The Outer Worlds Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

2019 has been a good year for AA developers – studios that fall somewhere between small indie teams and big corporate juggernauts in terms of budget and labor power. In September, Spiders released Greedfall, a better BioWare game than BioWare itself has released lately. Now, Obsidian has done something similar with The Outer Worlds – a better Fallout game than Bethesda’s own Fallout 76 (and, for that matter, some might say, better than Fallout 4). Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed Obsidian’s output over the years. The studio is responsible for some of my favorite games of all time: Knights of the Old Republic II, Alpha Protocol, the Pillars of Eternity series, Neverwinter Nights 2, Tyranny. Most relevantly to The Outer Worlds, they made Fallout: New Vegas for Bethesda, a game that remains many fans’ favorite entry in the Fallout franchise.

Critics, however, were less kind to New Vegas. While there was a strong favorable consensus around the narrative (particularly the level of freedom and player choice), the gameplay was more hit or miss, and the experience was riddled with bugs on release. These technical issues stemmed mainly from the fact that New Vegas was made using Bethesda’s rickety Gamebryo engine, on a tight Bethesda-imposed deadline (the game was made in 18 months; for perspective, Fallout 3 took four years to develop). It seems a tad unfair, then, that Bethesda tied Obsidian’s bonus to the game’s Metacritic score – a benchmark they fell short of by a single point. In light of this history, it’s easy to view The Outer Worlds as Obsidian thumbing their nose at Bethesda. And as I said above, the game does fill the Fallout-shaped void present in gaming since 76 bombed. The Outer Worlds is its own beast, though, not just a reskinned Fallout game, and deserves to be judged on its own merits.

To begin with, let’s get the similarities out of the way. Like the modern Fallout games, The Outer Worlds is a first-person shooter/role-playing game hybrid with an emphasis on exploration and dialogue. As you reconnoiter the world and chat with its inhabitants you’ll quickly find your journal filling up with side quests. You can talk your way out of conflict, sneak around to avoid it, or confront it head-on with ranged or melee weapons. There are locks to pick and computers to hack in order to gain experience, loot, side quests, and lore. When you level up, you’ll be given skill points and perks to distribute as you see fit. You’ll be presented with morally ambiguous decisions to make that will affect the world and how the people in it treat you.

Some people point to the Tactical Time Dilation (TTD) as a similarity, even going so far as to call it knock-off VATS. In my experience, though, the similarities between the two are strictly superficial. VATS in Fallout stops time (halting you and your companions and opponents in your tracks) and allows you to flick between targets, and fire as many shots as you have action points for. TTD, on the other hand, doesn’t stop time, but simply slows it down significantly, allowing you to aim and move freely until the TTD meter depletes. TTD also allows you to analyze your enemies and target different locations to proc various status effects, like knockdown, stagger, blind, and so on. As someone who relies on VATS to get myself through Fallout, I actually prefer TTD – it feels much more fluid.

The most obvious difference is to be found in the setting. Both games take place in the distant future, but Fallout explores a post-nuclear apocalypse America, while The Outer Worlds takes us to a whole new solar system, the Halcyon Colony. Halcyon is under the complete control of the Board, a holding company comprised of executives from the colony’s various founding companies. While both franchises use their settings to critique the structural shortcomings and moral failures of late stage capitalism, the extraterrestrial setting of The Outer Worlds allows for a much greater variety in flora, fauna, terrain, technology, and – perhaps most importantly to those of you who are aesthetically inclined like I am – color palette (I adore the Fallout games but sometimes it’s nice to see colors other than dull browns and greys).

The fact that you traverse an entire solar system means that The Outer Worlds has you visiting, unlike Fallout’s expansive open world (on a single, interconnected map), a variety of separate, enclosed, discrete locations. It’s also a much shorter game than the typical Fallout experience, though of course the actual length varies greatly depending on how much side content you do, how thoroughly you explore, and so on. These changes might be negative for some people, but I actually appreciated them. Obsidian, lacking the overhead of Bethesda, knew they couldn’t match the scope of a Fallout game, so chose instead to opt for quality over quantity. The smaller maps sacrifice breadth for depth, and are filled to the brim with content and details, making them feel incredibly vibrant. The shorter storyline meant the writing was focused and well-paced, holding my interest throughout. Most importantly, it left me wanting more – I can’t wait to make a new character with different skills, experiment with new playstyles, and see how the game responds to different choices.

The Outer Worlds is available at the Davenport Library on the PlayStation 4 and XBox One platforms.

Moonlighter Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

When I first launched Moonlighter, I was immediately struck by its art style. True, an indie game with retro-styled pixel graphics isn’t exactly a rare find these days, but Moonlighter manages to stand out from the crowd with its refreshingly bright and varied palette. Even more impressive are the animations, which are painstakingly detailed and impart a remarkable amount of character to the simplistic sprites. My favorite example is the shop assistant you can hire after expanding your shop enough. They have a distinctive coif of thick hair that they always take a moment to tie back when you open your shop for the day.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the beginning of the game, your shop (named, surprisingly enough, the Moonlighter), far from being successful enough to require an assistant, is struggling to stay open. In fact, the whole town of Rynoka is depressed, both economically and emotionally – a far cry from its heyday as a bustling hub for both heroes and merchants. This prosperity stemmed from the nearby Dungeons – four mysterious caverns that appeared out of nowhere one day, attracting adventurers of all sorts seeking fame and fortune within. Of course, there’s neither glory nor riches without risk, and as the death toll mounted, all but the least dangerous of the Dungeons were boarded up. Rynoka’s (and by extension the Moonlighter’s) salad days ended soon after.

Enter Will, the player character. Although a merchant by trade, he moonlights (get it?) as a hero by night, venturing into the sole open Dungeon for loot to sell at the shop by day. This is the conceit by which developers Digital Sun integrate two disparate (but similarly addictive) genres of gameplay – roguelite dungeon crawler and shop simulator – into one brilliant, engaging gameplay loop. The money you make selling your loot in the shop can go to upgrading your shop or resuscitating Rynoka by investing in new businesses. The most important of these businesses is the blacksmith, who takes money and materials and crafts armor and weapons for you. These in turn allow you to delve deeper into more difficult dungeons, making more money to further expand your shop and upgrade your gear, allowing you to make it even further into the Dungeons, and so on. It’s the type of game that will have you saying “just one more day” over and over until the sun rises – in the real world this time.

Dead Cells Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

Although I’ve been playing video games for well over two decades, on the historical scale, gaming is a relatively young medium. As such, it’s not surprising that it has undergone many changes – growing pains, one could say – as it struggles to come into its own as an artform. Over the past decade, big budget AAA games have settled into a fairly rigid formula; fortunately, at the same time there has been an indie game renaissance, with brilliantly creative developers putting new spins on classic genres.

Two of the most popular genres in indie gaming today, despite formerly being rather niche, are roguelites and metroidvanias. The primary feature of roguelites is permadeath; when you die, that’s it. While some progress, such as items or skills, might persist between deaths, each run starts over from the beginning, giving you just one life to make it to the final boss. Metroidvanias (a portmanteau of the two franchises that cemented and popularized the genre, Metroid and Castlevania), on the other hand, are (typically 2D) platformers with an emphasis on exploring large, interconnected maps. Usually you acquire power-ups throughout the game, which then allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas.

Dead Cells, one of my most-played games on my Switch, is a hybrid of these two genres: a roguelitevania, if you will. While its genre might be an awkward mouthful, the game itself is a masterclass in elegant simplicity. You play as a headless prisoner brought back to life in a ruined kingdom. Using a combination of two weapons (which you choose from a huge assortment of swords, daggers, hammers, whips, shields, bows, spells, and more) and two skills (chosen from various grenades, traps, and abilities), you fight your way out of the prison, then through different areas of the kingdom. The art style is gorgeous, with each region looking dramatically different with radically varied color palettes, and the animation is tight and fluid, important in a game where twitch combat is of the utmost importance.

The game is hard, and when you inevitably die, you’re brought back to life in the prison to try, try again. Fortunately, as you fight you collect cells, which you can invest in various upgrades that carry over between runs. While the game is never easy, you can at least give yourself progressively more of a fighting chance, so you never feel like you wasted your time when a run is cut short. Even when (if) you finally beat the game, there is a hard mode for even more of a challenge, plus new daily challenges each day, where you play a region with various modifiers, competing with other players for the high score. Dead Cells is hard to master, but even harder to put down.

Villainous Video Games – Halloween

While many think about telling spooky campfire tales with friends and loved ones around the Halloween season, another fun way to share in the frights is to turn off all of the lights, bundle up in your warmest blanket and snuggle in with a terrifying video game to scare your socks off. I have compiled some truly terrifying offerings of games that are sure to do just that.

Outlast Trinity

This game is actually a collection of three experiences all packaged into one case. Unlike some horror games that let you take on the bad guys and supernatural creatures, Outlast only gives the player a camcorder with night vision capabilities as their tool. No weapons or tools to fight off the bad guys, only hiding or running are your options. This helplessness drives up the intensity and horror in this atmospheric instant classic.

Until Dawn

This story-driven game follows a group of teenagers trapped at a ski resort in the mountain being hunted by a serial killer, and potentially other, more deadly supernatural forces. This game puts the player in charge, allowing you to make choices that dictate who lives and who dies. Try to survive the night in this narrative-focused thriller.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2

Halloween isn’t all about scaring your boots off, sometimes it is about strategizing the layout of your garden to fend off hordes of cartoon zombies. This tower defense game is great fun for all ages and is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit for those of all ages. It has a silly cartoon aesthetic to go with the generally silly atmosphere of the game. A ton of fun to be had in this game where you plant fire-breathing dandelions to fend off hat-wearing zombies.

These titles and many more horrifying tales are all available at your Davenport Public Library. For more recommendations like these to get you into the Halloween spirit, check out our Halloween LibGuide for more wretched recommendations.

 

 

 

 

Greedfall Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

To gamers of a certain age, the name BioWare is synonymous with excellence in roleplaying games. The mere mention of the iconic Canadian developer conjures memories of epic single player journeys filled with impactful, morally ambiguous decisions and memorable companions. Deep theorycrafting – stats and attributes, traits and talents, skill trees and loot tables – rounds out the typical BioWare playthrough. While this may make their games sound formulaic, each of their franchises manages to feel fresh and distinct, ranging thematically from high fantasy to kung-fu mysticism to space opera. From Baldur’s Gate to Jade Empire to Mass Effect, a new BioWare release has always been an experience.

Their most recent release, however, is a radical departure from the usual formula. Anthem is an always-online, squad-based looter shooter set on a post-apocalyptic planet littered with the ruins of ancient civilizations. The main hook is that your character pilots a Javelin, a powered exosuit (think Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits). Although I’m generally not a fan of shooters or multiplayer games, BioWare’s track record was stellar enough for me to give them benefit of the doubt. And besides, who doesn’t want to fly around stunning alien environments?

The foundation of a good game is there: flying around in your javelin feels great, the world is gorgeous, there are tantalizing scraps of lore. However, none of it is able to cohere into a satisfying whole, and there’s plenty lacking. It’s evident that BioWare had never made a game like this before. Compared to other genre staples, like The Division and Borderlands, the amount of content is severely lacking – and what is present quickly grows repetitive. Most egregiously for a BioWare game, the story and characters are dull (and mostly relegated to the background). That being said, these flaws make Anthem the perfect candidate for checking out from the library. Get it for free, spend a few days living out your Iron Man fantasies, and bring it back when you’ve had your fill.

If, like me, you find yourself craving a more authentically BioWare-like experience after putting down Anthem, I cannot recommend Greedfall highly enough. French developer Spiders has much less labor-power and a significantly smaller budget to work with than BioWare, so don’t expect the same level of polish found in BioWare classics like Dragon Age, but Spiders nails what’s important: writing, characters, world-building, and mechanical depth. And while the graphics aren’t top-notch, the uniquely beautiful art direction more than makes up for that fact.

Speaking of art, Greedfall starts with your character sitting for a portrait, a rather clever presentation for character creation, as well as immediately signposting what kind of world you’re entering – in this case, a baroque fantasy world inspired by the historic Age of Exploration. Appropriate, as you soon set sail for Teer Fradee, a “new world” of sorts where there is said to be a cure for the mysterious illness plaguing your home town. Of course, much like the “new world” in our own history, there are already people living on Teer Fradee. In addition to the natives, there are three main factions vying for control of the island and its resources, and as a senior diplomat, it’s up to you to balance their conflicting interests, all while uncovering the island’s many mysterious secrets. Greedfall gives you immense freedom in building your character, not just mechanically, but from a roleplaying perspective as well. Unlike Anthem, this is a game I see myself coming back to check out again and again.

Greedfall is available at the library in both X-Box and PlayStation 4 formats.

Farming Simulator 17 Video Game

To people that are unfamiliar to the Simulator genre, games like Farming Simulator 17 might seem strange. If simulating the day-to-day work as a farmer doesn’t sound immediately like your idea of a fun video game, then I recommend that you read through this review before passing any final judgements on the franchise. While the game has “simulator” in it’s name, that doesn’t mean that the game is attempting to perfectly replicate the experience that a typical farmer has. You can live out the dream of being a farmer with access to over 200 farm vehicles at their disposal and be able to delve into the entire breadth of experiences that encompass the farming occupation. Forestry, livestock and traditional crop farming all play prominent roles in this game. Expand your farm either alone or with some friends for cooperative play.

This game offers two maps to choose from to build your farm on as well as trains as a new vehicle that you can use to transport crops with throughout the map. There is a swathe of new vehicles to acquire in this entry as well as new animals and crops to farm. If you have played any of the previous entries in this series you will find everything from those games and moreso in this entry. Farming Simulator 17 a relaxing yet complex game that aims to recreate all of the challenges while still enabling the player to achieve any of the goals that they can set their mind to.

Farming Simulator 17 does a great job of balancing its role as a simulator with its job as a fun video game. If any aspect of this review sounds like it might be a fun time, I recommend trying it out. It isn’t as flashy or action packed as other video games but if that flashiness and action isn’t what you are looking for, then I would look no further than this fun little game. It is worth trying out especially if you are someone who plays video games to help relax at the end of a long day.

 

Battlefield V Video game

Battlefield V is the newest entry into the Battlefield series. Battlefield is one of the longest-running first-person shooter (FPS) franchises in all of gaming. Don’t let the number next to the title fool you, there are way more than five entries in this franchise dating back to Battlefield 1942 back in 2002. Battlefield V returns the franchise to its WWII roots. Continuing on their single player theme from the previous game Battlefield 1 (I told you the numbering of this franchise is weird), the War Stories episodic singeplayer format returns. Multiplayer, as always, is the main focus of this game. Wage massive 64 player battles on land, air and sea across a myriad of landscapes and locales in extremely destructible environments. The final mode is one that was recently added only a few months ago and that is the battle royale mode Firestorm where squads parachute into the map then fight for survival as a ring of fire surrounds and encloses the map.

War Stories is Battlefield’s way of tackling single-player campaigns. These standalone stories send you to different corners of the global conflict and play through a handful of missions from different soldiers perspectives. This serves as a great change of pace from campaigns of old where players were tasked as playing as one man armies who traverse the globe doing anything and everything. With war stories players are treated to far more grounded encounters and far more variety of gameplay and story experiences.

Multiplayer is big, beautiful and deep as always from entries in the Battlefield franchise. Traditional 64 player Conquest is back as well as a continuously updated list of gamemodes that are constantly being added and removed to keep the gameplay experience fresh. From massive open 64 player combat to squad focused close quarters deathmatch, there is going to be a mode that caters to every playstyle. Teamwork and destruction are the name of the game in this FPS.

Firestorm is another fun addition to the Battlefield franchise with DICE’s take on battle royale. Scavenge, destroy, and work together to be the last squad standing at the end of the match. Once you die, you’re out in this free for all gamemode.

Battlefield has a lot to offer FPS fans, especially those that love to play WWII shooters. Fight across the European and Pacific theater in this fun squad-based massive battle shooter.

Crash Team Racing Video Game

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is a remake of an original Playstation Kart racing game called Crash Team Racing. However, this remake has much more content than what was included in the original. This game includes all of the race tracks from the original Crash Team Racing as well as every track from Crash Team Racing’s sequel for the Playstation 2 Crash Nitro Kart.

In Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, the player plays as a character from the world of Crash Bandicoot. Whether that be a giant tiger named Tiny, or an mad scientist with a rocket lodged into his head named Dr. N. Gin, there is a wide variety of cartoon racers to pick from and even more customization when it comes to the kart that the character drives.

This game is a ton of fun for anyone looking for an arcade karting game that isn’t Mario Kart from Nintendo. It looks beautiful, this remake really shows how far graphics have come in the 20 years since the release of the original Crash Team Racing.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled includes the Adventure single player mode from the original game, an online multiplayer mode as well as split screen support so you can bring a whole bunch of friends into your living room and race against each other there.

There is a ton to do in this arcade kart racer and even more fun if you have friends to tag along and do it with you. I highly recommend this game to fans of the original or fans of kart racing games in general. Even though it is a remake, it also serves as a reminder of why this game got a remake in the first place. This game holds up even after 20 years.

Forza Motorsport 7 Video Game

Forza Motorsport 7 is a racing simulator developed by Turn 10 Studios for the Xbox One. This Xbox exclusive is the latest in a long line of games that date back to the original Xbox console. Forza Motorsport 7 is one of the most robust racing games on the market with a plethora of ways to play and have fun for all experience levels.

The single player campaign follows the Forza Driver’s Cup, a series of 6 championships that are further broken down by divisions and once you beat enough divisions in each championship, you unlock the next one. Throughout this process, the player is continually unlocking new things. Cars, upgrades and even driver suits. Hours of racing can be spent in this mode alone.

Customization another mode that players can sink their time into and that doesn’t even involve racing. Like Forza games before it, Forza Motorsport 7 has deep and robust customization features, you can create practically any paint scheme you can think of or create new ones. Hours can be spent tuning your car and making it look as cool as it can be and that is all before you even hit the race track.

Online multiplayer is still receiving regular updates with new hoppers and modes being added every month with new competitive features being added in June. This game is constantly receiving new content that keeps the racing fresh for players looking to battle it out with racers from around the world.

If this sounds like a fun time, we have Forza Motorsport 7 available for check out on the Xbox One at the Davenport Public library.

Mario Switch Games

Guest post by Wesley B.

If you own a Nintendo console, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t playing any Mario games – the mustachioed plumber is Nintendo’s mascot for a reason. The Switch is no exception to this rule, and we have several Mario Switch games available here at the Library!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Party likely need no introduction. Either can be played alone, but they shine in their multiplayer modes (which the Switch is perfectly suited for). While Super Mario Party fails to fully recapture the magic of some of the earlier games in the series, it’s still a great way to spend an evening battling, betraying, and bickering with your friends – and laughing uproariously the whole time. Mario Kart 8, on the other hand, is probably the definitive Mario Kart game ever made. Chock full of courses, characters, and karts, there’s enough content here to last quite a while, and it’s customizable enough to be just as fun and accessible to newcomers as it is to series veterans.

Unlike the previous two games, Mario Tennis Aces might have flown under your radar. However, it’s just as strong a candidate for game night with your friends as the other two. You can play singles or doubles, one-off matches or tournaments, and with conventional or motion controls. Plus, unlike Mario Party and Mario Kart, it has a robust single player campaign!

And then of course we have the more traditional single-player platforming experiences: New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Mario Odyssey. Mario Bros. is classic 2D Mario at its finest. It starts off a little slow, but before long the levels start to get fiendishly difficult. Odyssey, on the other hand, is the latest 3D Mario entry, and in many ways the culmination of all the games that came before it. With over 900 Moons to find across its 16 worlds, it should keep you busy for quite a while.

Last but not least, I want to leave you with a recommendation for a strange game whose very existence is surprising, and that has no right to be as good as it is: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. This game is actually developed by Ubisoft, not Nintendo, and is a new genre for Mario: turn-based strategy. While some people may be turned off by the Rabbids, strange creatures previously relegated mostly to background roles in Ubisoft games, they’re depriving themselves of a shockingly great game. You’ll eventually unlock eight characters, from whom you choose three to make your battle team. Each character has customizable skill trees as well as a variety of weapons to choose from, lending a surprising amount of depth to this bright and cartoonishly stylized game.