Bolt Thrower: Gears of War: TBG, Bloodborne, Witcher 3

Bolt Thrower: Gears of War: TBG, Bloodborne, Witcher 3

MattDP     
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Welcome to Bolt Thrower, the gaming column that blows your head off. If you’re new to the format, here’s the deal: I link something I’ve written elsewhere and then pontificate a bit on what I’m playing right now that’s not in the review queue.

My link this time round is the first of a new series I’m doing for Gamerati. The column’s called Bytes and Pieces and it’s about dissecting tabletop versions of video game franchises. First under the knife is Gears of War: The Board Game.

It’s great title in spite of my well-known dislike of co-operative games. That’s partly because the setup feels right for a game that made its fame on the back of co-op online play. Indeed, feel is much of what makes the game special. The fast play feels right for a tactical shooter, as does the balance of excitement and strategy, and the weapons and enemies behave as you expect.

Ultimately it has moments where it fails. The biggest being the way pieces can move around irrespective of where enemy figures are on the map. These are so ludicrious that the suspension of disbelief collapses, although it quickly builds again. If you want more detail go read the article.

The big gaming news in my life right now is finally having gotten hold of a PS4. I’m loving my introduction to Sony’s gaming world. It seems so much softer, more flexible, more alluring than the hard black and green squares of Microsoft’s world. And the controller is lovely, aside from the symmetric joysticks. You can find me on PSN as mattthr.

The console came bundled with action RPGs Bloodborne and The Witcher 3. I dived straight into the former and, I have to say, I was a tiny bit disappointed.

Partially that’s because I’ve just come out of a long period of playing little but Dark Souls. I don’t think I was just mentally ready for yet more of that punishment. Especially when Bloodborne is built so you can’t grind through the early areas: you’re prevented from levelling up until you’ve met the first boss.

But even allowing for that, the mechanics felt over-familiar. Sure, you’ve now got a ranged weapon and the ability to make weapon mode switches. Sure, there’s no shield and a health-back mechanic that encourages aggressive play. However, it turns out that one key use of that firearm is to stun enemies mid-attack so you can counter. In reality, that plays a whole lot like raising a shield to block and counter in the Souls games.

The graphics were also a bit disappointing for a new console. It has the same poor ragdoll effects and animation glitches that plagued Souls. And I was surprised by how cluttered and busy the environments looked. Almost like the designers had decided to use all that extra graphics power just to pack as many polygons on the screen as they could, regardless of what they looked like.

Contrast that to The Witcher 3 which looks absolutely gorgeous. It also has a sense about it like a designer finally got an open world game just right. There’s no fake balancing: if you wander into danger you’ll get a warning and the you’d better run or you’re dead. And a great combination of foot, transport and fast travel means there’s no wandering around for hours just for the sake of it.

The result is a real feeling of wonder and the itch for exploration. The world is rich and believable. It’s easy to follow the main quest if you want. And if you don’t, well, side-quests and mini games are plentiful and mostly short. And if even that’s too much stricture for you there’s a lot of fun to be had looking for bandit camps and monster nests and taking them out.

I’m playing on the second-hardest difficulty and it feels just right. To win battles, you need to scout an area and prepare well with the right potions, spells and equipment. Then make use of your move set and the terrain and good twitch skills. If you lose, you re-load and try again. Often several times. That’s frustrating enough to make it exciting without it feeling brutal.

Having spent so long playing Souls games I can’t help but contrast this approach with the unforgiving nature of their limited save system. The Witcher 3 feels so much more approachable. So much more … fun.

And yet.

And yet, for all the frustration factor of failing battles in The Witcher, it doesn’t make me afraid. Souls and Bloodborne gave me moments of genuine buttock-clenching terror under the pressure of having to get things right, or lose an hour of progress. It’s a terror that felt right at home in Bloodborne’s beautifully realised horror theme. Those moments were unforgettable. The moments of pleasure that came from getting them right were even more so.

So I’ll be back to Bloodborne. But for now, contradictory though it sounds, The Witcher 3 is offering me a well-earned rest.

Bolt Thrower: Gears of War: TBG, Bloodborne, Witcher 3 There Will Be Games
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Posted: 22 Jun 2015 07:24 by Gary Sax #204738
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I didn't have much of a problem with the "they just stand around" part of the AI in Gears... my bigger issue was the pretty clear incentive to cheese by having a drone or a wretch standing around rather than finishing all the enemies. That one REALLY pulled me out. Did you notice that issue?

One thing I will say about the Gears base box is that it's incredibly generous. It has almost everything from the games, all three of them, in the box from the start. It is not a game that clearly was built with sequels in mind---maybe FFG's last game that was like that. The game is so good, I can't believe they haven't returned to the underlying system.

re: Bloodborne. I agree that not much has changed but in a way everything has. The distinction between the gun and the shield is huge in the way you play. Then add the health back if you hit them quickly thing... aggression vs. passivity is the difference between the two games, basically.
Posted: 22 Jun 2015 07:28 by charlest #204739
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Gears of War is such a great game I can overlook its few faults. It always delivers admirably on tension and escapism and I can't help but want to give it a hug with each play, despite the fact that it wants to eat my face.
Posted: 22 Jun 2015 08:09 by Columbob #204741
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For example, if there’s a dangerous Boomer standing with a clear shot into a roomful of COGs but you draw a wretch card, he’ll just stand there. The wretches will advance and all the players will breathe a sigh of relief. It’s exciting, but not remotely realistic.

Don't forget that enemies activate after every individual COG turn - if that boomer was to shoot every time a single COG moved, it would be devastating.
Posted: 22 Jun 2015 09:34 by VonTush #204755
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Funny, I was just soloing some Gears the past two nights. I use one COG when soloing because I really like the Sudden Death element to the game knowing that there isn't anyone there to help should I fail. Two nights ago was the first mission which was a cake walk for my one dude. It was one of those games where everything just worked perfectly - Plenty of ammo and cards left at the end of the game.

That was balanced out last night where the second mission where it took three attempts to slay the beast. The first attempt was a solid one but about five rooms in things just fell apart and my COG was downed. The second attempt was the counter-point to the first mission the night before where everything that could go wrong did...Wounding instead of killing, not drawing cards when I needed and no enemies just standing around - Every one seemed to activate exactly when I didn't need them to activate.

The third attempt was amazing though. The perfect mix of everything being average so to speak, alright cards, alright rolls on both sides and alright enemy activation. A fantastic ebb and flow of excitement and respite. I was always walking that fine line between life and death with my cards and never blessed with enough ammo to do what I wanted.

Towards the end I was about to do a final assault charging into the Berserker's space to land a Hammer of Dawn shot followed up by two more attacks, except just before the play I remembered that the HoD caused wounds to everyone in the space...It would have been too much Blaze and not enough Glory so I Plan B'ed it and dropped it another way.
Posted: 22 Jun 2015 13:37 by Black Barney #204763
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I made such a controversial comment to this article that Matt deleted it! Facism is growing and present on the Fort! TRUMP 2016!!

I'll post a cleaned-up version here. Let's see....what was I on aboot again? Ah yes, thanks for the review on Witcher III! I have that on my radar screen. I'm surprised you don't mention the in-game deck building mini-game that would probably appeal to lots of FATties here, present company included.

xoxo
Posted: 22 Jun 2015 13:47 by MattDP #204765
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Black Barney wrote:
I made such a controversial comment to this article that Matt deleted it! Facism is growing and present on the Fort! TRUMP 2016!!

I'll post a cleaned-up version here. Let's see....what was I on aboot again? Ah yes, thanks for the review on Witcher III! I have that on my radar screen. I'm surprised you don't mention the in-game deck building mini-game that would probably appeal to lots of FATties here, present company included.

My word. I'm surprised you dare show your face here again after that filth you posted!

Still, since you've gone to the effort of sanitizing it, I'll reply. I 'm going to post a bit more about Witcher 3 in the next week or two. It's very good, the first game in a long time that's made me feel that compulsive itch to play when I'm away from it. But it's not without its flaws. There's too much busy work, and far too many cutscenes.

I'm too in to the main game to have paid much attention to Gwent, the card mini game. I've only played a couple of hands. But to be honest, it just feels a bit crap and shallow. I can't see there's much strategy to it at all - you just need to collect more powerful cards to win. But that could just be lack of familiarity. For the time being, slaughtering ghouls and griffins is way more fun. If I want cards, I'll play Hearthstone :)

(I deleted Barney's original post by accident. Sorry Barney.)
Posted: 22 Jun 2015 13:48 by MattDP #204766
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Gary Sax wrote:
I didn't have much of a problem with the "they just stand around" part of the AI in Gears... my bigger issue was the pretty clear incentive to cheese by having a drone or a wretch standing around rather than finishing all the enemies. That one REALLY pulled me out. Did you notice that issue?

You, know, I didn't. But only because it's never occurred to me to try it. I'm too busy trying to play it like the video game plays :)
Posted: 22 Jun 2015 14:44 by Hex Sinister #204776
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MattDP wrote:
Gary Sax wrote:
I didn't have much of a problem with the "they just stand around" part of the AI in Gears... my bigger issue was the pretty clear incentive to cheese by having a drone or a wretch standing around rather than finishing all the enemies. That one REALLY pulled me out. Did you notice that issue?

You, know, I didn't. But only because it's never occurred to me to try it. I'm too busy trying to play it like the video game plays :)
Gary, just imagine those guys got stuck in a wall or some object. That's just like a video game right lol.