Episode 6: Anthem, Metro Exodus And The History Of Super Mario Bros 2

SHOW NOTES

Introduction

Welcome to This Week In Video Games Episode 6, my name is Tom Kershaw and I hope you’re doing well and having a good week. This is a podcast all about the world of video games.  This week we’ll get into first impressions of Anthem and my review of Metro Exodus. In the news this week we’ll be discussing the Fortnite Festival in Norwich and the fallout of that with Epic, Apex Legends updates and loot, Google’s going to GDC and Bowser taking over the top job at Nintendo of America.

If you want to get involved in the show email us on podcast@thisweekinvideogames.com or check out the latest on the website. Send in your questions, comments and video game stories – we’re always interested in hearing from you. We’re also available on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram – so search This Week In Video Games on your favourite platform and join in the conversation.

[END INTRO]

Welcome to the show everyone. I hope you are doing well. This week the cold has gone, the sun has come out and it’s been about 18c here in London, which is unusual for this time of year. Long may it continue as Spring is just around the corner as we say so long to Winter. Thank you so much for taking the time to download or stream This Week In Video Games. I really do appreciate every listen we get and you taking the time out to hang out with me each week and talk about video games.
Lets get into what I’ve been playing this week.  

What have I been playing? 

Anthem

Anthem was released on Friday 22nd February 2019 after a long and relatively drawn out release schedule of demos plus Early Access through various EA subscription services.

Anthem is an online multiplayer action RPG from BioWare – the creators of Mass Effect. It’s the latest in a line of ‘looter-shooter’ games where you take control of your Freelancer explore the vast landscape of an alien world, shoot enemies and level up through weapons and armour.

Gameplay

You take control of your Freelancer in an fully customisable exosuit called a Javelin. Each suit can be personalised to have unique weapons and super human abilities.
There are 4 Javelin classes:

  • Ranger – A solid all round Javelin.
  • Storm – This is the mage style, elemental Javelin with fire and ice abilities.
  • Interceptor – Ninja style Javelin, fast movement.
  • Colossus – Heavy hitting tank of the group.

Flying is one of the unique selling points of Anthem and it feels fantastic. You take to the skies flying through ravines, waterfalls and under water. It gives the game a sense of scale and freedom. There’s a sense of verticality to the game which isn’t felt in other games in the genre. The world around you is a lush living jungle full of creatures and enemies to shoot.
Weapons in Anthem range from pistols, scout rifles, automatic weapons, shotguns and snipers. Combined with the weapons each Javelin has a number of abilities including rockets, grenades, shields and elemental attacks. Javelin’s have Ultimate abilities also allowing them to attack and destroy groups of enemies and deal major damage to bosses.
The central hub for players in the game is Fort Tarsis. This is where you meet other NPCs, customise your javelin through the Forge and pick up quests. There’s daily, weekly and monthly contracts to pick up as a freelancer.

There’s a large amount of customisation options in Anthem allowing you to change armour pieces including your helmet, arms, body and legs. Colours, materials and different customisation features are available. As you move up through the ranks these become more specialised as you develop a unique build for your Javelin.

Story
Anthem is set on a unnamed planet that contains advanced technological relics which can harness an energy source called The Anthem of Creation. These relics can terraform the environment, mutate wildlife & climate, teleport characters and summon creatures. Unstable articfacts can breakdown and create destructive and dangerous areas called Cataclysms.
The people of this unnamed world have limited knowledge of the relics but believe they were created by a god-like race called The Shapers. They abandoned the planet thousands of years ago for an unknown reason. The Anthem and The Shapers are worshipped by humanity.

Centuries before the start of the game the people of the planet were enslaved by ogre-like creatures called The Urgoth. A human named Tarsis used Shaper technology to create the powerful exosuits that allowed them to fight back. These became known as the Javelins. Over the following centuries General Tarsis and her Legion of Dawn became heroes by fighting back against the Urgoth.

The game takes place in the region of Bastion where most of the humans live inside a city called Fort Tarsis protected by Sentinels and Javelin pilots. Outside the city Bastion is filled with dangerous creatures, outlaws and random disasters caused by unstable artifacts. Cities rely on Freelancers, a faction of Javelin mercenaries, to deal with the threats beyond the wall. Freelancers work with Cyphers, people who are tuned to the Anthem, who work with you on missions as a voice in your ear.

10 years before the start of the main campaign, a faction of humans called The Dominion stormed Bastion to attack the city of Freemark to steal a Shaper relic called The Cenotaph. The dominion believed The Cenotaph could give them total control over the Anthem. In their attempts to use The Cenotaph it resulted in an explosion that destroyed Freemark, leaving a cataclysm in it’s place known as The Heart of Rage.

First impressions
So far with Anthem there’s definitely good points and not so good points.
First of all the good points. I’m enjoying the story, characters and world building BioWare have created in Anthem. The graphics and the audio are fantastic – I’m playing on PC with headphones and the world is immersive and draws me in.

Flying is great fun and the scale of the world around you sometimes leaves you just looking around at the gorgeous scenes. The feeling of running ahead, jumping up and flying around the world feels great. As we mentioned before the verticality of the game gives you a sense of freedom. If you want to feel like Ironman in a game then this really scratches that itch. The games reminds me of Pandora from Avatar – the rich, lush jungle that needs to be explored, teeming with animals and life. The sounds as you explore the world really draws you into the world.

The combo elements of the game feels great. Teaming up with your buds and nailing combos and damage on enemies feels fantastic.
Now for the not so good points. Gameplay at the moment feels a little bit repetitive – fly in, defeat a few waves of enemies and then fly out again. You could say this is the foundation of a looter shooter game however the enemies don’t feel varied enough just yet.

I’ve been booted from the game more than a few times and unable to get back in for a few minutes. I’m playing after the day one patch, however the infrastructure still feels flimsy. I haven’t encountered long load times yet which is a good thing.

Audience reactionInitial reaction to Anthem has been mixed with the games launch schedule having a negative impact on reactions from players. The private demo was plagued with connection issues, however most of these were addressed in the open demo.

Anthem was available to the general public on 15th February but the game had some bugs including long loading screens, a brick wall in terms of gameplay with the Tombs leading to less favourable initial impressions by reviewers. BioWare did react well and fast to these issues in a huge day one patch albeit 6 days after the game was made available to the public. However this has led to some questioning whether the game was ready or BioWare should have waited.

This is a familiar story amongst the narrative of live service games with other companies falling foul of the initial release. Destiny had a similar release in 2014 which was accused on a thin story and undercooked game due to a complete rewrite in 2013.

Overall I am enjoying Anthem so far. Sure there’s some improvements that could be made but the foundations for a great gaming experience are here. I’m approx 8 hours into the game so far and there’s enough here to keep me coming back. I’ve not yet reached the end game and I’m looking forward to developing builds.

As with all these service games getting through the main campaign is just the start. Developing relationships with the characters, the environments and developing your own build and unique play style is all important. Playing with friends is also key too. More often that not playing with friends improves your experience and it’ll be interesting to see the tools and support BioWare bring to help this shared experience.

These games need time for a fair review. Therefore we’ll give the game a fair shake a leave it a few weeks for a full review.
BioWare detail Anthem’s first 3 months roadmap in a blog post. This details upcoming free play events, legendary missions and the first Cataclysm.
Anthem is out now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Last week we talked about first impressions of Metro Exodus. I had more time to play through the game this week. 

Metro Exodus Review
Metro Exodus is the third game in the Metro series from 4A Games. Based on the novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky you play as Artyom trying to find survivors of the Last War on the surface of post-nuclear war Russia. Together with his wife Anna and comrade soldiers aboard Aurora you travel across different parts of Russia encountering mutants, other crews of soldiers and survivors.

Where as the previous instalments took place below the surface in the winding tunnels of the Metro, Exodus takes place above ground on the surface allowing us to experience the changing seasons and day night cycle. Your actions effect the game too with different endings based on the choices you make throughout the game which is a neat effect.

The game is a first-person shooter survival stealth game. It has a focused narrative where you see the world from Artyom’s perspective. It’s full of action set pieces, interesting characters and incredible world building.
Survival is a big part of the game where you have to scavenge ammo, weapons and parts to stay alive. Resources are generally scarce so don’t waste what you pick up. The game includes dynamic weather, a day-night cycle and environments that change with the seasons as the story progresses. The game moves through Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Although many of the missions are linear there are open world elements to the game. As you travel across Russia you get to know your crew. You can hang out with the crew and listen to their stories or you can head out on missions.

The graphics and audio are fantastic on console. I played on PS4 with a headset the whole time and felt fully immersed in the world. The PC graphics however are really pushing the boundaries – go check out Digital Foundry’s analysis over on their website.

The audio really brings you in with the stealth elements as you hear soldiers and mutants creep around buildings and out in the world.
I’m new to the Metro series. For one reason or another I missed the other entries and I’m keen to go back and see what I missed. The single player focus was refreshing and the game play in places was fun. If stealth games are your thing then I could definitely recommend this to you. Building weapons and load outs has a certain depth. The action set pieces are super fun and often breath taking.

At times the game can be frustrating with ammo and materials very rare out there in the world. I didn’t find the UI very intuitive leading to losing a few hours of progress which dented my motivation to continue. The game can feel a little bleak at times and also if you progress through story missions then you can’t go back, so make sure you explore all you want before you progress.

Overall I’m glad I picked up the game and enjoyed the story. If stealth if your game then I’d fully recommend picking this one up, if not then perhaps give it a miss.

Score    80

How lets get into the news this week.

A Fortnite themed event in Norwich England caused anger amongst parents for it’s poor organisation and lack-lustre attractions. Parents hit out at the organisers of the billed ‘Fornite Event Of The Year’ demanding their money back. Tickets for the event cost £12 and up to £20 for ‘unlimited access’ to attractions. Many people complained of long queues with an estimated 2500 turning up for the event.

The BBC reports Reenie Greenwood and her husband Ed paid nearly £80 for their son and four friends to go to celebrate his birthday.

Reenie said:

“They were really looking forward to it given they play online. They’ve done nothing apart from queue. I’m really angry and gutted for my son.”
Attractions included a cave experience (a truck trailer wrapped camouflage), bumper cars, archery and climbing wall. Perhaps the saving grace of the event was the fact you could actually play Fortnite at the event. Unfortunately for the guests you had to pay for this and queue. Refunds were available initially, however the Facebook page where people were doing so is no longer available.
The event was not endorsed by Epic Games the parent company behind Fortnite.


Epic Suing Fortnite Festival
The Fortnite festival that left parents and children wanting refunds is being sued by Fortnite creators Epic Games for using the name and imagery without permission.
The Festival promoted as ‘The Fortnite event of the year’ left many of their 2500 guest angry at long queues, underwhelming attractions and having to pay to play Fortnite. Tickets for the event were £12 and up to £20 each. Since the event took place hundreds of customers took to Facebook to demand their money back.
Epic Games has issued a claim against the organisers of the festival in London’s High Court. The company behind the Fortnite Festival, Exciting Events, has now been forced to cease trading.
Shaun Lord, Exciting Events
“These proceedings by Epic Games has had a catastrophic impact on the company’s ability to trade, which has forced Exciting Events Limited to cease all trading activities immediately and the director of Exciting Events will now seek to limit the losses to third parties as far as possible.”
Exciting Events has since removed upcoming Fortnite Events planned for Spalding and Newark from it’s website.

Fortnite World Cup And $100million 2019 Prizes
Fortnite set out their stalls for 2019 with an announcement they are set to give away $1,000,000 in prize money. Qualifiers run from April 13 to June 16. Each week $1,000,000 will be available for players.
The top 100 solo player and top 50 duo teams will join the Fortnite World Cup Finals in New York City from July 26 – 28 with a $30,000,000 prize fund. Each player is guaranteed $50,000 and the eventual solo champ will get $3,000,000.
Fortnite has been feeling the heat recently from a successful launch of Apex Legends, however if this prize fund is anything to go by then they still have deep pockets and are looking to engage the Fortnite community in 2019.

Apex Legends bans, bugs and communication
Respawn have updated the community on their immediate plans to fix some issues in Apex Legends.
The game has no doubt had a great launch, however now the community is settling in Respawn want to build on their great start and keep the conversation going.
In an update to the community posted on the Apex Legends sub reddit Respawn outlined 4 key areas they plan to improve.
Crashes – Improving stability, performance and reliability of the servers. The first patch was out last week and another one is due tomorrow.Bug reports – Be as thorough as possible when reporting bugs to them so Respawn can replicate the bug. They have provided a templateBans – Over 16,000 players have been banned so far from the game in an effort to remove cheaters from ruining players fun. A report player feature is coming soon.Communication – Respawn plan more regular updates, live streams and troubleshooting tips.Apex Legends is growing fast with 25 million people playing the game in the first few weeks. It’s great to see the communication flowing both ways and Respawn planning regular updates to the community. Destiny, Warframe and Sea of Thieves have enjoyed success from developer updates so I am sure Respawn will do well in their short term plans.
Watch out for the Twitch Rivals event coming tomorrow, February 19th. Hopefully we’ll see a repeat performance from Dizzy who last week tore through the competition like a hot knife through butter.

Apex Legends Loot On Twitch Prime
Get your new Apex Legends Loot on Twitch.
Apex Legends are partnering with Twitch to giveaway free Apex Legends themed loot.
You can get some free gifts including:
A free Legendary Omega Point Pathfinder skin5 x Apex Packs (random cosmetic items)To get this free loot you have to be a Twitch Prime subscriber (which means an Amazon Prime subscriber as Amazon own Twitch behind the scenes) and then link your EA and Twitch accounts.
Respawn detail this in an update on reddit saying:
“The Twitch Prime rewards can only be granted to one account so make sure you are connecting the right one to your Twitch Prime account. Once you have connected an account and logged into the game, it will automatically grant the rewards on that platform, and will not be awarded to any other linked platform or account.”
This is something Twitch have done previously with other games such as Fortnite and Warframe and makes sense to everyone – Respawn has the hottest new game, Twitch is the biggest broadcaster and can promote Twitch Prime and the audience get their loot. Awesome.

Google Set To Announce Gaming Plans
Google have teased an announcement at the upcoming Game Developers Conference.
Google is going to be at GDC this year and they have teased some kind of reveal at the event. Google started sending out invites to the press this week and say ‘all will be revealed’ on March 19th at 10am PT / 1pm ET.
The software giant have been testing their ‘Project Stream’ in 2018 with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey being playable through the Chrome browser. The testing finished in January and the company could be about to share details of their testing.
The Game Developers Conference is March 18 – 22 2019. We also understand Microsoft could be about to announce Xbox Live coming to Nintendo Switch and other mobile devices through their own streaming service.
In 2018 Google hired former Xbox & Playstation executive Phil Harrison and have been picking up game developers ever since. It’s not yet known if the streaming service will have some kind of physical element (like a console) or just be available through the browser.
It looks like 2019 could be the year where the big players (and new ones) reveal plans to the word for perhaps one of the biggest shifts in the industry for some years.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Online updates are coming soon.
Rockstar is updating Red Dead Redemption 2 Online next week to include new weapons, showdown modes, free roam events and competitive fishing. There’s also new clothes and emotes coming too.
In an update detailed on Rockstar’s website they discuss the events and cosmetics.
The Fool’s Gold Free Roam Event is where players compete to control a ‘gaudy’ and protective suite of gold armour. You battle it out to take down the armour wearer earning points as you do and then earn points by making kills as the golden cowboy.
There’s also competitive fishing coming in the shape of Fishing Challenges. You get equipped with the right rods and bait for the job as well as a little protection from trigger happy fellow players, allowing you and friends to battle it out to catch the most fish to win.
There’s also three new Showdown Modes coming where players compete to capture and deliver bags, steal loot from each other and survive. These events are called Up in Smoke, Spoils of War and Plunder.
New guns are coming too with the high capacity Evans Repeater rifle and the double-barreled longarm Rare Shotgun. Both weapons will be available via the Wheeler & Rawson Catalogue and local Gunsmiths.
PS4 players get early access to Open Target races where you compete in open space to take out targets on horse back.
The update is schedules for February 26th 2019.

Thimbleweed Park is currently free on Epic Game Store until March 7 2019.
The game was developed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. The creators of Day of the Tentacle, Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island bring back a flavour of retro from the 90’s in this point and click adventure game.
Two FBI agents arrive into a small town and start to investigate a murder which leads to questioning a number of suspects to try and solve the case.
Day of the Tentacle remains one of our favourite games of all time. Having missed it first time found we’ll definitely be picking it up this time as it’s completely free of charge.
This follows on from Axiom Verge which was free on Epic Game Store recently.

Nintendo Of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé To Retire
Doug Bowser is now in the hot seat.
Reggie Fils-Aimé is to retire as President of Nintendo Of America. Reggies has been at Nintendo since 2004 and has been one of the biggest personalities of Nintendo for 15 years. Reggie steps down on April 15.
Reggie took to the stage at Nintendo’s 2004 press conference announcing to the world “My name is Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re about makin’ games”. He was known for his big personality and highlights include quotes saying “My body is ready!” for the promotion of Wii Fit in 2007.
He posted a farewell on Nintendo Of America’s Twitter account saying “Thank you for your never ending support and your passionate love of Nintendo”.
Taking over from Reggie will be Doug Bowser the current President of Sales & Marketing at Nintendo of America.
Thank you Reggie, you did a great job representing Nintendo and we wish you all the best for the future.

Game Guild
The History Of Super Mario Bros 2
Super Mario 2 came to Nintendo Switch Online in February 2019 and we want to celebrate the game.
Super Mario Bros 2 holds a special place in my heart as a game I played when I was a kid. I remember going to Dixons with my Dad in the late 80s and picking up a NES combo pack with Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt and a light gun. When Super Mario Bros 2 released I remember picking it up and sitting in front of our old Panasonic CRT TV until I completed it.
With that in mind and the fact it was released on Nintendo Switch Online in February, I put the poll out on Twitter for the first ever This Week In Video Games Game Guild. It’s like a book club for games – we all choose a game, play through what we can throughout the week and then share out thoughts and memories of the game.
History of the gameSuper Mario Bros 2 is the second game in the Super Mario series and was originally released on the Nintendo Entertainment System on October 9th 1988.
Japan already had their own Super Mario 2 (otherwise known as Super Mario Bros: Lost Levels) and this game didn’t come to Japan until after Super Mario World on the SNES, making it Japan’s fifth Super Mario release.
Super Mario Bros: Lost Levels was deemed too difficult for Western audiences by Nintendo of America which led Nintendo to remake Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic into a Mario game, which is what we know as Super Mario Bros 2. After it’s release it became a huge hit and the game was eventually released in Japan.
One of the main features that sets it apart from previous Super Mario games is that you can select Mario, Luigi, Toad or Princess before each level. Each character has unique abilities which offer advantages and disadvantages in their game play. Players also can’t defeat enemies by jumping on them as in original Super Mario Bros.
StoryMario has a dream of a staircase leading to another world called Subcon. A mysterious voice asks for Mario’s help to defeat the evil Wart – A tyrant frog who has cursed Subcon and all it’s people. Mario wakes up and tells the whole gang – Luigi, Princess and Toad. To Mario’s surprise they all say they’ve had the same dream.
They all decide to go on a picnic and where they discover a cave with a door. Upon entering the door they are all transported to Subcon turning their collective dreams into reality.
After they defeat Wart and free the people of Subcon Mario suddenly wakes up back in his bed. This leaves Mario confused as to if the events had been real or all just a dream.
GameplaySuper Mario Bros 2 is based on Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic and therefore looks and behaves very differently to the original Super Mario Bros. In the first game the player would jump on enemies to defeat them, however in Super Mario Bros 2 you can pick vegetables out of the ground to throw at enemies or pick them up and throw them to kill them.
There’s a few power ups that are similar to Super Mario Bros including the mushroom and the star. One difference is you have a heart meter which collecting floating hearts replenishes energy. Super Mario 2 also doesn’t have power ups that change Mario into Super Mario such as the fire flower or suit Mario enabling him to fly. These were seen in Super Mario Bros in the form of a fire flower giving Mario the ability to shoot fireballs or the super leaf turning Mario into Racoon Mario in Super Mario Bros 3.
Super Mario 2 Shy Guys and Mario pulling up some turnipsAt the start of each level you can choose a character from Mario, Luigi, Princess and Toad. Each character has their own unique abilities and play style.
There are seven worlds in the game. The first six worlds have 3 levels and the seventh world have 2 levels. At the end of each level you have to fight a boss.

Development
Super Mario Bros 2 started life as a prototype mario-style platform game made by Kensuke Tanabe (recently brought back to develop Metroid Prime 4). The game focused on vertical levels and throwing items. The technical limitations of the NES didn’t allow for a polished finished product so more traditional mario-like elements were added to the game like horizontal scrolling.
The Fuji Television Company asked Tanabe to develop the prototype with the Yume Kojo mascots in mind and Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic was born.
In 1987 Nintendo of America saw the game and decided the original Super Mario Bros: Lost Levels was going to be too hard for western audiences. They then converted Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic into a Mario game and released the game in October 1988 under the name Super Mario Bros 2.
LegacyMany elements of Super Mario Bros 2 have been carried forward to other Mario games.
The ability to pick up and throw enemies was pioneered in this game and was carried forward to Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and more.
New Super Mario Bros builds on ideas from the original prototype including multiplayer elements allowing multiple characters to play on the same screen at the same time.
Characters from Super Mario Bros 2 have endured also with Birdo, Bob-ombs and Shy Guys making it into other Mario games. This was the first game with Toad and Princess Toadstool as playable characters and they have gone in to appear in Super Mario Kart, Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, Super Princess Peach and Super Smash Brothers.
SuccessSuper Mario Bros 2 sold 10 million copies and was the third highest selling game of the time on the NES. Nintendo Power listed it as the 8th best NES game of all time.
Super Mario 2 is available to buy for various Nintendo systems including NES Classic, Nintendo Switch Online and Wii U Store.


Charts


– 1 FAR CRY NEW DAWN  

– 2 METRO EXODUS    

1 3 RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2    

– 4 JUMP FORCE  

2 5 FIFA 19    

4 6 RESIDENT EVIL 2    

6 7 NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. U DELUXE  

3 8 KINGDOM HEARTS III  

7 9 MARIO KART 8 DELUXE  

5 10 CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 4

Coming up 

  • Dirt Rally 2.0 [PC, PS4, XBO] – February 26
  • The Lego Movie 2 Videogame (US) [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch digital] – February 26
  • NieR: Automata: Game of the YoHRa Edition [PC, PS4] – February 26
  • Rad Rodgers Radical Edition [Switch] – February 26
  • Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt [PC] – February 26
  • Trials Rising [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch] – February 26
  • Tech Support : Error Unknown [PC] – February 27
  • Ape Out [PC, Switch] – February 28
  • Constructor Plus [PC, PS4, XBO] – February 28
  • Dick Wilde 2 [PC, PSVR] – February TBC
  • Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions [PC] – February TBC
  • Dark Souls Trilogy [PS4, XBO] – March 1
  • Dead or Alive 6 [PC, PS4, XBO] – March 1
  • The Lego Movie 2 Videogame (EU) [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch digital] – March 1
  • ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch] – March 1

Outro  

That’s it for This Week In Video Games today. Don’t forget to get in touch about anything you’ve heard on the show today and if you like what you hear – subscribe and leave us a nice review on iTunes – it really helps us get the word out about the podcast.  This coming week I’m recording the first interview for the podcast – so keep your eyes on social media for that announcement.  

We’re always looking for input on the show too  so contact us on podcast@thisweekinvideogames.com or get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Search This Week in Video Games everywhere, and get involved. I hope you have a great week, we’ll get together again to chat about video games next weekend. Until then see ya soon. 

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