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Fallen's Blog: Titanfall 2 Deserves Better

By FallenXE - 29th November 2016 - 02:03 AM

At the start, I merely wanted to make this article a newspost on how Amazon and Origin were both offering huge discounts on Titanfall 2 just a month into its launch and ahead of the Black Friday sales.

I figured though that it would not do justice to the game or to give you, the readers, a solid reason as to why you should pick it up at this moment. I should also pre-empt this and say that this is not an Electronic Arts (EA) publicity spot and that my comments are reflective of my personal experience having played both Titanfall 2, and the first Titanfall in 2014.

Believe The Hype

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The original Titanfall came out on March 2014 in the wake of Jason West and Vince Zampella's very public lawsuit with Activision and after their departure from Infinity Ward, the details of which have almost become legendary in gaming developer lore. I recommend the following pieces from Kotaku and Vanity Fair if you are interested in reading the details of the incident.

The game was a Microsoft exclusive and was to launch only on the PC and Xbox 360 platforms, totally leaving out the Sony biosphere. If you could recall around this period Microsoft, in conjunction with EA and Respawn also carried out their "Believe The Hype" promotional campaign, touting the game as the Call Of Duty killer and the future and evolution of the First-Person Shooter (FPS) genre.

Titanfall would go on to win numerous awards but just as quickly as it came, Titanfall's community base near flatlined upon a couple of months from launch, turning the game from a potential mainstream hit into a cult classic instead.

This was due to a couple of varying but cumulative factors, those commonly brought up including the lack of a single-player campaign, the bad attempt at incorporating campaign elements into the online modes, issues about lack of Pilot and Titan class customisation and a lack of server choice. In addition to that, it also did not help how the community was split up due to the subsequent release of multiple paid map packs.

Become One

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Respawn teased Titanfall 2 back in April, with an official reveal dropping in June. From that point on, gamers and fans were shown the efforts and new features that were going to be incorporated into the sequel. Things such as grapple hooks, a revamped rodeo system featuring removable battery cores and greater pilot customisation were all introduced.

Three of the biggest features that were introduced in the sequel would be the presence of a full-fledged Single Player Campaign, fixed Titan Classes (6 of them) and a lack of a Season Pass, all of which I will address below and in detail.

The original game had players wanting an orthodox campaign to explore the Titanfall universe which Respawn had created. Efforts to incorporate campaign elements into the multiplayer of the original came as a sore point for players and critics, with most stating that it was poorly executed and it would have been better to not have been included in the game at all.

Thus, the folks at Respawn responded by announcing that a full campaign will be present in the sequel, having players as the rifleman Jack Cooper who is suddenly partnered with Vanguard-class Titan BT-7274 after the latter’s Pilot was killed. Without spoiling the plot, and as the following review from Gamespot would attest, as well as that of many other critics, the plot of Titanfall 2 though clichéd, manages to shine and develop the game into almost a puzzle-platformer-FPS hybrid with large hints of Mirror's Edge and Portal present in it.

In addition to expanding Titanfall's existing lore, the campaign also capitalizes on the series' essential mechanics. Wall-running, for example, played a major role in the sections I was able to play. Environments ranged from a lush jungle lined with sheer, rocky cliffs to a futuristic manufacturing plant buried deep within a cavern, but nearly every area featured multiple potential paths and plenty of surfaces to traverse using Cooper's rocket-boosted wall-running and double-jumping.

I even encountered a few traversal puzzles designed to test players' platforming abilities, similar to the more challenging sections of the recent Mirror's Edge reboot. Near the beginning of that production plant, for example, I had to bounce through a series of pipes without stopping, as allowing my momentum to dissipate would have sent me plummeting into the abyss below. Later I had to leap at a moving wall that was dangling over an immense chasm, testing both my timing and my faith in the mechanics. I genuinely wasn't sure I could clear the gap and held my breath until I landed safely.
Source: Gamespot

Meet The Titan...

Another change Respawn introduced in the sequel were fixed Titan classes. Though the original Ogre, Atlas and Stryder chassis classes were kept, they were customised and varied into six different pre-set classes with each of them having their own strengths and weaknesses.

One can indeed argue that this goes against what gamers had feedbacked after the first game, which was that they wanted increased customisation. It thus seems counter-productive that the developers made fixed character classes for the Titans, with increased visual customisation at the expense of limited utility and ability variations and with no option to change the main weapon at all.

Perhaps however, Respawn had the intention of creating classes that players would be able to develop a connection and affinity with as well as making the game more predictable. This can be illustrated in the event that if a player were to see a Class X Titan approaching, he would immediately have an idea of what to expect from said threat and thus be able to adequately respond.

The creation of fixed classes also makes the game more accessible to casual players as the first Titanfall was more technical in nature and the amount of customisation offered to each Titan forced players to think on the spot and react and adapt to the situation at hand. From what can be seen online, there are two camps; one side that rather the game retains its steep learning curve and the other that wants it to be more simplified and "fun".

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Back to the new Titans that were introduced, Respawn had a couple of videos introducing the new Titan classes which you can see over at their Youtube page. The six new Titan classes; Tone, Legion, Ion, Scorch, Northstar and Ronin, were introduced in a series of promotional videos introducing each of them and aside from the criticism of the lack of customisation, it can be seen how fans and players have begun to show positive attachment to the Titan classes.

Comparison is even being made between the Titans and the characters from MOBAs and Co-Op FPSs like Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch. Again, it comes down to a matter of choice, if you are from the school of FPS or Mech Sims, you would have preferred the customisation offered in the first game. If you prefer something that is more pick-up-and-play you would definitely agree and support with the changes made in the sequel.

Making fixed classes of Titans also means that in the future, more classes of Titans can be offered as freemium DLC. On the other hand, the Prime Titans as seen in the Ion and Scorch prime variants via the Deluxe Edition of Titanfall 2 can also be offered as paid DLCs as they are only visually different and do not affect the meta-gameplay.

Remember When...

Which brings us to our last point, the lack of a Season Pass for Titanfall 2. It is circumstance of current market conditions where casual and mainstream gamers are accustomed to purchasing Season Passes to get more content for their games. Before and during the noughts, gamers knew that when they forked out cash for a game they would get the full thing along with continuous developer support for the life cycle of the game and that they were not short-changed of anything.

In the mid-noughts gamers accepted they would have to pay for expansion packs and downloadable content (DLC). In recent years, micro transactions, season passes and pay-to-win have become the norm and default business model for AAA games. You would have to pay the price of a game a couple of times over to be able to enjoy all the content that would be offered in the game's life cycle.

This would not be an issue if the expansion packs or content that are offered is new or fresh, but recently there has been the issue of developers hiding DLC content that was meant to be in the base game, such as the case of the Pre-Order exclusive Prothean companion Javik from Mass Effect 3 as can be seen in this Forbes article.

This brings up the question why future content is even being included in the base game but locked out, the immediate assumption of gamers being that the developers are cutting out pieces of the final product to make more profit at the expense of gamers.

It thus come as a complete surprise that Respawn has managed to convince EA to ensure that Titanfall 2 does not come with any Season Pass, considering how Battlefield 1 and Battlefront both were announced with the availability of Season Passes from Day One onwards.

"We are working with Respawn to build a franchise," Jorgensen added, when asked about Titanfall 2's open plan for more maps and other post-release content without the need for a season pass.

"[Titanfall] is something that we plan to be working with them on for many, many years to come, and there's huge opportunity inside of that franchise to continue to expand it. Part of the strategy of building a franchise is you have a long view."
Source: Eurogamer

As noted above, EA's Andrew Wilson and Blake Jorgensen mentioned on the public front how they wish to build the franchise, how initial and first-week sales figures do not matter to them and on how they want to coordinate with Respawn to provide long-term content and support.

That said, a good assumption why EA actually allowed a sequel for Titanfall to happen is because they were buoyed by sales from Battlefield and the other annual sports franchises, because they saw that the first game was unpolished and had potential, and that a second chance is the very least that Respawn should be given.

It is also definitely in the long-term objective of EA to make Titanfall a profitable franchise and thus the question of a Titanfall 3 being made or not will definitely hinge on the following year or so and whether the content and support provided by Respawn would increase the user base significantly, allowing it to avoid the quick death that Titanfall experienced.

Get ready for Titanfall

In conclusion, Titanfall is indeed a franchise with much potential and Titanfall 2 is a much more polished beast than its predecessor. However, the timing of its release has, despite universal acclaim from critics, affected its sales and only consistent effort and support from Respawn with the full backing of EA can ensure that the franchise matures into something both profitable and enjoyable with long-term survivability a la EA's other numerous annual franchises.

All in all, when EA experiments with a non-traditional series such as Titanfall and Mirror's Edge, gamers should give their support and purchase them because not doing so would means they prefer the current business models of meta-gameplay related micro-transactions and being charged exorbitant prices for additional content.

In actuality, with sufficient support from gamers that are loyal to such franchises who are willing to give them a chance, developers are still able to provide a wholesome experience out of the box as did the developers of yesteryears.