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Editorial

With Fallout 4 Just Over The Horizon, Don’t Forget About Skyrim’s Bug-Ridden Launch

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Fallout 4 is now less than three months away, and anticipation is running at an all-time high for fans for the Fallout series. As good a track record Bethesda have with open-world games in particular, their titles are unfortunately not the pristine, bug-ridden experiences they could be every single time…

We know that Fallout 4 is still using a modified form of the older Creative engine, which is the same engine that powered The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, four years ago. As Valve continues to incrementally update their Source engine with subsequent game releases, it would seem Bethesda is taking this same approach with its Creative engine. And whilst it certainly is a little older, some of the Fallout 4 screenshots released by Bethesda have been perfectly serviceable for a 2015 game.

The bigger issue here is twofold: performance and bugs. Skyrim was a very attractive game in terms of graphics, but its performance at launch was not exactly stellar. Even on high-end machines (for the time) it didn’t really blow anyone away with how it ran. Many of these problems were corrected post-launch, partly by Bethesda themselves with patches, and partly with third-party developers that modded the hell out of the game, fixing some of Bethesda’s bugs before even the developers were able to do so. Some of these bugs were trivial in nature: an NPC glitching out or looking visually unusual, but you could still interact with them, for example. Unfortunately there were often larger issues, with NPCs vanishing completely, game crashes, or even being unable to launch the game at all.

Bethesda may make good games, but they don’t seem to make bug-free games. For further proof you need only look at the launch of Rage in 2011, a game less well-received than id/Bethesda’s are usually, partly down to some of its showstopping bugs at launch, again including crashes, disappearing items and NPCs, blurry “pop-in” textures, and poor overall performance. The phrase “bug-free” might be a bit of a misnomer here, as it’s almost impossible for any developer to release a completely bug-free game. With anything more complex than Pong, you’re going to have a handful slip in; this is just the nature of modern-day gaming. What you can try to do is ensure that those bugs which do make it into the final version of the game are not big enough to prevent overall enjoyment of your game. Gamers are going to forgive (or even laugh at) your head being twice the size that it should be, far easier than they are if it crashes every fifteen minutes or randomly deletes your save file.

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“Go find those bugs, boy!”

No doubt Fallout 4 is going to have every bit as much mod support as Bethesda’s previous titles, and that’s going to mean Bethesda are effectively going to have a lot of unpaid employees able to fix certain issues in the game for them before they can push out an official patch – and that’s nice, but not exactly the point. It shouldn’t take a 15 year old student in Oslo to fix a crash bug in your game, especially if the game has been in development for literally years and years. Bethesda have had plenty of time to get the game as polished as it can be. No one wants to see another Arkham Knight debacle, where WB actually withdrew the PC version of the game from sale due to its performance issues (and it’s still not back yet, either), or the duping exploit that hit The Elder Scrolls Online last year, creating massive imbalances in the game’s economy which were ultimately never completely resolved.

Given that it’s been a while since we’ve had a major Bethesda release (excluding The Elder Scrolls Online – MMOs tend to be their own thing) then it’s entirely possible they’ve tightened things up, and Fallout 4 is going to be more polished than a supermodel’s backside. The pressure is clearly on Bethesda to deliver a quality Fallout game and a quality experience within that game. We can only hope that a bit more attention has been paid to QA this time around, since gamers tend to have loud voices and long memories when it comes to these sorts of things. Given that we’re paying $60 for triple-A titles at launch, wanting a polished, playable game on day one is hardly an unreasonable request.

I write about PC games and sometimes it even makes sense. I'm a refined Englishman, but live in Texas with my two young children whom I am training in the ways of the Force.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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