Weekend at Betas
March seems like a popular month for releasing video games in 2016, and the industry is getting us primed by holding all kinds of alpha and beta tests here in mid February, with several of them happening on the same weekend.
Tom Clancy’s: The Division (ne, The Division) is back for an open beta this weekend. Previous closed beta was reserved for those who pre-ordered or who received a closed beta key through other means. Like the previous event, this open beta allowed Xbox One players to have a 24 hour head-start over the PC and PS4 players because, you know, politics and all that. Membership has its privileges, though, and our attempts to settle back into the streets of New York City last night were fraught with issues of the non-firefighting kind. I had connected early in the afternoon without issue, and managed to meet up with my brother for a brief while, but had to vacate once my wife got home. When I returned at about 7-8 PM EDT I was getting a steady stream of connection errors. Once I was able to log in, I wasn’t able to group up with anyone, and no one else was able to group up with me…until I noticed that someone had joined my game just out of the blue. Random issues are random, but it seems that the server ops somehow got around to fixing things, so good luck to PC and PS4 players today; don’t say we didn’t take a bullet for you.
Another game that’s opening it’s beta doors this weekend is Black Desert Online, YAKMMO, or “Yet Another Korean MMO”, or better know as “The Uncanny Valley Simulator” for it’s hyper-beautiful character creator that Westerners have been drooling over for a few years now. Despite my lukewarm feelings about YAKMMOs, I really liked a lot of what I saw about BDO. It’s apparently very secondary-system-oriented, meaning that combat is important, but there’s a whole lot of other things to do in the game. You can craft, harvest, buy housing, and hire NPCs to do a lot of the grunt-work for you. There’s a knowledge system which rewards exploration and clicking on NPCs to listen to their boring-ass stories, as knowledge allows you to unlock better quests and advancement opportunities. BDO even rewards AFKing. Read that again. You can actually never log out of the game if you don’t want to. In fact, there are activities you can start before you minimize the game to do something else, like fishing, that will net you an actual benefit over time. It remains to be seen what this does for people’s ability to log into the game, though, as AFKing seems to be the leading source of login queues for games that stupidly don’t implement an AFK kick timer.
Atlas Reactor is a game that a lot of people are suddenly excited for, despite being what I always thought would end up as an “also ran” alongside games like Paladins, Overwatch, and other team-based, small map, brawl type games. I had access to AR a few months ago and took it for a spin, but only once and never got back to it for some reason. It’s a weird kind of game. Unlike pretty much every other kind of team based duke-it-out-or-shoot-em-up games that take place in real time, AR has you queuing up your actions before you even know what the opposing team (or your own team, unless you’re actively communicating) is going to do. For example, you might see an enemy hiding behind a pillar, and think that tossing a grenade would be a great idea to do some damage, so you queue it up and wait for the payoff only to find that your target queued his action to move outside the blast radius before your action triggers, making you waste a grenade and look pretty dumb in one fell swoop. It’s a game of second-guessing, of keeping track of your team and your opposition, and, well, chess-like forethought. Considering I have trouble figuring out what I want for dinner until the point at which I’m actually eating, I’m not sure that Atlas Reactor is my kind of game.
In other non-beta related news, I put in my pre-order for Quantum Break, a third person exploration shooter that features the 2016 version of the venerable “bullet time” explained via narrative which sees the protagonist as one of the only people who can act without being affected by “time skips”, pauses and repeats of time brought about by a failed time travel experiment. This allows you to do things like run around while everyone is frozen to break LoS, or to empty a clip into an NPC before he can even turn around and respond. After watching some videos this past week, the time skip mechanic seems like a worthy puzzle gimmick that forces you to think about the map before you take action, as it could reform itself beneath you during the next wave of time jankiness. As a bonus, pre-ordering for the XB1 (it’s a console exclusive) nets you a free copy for Windows 10, complete with cloud-based save game storage to allow you to pick up where you left off regardless of platform.