and this game seems to have a whole lot of it.  The world itself looks crazy with a bunch of time mechanics that don’t seem to have any sort of consistent logic.  But instead of just telling a story in this game, Remedy is going even further and including a live action television show as a part of the game.  After playing a portion of the game, you then watch a portion of the show.  This might be terrible, but I love to see people experimenting with stuff like this.  And the show looks alright too.  It has legitimate acting talent behind it and high production values.  Regardless of how that turns out, Quantum Break has me excited.  I trust Remedy and can’t wait to discover the world they have created and the mechanics within it.

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Rain World
Developer: 
Videocult
Publisher: Adult Swim
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

When Scalebound got delayed into 2017, I had to find a game to replace it on this list.  Rain World had my attention the moment I saw it.  The beautiful pixel art and oppressive atmosphere help to set up a more than intriguing world.  And then there is the slugcat.  You play this game as a slugcat, and that slugcat is adorable.  More than just great design, the animation on the cat is great too.  Watching him squeeze into a tight space or climb a rope just looks so good.  I originally expected it to be a fairly ordinary platformer, and I would have been perfectly fine with that.  However, it appears to have a lot more to it than that.  Rain World seems to be primarily about surviving.  You hunt and feed on prey while also running away from predators.  I really like this concept of you being a creature in the middle of the food chain.  We have had a lot of 2D platformers recently, but this one seems to be covering different ground than most of them are.  I haven’t been following the development of this game too closely, but what I have seen so far definitely has me intrigued.

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Ratchet and Clank
Developer: 
Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 12, 2016

If we count spin-offs and collections, there have been thirteen games released in the Ratchet and Clank series.  If you asked me a few years ago what they needed to do with the franchise, I would have said let it die.  There has not been a great game in the series since A Crack in Time came out in 2009, and since then all we have seen is a bunch of shoddy spinoffs.  I think it would have been smart for Insomniac to focus on new franchise and stop running this one into the ground.  But they tried that, and it didn’t work.  The Resistance series never took off, EA sucked the spirit out of Overstrike/Fuse, and while Sunset Overdrive was a great game, it failed to move a lot of units.  Now, the status of the storied developer is kind of a question.  After declaring their independence they have now come back to Sony and their most successful franchise to try and turn things around.  From a sales perspective, I am expecting this game to flop.  It comes out the same month as Uncharted 4, and we all know where Sony is going to be putting their marketing money.  However, I think this game has the potential to revitalize the series and the studio.  This game is a remake of the first game that can be seen as a reboot of the franchise.  The first big thing to note about it is that it looks incredible.  It is the closest a video game has ever gotten to capturing that Pixar feel.  From a gameplay perspective, it adheres to the same formula the series always has.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The Ratchet and Clank franchise has felt a little bloated, so getting back to the basics is a good direction to take it.  I hope that good reviews, word of mouth, and movie sales can give this game a decent tail, because I want it to spawn a revitalization of the Ratchet and Clank series and Insomniac Games as a whole.

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ReCore
Developers: 
Armature Studios, Comcept
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

I already had my Keiji Inafune rant when I talked about Mighty No. 9, so I will not subject you to it again.  However, I do want to call into question the development process of this game.  Comcept is based in Japan while Armature is in Austin, Texas.  I imagine that Inafune came up with the high level idea and Armature is handling most of the game’s development, but I can’t be sure of that.  What I am sure of is that said high level idea is pretty great.  Granted, it would have to be since that is literally all we know about this game.  The game takes place in a world that is very reminiscent to Star Wars and features robotic animals.  These animals have cores in them that can be placed into other robots.  We do not know how this will work on a gameplay level or even what the scale of this game will be.  All we have to go off of is a CGI trailer shown at E3 last year.  That worries me, mainly because of Armature’s track record.  “From the makers of Metroid Prime” is a great thing to put on the back of your box, but Armature’s track record since splitting off from Retro has been unremarkable.  Along with a bunch of ports, the only original game they have made is Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate.  That game was underwhelming to say the least, and it fails in comparison to a lot of the other 2D metroidvania games being released.  ReCore has a cool concept, I just cannot put any faith into this project.  I look forward to seeing more from this game, but I have no expectations for it either way.

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Rime
Developer: 
Tequila Works
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: TBA

Rime is a game that drew immediate comparisons to Team ICO’s work.  I guess Tequila Works then thought that they had to go all the way with the comparison, because it has been forever since we last heard about this game.  However, there is still hope.  The developer recently tweeted that more information on the game would be coming soon.  I don’t think that Rime will come out in 2016, but I hope that we at least know when it will be coming out by the end of this year.  Rime has been a highly anticipated game ever since it was announced at Gamescom 2013.  Tequila Works does not have incredible pedigree, but Rime looks like something special.  The game has been compared to ICO and The Wind Waker from a visual standpoint.  What intrigues me about the game is the island that it is set on.  Not only is it beautiful, but it has this greater mystery about it.  The trailers so far have hinted at it without giving anything away.  I am also curious to see what the core gameplay is like.  We know that there is some level of traversal, and the developer has hinted about survival mechanics.  Rime is an intriguing game that I hope we hear more from sooner rather than later.

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Salt and Sanctuary
Developer: 
Ska Studios
Publisher: Ska Studios
Platforms: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

My experience with Dark Souls has been discussed earlier in this feature.  The idea of a new Dark Souls has me interested but not necessarily excited.  However, the idea of a 2D Dark Souls has me way more excited.  That is basically what Salt and Sanctuary is, and the developers are not trying to hide it.  The game has the same difficulty level, lack of tutorials, and class specialization that From Software is known for.  I love all of this, however, the combat in the souls games never clicked with me until Bloodborne.  That is what makes me so excited about Salt and Sanctuary.  The combat and movement look incredibly smooth and intuitive.  That is the benefit of working in a 2D plane.  There is a certain feel that a good 2D game has to it, and Salt and Sanctuary looks to have that feel.  I have never gotten deep into a Souls game, but I have gotten deep into a lot of PlayStation Vita side-scrollers.  I hope that Salt and Sanctuary can merge these two formulas into something that gets its hooks in me for a long time.

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Sea of Thieves
Developer: 
Rare Ltd.
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

I am not sure that Sea of Thieves is going to be a game I enjoy.  I have never been a huge fan of MMOs, and Rare’s newest title seems to play in that area a little too much for me.  However, I am so happy that this game exists.  I am one of the few people who thinks Rare did good things under Microsoft.  I think that Nuts and Bolts and Viva Piñata were both great games.  However, there is no denying that the soul of that studio was eventually sucked out of it.  The once well respected developer was relegated to Kinect game and the avatar store.  However, Microsoft is now looking to right this wrong.  Rare Replay was one of my favorite releases last year because of the way it paid respect to the storied history of this studio.  Microsoft has started to treat Battletoads as one of their premiere franchises and is probably going to announce a new entry soon.  But the biggest indication that Microsoft is taking Rare seriously is the fact that they are letting the studio work on their own new IP.  And despite my personal interest level in it, what has been shown so far looks good.  I love sailing in games.  I love Wind Waker and Assassin’s Creed IV.  Sea of Thieves, being a pirate game, fits in that similar vein.  The idea of you and your friends being a pirate crew, fighting other ships, and making people walk the plank is an awesome idea, and the art style fits Rare.  I hope that the multiplayer focus does not hurt the actual gameplay or structure, but I will be fine if I can just sail the seas.  This is not what I want Rare to make, but I am happy that they are making it.

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Severed
Developer: 
Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: TBA 2016

I absolutely adore Guacamelee.  Every now and again I load it up and play through the game in one or two sittings.  That game nails the platforming, combat, and aesthetic in a way that makes it my favorite game in the recent wave of metroidvania titles.  Drinkbox Studios had a massive hit with that game, and while it somewhat bums me out, I also respect them going in a completely different direction with their follow up.  I also respect them for making a PlayStation Vita exclusive in the year 2016.  After the success that Guacamelee received on the platform, as well as their previous game Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attacks, they realized that there is a hardcore Vita audience that buys games.  In fact, it led one of the studios designers, Chris McQuinn, to refer to Vita owners as “the fucking best” in an interview with gamesindustry.biz.  So what is Severed then?  Severed is a game that shares a visual style with Guacamelee but nothing else.  Severed is a first person dungeon crawler in which the player uses the Vita’s touchscreen to kill enemies.  Normally I would not even consider this type of game for this list and would instead wonder why it wasn’t just on iPad.  However, this is Drinkbox we are talking about.  I have not paid too much attention to the game because I know I will buy it regardless, but I have faith in those guys to deliver a deep and engaging experience despite the somewhat lacking premise.  I also hope they make a Guacamelee sequel, but until then I will remain excited for Severed.

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