The Mess of Modern Star Wars

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was probably about 8 or 9. I was never a franchise that I was born or forced into but when I first saw the dual of the fates battle between Darth Maul and Qui Gon and Obi Wan, I was in love. I knew that I had treaded into a franchise and I was only in the shallows of something much greater. Since then I obviously watched episode 2 and 3 when they came out and caught up on the originals somewhere in between. Throughout the years, I have loved to regularly watch episodes of Star Wars whenever possible, even having full marathons occasionally. I would not class myself as a Star Wars expert though because, as I do love the franchise, I am often left asking questions and I often forget major characters of sub-plots. This rant is not geared at the Star Wars films that were my childhood and adolescence though. This is about the latest two star wars movies (written before The Last Jedi), both of which are imperfect but bring up very conflicting emotions within the Star Wars fan base.

Let me start this off by making many people dislike my opinions and saying that I actually enjoyed Star Wars Episode 1-3, including the animated movie and episodes on the clone wars. I grew up in a position to not put the prequel trilogy in an impossible to reach place so I started off by loving the sci-fi talk and the amazing look on Darth Maul. I did not understand a lot of what happened but it caught my eye. I still appreciate a lot of what happens in the Star Wars prequels because they find a way to try to make the story of the original trilogy work. This is especially impressive when it is considered that the original movie was not created to be a part of a massive space opera franchise and was then adapted and morphed into what became a global phenomenon in movie history. People are very happy to praise the original trilogy which I will openly admit were superior to the prequels but too much creativity has been proved to be a negative in George Lucas’ career. He got a pass for Ewoks because they were kind of cute but he was practically crucified for Gunguns which were a hideous amphibious-like creature who spoke as if they were a tribe translating themselves to English (which they may well could have been).

Going beyond the rambling about episodes 1-6 I actually have a few things to say about The Force Awakens and Rogue One that may be a bit unlikable. I will start this off by saying I highly enjoyed watching The Force Awakens at the cinema but I found that Rouge One was really underdeveloped. It is not hard to point out the flaws of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as everything around has already done so. From the fact that the storyline is almost identical to Star Wars Episode IV to the fact that many moments in the movie occur only to elicit a nostalgic memory from the fans of the series. However, this movie does a few things right, one of which is having the parallels to Episode IV. It becomes easily recognisable to old fans of the series through repeating tropes from the original Star Wars movie and these are mostly well places and make for a good story. It tells the story of Star Wars Episode IV in a new way to a new generation of Star Wars viewers, some of which were first time viewers. The callbacks to the original can seem a bit forced but ultimately I do not feel this pulls too greatly away from the story presented. In saying these things, I feel the inclusion of C3PO and R2D2 are too forced and are no longer necessary except for the fanservice, unless they are meaningful to the progression of the plot, they should not be shoehorned in.

Now to talk about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If people thought that The Force Awakens was made up from a load of moments where fans could say “I remember that”, then I do not think they have seen Rogue One. This movie takes place between the ending of Episode III and the beginning of Episode IV. I like the movie but I do not care for it as much as I do The Force Awakens. By rejecting the classic story scroll at the beginning and starting straight into the story, it feels almost like it is pushing itself away from being Star Wars (other non-episodes used the scroll). There are very few relatable/likable characters in this movie. The only new character I had any enjoyment watching on the screen was K-2SO, voiced by the one and only Alan Tudyk. With it’s dark and dry humour, it kept the audience from being bored out of their mind (at least in the screening I went to). It felt like there was very little substance to this film and it existed only to bridge a gap that would have been better left to the imagination of most Star Wars fans. Something that was done amazingly in Rogue One was the space battles and easily predictable ending (considering the Star Wars timeline). When action was happening, things were interesting and this was because it was a war movie with fantasy elements. If it got these parts wrong, it would have been a very hollow film.

I came out of the cinema in both of these movies in a totally different mindset. From The Force Awakens, I came out thinking it was played safe and smart to ensure that it did not chase away fans like the prequel trilogy did. I left the screening for Rogue One feeling very unfulfilled. The main character and multiple supporting characters were very unlikable and had very few redeeming qualities rendering the finale essentially worthless. K-2SO was by far the most liked character and is not given anywhere as much screen time as I believe it should have been.

If Rogue One did not end how it did, I would honestly say that I do not think I would be willing to watch a sequel with those characters whereas, I am very much looking forward to seeing the next episode in the Star Wars sequels. Keeping characters interesting and relevant is what keeps my attention.

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My Issue With VR Games Being Version Exclusive

Virtual reality is a young and developing area within gaming and experiences. It is not cheap to get a high quality VR device and the last thing I want to hear after spending a fortune on the device is that there are highly rated games that I cannot play in VR because I do not have the requisite device. If a game is designed in a way where it can be played using all VR gaming devices there is no explanation good enough for me as to why it is made exclusive.

Right now VR is in very early stages and whatever device people buy, they are putting a lot of money into supporting the industry in the hopes that it grows to a point where it becomes cheap enough to produce quantities for it to become readily available for the general public. At the time of writing this, there are 3 main variations of the VR gaming devices and these are the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Playstation VR. Two of these are for PC and the other is obviously for Playstation. The PC VR community tries to find ways to keep games available for both devices where possible. This is a much more difficult thing to manage with games that are on Playstation VR that are not made available for Oculus or Vive.

This would not bother me if there was a reason that a game is not available on all devices for reasons such as having to be able to have room scale. If a VR game can be played sitting down or standing in a very small area with a pad or using 2 hand controllers, I believe that it should not be made exclusive or restricted to a single device. To have exclusivity on your VR title when it is not necessary does not help VR grow as a platform and will be more likely to make potential buyers of any device possibly become disenfranchised as no device has the ability to play all of the games that they are looking forward to play and they do not have the funds to allow them to purchase all the variants.

I love VR and wish it to become the next big thing. It is great seeing it in the current phase it is in and the potential for the industry is only just starting to be realised. For this to not become just another passing phase, we need to keep the support going and grow the community as much as we can. Alongside this, we need to keep the games released as available as possible so that anyone with a VR gaming device, whatever their budget or platform, can enjoy the wonderful games and experiences that are out there.

The Battle System That Makes Games Unplayable For Me

I love the way games can innovate, leading to very unique experiences in games. In games that include battling as a major mechanic, it is important for games to express themselves in ways that don’t feel dry, used and seriously lacking creativity. There have been many games which have a certain type of battle mechanic that ruin games that I think I would otherwise be likely to be hooked on and be able to recommend.

 

I have grown up with the revival of gaming and been able to see and play games from the mid 80s (before I was born) to the current era of next-gen HD gaming and through this I’ve been able to see the transitions that games have had from being purposefully difficult to pad a game out to last a fair amount of time to keep people engrossed to huge expansive worlds that are literally impossible to complete in a single play through. With this, I’ve seen many great games that have been able to pave the way and inspire future games but the one thing I don’t enjoy between games and franchises is gameplay that feels like it is a copy paste of the same formula. At the time of writing this, Yooka-Laylee by Playtonic Games is a much talked about game. While I think the game looks charming, I can’t fail to look past the fact that this is a game that takes a little too much of Banjo-Kazooie to a point where no-one can play the game without commenting and referencing how each thing is basically exactly the same as Banjo-Kazooie.

 

With that little rant mentioned, I have laid the groundwork for my argument on the battle mechanic that ruins what are mostly otherwise great games. That mechanic is the common as much 3rd person brawler style mechanic of being a person in a battle, surrounded by a group of foes and you can attack using a button or slight variation combos to pull off tricks then hitting a different button to do a counter on the inevitable second person wanting to be involved in the fight. The games in which I have played where this mechanic was pivotal to the fighting were; Assassin’s Creed, Batman Arkham, Middle Earth and Mad Max. I’m sure there are more in which I have not played but as you may be able to tell from the title, I am not exactly wanting to find and play these games. This style of battling is tedious and has very little to offer creatively in my opinion. It seems to fall into the pitfalls of being a kind-of hybrid between a turn-based and real-time battle mechanic even though it plays out as if it is real-time. You can’t relentlessly beat on your wimpy enemies as there will always going to be that one that attacks you just as you want to pull off a good combo attack.

 

From what I’ve seen and read, this mechanic gets better and more fun as you play more of the game (in many instances, makes the game very simple) and this brings on another point I think should be discussed. As an outsider to this concept, why should I deal with tedious battle mechanics to play some great gameplay and experience great story? There are thousands of games out there I could be playing, with totally unique features that will have a lasting effect and draw on me, why should I stick to a game where, as much as I feel I might have progressed story wise, I still have the standard punch/kick enemy until enemy attacks from behind, then counter attack. Too many games having a common battle system leads to tedium and a lack of distinction for what may be a great game otherwise. Being the trend follower is nowhere near as cool as being the trendsetter and for me, games that share this battling mechanic feel like they have little to offer in unique gameplay feel.

 

Of course this is basically entirely opinion based and for you I may be totally wrong. This is the joy of the internet where everyone has a voice and opinions matter whether they are popular or not. For me, I would just like to have more games of the style of the previously mentioned games, but I wish that they would be their own game, with their own unique draws, especially if fighting is a massive part of the game.