Kenneth on Games: Supports in “XCOM 2”

Alessa “Heartache” Roberti was my best scout. She forged bravely ahead through unknown territory, fearless of any aliens ahead of her. When firefights broke out, she snuck around the side through concealment to clinch the killing blow on a crucial target, only to slink back into the shadows and do it all over again. But then she developed an addiction to grenades and wanted nothing more than to toss them around all day long. How was I supposed to balance a sneaky assassin with an explosive pyromaniac?

read more

Kenneth on Games: Sister Friede in “Ashes of Ariandel”

The DLC’s final fight has now taken the spot of my favorite Soulsian boss battle in the series, topping the Abyss Watchers. Sister Friede feels as if she deserves to be in Bloodborne with her high mobility and fast attacks. However, in Dark Souls 3 you don’t have nearly as much speed as a Hunter. Instead, Friede’s boss fight is designed in such a way that still makes you feel overwhelmed by her onslaught while also giving opportunities for a slow measly Unkindled to fight back.

WARNING: Boss fight spoilers, and in a Soulsian game that inevitably means story spoilers as well.

read more

Kenneth on Games: Dark Vision in “Dishonored 2”

When Emily was first revealed as a playable character in Dishonored 2, I was excited. I was less excited when it was shown that she would have completely new abilities. This wasn’t inherently a problem, but I couldn’t imagine playing Dishonored without the Dark Vision ability, which was now apparently limited only to Corvo. A while ago, Bethesda released a new trailer showing that Emily does indeed have Dark Vision. Why is this ability special enough to break the rule that each character has mutually exclusive abilities, and how does it tie in to the Dishonored experience as a whole?

read more

Kenneth on Games: The Nemesis System in “Shadow of Mordor”

When Shadow of Mordor came out two years ago, I thought its Nemesis System was going to be revolutionary. I thought all the major studios would be tripping over themselves trying to put their own spin on it. I thought there would be Nemeses in MOBAs and MMOs and FPSes and all sorts of games. I thought we were going to enter a new age of emergent narrative in pop culture. I thought wrong. Looking back at the way RPGs and stories have evolved over these past two years, why hasn’t there been anything in the AAA space following Shadow of Mordor’s footsteps?

WARNING: Slight ending spoilers.

read more

Kenneth on Games: Controls in “Vainglory”

Vainglory advertises itself as “the MOBA perfected for touch,” and to an extent, it’s true. Any MOBA player will immediately find themselves at home with the familiar minions-to-turret lane structure, a recall to shop button, and a jungle with a boss monster. Moving the genre to mobile actually seems to change very little about it, but is this truly the way to “perfect” a MOBA for a new medium? How can a new control scheme affect design?

read more

Kenneth on Games: Temperatures in “CodinGame”

Every few months, a new “learn to code” game hits the frontpage of Reddit. This time around, it’s CodinGame, which advertises itself as a system that’s not just for beginners, but also for more experienced programmers who can learn from each other. There are plenty of integrated social networks embedded in the game itself, such as rating systems for every coding puzzle. One of the lowest rated puzzles is called “Temperatures,” and I got stuck on this one for days. But what makes this puzzle bad, not from a programming perspective, but from a game design perspective?

read more

Kenneth on Games: Breach in “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided”

Considering that the latest Deus Ex is about being divided, people have reacted in a strangely harmonious manner. Everyone says that the level design is fun, the story is disappointing, the art direction looks great, and the microtransactions are horrible. But one aspect that the reviewers seem to overlook is Breach, an arcade-style minigame that shipped along with the base title. Breach offers a Deus Ex experience in controlled bursts rather than the sprawling campaigns we’ve come to expect, and this departure represents a fascinating new design direction, although perhaps not a good one.

WARNING: Spoilers for certain events in Mankind Divided.

read more

Kenneth on Games: Progression in “Final Fantasy XV”

The director of Final Fantasy XV has said in an interview that the first half of the game is open-world, while the second half is linear. At this point, anything they could possibly say that shows that the game is getting closer to release is good news. But Square Enix is practically the pioneer of the linear-start-open-end style, and they’ve stuck to it from Chrono Trigger to Final Fantasy XIII. What are they hoping to achieve by flipping the conventional JRPG structure on its head?

read more

Kenneth on Games: Multiplayer in “No Man’s Sky”

A while ago, I said that “it’s rare to see a game as divisive as Pokemon Go.” Apparently, I was wrong, because here comes No Man’s Sky and its angry lynchmob. This game has been hyped for years, and in a tragically predictable turn of events, the hype has backfired. One of the main points of contention is the lack of real-time persistent multiplayer, which is something that players have been expecting and the developers have been promising. But does real-time persistent multiplayer truly belong in the No Man’s Sky vision?

read more

Kenneth on Games: Myr in “Puzzle and Dragons”

Puzzle and Dragons is a strange case of game design. It’s a mobile game that’s as maliciously monetized as they come, but it’s built upon an amazingly deep mechanic that the developers seem to have stumbled upon by accident. Even with their latest updates, they struggle constantly to balance the two attributes of character-based statistics versus player-based skill. The latest content to hit NA is a dungeon where you fight against a half-dragon girl named Myr, and she introduces several new mechanics that force players to change the way they play… but for better, or for worse?

read more