In my last commentary, I went off on how the mainstream press took the whole “loot box” controversy to a whole new low, claiming that games such as Forza Motorsport 7 would end up as a “free to play title that you paid $60 for.” In addition, I called the FUD crowd out about Middle Earth: Shadow of War’s loot box system and how it’s been reported that gamers are forced to pay actual money to complete the game, and how I would see how it turns out in the end leading up to my official review of the game.
I will mention that I am now at the much-criticized Act 4, which is where the controversy takes place. The act is a gauntlet of stronghold defenses which require you to build up your army to compete. Of course, everyone thinks that you must buy gold to finish this, but that is not the case. I found out that gold can also be earned by completing daily challenges, or you can just grind and earn tons of Mirian to succeed. That is what I have been doing, and am currently on Stage 4. To make my point known on Twitter, I have been using the hashtag #Didn’tSpendADime to those who question me.
But again, I am proving to those who just want to jump on a fear bandwagon: you DON’T need to spend real money on these loot boxes!
I will go into that more in my upcoming review, but while we’re on Shadow of War, let’s talk about the whole “single player games are dead” movement.
Recently I came across an article from a site I prefer not to mention. The headline said that single player games are dead, “and that’s fine.” The author only based his claims over the way EA shut down Dead Space studio Visceral Games, and I find that him making the dying single player market assumption to be an insult. Keep in mind that it was Electronic Arts that closed down Visceral, which was much more accurately reported by our own Chella Ramanan. She fairly addressed this issue, along with valid concerns, and I know she also loves single player games, so is of like mind with me on that.
But let’s look at EA’s history before we get too panicked about having to play multiplayer shooters as our only game of choice. This is a company that has always centered around games that favor multiplayer, such as Madden, FIFA, and the Battlefield series. But they are just one publisher. Look at all of the other publishers that are out there, still making great games that center on the single player market.
We go back to Shadow of War, a WB Games product. Sure, there is an online component, but it follows a mobile game based formula of taking on another’s players pre-determined stats and their automated armies. It is not like we are going sword to sword with one another, and in the end, it still feels like a single player game. Ubisoft already has South Park: The Fractured But Whole out, a single player RPG/tactical strategy hybrid that is selling quite well with NO sign of any multiplayer, and by the time this column gets posted, Assassin’s Creed Origins will be released to the public. Is there any sign of multiplayer in that game?
Correct Lana, there are online features in Origins, but no multiplayer game content at all! And then we come to Bethesda, glorious Bethesda. They are publishing one of my most anticipated games of the year, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. It should be out by now, which is why I secretly wrote this column early. I’ve got Nazis to kill!
With the release of Wolfenstein II, Bethesda continues a trend that makes them perhaps one of my favorite publishers in the entire game industry: they are releasing top-quality first-person shooter/adventures without any thought of multiplayer at all. The same is true of their recently-released The Evil Within, which offers a compelling single-player narrative (which is also quite spooky from what reviewer John Breeden tells me) in a first person, adventure type format with a mix of scripted, closed levels and more open world-like towns to explore.
Sure, they had multiplayer in DOOM 2016, but thankfully it was done completely separate from the main game. Wolfenstein 1 and its expansion, The Old Blood, were completely single player experiences, and I was very happy with that. And much to my delight, The New Colossus is going to continue with that tradition, as Tommy Bjork from Machine Games recently stated:
“The only way we can create these super immersive narrative experiences is if we can solely focus on the single-player. Having a multiplayer component in this work process would just dilute it all. That’s the danger if you try to do two things at once… It’s a fictional setting, of course, and it’s a crazy story, but we tried to stay honest and tell it as honestly as we can. That’s our goal… We’re definitely pushing the limits, but at the same time continuing what makes Wolfenstein really special: the drama, the human relationships, with dark humor and violence.”
I just want to say, thank you Tommy. I really wish there were more developers that would think the same way you do. If only we could hear more from folks like you, as well as the Bethesda’s, the CD Projekt Reds, the Monoliths, and even the TellTales Games of the world. If we did, gamers might not be getting panicky about losing their beloved single-player experiences. We need to show everyone that great gameplay and a good story, wrapped into a compelling single player experience is still highly desirable by those who play and love videogames. The death of single player games is not, and will never “be fine.” Thankfully, it’s also completely untrue.
Now to dive into a marathon of Wolfenstein II gameplay just to further prove this point. See you in a couple weeks…
Currently Playing: Middle Earth: Shadow of War, South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Waiting For: Assassin’s Creed Origins, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Xbox One X
UPDATE 10/26/17: After writing this column, I was able to complete all ten stages of The Shadow Wars (aka Act 4.) The whole experience took me a total of eight hours, and for those who are questioning it, no I did not spend a single dime on loot boxes. This just shows once and for all that the whole loot controversy is taken way out of proportion!