Q4 approaches. Cynicism overload imminent.
The Destiny 2 hiatus continues. I’m not sure how many weeks it’s been now – it’s been made easy by most of the guys I normally raid with having been on overlapping holidays for the last couple of weeks, and to be honest it’s starting to feel like I’ve established a whole new gaming paradigm. It’s one that doesn’t involve much in the way of first-person shooting. I’m kinda surprised by that, if I’m honest. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve finished three games. I’m not quite heading up to the dizzying heights of 2013/14 when I completed 30-odd games, but as I mentioned in my last post it feels good to be playing a variety of different games.
Late last week, I finished Ori and the Blind Forest. I wrote my piece here before I’d finished it, but the ending did nothing to tone down my opinions on that game – if anything, it reinforced them even further. The upcoming sequel (Ori and the Will ‘O The Wisps) has gone from being ‘just another game I saw a trailer for’ to ‘I’m gonna pick that up the day it comes out’ – which is nice because at the moment, I don’t feel like I’m really looking forward to very much. It’s not that there’s nothing on the horizon that I’m interested in, it’s just that I seem to have more reservations about games that are on the way at the back end of this year than I ever recall having had in the past.
This year, I think for the first time, I’m looking at the expanding list of big games coming out in the later portion of the year and finding reasons to temper my excitement for pretty much every single one.
Let’s start off with the biggest of the big guns, Red Dead Redemption 2. Like everyone else I played the first and loved it. Rockstar’s follow up effort – Grand Theft Auto V – expanded on how detailed an open world game could be in every possible way, with minutiae captured to a ridiculous extent (seriously, if you haven’t, equip flip flops and walk around. They actually flip flop.). On the back of the original and GTAV, expectations for RDR2 are sky high. They’re probably too high, if we’re being honest with ourselves – but hey! At least a game failing to live up to the unrealistic expectations that some people will have for it will give those same people something to whine about in online forums come October. For me though, my reservations aren’t around the game – they’re around how it’ll be monetised. Rockstar have made no secret of the fact that they’ve made an awful lot of money from microtransactions in GTAV – to think that they’d in any way water this down for the next game would be naïve at best. With shareholder demands being brought to bear, it seems obvious that that this lucrative model will be being doubled down on.
I don’t think microtransactions are an inherently bad thing – I’ve written about the business case for them before – but they do leave a bad taste in my mouth when they form a substantial part of the business of a triple A game. They make me cautious. File RDR2 in that drawer. I can see me playing it, but I think I'll wrap up the campaign and walk away - just like I did with GTAV.
Next up: Fallout 76. I watched the launch announcement for this one with interest and at first I’ll admit I found the idea quite appealing - wandering a wasteland with some friends, blowing the hell out of Super Mutants with a variety of entertaining weaponry (my favourite’s still the Rock-It Launcher from Fallout 3; blowing a raider’s head off with a teddy bear never gets old). Anyone who’s engaged in a canteen conversation about Fallout 3 will probably have talked about how a multiplayer version of Fallout would play out, and later this year, we’ll get a chance to find out. So, what’s my reservation?
Well, that’s easy – I’ve talked about a Fallout online game with lots of people, and I’m just not convinced that it’s actually what I want. I really think it’ll be one of those “be careful what you wish for – you might get it” moments. For me, I always liked the isolation of Fallout. The feeling of being that lone wanderer who may or may not be a nice guy is one of the things I love most about Fallout. As much as I like playing online with buds, I don’t think I want Fallout to be anything but a solo experience. Time will tell, I may be wrong, but… yeah. At the moment, I can’t muster up enthusiasm.
Then there's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. I’m in the real minority here – I normally play CoD each year for the campaign. Well, I play *a* CoD each year for the campaign; I’m usually a few years behind. CoDBLOPS4 doesn’t have a campaign, therefore I’ll never play it. Thinking about it, this game doesn’t belong in this list – it doesn’t seem fair to put it in a list of games I have reservations about if I just couldn’t care less about it.
Last one, for the moment. Not a game, but an expansion – but one that’s following the pattern of the last few years and one that I always would have bought in the past. That’s right: Destiny 2: Forsaken is the next one. I still don’t know what to make of my relationship with Destiny 2. If I had to define it with a Facebook status, it’d be “It’s complicated”. I can still see the appeal. I have had a lot of fun with D2. As I wrote here though, I’m still thinking about it in terms of the opportunity cost – and if I buy it, the opportunity cost is far more expensive than I’m prepared to cough up for.
What else is coming out? Shadow of the Tomb Raider – which will likely be very cool if you’ve enjoyed sneaking in trees and killing people in the previous two games, as it looks to contain plenty more of it. Forza Horizon 4 will be immense as ever and probably swallow far more of time than I anticipate it will, just like the second and third instalments did. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey will most likely be more Assassin’s Creed: Origins – which is fine by me, but not something I can get excited about very easily. The second season of Life Is Strange is something I’ll definitely pick up – it’s probably the most interesting thing on my list.
The last big one I’m looking forward to is the one I have almost no reservations about – and that’s Darksiders 3. The first 2 games were the best Zelda-likes I’ve ever played on an Xbox and my hopes are high that the third will follow in their footsteps.
It feels a bit sad to be sitting here and not feeling excited going into Q4 for the first time in as long as I can remember - if there's a legacy of the mis-steps of 2017, I really think this is it. Most of the video game players I know well seem to feel much the same way. It's a shame in a way, but here we are. Maybe if those mis-steps aren't repeated this year, I'll be able to head into Q4 2019 with a less cynical perspective.
I'm not going to hold my breath, though. Maybe I'm just looking for something new, and this year isn't going to deliver it. I won't stop looking, though.