Unpopular Opinion: New Skins/Emotes are Cool but How about Improving the Loot Boxes

Today my social media feeds are abuzz with the latest Overwatch event, one centered around Overwatch’s one year anniversary.

Per usual there are a number of new skins scattered among the characters, while other characters are ignored, an issue I’ve always had with the events since their inception.

Some of the new skins I quite like:

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While others invoke feelings of “meh” to outright dislike:

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And there were a whole slew of new emotes in the form of dances for each and every character.  While many of these certainly fit the character, such as Reaper crossing his arms and slightly tapping his foot, they aren’t exactly ground breaking additions to the game.  They are cute and mildly amusing at best but the Twitter chatter alone would make you think Blizzard reinvented the wheel with these emotes.

To be fair I do enjoy Overwatch for what it is, a solid team based hero shooter and even put it in my top ten last year (although if I wrote that list today after playing a number of 2016 games that I missed out on Overwatch would have been bumped out of the top ten), but I have never been in love with it the way so many seem to be.  It never quite grabbed me the way it did others and I find it laughable that so many people gave it 10 out of 10 scores and made it GOTY last year, its good but not that good.

I’ve been playing a lot of it lately as my children and girlfriend have recently fallen in love with it and a good portion of my weekends with them are spent passing the controller down the line playing matches.  Doing this with their account has brought my attention to one of the biggest problems with the game and that is the utter shiftiness of the the loot box system.

Not only do many characters get passed over for the “cool” new skins it is incredibly unlikely that you’ll get a skin for a character that does have one AND that you actually play as (unless you are the rare breed who has equal love for all characters).  Since the beginning of April the kids and I have pushed their account’s profile from level 1 to the upper 20s and have almost exclusively received sprays, voice lines, player icons and the occasional victory pose.  Very few skins have been in the boxes and in fact during the last event the only character skin of note we saw was Mercy medic attire.

As the game doesn’t have traditional FPS unlockables (i.e. guns and whatnot) the only bait on the hook to keep playing (aside from enjoyment of the game) is the loot boxes in the hopes of getting something that feels worthwhile.

This is where the game is still failing a year in.

Player icons, sprays and whatnot are not making it feel worth my time to play the game.  Even my children are put off and disappointed by the constant stream of bland content in the boxes we play hours to earn, getting yet another voice line when all we want is a kickass new character skin.

The randomness of the loot boxes is even more disappointing if you actually give in and shell out real world money for some boxes.  I made the mistake of doing this once last summer and found the same frequency of disappointing content in the boxes I paid money and not time for.

So while every one is cheering on the cute new dances of their favorite characters I’m left sitting here shaking my head as I wait for some actual improvements to the game in the vein of the decision to not let people pick the same characters (the single best thing they ever changed).

That said I do have to admit I really dig D.Va’s new attire.

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-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

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June Games with Gold: A Mixture of Old, Bland and Largely Unappealing Games

Microsoft announced June 2017’s Games with Gold line up and I find myself not surprised in the least to see the list is a mixture of old, bland and/or largely unappealing games.

First up on Xbox One is Speedrunners, a competitive multiplayer side scrolling elimination/racing game.  For those that can’t make sense of that or who want to see it in action here is a video from the LetsPlay Youtube channel about the game.

In my opinion, while the game looks novel I don’t see it as something I would enjoy for long at all.

The Xbox 360 opening offer is Assassin’s Creed 3.

While I deeply enjoyed Assassin’s Creed 2 and AC2: Brotherhood I fell off the series with AC3.  I played it not long after release and within two hours turned the game off and returned it to the RedBox kiosk I picked it up from.  I disliked it so much I’ve never been able to return to the series.

Both those games are available starting June 1st, Speedrunners being available the 1st through the 30th and AC3 the 1st through the 15th.

After those disappointing titles we see Microsoft up the ante (or lower the bar I guess) with Watchdogs arriving on Xbox One from June 16th through July 15th.  Another game I tried out near its initial release and hated within a few hours, I find this one to be one of the worst freebies MS has ever handed out.  The game is all kinds of bland and bad and I for one won’t be downloading it.

Lastly the end of the month Xbox 360 offering is a game I actually enjoyed quite a bit when it came out…way back in 2009.  That’s right, I loved this game 8 freaking years ago and as much as I enjoyed it and like that it is now backwards compatible, I don’t think it is a wise decision for one of the much ballyhooed Games with Gold service.  The game was really good for its time but I don’t think it has aged well enough at all to be appealing to those who have yet to play it.  Hell I still own my copy so if I wanted to fire it up I could walk across the room and pick it off my shelf.  I don’t know who this freebie serves or why it was decided that it would be an appropriate offering.

Maybe I’m alone but I feel that this program should be a reward for shelling out the quarterly or yearly chunk of cash to the MS overlords and not simply an afterthought like it so often feels.  I feel that on a regular basis Sony tops Microsoft in the quality of the monthly freebies, often giving away far superior titles even when the title is an unknown quantity.  I am of the opinion that Rocket League wouldn’t be nearly as popular today if it hadn’t been given away to PS Plus members long ago and word of mouth praise spread.  Maybe Speedrunners will be a title like Rocket League, it’s anyone’s guess but I am quite honestly tired of being disappointed with the quality of these supplementary titles.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some quality games released through this program but they feel few and far between.

-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

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Destiny 2 Gameplay Reveal Trailer is Here

So my gaming related social media feeds have been ablaze today with all the big Destiny 2 news.

Including this trailer:

And…

Well I wish I actually cared.

Don’t get me wrong on a purely superficial level the trailer looks awesome and what I’m seeing on my Twitter and Facebook feeds sounds promising.

Yet I am completely underwhelmed right now and not the least bit excited.   In fact I might well be experiencing utter dread at the thought of the coming days when my favorite video game podcasts become filled with Destiny talk.

I’ve quite enjoyed the lack of Destiny talk.

To be clear I gave Destiny a fair shake, I tried it on the Xbox 360 when it first released, waited months until The Taken King was released and spent one long eight hour session with my friend going through the content.

The game played just fine, smooth combat and all and was a great game to experience shooting the shit with old friends but the lore, world building and “story” absolutely did not hold me.  On the surface Destiny, a sci-fi shooter with co-op multiplayer gameplay sounds like something I should love but I just don’t get the appeal.

I wish I liked Destiny and therefore could be excited about this but I don’t think I could be less enthused.

Despited my personal feelings the trailer and information released today certainly makes it look like fans of Destiny are certainly in for more of what they love.

Well there’s my unpopular opinion for the day.

-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

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Recommended Reading: Predator One by Jonathan Maberry

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Let me start this by addressing what may well be the elephant in the room if you are of like mind with me, the cover art on this book is awful.  Several people who have seen me reading the book have commented on how bad it is and placed me in the unenviable position of defending the book based entirely on how laughably bad the cover is.

Which is truly a shame as the book contained on the pages that follow the silly cover art is frankly quite good, easily one of the best in the entire series, making good on an arc that started in the first few books of the series.

For those who have never read one of these I can best summarize the feel of the series as what would happen if Tom Clancy and Stephen King collaborated.  Terrorism, shadowy cabals, advanced technology gone wrong, weaponized pathogens, assassins and a character who may or may not be the literal embodiment of the Devil are all a part of the wild ride found within the pages of this book.  The plot focuses on the DMS (Department of Military Sciences) facing a renewed threat from an organization they took down several books back, one that threatens to destroy America within and set the rest of the world figuratively ablaze with it.  I evoked the Clancy name earlier but Maberry does an excellent job of not getting bogged down in the details while weaving an entertaining yarn about a group of badass men and women taking on evil folk hellbent on destruction.  I would love to dive deeper into the various ins and outs of the plot but I fear doing so would spoil what is going on.  I can safely say though that in a series that has had some far out there events in it, this one may well contain one of the more frighteningly “real” scenarios the series has concocted yet.

As with any long running series I highly recommend reading the past books before picking this one up as many of the plot points lack emotional impact if the characters involved are not familiar to you but as someone who has read this series since book one I was on the edge of my seat through most of the book, always waiting on the other shoe to drop.  Also just to be clear this series is not classical literature and is more akin to fun summer blockbuster films than Oscar bait.  These books are pure, fun rides that scratch a very specific itch.  That said I’ve always found the exploits of Joe Ledger and his team to almost always be damn fun reads and think anyone looking for the written equivalent of a fun popcorn flick will enjoy these novels.

Final Verdict: 8 out of 10.  If you are looking for a mindlessly fun and entertaining read check out Predator One.  Jonathan Maberry has definitely done it again (which you’ll know if you pick up the rest of the series too).

 

 

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PolyNerdic Review: Rapid Fire Edition (Why do a Single Review when I Could do 14?)

So it recently occurred to me that I’ve played a number of games, watched a few movies and read a few things over the last few weeks (er, months) and have never, EEEEVVVEEERRRR gotten around to writing anything about them outside of a tweet or Facebook post here or there.

Looking back on the ever growing stack of entertainment that has gone unreviewed I immediately felt overwhelmed.

In order to alleviate that I’m going to fire off some reviews in a quick and dirty manner to get all caught up and lessen the self-imposed stress I’m feeling right now.  These are going to be nothing more than scores and a few thoughts about why I felt that way.

Need a reminder of my ratings system?  Look no further than here.

Ready for the barrage?

Let’s go.

Resident Evil 7: 9 out of 10

RE7 was an amazing ride that stumbles a little bit in the later 3rd of the game before finishing really strong.  For most of the game I was on the edge of my seat as the game did a great job of building tension in the new setting far removed from the old games.  This was the perfect way to bring the RE series back to its roots and I hope for more like this from Capcom in the future.

Spider-Man/Deadpool Vol 1: 9 out of 10

The bulk of the volume deals with Deadpool trying to kill Peter Parker (whom Deadpool has decided is an evil genius) while also trying to convince Spider-man to be his partner. Easily the best Deadpool I’ve read since Dead Presidents.

Oxenfree: 7 out of 10

A very solid narrative driven story about teens partying on a remote island and accidentally stumbling upon a malevolent force that seeks to do them harm.  Interesting look and dialogue heavy gameplay.

The Lego Batman Movie: 6 out of 10

Initially I thought very highly of this movie but after thinking long and hard about it for several months I can safely say there were more thing I disliked about it than I initially realized.  A number of decidedly dunderheaded decisions were made that really bring this down.

The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection: 7 out of 10

There was some really interesting stories in this collection and some lackluster ones.  The art was also all over the place, some of it quite good and other parts fairly off-putting.  Definitely worth checking it out.

Firewatch : 8 out of 10

An interesting and well constructed FPS game that about a man trying to sort out his life while working in a National Park far away from home.  The story is tragic and endearing but admittedly doesn’t quite stick the landing in the end.  Still a very enjoyable game with a great look and feel.

John Wick: Chapter 2: 9 out of 10

While far from any sort of award winning, arty masterpiece it does do the very rare thing of being a sequel that is far better than the original.  While the first film was a simplistic revenge tail with a twist premise this one fleshes out the crazy secret assassin world in a way that I found inescapably interesting.  Easily my favorite film of the year at this point.

Grow Home: 7 out of 10

The game is very short with a simple and odd premise that has you guide a robot on a quest to grow a giant plant to the upper reaches of the atmosphere.  Regardless of length I found the game to be quite enjoyable in an off beat kind of way.

The Dumbest Kid in Gifted Class: 8 out of 10 (maybe higher if you are a fan of the author)

Dan Ryckert of Giant Bomb (and formerly Game Informer) has lead an interesting and arguably charmed life and this book is a collection of odd and amusing stories about his exploits before he made his way into the world of video game media.  I enjoyed the hell out of this book but as a long time fan I expected as much.

Steve Rogers Captain America Volume 1: Hail Hydra:  8 out of 10

Much controversy arose when the big surprise at the end of issue 1 was revealed last year, controversy I too complained about, but now that I’ve read it I feel it is a much read arc for fans of Captain America.

Mafia 3: 6 out of 10

There is a lot to be said about Mafia 3 but I just don’t have the energy for it.  The game was fun and had a great revenge story but the repetitive mission structure and very glitchy gameplay brought this score lower than I would have hoped.  Lincoln Clay’s story deserved a better game around it. but there is still a lot of fun to be had if you can look past the flaws.

Blood of Elves (The Witcher book 1): 9 out of 10.

I enjoyed this book more than any of The Witcher video games and can’t wait to dive deeper into the books soon.  I am certain a little is lost in translation from the original writings but this is a solid high fantasy read set in one of my favorite fictional worlds (the one part I’ve loved about all things Witcher).

Night in the Woods: 9 out of 10

Yet another narrative driven game, this time about a young cat-woman (literally an anthropomorphic cat person) who drops out of college and returns to her rustbelt hometown and almost immediately stumbles into a disturbing mystery.  This was a game that I couldn’t put down once I picked it up and for good reason.

Deadly Class Volume 1: Reagan Youth: 8 out of 10

I’d heard a lot of really good things about this book and decided on a whim to pick it up.  Thankfully I was not disappointed.  I loved the tale about an elite assassin high school and how the various characters interacted with each other.  Once I dig through the rest of the “to read” stack on my desk I’ll definitely be going deeper into this series.  My only real gripe is that I’m not in love with the art, but when the story is this good I can get past that.

That does it for this batch.  Believe it or not this still doesn’t get me fully caught up but I’m pressed for time right now and just want to get a bunch of these into the wild.

See you next time as I try and whittle down more of the neglected writing I’ve put off for too long.

-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

 

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It’s Rough Around the Edges but Here’s the Official Premiere of Press Pause

Put quite a bit of time in on this today and while I’m not 100% happy with it I made myself a promise to stop making excuses and just “make the thing” so I did what I could.

It can only get better from here.

The more I do of these the better they’ll get, just need time to work out the kinks.

Hope you join me on this journey.

-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

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Call of Duty: WW2 Trailer Impressions

A few thoughts on the above trailer:

I’m shocked by how Activision seems to have stepped up their graphical game and made a CoD that looks pretty damn good at first glance.  I don’t know the details but did they finally overhaul their engine because this looks way better than I’m used to from them.

I’m also very intrigued by what they are going to do with the story.  WW2 has been the setting for many a first person shooter (and especially CoD) so it will be interesting to see where the campaign takes us.  And even though it has been done to death I’m hoping to see an epic D-Day invasion level like is teased at the beginning of the trailer (how anyone survived that hell in real life I’ll never quite grasp).

It’s been a long, long time since I have been into the Call of Duty multiplayer scene so its exclusion here doesn’t bother me as I’m only ever interested in the campaigns.

Last year CoD: Infinite Warfare was in my top ten games of the year for the first time in years on the strength of what I felt was the best campaign in a CoD game since the original Black Ops.  I’m interested in seeing if they can build on that this year or will they rest on their laurels and churn out a pretty yet uninspired rehash of past WW2 games.

-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

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