E3 2019: My Highlight from the Bethesda Presser–Fallout 76 Wastelanders

Bethesda’s presser was about what I expected going in, as they announced ahead of time there would be no Elder Scrolls 6 or Starfinder news to be had. I was interested in how they were going to talk about Fallout 76 though, and I came away pretty excited about what the game has in store for players. It sounds like Fallout 76 is starting to become the game we all hoped it wold have been at launch. Because Wastelanders brings back NPCs.

I’ve played since the game launched (though I fell off a bit lately), and both Nick and I have enjoyed it. But he addition of NPCs, and a Battle Royale mode, are welcome additions. I’m hoping Fallout 76 can rebound from a poor launch like Elder Scrolls Online did and really build a strong player base.


Co-Op Critics Podcast: Dragon Age

The latest episode of the Co-Op Critics podcast is available for your listening pleasure!

Each episode of Co-Op Critics we take a game or series and have a long-form group discussion about it. This month’s game is Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I was joined by Nick Merritt and Jeff Rodgers to discuss their previous experience (or lack thereof) with the series, the campaign, the multiplayer mode and more.

You can listen to the episode right here in the player above, and in the next week we’ll have a version up on our YouTube channel as well, featuring some of this month’s gameplay highlights. In the meantime, you can check out our Dragon Age playlist, which features missions and gameplay from both the single player and multiplayer modes.

Our spotlight game of the month for April is going to be Battlefield: Hardline, so we’ll be putting up videos all month and then cap things off with the podcast the last Wednesday of April.


Clearing My Gaming Slate for Bloodborne

I usually have three or four games that I’m playing at any given time, seeing as I play on pretty much every platform out there. But there are certain releases that I know will be taking a huge commitment of my time, so I try to clean out my gaming slate before I start them. Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of those games, but that was just a warmup for the game that comes out tomorrow–Bloodborne.

I will be writing, talking and making videos about Bloodborne for the next several months, so I’m not going to talk too much about the game itself here, except to say it’s my most anticipated of the year by a country mile. I’ve put at least 400 hours into the Souls series of games, and I expect I’ll put no less than 100-150 into Bloodborne. That kind of time commitment–especially when I don’t have a ton f time to game–requires sacrifices to made.

I won’t be picking up Borderlands: The Handsome Collection tomorrow, as I know I won’t have time for it (but Nick’s grabbing it, so expect to see some videos here and on the YouTube page). I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dying Light and The Order: 1886. The only other game I have going right now is Battlefield: Hardline, and that will be mainly for multiplayer with my Xbox friends over the next couple months.

But the end of March and all of April will be about one game–Bloodborne. And I can’t wait to dive in. Expect a ton of let’s plays, highlight videos and blog posts about the game over the next several weeks.

What was the last game you cleared out your gaming slate for? What’s coming up that you need to make room for?


What I’d Like the Nintendo NX to Be

Yesterday Nintendo made headlines and saw their stock prices jump with two major announcements.

First, Nintendo is finally going to be entering the smartphone game arena, as they announced a partnership with mobile developer DeNA to develop new games based on Nintendo franchises. These will not be ports, but original games designed from the ground up for mobile devices. That’s huge news and I’ll be talking more about that in another post.

The second big announcement was that Nintendo is currently working on their next hardware platform, codenamed “NX.” Iwata promised more info next year, but reiterated this will be a dedicated game console with “a brand new concept.”

It’s the “brand new concept” piece of that news that has me the most excited. Because I hope it means that Nintendo is really going to break away from what they’ve been doing and put all of their efforts into one, unified game console.

I think we can all agree on a couple of things about Nintendo. One, that they make amazing first-party games. No matter how badly the GameCube or the WiiU has sold, there is no denying that Nintendo makes great games. Sadly some of their consoles end up being machines that you just play Nintendo exclusives on. Which is fine by me, as I am a very happy WiiU owner who buys most of Nintendo’s first-party titles.

Second–Nintendo makes one heck of a handheld gaming console. From the original GameBoy (which I got at launch) up through the New Nintendo 3DS, no one does handheld gaming like Nintendo. It’s not even remotely close. Even when Sony came out with a vastly technologically superior device in the Vita, they couldn’t touch the 3DS in terms of sales. And unlike Nintendo’s TV-based consoles, their handhelds actually get third-party support.

So keeping those two things in mind, what I would like to see from Nintendo is a handheld console that can stream to TV. A new design on the 3DS that includes either a dock or some other form of connectivity to the TV. Forget about competing with the Xboxes and PlayStations of the world in terms of graphics and processing power. Stick to what Nintendo does best–handheld gaming and stellar first-party experiences–and give folks the option to play on a bigger screen if they want to.

That’s it. That’s all I’d really like to see from Nintendo in their next console. I will actually be less interested if they come out with a machine that is designed to compete with Xbox and PlayStation. Frankly, those two machines are too alike now, and they are getting close to making themselves obsolete as they get more and more similar to PCs. Steam Boxes will only exacerbate that problem for Microsoft and Sony.

So, now is the time for Nintendo to break away and focus on what they do that no one else can do. I really hope “NX” will be Nintendo doubling down on their strengths.


Co-Op Critics Podcast: Dying Light

The latest episode of the Co-Op Critics podcast is available for your listening pleasure!

Each episode of Co-Op Critics we take a game or series and have a long-form group discussion about it. This month’s game is Dying Light, and I was joined by Nick Merritt and Josh Edmiston to discuss our experiences after spending dozens of hours with the game over the course of the month. We talked about the Dead Island series’ evolution into Dying Light, the game’s superb traversal mechanics, the fun we had with dropkicks and so much more.

You can listen to the episode right here in the player above, and in a few days we’ll have a version up on our YouTube channel as well, featuring some of this month’s gameplay highlights. In the meantime, you can check out our Dying Light playlist, which features everything from gameplay tips to some hilarious montages of zombie carnage.

Our spotlight game of the month for March is going to be Dragon Age: Inquisition, so we’ll be putting up videos all month and then cap things off with the podcast the last Wednesday of March.

The Order: 1886 and the Problem with Late-Game Difficulty Spikes

I marathoned almost the entirety of The Order: 1886 this past weekend, and for the most part, I really enjoyed my time with it. It is a very linear game with a healthy amount of cutscenes and quick time events, but I really got invested in the story the game was telling, and the third-person shooter elements felt smooth and fun to play. The Order is extremely polished, and it looks gorgeous from start to finish. I finished the game yesterday, and my playthrough clocked in around 6.5-7 hours, which is totally fine in my book.

My only real gripe with the game is its pacing. There are some chapters that are more cutscene than gameplay, and the interruption of gameplay with cutscenes in some places disrupts the flow of the game.

And then there was this:

This particular scene takes place in Chapter 15 of the game, the second to last chapter. It represents a difficulty spike that absolutely ground my playthrough of the game to halt, and left me thinking I might not even finish the game.

What was supremely frustrating about this particular scene is that you enter into a room in which there is no escape initially. Guards continue to spawn in at the back of the room, and there is no position where you are safe from being flanked. So, you are constantly moving around the room, which is fine, until you start dealing with the heavies (more powerful enemies). Because you’re constantly moving, you’re going to take some damage as you’re running around. Normal gunfire isn’t a big deal, but when enemies start using grenade launchers and thermite guns (which shower you with flammable material then set you ablaze), one shot from these heavies will finish you off. And the last ditch healing mechanic you have takes precious seconds to use, during which time other enemies just pump you full of bullets.

After dying a myriad of times, I did walk away for the rest of the evening. I managed to beat this section the following day, essentially by using a spawn closet for cover as I picked off the heavies, as they would not enter into the spawn closet for some reason.

The crazy thing about this particular segment of the game is it represents a big spike in difficulty. There was no other area in the entire game where I had to deal with that many enemies of various types in such a confined space, with no defensible position. It forced me to play the game differently that I had for all of the previous hours I’d spent with it.

Now, hitting one really frustrating point in the course of an entire game is not the end of the world, but I feel like it’s a big deal for The Order, because the flow of the story is so important to the experience. There is a sense of urgency to this part of the game, where Gallahad (the main character) is trying to get to a colleague as quickly as possible. That experience is completely shattered when one room becomes a meat grinder that causes you to replay the same section over and over again. It ruins the penultimate chapter of the story in a game where the story is everything.

The last time I ran into a momentum killer like this was in 2012’s ZombiU, which is still my favorite WiiU game to date (I wrote a whole series on it in 2012). There is a level where you get captured and have to fight your way out of an arena that almost made me quit that game (you can read my post on that here).

Whether designed to shake things up or to prolong the playtime of a game, the late-game difficulty spike can not only be a momentum killer, it can actually keep people from finishing a game, which is a bummer.

And just so we’re clear, I’m not picking on The Order here–I really enjoyed the game. But this particular section was a textbook example of something I think games can do without.

Do you have any examples of late-game difficulty spikes? Did you end up finishing the game in question?


Brian’s Short List for March 2015

March is right around the corner, and we here at co-Op Critics are planning our games coverage for the month. It will be a mix of old and new–Dragon Age: Inquisition will be a spotlight game for us next month–and there are some new games we’re really excited for.

For me personally, there are a few games coming out in March that are among my most anticipated of the year, one of which was just announced yesterday.

Ori and the Blind Forest (Xbox One)
Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D platformer in the vein Super Metroid. It looks stunning–but don’t take my word for it, check out the video.

Bloodborne–March 24 (PS4)
Easily my most anticipated game of the year. From the director of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, two of my all-time favorite games. Expect to see a lot of Bloodborne on this blog and our YouTube channel in the coming weeks and months.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection–March 24 (Xbox One/PS4)
After enjoying the first Borderlands, I never finished the sequel (on XBox 360 or Vita). I also didn’t play the pre-sequel, so Nick and I will definitely be co-opping a lot of Borderlands in the future.

Neverwinter–March 31(Xbox One)
I think I dabbled with Neverwinter on PC a while back, but I may just be thinking of D&D Online. In any case, I am a huge D&D fan, and I am excited about any MMO coming to consoles. Between this and the upcoming Elder Scrolls, I’ve got a lot to forward to. And the opening cinematic for Neverwinter is insane.

So, what games are you looking forward to next month? Are there games you want to see us cover here on Co-Op Critics? Let us know in the comments!


Co-Op Quick Look: Q*bert Rebooted (PS4)

I am a child of the 1980’s, one who grew up in arcades, and I spent many a quarter on Gottlieb’s 1982 puzzle platformer Q*bert. While the premise of Q*bert is simple–jump on colored blocks of a pyramid to turn them all to a different color–the game was difficult right out of the gate. From purple snakes to red blobs to monsters that jump sideways, there are a number of enemies that make Q*bert’s task difficult. Not to mention, one wring jump can take him right off the side of the level.

I actually put the most time into the Atari 2600 version of Q*bert, which you can see in the video below. For that time, it was quite a good adaptation, and the gameplay translated well to the home cosnole. Q*bert made his way to just about every home console at at the time, including the Commodore 64 and the NES.

And now, Q*bert has made his way back to home consoles with the recently released Q*bert Rebooted. The $10 game includes both the classic arcade version as well as a modern revamp that includes some new enemies and a challenge-based system reminiscent of games like Angry Birds. You can check out my Quick Look below.


The Xbox Ultimate Game Sale Has Some Ridiculous Deals

We here at Co-Op Critics only have so much money to spend on games every month, so there’s a lot we either miss, or come back to much later on. The one nice thing about not being able to play everything at launch is the likelihood that you’ll get some nice discounts down the road.

This week is a great week for grabbing previously released games, as Xbox just launched their Ultimate Game Sale, featuring huge discounts for both Xbox 360 and Xbox One games. You can find the entire list of discounts here, but below are a few of our picks for Xbox One:

NBA Live 15 ($9)

Yes, it got mediocre reviews, and we know it can’t hold a candle to the 2K series, but for nine bucks, we’ll take some next-gen basketball action.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris ($8)

We loved Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. And a four-player co-op game for eight bucks? Sold.

Sniper Elite III ($10)

With all of the twitch-based shooters on the market, sometimes a change of pace is nice. We’ll take our time with this one.

There’s plenty of other great discounts on the list as well, featuring some big names like Destiny, Forza 5, Shadow of Mordor and Alien Isolation. So if you missed any of those, now’s your chance to grab them for 30-50% off.

So, what are you planning on grabbing this week?