You spin me right round, Forza, right round!
Racing fans all over the world rejoice. The official “only game series worth playing on Xbox” has just dropped its newest iteration, Forza Horizon 4. This is the relaxed, more open world format of the game that can be custom tailored to your play style, from arcade racer to hardcore simulator. I haven’t reviewed the game yet but I am confident it is the best racing game ever made. But we’ll have to wait for the review on that.
We are here to talk about loot boxes. They are a sticking point in the gaming industry that has recently left gamers with a bad taste in their mouths. It’s easy to say EA was the straw that broke the camel’s back with their disastrous issues brought up by Dice’s Star Wars Battlefront II. It made national headlines to the point where non-gaming outlets were covering the issue. It inspired several developers to actively patch out the aspect in their games. It even got a country to outlaw it.
Now, Microsoft has been walking on thin ice in regards to this for quite some time. The more recent games in the Forza franchise featured an alternative currency you can buy with real money. This alternative currency could be used to buy cars. But they took a step too far with Forza Motorsport 7, in which you could earn “prize crates”. These prize crates were filled with cars, in-game currency, and challenge cards. The challenge cards were interesting, in that they just offered you a bonus bounty if you complete certain conditions during a race. For example, placing in 5th or better, or making 3 perfect turns would net you some more coin.
But the Forza Horizon Wheelspin is present in all four titles in the series. The only difference is you can’t really purchase spins, outside of using perk tokens in later titles. But, still, it is basically a slot machine that has different prizes you can win. The fourth installment expanded on the items you can win. On top of cars and money, they added cosmetics for your avatar, car horns, and emotes. Yes, emotes. However, something else changed with this version. That alternative currency is gone, completely removed from the game. You can’t buy cars with real money anymore, and you certainly can’t buy the wheel spins or the new SUPER wheelspins. You win one item for wheelspins and three items for super wheelspins. The only microtransaction outside of expansion packs is the treasure map, which reveals all of the secrets on your map for just $3.
So what makes a loot box a loot box? Overwatch may not have been the first, but it did codify the concept of loot boxes. The list of items you can win from crates are icons, skins, emotes, sprays, voice lines, victory poses, highlight intros, and loot. So, cosmetics and some currency. But you can pay to get a whole bunch of these, and you get 4 items per box. And one “rare” item is guaranteed in every box, with rare being the second tier of swag, sporting blue. After that, you have purple for epic loot and orange for legendary loot. MANY games that feature “loot” in general, box or no box, use this color-coded system and verbiage for their items. In Forza Horizon 4, that most certainly is the case, the names and colors are the same.
You only win one loot box from leveling up in Overwatch, with some exceptions for certain events and standards. In Horizon 4, the game practically throws wheelspins at you. Level up? Wheelspin. Do a couple stunts? Wheelspin. Buy a house? Wheelspin. Paint a car? Wheelspin. Take some photos? Wheelspin. Buy a few cars? Wheelspin. Get a couple perk points? Wheelspin. I could stop here but I’m going to keep going anyway. Win a few races? Wheelspin. Lose a few races? Wheelspin. Complete a championship? Wheelspin. Drive around doing absolutely nothing? Wheelspin. Participate in a live event? Wheelspin! EXIST? WHEELSPIN! DON’T EXIST? WHEELSPIN!
I swear I could not go more than 15 minutes without getting at least one or two wheelspins. That may be because I bought the ‘Ultimate Edition’ of the game and got some generous boosts to start, but even afterward, I just kept getting more and more. It actually got annoying and broke up the pace of the game. Thankfully, you don’t have to sit through a whole wheelspin animation, which is only about 5-7 seconds, not much at all. But even then you can skip that animation, get your prize, and be on your merry way.
So, what’s different about the Horizon 4 wheelspin again? Let’s review. You cannot purchase them with real money. The alternate currency system is not present. You get them all the time. Basic wheelspins will always get you either a car or more money. Super wheelspins will get you 3 of anything else. You do not get unfair advantages in multiplayer for wheelspins. You don’t get cards that change the conditions of earning more. Every spin is a winner (unless you get 10,000CR, that’s pretty lame).
It feels a lot more like the game is using these prizes to encourage you for playing the game. You can and will play the game regardless of the wheel spins. Yet as you play, the game is constantly rewarding you pretty much just for playing it. You may feel appreciated by the game as you continue to get gift after gift after gift. You may feel far more appreciated than you ever felt possible with this inclusion. Despite the “slot machine” appearance, it feels a lot more like you are just being given some free things, instead of gambling. Because of these reasons, I assert that the Horizon Wheelspin is neither a loot box nor a form of gambling. On top of that, I appreciate Microsoft’s nerve to decide not to include alternative currency this time around. I hope this game along with others continues with that mindset for the foreseeable future.
Posted in Articles Tagged with: driving, editorial, forza, forza horizon, forza horizon 4, forza motorsport, forza motorsport 7, gambling, horizon, loot, loot box, loot crate, Microsoft, opinion, prize box, prize crate, racing, super wheelspin, wheelspin, xbox, xbox one, xbox one s, xbox one x
Shooting and looting again.
The best way to follow up a successful game is to simply repeat the formula. That is exactly what the team at Bungie did with the release of the highly anticipated Destiny 2. It is an online only multiplayer first person shooter set in a post apocalyptic space future. Published by Activision, Destiny 2 is the latest in a series with a 10 year support plan. Within the mythic space story players assume the role of a Guardian tasked with protecting Earth’s last safe city. Released on September 6th, 2017 Destiny 2 has reignited a spark of excitement in its already massive community of devoted fans. How does it do inviting new kids to the club though?
Imagining what it feels like to walk on the moon or flying through space is a simple task. Bringing that sensation to life is an entirely different task. It is a task that the team at bungie has been doing successfully since the Halo days. Destiny 2 is no exception. Visually, the game is incredibly stunning and beautiful. Every aspect of the experience looks like it deserves to be where it was placed. Although, the repetitive nature of the gameplay takes away from the excitement induced by the scenery, it does not damage the scenery itself. Locations and equipment are the true champions in the game because of how vivid and natural they look. If only there were a few more enemy designs to really explore the level of detail that Bungie can focus on.
When Destiny originally launched in 2014 there was an immense outcry from the audience over the lack of a valid campaign mode for the game. Fast forward three years and Destiny 2 provides much clearer narrative. Clear does not make better unfortunately. This time around the development team put a good amount of emphasis on the story but it is still very lacking. A lack of character development and interesting plot twist make it very hard to enjoy the possibly immense lore behind this game. There are still way to many unanswered questions and more come rising the further you go down the rabbit hole. And not to beat a dead horse but the lack of any coherent character development makes it even more difficult to emotionally connect or care about what happening on screen. The plot is definitely not the worst thing ever written but it definitely doesn’t accomplish what it should or could have. For now it seems the true plot twist for Destiny will continue to be that there is no plot twist and every lore about the game is pretty much made up by the fans.
Similar to the success Bungie had recreating something visually real that very few people have ever experienced they nailed the sound designs. It’s hard to believe anyone has ever shot or heard the shot of a laser rifle, but Destiny 2 makes the player feel this false memory. It would probably be more difficult to convince a hardcore Destiny 2 player that a laser doesn’t sound the way it does in the game then vice versa. The music was appropriately ambient and the fade outs during intense moments absolutely created the suspenseful feeling the visuals were showing. When playing in surround sound, the living room quickly turns into a high intensity battlefield set in a distant location in space. The excellent combination of sound design and visual fidelity make every breathtaking moment truly feel like there is no air in space.
Land. Kill. Loot. Repeat. That is the entire premise of every single MMO and Destiny 2 is no different. In fact it is so identical to the first iteration that it occasionally borders on excessively repetitive. For hardcore Destiny fans this is fantastic, for everyone else it is merely ok. A major issue for players who aren’t as heavily invested, the gameplay gap between the wide range of players becomes huge very quickly. As a sequel to a pretty successful game to much change shouldn’t be expected however there seemed to be a lack of anything refreshing.
When taking on a challenging raid with a few great friends Destiny 2 is an exciting adventure. The moment those friends move to a light level to far ahead of your own, the game immediately becomes less interesting. It is still a fun game for the most part with tons of customization and socialization features but it does lack that dazzling touch. Perhaps if the story would have been a little more interesting it could have been more pulling. It is still a great source of relief thanks to the endless army of alien soldiers to empty clips into.
Destiny 2 is by default better than its predecessor. That does not excuse Destiny 2 for failing to be the very best it can be. By no means is Destiny 2 a bad game, but it does still seem to need a little bit more fleshing out to be great. Luckily it can follow the path of the original game and continue to grow as time passes through the annual add on content. Becoming a legend or rather “Becoming Legend” is still well within the realm of possibilities for these guardians.
Posted in Reviews Tagged with: activision, bungie, destiny, destiny 2, editorial, first person shooter, fps, loot, loot boxes, loot crates, mmo, mmo lite, mmorpg, review