The Death of the New 52, One Year Later — A Look Back

In 2016, DC’s Rebirth relaunch promised a return to the spirit of the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe while keeping the New 52 universe. Rebirth has proven to be an unmitigated success, both critically and financially, and has clearly reinvigorated the company. But while it promised to keep the New 52 canon, this didn’t turn out to be the case, with series like Wonder Woman and Superman almost entirely doing away with New 52 canon. Although the New 52 branding itself was removed with the DC YOU initiative, DC Rebirth can be considered a much truer shunting of the ideas and themes of the New 52 era. Gone is the unnecessary darkening of characters, government paranoia and notion of continuity and history being obstacles and not tools so prevalent at DC for so long.

While there were some good elements here and there, the overall New 52 reboot fell flat on its face. And with DC Rebirth now a year old, incorporating many elements of Pre-Flashpoint elements that fans have been missing, I think it’s a good time to look back on the New 52. As it’s said, “I come here to bury Caesar, not honour him.” This will be a broad look at the problems with the New 52, and why it never quite worked for (the majority) of readers. So join me as I take a look back on the New 52, one year after its official death. Continue reading “The Death of the New 52, One Year Later — A Look Back”

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – DC Comics (2017, Q1)

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader is exactly what it sounds like — the posts where I recommend current ongoing comics to new readers, mostly based on the current or most recent arc. I focus heavily on the series being new reader friendly, so if the latest masterpiece of Grant Morrison’s isn’t here, you know why. I’m mainly concerned with what I myself am reading, but will occasionally recommend something people have told me or I’ve heard is good, if I feel it bits (these recommendations will be clearly labeled).

DC’s output has finally levelled out a bit, with the Rebirth titles being frequent enough that I can now determine quality more accurately, so quite a few things have dropped off this list. At the same time, both the Young Animal imprint and the rebooted Wildstorm universe have been establishing themselves, and have been mostly excellent, so they easily fill in for the series that I wouldn’t recommend. Join me after the break for my comic recommendations for new readers based on Q1 of 2017.

Continue reading “Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – DC Comics (2017, Q1)”

Marvel/Square-Enix Project Speculation (Industry Talk)

What’s that, you want two weeks late speculation? I gotcha covered. Sorry about the lateness, but I had personal problems come up this last week, but I just wanted to get this out there, since I’m obviously a big superhero fan.

Marvel and Square-Enix are partnering up for a number of video game projects, and the first thing “announced”, if you could call it that, is something Avengers-related, marketed with the hashtag #Reassemble, developed by Crystal Dynamics, the developers of the most-recent Tomb Raider reboot games, and Eidos Montreal, developers of the new Deus Ex and Thief games. The brief video features the destroyed or abandoned equipment of the Avengers, well the MCU-relevant ones, and a woman (who I’m guessing is Maria Hill, even if she sounds more like Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Hill and less like Cobie Smulders) narrating about a lack of heroes, and the need to reassemble.

Marvel are billing the game as the beginning of “a universe gamers can play in for years to come.” So it’s either the beginning of a Marvel video game universe (the MVGU? Yeah… doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue) or maybe an MMO. IGN theorises that is could be set in the MCU, but I really doubt that. But the MMO idea seems sort-of likely, given the need for “more heroes”, and it reminds me of the premise for DC Universe Online. Personally, I’m all for an MMO. I like the idea of creating your own superhero in an already familiar universe and interacting with all — except maybe not the X-Men and Fantastic Four, because license bullshit — of your favourite superheroes and villains. However, given that Square-Enix is the publisher and is still supporting Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it would be strange of them to release a  competing MMO (as if that would actually be a contest; Marvel MMO wins, hands down).

I think the more likely answer is that the game features an original universe where the Avengers are already well-known, but have disbanded, and your original character will put the team back together for whatever reason. Superhero games are usually aimed at a much more mainstream or casual audience, so I expect the game to be a sandbox, akin to the more recent Spider-Man games, which feature a plethora of guest characters. Though if it is indeed a sandbox game, it kind of lends credence to my theory that the PS4 Spider-Man game is indeed basically a tie-in to Spider-Man: Homecoming. Though sandbox games aren’t exactly meant to be releases that are hugely supported post-launch, so maybe the Avengers project will just be released in 2018, to avoid having to battle Spider-Man while also tying into the release of the Infinity War movies.

The other option I’m thinking of is that the game is more like X-Men: Destiny, and is linear but features choices you can make (at least I think you could make choices in that game?) regarding who you work with. With the Avengers being central and the general lack of compelling or interesting Marvel villains that the mainstream casual gamer is aware of, I doubt you will be siding with villains. Maybe you just pick what Avengers to work with, and maybe a mentor for your new character. Actually, just typing that out brought back memories of Infamous, and I guess your original character could be like Delsin Rowe in Infamous: Second Son and just be a discount Rogue, which would work well with the different Avengers while not feeling too restrictive in the character creation aspect.

Anyway, those are the types of games I think will be the first game to come out of this partnership. Maybe I’m wrong and we’ll get something more varied; Crystal Dynamics has been messing with stealth just that bit more, and Eidos Montreal is definitely experienced in that regard, so maybe you play as Hawkeye or Black Widow and you’re reassembling the Avengers or something. Whatever the game turns out to be, with the pedigree of both Square-Enix, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, as well as my general love of superhero comics and superhero video games, I’m excited to hear more.

Side note: Please put the game on PC, Square-Enix. Just… please do it. And don’t make the port crap. You usually don’t, and your PC ports are actually pretty good, but don’t slip because you think the license will let you get away with it. Arkham Knight showed that’s just not the case. It feels bad that I even felt it necessary to mention this.

For Honored Closed Beta (Impressions)

Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Played on PC

Impressions is where I talk about my experiences with playing unreleased games, either at expos and conventions, or in alphas and betas. They’re done quick-and-dirty, as I’m on a limited time-frame when it comes to playing these games, and don’t feel comfortable giving an extensive review on an unreleased product that’s usually entirely gameplay-focused. Anyway, here are my impressions of the For Honored closed beta.

For Honored is Ubisoft’s upcoming melee-based multiplayer game, announced last year and due for release in a little over a week. I had the chance to play in the closed beta — though at this point, it’s one of those “obviously a demo” betas — and my conclusion is that it’s just not for me.

The game has some decent mechanics, as you have to angle your attacks unpredictably so that you don’t attack in the same direction that your opponent is blocking. It’s a nice mechanic, and it helps the game feel more polished and combat more precise. However, it’s just to easy to block attacks, so if you’re paying enough attention, you will rarely get hit by basic attacks, never mind the slower heavy attacks.

There are combos you can do with certain characters, and this gives the game more of a fighting game feel than I thought it would have. However, maybe it was just the people I was playing against, but I rarely saw anyone perform these combos. Fights generally devolved into seeing who was willing to risk getting in close to kick first and put their opponent on the defensive.

Kicking is the solution to blocking, and landing a kick breaks your opponent’s guard and stuns them, though it has a very short range. However, there’s really no defence against kicking aside from a dodge, but it doesn’t seem to be fast enough since the kick is pretty fast. The dodge is mostly used to gain distance without exiting the “combat mode”.

The game allows players to switch in and out of a combat mode, which is how you can attack with more precision via directional attacks. You can attack outside of this mode,a and you move faster outside of it as well, but these attacks are imprecise and are usually reserved for finishing off fleeing opponents or killing the constantly spawning minions on the map, which restores health.

These minions are basically those things you kill to gain exp in MOBAs, and I have mixed feelings about them. They get in the way of action and are never a real threat; merely a nuisance. But they are interesting as a way for you to throw off your pursuers, as you don’t phase through them; they can actually slow you down. Plus, they add to the scale of the combat, which is… not what the trailers made it out to be.

While the trailesr advetised giant battles like something you’d see if Battlefield and Chivalry had a baby, it’s much more tame. Matches were limited to 4v4 at largest, and most of the fighting between players takes place away from the main battlefield, which is where the minions won’t go. It’s a bit disappointing, even if I can understand why they made the decision, given how bad fights can get if there are too many participants.

And that’s one of my problems with the game, and this is something that I’m sure is just a “you need to play in a group” thing: if you’re outnumbered, run. It’s just too easy to gang up on people, but there are always people who run off solo. It’s frustrating when it happens, and unlike with other games, you don’t have a chance. You’re just screwed.

The controls, on mouse and keyboard anyway, are a bit too clunky. Movement is mostly fine, but the actual directional swinging is unintuitive.  You’re forced to enter an “attack mode” and any mouse movement from there on will direct the movement of your block and attack, and this just feels restrictive. I don’t think I ever got the hang of what key switched targets, which is the one thing the tutorial didn’t stretch out teaching you. The movement is also a bit problematic, and I’ve seen people fight by poking each other on ladders, and it just looks ridiculous.

However, the map design is pretty good. There are different levels to the maps, and they feel big without feeling like you could get lost. Navigating them is pretty intuitive, and it helps that most, if not all of them are symmetrical. looks great. Oh, and I don’t think it needs to be said, but the game

The different factions come together surprisngly well, and the aforementioned maps look war-torn without being too drab. Graphical fidelity is great, though you’ll likely not notice, with how intense this game can get.

Despite my criticism, the fights themselves, when there’s a decent amount of people switching targets and tagging in and out, are very fun. Everything has great feedback, and while mouse and keyboard controls are pretty bad, I’ve heard the game plays much better with a controller (although apparently the console betas had network issues). Controls, though unintuitive, feel fairly responsive, though there’s a sluggishness to your actions that I’m pretty sure is intentional, given the size of your character.

Speaking of which, there’s some customisation involved. Progression exists in the form of equippable items that change your stats, but I never really noticed a difference. It’s there if you want it, and I’m sure there will be some good late-game loot for those invested in the game, but so far it seems like a cosmetic thing, and that’s just what I’ve been told; I barely noticed a difference. Oh, and your characters are like heroes, complete with separate “combos”, though I really only played one character in the time I played. Also, there are faction wars, which I think is the three factions fighting for dominance of a big map; it doesn’t seem that important and you can probably safely ignore it. Inf act, dont’ worry about factions like I did before starting: they in no way affect who you can team-up with.

For Honor looks to be a game with more depth than it gave the impression it had, and that’s a double-edged sword. For players of games like Chivalry, this game is for you. It’s more polished, looks prettier, and has tons of depth. but if you’re like me and just wanted a simple, pretty game where you hack people in different directions, you’ll probably struggle to get into it. Maybe the skill ceiling was too high, since I’m told tons of Twitch streamers were playing the game, but it was just a bit too much for me. I might check out the Open Beta, I might not, but as it stands, For Honor just isn’t for me. It looks like it will be a good new IP for Ubisoft, and a lot of fun, though, so if it sounds like something you’d like, enjoy.

P.S. I forgot which key screenshots things in UPlay, so my bad for the lack of screenshots.

Marvel’s New Free Digital Comics System Is Crap (Rantings)

Marvel comics have long since been more expensive than DC’s, even before DC dropped most of their comics down to $2.99 (USD) per issue with their Rebirth relaunch. But Marvel’s issues also came with a free digital copy of the issue for their online service, which is also linked to Comixology, so buyers could sort of justify the higher price point. Well, no longer!

In a controversial move, Marvel announced that physical comics (excluding their all-ages stuff) will now come with two other digital comics, intended to “offer fans free entry points for current on sale collected edition”, rather than a free digital copy of the comic purchased. To me, this is just not good for most readers.

For one, the digital comic you’re given is just out of your hands. It’s up to Marvel to decide what you get, and it may even be something you already own. Hell, the first comic lined up is Civil War II #0, a comic I’m pretty sure 90% of Marvel readers have, since that was before everyone realised how crappy that event was. I’ve read that some people even sell the digital code they get with their physical copies, because it can offset the higher price point by a bit, but that options mostly gone now, since I can see lots of over saturation of the same issue.

There’s also the problem of whatever comic you’re being given is supposed to advertise whatever Marvel wants to advertise (the digital comic doesn’t seem to vary between comics within a given week). So whereas giving readers of X-Men: Prime a digital issue of Inhumans vs. X-Men would make sense, instead they’re given the first issue of whatever trade Marvel wants to push (who wants to bet there will be a decent amount of MCU-focused comics?).

There’s also this simple thing: Marvel already pushed free samples before. It was a while ago, I’ll give you, but not that long ago. Remember Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 2014? That comic was incredibly thick, not only because it was the launch pad for the entire Spider-Man line, but also because it had the entirety of Inhuman #1 included as a free sampler. But you still got the free digital issue of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #1.

And finally, there’s the fact that whatever free digital comic you get is replacing the other comic you would’ve gotten. I know people who like to buy physical comics and support local comic shops, but find it simply impractical to read physical comics for a variety of reasons, but the free digital copy allowed them to still support their LCSs. And that Marvel is saying this new system is good for retailers is hilarious, because I know people who work at comic shops, and they’ve had nothing good to say about this. In fact, if anything this feels like an aggressive move against comics retailers.

This is just not a good move in my eyes, and the only people who benefit are new readers (and even then not that much, since the free issue is from a recent trade) and Marvel themselves. It pushes for more digital sales from people who were willing to buy physical, while taking those sales from retailers. I can’t say I support this move at all.

Top 5 Games of 2016

I think it can be safely said that 2016 was a good year for games. While it didn’t have the amazing highs of 2015, like The Witcher 3 or Arkham Knight or Fallout 4, it had more variety, and a more sustained output of good games. And while 2016 had three huge sandboxes, this year had a bit more diversity in its big releases. We had great narrative-driven games (I refuse to use the term ‘walking simulator’), quite a few innovative shooters, and even some big platformers. Anyway, enough babbling, here are my top 5 games of 2016 Continue reading “Top 5 Games of 2016”

Top 5 Games I Missed in 2016

For the most part, 2016 was a good year for gaming. A very good year, in fact. There were a lot of really good releases, which I’ll get around to for one of these. Actually, there were so many that I missed a lot of big titles, and while not everything on this list I can say is “really good”, they’re big enough releases that I feel bad about missing them. So without further delay, here are the 5 top games I missed in 2016 Continue reading “Top 5 Games I Missed in 2016”