E3 2017 has come and gone if you don’t watch mountains of pre-release coverage, and it has revealed to me some hard truths about the video game industry. In the midst of all the elusive content, exciting reveals, and misleading trailers, one company was so horribly smug and blatant about its anti-consumer practices. It was Bethesda.

It’s really shocking because just two years ago, Bethesda was lauded as a pro-consumer company. They created vast single player games with boatloads of content, they generally had high-quality releases. They were honest about their game’s content. Bethesda trailers show genuine gameplay that strongly resembles the final product, and in an industry that spends millions on CG trailers. Yet, it only takes a few, really repulsive decisions for your fanbase to do a complete 180.

When Bethesda announced the Creation Club, a system that allows people to pay for tinkering for video games, they essentially confirmed that they are charging people for modifications to their games. As much as Bethesda attempts to paint this as “necessary” and as a “gift” for the fans, its transparency is obscenely blatant. May I remind you that mods for any PC game have been free and community made since the dawn of PC gaming. And this is also a reminder that mods are essential for a game’s longevity and end up doing a great job of selling a product. I personally never would have bought Fallout: New Vegas if there wasn’t a mod that fixes a majority of its bugs and crashes on my computer. Even though I bought it 75% off on a Steam sale, some money is better than no money for a company. New Vegas was also a 5-year-old game at the time of my purchase, and many developers wish their games endured such longevity of sales. Skyrim would not be the 10th highest selling video game ever, and 3rd highest selling standalone game if it were not for mods.

Gross. Abhorrent. Repugnant. Other pretentious words.

The fact that Bethesda believes it can fool any of its hardcore audience with this is downright insulting. The core of their fanbase are dedicated, often PC focused gamers who are savvy when it comes to purchases regarding software. They know superfluous details and can see through this scam. In fact, most people can, as evidenced by the astounding amount of dislikes on Bethesda`s Creation Club YouTube trailer.

The gall of Bethesda to charge its passionate fanbase even after previous transgressions shows a company that is shockingly out-of-touch with its audience. It feels like grandpa took the wheel on the company and the capitalist zeal overtook Bethesda. Bethesda used to be a company that prided itself on selling games that guaranteed players got plenty of quality content for full-price. They took their time releasing their games, but people appreciated the effort and honesty.

But things have taken a really bad turn. Bethesda`s downward fall from fantastic Public Reception to the vitriol they currently face is nobody`s fault but their own. Other than a few outliers who were dissatisfied with the buggy experience of Bethesda games, the overall perception of the company was positive since the release of Morrowind in 2002.

Morrowind: The internet’s baby

SO WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE, LET US CUE THE SERIES OF EVENTS THAT TRANSFORMED BETHESDA FROM THE THE INTERNET’S BABY TO THE INTERNET’S DRUNK UNCLE.

2015 saw the release of Fallout 4 late in the year, which was one of the multitudes of open world games released that year. Because of this, Fallout 4 became the subject of comparisons to other open-world games. Fallout 4 suffered great scrutiny when compared to Witcher 3, Mad Max, Just Cause 3, and many other games released that year. The antiquated qualities of an outdated game engine and their refusal to improve themselves on the technical end became apparent. People were willing to forgive Skyrim when it first released in 2011 because, for a few years, all anybody would make were online multiplayer first person shooters. It is what the “FOCUS GROUP OVERLORDS” deemed most profitable. Skyrim came at a time to disprove and shake the gaming industry with new trends. Skyrim likely started this glut of open-world games, as “endless amounts of content” is appealing to a consumer. However, for Fallout 4, many of Bethesda’s “quirks”, became real issues for many people. As the amount of open-world games gradually increases, the quality of them increases as well. Fallout 4 felt like it was still stuck in 2011 – four years behind its competition. Its fetch quests were boring, its graphics were underwhelming, and the “RPG” aspect was gutted in favour of making the player feel like “le the super badass ecks dee XD.” Is my bias showing?

Yet, in 2016, Bethesda decided to re-release Skyrim with updated graphics for the PS4 and Xbox One. This is an understandable business move, as there may be some people who may want to play Skyrim on a console, but never had the chance beforehand. However, this release was botched with three major problems. Firstly, the game was full-price for a remaster of a five-year-old game. The second issue was that the remaster, despite being released on significantly more powerful hardware, continues to run at 30 frames per second. And the last issue, and what I personally find most egregious, is that the game shipped with even MORE bugs than the original. They simply updated the graphics and didn’t bother to playtest or make any alterations. The PR, business-like response to this is “we desire to emulate the experience that everybody first had”, which is complete garbage. If people wanted the original experience, they can buy Skyrim on Steam for $7.50 on sale. And if Bethesda truly means this, then they would never have bothered to create the remaster. It was an outright cash grab to suck in new customers who may have been uneducated and clouded by the positive bias towards Skyrim.

Skyrim is perfect. No problems at all.

To this, you may say, “well, isn’t it the people’s fault for not doing their research or watching any reviews?” Why thank you for asking that question, nobody, as Bethesda themselves implemented a Review Embargo system. This prevents reviewers from getting review copies from Bethesda and notifying people before the game releases of its quality. Do you believe this is a scummy act to prevent the average consumer from hearing negative feedback like they did for Skyrim Remastered? Well, Bethesda sure doesn’t! The excuse that Bethesda provided was that they want gamers and reviewers to experience it all at the same time and that everybody should have the same start!

This is dumb. On many, many levels. First of all, they are attempting to silence criticism. What does that say about the company? If you cut off a man’s tongue, it doesn’t show you have power, it shows you are scared of them. Bethesda attempting to silence their audience breeds animosity and a lack of communication. It shows that they do not care about the individual, and only seem to care about profits. This is obvious for a business, but to create more profits, a company wants to establish a positive connection with their audience. This act just ostracizes them and potentially repels prospective sales.

Another reason this review policy is idiotic is that it negates PRAISE for their games, not just criticism. Bethesda is so scared of people saying hurtful things, that they are willing to shirk off compliments to their products. And as I have said earlier, Bethesda used to have a glowing image in the gaming community. There are still some apologists out there trying to justify their anti-consumer actions. What is even more terrible, is Bethesda prevents review copies to legitimate reviewing industries like IGN, Gamespot, and Giant Bomb. But…the freelance YouTubers who are willing to say any positive words for review copies and Bethesda fun bucks get an early copy! This isn’t flagrantly scummy whatsoever! Random people on YouTube with microphones can say as many positive things as we want because we pay them! Yay!

And furthermore, this has caused nothing but backlash towards Bethesda. If you deny the largest corporations and critical YouTubers copies of your game, that doesn’t bode well for your company. You may forget that you can halt their copies of the game, but you cannot halt their words. Bethesda is foolish for thinking their actions would not have repercussions within the gaming community, and that this news wouldn’t spread like wildfire. They are foolish for thinking their core audience of savvy gamers would somehow remain ignorant. Those same companies you denied a review copy? They made articles saying that you denied them copies and what your reasoning is. Bethesda honestly couldn’t have expected to get away with this business practice unscathed.

IGN, Gamespot, Kotaku, all giving negative opinions of this policy.

The newest game to come out after this review policy, Prey, has taken a hit in its initial sales, because people are tentative about it, or they do not have any knowledge of it. Prey eventually sold a lot more once reviews came and YouTubers began to cover it and give it free advertisement, but the initial slump does show that gamers aren’t completely suckered into money grubbing tactics. Not completely.

All I can say Bethesda, is that my ancestors will be smiling on me. Can you say the same?

 

 

ARMS lets me fill out this childhood fantasy I’ve engrained in my subconscious since I was a baby. I can become the real-life equivalent of Lanky Kong, the greatest video game character ever.

ARMS is the newest IP from Nintendo since Splatoon, and it seems they have also taken a lot of the art style from Splatoon as well. ARMS continues the sleek, cartoon aesthetic that Nintendo has been using to ensure their graphics never look date/mask their inferior technology. However, I do think it works well for the setting of ARMS because it doesn’t have any deep lore or mature content. ARMS feels like a stupid Saturday morning cartoon that I would tell everybody is stupid, but shamefully find enjoyment out of. The game just looks, so silly, and I had no intention of ever picking it up. It looked like the combat’s depth was skin deep, and that its motion controls would swiftly get old and tiring.

But after three hours of the Global Testpunch, I have found a weird love for ARMS. I found that playing with friends, and taking turns in its fantastic lobby system and quick matches, led to some genuinely great fun and intense fights. But, I don’t think I would enjoy playing it alone. I really enjoyed playing with the motion controls, but being cognizant of how stupid I look flailing my arms around, in a room by myself, with nobody around me fills me with great shame.

Luckily, the full game allows you to play without the motion controls, which, to some, may give these people an advantage, but Nintendo has done something clever with the combat in ARMS. When you throw a punch in ARMS, it doesn’t immediately reach your opponent. The punch slowly floats in the air to your opponent. It takes nearly a second for a punch to reach them if you are across the screen. When you input a command, you are committed to it. This isn’t a fighting game where you can mash buttons and expect a multitude of punches to come out. Once you input a button or punch in real life, you are committed to that punch, and the only input you have is the direction it travels in.

Deliberation is built into ARMS’ design, and, as somebody who’s favourite part of fighting games are the mental battle between you and your opponent, I absolutely love. ARMS takes away execution and focuses solely on the one-on-one battle between you and your opponent. If an opponent in ARMS is predictable, countering them is incredibly easy by noticing their tendencies, and adapting to it.

I’m not that great at fighting games, aside from Nintendo’s other premiere fighting game, Smash Bros., so the simpler movements and emphasis on mental battles are a perfect fit for me. Being able to read your opponent, clutch out certain situations, and expose their weaknesses is what is so thrilling to me about this genre.

But…I am scared of ARMS’ future. I am skeptical of how deep the combat actually is. Will there be advanced techniques and legitimate playstyles that can form? Or is there too much emphasis on 50/50 situations and guesses? Is dodging too powerful? Or can dodges be read and responded to accordingly? All of these hypotheticals will be answered in the future, but I am curious about how the metagame for ARMS will develop.

In fighting games, there is something called “The Triangle”. It is like a game of rock-paper-scissors and is fundamental in any fighting game. It goes as such:

Attacking Beats Grabbing

Grabbing Beats Blocking

Blocking Beats Attacking

It’s a fairly simple system and acts as the base for fighting games. ARMS, arguably, puts too much emphasis on this triangle and doesn’t give many options to escape its rigidity. There is a dodge mechanic to spice up combat, but can that option become too predictable? Are there enough advanced movement techniques to add more depth to combat? Or will it turn ARMS into a guessing game, almost entirely of luck?

Of course, all of my fears are speculation of a prospective future. I’m sure ARMS will cause enough attention for the Nintendo Switch until Splatoon 2 releases in July, and I’m likely going to pick ARMS up. I want it because I won’t play it competitively, nor will I go to the inevitable tournament scene that will form (and Nintendo won’t pursue.)

The main reason is just how accessible it is to anybody. During the beta, only hour long sessions were offered, but it felt like we got a bountiful amount of content in that short amount of time. The lobby system in ARMS guarantees that you are almost always in a match, and there is minimal wait time until you play. The waiting for online matches cripples a lot of my enjoyment with the online feature. ARMS makes it feel like it isn’t wasting your time, and you can immediately get to what you want.

And the most uplifting aspect of ARMS’ online was how seamless it was. I have PTSD from the atrocious net code of Smash Wii U, and I was skeptical how Nintendo would handle it for a fighter like ARMS. And, I can confidently say this, I experienced zero latency issues with an average internet connection. That is phenomenal, and pretty much cemented my purchase for me.

So is ARMS deep? Maybe, but I know that it is a ton of fun.

And Min Min is the best, no contest.

Edit: MR. YABUKI SAVED ARMS COMPETITIVE ALL OF MY CONCERNS WERE WRONG

You ever want to play Dungeons and Dragons, but you don’t want to memorize hundreds of pages of rules and adhere to strict systems? Yet, despite this you are still intrigued by the endless situations of Dungeons and Dragons and its variants? Well, Tales of the Arabian Nights is essentially DnD, but it has its own book of stories for you to follow…and a board instead of imagination to constrain the game space…and select characters and limited attributes to choose fro- you know what? It’s not like DnD, but it does teach you about a lot of fantasy tropes and constants across board games, while also stirring the imagination to conjure up your own tales.

Arabian Nights is a board game that is past the simplicity of Monopoly, but is not quite on the upper echelon of complexity like Arkham Horror. It is the nice middle-ground that acts as an entryway into more in-depth and interesting board games.

Another GOAT board game

GAME PREMISE

Every player starts in the middle of the map, the town of Baghdad. Each player is then given a quest. These quests can range from being betrayed by your brother and having to hunt him down on a remote island, to you travelling the world, tasting various cuisines. All of these quests serve to provide you rewards, and the most important pieces to winning the board game: Story Points, and Destiny Points. At the beginning of the game, each player must decide beforehand how many Story and Destiny Points they need to win. All that matters is the both of them must add up to 20. So a player can choose to set their goal as 10 Destiny and 10 Story points, or 19 Destiny Points, and 1 Story Point. Quests offer a multitude of these points, and other rewards like positive status effects and treasures. Through progressing to different locations, each player experiences different events that reward or punish them depending on their actions. The first player to meet their Destiny and Story point requirements and subsequently return to Baghdad, wins!

Tales of the Arabian Nights is not a competitive game between friends. The game has a clear goal that facilitates any player’s quest and journey. Do not expect to betray a close friend and ruin their progress much to your delight. In fact, everybody’s journey is almost entirely separate from one another. Other than a few status effects and quest requirements, not much encourages another player to punish another. Some people may not like this friendly atmosphere, and they may ask what the purpose of playing with friends are if you aren’t cooperating or competing.

However, the joy of playing with friends comes in the absolutely ridiculous situations that players can get into. The best part of Arabian Nights, and what truly elevates it above other board games for me, is the included “Book of Tales.”

The Book of Tales contains more than 2000 different possible scenarios for the player to encounter. At the start of a players turn, they always encounter a situation or a monster. This can range from something simple like a cave, to a devilish Djinn. Once you encounter this, you are often given a list of options to take. After making your move, you are rewarded with a conclusion from the Book of Tales.

My favourite situation was an encounter with a “voluptuous sage.” I chose the “Propose” option while lacking any charismatic skills. Rather than winning her with my non-existent charms, I was thrown into jail for attempting to solicit royalty. For my next three turns, I had to come up with ways to escape prison. I tried to attack the guards first, but that only led to a gruesome beating where I was on the receiving end. I tried to grovel for freedom, but then they laughed at me. So, for the third time, I got desperate, and I implemented my charming abilities again, trying to seduce the heterosexual guard. The result (out of sheer luck), was that the guard got to their legs and begged me to stay, as my beauty was something that could not be kept from the world. I was set free from life in prison, by lying about being attractive. That’s amazing.

The jubilation in Arabian Nights comes in seeing what stories you come to. Something I like to do with my friends, is at the end of the game, recap every ridiculous situation that we got into. One of my friends tried to sail the seas, but washed up on the shore four times in a row. It was a legacy of failure. Another friend found a hippo that turned into a beautiful lady that assisted in him becoming the Sultan of Baghdad. There are countless scenarios that can come out of the Book of Tales. The Book of Tales also accomodates for every action the player takes as well. You could encounter a genie, and grovel to gain its favour, or you could also attack the genie in an attempt to convey dominance. This is the same encounter, but the player chooses a different option. The encounter can also have an adjective put to it as well to add even more variety. This genie could be tricky, or it could be lustful. This adjective gives them a different quality and a different potential outcome as well.

The only issue with the Book of Tales is the fact that its massive variety means that you could get conclusions that don’t logically follow from its premises. A player can encounter a beggar and then choose to aid them, but the conclusion will lead to the player stopping a group of bandits because of their strong faith. These moments thankfully don’t happen too frequently, but when they do, they can demolish immersion.

Another issue is how long the game takes to set up and complete. If everybody is not on board for Arabian Nights for a minimum of three hours, you will be subjected to a sub par experience. The ridiculous situations don’t compound enough if playtime is cut short, so people can go their entire experience without anything remarkable happening to them. It is a game where some can have a great time, and others wonder why they even bothered showing up. Tales of the Arabian Nights isn’t very welcoming to newcomers, as it can take them quite a few turns to grasp the standard turn cycle. This can compound with the aforementioned issue and create an even longer, unmemorable play session.

What I imagine every combat encounter to look like

My least favourite part of Arabian Nights has to be the abundance of “city” encounter cards. When it comes to drawing the encounter card, excitement rushes through the player. It’s a mystery what they will get and how they adapt to it. However, this excitement is immediately squashed when, instead of drawing a unique location or mystical creature, you get a card for a City on the game board. These city cards give the player a reward if they move their piece to the city. I understand their purpose, as they are meant to give more direction and purpose to traversing the game board, but the ratio of city cards to unique, encounter cards is about 1:3. What is so terrible about these cards, is that when you draw a city card, your turn immediately ends. This means that you can be playing with five other people, eagerly waiting in anticipation for your own hilarious or jaw-dropping scenario, and you are met with hard disappointment. I have witnessed this disappointment overtake one of my friends when, in a group of 6 people, they drew a city card four times in a row. This was 30 real-life minutes of them having nothing interesting happen to them, and for a board game, which has the principle of entertaining and involving everybody, is wholly unacceptable.

And yet, despite the stalling that can occur, this game is still the perfect gateway to more complicated board games. If you see people in the mall or in a game store playing games that look incredibly elaborate with hundreds of pieces, know that you don’t need to begin there if you want to get into complex board games.

Personally, Tales of the Arabian Nights was my gateway drug into the mystical world of board games that I never knew existed. I always believed board games consisted either of mainsteam crowd-pleasers like Monopoly or Clue, or untouchable $1000+ investments like Warhammer and Dungeons and Dragons, know that there are fantastic board games out there with oodles of content like Tales of the Arabian Nights for a decent price. I picked it up for 60 dollars, and after 100+ hours of great content, I can recommend the game without hesitation.

(I play board games so I don’t watch anime and become a weeaboo.)