This week I’m going to cover two games. One deserves it because of what they have accomplished both in game and as a professional game studio. The other, its free PVP and sometimes a fella needs a fix! I’m talking about the dark horse of the MMORPG genre Dual Universe and the lovechild of Halo and Titanfall Apex Legends!
Dual Universe doesn’t get the praise it deserves. Maybe its because it’s a French studio, maybe because of that other Sci-Fi Space game that is in a development paradox? Maybe because they do a good job with low drama and progressive updates? I don’t know the cause but Dual Universe and Novaquark, the studio behind the game, deserves some hype! They deserve it because of their technological achievements! Recently their game tested 30,000 simulated players. 30,000! (as seen at THIS conveniently linked video) 30,000 players and bots walking around and one small space ship to cap it off. After countless years anticipating MMORPG’s capable of such ginormous shared universes, Novaquark appears to be on the cusp of delivering it.
Did I mention all of the Dual images in this column are player made vehicles? It’s early but if EVE, SWG and Minecraft had a Ménage à trois it might be Dual Universe. I agree, it sounds too big, too unpredictable, too impossible to be true - but all of the great MMORPGs were exactly that. In their time, on paper, they were considered impossible. SWG unimaginable! DAOC certifiable! EVE clinically insane! If anything the gaming public has become complicit. After bearing witness to all the failures we stopped daring studios to better than what we had in 2003 and we became content with fractions of the world sims we all loved. A PVP MMORPG! A ship MMORPG! A MMORPG with deep crafting! BACK IN MY DAY our MMORPG’s had all of the above! (When the servers weren’t down...) I read some Deadpool and now your back, great. (Pours libations for Peter.)
In that way Dual Universe is a bit of a throwback, it aspires to be more. It chases the impossible but there is something about it that I find quite remarkable. It isn’t what it has done, so much as what the studio hasn’t done. They aren’t dropping deadlines, at least not without clear communication and realistic expectations. They aren’t goal post moving. They appear to be organized, planned, and low drama - rare for a game studio, I know.
They do frequent internal testing on what appears to be (from the outside) a consistent schedule. Can you imagine? A game company utilizing some kind of a schedule! Followers of the game aren’t left asking, is this vaporware? Yes, we’ve fallen that far now. From challenging developers to aspire to defending vaporware because a studio guy assured us the “game” is a game and not just a multi-level marketing scam or as I like to call scams, multi-level marketing companies. So Novaquark, while the bar is increasingly lower, you are a pearl in the rough, an elk among the deer, a wolf among the sheep if you will. (I don’t think those mean what he thinks they do.)
I’m SURE some dev that works for Novaquark will read this, hand roll a cigarette and tilt his barrette’ in laughter while he eats some fresh baked French Bread - or as the French call it, bread. Well, maybe, but the problem with most studios is they try to hide it but we know. We can read between the scribbled lines. We know. If Novaquark is internally chaotic, as all studios seem to be, then they are still head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to presenting themselves as a professional company. Not even Bioware can still make that claim. (#Anthem) In fact, they recently added a second satellite office in Montreal. I assume because they speak French their?
What I’m saying is, if you want to follow a low drama studio that is actually adhering to the pitch of their Kickstarter and featuring updates about the game they are making, then Dual Universe is worth checking out. Real recognize real, and if the French can produce such wonders as Georges St.-Pierre and Lady Liberty with her torchsword and balance scale (that’s a different lady!), then by golly they just might be able to get a sci-fi space MMORPG out the door within our lifetimes! Maybe...
Speaking of broad games, let’s talk about narrow (-5 XP for poor transition). As in the ultimate example of asking less of studios, the shooter market. If shooter trends continue Madden and the WWE games are going to start looking like legitimate sequels instead of rushed clones with updated rosters. I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t played the same reskinned shooters for the last twenty years, that is until I played Apex Legends a bit more... As in many beers and hours and aggro from those gray objects that move around me and sometimes block the TV while I’m relating to my love, gaming.
I have a simple rule to decide if a game is good, does it create relationship strain? If so then congratulations, you have discovered a quality game. I really didn’t want to like Apex Legends but it’s got a sort of, Ready Player One draw to it. It’s not a great movie but there is enough familiar poppy stuff and solid action sequences to make me a fan. (You just went on about asking more of studios and clone stamping games and now you are praising a game that does just that!)
I did not make the foolproof game quality test that is the relationship rule but its the one rule that supersedes them all! Does a game cause a breakup? It's a ten plus! Play it hard and long because you may never find another like it! (Pours libations for his beloved Star Wars Galaxies) Apex is the Marvel movie of games. It’s just good enough to be enjoyable, if not trite, but the few moments they lace in to feed the hardcore edge it into something more than an average experience.
Be it sliding (yeah, sliding), building my weapon every match, or the satisfaction of giving my teammate a res, I can’t pull away from this game. Two more weeks of this and my next column will either be elevating it to the GOAT of shooters, or I’ll burn out on it and cast it aside like so many games that started hot but couldn’t stand the second ultimate test of gaming, time played. (I think he has games and human relationships confused.)
I’m not trying to sell boxes (Because it’s free?), but I will say my TV broke, I tried to spend time playing Lumines on my Switch but withdrawal set in and a late night emergency TV purchase was made... And as I wrote that I realized I could have just played it on my superior gaming machine, my PC...that stings.
Rule number three for assessing the quality of a game, I get to about this many words in a column and I find myself wanting to finish up so I can go play! Of course, I would never, under any circumstances ever, let a game influence the quality of work I turn in! (This from a guy that prioritizes games of human relationships.) It just so happens that I’ve said all I needed to about Apex Legends and Dual Universe for this week. Until next time, catch me slidin, watch me runnin, see my shootin in Apex Legends!