Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Battlefield 3... I think I'll pass

I've been anticipating the release of Battlefield 3 (BF3) for months, planning to buy it within the first week of release. Not only did the wife make an exception and let me break my usual zero-dollar budget for games, but she even agreed to let me make some upgrades to my aging PC in preparation. I was stoked.

I vaguely remember playing Battlefield 1942 (just a little bit) back in the day, and not being too impressed. But I got hooked on the franchise with Battlefield 2 when a friend gave me an extra copy that came with his upgraded video card. I loved it so much I had to spring for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BF:BC2) when it came out earlier last year. I bought the Limited Edition DVD and played the heck out of it until other priorities got in the way, as they always seem to do. I still play a match now and then. It's a fun game.

Prior to BF:BC2, I can't tell you the last time I purchased a triple-A title for full price. On average I buy a couple games per month these days, typically spending just $3-$7 each. And that trend only started late last year. Before that, it had to have been close to a decade since I bought my last game. We're talking titles like the original Doom, Blood and Duke Nukem 3D. Yeah, it's been a while.

However, BF:BC2 set me back a whopping $60. How much this game, or any game, is worth is a matter for another discussion. Suffice it to say that I don't get to spend that kind of money on a video game very often. I don't count GameCube or Wii games we've bought for the kids, mainly because those are Christmas or birthday gifts, and have the force of law (read: wife's blessing) behind them. My whole point is that it's a big deal when I am allowed to do it, and I take the privilege seriously.

Which brings me to now, almost a full month since BF3's release, and sadly, I still don't have it. I'm rather surprised myself, considering that I have permission, I've spent time and money upgrading my PC, and I've been drooling over the trailers and gameplay videos like everybody else. There are probably several reasons I haven't pulled the trigger though. The first that comes to mind is the shenanigans of EA not putting BF3 on Steam. I'm no lover of Steam, believe me, but instead it requires... Origin?

Origin is a Steam wannabe. At least Steam is a rock-solid platform that has been around for years. It's extremely popular and I have about a dozen games in my Steam library, so I tolerate it. The last thing I want is a newcomer which has nothing to offer me, BF3 aside, except all the things I don't like about Steam in the first place. I know EA is no newcomer, but Origin as a platform client is. If I was to put up with any forced client, I would, and do, choose Steam.

Next, playing BF:BC2 I always felt that there were not enough maps. This leads me (and others I'm sure) to the uneasy feeling that game publishers hold back content with the intention of charging later for said content as DLC. I think more work needs to be done by the gaming industry as a whole to find a better balance between making a game that feels complete before the DLC rolls out, then finding the right price for that DLC. I can't imagine spending $60 for BF3 then shelling out another $15 for a map or two that I'll probably end up feeling should have been included in the first place. It's kind of cool though, that if you bought the game straight away you got the DLC (Karkand) for free/included. That is somewhat of a bonus for the guinea pigs that are wrapping up EA's beta testing right after release ;)

That's another problem: there are myriad reports of game glitches and crashes, and that the new outside-the-game server browser is clunky and just dumb. Mostly, I'm scared to subject myself to a frustrating experience I'm almost promised to have if I buy sooner rather than later. Nothing I've heard about the state of affairs leaves me confident that the current experience is worth top dollar. And I'm easily annoyed when it comes to that kind of stuff.

I think about the strange inverse relationship of new games to their hefty price tags. When games are first released, they are their buggiest, crappiest versions of their existence, and the cost is the absolute most it will ever be. Those who wait to purchase benefit from patches and price-drops. Sounds like a win:win to me. Granted, I will miss the opportunity to play the game now, but for me it's better than a fair trade, it's ideal.

Last week I picked up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion GoTY Deluxe on Steam for a paltry $6.25. So long as my PC is up to the task, I can expect the game to run well, as it's beyond fully patched and has a mature mod landscape. Not something I could have said if I purchased when it was first released. Good things come to those who wait.

The last item that comes to mind for not already grabbing BF3 is that in my trepidation, my attention has been drawn to another title. No, not Modern Warfare 3. Although I think the MW games are sometimes pretty to look at, I never cared for their multiplayer experience (too deathmatchy), much preferring the Battlefield experience instead. If my purchase of Oblivion last week didn't tip you off, the distraction I refer to is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

I've never been a big RPG guy, I like first-person shooters, plain and simple. But Skyrim looks so incredible, I'm trying to change my mind. I've been trying to cut my teeth on RPG gameplay by starting The Elder Scrolls series from the beginning, with Arena. It's somewhat harsh on the eyes, but I can put up with that if the game is fun. I've recently played Fallout 3, and have been collecting other classic RPG titles from GOG.com. I've always found RPGs intriguing but I think I lack the patience and the frame of mind required to complete one.

Now I've heard some grumblings about Skyrim as well, such as that it's a terrible console port, is only a DirectX9 game at heart and is a bit buggy to boot. The DX9 thing doesn't really scare me off, even though I've upgraded recently, I'm still at least a couple years behind the curve on hardware. I've got the cash to drop on a big title, but clearly I'm willing to wait to see how Bethesda addresses the issues before I make up my mind.

If BF3 doesn't pan out for me, and it's looking more and more like it won't, I'll just save my $60 in the meantime, and keep plugging away at The Elder Scrolls series. I'm sure I'll end up with Skyrim someday, probably next year, hopefully for about $5, with all the DLC included and patched to perfection. I can't wait.

LATE UPDATE 2012-02-26:
I've since picked up both BF3 and Skyrim. Hardly play either. My heart, mind and soul have been captured by this phenomenon that is Minecraft. Both myself and my two sons are pretty heavily addicted to this block-building game. It's pretty far outside my usual gaming budget, and my 12-year old paid for his own copy, but it's also quite worth it. I can't imagine there are too many gamers out there that don't already know all about it, but it's extremely cool.