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Editorial

Temper Those Expectations

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2016’s in full swing, and the rise of the triple-A blockbusters (along with their budgets) continues. We’ve been here before though, and shouldn’t get led down the garden path that publishers are laying out for us.

Cast your mind back a couple of years to the forthcoming release of Watch Dogs, by Ubisoft. Ubi promised it would sizzle your sausages, be the best game in living memory, and quite possibly impregnate your girlfriend if she even as much as looked at the box art. Instead, what was actually delivered was a slightly watered-down (at least visually) experience with less impactful “connected multiplayer” than had been promised, as well as a fairly ordinary single-player campaign. This is not me bashing on Watch Dogs either.

I genuinely enjoyed it and thought the underlying premise of the game’s mechanics was solid – if sometimes unspectacular. My issue was Ubisoft’s marketing for it, which for many wrote checks that the game ultimately could not cash. This isn’t the developers’ fault but is 100% on the publisher. They market and publicize the game, essentially “selling it” to gamers using the currency of interest before you can use the currency of money.

With today’s gaming budgets running into literally tens of millions of dollars in some cases, publishers need these costs to be recouped. One of the ways they do this is by talking up a game to drum up pre-orders, knowing that the game they are selling is not the same game that you will be buying. Aliens: Colonial Latrines Marines is a particularly extreme example of this, with features simply cut from the title due to time and money constraints. I would certainly argue that Watch Dogs was nowhere near this level of deception; Ubisoft absolutely talked up Watch Dogs and in the end, whilst the game was good, it was not the knockout spectacular that many were hoping for; the current Metacritic range of 77-80 for Watch Dogs across all formats should be enough evidence of this.

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Enter The Division.

If anything, the hype train on this has been running for even longer than Watch Dogs‘, with its protracted development cycle that originally saw the game wow audiences at E3 in 2013. Release was originally planned for late 2014, which later slipped to 2015…and now set for March 8th of 2016. These delays have meant that Ubisoft has had to keep the game in our collective gaming consciousness for longer than normal. We’ve seen teasers, trailers, hands-on demos, the addition of a tablet mode for mobile gamers, the removal of said tablet mode (since it would apparently have made the game “imbalanced”), and several “leaks” of beta gameplay from late last year. All of that in an effort to get you to drop $60 on the Newest And Shiniest.

I am trying to keep things in perspective myself. Like everyone else, I was blown away by The Division‘s reveal at E3 in 2013. And whilst I’m still very interested in it, my interest has waned a little over the years since other games have entered and left my areas of interest. Still though, if Ubisoft can deliver, this does look like a game that will have more lasting appeal than something like Titanfall – another game which promised the Earth and under-delivered. Quasi-MMOs seem to be very hot right now (see no further than Destiny) as you can make a game appear to be bigger than it really is without needing the larger infrastructure and maintenance that an MMO requires.

Is The Division going to be Brink, Watch Dogs, Titanfall, Destiny, or somewhere in-between? I can’t answer that. All I can say is that the game looks good, which after so many delays should be the least of what we’re getting. Just remember to keep your expectations realistic. Like your college exams, try to ignore the very best and very worst things you see and hear and try to instead evaluate the prevailing opinion. That $60 in your wallet will thank you – regardless of whether you wind up buying The Division or not.

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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