Sea of Thieves is a constantly evolving game with an expanding roster of monsters to battle and islands to explore. In a blog post yesterday, Rare announced that it’s nerfing a dangerous foe: file size.
Executive Producer Joe Neate announced the changes in an official blog post. Following an update on February 6, Sea of Thieves’ installation size will be greatly reduced. Here are the new file sizes:
Xbox One – from an install size of 35GB to 10GB
Xbox One X – from an install size of 47GB to 25GB
Windows 10 PC – from an install size of 47GB to 27GB
Sea of Thieves launched in choppy condition. Server stability was a major issue and hackers plagued the seas for a time. Since then, it’s expanded with bug fixes and a series of free content releases. This size adjustment, which will require a larger than usual patch on the 6th, will help the game continue to expand.
“Changes to how we generate game updates/patches will better enable us to manage future content being added to the game,” Neate wrote. “This might mean that patch sizes increase slightly in the future, but the benefit is that the game install size won’t increase significantly. If we didn’t make this change, the game install size would continue to increase, taking up more and more of your hard drive space.”
If Sea of Thieves is going to keep growing and as more and more games use lots of disc space, taking up less real estate on players’ drives will be crucial. It also means that if you ever want to install and check out the seas again, you won’t wait as long. It’s a little random—I can’t think of the last time I’ve read an announcement like this—but if that means clear skies and clear hard drives, then sure.
With the spiffy Resident Evil 2 remake right around the corner, I got to thinking about remakes versus remasters. At what point should you just go back and boot up the original?
It can be interesting to see a modern take with new mechanics that retains the original soul of the source material. Then again, how would you know if it retains the soul of the original if you haven’t played it? You might just end up playing a prettier version of the game with changes that impact it in ways that take away from the original.
Still, as technology advances, remasters and remakes are becoming a trend that we all have to get used to. But what makes a good remaster and when does a game warrant a refresh from the ground up? I sat down with Heather Alexandra to talk about great remakes, as well as the games that should just be preserved and left alone.
Hear us talk about the surprising similarities between Leon Kennedy and Lady Gaga in the video above. Here’s an excerpt:
Heather: Maybe it’s my first real “old lady shouts at cloud” moment but for me, I don’t want the Shadow of the Colossus remaster to be the one that’s in the cultural ether. I want that to be a facet of what Shadow of the Colossus is, but I want the original to endure.
Paul: It’s interesting because it’s not an inherent problem specific to video games. We have remakes in Hollywood-
Heather: But it’s bullshit because we talk about remakes in film and we have a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. What was the point of that? Which is why I will say, what I do appreciate about remakes is when they do recontextualize and reimagine a gameplay experience.
Paul: I think about—welcome to the one show that’s going to mention A Star Is Born—but I think about that movie, where it’s a remake but it’s the fifth one and they all do something different that adds something to it. It’s not just a shot-for-shot remake.
Heather: So one of the reasons that Shadow of the Colossus made me uncomfortable—it just takes this original experience that I think was very pure and very much its own thing and adds all this glossiness to it. I think when you change the aesthetic of a thing so much, it changes the tone of a thing. It can change the implications that people read into it.
Over the weekend, a monthly Capcom vs. SNK 2 tournament at Japan’s Club Sega Shinjuku held a special exhibition between three established competitors. The event had brought these three players together due to the similarities in how they play the game, particularly their use of a specific fighting style that rewards characters for getting hit and getting angry.
Of the old school fighting games that are still popular, Capcom vs. SNK 2 is arguably the most complicated. In addition to selecting a team of three characters from franchises like Street Fighter and King of Fighters, players also must determine which of the six fighting styles, or grooves, they will use. These grooves vary dramatically in the tools they provide competitors. A-Groove, for instance, gives players access to Street Fighter Alpha 3-style custom combos. Meanwhile, K-Groove is the style that revolves around characters reacting to getting hit; it bears similarity to Garou: Mark of the Wolves’s Just Defend mechanic and Samurai Shodown’s Rage meter. This fighting style formed the basis of Saturday night’s exhibition, providing a spectacular look into its complexities.
The three players in the showcase, Bocchan, GAO, and RAI, are all masters of the K-Groove, each with notable wins at events both local and major stretching back years. They were invited to put their skills on display at Club Sega Shinjuku after the monthly Capcom vs. SNK 2 tournament in a lengthy round-robin competition called K-Groove Madness. In this game, different characters excel in different grooves, and this became clear when the players chose the characters for their teams. Where Street Fighter mainstays like Blanka, Cammy, and Sagat—all of whom make up Bocchan’s team—are generally going to be good in just about every groove, K-Groove also allows fighters like The Last Blade’s Hibiki and Fatal Fury’s Geese—used by RAI and GAO, respectively—to compete on a more even playing field.
Capcom vs. SNK 2’s K-Groove revolves around two key tools. Just Defend is almost like a parry in that it gives the defender the opportunity to act quickly out of blockstun and retaliate against their opponent. Furthermore, successful Just Defends give the user a small bit of life back and contribute to the Rage meter. Unlike other grooves, where performing certain offensive actions will build meter, Rage can only be acquired by getting hit and using a proper Just Defend. Once the Rage meter is full, the character immediately enters an angered state during which they deal more (and suffer less) damage.
The existence of the Rage meter can allow for incredible comebacks, but players must balance their characters’ health with the Rage bar in an effort to make the most out of the power-up. As seen in the clips below, matches can turn on a dime as soon as one player fills up the Rage meter, no matter how far that player may have fallen behind in health. Bocchan, GAO, and RAI were all able to take advantage of K-Groove in this way over the course of the exhibition.
This comeback by RAI’s Sagat was one of the most exciting moments of the night, perfectly showcasing the power of the K-Groove toolset.
Capcom vs. SNK 2 occupies the same space as Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike in that they are all beloved, classic fighting games that continue to be played seriously to this day. While they don’t draw stadium-filling crowds, what they bring to the table is still special. The confluence of style and customization has kept players coming back almost two decades later and makes events like last weekend’s K-Groove Madness possible. Give players more ways to express themselves and they will always find a way to do something extraordinary.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.
Final Fantasy XIV added Blue Mages to the game this week, allowing players to dress in their finest costumes and learn magical attacks from monsters. The “limited” job can’t do as many activities as others, but their addition creates fun opportunities for groups and solo players alike.
Blue Mages were announced during the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival in November to a mixture of excitement and confusion. Fans were excited about the unique class but unsure what FFXIV’s first “limited” job would mean. The answer is a bit disappointing: Blue Mages can only level up to level 50 and can’t queue up for events like dungeon roulettes, raids, or PvP activities. But the core experience of leveling up your character and finding new skills is fun if brief and brings a lot of color to the game world. I was excited as I waited for the Blue Mage class quest to arrive in-game late Monday night. The city plaza was full of so many players that moving a few step meant waiting some seconds before data loaded and you could see more people. The crowd was dressed in blue, bards played the song “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65, and folks tried to summon the NPCs by waving blue glo-sticks. To pass time, I helped judge a costume contest for a group of players excited for a change of pace and new magical skills to try.
Unfortunately, the quest giver didn’t spawn until much later Tuesday morning. When I woke up, I started the quest, wherein a supposed swindler is selling access to blue magic. Turns out he’s legit, even if his presentation method is a bit questionable. I was quickly able to access the class, donned a dashing outfit, and began to explore the game world for monsters. Blue Mages learn skills by seeing monsters perform them. To get a new skill, you need to fight a monster, see them use a skill, and then defeat them, which opens up a small chance that you’ll learn the ability. Combine this with the fact that Blue Mages earn a lot more experience off monsters than other classes—presumably because they can’t queue for random dungeons—and my server was full to the brim with Blue Mages. It was fun, encouraging people to get out of cities and private instances. Players in high level zones would call out the coordinates of rare monsters, while other areas were nearly overflowing with Blue Mages trying to get skills. It didn’t always work out—trolls started to head to these areas and kill the monsters before Blue Mages could learn their abilities—but if the goal of Blue Mages was to get people out and about, it definitely succeeded.
Part of the fun of Blue Mages comes from trying to know where to find an ability. I’m newer to the game than most of the people I know, so I teamed up with them to speed up the process. Playing in a group of only Blue Mages is a strange thing, but I had a lot of fun. It’s a mix between a normal experience-grinding party and something more deliberate. You run around and beat up monsters, but you ping-pong from area to area, stopping to let Bombs self-destruct in your face or watch a Cactuar fire 1,000 needles. In some cases, we entered dungeons together. Some Blue Mage abilities can only be obtain in dungeons, which means making a premade group and delving deep into risky instances. Because your repertoire is limited to what you’ve seen (and you’re not barred from going into higher level areas), you might not have traditional tanks and healers. But you can still, as I did, have one Blue Mage casting healing spells while the rest fire off 1,000 Needles spells for huge spikes of damage. It’s a more haphazard experience than normal dungeon crawling, but the silliness is fun.
It doesn’t take long to level up a Blue Mage; I power leveled from about level 19 to 50 in a handful of hours. A player who was already level 50 showed me an area where I could pull high level monsters and have my tank friend kill them off to gain tons of experience. As a result I was able to go from level 24 to 50 in about two hours. It helped, too, that I had gear provided by a kind crafting friend of mine.
That frees me up to focus on hunting monsters and learning abilities, but some players might be disappointed that they are able to blaze through the leveling process, especially since the max power level is lower than other classes. Blue Mage abilities, while fun, are less powerful than traditional classes. As a result, I expect to see the amount of Blue Mages in the field reduce dramatically in the new few days.
To make up for their limited utility, Blue Mages have access to special solo content called the Masked Carnivale. This is a collection of combat challenges that players can tackle for rewards like cash and special currencies for redeeming gear. Blue Mages are able to survey a scenario’s details beforehand—what enemies there are, what their elemental weaknesses are—and then try to defeat the challenge using the spells they know. The idea is to make the perfect spell loadout for each encounter and try to defeat the encounter quickly.
The Masked Carnivale has nice brain-teasers, and I even spotted players comparing strategies in chat. However, once you figure out what to do, the encounters could quickly become side-content you farm sometimes for some quick cash and nothing else. If the Carnivale expands and adds encounters at a good pace, or even offers new, special challenges from time to time, I can see players testing their skills and even competing for the best completion times.
Blue Mage isn’t going to impress players who wanted something more robust, and its limited nature seems destined to produce a fad more than a long-standing class. However, the immediate effect of Blue Mages on Final Fantasy XIV has been pretty magical. Watching my server eagerly await the class and then explode (sometimes literally, thanks to the self-destruct monster ability) into a frenzy of activity has been incredibly exciting.
Blue Mages show that limited classed can work in Final Fantasy XIV, offering new kinds of gameplay experiences. Players eager for a change of pace should check it out and embrace the chaos while they can. The process might be fleeting, but it’s tons of fun while it lasts.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s first expansion, Legacy of the First Blade, started strong, introducing players to the first Assassin and offering a self-aware take on the series’ mythos. The second episode in Legacy of the First Blade, Shadow Heritage, aims to continue the experience. It provides a strong villain and exciting ship combat. But it is ultimately most notable for forcing the player’s hand in a major way—one that I found disappointing.
Legacy of the First Blade focuses on Kassandra’s (or Alexios’s) adventures with the first Assassin, Darius. He and his son Natakas are on the run from the dangerous Order of the Ancients. In the first chapter, players help them fend off a dangerous assassination squad, getting close with the pair. It mixes exploration, cultist assassinations, and a welcome bit of introspection. The second chapter, Shadow Heritage, focuses mostly on naval combat. After an Order lieutenant called “the Tempest” blockades a portion of Greece, Kassandra must help Darius and Natakas defeat the Order and escape the country.
What follows is a string of missions that mix difficult combat on land and sea. Slowly dismantling the Tempest’s security and drawing her out requires rescuing civilians from forts and destroying part of her fleet. Eventually, you even steal an experimental weapon: a flamethrower that is attached to the front of your ship. The story is a bit more pulpy than the first episode but builds to a conclusion that treats its villain with a lot of care.
The first episode, Hunted, opted for uncomplicated villains. They were butchers and manipulators, a vanguard for the Order of the Ancients trained specifically to kill “tainted ones” like Kassandra, or anyone else who bore the blood of the extra-terrestrial Isu. They were effective villains but not very sympathetic. Shadow Heritage goes down a different path. The Tempest is one of the most dangerous naval commanders in the world. But she is conflicted, having been forced into the cultist life against her will. She still has family ties in Greece and much of this secondepisode is spent deciding if you want to redeem her. When I failed to save her, I felt a genuine sense of loss. If I had been more careful, she might have been a great ally.
Legacy of the First Blade has spent time allowing Kassandra to explore her feelings about being a misthios, teasing at choices in which she yearns for a calmer life. Some of those hints involved Darius’s son, Natakas, and one major scene in the first episode involved hunting with him and talking by a fire. There were hints of a romance, but little else to suggest the forced path that Shadow Heritage would ultimately venture down.
Shadow Heritage, unlike the rest of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s quests, doesn’t give you the choice to avoid romance. No matter what decisions you make over the course of this new expansion, your Kassandra will wind up with Natakas. (If you play as Alexios, then Darius will instead have a daughter, Neema, and you’ll wind up with her instead.)
After getting word this morning that this might be the case, I decided to rebuke Darius and Natakas’ companionship whenever possible throughout my playthrough. I was a misthios, after all. A lone mercenary who wasn’t ready to settle down. After defeating the Tempest and parting with the pair, I returned to an abandoned home from earlier in the story only to see Natakas and Darius come back. A montage played out of the trio refurnishing the home and I played out a sequence where I grabbed groceries from the market. We were running out of food thanks to a new addition to our family: Kassandra’s son Elpidios. Shadow Heritage forced me to abandon my mercenary ways and have a baby, regardless of the decisions I had made.
This is not the first time that Assassin’s Creed has revealed lineages over the course of play. Assassin’s Creed 2 contained a sequence in which the player, as Altair, had a romantic rendezvous with the Templar Maria that led to a child. There are two key differences with Odyssey. One is that the series has moved away from the need for its modern day characters to have a blood relation to the past characters, as they did in games before Assassin’s Creed Origins. The other is that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a role-playing game.
Whereas Conor and Ezio were characters with their own personalities, Kassandra is one that we define.Dialog choices help define her personality and, more importantly, her sexuality. Looking back on the main story, I cannot recall having sex with any male characters. My Kassandra was strictly lesbian. And yet here, after countless hours where my dialog selections defined her character, Kassandra is forced down a path that I wouldn’t have chosen. Hell, I’d tried to avoid it. It can feel like a slap in the face, particularly if you were playing Kassandra as gay, to have her embrace domesticity, a heterosexual relationship, and motherhood.
Today, when Shadow Heritage went live, players started to notice the incongruity. On social sites like Reddit, there are multiple threads full of players who feel betrayed by the decision.
“I’m a lesbian,” one Redditor says in a large post. “ I was happy to be able to play a character like myself the same way guys or straight women who play games do. Ubisoft made a big fucking deal of being able to choose your character’s sexual orientation. It was part of their marketing campaign. They used what is clearly a lie to sell the game.”
The reference to a “big fucking deal” about choosing seuxual orientation seems to come from an Entertainment Weekly article that quotes creative director Jonathan Dumont on the topic of sexuality and queer relationships within the game.
“Since the story is choice-driven, we never force players in romantic situations they might not be comfortable with,” Dumont says. “Players decide if they want to engage with characters romantically. I think this allows everybody to build the relationships they want, which I feel respects everybody’s roleplay style and desires.”
And yet, Shadow Heritage’s ending seems to push back against that notion. There doesn’t appear to be any option to avoid that final sequence. There is a third and final episode in the series coming in March, which will presumably continue after Shadow Heritage’s ending, but Kassandra (or Alexios) is now settled down, and the Order of Ancients continues to ominously gather its forces.
When asked by Kotaku about this development, Ubisoft sent over an e-mailed statement. “We strive to give players choice whenever possible in Odyssey and apologize to those surprised by the events in this episode,” the statement said. “Without spoiling it, you will engage in an important relationship as part of a set story. The motivation behind this relationship is yours to explore in game and will be reflected in your character’s story arc. There is one episode left in Legacy of the First Blade which will tie your character’s actions together.”