Tis that season again, the one some people wait all year for. Which I find kind of bizarre personally. Halloween just doesn’t have the same gravity here in the U.K. as I think it does in the U.S. It all seems a relatively toothless affair meant for kids yet to arrive in their teenage years. Normally, I’d ignore the event like the big grump that I am.
But in video games, Halloween is one of those unifying events that seems to take everything that is great about the holiday and throw a party for all of their players to enjoy: The seasonal event.
And there are a lot going on right now, or are on the verge of starting as I write this. With so many current video games being made to be played in perpetuity, creating an event to spice up the grind can either be a much needed change for hardcore players, or an excuse for lapsed players to make a comeback.
But what’s the trick to these treats? Which aspects of the event do you need to focus the most time on? Would it be a fresh gameplay challenge, or would it be the rewards and souvenirs that you can show off in order to tell those around you that “you were there”… Or were there until they inevitably roll around again in 12 months, if they game is still alive by then.
Ideally, you’d want to do both to some extent. But the longer in the tooth the game becomes, the more the events may become stale if they’re the same thing returning year to year. In this respect, a game that I feel is kind of waning when it comes to it’s Halloween content is Overwatch.
Overwatch’s Halloween Terror event is about as long in the tooth as these things get. Rolling out the same limited time content as they have the previous three years they’ve done the event. Bringing back the Junkenstein’s Revenge survival mode and redecorating a few maps during the time the event is on.
It’s not the worst limited time game mode Blizzard have added to their game, but the iteration of it with very few changes makes it difficult to get that excited about it. As opposed to something like Apex Legends, which has the benefit of being a relatively new game and thus has the ability to surprise us with a brand new mode.
Apex Legends adds Shadowfall, a mode which gives me some powerful nostalgic flashbacks to playing a ton of a fan made mode in Halo called Zombies. For those not familiar; 30 players drop onto a nighttime version of Kings Canyon. Each time a player dies, they become a “shadow”, gifted with heightened mobility and melee abilities. When only ten Legends remain, they must band together and escape the island through a drop ship straight out of Titanfall.
I’m still processing my feelings about the mode itself, my utter lack of skill at the game really does make it difficult to get the full charm of the event when they often end without me getting a kill on either side. Plus, I’m yet to see the shadows win, despite playing a dozen games of it.
Momentarily ignoring Apex’s unfair advantage of freshness though, these are two games in which I have incredibly different levels of interest in playing right now. Which is more of a slam at Blizzard than anything, which is the last thing they want these days. But if the Overwatch team want to keep their game alive and well, surely they should add something new to their seasonal event rather than the same old stuff we’ve seen before.
Especially with these brash, up and coming games like Apex Legends coming and stealing their lunch. Ironically though, while I don’t really have the drive to play Overwatch at the moment, there is one thing that’s going to get me to download that ungodly patch and launch the game anyway:
It’s the age old story of this wave of never ending games. The thing that people care about far more than the actual gameplay in a lot of the cases, which is equal parts bizarre and utterly understandable. The primary new content added to Overwatch’s Halloween events has come in the form of skins, highlight intros and the various other customisable aspects of the game.
And the best thing about this new “content” is that it’s all incredibly attainable. I had ton of coins on my account anyway, and so bought the new skin I really wanted, after that, there are a bunch of items on a weekly rotation that are gifted to the player simply for winning nine games a week. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive and pretty inoffensive… You can probably see where I’m going with this.
Apex Legends on the other hand, also has a bunch of fantastic looking cosmetics associated with their Halloween event, and I’ll never own any of them. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken exception with Respawn’s monetization approach to their seasonal events. It’s an ongoing point of contention between the fans and the developers, who insist that they have the right to charge as much as they do because Apex is a free game.
It’s difficult to argue this, but at the same time, I cannot justify to myself trying to attain these skins because of both how expensive they are (a requirement of £8 worth of coins per purple item and about £15 per gold item) and the fact that there is no way to earn them in game through regular play, aside from building up the very scarce currencies from levelling up.
It wouldn’t be so bad if they game allowed you to work up to getting just one item of the 24 through gameplay alone, but no such luck. Which makes it all the more cheeky that they give away an exclusive cosmetic item for completing the whole set, which would be an item I’d need to pay £128 to get.
I’m of the mind that you’d catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. And if these items were more reasonably priced, then I’d be certain to pick a few up for this game I am really enjoying. But their number crunchers must say differently, and those few people crazy enough to dump a lot of money into these events must be making it worth the hassle they’re getting over it.
So, there you have two major games both succeeding and both failing at what I see to be the major aspects of a season event: the gameplay and the reward. But then again, these are two developers under the umbrella of EA and Activision. So it’s not too shocking if you really think about it.
But there are other games that keep things simple, and it works all the better for them. I’ve found myself getting back into Pokemon Go these past couple of months, and their Halloween event is as simple as it is perfect. They’re adding some Halloween variants to the classic starter quartet, for the people who like their trophies. And adding additional candy rewards for the capture of ghost and dark type Pokemon as gameplay.
It’s all easily available to those who play the game both seriously and casually. It’s different from last year thanks to the new Pokemon added to the game since then, and the new Team Rocket rescues give more variety to the Pokemon already in the game.
It’s kind of weird that I’d be praising Pokemon Go as the game that has most effectively created an utterly fresh and welcoming seasonal event to their game that doesn’t feel like it’s either stale, not taking advantage of their player base. But in the end, those are the things I most value out these kinds of events, kind of irrelevant to how they’re themed. As nice as a spooky themed event is.
And we haven’t even seen what Destiny are going to do yet this year… Maybe I wrote this article a little too early.