Octopath Traveler: Return to the Golden Age of JRPGs

Octopath Traveler is a highly anticipated Japanese RPG from the RPG masters themselves, Square Enix. First announced at the official Nintendo Switch unveiling in January 2017 with a teaser trailer, we are finally nearing the game’s release date of July 13th. During Nintendo’s E3 2018 Direct, the prologue demo was announced to be released on June 14th exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, with progress from the demo carrying over to the full game upon its release. I spent a lot of time playing this demo over the past week and I am excited to share my thoughts on the early chapters of the game.

There are eight playable characters in Octopath Traveler and the game gives the player the option of choosing the starting protagonist, each with unique abilities, and allows them to explore the world and take on quests while recruiting the other characters—or not, if they wish. Each character comes with a unique set of skills, path actions, and talents. While each character can learn skills from other job classes, the path actions and talents are unique to each character. In the full release, hero’s will be able to take on sub-classes to learn active and passive skills from the other heroes’ skill list but will not be able to learn the unique path actions or talents.

octogroupKeyart used from the initial Nintendo Switch reveal event. Looks like our heroes are planning a grand adventure.

Path actions are non-combat abilities that allow the playable characters to interact with non-playable characters. Such actions include the ability to steal or purchase items from citizens, challenge them to a duel, or temporarily recruit them to summon in battle against enemies. These are then broken into a Noble action and Rogue action. Noble actions can be used without consequence but the hero must meet level restrictions in order in interact with certain citizens while the Rogue actions can be used on nearly anyone but carries with it a chance for failure which would then lower your reputation in that town. If reputation falls, no path actions whether they be Noble or Rogue can be completed unless paying the local barkeep to spread word of your renown to regain the trust of the townsfolk. Once reputation is restored, you may resume using the path actions unless reputation falls again.

The aesthetic and combat in Octopath Traveler are very much inspired by classic RPGs, most notably from the Super Nintendo generation but are given a more modern approach. This game uses an “HD 2D” art style using pixel-based graphics in high definition. It sounds a little bit like an oxymoron but it looks fantastic. They also make great use of depth, focus, and lighting to accentuate the beauty of the environments. I’m a sucker for water effects in games and the water in this game is buttery smooth with a little bit more realistic look, creating a wonderful juxtaposition against the pixelized settings.

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Combat is turn based, much like RPGs of yesteryear. For those that typically didn’t like turn based combat (I’m not one of those people), Octopath introduces a more tactical, hands-on approach thanks to the “boost” system and hero abilities that “summon” captured beasts or recruited citizens to aid in the fight. Each character gets one Boost Point (BP) per turn, to a max of 5, that can be used to increase the power of the next attack or increase the duration of buff and debuff moves. Each hero has limits on what weapons they can equip based on their class and sub-class, this creates an added layer of strategy. Party composition will be important as you will want to have a wide variety weapon types and magic elements ready to exploit enemy weaknesses. Enemies begin the fight with a shield level, meaning they are more resistant to all damage until the shield is broken—which can only be done by attacking them with one of their weaknesses. When multiple enemies are on the field of battle with varying shield levels and weaknesses, it’s easy to see that this won’t be your basic “mash standard attacks until you win” JRPG.

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The hardest part is deciding which character to start with. It’s already been stated that you can recruit and play through all story lines in a single save file of the main game but in the demo you are unable to swap out your starting character. As of now, it’s unclear if that will change in the main game so it’s a good idea to start with someone you will be happy with. You might be saying to yourself, “Octopath Traveler is kind of a weird name” and I agree with you but the developers did find a way to make it sort of relevant outside of just the number eight:

Ophilia the Cleric – Path Action: Guide. A Noble action that can be used to lead characters to complete side quests or summon following citizens to aid in battle. Her skills make her a magic user focused on healing and Light magic.

Cyrus the Scholar- Path Action: Scrutinize. A Rogue action that can be used to glean information from citizens used to complete side quests or find locations scattered loot. Another caster, focused on high elemental damage.

Tressa the Merchant- Path Action: Purchase. A Noble action that can be used to purchase items from citizens, often at lower prices than shops or on items that otherwise would not be purchasable. She can also sometimes find money randomly while walking and can spend money in battle to summon mercenaries to land high amounts of damage.

Olberic the Warrior- Path Action: Challenge. A Noble action to commence a duel with citizens, this seems most useful to remove people blocking doorways, completing side quests and winning experience and items from the duels. He is the heavy hitter and tank of the group.

Primrose the Dance- Path Action: Allure. The Rogue counterpart to the Guide action. Complete side quests and summon followers in battle. She is a support character, using dances to buff teammate stats in battle and can cast Dark magic.

Alfyn the Apothecary- Path Action: Inquire. The Noble counterpart to the Scrutinize action. His “Concoct” skill in battle allows him to combine items to create powerful healing or to debuff enemies.

Therion the Theif- Path Action: Steal. The Rogue counterpart to the Purchase action. He can steal items that citizens carry but odds of success can vary greatly based on the item or person being stolen from. A self-sufficient character able to heal himself and debuff enemies. Able to steal items from enemies in battle.

H‘aanit the Hunter- Path Action: Provoke. The Rogue counterpart to the Challenge action. She can also Capture beasts in battle and summon them later, captured enemies have many effects that can heal or help cover missing weapon and element types from the party composition.

Notice the pattern here? The first letter of each hero spells out Octopath! ANYway, this game is beautiful, interactive, strategic, and overall a perfect love letter to/evolution of the golden age of JRPGs. This will be an absolute must have if you are a Switch owner and it may make one of the best cases to buy a Switch we’ve seen yet. The full game is out in a little less than a month and should give players 50-60 hours of play through just the story and an estimated 100-hours if you play through all side stories. I’ll be sure to share a full review after the game launches next month. Until then…

Keep grinding.

 

 

 

Dungeons & Dragons at it Again

The Wizards of the Coast found themselves at the Origins Game Fair last weekend in Columbus, OH. The game fair takes place every year in June, and the Origins team gives out awards for the best “insert gaming category here”. There were plenty of winners, but as you can probably tell by now, my bias lies with D&D. The Dungeons & Dragons team took home Best Role-playing Supplement of the Year for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.


Lore Time

Xanathar and Sylgar are best friends forever. Credit Dungeons & Dragons

Xanathar is a gangster in Waterdeep. He is especially dangerous, because he is a powerful Beholder with all manner of ways to make the lives of characters uncomfortable. Imagine if you will, a dark Jabba the Hut. He collects baubles and trinkets, magical artifacts, and information from all over the Realms. He is the master of a network of agents that serve his needs, including taking care of his beloved pet goldfish, Sylgar. Xanathar is so violently obsessive over his pet gold fish, that if he were to ever find out that it died 100 times over, only to be replaced, he would start slaughtering the people of Waterdeep without a thought.


Xanathar’s Guide is a great supplement for DMs and players alike. The book contains a ton of details that help bring characters, places, and monsters to life even more. There are spells for all manner of spell caster, new class options, and my personal favorite—rules and insights for player character Rivals. There is even an in-depth section for tool kits and skill checks. It even includes the rule set for a Brewers Kit, just in case the player wanted to start brewing their own beers.

That isn’t even the most exciting piece of news out this week. DM Matt Mercer and his team at Critical Role are separating from Geek & Sundry to found their own studio.

Critical Role
Watch Critical Role live on Thursdays at 7PM PST on Twitch and YouTube. Credit Geek & Sundry

If you don’t know, Critical Role is a D&D stream where a bunch of voice actors get together and play D&D for your entertainment. Mercer has voiced characters in hundreds of your favorite games and TV shows over the years, and he isn’t the only one with credits in popular titles. They have also been known to bring in Hollywood stars, like Deborah Ann Woll and Joe Manganiello, to play in the Mercer run games. Unfortunately for us, Mercer and the team left out any major details about what this could mean, other than more content and a “Mighty Nein” t-shirt. Given the creativity that just oozes out of this bunch, the star power in their back pocket, and a new studio to play around in I am positive we won’t be disappointed.

Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter, from Arc Games, has been celebrating its 5-year anniversary this week. There have been sales, promotions, and hints to new content on the way (my personal favorite). The last big update for Neverwinter was the Tomb of Annihilation story line. This takes players to the jungle choked island of Chult. A place where you will fight dinosaurs, the undead, an undead dinosaur, and eventually a god fetus…? Yes, a god fetus that feeds on the souls of the dead through a device called the Soul Monger. Brutal.

Take a Vacation in Chult posters. Credit Neverwinter

The next installment is Neverwinter: Ravenloft. If a more dark and twisted story is what you enjoy, Ravenloft will be your gig. The table-top adventure supplement, The Curse of Strahd, was featured in Season 1 of Dice, Camera, Action!, and has made some reoccurring appearances in the adventures of the Waffle Crew. The story is rich with intrigue, danger, and death as you confront a vampire lord, and the prospect of this story coming to life in Neverwinter is very exciting. Remember, Neverwinter is free-to-play, and available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Strahd in his keep, waiting for you and your friends. Credit Dungeons & Dragons

Finally, after the wildly successful Stream of Many Eyes, there is a chance that we could see another large streaming D&D event before the release of the new Waterdeep content. At least I hope so. Greg Tito, one of the head haunchos for D&D on Twitch, hinted at something big on a recent broadcast. I wish that I could say more, but we will have to stay tuned. There is no doubt the D&D renaissance will continue. Either follow D&D on twitch.tv/dnd, or smash that subscribe button for Level Grind to keep up to date on all things D&D.

Are you playing D&D? Do you want to? Who is your character? What have you fought? Who have you saved? What dastardly deeds have you performed? Let me know in the comments!

Keep Grinding.

Recapping E3

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In a nearly week long wave of hype, the Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went. The press conferences began on Saturday 6/9 with EA then continued over the weekend through Tuesday with Xbox, Bethesda, Square Enix, Ubisoft, PC, Sony, and finally, Nintendo. Following Nintendo’s digital conference (known as Nintendo Direct), the showroom floors opened and so commenced the live demos, deep dives, and interviews with the developers which carried on through Thursday 6/14.

There was a lot of negativity from the gaming community as each conference concluded. Between bad pacing, awkward deliveries, missing games, and missing release dates, it’s understandable that not everyone was pleased at first glance. It certainly didn’t help that there were so many leaks of big game announcements prior to the event, games that would have made great surprises otherwise.

Taking a step back, however, to digest and take stock of everything that was shown rather than just waiting for the next big surprise, should leave gamers feeling better about the coming year. Looking back, nearly every conference had a little something for everyone and a whole lot to look forward to. Some of them even launched games directly following their conference! There was way too much information to cover it all now so I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite games and announcements from the week. You can see more of Level Grind’s favorites from the show including Spiderman and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate here.

Bioware’s new title, Anthem, looks to be perfect for those who enjoy multiplayer exploration, team based combat, and want to fulfill a fantasy of being Iron Man. Anthem contains what appears to be a massive, shared, open world full or lore and mysteries. Players can choose and customize their exosuits (Javelins) to fulfill different roles in the team with gadgets and armaments that not only affect how you play but can also be used to set up combo attacks with other players. Javelins can be changed between missions to fill different roles as needed. Anthem is sure to draw comparisons to Activision’s Destiny as the latter has certainly been an extremely major influence on the team exploration shooter genre but it’s clear Anthem will have a lot of systems and mechanics to make it unique.

Octopath Traveler is being published by Square Enix and is coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch on July 13th. This was dubbed game of the show by Level Grind contributor, Stephen. A prologue demo was released during the week of E3, allowing players to try all eight characters’ opening chapters. I’ve spent a lot of time with this demo and will be covering more in depth soon.

Speaking of Nintendo, remember earlier when I mentioned there were some games that dropped immediately after the conference ended? This happened after the Nintendo Direct, releasing long awaited port of Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight to the Nintendo Switch. I’m a big fan of games in the Metroidvania genre so this was a huge announcement for me. I’ll have my review on this coming soon. In other Nintendo-releasing-games-after-their-direct news, Fornite’s Battle Royale mode was also released for the Switch immediately which isn’t big news for me personally but will be a huge boon for the system- offering console quality visuals and control on the go. Nintendo ALSO bumped the release of their Splatoon 2 “OCTO Expansion” from mid July up to June 13th, giving it a new launch date during E3! Hands on impressions coming soon!

Upcoming indie game Indivisible by Lab Zero Games received some new gameplay and details in a developer interview at the show. I remember seeing snippets of this game previously but it had fallen off my radar until this deep dive. Based on gameplay and the developer commentary, this seems to be a 2D platformer with Metroidvania elements but rather than fighting enemies in real time, when you encounter an enemy in the environment you enter a turn based RPG battle. The art style and characters look great. I can’t wait to see more information on this.

My Game of the Show: Of all the games and gameplay shown throughout the week, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima really blew me away. We covered this a bit in a previous post but the game centers on the Mongol invasion of Japan. The protagonist is a Samurai who must evolve beyond typical Samurai tradition to become a force the Mongols would never expect. The game is one of the most gorgeous to grace any console to date. Ghost of Tsushima was first shown in a teaser trailer back in December during Sony’s Playstation Experience event. Sucker Punch has been mostly known for their Infamous games which feature characters with super human abilities that must make choices to serve the people or serve themselves. Although the decisions are mostly superficial during the majority of the game, the end game decisions seem to carry a lot more weight. It will be interesting to see what skills, character progression, and decision-making elements we’ll see in their newest title. We still don’t have a release window but maybe we will know more by the time this year’s Playstation Experience comes around.

Most anticipated game: Although the personal game of the show “awards” were varied, here at Level Grind and our friends agree that we are most eager for CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. Most known for The Witcher series, CD Projekt Red leaves high fantasy behind for an 80’s inspired vision of a cyberpunk future. There was a 50-minute behind closed doors gameplay demo for select attendees at E3 (I’m so jealous). It has been said this will be a first-person RPG with some shooting elements. Had I been able to see the demo, I’m sure this would have been my game of the show. I can’t get enough of the trailer. The style and music just set the perfect mood and everything in that trailer is set during the day, imagine what the city looks like at night! I can picture all the neon now. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, take a look!

 

Favorite non-game moments: First off, the Nintendo Treehouse team covering the demos from a large number of games shown off during the Nintendo direct was almost always entertaining. They were my go-to channel for a good portion of the week due to their extensive coverage and quality of content shown. Sort of game related but not game specific was all the “and it’s released today” moments from the show. Often this was for smaller titles or indie games but it’s still great to get something instant while enjoying the shows. Lastly, Andrew W.K. opening the Bethesda show with a musical performance for Rage 2 was pretty awesome. It went a little long but it’s hard to not enjoy Andrew W.K.

What games were missing? Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix’s Avengers game, Animal CrossingBloodborne 2. Given everything else that was shown/announced it’s hard to be too broken hearted. As nice as it would have been see these games, we will have more than enough to play over the course of the next year.

How did I do with my predictions?  Pretty terribly. As mentioned above we did not see Animal Crossing, Avengers or Bloodborne 2. In fact, just about the only thing I got right was the Elder Scrolls VI announcement and even that didn’t contain the subtitle, location or any gameplay. We likely will not see it until the next generation of consoles show up.

Well, it was a bit long winded but that’s pretty much my recap of E3. There’s still so much more that happened and with all the games mentioned throughout the expo I’m sure we will be talking about it plenty going forward. Keep tuned for more and of course…

Keep Grinding

The Aftershocks of No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky had a rough go of it at the start. So rough that even some of its fans (Adam) refuse to update and play. I get it, the backlog of games grows with time. Despite the rough go, the impact of No Man’s Sky is becoming apparent. But what is going on with No Man’s Sky?

Despite being one of the most ambitious procedurally generated universes…in the universe, No Man’s Sky fell short with hardcore gamers. The lack of real quests and base building at the start turned a lot of them away from the game. Add in the fact that you couldn’t planet hop with your friends, the game became an abandoned, outdoor sand box where stray cats go to poo. Admittedly, I’m one of the stray cats, putting almost 100 hours into my game. Only 30 of those hours after the new updates with bases, exocraft, and questing. Everything has made it into the game that the players have demanded with one exception: multiplayer. That is going to change. No Man’s Sky NEXT is coming July 24th, and with it, the multiplayer experience. This isn’t news, just hype. Since the announcement was months ago.

On July 24thNo Man’s Sky NEXT is releasing as a free update. Soon, you and your friends can explore and build together.

The “delayed” release of updates didn’t stop No Man’s Sky from having an impact on the gaming world. E3 2018 had two very similar games announced, but this time there are things to accomplish right off the bat. The first is Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Your task is to lead a team of pilots in saving your star system from an invading force. It implements toys or digital purchases for ship customization. As long as you buy the parts, you can customize your ship. Not a huge fan, but I get it.

Choose your pilotSelect any starship

Combine any weapons
Image credit to Ubisoft, who will have you choose a pilot, star ship, and weapons to customize your experience.

Along with ship customization, you will also select your pilot. Nintendo Switch players get a special treat, since you will be able to play as Fox McCloud. He is voice acted for the entirety of the game, and he pilots none other than his famous Arwing. This is very welcome, considering rumors around the Starfox franchise moving towards racing. For those of us with an itch to save the galaxy with Fox McCloud, this could be the only way we get to scratch it. Due out in October, Starlink: Battle for Atlas will give you the look and feel of No Man’s Sky, but your role in the galaxy as crusading fighter pilot is more defined. The game-play will also be more geared to star-ship play, so I wouldn’t expect to meander about on foot too often.

The Nintendo Switch Exclusive Starter Pack Includes:
The Nintendo Switch Starter pack will start you off with Fox and Mason, along with the Arwing and some weapon upgrades. Fox is a great sign of Ubisoft’s support of the Switch. Image credit to Ubisoft.

If the toy scene in gaming, or buying digital parts, isn’t your preference then Satisfactory from Coffee Stain Studios should be on your radar. Announced during the PC show at E3, this game has one planet, 30 square kilometers of space to work in, and a full multiplayer experience out of the gate. You and your friends will be engineers on this planet, tasked with building factories to produce goods from raw materials that you find. There will be combat, there will be adventure, and there will be multiplayer fun.

According to Coffee Stain, who gets credit for this image, Satisfactory is due to release only on PC, and that release has been delayed.

While not as expansive as No Man’s Sky, mechanics in Satisfactory look almost identical. And the world is more detailed.Image credit to Coffee Stain.

Satisfactory will be smaller, but shows a broad diversity of things to see and build. Instead of giving the player an entire galaxy, or star system, they have focused on the team play and base building aspects of this genre. Whether it’s Starlink focusing on story and ship combat, Satisfactory focusing on base building and multiplayer, or No Man’s Sky expansiveness with touches of all of it, we are in store for a great time in space.

Hello Games has introduced some incredible mechanics for adventuring and gathering games in space. Their influence is hard to miss when watching the reveal trailers and game-play of Starlink and Satisfactory. Each game will give you certain elements to cater to your style of play in such a world.

Will No Man’s Sky see a resurgence after the NEXT update in July? Are you getting a Switch just for Fox McCloud in Starlink? Do you want to call me out on my very apparent bias for No Man’s Sky? Let me know in the comments. And of course, don’t forget to share and subscribe.

Keep Grinding.

Gaming’s Greatest Two Weeks

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The last two weeks were stuffed full of new content and creations from Dungeons & Dragons, plus console and PC game developers. Some of it was good, some of it bad (Command & Conquer Rivals), and some of it was weird. But this isn’t a critique, it is rather a show of what the gaming industry has in store for us this fall and winter.

If any one thing is apparent from the Stream of Many Eyes, Dungeons & Dragons is in a renaissance period. With the drop of 5th Edition came a slew of updated lore about Faerûn and the Forgotten Realms, plus a pile of streaming games on Twitch and YouTube. Faerûn is the world that all the most popular D&D video games and books are set. I’m the DM for two teams and they adventure in Faerûn. Still, after about 17 years of DMing, I still haven’t used half of what is available in this world. And now it is about to get deeper.

On June 1-3, D&D brought us the Stream of Many Eyes. Twitch streamers of D&D descended upon the Waterdeep set and role-played new content.

In the fashion of D&D in our time, the release of new content was celebrated over a 3-day period, where some of the most popular players and DMs from the D&D streaming community came together and presented different stories set in the latest focus for the developers. The event included a massive set, composed of a full market and tavern filled with shops and role players dressed their parts.

Along with a full live action role play, the event was filled to the brim with classic table-top play, sometimes involving some famous folk taking on the role of characters in this adventure. One actor, from Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, DMed one of the best games of the show in the Witch of Briarcleft. Cosplay and imagination abound, with a few cringe worthy moments that kept it grounded. The whole event is available to watch now on YouTube, and I encourage you to check it out after this. If anything, to check out the extremely entertaining Jocks Machina.

The content being announced was a new adventure that takes place in Waterdeep. Based on the first look presented during the streaming event, this will be a more in-depth look at Waterdeep than we have seen in the past. It is an adventure set up to really draw the player into role-playing, versus the standard dungeon diving and wilderness exploration found in the rest of the Realms. There will still be opportunities for a brutish barbarian to slam some poor schmuck, but the idea is to role-play your way through the city. The goal is to go through a full-blown heist, and your group will be working against (or with) some of the most underhanded and powerful organizations and people in the Realms.

Waterdeep Dragon Heist Dungeon of the Mad Mage
From Dungeons & Dragons, the new adventure gives the dungeon master even more content to keep adventurers busy for months to come. 

Now, once your adventurers steal all the gold in Dragon Heist, one of the most ingenious and diabolical dungeons awaits them. And that dungeon is none other than Undermountain. A powerful wizard constructed Undermountain ages ago, and the lore presented hints that the creator still wanders the dungeon to this day. Beyond that, the Dungeon of the Mad Mage source book is packed with lore and monsters for this procedural dungeon. The dungeon changes and becomes more dangerous as the adventurers go deeper, and it is never the same twice.

The challenges that await them below Waterdeep come from all over the universe, and there is loot beyond anything your players have ever imagined. Between the Waterdeep adventure and the Undermountain source material, DMs will be able to give their players a level 1 to 20 campaign.

Video game developers followed on the heels of the Stream of Many Eyes with the always anticipated E3 conference. And this year, none of the presenters disappointed. Unless you count yourself in with the Final Fantasy 7 Remake or bust crowd, SquareEnix dropped more information and game-play on some of the most widely anticipated games this year, like Tomb Raider and Kingdom Hearts 3. While these and Just Cause are not my cup of tea, the game play and cinematics presented were gorgeous and fanciful. Certainly, these games will not disappoint fans.

Even EA, with a history of disappointing gamers, came out with a healthy mix of games, which included Anthem. BioWare is the studio on this, and they are putting together another RPG masterpiece. Announced last year, Anthem came back to the EA stage with new game-play and a playable floor demo during the event.

There was plenty more that EA showed, but one of the most exciting pieces of news from EA involved their long-troubled Battlefront series. It is poised to receive a free Clone Wars update. The update will include General Grievous, Anakin, and Obi-Wan as heroes. It will also include a new mode that allows for space combat between hero starships. With the adjustments to progression made after launch, and this new content drop, Battlefront II can easily make a case for itself as a must own.

Along with these games, I have a list for you. A short list of five games that you should get onto YouTube and check out if you haven’t already. They are my notables from E3 2018 and deserve some attention.

Ghost of Tsushima

This game is set in feudal Japan, during a time when the Mongols are invading, and we the players will take on the role of a samurai. The first look game-play video is one of the side quests available in the massive open world samurai adventure. It is gorgeous graphically, and the samurai movie cinematics and ensuing battles really drive home the fact that this is new. Who doesn’t want to be a samurai in an open world?

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Sony dropped this beauty of a game during their press conference at E3. The combat and open world environment are set to make this one of the greats.

Crackdown 3

Crackdown is one of the greatest open world smash ‘em up games ever conceived. The brilliant backdrop and over the top action are just too fun to pass up. And this time around, we get Terry Crews firing us up as we rip through the city. There is even a tank. If I can’t have a new Saints Row, then give me Crackdown 3.

Spider-man

Speculation of the Sinister 6 plaguing Spidey’s New York are all but confirmed at this point. And the open world game-play paired with the web-slinging action of Spider-man, there is no wrong here. This is a solid pick up this year, with plenty of room for expansion into a new Marvel game universe. I hope.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Dragonball what? Mortal who? Which Street Fighter are we on again? That’s right. I did that. Because the best fighting game to ever grace us on this planet Earth is back, packed full of everything any Smash Bros. from the past ever had. Game-play has been tweaked, characters are returning, and maps old and new are jammed into the most complete Smash Bros. ever. But what about Waluigi? Well, he must not be able to fight, because as of right now he is a no-show. But the Ice Climbers are back, and Saffron City is making a return.

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Nintendo just ended any competition for a fighting game. Get in my library.

Game of the Show – Octopath Traveler

Among all the games presented this past week, Octopath Traveler grabbed me by the eye holes and didn’t let go. I couldn’t get enough on this game, and the demo is live right now on the Switch. Taunting me. Not owning a Nintendo Switch hurt me this week. Which is why I will be getting one “for my kids” for Christmas, or a birthday, or Halloween. Any occasion really. Octopath Traveler makes me want a Switch in our household.

There was plenty more from the last two weekends that I’m sure to jump into as I digest all the great content. Keep your browser bookmarked to Level Grind, as there will be more to come from E3 and Waterdeep.

Did you watch E3? Tell us what you think, and what games caught your eye. How about the press conferences themselves? Who do you think won? Did you watch any of the Stream of Many Eyes? Do you even table-top? Let us know in the comments.

Keep Grinding.

My E3 2018 Predictions

E3Logo_Tag_WhiteImage via e3expo.com

We’re at the doorstep of E3 and excitement all around the internet is growing. We’ve seen some explosive leaks, first looks, and major announcements the past several weeks. Professionals and fans alike are trying to analyze all the tweets and teases in an effort to find out ahead of time what will be shown during the event. It’s like a collective attempt to peak at Christmas gifts before Christmas morning. The past few years have been packed with blockbuster triple-A experiences and charming yet addictive indie games and at the heart of it all are annual gaming events, one of the biggest of these, of course, is E3. Since we are mere days away, I thought I’d join in the fun and share my predictions for some of what we’ll see shown at this year’s expo.

1. Square Enix shows their Avengers game: This seems like kind of safe bet since it’s been awhile since their initial announcement and Square Enix is holding their own press conference, which we don’t see very often. E3 is the perfect stage for them to finally show what’s going on with this high profile game, especially since the game will likely cater to a more western audience.

2. Xbox shows a new, exclusive cinematic IP: My prediction is that XBox has something under their belt to compete with Sony’s first party titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Last of Us, Uncharted, and God of War. These are all very cinematic experiences played from a third person perspective and I think they will show a new IP with follow this same approach.

3. Pokemon Switch gameplay and release window:  Well, Nintendo beat me to it. I had actually made this list back on May 11th and at the time there was a lot of speculation that Pokemon would be shown if it was destined to be a 2018 title but nothing was certain at the time. Since then, Nintendo and Pokemon Company made it official when they held a conference to announce the new titles named Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Not only did they show footage and give them an actual title but they even gave the actual release date, Nov 16, rather than just a generic time frame. I could take the win on this prediction but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I’m scratching this and coming up with a new prediction.

3. Sucker Punch’s: Ghost of Tsushima gets gameplay footage and release window: Nope, can’t use this one either. I was preempted by Sony on this prediction. While we don’t know what exactly will be shown or what information will be provided, we do know for a fact that the game will make an appearance at the expo. The game was first announced back in December during Sony’s Playstation Experience event but was only given a short teaser so it certainly seemed plausible we would get more information. I could probably still count this but again, I want to try and guess things we don’t know for sure will be shown.

3. Animal Crossing announced for Switch: Finally, a prediction that hasn’t already been confirmed. This one I’m actually pretty bummed hasn’t been leaked/announced ahead of the show. Animal Crossing is one of my most anticipated games for the console so I’m crossing (heh) my fingers as hard as I can that this gets announced. The more leaks and confirmed info we get from Nintendo prior to E3, the less likely the chances of this being announced, at least in my opinion. With so many games all but confirmed for the big show, I can’t help but think there isn’t enough room for another reveal of this magnitude.

4. Bloodborne 2 announcement: Bloodborne, created by From Software, is a Playstation 4 exclusive title that is still one of my favorite games of this console generation. It is a spin off title of the popular Dark Souls series. Bloodborne offered fast-paced combat with cleverly designed weapons, set in a beautifully haunting Lovecraftian environment. I actually expected the sequel to be announced at Sony’s E3 2017 conference but, sadly, that did not happen. Sony has already announced their first party titles that will appear at their show but this would make an absolutely fantastic surprise third party title.

5. Bethesda announces the Elder Scrolls 6: A long shot, for sure, but I think there’s a chance. The past couple Bethesda conferences have centered around expansions for their online rendition of the Elder Scrolls, titled Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). With an expansion for ESO released in May, we won’t see this taking up time during the conference. They also announced and released many of their major titles like Wolfenstein 2, The Evil Within 2, and Dishonored 2 DLC last year so they will need some heavy hitters this year, none of which would be bigger than an Elder Scrolls 6 announcement.

Ridiculously safe prediction: I thought it’d be fun to pick something that was almost a guarantee but not confirmed.  For this I’m saying Fortnite gets announced for Nintendo Switch. Again, I made the original draft of this list back on May 11th where there hadn’t been any substantial information but was such a safe prediction to make. I don’t think there wasn’t anyone that thought this announcement wouldn’t be made. Since then, through the numerous leaks and rumors this is another title that’s all but confirmed.

That’s it for my list. We are just days away and I’m excited to see what I got right, what I got wrong, and what I never would have thought of.

 

Pre-E3 Grinding

This was quite the week for pre-E3 leaks and first announcements. I’m starting to wonder what surprises we will actually see during the conferences. Between all the conferences and show room coverage throughout the week of E3 I know we will still get some great surprises and first looks. For now, let’s cover what we DO know:

1. Bethesda Announces “Fallout 76”: This was not a leak but rather a deliberate move by Bethesda as they trolled fans on their Twitch channel with a TV showing the “Please Stand By” message, found in other Fallout games, while a Vault Boy bobble head giving a thumbs up stood in the foreground. This teaser aired for nearly 24 hours, including overnight where they turned off the lights but left the TV on and turned the bobble head on its side, before showing the official trailer for the game the following day. It’s clear Bethesda had a lot of fun with the announcement though fans were left a little confused afterward. You can view the trailer here. Most of the confusion and negative reaction came due to the fact that the trailer gave very little context to what the game was about and leaving the expectation that we’d have to wait until E3 to learn anything else.

Since the trailer aired, new reports have emerged detailing the game as an online survival RPG with base building mechanics similar to that of Fallout 4. Unlike the most recent Fallout games that take place several hundred years after the nuclear war, Fallout 76 begins just 25 years after the war, before civilization had a chance to rebuild. This new game will put us in the shoes of the first vault citizens to step back out into the world and begin the process of rebuilding. There will be a story and quests that can be followed but the specifics of that have yet to be detailed. Bethesda’s E3 conference is just over a week away where we are bound to see more of this and more so we won’t have to wait long.

2. Nintendo’s Big Pokemon Announcement: Earlier this week, Nintendo and Pokemon Company had a press briefing on all the upcoming Pokemon news. The main point of this event was to showcase the “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” and “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!” games coming to Nintendo Switch this year on Nov 16th. You can view the trailer here. They are a sort of remake/spinoff of the first generation game “Pokemon Yellow” with catching mechanics borrowed from the hit mobile game, “Pokemon Go.” It looks to be a bit more of a casual experience than mainline Pokemon games but will likely serve as a bridge to get the Pokemon Go fan base playing the new games on Nintendo Switch. Those looking for a more traditional, core Pokemon experience will have to wait until the second half of 2019.This news doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Last year, there had been a Pokemon themed Nintendo Direct prior to the E3 event to announce “Pokemon: Ultra Sun” and “Pokemon: Ultra Moon,” then during Nintendo’s E3 digital presentation they had announced a Pokemon game would be coming to Switch in 2018 or later. Nintendo also likes to have a theme to their show floor presence which had been centered around “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” in 2016 and “Super Mario Odyssey” in 2017. Pokemon’s console debut makes perfect sense as it is consistently one of Nintendo’s best selling franchises. A case could have been made that the new Super Smash Bros. game would be the theme of the show and while it’s also a big franchise for Nintendo, it is not as widely recognizable as Pokemon. We’ll find out more during E3’s coverage.

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                  Image via Pokemon.com

3. Nintendo Leaks Again: Once again, in atypical fashion, Nintendo seems to have more information from their E3 presence leaked. The following photo showed up on 4chan which immediately means this should be taken with a grain of salt, however this image shows some already confirmed games along with some pretty safe bets.

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Image via 4chan

This is not an all inclusive look into what we can expect to see in Nintendo’s digital event but is what’s expected to be playable at the show for those in attendance. Surprisingly, Super Smash Bros. is not part of this list as Nintendo has already set the expectation that it will be playable on the show floor. We’ll know about these titles and more of Nintendo’s first party lineup in less than two weeks!

4. Assassin’s Creed Next Installment: Following some rumors, leaks and a picture of a keychain, likely to be packaged as preorder bonus or with a special edition of the game, Ubisoft confirmed the next installment in the Assassin’s Creed series will be titled Odyssey. Ubisoft have gotten in front of the rumors by releasing an incredibly short teaser for the game and confirmed that it is a sequel to last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins and will take place in Greece. All we know now is that the release is expected by the end of their fiscal year which concludes on March 31, 2019. The trailer only shows one man kicking another off a cliff in the style of the movie “300” then showing the game’s title with a line saying “See you at E3.”

These last few weeks have been littered with leaks and announcements leading up to E3. With only one week left until the official conferences begin and the show floor reveals after that it’s hard to tell if we’ll continue seeing the deluge of news or if we’ll enter the calm before the storm. Either way, I’ll be here to cover whatever comes up so be sure to check back in for news and reactions throughout E3.