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  • Let´s Talk About Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard

    The biggest gaming acquisition in gaming history doesn´t exactly thrill me. 2022 has barely begun and already the gaming industry has seen a massive shakeup. On January 15th Microsoft announced it had struck a deal to acquire game developer Activision Blizzard. It's a big story that everyone in the gaming industry and beyond has covered already. With how monumental this acquisition is I wanted time to mull it all over and wait for more information for a bigger picture before covering it myself. With that out of the way, let's dive into Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard. The how, the why. The past, present and future. The good and the bad. And, you know, my complicated feelings about the whole affair. The downfall of Activision Blizzard Activision Blizzard came to be in 2008 after the merger of gaming studios Activision and Blizzard (what a surprise!). Owing IP's such as Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft the company throughout the last 14 years grew to be the biggest player in the industry by market capitalization at an estimated net worth of 75.2 billion dollars in June 2021. With such a strong lineup of franchises and deep pockets, the company had nothing to fear, right? Yeah. No. On July 20, 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard after a two-year investigation. If I'd discuss the entirety of the investigation and the fallout we'd be here all day (read this Den of Geek article for all the details) but the core of it all is the following. Activision Blizzard cultivated a toxic work environment full of bullying, sexual harassment. Where a 'frat boy' culture had the overtone. It was bad. A woman died. Since then much more has come to light about the company. Some that were named in the suit were fired but mostly, CEO Bobby Kotick did nothing. Worse, he used his position to hush it all up. Others in the industry spoke out against Activision Blizzard and put continued partnership with the studio into question. Employees staged walkouts, started unionization efforts or just flat out left. The accusations made their way to the top brass. Kotick reportedly not only knew about the abuse for years but covered it up while participated in it himself. Threatened to 'kill' his assistant for example. Kotick even, reportedly, considered buying news outlets such as Kotaku to "change the narrative". Over 2000 employees signed a letter asking for Kotick's removal yet, even with all of this scrutiny, the board refused to give in to demands and Kotick remains CEO to this day. Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard Why would Microsoft put down billions of dollars for a company that's strife with scandal and slowly, but surely, imploding? Because of Microsofts continued efforts to become the nr 1. in the videogame industry and build out an entire ecosystem of its own. Become the Netflix of gaming through their Game Pass service. Typically, exclusive titles are what propel consoles. What pushes consumers to buy one console over the other. Where Nintendo has the likes of Mario, Zelda and Pokémon in their corner both PlayStation and Xbox have had troubles building up a library of exclusives. It's why Microsoft has been buying up lots of studios in the last few years. From promising indie studios to bigger ones, like Bethesda. To build out their list of exclusives without having to spend the time and money building up like Sony did with series such as God of War and Uncharted. With the popularity of Activision Blizzard franchises, Microsoft will add an impressive amount of franchises to the Xbox family that will influence gamers to buy into the Xbox ecosystem. Some people buy consoles just to play the new Call of Duty, for example. Even so, why buy Activision Blizzard at a time it's under such scrutiny? Because if it wasn't, they would have never had the opportunity to buy it. While Kotick has been going around citing reasons such as the disappointing sales of the latest Call of Duty as a reason to sell, the truth is, the scandal is what made the sell happen. Microsoft looked at the situation, all the negative press and the pressure, and saw this as an opportunity. While the scandals had yet to do any significant damage to the company, they settled the harassment lawsuit for an 18 Million dollar settlement, pocket change compared to their billion dollars net worth, they were in trouble. Their public image was down the drain and, as you've already read, the storm was far from over. It was up in the air if the company would be able to wither the storm so for the top brass like Kotick to be offered such a lucrative 'get out of jail free card proved irresistible. Get a few million and get out of that sinking ship. And that's what they did. My views on the acquisition With all of that out of the way, it's time for the subjective portion of this article. From the thumbnail, you can see that I'm not that thrilled by it. I have concerns about the deal but I can see some positives as well. Let's start by breaking down my misgivings. I understand that acquiring a studio with a strong library of IP´s under its belt is a faster way to build out your exclusives, but the matter of the fact is, they are taking games away instead of offering up more. 3rd party games have been called ´the great equalizer´ for a reason. That is because they released for both Xbox and PlayStation, giving players a steady stream of (AAA) titles to enjoy no matter which side of the aisle you are on. Phil Spencer has stated that Microsoft wants to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation but that's not a guarantee it will happen. Microsoft is going to make new games in established franchises, let's say a Diablo V, and make them Xbox exclusives. The acquisition also rings a lot of familiar bells. Disney bells. I just can't help but compare it to Disney buying Fox a few years back. I like Disney but the company has become a dominating force in the movie industry and that's not a good thing. I'm happy with the relative balance we currently have between the big three and I'd rather not see it massively disrupted. Especially not by a company that has more money behind it than God and could, in theory, simply buy its way to the top and push everyone else around. I'd rather not have that fear become reality. The silver linings? Well, first up, the acquisition will hopefully lead to a better working culture at Activision Blizzard. The company's previous statements in regards to improving working conditions have been rather hollow if you ask me. Reeking of typical PR jibber-jabber. With new management, from a company that doesn't show any sign of having such a toxic culture itself, there's hope for real change. The second: the individual studios that makeup Activision Blizzard are no longer forced to work on Call of Duty. As of last August, every single studio that makes up Activision Blizzard is part of the big Call of Duty machine. There are no other titles being worked on at the moment. Why do this? Because Call of Duty is a yearly franchise. In order to make that deadline, it is all hand on deck. Why does Call of Duty get this treatment? Because it's so lucrative (though not as much at the moment). Phil Spencer has, again, stated that he wants Activision Blizzard studios to work on multiple franchises and the days of Call of Duty being a yearly release seem over as well. I don't have much reason to doubt him on his word this time. It makes sense. They've been buying studios to build out their list of franchises. To have a massive list of content for GamePass. Why wouldn't they let these studios work on a wide variety of projects? I, for one, would be more than happy to see Toys for Bob go back to what they are good at.. 3D action platformers. Xbox got some work to do in this department and as the current owner of Banjo Kazooie and soon-to-be owner of Crash and Spyro they can work on getting stronger in this department. Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard is a big deal. The arguably biggest AAA 3rd party developer will be a 3rd party no longer. Big franchises such as Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft are now Xbox's to play with. For Microsoft to build out GamePass in their bid to make it the 'Netflix of gaming. I'm not too thrilled by this acquisition but it is early days. The deal still has to be approved by the American government and even then, the acquisition won't be completed until mid-2023. We won't know what the future of Activision Blizzard will look like as of now. I do hope though that Microsoft will improve working conditions at the studio, let them work on more than just Call of Duty and let some games come to other platforms as well.

  • Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl

    Faithful to a fault. When I was young, nearly every kid in school had a Nintendo DS and a copy of either Diamond or Pearl (DP). With how easy it was to connect the games over the DS' built-in Wi-Fi you bet we played these games a heck of a lot. From battling to trading to just playing the games while sitting together. Almost 800 hours was the playtime of my childhood Diamond savefile before I finally started up a new. It's all of these memories that made me very excited when Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl (BDSP) were revealed. However, from day 1, there were things to be concerned about. The poor-looking graphics and the 'faithful' buzzword in the marketing didn't give fans, including me, a lot of hope. It seemed like these games were going to be a one-to-one redo instead of the improved and reworked Pokémon remakes we've gotten in the past. Would they even be better than the 2007 releases? I think that BDSP are, yes, an improvement over the originals, but not by a wide margin. They stick very close to the originals while only bringing in some improvements, leaving something to be desired. Let's dive in. This is a core series Pokémon game so the story is just what you´d expect. You’re a 10-year-old kid who, after receiving their starter Pokémon, sets out on their journey across the Sinnoh region. Your goal is to become the best there ever was by obtaining 8 gym badges, becoming the Sinnoh Champion and completing the Pokédex. Along the way, you compete with your childhood friend and rival ´Barry´ while also dealing with the nefarious Team Galactic. The story is Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is fine. It's that basic Pokémon plot without many differences. And differences is the right word. BDSP's narrative is the exact same as the originals. No additions or adjustments have been made. That's my first gripe with these games. The narrative, especially if you keep in mind that the games are aimed at kids, isn't bad. A story that´s not taxing to follow, fun looking characters and whatnot. However, it is also rather lacking. The pacing is off. The big story developments are all lumped together while the rest is just. moving from one gym to the next without many interactions. Platinum, the third version of the original pair, fixed both these issues by introducing more characters, more story interactions and diving deeper into some of its main characters such as the big-bad Cyrus. By not including this Platinum improvement, these problems of the originals persist here. And this is a trend of BDSP; not including improvements made in Platinum. I've multiple problems with DP that make me hesitant to revisit them. The biggest is the very lacking Pokédex. Only 151 critters and not only that: the balance is off. For instance, there are only 2 fire types in the entire Pokédex including the Chimchar starter line. This results in a lack of variety for players when it comes to building your team. BDSP doesn't expand the Pokédex but does bring in more Pokémon through the Grand Underground. Pokémon such as Ralts, Houndoom (a Fire-type!) and Magnemite can be found in the Grand Underground as rare spawns and are catchable for you to diversify your team with. It's an improvement, but not a fix. This method comes with its own share of problems. Platinum's expanded Pokédex wasn't just advantageous to your team, but the teams of your opponents as well. Even in the late game, Team Galactic grunts still use the weak bug type Pokémon while some Gym Leaders and Elite Four members have Pokémon not of their type speciality because there are too few of them in the Pokédex. That has not been fixed here. Graphically the game is fine. Instead of using the same visual style as Sword & Shield this game instead opts for a chibi style that is more reminiscent of the pixel graphics of the originals. It's a controversial decision, but I'm fine with it. Where BDSP improves over Sword & Shield in the graphical department are the battle backgrounds. They are much more detailed than before, with many more layers and matching the overworld better. The gameplay for BDSP is unchanged. Exploration in the overworld, turn-based battle system etc. It's Pokémon, you know the drill by now. There are genuine problems with this system, like the pace at which it crawls by, but it has persevered for over 25 years for a reason. Catching Pokémon and building up your team and such. It´s fun and a good gameplay loop. Too bad these games are way too easy. Thanks to the EXP. Share you'll be over levelled which takes away the challenge in battles. I had trouble engaging with the game as I didn't need to think about what moves to use, which turned battles into a monotonous slog. However, to my surprise, there are points in the game which are genuinely challenging. The Gym Leaders and Elite Four are noticeably more difficult. Not just highly levelled but withheld items and strategies beyond 'hit hard'. I understand these games are, first and foremost, for kids but couldn't they at least give you the option to turn the EXP. share off? Yet another problem is that BDSP doesn't include all quality of life updates the series has made since the originals. For instance, TM's are back to a one-time-use and random encounters are back. A lot more frustrating and less engaging than the roaming model from Let's Go onwards. It's not an engine thing as in the Grand Underground and with Pokémon, Swarms are shown roaming in the overworld, so what gives? Oh, right. 'Faithfull remakes'. When in battle you also can´t view the stat changes the Pokémon undergo anymore, a UI change which I find rather annoying. Not everything in BDSP has a caveat to it. The Grand Underground is an improvement over the originals. In the underground, you dig for fossils, can make your own space, play a Diglett mini-game and interact with other players. They also introduce Pokémon Hideaways, rooms where Pokémon roam free. The Underground is much more seamless here as it was in the originals, no more mandatory saves, and the Pokémon Hideaways breathe new life into its exploration element while giving it much more worth. Pokémon Contests are more involved, more enjoyable than they were in the past. Walking your Pokémon is back which is always a fun addition and trainer customization is here as well. HM's are removed in the traditional sense. No longer bound to Pokémon moves, they are simply an app on the Pokétch. A smartwatch device that's a neat tool to your arsenal with many different applications. The switch from sprite-based to vector images for items and such is a small but welcome change. And the game has a surprising amount of little details and easter eggs. And the music! Before release, I really wanted to know how the updated soundtrack would sound and I'm glad to say it sound excellent. I always found that Diamond & Pearl's music was too ambitious, felt watered down on the DS. Now on the Switch, which can play actual musical instruments, it sounds really good. Conclusion I'm a big Pokémon fan with a lot of Pokémon experience under my belt. That made it very easy for me to pick BDSP apart. I would like to stress: this isn't an indication that Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are terrible games. They are unambitious and stick so close to the originals so that they fail to address many of the problems. They have a lot of caveats but none of the problems is that terrible in the grand scheme of things. The core of the game remains fun and strong and these games are enjoyable. I think Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are better than the originals, are enjoyable games and are a fine purchase for the younger crowd and/or if you know what you're getting into. They are better than Diamond and Pearl in my opinion. However, if you can, Platinum is still the definitive way to experience Sinnoh.

  • Let's Talk About My Top 5 Disapointing Games in 2021

    The games that disappointed me in 2021. When you make a list of your favourite games you played in 2021 then a list with the opposite can't be far behind, now can it? I played a lot of good, even amazing, games in 2021. I also played some that were... less than stellar. To be fair to 2021, and my own patient gaming habits, I didn't actually play a lot of outright terrible games. I did, however, play some games that left me disappointed. That left me hanging for one reason or another. Without further ado, and keeping in mind that this list is just my opinion and nothing more, let's dive in! Oh and if you want to read my review on all of these games, just click each entries image to be taken to their review. Numbers 5 & 4 are on this list for very similar reasons. They are games that aren't viewed very favourably by their fanbase while I was hoping they would either be underrated gems or laughably bad. However, they ended up being neither and that is what disappointed me, amongst other things. 5. The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword In the case of Skyward Sword, it was the by the numbers approach of its story. When talking about the Wii original, the motion controls is what people converse about most. That's the big reason people point towards when discussing why it´s ´bad´. I felt that the motion controls were indeed not as well handled as they could've been but I think this aspect overblown. Instead, I felt that the by the numbers nature of the game is what holds it back the most. Beneath all the shine is a very by the numbers and repetitive Zelda game whose motion controls are the only noteworthy change. It sticks to the formula with only minor changes, like the altered Link/Zelda dynamic and with a lot of backtracking (which doesn't bother me as much, but still). This is doubly disappointing when you consider Skyward Sword as the earliest Zelda game in the timeline. The 'origin' game, if you will. Lots of story potential was left untapped as a result of sticking so close to the formula. Skyward Sword isn't a bad game. I did enjoy it a fair bit, but it's by the numbers and repetitive approach underwhelmed me in the end. 4. Metroid: Other M With Metroid: Other M, I'm disappointed by its general execution. I saw that the big reason people disliked it was for the very bad story. One that paints a very unflattering picture of series protagonist Samus Aran. I, however, didn't know much of anything about Samus or the world of Metroid really (Samus Returns is far from a story-heavy romp) so I wondered how the story would hit for me. Even more intriguing was the flipping control scheme, a result of the game combining 2D and 3D gameplay. As you can guess by, well, being on this list it didn't live up to interest in it. The story is, indeed, pretty bad. The characterizations are bad, the pacing is off, the writing is stilted and plot points are introduced only to be completely forgotten. The controls are too simple, a lack of buttons is the biggest problem, and switching between the 2D and 3D sections breaks the gameplay flow. I did have fun with this game. I consider it mediocre and not outright bad, but I had expected it to be more... entertaining. For better or for worse. What it does good it does well, but not great. What it does bad is it does poorly, but not exceptionally so. Not a remarkable experience for me in either direction. 3. Super Mario 64 Welp. This is going to ruffle a lot of feathers! Look: I know that Super Mario 64 is a very beloved title for many but for me personally? It disappointed. When going into the game I kept in the back of my mind that the game is 25 years old. To not expect something too polished. Even with that, the game failed to tickle my fancy. I enjoyed the game at the start. Neat setup. Fun levels and atmosphere. At a point, I hit a level that I just didn't enjoy. I had a lot of difficulties traversing the world with the janky controls and finding the right amount of stars became a slog. I told myself: 'the next world will be more fun', but that sadly didn't happen. The game just kept crawling on like that. I lost my fun with and I pushed through more out of obligation and stubbornness than enjoyment. I see that the game isn't bad. I see why people love it so much. However, I was disappointed by it and I don't see myself ever playing it again. 2. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is not a great game. I knew that before I even bought it. Why did I buy it then? For the same reason that pushing a big, red button is very tempting. YouTuber Scott the Woz is a big fan of the Chibi-Robo! series and has a running gag and a dedicated video to this game. With all of that build-up, I really wanted to experience the title for myself even if it is widely considered to be bad. And yeah, it isn't great. I didn't feel particularly offended by it but I can't say I had that much enjoyment either. It has some charm, but this is weighed down by a very bland and uninspired design and questionable design decisions. A spinning wheel to determine the next level? Really? Ugh. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a game whose entertainment lies in what it represents, not what it actually is. If you played it for 5 minutes, you've basically experienced the entire game. 1. Drawn to Life: Two Realms The biggest disappointment in the realm of gaming came early in the year. Drawn to Life and its sequel, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter, are two games that have a special place in my heart. They were 2D side-scrolling platformers in which you, the player, gets to draw your own character and elements of the world using the DS' touchscreen. They were fun games in which players could let their imagination run wild (to an extent) all the while engaging with the unique world and the surprisingly insightful and emotional story. I will fully admit: I cried HARD at The Next Chapter's twist ending. The original one, not the altered version to be clear. Thus, when the unexpected news came that 505 Games had acquired the Drawn to Life license and were making a new entry, I was ecstatic. That feeling faded rather quickly after reading the first round of reviews however. They weren't positive and now I understand why. The decision to change the gameplay to short, puzzle-like levels doesn't work for an entire game. The story doesn't hold a candle to the originals and the drawing element has been heavily downplayed. I had fun with it. There were some fun moments, some neat ideas and there is a lot of potentials that a sequel could take advantage of. However, there are just too many problems, too many frustrations, for me to play this game again any time soon. For failing to live up to the series and for severely lowering the chances of the series continuing, Drawn to Life: Two Realms is the biggest gaming disappointment of 2021 for me.

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  • About | Let's talk about...

    Welcome to my writing space! Welcome dear reader to Let's talk about..., my blog! For years I've wanted to write, and seen others do videos online about the stuff they love and thought to myself: "That seems like a lot of work, but also a lot of fun". However, I've never actually done these things until know as I'm rather shy. But after learning that one of my favourite reviewers started his shows as a blog, I've decided to finally take the jump and do the same at the beginning of last year. I have currently two kinds of content for you to enjoy. The main attraction are discusstion/deep-dive posts under the banner "Let's talk about...". In these posts, you can find me just casually talking about al kinds of stuff that I like. From me giving my opinion on movie/videogame trailers to talking about old shows and franchises, it's the place to go for some fun and casual writing. Reviews are, well, reviews. The reviews will range from comic book to TV/Movies to (mostly older and/or retro) videogames. The latter of which I aim to get out a review for bi-weekly but has been much more prominent recently due my new, full-time job. I hope that this blog will be a place where I can let my creativity flow and that it will be a fun place for people who love games as well as a nice, but small, dose of comics, TV and movies, just as much as I do. ​ You're writer, F.T. Wolf

  • Blog | Let's talk about...

    F.T. Wolf Nov 27, 2021 5 min Let's Talk About my 1st week with the PlayStation 5 Well that was quite an unexpected, but very welcoming, development! As of Thursday, November 18th, I´m the proud owner of a PlayStation... Featured Post(s) RECENT POSTS 7 days ago 4 min Review: Spider-Man: Miles Morales Swinging through Harlem learning to be a hero. If you haven't noticed already I'm quite a fan of Marvel so both of Insomniacs Spider-Man... Dec 18, 2021 4 min Review: Raji: An Ancient Epic A look at Hindu Mythology through a pretty decent game. Raji: An Ancient Epic is the first game developed by Indian development studio... Dec 11, 2021 4 min Review: Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected "If the capital is on the Bionis' shoulder, there must be people there." With the remaster of Xenoblade Chronicles (XC) on the Nintendo... Dec 4, 2021 5 min Review: The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine Behind great beauty lies a web of secrets and lies. After finishing my months' long playthrough of The Witcher 3 and subsequently the... Nov 27, 2021 5 min Let's Talk About my 1st week with the PlayStation 5 Well that was quite an unexpected, but very welcoming, development! As of Thursday, November 18th, I´m the proud owner of a PlayStation... Nov 20, 2021 3 min Review: Champions Vol. 2: Killer App When a multi-million corporation uses social media to drive the narrative. In short: reality! My very first article on this blog was... Nov 13, 2021 5 min Review: Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu & Let's Go Eevee Let's Go simplicity & accessibility. With the success of Pokémon Go Nintendo and the Pokémon Company did their to turn all of these... More Posts WHAT TO EXPECT Welcome to Let's Talk About...! Here you'll find weekly Let's talk about entries, were I give my thoughts about anything that catches my attention. Articles are uploaded on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Read More >

  • State of the Blog | Let's talk about...

    State of the Blog, the place for any and all updates! January 2022 Happy New Years everybody! I hope everyone had a good holiday season and still managed to spend some time with the family even in these troublesome days. ​ Is anything special happening in January 2022 for this blog? Not really. I'm still very much trying to find my footing when it comes to the content on this thing now that I have a full-time job. I want to do more but have trouble finding the time/motivation for it. A lot of the content has been game reviews which is because those are pretty easy for me to do. I still play video games for R&R while reading comics and such has fallen to the wayside. Turning my still very active gaming hobby into reviews hasn't been hard at all and I quite enjoy making them. However, I can understand that this can become monotonous does become monotonous. I have three non-review posts scheduled for the beginning of the month but all of these are still gaming related posts. ​ Frustrating for the people who found this space through the comic-related content, I know, and I sincerely apologize for that. I am starting to see why YouTubers and the like stay in their 'niche' more and more. It's become difficult to balance the two types of content and audience. Double so if you do it for a hobby as I do. I will see what I can do about this moving forward. I have some ideas for non-gaming content, I could do a review on the recent Robin series, have written a few paragraphs on the Hawkeye show and have been thoroughly enjoying the Batgirl: Stephanie Brown trade paperbacks recently. I could do something with those things but that really depends on if I can find the time for them (and if something like a Hawkeye review weeks later is still something people would even be interested in). ​ However, it could very well be that sometime this year this blog will switch to 'gaming-only' simply because I wouldn't like doing that but it is in the realm of possibilities and I do want to warn you of all of this in advance. ​ ​ Again, thank you so much for going on this journey with me. Now that you're here, I would like to use this opportunity to up my 'marketing' game a bit. If you'd like to be informed every time a new posts drops or want to get your hands on the next month schedule you can become a subscriber by filling out the form. If you've got a Twitter account, and let's face it everybody does these days, you can follow me there as well. I post links to my posts there as well, yes, but I also provide some smaller updates, give a little peek into my brain and it's the best place if you just want to chat. ​I'll, hopefully, see you in the next post. Your writer, F.T. Wolf

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