Blizzard’s games are about to become a lot less crowded. After failing to pen another agreement, Blizzard and NetEase have (mostly) parted ways. The breakup means that the former is now forced to close down almost all of its games in China.
Because of the different policies in China, Blizzard has to reply on a local partner to distribute their games in the country. For almost a decade and a half, the developer’s partner has always been NetEase, one of the biggest names in Chinese gaming. Initially, the two companies’ deal ended in December; however, Blizzard sought a six-month extension to seek for a more long-term deal with either NetEase or another client.
While Blizzard on Weibo expressed regrets for the lack of a deal, NetEase is less than happy at being painted a villain amid the commotion. In a separate Weibo post (translated via Wowhead), the Chinese company opened about Blizzard’s persistent search for another client while maintaining a shorter relationship with NetEase. The company likens it to “riding a mule while looking for a horse” or a “divorce while still [trying] to live together.”
In a more brutal fashion, NetEase showed more emotion about the separation by physically shattering Blizzard’s orc statue in NetEase’s offices and streaming them doing so. The company also released a new drink called Blizzard Green Tea in its shop. (The term refers to a modern insult which refers to someone who acts innocently but has more lascivious motivations deep inside.)
As a result of the catastrophic separation, Blizzard has shut down its major games in the country including World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, and Diablo. Of note, Diablo Immortal remains untouched because of a separate deal with NetEase.
Forspoken review: Outspoken with little to speak of
Wait for a sale
It doesn’t take a lot to create a decent roleplaying game. All you need is a fish-out-of-water character, a vast open map, and a seemingly endless list of objectives. Though it has all three, Forspoken struggles to keep up with its pretenses as a Western roleplaying game.
First, the good
Credit to where it’s due, Forspoken is a fun game for the first few sections. Exploring the incredibly huge map with magical parkour is enjoyable. Eclipsed only by Elden Ring’s Torrent, magic parkour is one of the most innovative ways to quickly traverse large distances, especially after learning more advanced techniques.
Likewise, fighting balanced enemies with limited powers provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes in Athia. Neither the player nor the first enemies feel overpowered.
Unfortunately, the game’s novelty quickly evaporates after you figure out that you have to repeat the same motions dozens upon dozens of times. Forspoken’s map is much larger than it ever should have been. Though abundant in number, every point of interest is separated by large distances, some platforming challenges, and a battle sequence. The greater map is empty. Do this over and over, and the game gets stale quick. With adequate rewards, this shouldn’t be a problem, but Forspoken also suffers from a communication issue.
A communication issue
For most roleplaying games, completing an objective on the map usually nets palpable rewards for the player: a significant experience boost, new skills, new gear, or a bag of loot. An open-world game necessitates a lot of exploring. Even if a game is repetitive, earning substantial rewards is satisfying, at least. Forspoken does not have this — not in an easily discernible way, at least.
Treasure chests, which account for most of the points of interest on the map, reward players with a litany of crafting materials. Most of which will go unused because the game doesn’t easily tell players how to use them. After a dozen hours of collecting materials, I had a wealthy cache of each ingredient to make practically anything. Even then, I had little idea where each one went.
The map’s major rewards — new cloaks, new nail arts, and experience — also do little to explain how Frey improves with each completed objective. Clearing out an enemy camp, for example, rewards players with +1 magic. The game does not tell you how much damage that conveys. Certainly, after completing a few of these, Frey feels stronger, but it’s not easy to see how much stronger, especially when most enemies are bullet sponges with absurd health pools anyway.
Plus, these don’t even scratch the surface of objectives wherein the main reward is literally just a lore dump you have to read from a menu.
Difficulty shouldn’t always mean more enemies
Another issue with clearing out Athia’s large map is how Forspoken handles difficulty. Though there are options to adjust difficulty, the game relies on a limited bag of tricks to make it more difficult for players: increasing enemy health and quantity. In moderation, relying on this strategy works. However, Forspoken does this to an obnoxious level.
Prepare to fight five mini-bosses in one encounter for a lore entry. What compounds this issue more is an insane enemy health pool which causes encounters to last a lot longer than they should. One mini-boss encounter took me 15 minutes, even with appropriately leveled gear and the right spells.
Because of the sheer number of enemies, an encounter can stun-lock Frey for an absurd amount of time. The player can hardly prevent this since it relies on chance. Despite offering a wide array of moves, the risk of knockbacks shoehorn players into a slow run-and-gun tactic (which might not even play into an enemy’s weaknesses), instead of using each ability to the max.
On paper, Forspoken’s combat offers a fluid way to take down enemies by seamlessly switching between spells and moving through the battlefield with magic parkour. Unfortunately, an imbalance in enemy strategies bogs the game down in prolonged sequences that often reward players with only middling boosts.
A lack of optimization
For a game released on modern hardware, Forspoken took a while to launch. The game was delayed a few times. Given how delays often work, you’d think that it would release in a fairly optimized state. It’s not.
Though I haven’t hit major game-breaking bugs, there were a number of performance dips throughout the game. Even on performance-focused settings, framerates dropped to a standstill when there were high particle effects on screen. Frey constantly clipped through the terrain and found herself stuck on finnicky edges (which sometimes required reloading from previous saves).
The game is also dragged down by numerous cutscenes. Though not a bug per se, it’s not a great sign of optimization that the game has to pause for a cutscene just to show enemies arriving. For a game featuring fluid movement and combat, Forspoken often takes players out of the action by pausing for unnecessary cutscenes.
Better on sale
Overall, Forspoken is persistently flawed. However, amid the game’s shortcomings, the title still has an exciting combat and movement system. Plus, if you disregard the tedious open world, Forspoken’s linear story, featuring the wide range of abilities, are enjoyable. My interest always bounces back after beating one of the game’s main bosses.
Still, it’s hard to call Forspoken a game worthy of its AAA price tag. It might be better to wait for a discount.
The free PlayStation Plus Collection is going away
Iconic titles will no longer be available
Gaming subscriptions have brought a wave of notable titles to gamers on several platforms. However, as streaming platforms have shown as of late, subscription-locked content can disappear in an instant. In a surprise move, Sony is putting an end to its iconic PlayStation Plus Collection.
Back in 2020, Sony’s subscription service added the PlayStation Plus Collection, an easy way to play all of the most iconic titles of the past era. By paying for the monthly fee, players can access titles such as God of War and Bloodborne.
Surprisingly, Sony has announced that PlayStation Plus will no longer offer the PlayStation Plus Collection starting on May 9. Before then, subscribers can avail themselves of the titles and keep them in their libraries. Players who do so before May will keep their access to them as long as they are a subscriber.
After May 9, the subscription service will no longer offer these titles for free. Players have to buy them individually.
The cancellation is a monumental change for the subscription service. The current games catalog already features a revolving series of titles changing monthly. The Collection, which has featured the platform’s bestsellers over the years, was thought to be untouchable. It already made the price of admission worth it. That’s no longer the case.
The Collection, as it is now, includes: Batman: Arkham Knight, Battlefield 1, Bloodborne, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy, Days Gone, Detroit: Become Human, Fallout 4, Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition, God of War, Infamous: Second Son, Monster Hunter: World, Mortal Kombat X, Persona 5, Ratchet & Clank, Resident Evil VII, The Last Guardian, The Last of Us Remastered, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and Until Dawn.
Sony, Xbox, Nintendo are skipping E3 2023
Might hold their own events
E3 used to be one of the most anticipated showcases for the gaming community. However, since the pandemic, the event’s impact gradually shrank especially because of in-person cancellations. Now, despite the return of in-person events, E3 still has a massive uphill climb to bounce back from the past. This year, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have officially pulled out from the event.
For the first time in four years, E3 is holding an in-person event at the Los Angeles Convention Center this June. Unfortunately, according to IGN, three of the biggest companies to grace the show floor will not make an appearance for the event this year.
In an interview with the source, Microsoft says that Xbox will still hold a showcase around the same time. However, the company will likely skip the floor itself and hold its event concurrently in another location.
IGN also reports that Sony and Nintendo will follow in Microsoft’s footsteps and skip E3 this year. Nintendo usually holds its own Direct events online. Holding its own outside of an in-person event is just what you’d expect for the Switch’s growing library of games.
Sony, on the other hand, has not shared any official plans during June’s showcase yet. If anything, the PlayStation 5 is in for an optimistic year, given the console’s upcoming games. An exclusive event sounds possible, too.
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