The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds could have been a contender, but this promising space opera was over barely after it had begun.
Its story certainly isn’t short on scope. You play as the first-person hero and freshly defrosted interstellar colonist charged with saving the local solar system from starvation, genocidal fascism and imminent structural collapse. This action RPG allows you to develop your character’s combat, stealth, intellectual and leadership abilities as you acquire both a starship and a motley crew of loyal oddballs who just so happen to be capable of kicking all flavors of ass. The mission is simple: overthrow the ruthless corporate board, which serves as the colony’s de facto government, and save the lives of millions of colonists.
This game feels like a cross between Fallout and Knights of the Old Republic. The combat mechanics are tight, and players can fight with one- and two-handed melee weapons as well as a mix of handguns, long guns and heavy weapons, plus outfit the rest of their crew with the same. Each map offers tons of loot and challenging enemies to keep players busy as well. The problem is that there simply weren’t enough worlds to explore or secrets to uncover before the credits rolled.
What’s more, every map transition required a 30-45-second loading screen. This led to a lot of waiting around. It wouldn’t be so bad if the story took more than 30 hours to complete — and that included all the side, crew and faction missions. Seriously, I spent more time learning Gwent in The Witcher 3 than I did beating the entirety of this game. Fingers crossed that Obsidian is forthcoming with the DLCs to this wildly intriguing yet stunningly short universe.
I hear all of Andy’s frustrations, but after spending the past few weeks playing The Outer Worlds, I can’t help but love it. Maybe I’m a sucker for something that feels like a cross between Firefly and Mass Effect, but I almost instantly fell for the game’s gorgeous world design, well-written characters and humor.
While I’ve played huge open-world games like Fallout 4, I usually get bored by their complexity. The Outer Worlds gives me a decent dose of that experience while also simplifying things significantly. So sure, the environments might not be as large as other Obsidian games, but I appreciate their density and distinctive designs. The Outer Worlds lets me have a blast as a space cowboy, and that is a welcome respite from the world today.
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep
Five years into its life as a series, I approach every Destiny expansion with a sense of trepidation. For every release like The Taken King and Forsaken, developer Bungie has also put out disappointing additions like Curse of Osiris. Thankfully, the series’ latest entry, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, feels more like the former rather than the latter. It’s also the first Destiny release following Bungie’s split with publisher Activision.
At first glance, Shadowkeep suffers from Bungie’s diminished resources. The expansion features only a handful of story missions that, in classic Destiny style, obscure a compelling story behind endless technobabble. Moreover, for better and worse, Shadowkeep sees players revisiting the moon (you know, the place wizards come from), a location that was in the original game.
That’s to say, if Destiny hasn’t already sold you on itself, Shadowkeep won’t change your mind. Series veterans will appreciate the tweaks Bungie has added to the basic formula. However, Shadowkeep doesn’t do anything to make the game any more approachable than it was in the past. If you’re a new player, I question whether it’s a good place to jump into the experience. Instead of easing you into the game, Bungie has created a new player experience called New Light that more or less throws you into Destiny 2’s loot grind.
You’ll probably feel as lost as I did coming back to the game after more than a year away. But if you dig a bit deeper, what’s here is also Destiny at its most compelling and, more important, sustainable. Wisely taking cues from Fortnite, Bungie has introduced a new season pass that doles out rewards at a steady clip and a story that unfolds on a week-by-week basis. Both have helped keep me hooked on the game these past few weeks.
Overwatch on Switch
Overwatch has been my go-to game for the past three years. I’ve spent north of a thousand hours capturing points and pushing payloads on PS4 and PC. So the chance to play anywhere by tethering my Nintendo Switch to my phone was too alluring to pass up.
Blizzard changed up the controls for the Switch version by adding a tilt-to-aim option. I use the thumbstick for bigger moves and gyroscopic controls for precision. After tuning the sensitivity settings, my aim seems slightly better here than on PS4 (but it’s still garbage overall).
This isn’t an Overwatch-exclusive issue, but I find playing twin-stick games with Joy-Cons uncomfortable because of the right thumbstick’s position. I constantly adjust my grip and often accidentally hit the shoulder buttons, firing my weapon or triggering abilities at inopportune times. So I’m glad I picked up 8BitDo’s excellent SN30 Pro+ controller. It’s much more comfortable than playing with Joy-Cons and even supports tilt controls.
Lag is a more significant problem: I’ve found Overwatch’s latency over WiFi is higher on Switch than PS4 and PC. Character models can take 30 seconds to load while shots and abilities sometimes don’t register until after a noticeable delay. I could pick up an Ethernet adaptor for the dock and play on my TV, but that’d defeat the purpose of taking Overwatch everywhere.
On the plus side, Blizzard bypassed Nintendo’s terrible voice chat system: Plugging any headphones with a mic into the 3.5mm jack will work here. I’ve heard even fewer people using mics than on PS4 though, which I hardly thought possible.
I can’t imagine many players will take the competitive side of Overwatch too seriously on Switch. But for those like me who can’t stop playing, it’s a solid way to get a fix just about anywhere — as long as I have my SN30 Pro+ with me.