Tag Archives: generation

Review: Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinium (DS) ~ Where Is Our Remake, Nintendo?

pokemon_dppt

Bulbapedia entry

It has been quite a while since I talked about the Pokémon series. But today I noticed that I haven’t written an article on the 4th generation of Pokemon games. I think it’s high time to do something about that. Now, I want to tell the story of how I acquired this game. Just when I got my DS, I only had one game. The Legend of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass. Not too long after, my sister and I went to buy new games. She bought it together with me, Nintendogs since she was 10 € short. While I bought Pokémon Pearl. The nostalgic memories are quite extreme for this game. I played this game quite a lot, sometimes through the night while hiding my DS underneath my pillow to avoid getting caught. But, is the game still good or are my nostalgia goggles clouding my judgment? Let’s take a look at the 4th generation of Pokémon games. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Where is our remake Nintendo?

pokmon_pearl_image10A lot of the early generation Pokémon games got a remake from Nintendo. The first generation, Pokémon Blue/Red and Yellow, has been remade on the Nintendo GBA and more recently on the Nintendo Switch. The second generation, Pokemon Gold/Silver and Crystal, got a remake on the Nintendo DS. The third generation, Ruby/Sapphire and Emerald, got a remake on the 3DS.

Fans are hoping for a remake of the Sinnoh region on the Nintendo Switch. The fully experience the story of this 4th generation all over again. Fans want to start in Twin Leaf Town again, together with your childhood rival, meeting the evil team in the first minutes of the game. Now, this game has your usual Pokémon story. If you have played any previous Pokémon games, you will know what to expect. Fight 8 gyms, defeat an evil team, save the world from destruction, defeat the Pokémon League and become champion of the region.

There are a few twists in the story, but overall it stays very normal for a Pokémon game. While I was playing the game for the first time, I remember quite liking the story. I found the characters quite enjoyable and I enjoyed myself following the quirky cast of characters I met on my journey. While I replayed the game for this review, I still enjoyed the story but I felt that there was more that could have been done with the story. Thankfully, in the following generations, the story gets more and more flesh out.

Something I found really great was the pacing of the story. In the previous Pokémon games, the evil team stays a lot on the background during the story and nearing the finale of the game, appears almost out of nowhere. In this game, you have several encounters with them and a lot of roadblocks on your adventure are caused by them. This made Team Galactic more memorable compared to some other teams. Then again, I might be saying this out of my nostalgia goggles.

Now, does this game have a good story? In my honest opinion, sort off. If you are expecting a story with deep lore like Skyrim, you won’t find it here. The story has a lot of lore but not too in-depth. The story of this game is quite accessible. And that fits the style and theming of this game better than a lore heavy game. It makes the game a lot more accessible for all ages and it stays true to its portable nature.

Unique mechanics galore

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If you have played the previous generations, the gameplay will be quite familiar to you. Find and catch Pokémon in the wild to make a team to train and battle other trainers. Now, the usual formula gets enhanced by the Nintendo DS because of the added UI elements of the second screen. The Nintendo DS spoiled me since from this generation the UI gets a lot of improvements.

Some key items like the Item Finder are now a lot easier to use thanks to the PokéTech on the touch screen. There are over 20 apps you can get for the PokéTech. Some are useful inside the game and others can be quite useful outside of the game. I remember that one time, a friend of mine forgot to bring his calculator to school and was allowed to use the calculator in the game for exercises. I used the coin toss app a lot for various situations.

Now, each generation has its own unique special mechanic. The second generation had two regions, the third has secret bases, the fifth has seasons… And this generation has the underground AND the PokéTech. Yes, two unique features. Man, the underground looks like so much fun. Sadly enough, I didn’t have a lot of friends (outside of the internet friends) I could play this mode with. I played this mode twice on the bus and it was quite a lot of fun. In the underground, the secret bases from the 3rd generation return. But there is more, there is a sort of capture the flag mode where you can earn points by raiding the flag of other players their bases. And on top of that, you can put traps in the various hallways. And on top of that, you can mine for various ores and sometimes very useful items. And yes, possible fossils to find several Pokémon. While I wasn’t able to play with the secret bases in the underground, I still spend countless hours just digging for ores and decorating my secret base.

Earlier I talked about the improvements to the UI. Thanks to the touch screen, the battling mechanics and bag management got a lot easier. When you look at the newer generations, it’s clear that these UI improvements work quite well since they got even more fleshed out in those generations. To be honest, I missed the second screen with my menu options and such while I was playing Pokémon Let’s Go.

Actually, there is a third unique mechanic in this game but it isn’t something that game-changing. It’s a nice addition that helps with the atmosphere of this game. After some time, your badges get dirty and a bit rusty. So, you can clean them by rubbing on them on the touch screen to make them sparkle again. This is a nice small addition. And yes, as a child I regularly checked my badges to make sure they were still in sparking condition.

Depending on how skilled you are in optimizing your team, this game can be easy and sometimes quite difficult. I’m the more casual type of player and I have to say that I got frustrated with one of two gym leaders. I disliked the 5th gym a lot since I had to grind quite a bit to beat that gym. And if there is one thing I dislike, that’s grinding.

This adventure will take you roughly 40 hours to complete. But, if you want to fully complete this game and see everything that there is to see, you can spend close to 260 hours in the game. While I haven’t fully completed the game 100%, I think I played this game give or take, 100 hours. Granted, over several save files since I have restarted the game two or three times.

The lakes

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Visually, this game looks amazing. Sinnoh still looks great in my opinion. The game is quite colorful and lively.

In terms of the animation, this game looks quite good. I had to get used to the static Pokémon sprites again while battling, but that was a small price to pay.

And the game also nails in it in the audio department. The music for this game is amazing. It’s one of my favorite soundtracks to listen too when I’m in a Pokémon mood and the sound effects really add a lot of flavor to the game.

Running around in the world of Sinnoh is a fun experience. From a port town to the snowy tops of Snowpoint City, this region is one of my favorite regions in the series. Especially because there is so much variation in the region. It’s not themed in one giant theme like in Pokémon Sun and Moon where everything is based on Hawaii or in Pokemon X and Y where everything is themed like France.

So far, I have been praising this game quite a lot. But, are their things I didn’t like about this game. Well, yes. There are a few things I didn’t like about this game.

The first big negative of this game has to do with the fact that the Nintendo Online services have been closed down. Because of this, the online features of this game are inaccessible. Well, apart from the local features then.

Sometimes, I felt that the game was running a bit too slow. Now, I don’t mean that there were any frame drops or lag… I mean that there was a bit too much of the text boxes. Especially when certain weather effects whereinto play.

The best version to play this game is Pokémon Platinium. Apart from fixing some bugs, there is a whole long list of improvements to the game. NintendoEverthing made a very helpful list that can be found right here. And after playing Pokémon Platinium for a bit, I found that a lot of the minor nitpicks I had with the game, were fixed.

And yes, that was almost everything negative I can say about these games… And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article.

Conclusion

Negatives:

-Some rare moments of griding are required to beat the game.

-Nintendo Online being shut down.

-Pokémon Platinium improved the games so much that Pearl and Diamond feel inferior.

Positives:

+ Amazing audiovisual design.

+ Several unique mechanics in this game like the underground and the PokéTech.

+ Fun story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives for this game. Maybe it’s possible that I have too many nostalgic thoughts about this game or maybe it’s just that good. In terms of Nintendo DS games, this is one of the best Nintendo DS games I have ever played.

There is a reason why so many players want to see this game remade on the Nintendo Switch. They want to bring this game back to the masses so that a whole new generation can experience the amazing journey through Sinnoh again.

I highly recommend that you give this game a try if you enjoy Pokémon games and/or RPG’s. The main game can be easy for hardcore RPG fans but the post-game and the side quests will give you a lot of challenges.

While this game has a few minor flaws, I find them not hindering my experience at all. Compared to the generations after this generation, this game can feel a bit lacking. For example, you don’t need to hold a button down to run and the menu is always accessible on the touch screen… But, then again, there are moments I really miss the PokéTech and the underground mechanics from this game.

And with that, I think it’s time to wrap up this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 100/100

Preview: Griff – The Winged Lion (PC) ~ 5th Console generation inspired game

Developers’ Website

Another retro-inspired game? I know, we have seen quite a lot of them lately. But, this time, it’s quite different. Today, I want to talk about Griff the Winged Lion. A retro-inspired game by major titles from the 5th console generation. Games like Spyro and Crash are two of the biggest inspirations for this game. So, in this preview, I’m going to talk about the released press and promotional materials, the provided demo and what my ideas are for the game. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

If you want to support this game to see it completed, you can help the developers on KickStarter!

The promo & press materials

If you want to check out the press kit for yourself, you can do it right here. In the provided press kit, we can read the story. The story is about Griff, a king’s son who goes on a journey to find answers about his mysterious fate.

I think that there is a lot of potential in the story. Since my experience with gaming stories and writing stories myself in the past is telling me that there is going to be more than just that. I’m convinced that the story presented in the press kit is just going to be the tip of the iceberg. Something is going to happen that changes everything. I’m quite curious to see what it will be.

So far, the characters that get described are an amazing throwback at the characters from the games they took inspiration from. I can’t wait to see how everything will fit together into one story.

When I keep reading in the press kit, I see some features that get me excited to play the full version of this game. First, the fact that there will be 5 playable characters gets me excited. I enjoy adventure platformers where you have to switch between characters to solve puzzles.

Second, the fact that this game is based on mythological creatures, I can’t wait to see which mythologies get covered. I have a soft spot when it comes to mythology in games…

Third, the voice cast for this game is well-known actors in the scene. The 4 names that are listed are impressive. If an indie project like this has such a great voice cast, I can’t wait to see the result.

I really urge you to look at the press kit since there are a lot of screenshots to be seen to give you an idea of the final product. Also, check out the KickStarter page, since you can download the demo right from there. Speaking of the demo…

The Demo

I looked at the demo provided in the Kickstarter. While I know that the demo isn’t a great representation of the final representation of the game, but I would like to say a few things.

The demo of the game is quite short. Maybe a bit too short in my opinion. I think it would be fun if there were one or two levels available to play in the game. Since now I only got a basic understanding of how the controls will feel and how the game will look visually.

There was one issue in the demo that I found very annoying. The fact that the “enter” button was used to select and both go from full screen to windowed mode was annoying.

One thing I would love to see changed in some parts of the UI still looks a bit too modern and out of place in the 5th console generation. Especially the character portraits in the top left corner. But then again, this is an early build so I can excuse that.

Something I really didn’t like was the swimming controls in the game. I’m under the impression that the camera controls flip under water. That moving the mouse up, moves Griff more under the water. While above water, moving the mouse up, moves the camera up.

Something else I didn’t like was the fact that you could get yourself stuck when you go to the king. There was no way back up, so I had to restart the demo to explore the rest of the game. There is a way to get out there, but it took me a bit too long to figure that out.

One minor detail that you could change but would make it a nice touch is to change the XBOX controller into a PS4 controller on the control screen. Since you draw inspiration from games that are published on Sony systems. See where I’m going with this? It is in the details.

And that’s everything I didn’t like about the demo. The music, the visual presentation, the controls and everything else looks quite promising. While there isn’t too much to do in the demo and you can “finish” the demo in 15 minutes, I really want more. I want to see more and see this game get fully developed. Since, after I played this demo, I’m bursting with ideas. Speaking about those ideas…

  My ideas for the game

Okay, it’s that time of the preview articles again. A time where I throw around ideas that I would love to see in the finished product. Keep in mind, that these might not even get implemented. These are three ideas I have after seeing all the press materials and playing the short demo.

I think it would be amazing if there is a level where you must use the “turn your enemies into gold” mechanic that is promoted. What I mean is, that you turn enemies into solid gold and must use them as platforms to reach other platforms.

Another idea I had was, give the game a speed run feature. What I mean is, build in a feature that speed runners can use to help them time their in-game time when playing the game. I can see a lot of potential in this game for speed running. So, seriously, grab that chance.

Since this is somewhat of a coming of age story, I think it would be amazing if there is a level where you must guide younger lion cubs to safety from hunters. From what I understand of the plot, the story is about Griff proving that he can become king when his father would pass away.

Overall, I’m quite excited for how the game is going to turn out. I’m crossing my fingers that they reach their Kickstarter goal. Also, if they are unable to reach that goal, I seriously hope that they don’t drop this project. This game has quite a lot of potential and it would be a shame if it died.

If anything interested you in this article, go and look at the Kickstarter page. I seriously think you will enjoy it. You can download the demo I used to base my article on. This can become an amazing tribute to the early PlayStation games and much more.

I have said everything that I wanted to say about the game for now. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Review: Pokémon Sun and Moon (3DS) ~ New Generation!

sun-moon-box-art.jpgOfficial website

Well, you might have seen this one coming from a mile off. Because I love playing on my handheld, I was ,of course, going to play Pokémon Sun and Moon. Well, I choose to play Sun. Also, I played on the old-school 3DS.  Because I haven’t bought a New 3DS just yet. I might do that next year when I have a bit more budget. In any case, it’s time to take a look at one of the biggest games from Nintendo this year. Is it any good or is it a failure? Is this game worthy enough to start a whole new generation of Pokémon or should we all shout to Nintendo to stop? Here is my opinion on the matter. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or this article in the comment section. One little note: I have written this review as spoiler free as possible!

Childhood of Pokémon

pokemon_sun_3ds_screenshots_2.jpgI have been playing almost every Pokémon game from the very first Pokémon games. I owe a lot to the Pokémon series.But, let’s not go into a whole personal story about how this series influenced my life. That story is for another time. Speaking about stories, usually, the story in these kinds of Pokémon games is pretty generic.

The start of this game is almost the same as all the other Pokémon games. You move to a new place and you meet the Professor of that area. He gives you your first Pokémon and you go on a quest. But it doesn’t take long before new and fresh story ideas get introduces.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going in-depth about the story of this game. Honestly, I think that the story could be been written better. I can’t put my finger on why, but the story didn’t pull me in like other games can. I have a theory, though. This game tried to do something new with the Pokémon-francishe. They tried to stay away from the usual “8 badges, defeat evil team, capture legendary and defeat elite four” story. Yet, various story elements make a return.

I think that the story would have been better if some main characters referenced the older games. It would have been interesting if the Professor said: “Gyms, we don’t have that here. Here, you do various trails to earn Z-Crystals.”  Something I truly like in the writing is that it’s variable. The reactions after a big battle can differ if you have used something or not. Like characters can get impressed if you defeat them without using any Z-Move.

But that’s enough talk about the story. Since otherwise I might go into spoiler territory. Let’s keep it at: “It’s a decent story, but could have been polished a bit more.”

The visuals of this game are pretty good on the New3DS. I have seen various people on the train playing the game but the visuals on the old 3DS take a pretty big hit. I honestly think that some parts of the game look a generation behind on the old 3DS. If you want the best visual experience, I think it would be for the best that you play this game on the New 3DS.

The visual presentation of this game is pretty well done. Everything looks pretty colorful and pops out. It’s clear that there has been put a lot of care into the visuals. That brings me to another reason why I recommend to play this game on the New 3DS. The framerate. I’m under the impression that the game sometimes slows down more on the old 3DS systems then on the New 3DS systems. I had several times where I had to wait before Pokémon started attacking each other.

So, I’m really glad Nintendo didn’t implement any 3D in this game! Otherwise, this game would go in the single framerate digits. Which it sometimes comes pretty close too. Especailly in double battles for me.

Just a bit too much…

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This game adds a lot of new mechanics. It also upgrades some old mechanics to create a whole new experience. The clothing customization is back from Pokémon X and Y, and it’s still as expensive as in those games. The Pokémon Riding mechanic is also back, but now with a twist. You can page Pokémon in. These replace the HM’s from the previous games. Yes, HM’s aren’t in this game anymore. And no HM returns as a TM, so these moves can’t be learned in this game.

In this game, you can also have that Pokémon petting minigame and you have a Festival Plaza you manage. You can also take pictures from hidden Pokémon and receive likes. You can maintain an island in Poké Pelago and fight in a Battle Royale. So, with all these distractions, don’t forget you have the main story to complete. Oh, and let’s not forget that Pokémon can call for backup during battles. (If only you can bring in a second Pokémon at that stage…)

There is so much to do in this game, which is a positive in my book. While I can understand that it’s overwhelming for some people, where some mechanics get glanced over, but I think it’s handled pretty well in this game. The only nitpick I have is that the new features and mechanics are introduced too fast. You barely learned about the “picture taking” mechanic and ten minutes later, you learn how Pokémon Rides work. It can become a bit too much sometimes…

Which brings me to another point. In my honest opinion, there is sometimes just too many animations in the battles. Opening doors now require you to press “A”. You go into an animation to open the door, the screen goes to black and it shows you entering the building while the screen fades back in. But that isn’t the worst of it.

I wish they added a feature where you can easily skip the “Z-moves”. I stopped using the Z-moves since they take way too long to play. Here is an idea, what if after you have seen the animation one time, you can skip it the upcoming times.

But what bugs me the most is that when you capture a Pokémon. The amount of menus and visual flair you get is interesting and all, but sometimes I’m frantically pressing “A” to try and get back into the action.

Some familiar features also get a downgrade. The new fishing feature is lame in my opinion. You can only fish at a few spots. And sadly enough, some features like a Safari Zone and triple battles are absent from this game. Also, double battles are barely present in this game. Also, I haven’t encountered any hordes in this game.

Newcomer friendly

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So, I’m going to come out and say it. This game isn’t too challenging. I was able to get into the end-game without being defeated once. Sometimes there is no challenge. Once or twice, a fight got pretty dicey since I forgot to heal my Pokémon. Something I dislike a whole lot is that most trainers you meet in the routes don’t have more than three Pokémon. Not even the bosses. That’s such a shame. It’s improved when compared to the previous games (OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire) but not enough.

This could have been easily fixed. Introduce difficulty modes in Pokémon. One for newcomers to learn the mechanics of the game and enjoy the games like it’s now and one for long time players like myself were everything is more difficult.

The game has too much handholding in my opinion. These things wouldn’t happen in the harder difficulties too.

One feature I love a whole lot is that now you get the result of an attack before you do it. So, you don’t have to remember which attack is effective to which Pokémon. The catch here is that you had to do the attack at least once against that opponent. So, when you do attack X to Pokémon X… you won’t see the results if you use attack X on Pokémon Y. Unless you have used attack X on Pokémon Y.

The controls in this game are pretty great. Apart from some minor menu issues, I never had any problems with them. Speaking of the menus, I love how you can choose the order of the buttons yourself. This way I can finally choose in which order I want my buttons. I love customization like this! If only the “B” button worked every time I pressed it. Yes, sometimes the “B” button didn’t cancel an option, it rather didn’t do a single thing.

The music and sound design in this game is amazing. While it’s not the best soundtrack in a Pokémon game, in my opinion, it’s one of the better ones. The sound design is pretty well done. I love the ambient noise in caves. You can sometimes hear Pokémon chirping in the background. It adds so much atmosphere to the game.

 So, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time to wrap this article up.

Final thoughts

The negative:

-The pacing of the new features could have been better.

-The game is too easy. A harder difficulty mode would have been welcome.

-Visuals aren’t that good on older 3DS models.

-Slowdowns on older 3DS models.

-So things would have too much visual fluff.

-Some animations should be made skippable or run faster.

-Sometimes the game is too cutscene heavy.

The positive:

+ Great visuals (on newer models)

+ Great soundtrack and sound design.

+ The story is decent. And there is finally a bit more story focus! Also, different actions mean different reactions.

+ There is a lot to do in this game, so this game is pretty lengthy.

+ …

Final verdict:

I’m somehow certain that this is an unpopular opinion but here I go… I think that this game is a step in the right direction for Pokémon games but there is so much missed potential. The game tries to please everyone. It adds so many new features to please longtime players but they make the game easy and accessible for newcomers.

The game could have been so much better if there was more content aimed towards the long time fans. Since due to the easy difficulty, this game is over pretty quickly.

Also, I think I’m going to buy a New3DS to play this game again in better visuals and have better performance. Since that’s something that really brought the game down for me.

I recommend this game to anybody who loves Nintendo, Pokémon and 3DS games. And to a lot of other people of course too, since it brings old and new fans together. And that’s something that makes me overlook a lot of the shortcomings of this game.

The game is great, but not perfect. The game could have used some more polish, but what we got is an amazing fun time and a great way to end the year. I’m so looking forward to what the Nintendo Switch port will bring.

So, that was everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

Score: 80/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: Questions of a gaming blogger

Arpegi BackFrom time to time, I look at my list of articles I want to write about. At the bottom, underneath all the games I want to write about is a section with questions. Today I’m going to talk about a few of them. I have chosen a theme for this article as well. How I think when creating these articles and all things related to that. If you ever have a question for me that you want to answer, put it in the comments of a relatable article, mail me or tweet me. Who knows, you might inspire me for a future article. 

Should I review the game on the best specs?

 Yylf2y5This is an issue I have mostly when I’m reviewing PC games. Should I play all my games on the highest settings and review or write with the highest settings in mind?

This is a tricky one to answer. How I honestly see it, I don’t think that’s a great idea. When I’m reviewing newer games that demand a very beefy PC, I try to play it on the highest settings that my PC will allow. While I have rather decent specs, I don’t have THE best specs for playing the newest games on the highest setting. I have a 3.8 GHz CPU, 16 GB RAM and a Nvidia GTX 660. It can run most of the newer games on medium to high settings.

You could argue that a reviewer always should play the game on the highest settings. I honestly believe otherwise. Why play the game on the highest setting? Like I said, I try to play it on the best settings for my PC. In the end, I’m reviewing a game; and there is more to it than high or low-quality graphics.

Besides, not every who reads reviews has a beefy PC to play on the highest settings. So, I think it’s best to play on medium settings. That’s the in-between zone for everybody.

Can a blogger review a game twice?

classically_trained_nintendo_40x40cm_vc_0273_retro_gaming_style

Can a blogger review a game twice? Well, I do that with some games. For some games, I first write a first impression and when I have beaten it, I write a full review with my final opinion.

When I write my articles, I try to write them in a way how I experienced the game on that playthrough. It’s how I feel about that game at that moment after I have beaten it and did my research.

When a blogger changes his/her opinion after playing the game a second time or years later… Well, you have two options. Either you edit your original review or you write a new review. If I would change my mind on a game, I would write a new article in reference to the original article. Since then you can talk about how your opinion changed.

But I try to only review a game once. While I replay games from time to time, also the ones I have written about, I think it’ll only create confusion for your readers. Or it would look like you have an article that praises and bashes the game. And that’s not a good idea.

 Does a blogger need to stick to a certain generation?

Game Boys Advance

What I mean by this question is that a blogger or a review needs to stick with a certain platform or genre of games?

Well, in my opinion, the answer to that question is yes… But to a certain extent.

The games I write about are the games I have played or I’m playing at the moment. It’s a sort of gaming diary of my gaming life. So, I write about the games I buy.

When you write a blog or have a YouTube channel, it’s always a good idea to have a theme. For example, you review PlayStation games or talk about everything XBOX. But, talking or review about something else wouldn’t hurt.

The reason why I write these gamer’s thoughts is to be able to talk about something else. Since writing about the same or similar subjects can feel restrictive sometimes. I admit, it’s fun to write this kind of articles, but they are a lot more work to prepare.

In any case, there is one big argument that I haven’t addressed and that’s the audience. People who read my blog are either looking for a review of a certain game or want to read what I’m up too or what I’m playing. When I would change that, I would loose readers. But then again, I would create a new audience.

So in short, it’s a matter of finding a right balance between what your blog or channel is about and where you want to go with it.

Closing off

While some questions I have talked about in this article might have an easy or obvious answer… I think it’s fun to think about them from time to time.

It helps me to think outside the box and write some interesting articles. Besides, they make for interesting conversation topics between creators.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions or ideas for future content… Feel free to leave a comment.

I hope to welcome you at another article but until then, have a great rest of your day!

Eighth Gen Talk – Thoughts So Far

A year and a half ago, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released, and with E3 on our doorstep, it is perhaps a good idea to look at what the eighth console generation has brought to the table thus far. Has it succeeded or did my reservations prove to be true?

From an economic standpoint, it is an obvious success. This generation of consoles is the fastest growing of all. Demand for both consoles was high from day one and sales have vastly surpassed both manufacturers’ expectations. As of this writing, and the most current data available, Sony announced having sold 20.2 million units early March, but Microsoft’s figures aren’t as comprehensive. Sources vary, but it’s somewhere between 10 and 12 million. Sony’s platform is in a clear lead and it makes some sense. From the beginning, the PlayStation was the cheapest console, as back then the Xbox shipped with Kinect. Microsoft also had many policies people did not agree with; always having to be connected to the internet, not being able to lend games to friends, and so on. Sony happily attacked these policies and it worked. For a while at least, because luckily, Microsoft has been smart enough to make significant changes, including selling the Xbox without the Kinect as mandatory. Sony’s platform also appears to be the most powerful, at least on paper.

But is it enough? Two years ago both consoles were announced, in great detail, and their architecture is remarkably similar. This is where things get a bit technical. Both SKU’s use AMD hardware, for both CPU’s and GPU’s, and feature an eight-core CPU clocked at 1.6GHz, similar GPU’s clocked at 800MHz and 8GB of RAM. There were some differences, though, with Sony’s platform seemingly standing out. First and foremost, the 8GB of memory in the Xbox is DDR3, significantly slower to the PS4’s 8GB of GDDR5 memory. The Xbox does have 32MB of ultra-fast ES-RAM working in tandem with the other 8GB, hoping to close the performance gap. The PS4, though, has an additional 256MB of DDR3 memory and a second small, low-power CPU for background tasks. Later, Microsoft announced it would increase the performance of their consoles by increasing the clock speed of the CPU from 1.6GHz to 1.75GHZ, while also increasing the GPU speed from 800MHz to 853MHz. This closed the gap even further, but Sony’s platform still stands out. The GPU is inherently faster, with 18 compute units compared to the Xbox’s 12, and is coupled to faster memory. As it stands now, Sony’s GPU outperforms Microsoft’s at 1.84 TFLOPS to 1.31.

That brings me to my reservations. These figures are impressive when compared to the seventh generation, but don’t wow me. These consoles felt outdated before they were even launched. It is certainly true that the architecture of a console should not directly be compared to a PC. Developers can code games for a closed system, therefore using the components to their fullest potential, while also being able to optimise the code for that one specific system. To get a similar graphical fidelity and performance on a PC, we should compare it to a computer with a third to half the performance increase. At first I thought the relatively low performance figures wouldn’t be such an issue, since – as I said – this is dedicated hardware. It’s also very close to PC hardware, making coding even easier and thus allowing developers to optimise their games even more. But eighteen months after launch, I am worried this generation will not turn out as great as the one we just left behind us.

Launch games never really impress us, that much is true, but we have passed the launch window a while ago and there’s not much out there that makes me hungry for this generation. There’s Microsoft’s Sunset Overdrive, a game that knows it’s a game and runs with it. It’s silly, bright, colourful and fun. Very much unlike the gritty, brown and gray “realistic” games we mostly get. There’s also Sony’s Bloodborne. True, it’s Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls in a new skin, but it’s a good game nonetheless. Both games are not really my personal taste, but I can acknowledge them as good games. This console generation has already seen a multitude of games being re-released. It made more sense in the previous generation, where we saw a plethora of HD-remakes. There at least, the games came from the SD-era. There’s GTA V, Borderlands, The Last of Us, Diablo 3, DmC, Tomb Raider, the horrendously plagued Master Chief Collection and many more. It’s also not stopping, with games like Devil May Cry 4, God of War 3 and Final Fantasy X/X-2 remakes coming along shortly. And let’s not forget that the majority of games that have been released until now, have been sequels, prequels or some form of re-imagining of previously existing material. Are you enjoying your “new” games so far?

When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were released, both consoles were claimed to be capable of playing 1080p games. In actuality, those platforms were more like 720p consoles. There are some games that run at 1080p, but most of them are smaller titles. A lot of games – even console exclusives – ran at an even lower resolution than 720p. Halo 3 is one, at 1152×640. The very popular Call of Duty series often ran at an even lower 1024×600. Again, with this generation, 1080p gaming is promised and already not being delivered. Lots of games run at lower resolution settings, often 1600×900. This is also where we see the disadvantages of Microsoft’s platform, with games running at a lower resolution than their Sony counterpart. Battlefield 4 runs at 900p as compared to Sony’s 1080p and Call of Duty: Ghosts produced a meagre 720p, though this was later changed in a patch. Even the Xbox exclusive Titanfall runs at the odd resolution of 1408×792, on an engine that is essentially a modified version of Valve’s Source engine; a very stable, scalable and reliable engine. Still, the console struggles at maintaining its targeted 60 frames per second.

0Let’s take Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as another example. This game is yet another title that was first released on previous generation consoles and is now released again on the current one. Looking at the PC system requirements of this game shows us this is not a very intensive game. Minimum requirements are a low-powered Dual Core CPU, with recommended settings asking for a low-powered Quad Core CPU and medium-range graphics cards that were released four(!) years ago. It makes sense that this game doesn’t require a €1000 gaming rig, since it’s built on a modified Unreal Engine. This is – like the Source Engine – a well established, stable engine. And yet, these brand new consoles that are supposedly so powerful struggle with this game. Performance dwindles around 45 FPS in areas where you need it most: during combat. This also brings with it a great deal of screen tearing. While not a bad result per se, not a result we should expect from these consoles.

Obviously, I am also aware many people can’t afford high-end PC’s or prefer to play on consoles. It is especially for them that I am worried, since they can’t find a better experience of multi-platform games elsewhere. They have to play them on closed systems. They can’t lower graphical settings, or enable or disable V-sync, to change the look or performance of the game. I can choose to go for the PC version. Of course developers get more comfortable with consoles and manage to squeeze out more as time goes on. Look back at Naughty Dog’s games and look at the difference in quality between the first Uncharted and The Last of Us, running on the same, but tweaked engine. Or even Uncharted and its sequel, the release of which was only two years in between. It’s a world of difference, but if consoles already seem to struggle with games across the board, whether it’s performance wise, visually, or – in case of games Assassin’s Creed: Unity – both, what’s next?

All of this doesn’t seem to bode well for these consoles. Initially, I had reservations on the technology being used, but I imagined with this being dedicated, and from PC originating hardware, the theoretical shortcomings would be proven wrong in reality. However, after eighteen months, I’m not convinced (yet). Graphics are good, but not impressive. Especially when compared to the jump in quality from previous consoles to their next generation. Think back to the difference from PS1 to PS2, or PS2 to PS3.

Shiny graphics are nice, but what we need, Image result for no man's skyand really need, is innovation in gameplay. Not yet another cover-based, gritty, third person shooter. Not innovation in quality of visuals, but innovation in mechanics. One game I do keep my eye on, is No Man’s Sky; ambitious and innovative. I surely hope it lives up to its claims, as that might – at last – convince me to buy a current generation console. We need innovation in things like physics and AI; larger, more varied worlds full of life and little details that make it all feel rich in atmosphere. Frankly, I am bored with the triple-a games as of late. I sorely hope I am mistaken and things turn around for the better, but looking at the release schedule for the coming months (or even years), I’m afraid I may be right.

To close this article, I’d like to add a little something. I am a big fan of RedLetterMedia and their gaming part: Previously Recorded. Rather than stealing what they have to say about games, I want to link to their YouTube channel. Particularly to their reviews. The ones that I think lie closest to what I agree with are the reviews on The Order 1886, Alien: Isolation, Bloodborne and their video called “Why Mario is more Immersive than Call of Duty“.

EDIT: I wrote a follow-up article here.