Moral Choices  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Moral Choices  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network The Top 8 Open World Games So Far Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:01 -0400 Stephen Brown

For many people, a big draw for playing video games is escapism. They allow you to break away from the monotony of real life for a few hours a day. And they give players tons of freedom -- freedom to choose how they play, freedom to be someone else, freedom to explore a huge and vivid world.

That's why open world games have become hugely popular over the last 10 years or so. In fact, they've become so popular that the genre is starting to feel oversaturated -- especially with lots of both sub-par indies and AAA games crowding the market. But in the myriad of open world games out there, there are several that really get their game worlds right.

Here are a few of my favorites. Let's see why they're the best of the bunch. 

8. Dying Light (2015)

From Dying Light: the Following

Big open spaces, slaying hordes of zombies, parkour, what more could you ask for in this undead recipe for incredible fun. Dying Light got so much right when it comes to freedom and exploration. The maps were huge (especially the map in the Following DLC), combat was extremely satisfying, particularly when you unlock new moves and upgrade your weapons allowing for more unique fighting situations.

The first person parkour system was a great design choice in allowing for greater immersion and heightens the scarier sections, more so at night when facing the fast and deadly volatile. Even though the main story is nothing to write home about, the rest of the game more than makes up for this plus, the DLC improves the game even more with the addition of having a vehicle to roam around in.

7. Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)

Being a huge fan of the Dragon Age franchise, I was cautiously optimistic when Dragon Age: Inquisition was announced to be open world. Although yes, it is not fully open world as the world is split up into sections, however those sections are so massive, I believe it still counts.

After the mixed reception of Dragon Age 2 (I personally liked the game despite its flaws), the move from linear corridors to open environments was a huge breath of fresh air. The locales are rich, vibrant, massive and greatly varied. I found the combat the best in the series, a good mix between the tactile Origins and action heavy second game. More importantly, the story and characters. Storywise it was better than 2 but not as good as Origins, I found the main villain to be a bit weak and not hugely threatening, however he does the job competently.

The characters on the the other hand is one of the game's standout aspects, Characters like Iron Bull, Dorian, Varric, Vivienne, and Cassandra are all very likeable and hilarious. They all share banter between each other adding to their personalities. Also, Morrigan makes a return who makes the game 10 times better by herself.

6. Red Dead Redemption (2010)

I've never been a fan of Grand Theft Auto but I appreciate their significance in the open world genre. Red Dead Redemption on the other hand I absolutely love, from its world, the wild west setting and its strong cast of characters to the gripping and ultimately sad ending.

The main character, John Marston, is a relatable and highly likeable anti-hero. A man wanting redemption for his past criminal actions in order to provide a better life for his family. With a wide range of side quests and activities to indulge your time in such as playing poker and bounty hunting, you'll be kept busy for a long time.

The online play was massively fun and only added greater value to this wild west masterpiece. Also having one of the best DLC's ever in Undead Nightmare, is just the icing on the cake as it allowed you to fight the undead horde on the back of a horse from hell.

5. Final Fantasy 15 (2016)

A game 10 years in the making. For gamers and fans of the series, 10 agonising years of delays and waiting. Well, Final Fantasy XV finally came out and luckily, it hardly suffered from the development cycle hell of those painfully long years.

It's visually stunning game with a massive open world that you can traverse by walking, by chocobo or by literally cruising in your car which is made better by the fact that you have a radio that allows you to listen to a huge selection of songs from the entire series. The strong cast of main characters are enjoyable to have on the adventure and the main villain is arguably one of the most complex and intriguing in the entire series, on par with the likes of Sephiroth and Kefka.

Having an action combat system similar to Kingdom Hearts is a much welcome change for the franchise, being tactical, fast paced and engaging. Having watched Kingsglaive and Brotherhood beforehand added to the story and together, make the overall narrative one of the best in the series.

4. Minecraft (2011)

One of the best selling games of all time, Minecraft captured the hearts of gamers worldwide with its simplistic art style and premise, complete freedom to create whatever you want.

Do you want to just build a small house to store things while you go off exploring, you can do that. How about turning to agriculture and slowly building the biggest farm you can think of, sure go ahead. Perhaps you want to go in creative mode with unlimited resources so you can design and build an explorable Hogwarts, by all means, if you have the time just do it.

Giving this much freedom of choice to the player is what makes Minecraft arguably one of the greatest open world games ever created. Just watch out for a faint hissing noise while building and near explosives as you might just see your entire creation destroyed by a creeper.

3. Fallout New Vegas (2010)

With this entry in the series, it is arguably the best in Bethesda's side of the franchise. Don't get me wrong, I like Fallout 3 but New Vegas improved so many aspects, making it stand out much more than the others. Furthermore, Fallout 4 was such a disappointment for me but I won't get into that in this list.

What made New Vegas so good was the focus on player choice leading to such diversity in its factions and endings, however my only major gripe with the game was that you could not continue after the final mission. You had to reload a previous save, but it wasn't a big enough deal, just a design choice.

The companion system was improved, allowing you to receive experience if your follower killed something making it a better plan to have a companion with you. Overall, I liked the setting of Nevada and the interesting story and side quests, the DLC wasn't as good as Fallout 3 but were still good additions.

2. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)

What?! How do I think Oblivion is better than Skyrim. Well, frankly I genuinely feel that Oblivion added to and improved the Elder Scrolls series much more than Skyrim. It drastically improved the combat from Morrowind, however Bethesda, no matter what entry in the franchise still hasn't got a magic system that works very well.

This game feels more Elder Scrolls for me than Skyrim, it has more heart and soul. The plastic skinned characters actually spoke as if they were interested in what you had to say whereas most citizens of Skyrim sounded tired and depressed. The guilds were mostly better, offering truly unique side quests such as the murder house quests, where you're tasked with assassinating everyone in the mansion whilst watching them slowly go mad and accusing everyone else but you.

It was moments like this that made Oblivion stand out as my favourite Bethesda RPG. It also helps that it has one of the best pieces of add on content, the Shivering Isles, which was such an incredible adventure to experience.

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

Well, what can I already say about this masterpiece of an RPG that many others haven't already said. The Witcher 3 truly and drastically changed my expectations for what an open world game can achieve. Its main narrative kept me hooked throughout my total 90 hours in the main game.

This was only amplified by the diverse, interesting and multi-dimensional characters that inhabited the world. I felt so invested in these characters that when anything bad happened to them, it made me really emotional (even actually crying at some points). Its combat was addictively fun and strategic, where boss battles really tested your skill and reflexes, particularly on harder difficulties.

One of the most important positive aspects of this game is that it has arguably the best side quest design in an open world game, where I really wanted to find and complete side quests just for the story that accompanied them and not for the prospect of a reward.

The generous price for quality DLC, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine are some of if not the best DLC ever made, with the former really experimenting with the narrative, culminating in one of the most creepy and well design boss sections I've played. The latter added a massive and visually different region to the main game, which I spent roughly 30 hours exploring and finishing to completion.

I would love to go into greater detail about how much I love the Witcher 3, but I can't, so I will say this last thing. Long after the credits rolled and months after my second playthrough on the hardest difficulty, I'm longing to go back right to the beginning and start again. I want to see all the characters and experience the amazing side missions all over again.

My Final Thoughts

I definitely believe that open world games have that certain quality that makes it easy for us gamers to become hooked and invested in these games. But it is when these incredibly designed worlds are joined with impeccable storytelling and relatable and interesting characters that make the journey/experience all the more worthwhile and memorable.

When a game makes you think about its story, world and characters long after finishing is when you know that the developers have made something truly special. For me, The Witcher 3 did this with such ease and grace and that's why it is my favourite open world game ever so far. Thanks for reading.

With Obsidian's Latest RPG Tyranny, Evil Truly Does Win Fri, 11 Nov 2016 07:45:18 -0500 Ty Arthur

Considering this week's events in the U.S. elections, it seemed like the right time to play a game based on the premise that an evil overlord already won. Likewise, I discovered the intense annoyance of Google searching the word “Tyranny” and finding a whole lot of Tea Party "don't tread on me" material rather than anything to do with Obsidian Entertainment's latest take on the classic RPG formula.

 This is definitely not what I was looking for...

An Unexpected Return

As soon as we heard Obsidian had teamed up with Paradox, everyone was dreaming of a new World Of Darkness RPG. Personally I was hoping for Wraith -- a corner of the World Of Darkness that never gets any digital gaming love -- but of course everyone gets themselves into a frenzy over Vampire.

In a twist nobody saw coming, instead we got Tyranny -- a game Obsidian had pitched to a publisher years back but was turned down. This is one of those interesting turning points in gaming history and its impossible to know -- would this have been a completely different experience if the original idea was executed then, versus arriving now after Obsidian nailed the retro style with Pillars Of Eternity?

 Look familiar?

Before getting into the game itself, I have to give props to the folks from Obsidian for not crowd funding every game, like several other purveyors of classic style RPGs have done (which has really put a sour taste in the mouths of fans). They made their money on Pillars, and now are doing things the old fashioned way.

Honestly I didn't believe this game was actually arriving this year as originally announced, and was rather shocked when the November release date was revealed. I was expecting the end of the year to arrive and then see a sheepish delay announcement quietly released, so hats off for keeping your word, Obsidian.

Tyranny Raises The Stakes

Not many games have you play the conquest of a nation as your character creation screen, and that's just the beginning of Tyranny's shift in focus. The choices you make during the initial conquest of the Tiers area radically change each location and how people interact with you throughout the rest of the game.

Many of the NPCs I came across referred to me as the “Queenslayer” due to options chosen during the character creation section -- with some very pleased to meet me over that particular exploit, and others attacking me on sight over the name.

 The conquest of a nation serves as your character creation

Tyranny turns a lot of the standard RPG tropes on their head. In an early section you'd think you should stop and help a wounded soldier. That option just earns you derision, not only because you are supposed to be iron-willed and without mercy, but because this particular faction is under a magical compulsion that heals non-lethal wounds very quickly.

There's also a major shift in how the world reacts to you and what kind of character you are playing. Rather than that defenseless peasant having to take up the sword and learn to become a hero, nearly everyone you meet is already terrified of bringing out your wrath because you have the lawful means to execute anyone you come across.

Rather than that defenseless peasant having to take up the sword and learn to become a hero, nearly everyone you meet is already terrified of bringing out your wrath...

That doesn't mean people immediately agree with or capitulate to you though, as there are many different factions present -- and not all of them agree with how you are going about your job of enforcing the Overlord's will.

There's a compelling reason to get people to work together and not just slaughter anyone you disobeys you, as the game starts with a magical Edict compelling you to complete a task within 8 days or everyone in the area – friend and foe – will die.

 The Disfavored and Scarlet Chorus have very different conquest styles

A Reactive Dark Fantasy World

In a manner similar to the ARPG Grim Dawn, your Fatebinder character gains new Reputation abilities both for currying favor and for invoking wrath with any given faction, but you don't just get wrath for killing enemies – quite a few options present themselves as you decide how to enforce the Overlord's will.

While conventional wisdom would be to ingratiate yourself with party members and keep them happy to make them loyal, sometimes in the world of Tyranny its better that they hate and fear you instead.

You can actually start with a sizable favor or wrath score with certain factions just based off character creation options. Likewise, there's loyalty and fear with companions.

Neither is necessarily better than the other, and both offer up different dialog options.

While conventional wisdom would be to ingratiate yourself with party members and keep them happy to make them loyal, sometimes in the world of Tyranny its better that they hate and fear you instead.

                        Gaining Verse's loyalty unlocks new combat options

As expected from Obsidian, the companions are a serious high point, and perhaps even more interesting than those from Pillars. Adding another tactical layer, you can learn combo attacks with your companions that unlock as they grow to love or fear you.

More Of The Same, With Some Twists

Style and layout-wise, Tyranny plays like a combination of Pillars Of Eternity and the similarly amoral Blackguards 2, which is a good thing. One of the reasons the game likely arrived so quickly is because its clearly the same engine, and in some cases even the same assets, that were used in Pillars Of Eternity.

The camping equipment and wounds system, for instance, are lifted wholesale. But other elements of the combat and class system have been tweaked and changed to feel separate and unique.

One interesting change is that experience is gained for simply using skills and making attacks, and there's also the ability to pay trainers to upgrade skills (with a cap on how often that can occur per level).

Graphically Tyranny is very similar to Pillars, but the background locations are a little more washed of color and less vibrant, while the character models (especially the powerful Archons) are much more eye-popping and colorful.

 War is a dreary hell... and ever present in Tyranny

As with Pillars, your character build will change dialog options radically. It's not just conversation though --  whole areas of a map that may be unreachable depending on where you put your points. There's a section of the opening area I simply couldn't get to due to my low Athletics. You better believe points will be going there on the next playthrough when I'm not focused on lore and spell casting.

What's surprising is how interconnected everything ends up being. Dialog options, for instance, become available with different party members even depending on what you look at. Simply choosing to examine a certain banner gets your first companion Verse talking about what she doesn't like about the army that flies that banner, and offers opportunities to earn loyalty or fear.

The biggest combat change is in learning Sigils and Accents to craft your own spells, changing the form, size, duration, effect, damage, etc. for a wider range of spell options.

You can create a huge (nay, massive) range of spells, but only have a limited number of slots to put them in. And the more Accents you add, the higher the lore cost, until eventually the spells will be too powerful to cast. There's no magic points or Vancian daily magic spells, and instead each spell has a cooldown period controlled by your stats. 

 Building a better fireball

A Few Problems

Unlike with Pillars, I'm not crazy about the UI layouts in Tyranny -- both on the main screen and in the inventory/character panels, which are pretty cluttered.

The inventory screen when buying and selling from merchants in particular feels a little basic and unpolished, and reminds me of Wasteland 2's UI before being fixed in various patches and the Director's Cut edition. 

 This is about as basic as it gets 

All of the various menu and character screens feel overly plain and utilitarian, and fail to evoke the flavor of a dark fantasy world where an evil god-like overlord has conquered nearly everything.

They really do feel like a sheet of paper covered in RPG stats, but there's an upside there. Your various offense and defense stats clearly state where everything is coming from: a bonus from your equipped Scarlet Fury Helm, a bonus from high Finesse stat, and so on. You aren't ever in the dark about why your stats are the way they are.

Other than the UI, the only other issue present is that the many interesting moral choices becomes less prevalent the further you progress in the game, and it does feel like there should be more content overall. Most noticeably, each of the map locations are much smaller than they were in Pillars, which may also have something to do with the short amount of time between games.

The companions in particular could have used more side quest material, and I would have gladly waited a few more months for a more complete experience rather than getting another game just a year after Pillars

The Bottom Line

Obviously you have to already be in love with the Baldur's Gate / Planescape: Torment / Pillars Of Eternity formula, but if you are, this is going to be in your top games of the year. There are some flaws, but I suspect some of them will be rectified with patches and others will hopefully be remedied with DLC.

After playing through as a law-breaking mage who sides with the chaotic Scarlet Chorus, I honestly can't wait to start over and come through again as a noble-born soldier who supports the regimented order of the Disfavored.

With Tyranny arriving so unexpectedly quickly after Pillars, now we have to ask: what's next from Obsidian? Sadly, it's not a likely scenario at this point that Obsidian will be taking the next Fallout to put Bethesda's efforts to shame, as in years past.

Personally I hope the next one is a sci-fi horror mashup done in a similar visual style to Tyranny. What do you think of Tyranny's shift towards evil, and what are you hoping the developer will get up to next?

How Deep Is Your Love for the Witcher 3? Tue, 01 Nov 2016 10:00:02 -0400 Sand Snake

I have waited a long time to write a review for my all time favorite game The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Not because it would be difficult, but because there was so much to say about this wonderful game. I wasn't sure, how to properly express how truly amazing this game is. For those of you have fallen in love with this amazing world and with Geralt of Rivia, this article is for you.

Geralt of Rivia AKA The White Wolf, is a skilled warrior and deadly Witcher, renowned throughout the lands for his skills with the blade against both man and monster. His recognizable mane of white hair is a side effect of the Mutagens flowing through his veins. These give him unnatural speed, reflexes, and eyesight that has yet to be matched by any foe he has ever faced. Geralt of Rivia is truly a one of kind hero, not because he is perfect in any sense of the word, but because he has flaws like any man from this cruel, dark world. Flaws that lead him down dark roads to shine a light into the dark recesses of the world.

But that is not the only reason we love him. We love playing him, because in a world full of darkness, where everything is not as it seems or should be, a place where evil is residing around every corner, in the hearts of monsters, humans, dwarves and elves. We see Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher neither a human or monster caught in the middle of it, and like a small candle blowing in the wind his blade could help destroy or save.

Your choices, your decisions, your actions will affect the world around you. Whether it be stopping humans from taking advantage of elven maidens, or killing self-righteous Scoia'tael who have been slaughtering innocent peasants to feed themselves. Your blade will decide the fate of thousands. That kind of power and control over the fates of so many, makes this game unbelievably addictive.

Added to it are the amazing voice actors that were cast for each role, and the extraordinary cinematic sequences throughout the game that have been consistently amazing and enthralling. Like the scene with the Ladies of the Wood, where we got to see the three witches for the first time and I gotta say, I did not see that coming at all. The way they looked, the way they acted and the way they talked was all so perfectly choreographed that it made me want to say, "what the fuck?"

Oh, and let's not forget the background music. The music in this game is insane! Whether its pumping you up for a fight or creating this creepy, dark mood. The music they used throughout the game has this quality, that just made you want to keep listening to it, even after you're finished playing the game. My favorite music has to be the one in the cloak and dagger quest, the music had me bopping my head up and down as I played. I also enjoyed listening to the Gwent music, which in my opinion is an awesome card game that should definitely be made into an full game -- oh wait, it is.

Then we have the quests! Let's not forget about the quests! The quests in this game are of the highest quality. There was none of that nonsense of go fetch me a sheep, or go kill as many bandits as you can, or go clear a place of monsters. Every single quest was well crafted and more than a few had direct consequences leading to the completion of each quest.

Most importantly each of the quests made sense. There were no ridiculous side quests that would be completely out of character for Geralt to complete. Every single quest was designed to help immerse yourself within this unique world.

I am not even halfway done yet, there is still so much I want to talk about, but I'll end it here as I feel these are the most important aspects of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. But what did you love most about The Witcher 3?

The Wolf Among Us By Telltale Games Mon, 31 Oct 2016 06:00:01 -0400 Sand Snake

Honestly, when I first heard Telltale Games had made other games besides The Walking Dead Series, I was pretty surprised. I had no idea Telltale Games had made any other games. And after playing The Wolf Among Us, I gotta say they have not disappointed me. The story, the decisions you make and the characters you come across are all brought together to make this intensely dark and gritty story. 

The greatest thing about this game has to be the background story, which is both beautifully unique and extremely realistic. A bunch of fairy tale creatures flee their home world to become refugees in the real world, and because of their appearance, they have to wear glamour charms to appear human. All of which is enforced by a special task force, which includes Bigby (the protagonist), Snow White and Ichabod.

The sheer amount of darkness you see in this world, which includes black markets, shady loan sharks and thugs for hire, all keep you wondering about their past lives. How bad was life back home for them to flee to here? To live in this rank cesspool of humanity. I have never come across a game that so actively builds up this morbidly fascinating world, full of characters that have been twisted and warped.

Then there are the characters Bigby the big bad wolf from Three Little Pigs, who is constantly haunted by a past that people will not forget. Snow White a woman, who only sees the world in shades of black and white. The Woodsmen from Little Red Riding Hood has become an abusive drunk that is stuck in the past. Toad a father, who tries his best to provide for his family and is constantly beset with money problems. And many more characters, all of whom have colorful past lives and intriguing background stories that are absolutely riveting.

And finally the choices, this game is full of decisions that need to be made and all those decisions will impact the ending of the story. Which is exactly the type of game, you won't want to put down till you've played it a few times to see how things would work out differently if you had done things a certain way.

The creators, the artists, the voice actors, and the writers have all done an amazing job. They have brought this imaginary, fictitious world to life and you can't ask for more than that.

"I thought we were all supposed to have a fresh start here. I can't change the past" - Bigby 

Dragon Age: Origins Versus Dragon Age: Inquisition Wed, 26 Oct 2016 06:00:01 -0400 Sand Snake

With news from Bioware about the possible creation of Dragon Age 4, a continuation of the RPG trilogy series, what better time to compare the new and old. From the moment we were introduced to Thedas in Dragon Age: Origins, we all knew how great this game would be and how much greater it could be become. A feeling that has only grown stronger with the release of the expansion pack. However, that has all changed with the arrival of Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition

First lets take a look at the first game in the series, Dragon Age Origins. Which is by far and away the best game in the series. Not only for its tactics, strategy and combat, but also because it is a true RPG game. There are hundreds of games out there that claim the title of RPG, but Dragon Age: Origins is one of the few which actually can say it is a real RPG game. Proof of this is shown immediately at the very beginning of the game, where you can choose your gender, your race, your class and whether or not your nobility. But that's not all. You get play through a unique storyline for each of those races. Plus, there will be many moments in the game, where the choices you make at the beginning of the game will affect your future interactions with NPCs.

But I haven't even gotten to the best part yet, which is that a lot of the decisions you make in Dragon Age: Origins will appear in both Dragon Age: Origins Awakening the expansion pack and Dragon Age 2. Not to mention the skills you acquire as you level up can be geared towards, whichever battle style you prefer. Assassin, Battle Mage, Warrior, Duelist, Archer and dozens more. Added to all of that are the thousands of dialogue choices that are presented throughout the game, which is probably my favorite part of the game; choosing what my character says and how they react. I often compare this against other games, and there are none that I know of that can offer such a varied, and solid, amount of dialogue choices than in Dragon Age Origins. Each choice you make in dialogue is followed up by more dialogue options, making your choices extremely adaptable and unique.

All of these options give you the greatest amount of control in the game, thereby making it a true RPG game. Whereas, in games like Dark Souls, Diablo 2 and Baldur's Gate, the RPG factor simply rests upon choosing the type of character and fighting style; and sometimes if you're lucky a few dialogue options. Now while these games are great in their own right, they are not true RPG games.

Which brings me to Dragon Age: Inquisition, the game that has been the greatest disappointment of my life.

My biggest frustration with Dragon Age: Inquisition, is that it's no longer an RPG game anymore. All the options and control you had in Dragon Age: Origins has been hacked and slashed away to leave behind an exceptionally boring game. Thousands of dialogue options, ripped out. Dozens of unique background stories, shredded to tiny gobbets of background information. Unique fighting styles, replaced with generic attacks. Great battle tactics, replaced with a useless strategy interface. And most importantly, the impact of your choices on the world, has been reduced to droppings on the battle map.

After playing Dragon Age Inquisition just once, I can definitely say I will not be picking it up anytime soon. Hell, it's more than likely I won't even bother buying the follow up game if there is one. The game deliberately burns your brain out with useless quests, so that after only playing the game for half an hour your brain goes into meltdown from sheer boredom. 

All the control you had over the character's build and gameplay has been taken away. The only positive that I can see in the game is graphics, dragons, and the crafting system. Everything else is a complete waste of time, dialogue with companions, don't bother unless you want to fall asleep. Quests, you're better off going outside and getting some fresh air -- it will probably be more interesting. Choices, well lets just say you get to choose between dumb and dumber. 

There is only one aspect of the game that has truly stunned and captivated the entire world and that is 'hype'. After all their big talk and explanations, we got to see a world full of nothing, and we got to do nothing in that world.