Tyler Wilde: But is it battlefun?
It's tough reviewing a game that's in the middle of a big controversy, as Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been this week. I have to get it out of my head to a degree, because it distracts from assessing my personal experience, yet I had to pay attention with EA repeatedly altering systems in response to the backlash against loot boxes and premium currency.
My score of 63% for Battlefront 2 is a summary of my criticisms of all the game’s systems, how I felt as I navigated and played with them. When it came to loot boxes and Star Cards, that feeling was annoyance and frustration. And there are other problems: the squad system is totally ineffective, a lot of fights end with teams stacked on either side of doorways chucking grenades, and the campaign's nonsensical story is disappointing. And yet Battlefront 2 is fun at times. The story may suck, but the campaign is entertaining. The maps are gorgeous, and segments of Galactic Assault matches can be great fun, especially if I've earned enough points to spawn as a hero.
I like Battlefront 2 with caveats, and I strove to choose a score that reflects those caveats. I hope it's interpreted that way, and not as 'punishment' for including loot boxes, because that is definitely not our approach to criticism. Some players are loving Battlefront 2, and that's totally valid. Personally, now that the review is done, I probably won't keep playing—the thrill of spawning as Yoda and busting up droids is great, but I don't need to feel it again. I'd rather play a more compact game where I can refine a smaller set of skills.
Samuel Roberts: Force collision
Your good friend Sonic the Hedgehog staged quite a comeback this year with Sonic Mania, a 2D platformer built in the image of the Mega Drive classics (even if hewed a bit too closely to those games to truly feel like its own thing). Nothing lasts, of course, and as expected, Sonic Forces isn't that exciting, continuing the middling 3D games that have been kicking around since the Dreamcast days.
Still, another Sonic Mania seems inevitable to me, so I'm happy to let the character have his moment in 2017.
Andy Kelly: Crate expectations
So EA and DICE have temporarily removed microtransactions from Star Wars Battlefront II. That’s a good thing, I think? They’re listening to people, I guess. Loot crates and in-game currencies don’t bother me that much, but man, it’s so sad to see what games have become. It was inevitable, of course. An industry doesn’t get this fat and wealthy without succumbing to corporate greed. But the barefaced cynicism of publishers trying to claw money out of the weak-willed with progression boosters and the like is just depressing.
It’s a shame that so many of the major publishers see ‘games as a service’ as the future. It probably is, because these companies make a fortune from microtransactions, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’m just glad the PC has such a rich indie scene, where imaginative, subversive games developed for no reason other than the passion of making them are being released pretty much daily. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-made ‘AAA’ game (I just finished the brilliant Assassin’s Creed Origins), but thank god for the weird stuff too.
Joe Donnelly: Can’t be saved
It’s no secret that I’m fond of Football Manager. And while I love messing around with each annual instalment’s new features and gubbings upon release, the fact that you can’t transfer old saves into new games will forever be my biggest bug bear with the footie management sim. In conversation with Sports Interactive’s Miles Jacobson, I learned that this will almost certainly never happen. Which makes me sad.
“Both technologically and legally, the answer to that is no," says Jacobson when asked is carryover saves is possible. "When we do our licensing deals, they are for a specific season and there comes a point where you have to stop selling the game as well. We only have the license for that club data, for example, for that particular season. You have more features, you're adding more data or tweaking the way it works. Those databases can't transfer back because the game will be going: sorry, what's this number? What does this mean? Again, even if we found a technical way to do it, from a legal perspective it's: nope."
James Davenport: Nioht yet
My backlog wasn't a problem until this year. I still have to finish Divinity: Original Sin 2, Cuphead, The Evil Within 2, Assassin's Creed: Origins, and an ever-growing list of games brought to my attention by our new-ish Indie channel. But deep down, I'm all about those Soulsy action adventure RPGs, which makes sitting on the PC version of Nioh hurt the most.
In a perfect world, it'd be the only videogame released this year, we'd only work 10-hour weeks, and using a controller would be the only exercise you need to stay healthy. Also, we'd be socialists, computers wouldn't require energy to work (somehow), and Nioh would feed my cat. Nioh is just a game though, and one I don't have time to play. I'm an hour in, still noodling around in the first zone, getting used to the Ki pulse rhythm again and I can't get enough of the duels. Every revenant has to go down before I can move on. It's not a sustainable pace, but it's the most relaxed I feel playing games lately.
Tim Clark: Always-on entropy
I don’t much care for MOBAs, so it’s no surprise I never played Master X Master, and yet I found the news of its shuttering yesterday oddly sad. I think my melancholy stems from the part about the developer giving all the players 500,000 X-Coins so they can unlock all the in-game content. I imagine it’ll create something of an end-of-term vibe for those who stick around until the bitter end, but it’s indicative—particularly this week—of how routine it has become for games to lock some of their best stuff away behind paywalls and grindy progression paths. It’s also a reminder that the lights will go out on most of the games we love today eventually, and without serious efforts from fans to preserve them, they’ll be lost in a way that the games of the past that didn’t require always-on connections haven’t been.