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Let’s Talk About How the Game Industry Treats Brazilians

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Within the international gaming community, Brazilians are either a recurring joke or a reason for angry banters on forums. As one myself, I can’t disagree that many of us are anything but educated and respectful, traits that in most cases extend outside of online games. It’s an issue directly tied to a flawed education system and old customs from when no one was financially safe. In part, I agree that many online games should get their own South American servers (nay, Brazilian servers since other South Americans also have to deal with the kind of behavior that we’re famous for), although I don’t think developers should lock nice gamers who are also fluent in English from global servers. But that’s a topic for another time. Today we’re going to talk about how companies treat Brazilian gamers, which is, in a way, close to how the community reacts.

It recently came to my attention that Square Enix adjusted the subscription cost for Final Fantasy XIV in Brazil and Russia. The price is absurd (R$47,28 for 30 days and no bonuses such as additional characters and retainers, which is almost A Realm Reborn‘s price, R$52,99), but what angered both Brazilians and Russians the most and drove them to change the game’s recent Steam reviews to “mostly negative” is the company’s behavior. Square Enix, father, son, and holy spirit of JRPGs (except for that one time in 2009) waited a month after Stormblood‘s release (when refunding it wouldn’t be possible) to adjust ratings without any previous warning. It took South American and Serbian players by surprise, especially because it breaks Square Enix’s very own user agreement, which is as follow:

“4.1 FINAL FANTASY XIV Subscription Fees. In order to access SQUARE ENIX’s servers to play the Game, you must agree to a recurring subscription (“Subscription”) with a minimum subscription term of 30 days, and pay a recurring subscription fee (“FFXIV Subscription Fee”). Square Enix may offer different subscription plans in its sole discretion. Further, Square Enix may offer you the chance to purchase additional features for your FFXIV Service Account, which we call “Add-ons” or “Options.” Add-ons may be subject to either additional recurring fees or one-time fees. A “Recurring Fee” is a fee that will be charged on a recurring basis until you terminate your subscription. A “One-Time Fee” is fee that is only charged once. All fee rates will be posted at http://sqex.to/ffxiv.na.fees and any changes to Recurring Fee rates will be posted with 30 days’ advance notice and notice will be provided to the Game community.”

“Suck it up!” The reader screams with a sly smile on their face. “What you’re paying is exactly how much we pay if you consider exchange rates, which you should because if we pay $60 for a game, everyone else in the world should, too.”

That would be right if the world revolved around North America, which it doesn’t. Yes, I’m sorry to tell you, dear reader from the Free Country, but you’re not the center of the universe even though your language and culture are considered universal. The economy of other countries has little to do with American dollars, which have no influence locally. It is true that console releases can suffer drastic price changes due to the cost of US dollars in determined countries, but we’re talking about digital services. For comparison, if I pay R$100 for Steam wallet credits, I get exactly R$100 on my Steam wallet. There are no extra charges for conversion or services provided by a foreign company. No taxes, no shenanigans. Nada.

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Take a look at the scratched numbers: ARR+HW used to cost R$229,98.

Developers and publishers such as Square Enix don’t seem to understand that the economy in poorer countries should have an impact on prices. This is not the first time they don’t consider varying economies seeing as how the A Realm Reborn and Heavensward package used to cost a total of R$229,98, which is the reason why, at first, I catered to a European copy of the game (less than R$130 at the time). Unfortunately, this conduct can be observed in other companies as well, Bethesda being my favorite example.

It might come as a shock, but the father, son, and all that bollocks of Western RPGs is greedy. North American fans are often blinded by the fact that companies only care about money until it becomes convenient for them to complain, but we South Americans have been aware of that for a while now. When it first came out, Fallout 4 cost R$250 (rounded up). That’s R$250 For The Base Game dot com.

“Tough shit.” The reader giggles. “That’s what, $60? It’s just what we pay, so work harder and stop complaining, you little piece of human waste.”

I thought we were over that—but of course, it’s naive of me to think North Americans would understand how foreign economy works. The exchange rate is a recurring counter argument regarding prices. A ridiculous amount of North American and British gamers will often point out how the developers and publishers are right by raising prices seeing as how X game costs $60 or £50 or whatever it is, so of course, everyone else should pay the same regardless of the local economy. That tends to silence users from third world countries who can’t find any way to reason with those from first world countries, who continue to talk about exchange rates as if the world revolves around their currencies. It’s this inability to reason that excused Bethesda from dropping the price of Fallout 4 from R$250 to R$230, or why Prey still costs R$230 (we’re still talking about base games here). Someone give Bethesda a gold star for they are almost giving these titles for free! It took them almost two years to lower Fallout 4‘s price to R$70, which is more than reasonable—it’s a full-price bargain for a triple-A title seeing as how The Witcher 3 was released at R$130 and NieR: Automata, R$160. Hell, Dead Rising 4 is R$199,95 and although that’s quite expensive, is not as ridiculous as R$250.

Bottom line is, Japanese and North American companies don’t seem to understand anything outside of the comfortable circle of first world gaming, neither do they wish to. One could argue that Square Enix doesn’t even claim to offer any kind of support to South American players seeing as how Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t have official South American servers, but the fact that the game is fully available on Steam is enough for them to acknowledge this user base. No one is asking for servers based in South America, no one is asking for a full Portuguese localization, and not everyone is angry that the subscription is now a limb and an eye; all we want is to be warned beforehand when the subscription is increased. You know, as the user agreement says. We might not pay what everyone else around the world does for the privilege to play FFXIV, but that doesn’t mean we’re less than customers who, by the by, still have to turn the game purchase and subscription fees into careful financial moves. Although R$48 might sound cheap to foreigners, it’s expensive for us as I imagine the price increase in Russia is for Russian players. A warning was all it took to avoid this commotion.

Game industry

“Well, fuck you!” The reader flips the table, throwing all of my hard-earned Monopoly money on the mud. “You’re the one who can’t be reasoned with! If you don’t understand why you should be paying more, then you’re the problem. Good thing we won’t be saying Brazilians around anymore, because you’re all a bunch of fuckwits anyway. Go play Hello Kitty Online!”

As a final note, I would like you all to give a warm round of applause to everyone’s favorite topic—piracy! Yes, I am perfectly aware of the ramifications of piracy in first world countries, how companies treat those who practice piracy, and how the community cringes at the combination of letters. But when you make something desirable inaccessible, people will “steal” it no matter how ugly that sounds. Piracy isn’t legal in Brazil, as I’ve seen some uninformed people claim, but it’s been such a part of our culture that for many years my family said “R$45 is too much money for one record, Gabriel. Do you know how much we can do with R$45? Why don’t you just get it for free on the internet and worry about more important things such as studying?” Thus I would spend my allowance of R$50 (that was supposed to last the month, which is nearly impossible if you have any sort of social life) on shiny imported deluxe edition albums.

I have also been a conscientious consumer and used most of my tiny salary to purchase video games (sacrificing my previous social life, a conscious choice), but I can’t say the same for other Brazilians who have to deal with a number of bills and absurd prices in everything they hold dear. And no, I’m not saying people can “pirate their way into FFXIV,” but this situation is something to consider when deliberately adjusting prices in less fortunate countries where people won’t think twice before resorting to more convenient ways. What’s better? To sell your product for a reasonable price point so that everyone has a happy ending or to have absolutely nothing in return because the product is so expensive, people would rather steal it?

Born and raised in Northeastern Brazil, Gabriel didn't grow up with video games as many of his colleagues did. However, his dedication and love for the industry make up for his late start in the gaming world.

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Game Reviews

‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos

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Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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Game Reviews

‘Earthnight’ Review: Hit the Dragon Running

Between its lush visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, Earthnight never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

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Earthnight

In Earthnight, you do one thing: run. There’s not much more to do in this roguelike auto-runner but to dash across the backs of massive dragons to reach their heads and strike them down. This may be an extremely simple gameplay loop, but Earthnight pulls it off with such elegance and style. Between its lush comic book visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, it creates an experience that never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

Dragons have descended from space and are wreaking havoc upon humanity. No one is powerful enough to take them down – except for the two-player characters, Sydney and Stanley, of course. As the chosen ones to save the human race, they must board a spaceship and drop from the heavens while slaying as many dragons on your way down as they can. For every defeated creature, they’ll be rewarded with water – an extremely precious resource in the wake of the dragon apocalypse. This resource can be exchanged for upgrades that make the next run that much better.

This simple story forms the basis for a similarly basic, yet engaging gameplay loop. Each time you dive from your spaceship, you’ll see an assortment of dragons to land on. Once you make a landing, you’ll dash across its back and avoid the obstacles it throws at you before reaching its head, where you’ll strike the final blow. Earthnight is procedurally generated, so every time you leap down from your home base, there’s a different set of dragons to face, making each run feel unique. There are often special rewards for hunting specific breeds of dragon, so it’s always exciting to see the new set of creatures before you and hunt for the one you need at any given moment.

“[Earthnight is] an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.”

Earthnight

Landing on the dragons is only the first step to slaying them. Entire hordes of monsters live on their backs, and in true auto-runner fashion, they’ll rush at you with reckless abandon from the very start. During the game’s first few runs, the onrush of enemies can feel overwhelming. Massive crowds of them will burst forth at once, and it can feel impossible to survive their onslaughts. However, this is where Earthnight begins to truly shine. The more dragons you slay, the more upgrade items become available, which are either given as rewards for slaying specific dragons or can be purchased with the water you’ve gained in each run. Many of these feel essentially vital for progression – some allow you to kill certain enemies just by touching them, whereas others can grant you an additional jump, both of which are much appreciated in the utter chaos of obstacles found on each dragon.

Procedural generation can often result in bland or repetitive level design, but it’s this item progression system that keeps Earthnight from ever feeling dry. It creates a constant sense of improvement: with more items in your arsenal after each new defeated dragon, you’ll be able to descend even further in the next run. This makes every level that much more exciting: with more power under your belt, there are greater possibilities for defeating enemies, stacking up combos, or climbing high above the dragons. It becomes an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.

Earthnight

At its very best, Earthnight feels like a rhythm game. With the perfect upgrades for each level, it becomes only natural to bounce off of enemies’ heads and soar through the heavens with an almost musical flow. The vibrant chiptune soundtrack certainly helps with this. Packed full of driving beats and memorable melodies with a mixture of chiptune and modern instrumentation, the music makes it easy to charge forward through whatever each level will throw your way.

That is not to say that Earthnight never feels too chaotic for its own good – rather, there are some points where its flood of enemies and obstacles can feel too random or overwhelming, to the point where it can be hard to keep track of your character or feel as if it’s impossible to avoid enemies. Sometimes the game can’t even keep up with itself, with the performance beginning to chug once enemies crowd the screen too much, at least in the Switch version. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and for the most part, simply making good use of its upgrades and reacting quickly to the challenges before you will serve you well in your dragon-slaying quest.

Earthnight

Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.”

It certainly helps that Earthnight is a visual treat as well. It adopts a striking comic book style, in which nearly every frame of animation is lovingly hand-drawn and loaded with detail. Sometimes these details feel a bit excessive – some characters are almost grotesquely detailed, with the faces of the bobble-headed protagonists sometimes seeming too elaborate for comfort. However, in general, it’s a gorgeous game, with its luscious backdrops of deep space and high sky, along with creative monsters and dragon designs that only get more outlandish and spectacular the farther down you soar.

Earthnight is a competent auto-runner that might not revolutionize its genre, but it makes up for this simplicity by elegantly executing its core gameplay loop so that it constantly changes yet remains endlessly addictive. Its excellent visual and audio presentation helps to make it all the more engrossing, while it strikes the perfect balance between randomized level design and permanent progression thanks to its items and upgrades system. At times it may get too chaotic for its own good, but all told, Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Death Stranding’

What makes Death Stranding the most important game of the year is how it has managed to divide gamers and critics alike.

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Death Stranding

2019 has been a banner year for gaming. With some excellent original properties making their debuts and a ton of great sequels, there’s been something for everyone and a lot of it. Still, with all of these amazing games to play, only one of them stands out as the most important game of 2019, and that’s Death Stranding.

Now, please note, I said “most important” and not “best”. Death Stranding is far from a perfect game. As my own review pointed out, Death Stranding has a lot of problems, and some of them are so egregious that they could be described as anti-fun. However, what makes the game stand out from its peers is the sheer scale and awe-inspiring hubris of its creation.

For the first (and possibly last) time, Hideo Kojima has been given a total carte blanche of creative freedom and financial resources to make whatever game he wanted. With Sony footing the bill, Death Stranding is maybe the most Kojima game ever made. Unfortunately, like some prog rockers and experimental filmmakers, Kojima could have well done with some reigning in this time around.

Death Stranding

Still, what makes Death Stranding stand out so much from the competition is that it really is almost nothing like anything you’ve ever played. The game is basically a delivery sim where you must cross an apocalyptic wasteland of America and battle a bunch of ghosts along the way. What caused America to fall, and where these ghosts came from, is still relatively unclear even after all of the overwrought explanations that punctuate the end of the game.

Of course, Death Stranding isn’t so much concerned with why and how these events came to be as it is with the experience of living in, and dealing with, them. This is the one game you’ll play this year that will balance out self-serious moral and religious philosophy with chucking literal piss bombs at ghosts and chugging Monster energy drinks.

Yes, Death Stranding has all of the classic Kojima staples. From egregious product placement to a never-ending stream of increasingly tragic backstories, all the hits are here.

Death Stranding

However, what makes Death Stranding the most important game of the year isn’t so much its utter weirdness as a AAA title but how it has divided gamers and critics alike. While some have slathered it with never-ending praise and perfect scores, others have labeled it “a very lumpy game” or “damaged goods“.

Few games, especially in the AAA space, are able to elicit such divergent responses from their audience. Fewer still are peppered with major actors like Norman Reedus and Lea Seydoux in painstakingly rendered motion capture. For these reasons and more, Death Stranding will be debated in critical circles for years to come, and if that’s not the mark of a game that stands out, then nothing is.

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