Lichdom: Battlemage released recently on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and to say it's a mess is a massive understatement. A port of a two-year-old PC game, Lichdom: Battlemage was developed by Xaviant on PC (currently responsible for The Culling in Early Access) and was ported to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 by Maximum Games. Running on last-gen's CryEngine 3, Lichdom does some impressive things with their engine on the PC-side, making it a fitting showcase for Crytek's previous iteration of their CryEngine platform.
However, according to a report by Digital Foundry, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of Lichdom: Battlemage are the "worst performing console games" they've ever tested. This list includes the likes of Monolith's Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which wasn't pretty on PlayStation 3.
"There's no beating around the bush here - Lichdom is a game that rarely manages to deliver a frame-rate north of twenty frames per second. In fact, the PlayStation 4 clocks up an average frame-rate of just 15fps across the run of play, with dips as low as 10fps. On top of that, frame-time latencies can be astonishingly high with some remarkable stutter. We've run the rule over a multitude of titles since we started frame-rate testing console games back in 2008 - and we're pretty sure we've never seen anything quite as bad as this."For a game that targets 30 frames per second, not even consistently going above half of that frame-rate is appalling. Couple this with the Xbox One version's lack of Vsync, and you have a situation where you're slogging through 15fps and a perpetually tearing screen - not a great formula for stable, smooth, and appealing gameplay. However, while the power of the consoles is certainly part of this equation - they simply are underpowered for consistent performing modern games - much of the issue here stems from a company knowingly releasing a game in this shape to begin with.
The PC version of Lichdom: Battlemage runs great on my GTX 980 and Intel i7-6700K setup. However, the port to the console version represents an ideal seen in the gaming industry that is becoming all-too-common: companies can release whatever quality product because the backlash as a whole will be minimal. The recent generation of consoles has shown us that games can be released broken, yet the sales figures of the companies who make them will continue to remain relatively unaffected.
Assassin's Creed Unity, which until Lichdom: Battlemage was a grand example of brokenness on a console, scared away some from the next installment of the series in Assassin's Creed Syndicate. However, a game like Halo: The Master Chief Collection - which almost a year and a half after its initial release still suffers from some connectivity issues on occasion - didn't seem to dissuade gamers from waiting to see if Halo 5: Guardians would release in a similar state. Batman: Arkham Knight was broken for an entire third of the player base and is still not working properly for many PC users. Yet, at the end of the day, Arkham Knight was heralded as a critical success, giving no thought to the fact that, like Lichdom: Battlemage affords console players, that the game was unplayable.Battlemage taps into this mindset. Maximum Games knew full well how broken the port of Lichdom was before it was sent to store shelves. In fact, Maximum Games took to their own website to address the Lichdom: Battlemage frame-rate concerns, stating that they "...are not satisfied with the game's performance." Yet someone there signed off on the game, deeming it a quality product, worthy of someone spending $49.99. (For comparison sakes, you can get the well-running PC version for $39.99.) What this shows is a complete disrespect for their customers and is something that showcases what is completely wrong with the gaming industry. Instead of making sure when a productworks when it gets into a customer's hand (like it used to be), games can be patched after the fact. Instead, consumers don't get an enjoyable experience, but one that as Digital Foundry says is an "assault on the senses," one that could only be played for 20 minutes on Xbox One before the author had to stop.
Companies need to be held more accountable for the products they release. In the end, the backlash to Assassin's Creed Unity worked and Ubisoft put out a much better showing with Assassin's Creed Syndicate. Unfortunately, until gamers start to make their voices heard with their wallets - and more industry critics hold industry leaders accountable - Lichdom: Battlemage will end up not becoming the poster child of an industry needing change, to just another statistic in a long line of broken games till change finally does occur.
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[Image via Maximum Games]