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Aaaaaannnnndddd we’ve moved!

Hello Everyone,

Since the beginning, Last Token Gaming has been adamant in establishing themselves as an official video game review site. How do you start off that wonderful campaign? By creating an official website!

That’s right, Last Token Gaming has officially moved to a brand spankin new (and sleek if I may say so) website!

So if you want to keep up with us, please check out: http://lasttokengaming.com. Don’t forget to like our page…as well as follow us on Facebook and Twitter! We hope to see you soon!

 

Memo to Gaming Companies: Don’t do Review Embargoes!

By Jordan Nelson

It’s commonly said that knowledge is power. In today’s modern world, one might add that access to certain knowledge is just as important. After all, people who hold on to certain knowledge have a bigger hand to hold than you do. They could be sitting on pocket aces, or in some cases nothing at all. The problem is when people with this knowledge don’t share it, especially when it comes time to show their hand. In some cases we are blown away, while other times we’re infuriated. Today, I’ll be talking about one of the times that a big gaming company showed their hand, only to reveal they have nothing on the board.

I am talking, of course, about Assassin’s Creed: Unity. While the series has always had a good name, the release of this latest title may ruin it. Assassin’s Creed: Unity (ACU for short) was released earlier this month, and to most everyone’s surprise was a huge flop. The games that we have come to love and adore were now tarnished thanks to this newest title, which was riddled with errors, game crashing bugs, and some rather bad glitches. What went wrong? Why didn’t this game follow through in its predecessors footsteps? Of the many reasons one could point to, I believe one of the biggest was the unnecessary review embargo on the game that Ubisoft put out.

Prior to its launch, many game companies got to play ACU and experience these glitches first hand. Most of the time when something like this happens, the subsequent reviews will speak of the glitches, the company will halt production for a short while until most of these issues are resolved, and then the game will come out a little behind schedule but still be great nonetheless. The problem that occurred with ACU is that Ubisoft wanted to keep their precious baby clean. They didn’t want anyone to soil the name of their perfect child, so they had reviewers sign non-disclosure agreements. People reviewed the game, and presumably told Ubisoft about its problems, but as Ubisoft only heard the voices of a few they continued production unabated.

While we all like to think of games as works of art and storytelling, at the end of the day they are still a way companies make money. This is both good and bad for certain reasons. On one hand, it’s good in that the companies we like get funding to create more and more amazing stories for us to play. On the other hand though, it creates problems such as this. After the release of ACU, Ubisoft stocks went down nearly 13%. I can see them wanting to keep profits and a good name for themselves, but this was obviously out of line. The review embargo lasted through the launch date, prolonging even smaller reviewers from posting about it.

Since its release there have been a few patches for ACU, fixing some of the major game-crashing bugs. Ubisoft has promised more on the way to fix some of the smaller glitches, but should that have been an issue to begin with? Ubisoft has game testers, they have whole departments dedicated to it. The testers could not have missed these glitches and huge game-crashing bugs. Why did all of this come to fruition? Ubisoft claims that it was because ACU was their first Online Assassin’s Creed title, and that the added stress of creating a multiplayer online setting was too much and they had to focus on just getting the game out on time. With titles like Resident Evil, Rainbow 6, Splinter Cell, and Prince of Persia, I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t work out these problems by pushing the release date back a month or two. These embargoes hurt the players, the companies, and the stories that we love to play. The only thing that an embargo like this does is keep a company’s pride unscathed for a few short days.

The Day One Patch, and Why Not Preordering Isn’t Enough

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Can we please stop getting buggy games released before they’re ready?

It’s tiring, and almost mind-numbing, how often we’re seeing games released with bugs ranging from framerate issues to multiplayer matchmaking failing. There’s even been game breaking bugs that can lead to corrupted save files that erase hard drive data (a la Battlefield 4) or make it impossible to progress in the game (I’m looking at you Arkham Origin). Let’s not even begin to delve into games that have been delayed to work on issues, only to be released with other major bugs apparently not accounted for, like Drive Club.

Sadly, it’s only going to continue this way, and not only will consumers pay for it, developers will as well.

I mean, I get it; there’s a multitude of reasons, all of which I’m sure you’ve seen, ranging from storyboarding to level design. Add in the fact that publishers more often than not push aggressive deadlines to get the game released, and it’s not hard to be sympathetic to their plight. I’ll give them kudos for pushing through the impossible to get their game out on time.

Let’s not forget the insane portion of a game’s budget geared towards marketing, almost to the point where it seems to eclipse funds spent on development. Look at Destiny; how many live action trailers did you see compared to gameplay or storytelling trailers? All I got from those commercials were “This looks awesome, right?” more than “This is why the game is going to be good.”

It also doesn’t help when the negative press comes in. Especially with a major publisher, it feels like it becomes a game of who can be the scapegoat for this problem. Seriously, think about it; how many great developers have fallen into the abyss because a publisher thrust them under the bus? *cough* Rareware *cough*

Here’s one solution, dear reader: for the love of all things holy, stop pre-ordering games. Even if it’s from a developer you’ve come to trust for years, just don’t do it. Put your wallet back in your pocket and twiddle your thumbs to wait for the reviews to pour in. Then, don’t trust the reviews, and wait to hear readers have to say. After all, it’ll save you the disappointment of spending $60 bucks on a turd. Another bonus: its filth won’t even touch your console!

Though that strategy isn’t a cure-all, there’s some value in it, and here’s why. Publishers will do everything they can to keep you sucked in. Remember when Steelbooks became a thing? Or “over 60 minutes of exclusive gameplay when you preorder from x”? When it seems like we’ve, as one article I’ve read before, “have had enough”, they find some way to pull us in.

Telling you not to preorder feels like I’m telling you the responsibility is more in your court than it is in the publishers. Unfortunately, that statement holds truth; we as consumers have to shoulder the responsibility of demanding good games, because if we don’t try to curb this trend, we’re going to see it take a worse dip for wear.

What’s another way to approach the problems we’re experiencing? Community. Let me explain.

Social media, for better or worse, is a powerful tool that also has a huge influence over marketing. “Facebook promoted” ads that clog up your news feed are annoying, but these sites can be used for and against game marketing. Instead of sharing the cool new trailers that show us nothing about the game, we need to demand better, more comprehensive trailers that tell us what is actually in the game. Let’s use the power of social media to aggressively, and collectively say, “We’ve had enough of your shit!” Push for publishers to do more extensive QA testing and allow for more time to develop the game. Even better, ask for developers to take some time to sit down with the community and do live feedback talking about how the game is going well, or badly. Forget the hype train that’s been built up through extensive marketing.

THE PRODUCT IS WHAT SHOULD MATTER, NOT WHEN IT RELEASES.

Granted, I know some developers do this, and there are some bugs that do end up showing even though they’ve worked extensively on the game. I also get more often than not it feels like you’re just one voice in the darkness that won’t be heard, but I can assure you that if we band together as a community to voice our concern, it makes a bigger impact. We have the voice equally as much as we have the money, using the two together as a community can make a big difference. Just please, no console wars or just saying a “game sucks”; constructively point out the issues you see.

If you feel that even that’s not enough, put money into games that provide the quality and experience you demand out of gaming. There are a lot of great games out there that receive very little-to-no marketing that provide an amazing experience like Papers, Please or To the Moon. These games are amazing experiences that we’ve written extensively about here at Last Token Gaming.

Also, to the major publishers: stop putting the money towards marketing. It solves nothing and really gives us nothing but an alarmingly increasing reason to dislike you. Instead of telling us how pretty the game is going to look, or how much you want to revolutionize gaming with the same old gameplay we’ve experienced before (with a new coat of paint), let your body of work speak for you.

Plus, as a side note: don’t tell me that you’re going to prioritize DLC over fixing a broken game; that’s like saying “here’s a new shiny coat of paint for your shovel that’s still going to break anyway when you try bashing that zombie’s head in”.

Take your time making the game, and focus on quality instead of quantity. It builds trust, character and shows you’re more about the craft than you are about the money. Instead of pushing the model towards 18 months, let it go back to 3 years. More importantly, put the money into building the game and into making sure the game is truly ready.

Because really, this is what gaming should be about; quality, and community.

What We’re Playing This Week

By the Last Token Gaming Staff

 

Marshall Garvey: First off, apologies for my hiatus from last week’s edition! My Mac was hampered by an irritating adware virus, but fortunately I got that removed pretty quickly and am now back in action. The crux of my gaming time has been devoted to Red Dead Redemption as always, but in a much different way. Deciding to take a break from the main game, I popped in the second disc of the Game of the Year Edition I bought used at Gamestop in July. Unlike most bonus discs that simply offer DLC and special features, this one offers the same game all over again, but with a twist: Zombies. Lots, and lots, and lots of zombies. This mode, entitled Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, starts with John Marston’s family being infected by a stray walker. From there, he takes off on horseback to find that New Austin and its adjacent territories have turned into a westernized “Walking Dead,” with small groups of survivors desperately trying to repel waves of zombies. Even some of Marston’s acquaintances succumb to the infection and can only be put to rest with a final shot to the head. What I love about this mode is that it’s truly challenging and completely satiating. Weaving your way through a thicket of the undead can be genuinely frustrating (especially the Bolters, who crawl quickly on all fours and let out an irritating scream), but it sets up combat that’s even more fun than the original game. Running headlong into a crowd of them and using the automatic headshot is a riot, even more so when you charge in on your flaming horse of the Apocalypse. Best of all, Marston gets a whole new lineup of shit-talking quips to spout. Highlights: “I think I looted you the first time you died!” “Next time, try not believin’ in reincarnation!”

Isaac Smith: Well, I’ve decided to start working my way through Assassin’s Creed 2, which is, of course, way overdue. I’m amazed at how the AC franchise is really the first game that gives plausible 3D-ness to its environment. Mirror’s Edge felt like a 3D world made of flat surfaces, but AC buildings and walls have textures that are also important to observe and use to your advantage. Extra bonus: those artists finally get their work noticed! I’ve also started working through the PC port of Valkyria Chronicles. I love the art style and the gameplay is smooth and intuitive. I forgot just how awkward JRPG dialogue can be, though. But it’s okay, because giant mecha-tanks. Last but not least, I am ALWAYS playing on Reddit’s Flatcore Minecraft server. The admins put a ton of work into modding the code, and it’s amaaaazing.

Michael Mygind: It’s been quite a busy past week with work projects and a wedding to plan, and this week likely won’t be any different. But, I’ve still managed to make a little bit of time for playing and collecting new games. Lately, I’ve been hooked on playing Neo Turf Masters for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It captures the gameplay of the original arcade release and is shrunken down for the small screen without losing what made the original so good. This is a prime example of a sports game that shouldn’t be overlooked. This morning, I visited a local swap meet & picked up an Atari 2600 Jr. for $10, so I’ll likely be revisiting some of the games from my Atari collection. I also scored a copy of King of Fighters ‘95 for the Playstation and Metal Slug 4 & 5 for the original Xbox, satisfying my insatiable need for anything SNK/Neo Geo. I also picked up a $3 copy of Goldeneye 007 for the Wii. I loved the original, but haven’t looked into this version. So, I’ll definitely be in for a surprise when I play it this week.


Terry Randolph:
Finally getting around to finishing Sunset: Overdrive while enjoying the Halo: Master Chief Collection with friends on occasion. However, I’m more than ecstatic for Dragon Age: Inquisition based on what I’ve gotten to see and read. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to be really invested into a hardcore RPG…but I don’t know if I’m up to the 95+ hours of content the game provides if I try to go for everything. Still, as much as I loved/hated Mass Effect 3 (and more or less Dragon Age 2), I have high hopes for BioWare returning to form with Dragon Age: Inquisition. Also: Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire!

Review: “Doctor Who: Legacy”

By Jordan Nelson

Hi there, this is Jordan with my first piece for Last Token Gaming! Today we will be reviewing the mobile game Doctor Who: Legacy, a bubble pop game with a few twists.

In Doctor Who: Legacy you build a team of one Doctor and five companions. Each Doctor and companion have a color associated with them, which determines which bubble will do damage. There are five different character colors and a sixth color that heals the team. You can build a team entirely of one color if you want, but that will render the rest of the bubbles useless. This does however lead to a bigger damage output for that one color. Enemies have resistances and weaknesses to different colors.

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Characters have levels that you can gain. Each character can be assigned points into HP, Attack and Heal. Additionally, you can choose to play defensively or take the offense and be more aggressive. This, coupled with the character skills (ranging from swapping bubbles of one color to another, all the way to healing the team), adds a great variety of play. One of the other notable differences that Legacy has from other bubble pop games is that you can move the bubbles anywhere you would like, rather than just to an adjacent bubble. You are given five seconds to move the bubble you pick anywhere you want, displacing other bubbles as you go. The displacing of the other bubbles is how you can really make some great combos. The higher combo you score, the more damage or healing your team ends up doing.

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The storyline is a great narrative where the Doctor attempts to close paradoxical rifts that are forming throughout his timeline. There are also special levels that are released during the current episode of Doctor Who, so you can follow along with the TV show. The sound effects leave a bit to be desired, as they are the same ones used over and over again. On top of this, a noise plays every time you move a bubble AND displace a bubble. Overall, the game is fun, but since there is a whole section of the game (the Fan Area) that is only accessible if you pay a premium fee, I would say it does seem very skewed. Once you pay for the upgrades the game becomes increasingly easier, but still feels like it gets harder and harder until you are forced to pay extra money.

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This game is probably one of the most fun bubble games I have ever played. That said, I would give it a 7/10 because of the pay features and the sound effects. I recommend playing it with the sound off and your wallet mildly open.

The Clone Wars

(Before I get started: hello, everyone! Sorry it’s been so long since my last rant post. Glad to be back!)

I love the term “clone.” It’s so derogatory and dismissive. It’s the video game review equivalent of calling someone an asshat on the internet: “0/10 Just another clone.”

But here’s the thing: I enjoy playing clones. There, I said it. Maybe there are support groups for people like me.

I’m excited about Planets Cubed (Minecraft clone). I enjoyed Craft The World (Terraria clone). I enjoyed Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death (Final Fantasy and shameless Breath of Fire clones, respectively). I enjoyed Dust: An Elysian Tale (Megaman X clone), and Shovel Knight (another Megaman clone, but stealing more from the original). I love Saints Row III and IV, even though they’re just GTA clones. I could go on and on about the clones I’ve enjoyed (and I’m about to).

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What do I enjoy about these clones? Well, first: they’re well-made games. They have great art, wonderful storylines (most of ’em), well-developed battle systems, character development, balancing, and variety in strategy. A couple even have good voice acting (something I’m not sure FF can boast, even today). Now, if I had pitched these games to you and you hadn’t played a similar game earlier in your life, you’d probably think they’re great games! That’s intentional, of course: I picked the most successful clones out of the batches of clones that were cloned by their clone-y game developers.

But when we start implying things are knockoffs of other things that we enjoy, and they are somehow less worthy of our attention because of it, we’re undermining the medium of video games as a whole (and we’re being kind of ridiculous as well). I saw a comment on Craft The World that called it a “Minecraft/Terraria clone with a bit of Dwarf Fortress.” And I have to ask myself: doesn’t this irate clone-hater really mean: “This game has elements of Minecraft, Terraria, and Dwarf Fortress and yet cannot accurately be described by the characteristics of any one of them.”? Don’t a different art style, a different balancing, a different way of progressing through the game, a different set of enemies, a different tech tree, and totally different music and sounds give the developers enough room to weakly cry, “Hey, dude, I’m my own game!” before being drowned in a cataclysm of internet-hate?

Let’s talk about a great game: Final Fantasy 7. Obviously a fantastic piece of work and I know half the people reading this blog just got nostalgia-roused. Cloud’s seriously awesome. The game’s seriously awesome as a whole. What about Final Fantasy 8? Albeit not the most critically-acclaimed of the series, but a heavy hitter in its own right.

But it’s a clone. Look at it! It has Limit Breaks! It has summons! It has a taciturn, emotional main character. The guy’s name is even a meteorological term: Cloud? Squall? Clone, I say! Final Fantasy 9? Another one! They thought they were being clever by adding in that whole “Trance” thing, but let’s be honest, it’s just a gimmick to mask how much of a clone it is. Evil bad guy who turns out to be related to the main character? Way too convenient.

To be fair, Sephiroth wasn't into crossdressing.

To be fair, Sephiroth wasn’t into crossdressing.

Why is it when games that are really quite similar are made by the same studio, they get a free pass? We just call them members of the same game genre (which they are). But all of a sudden, when somebody else makes a game in that genre that resembles another game by somebody else (especially a critically acclaimed game like Minecraft), we cry foul and call it a clone of whatever game it’s most similar to, even when it’s much less similar to it than those FF games are to each other.

Though why are we stopping at video games? Bach’s a poser. His Fugue in G minor is just like his Fugue in C minor! That prelude in D? “2/10, Prelude in A clone.” Arthur Conan Doyle writes Sherlock Holmes finding and solving a mystery in every book! Not to mention, he’s not the first mystery writer. The whole series is a clone. He even used 95% of the same words that Dickens used. Van Gogh? Used a lot of the same base colors as Manet and Degas. Not to mention, he did dozens of paintings of haystacks. Sure, they might be different haystacks but that doesn’t stop them from being clones.

Okay. I think I’ve sounded sufficiently ridiculous. Here’s the point (at last):

When you call somebody’s game a clone, you are marginalizing and dismissing every ounce of work they poured into that game. YOU weren’t there when they got together and started building their engine. YOU weren’t there when the artist’s mom passed away and they had to quit with only half the assets done. YOU weren’t there during the coding, during the endless hours of debugging. YOU weren’t there when the lead developer’s car was broken into and their laptop was stolen. YOU weren’t there during the crippling self-doubt of the question, “Will this be successful?” YOU weren’t there when EVERY game studio who has ever made ANYTHING had to overcome the insurmountable hurdle of completing and releasing a game. And you think you’re justified in calling their efforts worthless simply because they aren’t completely unique from everything else that’s ever been made? Go make a game, even a simple one (even a “clone”), and get back to me. When you realize the magnitude of effort it takes to make a knockoff of something that came before you, you’ll consider the “clone” genre a little differently, and maybe even find it within yourself to enjoy them from an artistic perspective.

Video games are an artistic medium, like it or not. And when we rate things poorly because we deem them clones, we are telling artists everywhere that we don’t want different pictures painted with the same colors. We don’t want different stories told with the same words. We don’t want different recipes made with the same ingredients, no matter how tasty they might be. And I’m not okay with that.

So when you go to type your scathing comment on some internet forum about how a game’s a clone, ask yourself: did this game tell a different story? Did it challenge you in a different way? Did it look different, feel different, seem different at all? And then, if the answer to all these questions is truly and honestly “No”…

Still don’t post your comment. It just makes you an asshat.

What We’re Playing This Week – The 4th Edition

By the Last Token Gaming Staff

 

Michael Mygind – I was recently given back my old 9” Hitachi CRT TV from my parents that I used growing up. So, I’ve been having a blast playing retro games on a retro TV. I’ve also been digging through my NES library to play the classics and discover some new ones. I fought my way up to Bald Bull in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! and began playing Silkworm, an awesome co-op shmup with two different vehicles. Also, expect a console review of the Neo Geo Pocket Color and LTG’s very first arcade review, Ghosts ‘N Goblins!

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Terry Randolph – After having blitzed through Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare I’m just playing a few games until the Master Chief Collection I still need to complete Sunset: Overdrive as well as Alien: Isolation. If I need a break from those, I’ll continue tearing up the NBA with the Sacramento Kings in NBA 2k15!

Jake RushingI just picked up Lethal League (yay for half off) so now I’ll be playing that game as a way to destress after long days at work. It’s a fun party game to play with your friends. It’s like Super Smash Bros fused with Pong. It’s a simple and fun game with it’s own set of mechanics and features and yet it can be a terrific game. Since Sonic Boom will be coming on Tuesday, I’ll be picking the game up and play it for the sake of reviewing the game for the website.