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Editorial

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Made a Linear World Seem Open

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What does it mean when a game is linear? A Google search of the word linear digs up a strict definition of “arranged in a straight line” or “sequential, occurring in a series of steps.” Some linear games have been described as boring, while others are considered cornerstones of the Role Playing Game (RPG) genre and of adventure games in general.

Several sections, if not the majority, of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End matches what is expected of a linear game. And yet, most gamers and reviewers, myself included, believe the contrary: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End may be a linear game in concept, but can arguably match the depth of content found in an open-world game for the keen-eyed and patient player.

The first three titles in the four-game Uncharted franchise each much better suited the title of “linear” in several aspects. They all, with the first Uncharted being the prime example, allowed for little freedom of exploration, and the initiative to want to explore what little there was to explore was limited by the lack of reward for collecting treasures beyond getting the platinum trophy. Firefights were mostly one-dimensional, tedious, and repetitive, offering little to no dynamics, although the second and third titles, to their credit, greatly improved in that regard as well as in exploration. Even puzzles were a bore in the first, but the second and third again made immense strides when compared to it. Lastly, story in all three lacked any depth, feeling of satisfaction, and finality to them, though, again, two and three each had their strong points. (A short clarification: This is not to say the first Uncharted was horrible. In truth, it was revolutionary at the time on the Playstation 3 in its infancy as a platform. Further, I loved the game from first sight, even if I died a lot.)

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Having said that, my recently-completed playthrough of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End left me in awe at its excellently-executed open-world-like elements and dynamics in all four criteria mentioned above. Let’s focus on exploration.

Staying as spoiler-free as possible, the explorable areas of the game are absolutely immense, and that’s no exaggeration for the Madagascar locales. Treasures are scattered in the areas you won’t expect to look, which is code for “look everywhere, especially off the beaten path.” One problem, though, is accidentally choosing the wrong path to take leading to an point of no return, permanently not being able to go back to collect or talk about something in a previous area you could have gone to instead. On a side note, Nate’s Journal entries and notes that you consciously have to find and note or collect both also add to the depth of the story and backstory of Uncharted 4, and were, in my opinion, a worthy time investment to complete the experience of a first playthrough.

But looking for treasures is very hard to do anyway while you’re too distracted trying to soak in the beautiful scenery and environments of the game. I do mean that quite literally in areas where the glare of sunshine imitates the “glint of gold” flashes indicating the location of a treasure.

The freedom to explore is essentially an illusion in Uncharted 4. Basically, Naughty Dog did a nearly-perfect job of stuffing a boatload of content into defined areas that in and of themselves make it hard to have the patience to search through. This is not as scathing a comment as it may seem, for do not nearly-all open-world games share the same base characteristic?

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Half the fun of the game is discovering the limits of what one can do in an area and/or situation, specifically how or what the character says or does, or how they interact with others. Focusing in on exploration, there’s so much to attempt to find, see, discuss with NPC’s, and more. That’s not to mention how much I realized I missed only when it was too late to go back. A cute nuance to one of the conversations between NPCs in Madagascar is the continuation of whatever was being discussed when and if the player leaves the jeep or notices something.

Perhaps that is the spirit that Naughty Dog wanted to impart on players new and veteran to the franchise alike: being able to tackle and approach all aspects of the game in an open-world fashion however the player wants to, like a real-world Nathan Drake would be able to, and like John Wayne and other action movie stars always pull off in style.

And so, I leave you with a phrase which Uncharted 2 and 3 fans ought to know and which applies perfectly to however you go about taking out every enemy in all four games, especially this masterfully-written and nearly-flawless finale:

Kitty Got Wet.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s (a.k.a. mine only) and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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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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