Dénouement 2017: The Best Stuff

By Shamus
on Jan 9, 2018
Filed under:
Video Games

Other people have pointed out in the comments that this has been an amazing year for games, but as luck would have it the really stand-out titles came from platforms and genres that I’m just not into. Nintendo had a good year. (Mario, Zelda.) JRPGs had a good year. (Persona, Nier.) Online PvP was doing some interesting things. (PUBG, For Honor.) It wasn’t a bad year for collect-a-thons. (Assassins Creed Origins, Shadow of War.) And we got some genuine oddities that tried new things and succeeded. (Sexy Brutale and Cuphead.) But for various reasons, none of that stuff landed in my wheelhouse.

So while I’m not brimming with enthusiasm for the offerings of 2017, I acknowledge it was still a pretty good year overall. It just wasn’t my year. (Aside from my top pick.) Anyway, let’s finish this chalk outline I’m drawing around 2017 so we can send it off to the morgue…

3. Death Road to Canada

Technically this is a 2016 game, but whatever. Mythical realms like Canada are timeless.

Technically this is a 2016 game, but whatever. Mythical realms like Canada are timeless.

Now THIS is how you do a game with permadeath. STRAFE didn’t work for me, but DRtC was a blast. Sure dying sucks, but here you have lots of options to keep things fresh. You can design your own characters with different strengths and weaknesses, and you get some choices right up front regarding how you want to begin your (probably doomed) journey.

In case you missed it: It’s a zombie apocalypse game. Your characters have decided to make a road trip from Florida to the safety of Canada. The core of the game is built around fighting crowds of zombies with melee weapons in a humorous pixel art world. There’s a risk / reward thing where the longer you linger in an area, the worse the zombies will getParticularly when the sun goes down.. You need to decide how long you want to spend scavenging for food, fuel, weapons, and medicine before you flee to the next town.

Between these combat sections you get random events that call for you to make decisions. It’s a bit like Oregon Trail. (Or more accurately, Organ Trail.) You can pick up survivors along the way. You’ll have more people to bash up the restless dead, but you’ll also have more mouths to feed.

Why does this permadeath game feel so fun while STRAFE turns into a chore? The most obvious factor is that this is a game built around the idea of permadeath while STRAFE uses 90s shooter conventions and then just takes out all the healthpacks and adds permadeath. But making a good survival game involves more than just making it so you have to start over when you die. Strafe’s only real choice at the start of the game is that you can pick from one of three guns, but DRtC allows you to design your starting crew, choose their individual strengths, and then make choices along the way regarding strategy and locations to visit.

I realize it`s the apocalypse, but do we NEED to drive on the wrong side of the road?

I realize it`s the apocalypse, but do we NEED to drive on the wrong side of the road?

In STRAFE, the first twenty minutes of the game are spent in the same rust-colored industrial hallways. When you die, you go back to rust world for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, DRtC changes things up every few minutes. When you arrive in a town you can decide if you want to raid the store, the police station, the cabin, or the apartment building. You don’t spend 20 minutes in the store and then 20 minutes in the police station.

The one gripe I have with the game is that it REALLY needs a stats screen at the end. You get one at the end of a raid, but not at the end of a game. How many people died? How long did we spend on the road? How much food did we eat? How many zombies did we kill? How many times did we change cars? How many shots fired? How many points of damage taken?

Stats like this give each run a sense of closure and allows you to compare your runs and see yourself improve. It’s a trivial feature, it makes death a little less frustrating, and Death Road to Canada doesn’t have it. It’s a strange omission from what otherwise feels like a perfect little game.

2. Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2: Electric Boogaloo

Dishonored 2: Electric Boogaloo

Like I said in my review of Dishonored 2 earlier this year, I didn’t really connect with the original Dishonored. It was fine game in a technical sense, but I wasn’t into the world and the mechanics didn’t really thrill me.

I’m still not really invested in the world, but this time I really clicked with the mechanics. Stealth feels good. Combat feels good. The puzzles are interesting. The powers are wonderfully varied and inventive. The levels are actually open, and not fake-open like the “do you want to hack a door or crawl through a vent?” of the recent Deus Ex titles.

1. Prey

No relation to the last game bearing this title. Which is probably for the best.

No relation to the last game bearing this title. Which is probably for the best.

So this is what it feels like to be a Dark Souls fan, then? I have to admit this is pretty awful. For years you yearn for something different. Something that just isn’t done anymore. Something very specific to your tastes. Then by some staggering miracle the lumbering machine that is the videogames industry manages to – seemingly by accident – deliver this missing element. Going against current trends, fads, and conventional wisdom, someone manages to design, pitch, finance, develop, and ship this exotic gem with your sought-after flavor still intact.

The game doesn’t run out of money during development. It doesn’t get caught in development hell. It doesn’t compromise or betray the core vision due to publisher meddling. It isn’t a confused mess of conflicting purposes due to a creative team that can’t agree. Instead this albino unicorn hits the digital shelves on the promised release date. You buy it, and it turns out to be everything you’ve always wanted.

And then the public at large immediately sets on it, bitching and whining at how it should be changed to be more like every other videogame the industry pukes out every year.

Gamespot said Prey feels “trapped in the past”. Eurogamer was fawning with praise, but lamented all the ways the combat wasn’t enough like Dishonored’s system of gleeful player empowerment. PC Gamer was supportive all the way through, but then at the end held up Dishonored as a good (better) stealth game and BioShock as an example of better combat. And they they gave this once-in-a-generation title a score of 79 because the shooting wasn’t “fun” enough.

I don’t normally get defensive about review scores, but when the critics began turning up their noses at Prey I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and shake them screaming, “That is not a flaw! That’s the entire point of the game, you uncultured whelp!”

You okay buddy?

You okay buddy?

So this is the kind of monster I’ve become. I’m quarreling over review scores, bitter at the haters, and holding a grudge because the people who do like the game don’t like it enough or they don’t like it for the right reasons. I’m not just a Dark Souls fanboy, I’m the worst example of that stereotype. I’m the guy that gives everyone else a bad reputation.

In my defense, this is a very frustrating experience. This game is exactly on my wavelength, and the last time we got something that scratched this particular itch for me was in System Shock 2, 18 years ago. Given how hard it is to get the industry to take chances and serve niche markets it could very well be another 18 years before we see the next one. At that point the year will be 2035, which incidentally is the year in which Prey is actually set. I’ll be 63 by then, and I imagine I’ll still be trying in vain to explain to the next generation of rugrats why Dishonored 8: Even Less Honored isn’t the kind of stealth I’m looking for.

You know me as a writer now, but my writing career began 15 years ago when I made a novelization of the first System Shock game. In a lot of ways this blog begins at System Shock, and the arrival of Prey is a return to that origin story.

I know the game isn’t perfect. The difficulty is a little uneven. The late-game twist when the military shows up and makes you fight robots manages to kill the momentum of the story while also making the game a lot less fun. The game had some really unfortunate glitches. The ending has some problems. Either you hate the after-credits twist because you feel it invalidates the rest of the game, or you’re okay with the idea but see it as something too big and important to stick after the credits. Either way, it doesn’t quite work.

But I love the game despite the flaws. In a year with so few games in my wheelhouse, it’s amazing that we got this, a game exactly suited to my tastes in a way no AAA title has managed in a decade.

This is my jam. Please game industry, make a few more of these. I know they’re expensive, they have niche appeal, and their mechanics run against AAA sensibilities, but… uh. I guess I can’t think of a good reason to make more, but I’d consider it a real personal favor if you did it anyway. Thanks.

Footnotes:

[1] Particularly when the sun goes down.


Comments (130)

From the Archives:

  1. Infinitron says:

    But for various reasons, none of that stuff landed in my wheelhouse.

    Tough luck, Shamus. I’m not sure this year is going to be any better for you. I’m not sure how aware you are of the current narrative of the “death of single player”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPl-YMq2WTM

    Of course, this isn’t new. For decades, industry types have periodically claimed that “Single player is dead, soon all games will be multiplayer”, only to be proven wrong as new single player games came out that raised the bar and found new audiences.

    Bethesda’s own Pete Hines mocked such statements back in 2013: https://www.destructoid.com/bethesda-versus-freemium-multiplayer-sequels-251674.phtml

    “Single-player games aren’t going anywhere. Bethesda Softworks has been making single-player games for all of our 25+ years in the industry. We’re still here, we’re still making them, and people are still buying them. Dishonored was single-player and people really loved it, and it sold well. Skyrim was a complete success. A single-player RPG. There’s practically a cottage industry dedicated to talking about how that isn’t possible or why that won’t succeed. Console fans won’t get a game like that. Has to have multiplayer of some kind. PC gaming is dead. It’s gotta be a shooter. RPGs are a niche. Etc.

    “People like fun games. They have games they like to play by themselves, they have games they like to play with others. Every game doesn’t have to be all things to all people. And so the Skyrims and Fallout 3s and Bioshock Infinites and Walking Deads of the world aren’t going anywhere. Just stop already.”

    But what if this time they’re right? What if there are no more new ideas, no new audiences to be found? What if it’s smooth sailing of multiplayer dominance from here on out?

    • Infinitron says:

      Related to this is the “death of immersive sims” narrative, brought about as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Dishonored 2 and Prey commercially failed one after the other. Here are a few articles:

      https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/05/19/best-pc-games-2017/
      http://www.pcgamer.com/the-uncertain-future-of-games-like-deus-ex-and-dishonored/
      http://www.blog.radiator.debacle.us/2017/10/the-second-death-of-immersive-sim-2007.html

      I believe this is highly relevant your interests and you should write about it.

      • Thomas says:

        I do believe that we’re going to see a temporary death of small games in the AAA world.

        Over the last couple of years open world games have consistently overperformed. Ubisoft unlocked the secret with Watchdogs, and since then it feels like we’ve had a steady pattern of ‘massive game comes out, high reviews scores and huge hype, everyone goes out and plays it. A month or so later people realise it’s not as good as they thought.’

        I think we’ve seen that with Dragon Age: Inquisition (at the time compared to Witcher 3), Metal Gear Solid V, Persona 5 (it’s still good but now rated solidly below 4, when at the time it was the greatest ever), Fallout 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and so on.

        Its like the games are so long they’re exploiting a flaw in the system where we don’t have time to evaluate them properly.

        And the other big games are all consuming multiplayer games. I think it’s clear people do actually value their £ per playtime rating.

        Sure if you make Uncharted 4 it’s so good it will sell. But what some of the EA Star Wars Devs were saying is, Uncharted 4 is so good because they made Uncharted 1, 2 & 3.

        With the knife-edge they’re on, the number of studios capable of that is shrinking, without much space to grow (in the current climate)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Naah.While we are social animals,at the same time we all sometimes feel the need to just shove everyone away and have some private time.Some more than others.And for that reason games we play on our own will continue existing as long as we exist.

      • CloverMan says:

        While I live an breathe video games (while working in the game industry), and social interaction in games exhausts me. Day that game industry leaved single player games behind would be the day I put a bullet through my brain. I wish all those CEO stopped telling me all I wan’t is multiplayer.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      This is a silly, unfounded fear. Even if AAA games decide to focus exclusively on multiplayer, the indie world will continue releasing single-player experiences. Plus, the AAA industry will realize, after they’ve killed their single-player components, and do the numbers the correct way, that it was a terrible idea.

    • Cybron says:

      He wrote articles about it the first time this particular sky was falling. I think most of us just roll our eyes and move along at this point.

    • Syal says:

      I somehow get the feeling that video isn’t taking it seriously.

      Assuming other people do take it seriously; around half the population is introverts. The idea that we won’t get any more single-player games is the idea that half the population is incapable of making things they want.

      • Sartharina says:

        Considering how big development is, good luck trying to get a team of hundreds of introverts to work together to make an awesome single-player game of the same quality as the big ones.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          These days its far easier than you think.Theres plenty of people selling various assets,and someone can cobble them into something good.Thats basically what pubg is.

    • Dev Null says:

      See also:

      “Death of PC gaming”
      “Death of console gaming”
      “Death of massively-multiplayer online”
      “Death of RPGs”
      “Death of space exploration games”
      “Death of turn-based games”
      “Death of roguelikes”
      and even
      “Death of death in games”
      etc., etc…

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      But what if this time they’re right? What if there are no more new ideas, no new audiences to be found? What if it’s smooth sailing of multiplayer dominance from here on out?

      The AAA industry’s waning interest in single player games has nothing to do with any of that. It’s simply that they can’t be monetised as thoroughly as your average multiplayer shooter.

      • Blake says:

        Basically this, a bunch of the biggest franchises might go multiplayer only making $stupid off microtransactions, but almost everyone I know plays single-player games too.
        At most I could see the budget for the biggest single player games shrinking slightly, but the market is way to big to ignore. Even if all the AAAs decided they could be more profitable and left the single-player market, there would be plenty of small-mid size companies happy to keep putting out everything from Hellblade to Cities: Skylines.

      • Liessa says:

        Have to agree with this. It’s more to do with what those companies want to happen than what’s actually happening.

    • default_ex says:

      Every generation we see a “death of” mantra but one thing remains true. The AAA producers will always jump on board with the fad of the day and run it into the ground. There’s not a whole lot of care as to what that fad is. The fads like: stealth games, MMORPGs, MOBA, exaggerated survival elements, hacking minigames, parkour, etc… We will never see a plateau like the late 90s where different studios took on very different games until market research once against stops having knee jerk reactions to the latest hype and actually perform market research. I don’t see that day coming anytime soon for AAA games.

      Indies on the other hand aren’t so focused on the impossible goal of ever increasing profits. They seem more focused on finding a plateau that is comfortable and sustainable in the long run.

    • Cubic says:

      Ugh, multiplayer … It won’t happen but if multiplayer was all there was, I’d do something else.

      It was disappointing that GTA V dropped single player DLC, but it didn’t change my mind. And I’m a GTA fanatic.

  2. Anorak says:

    I’ve got to thank you Shamus (and curse you too), because your posts on Prey earlier this year got me to buy it.
    I’m thanking you because it was a truly amazing game, and the pre-release marketing materials I had seen did nothing to rouse my interest.
    I’m cursing you because at the time I had horrendous game breaking bugs so early into the game that it was just unplayable. (I’m not actually annoyed with you though, that’s not your fault.)

    IT was so odd. Actors would lock up and fail to read a line, or a model wouldn’t load in, or load in without playing an animation.
    It started on my very first game, when Morgan just failed to actually get out of bed. The players camera was just stuck.
    I tried a couple of new games again, and I’d usually fail to make it through the first couple of tests.
    Doctor Bellamey would just stare at me unblinkingly through the glass and refuse to open the next door, the glitched out git.

    Something that alleviated the issue (but not entirely fixed) was to move the game OFF my SSD and onto a boring old HDD. Don’t know why, it’s not like the disk was on the way out.

    Once I’d done that, I had a truly amazing game that only occasionally borked itself and had to be restarted (sometimes my entire PC needed to be restarted)

    I even got stuck in a similar place you did – I’d not specced myself for combat at all and just started to find the fights harder and harder.

    • Matt van Riel says:

      It’s strange how different people have such different experiences. Sure, I keep my machine clean and efficient and VERY rarely ever have problems with running games or encountering bugs as a result. But even when it’s clearly the game itself that’s largely the problem, I seem to get pretty lucky.

      In my whole play-through of Prey (got it in the winter sale a couple of weeks back) I had precisely ONE issue; the well-known reactor restart bug where the framerate goes to hell and the game crashes. That’s it. No glitches, no other bugs. And yet others had all manner of things going wrong.

      In conclusion: games are weird :)

      • Rymdsmurfen says:

        Just to add another data point for anyone interested: I haven’t had a single issue in my playthrough of Prey. No graphical glitches and no mission scripting bugs. Everything has run smoothly. And I aimed for completeness, doing every available side-mission and locating every crew member.

        I didn’t play the game until this December, so I assume this could mean that they have patched a lot of the bugs that people saw at release.

    • CloverMan says:

      It’s true that the marketing for Prey was quite horrible. Only reason I bought (and loved) it was the holy crusade RockPaperShotgun took up to make some noise about that EXCELLENT game.

  3. Darren says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed the weird reception to Prey. Critics frequently say they want something that recaptures that old System Shock, Deus Ex, old-school immersive sim flavor, but we finally get one and they find it too similar to those games they keep saying they want. And it’s not like we’re drowning in them, either, so I don’t understand why they came into Prey apparently sick to death of immersive sims, especially since Prey isn’t all that similar to the few others we’ve gotten in the last ten or so years. I’ve been recommending it to friends who don’t know about it as “like Bioshock,” since that’s the closest comparison point, but I have to amend that with a lot of explanation about how it really lets you explore the environment and do what you want rather than funneling you forward all the time.

    Speaking of neglected Arkane games, have you tried Dishonored: Death of the Outsider? It has some of the best levels that they’ve done for the series, and is likely the last Dishonored we’ll ever get. Don’t let it pass you by.

    • Redrock says:

      The best thing about Death of the Outsider, I think, is that they did away with the stupid morality system, make you free to mix and match lethal and non lethal skills. I never enjoyed those abstract morality systems that essentially lock you into one of two endings. Especially since Dishonored always did bloody mayhem way, way better than non-lethal precision.

    • kdansky says:

      I have so much to say about Prey.

      1. Its title is a mess. They used the Prey IP (which is a completely different kind of game!) instead of calling it Mind Shock or Dream Shock (or System Shock 3) or whatever other fitting name exists.

      2. The marketing failed to bring that across. If not for Joseph Anderson’s review on Youtube, I would not have bought it, because I did not realise it was System Shock 3. Just like you, Shamus, System Shock 2 was a defining moment for my personal gaming history. The game missed its target demographic by not marketing itself to them, and it failed to capture the shooter demographic because it was not for them to begin with.

      3. The game has so many disgustingly ugly (but trivial) problems that really detract from its qualities: The enemies have the most boring design I’ve seen in thirty years. Even the robots are boring. So many really slow loading screens (at least that’s reminding of SS2), so many bugs, so many underused mechanics. There are dozens of psi powers, and I doubt most people will use more than two or three.

      4. Mediocre gunplay. The game pretends to be a shooter, but it really is not. It’s 100% an RPG, where pumping stats beats shooter reflexes by a mile. Boring guns. Very few guns.

      5. Economy easily breakable by recycling aggressively.

      6. Horrendously bad difficulty curve. It starts out brutally hard, and the latter half is a total cake-walk. The broken loot-economy is a large part of this.

      7. Not really a point to stealth or hacking or engineering. Just shoot everything with overpowered psi attacks.

      I love the genre, and I loved Prey, but boy does it annoy me how much better the game could have been.

      • Alrenous says:

        So, doubling down on the like-Darksouls-fan, then?

        Shields are overpowered. Greatswords are super overpowered. Greataxes are only slightly less overpowered. Magic is overpowered. Both dodging and shields could contribute mightily to the game by not quite being 100% damage immunity. Dodging into attacks being better than dodging away from attacks still bothers me. Etc etc.

        • FluffySquirrel says:

          The broken economy with aggressive recycling is what makes me laugh, mainly because I did the same

          So.. did you mostly melee when you could, conserve all resources, recycle pretty much everything you weren’t using, going out of your way to stockpile materials?

          Funnily enough, turns out that works well in a resource management survival game!

          That’s kinda the point as far as I’m concerned.. I probably spent twice as long playing that game as normal people would’ve, so makes sense that I was pretty overpowered by the end

        • kdansky says:

          I do not understand what you are on about, I was explaining what Prey did wrong, and why that broke the game’s neck in the sales numbers and critical reviews.

          Dark Souls “breaks” at the point where it becomes obvious that player skill beats in-game numbers. With good timing and knowledge of the AI patterns, you can beat the whole game without levelling up, or literally any weapon. Dark Souls actually starts fairly easy!

          Prey automatically breaks for all players after about the first four hours, because the enemies do not get more powerful at the speed that the player does. Even the most basic enemies feel like a boss in the early stages, but with an upgraded shotgun and the very first ability you unlock (bullet time) you can just stand in front of the big bad end-game enemies and mow them down without a care in the world.

          The difficulty curve of Prey is backwards, resulting in a very bad positive feedback loop: All the players who manage to deal with the unfair early game are good enough to be disappointed in the latter 90% (and they will most likely play it very defensively because that is what the game just taught them), and all those who fail to get through the super difficult start will never show up in the statistics. And the better you are at the game, the more resources you conserve, the easier the game becomes, to a ludicrous point.

          Prey tries to do the split between survival/horror AND power-fantasy, and those two are not compatible. Even an unoptimized end-game character is way too strong. In the end, they slipped at the one point that Dark Souls nailed:

          Don’t compromise your overall game theme (survival horror RPG) in favour of mainstream appeal (power-fantasy shooter).

      • Rymdsmurfen says:

        The enemies have the most boring design I’ve seen in thirty years.

        Strongly disagree on this. For me the Poltergeist and the Mimics are the most interesting enemy designs I’ve seen in thirty years.

        Mediocre gunplay[…]Very few guns.

        I think it benefits the tone and gameplay to have a limited set of weapons. They are on a science facility in space after all. The gunplay feels just right to me. It shouldn’t take center stage.

        Economy easily breakable by recycling aggressively.

        I didn’t experience this. Could be that I played on hard and that ate away at ammo and medkits. The first playthrough I had to abort because I realized I had spent to many resources on ammo and not enough on Neuromods. On the second I changed playstyle and started using the environment to take out enemies from a saffe distance and with less ammo. In the end I had an abundance of resources, but then I felt that I had earned that.

        If this is a problem I think it is related to the difficulty curve. As you say, the game gets a little too easy at the end (even on hard difficulty) if you invest in the right Neuromod powers. If the late game was harder the resource management wouldn’t break.

  4. Raion says:

    That is not a flaw! That’s the entire point of the game, you uncultured whelp!

    I used to get like that sometimes, when a new Monster Hunter came out.

    • Darren says:

      Being a fan of Monster Hunter outside Japan is basically a string of conversations in which you recommend the series and then have all of its good qualities thrown back at you as if they’re bad.

  5. Nícolas Vaz says:

    For Honor is definitely not a good example for 2017 gaming.

    • Nope says:

      Shamus said “interesting”. And For Honor does seem to have been at times interesting with the focus on dueling and brawling. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff with latency problems, bugs, absent playerbase, and a bunch of modes that don’t seem to be nearly as polished as that basic element, but I can see why someone would call that interesting.

      Likewise PUBG, which runs like garbage and has the latency of wet garbage. It’s still interesting, and perhaps to a greater degree than For Honor, probably deserves coverage just because of the milestone it seems to be in the evolution of games like Rust and DayZ, through to these Battle-Royale games, and since the popularity of these trends is definitely significant.

      Kind of a shame that it’s doubtful that For Honor’s better elements probably won’t be influential like that, becaues of how much of a failure it was.

      • Mephane says:

        I’ve been playing a lot and since just a few days after release, and overall I think it is> a good game. It has its technical flaws, some of which have been greatly reduced with various patches (and work is still ongoing there, dedicated servers are soon to come), but it fills a very specific niche that essentially was empty:

        * Medieval style realistic-ish combat. I.e. no wizards, dragons, etc. Just swords, shields, spears, and the odd fist or foot. It’s hollywood-level of realism, sure (and that’s fine), but it’s still clearly not meant to be a fantasy setting.

        * A primary game mode that is more akin to multiplayer team shooters than fighting games. There are duels, yes, but the primary game mode is a 4vs4 mode that is a hybrid between fighting game, capture-point game, and a bit of MOBA. I like this blend and frankly would not have touched the game if it was only duels.

        * A combat system that manages to properly convey the idea of sword fights. You’ve got 3 directions for defense and attack, various forms of attack and defense etc. Many games would either go the full RPG route (click on enemy, click on skill, watch your character execute the action) or feel more like a shooter with guns replaced with melee weapons (point at enemy and keep clicking until one of your keels over).

        * Last but not least, something very personal: finally a game that embraces polearms as valid choices. There’s three heroes that use polearms, one with a poleaxe, one with a spear and shield, and one (my favourite) with a naginata. I’ve seen so many medieval and fantasy games completely ignore this class of weapons and go all in on swords, axes and hammers. As a huge fan of all things polearm, this is the first game that actually¹ delivers in this regard.

        ————————–
        ¹ I’ve played many a game that while technically having some option of quarterstaff, bo, naginata, glaive etc. (and usually only ever a single one), they often either are shoved into the awkward role of being mostly a piece of inert character stats (e.g. Diablo 3, the monk can use a staff but there is like 1 or 2 attacks (that you rarely use because all the others are just better) where they ever pull it out, the rest of the time it remains magically glued to their back, unused), or just essentially a half-assed different skin for an axe.

        • Viktor says:

          I hate that this is the first game basically ever with actual spears and it’s multiplayer. Polearms are an incredible class of weapon that never get their due in games and I wish I could play For Honor to support that alone.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            If you are into old style 2d dungeon crawls,try the avernum series.There spears are great,especially for lizardmen.

            The site:
            http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/

          • Naota says:

            Playing with the taboo here, but… Dark Souls? Polearms in that not only carry all the advantages and disadvantages you expect, but also deal more damage if you strike the enemy at their ideal range (particularly halberds, whose blade deals drastically higher damage than their haft, for obvious reasons).

          • Mephane says:

            Technically, the multiplayer is optional (but the game is online-only). You can play either PvP matches, PvAI (i.e. against bots), and in the latter case, you can turn off all matchmaking and then get to play all by yourself, your own team filled up with bots, too.

  6. Redrock says:

    I really enjoyed Prey a lot, now that I think about it. But, interestingly, when I was compiling my own top list for the r/pcgaming subreddit, I don’t think I managed to find a spot for it. Might be a personal thing – I think I’ve recently hit an immerse sim oversaturation point. Prey was easily the best of the bunch, but I might be just tired of all the first person sneaking, email reading and voicelog listening. Also, I think Prey doesn’t really handle the endgame all too well in terms of balancing your power levels. Grab Psychoshock and the bullet time skill, and even the biggest aliens pose exactly zero threat.

  7. Steve C says:

    Any ETA on when the forums will be fixed? Still seeing “Forums temporarily unavailable”. That’s soooo 2017.

    BTW is the [x] toggle to say that “you are not a spammer” gone for good now too?

  8. Nope says:

    I empathise with that particular feeling of disconnect because something scratched a particular itch for you. At first I didn’t get your annoyance at the score attached, 79/100 is pretty good, then again, video game scores are weird. I feel like it was the comments that you didn’t connect with, that the score likely comes from the impression that the other games do it better, when, as you said “That’s the entire point of the game”.

    I felt that this year with “The Punisher” Netflix series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. But it scratched a particular itch for me. It touches on topics of violence, particularly from the perspective of someone like that (Kylo Ren is another interesting example), the effects of trauma and PTSD, in particular, loneliness and isolation. And I connected strongly with these. I’m not really accusing your piece on it of doing it (That was actually one of the better ones), but a lot of articles came out swinging about how violence is wrong, or talking about the Las Vegas incident, which, the show actually does tackle. A lot of the reception felt like it was missing a point that the show was so obviously making to me. Penny Arcade covered it well https://www.penny-arcade.com/news/post/2017/11/22/impetus .

    “It’s that I don’t recognize the piece of media that’s being discussed anywhere in the review.” Sometimes, it feels like some coverage is trying so hard to fit something into a particular box, that it forgets that boxes are meant to be for sorting things, not defining things. And when that feels like the overwhelming perspective you’re being exposed to, it puts you in this weird position of disagreeing with a big portion of critics, on a fundamental level, which leaves you feeling like a weird fanboy.

  9. djw says:

    I haven’t tried Prey, but I have had similar experience with reviewers and commenters on a series of games that I *do* like.

    Piranha Bytes (Gothic, Risen, Elex) makes games that fit my personal aesthetic for how a game should be designed, but they always get panned by the critics (in English, at least). Fortunately, they ignore the critics and keep making their game, but I do have to stay away from the Steam forums if I want to avoid raging at the internet.

    • Redrock says:

      True, although I feel that on the subject of ELEX the critics might just be onto something. I love PB games, even most of Risen, but ELEX so far just feels like a chore. The combat seems to be worse than in Risen. The dialogue is boring and there is a LOT of it. The world is really, really cool, though, but that’s not enough, I’m afraid. Gonna have another go after a few more patches, of course.

      For what it’s worth, my most trusted reviewer these days is ACG, and he seemed to like ELEX.

      • djw says:

        The feature of PB games that appeal to me is the more or less complete lack of level scaling. The world is what it is, and your abilities do not affect the strength of the people/things that you encounter.

        It may not be surprising that my favorite Skyrim overhaul mod is Requiem.

        The dialogue in Elex did feel wooden at first, but that is not what I was there for. Eventually it grew on me.

  10. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    Two of my top 2017 games I finished this year thanks to horrible amounts of overtime. Once I get to some of my other Christmas presents, 2018 will be a pretty amazing year for 2017 games.

    Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the first game since… Spec Ops: The Line to 100% stick the landing on completely selling its really upsetting narrative to me. The game tells you you’re going to Hel and then it TAKES YOU THERE. It’s all the promise of that Dante’s Inferno game, but actually delivered on in a way someone over 13 years old can appreciate. I heard some complaints about the combat system, but I have a similar complaint as Shamus’ with Prey. It would be really, really stupid if this had some intense Dark Souls parry system with 20 weapons. That’s not what the game is. The combat excels at pitting you against upsettingly high odds but giving you the tools to hang in there by your finger tips. I thought having to button mash to get up after a hard hit and going crazy on combos on a slowed down enemy really helped put me into Senua’s berserker warrior mindset. Apparently it’s also designed to get tougher if you’re having an easy team and to ease off if you’re getting wrecked, which is ideal for a game where seeing the story through to the end is the point.

    Another great 2017 game I just finished was Doki Doki Literature Club. Spoilers on the rest of this comment.
    It reminds me of an earlier game I played this year, Pony Island. Honestly, my only complaint about this one is length. Since there’s three main characters, it felt like one of the possible routes for upsetting the player got lopped off prematurely. The game captured escalation of the extreme circumstances so well that I was on the edge of my seat until the game let up a bit. But I honestly think it could have played that note a bit longer and really lean into the surrealism. It also makes me want to see two different followup projects. A purely romantic game where the people you’re interested in have actual, realistic problems (because that aspect of the game was really interesting) that aren’t played up for fetishes but are just realistic obstacles to a romance occurring. And also another completely wacked game that breaks the fourth wall even harder. Hopefully this game’s success leads to good things from the developer.

    • I have Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice lurking in my Steam library, waiting for me to upgrade my GPU so’s I can play it. I suspect I’m going to find it a wrenching experience, but one I’m still very much looking forward to having.

      Funnily enough, I played DDLC just t’other day after seeing it mentioned in a comment thread here and being curious – it might even have been you that mentioned it. I’m still…. digesting it, I think, but it was an intriguing (and brutal – takes a lot to make me flinch that hard) experience and luckily a friend who’s unlikely to ever play it himself was happy to listen to me witter at him about it.

    • Redrock says:

      My problem with Hellblade’s combat isn’t that it’s too simplistic, but rather that towards the end there is too much of it and the opponents become really spongy. And because you mostly smash the same couple of buttons, it feels like chopping wood. The combat really works in the beginning, though. But this is one game where you could honestly have less gameplay, or at least less combat. The avoiding the dark parts, the burning maze all work much, much better in the context of what the game is trying to do.

      • Geebs says:

        The ridiculous rubber-banding on the combat difficulty ruined the ending of Hellblade for me. Without getting too spoilery, there’s a fight towards the end of the game that, if you’re doing well, goes on and on and on until you’re convinced that it’s a fight you’re supposed to lose. However, if you do give up then it’s another mandatory 20 minute slog of combat that has already become very stale.

        When they later put in a fight that you actually are supposed to lose the pacing gets completely ruined.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Geebs, I’m curious what the 20 minute long fight is, maybe you could put it in spoilers? The only one you’re meant to lose I genuinely did lose because they spawned enemies around me when I was in a weakened state, so that worked out.

          • Geebs says:

            It’s one of the fights towards the end of the Hel section, the part where you’re fighting in a lake – and possibly talking to your mother?. I’d figured out the fighting techniques, so I was killing everything quickly but they just….kept….respawning.

            • Geebs says:

              The practical upshot was that I kept going in the final fight – the one you are supposed to lose – for about half an hour because I didn’t want to have to repeat another long fighting section

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              Ah yes, that fight did stretch for quite some time. They probably should have made the arena have state changes throughout so it was clear you WERE progressing. I found the area so fascinating/repulsive that the length of the fight didn’t really bother me.

              And when I lost on the latter one, I was actually hugely frustrated at myself. I interpreted it as failure and freaked out at the thought of triggering a bad end. Thankfully… not the case.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        The opponents become tougher, but from the moment you have the better sword, your hits also do WAY more damage. The key is to learn the parry move and when to use the charge up move. If you keep fighting the way you have from the start, it’ll take way longer and be way harder. The parry, if timed perfectly, gives you a free “focus” that allows you to hack an individual opponent to pieces. And the charge is fantastic against the huge guys who focus on big hits with long pauses in between (these guys have the most health).

        • Redrock says:

          Dunno, the fights seemed pretty long even with me frequently going I to focus frenzies. Again, I’m not saying it’s a bad game, it’s unique in many ways. But it did make me think that the video game industry kinda pushes developers towards including combat as much as they can, because that the thing to do and that’s what people expect. I think Hellblade could have been better with, say, 30% less combat. Lack of combat is one of the reasons I loved Pyre so much, btw.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            I wouldn’t argue that the combat was perfect by any means. Certain fights could have been shorter and certain fights probably didn’t need to exist. I just got frustrated about the user reviews that were like “the combat in this game isn’t as tight as Dark Souls III, 5/10.” Imo, the combat was better than it needed to be, based on the rest of the game.

    • CloverMan says:

      I did not expect Hellblade to get so intense from all the coverage I’ve seen beforehand, and man, the segment where you have to get around the monster in a pitch black ruined house, relying solely on your hearing was one of the most memorable and bone-chilling experiences of my life. Absolute lovet that one, such an emotional roller-coaster.

  11. Echo Tango says:

    Shamus, would you be willing to play a game like Prey or System Shock, but that had cheap graphics? You lament the fact that games like this are expensive to make, but a lot of that cost is eaten up in visual fidelity. If somebody knocked down the number of polygons, and made the game cel shaded or some other at style that’s low fidelity, that would help a lot. Hell, even the original Deus Ex had poorer graphics than it’s peers, and was a large, choice-rich game because of it. Imagine the game we’d get off the graphics was a full generation behind!

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    But I love the game despite the flaws.

    If only more reviewers were capable of understanding this simple concept. Instead, more of them are “This [product] has [these flaws], so you have to avoid it completely at all costs!”, apparently unaware that your enjoyment of something cannot be quantified by a scale, and most people are perfectly capable of giving leeway to (or outright ignoring) flaws if they find the rest enjoyable enough.

    Anywayyyyyy… I’m still not going to play Prey. Yeah, yeah, I know it gets praise all over the place, and I know I’m missing out, the developers are not at fault and all that, but I’m still adamant in my decision to not play any more Zenimax-published games. Specially this one, which was the one they used to bully an indie developer.

    • Redrock says:

      Do you mean that whole Praey for the Gods debacle? Because that wasn’t really bullying, that’s a problem with trademark law in the US. Companies have to at least threaten with lawsuits, or else they might lose the trademark. I mean, there are things to dislike about Zenimax, sure, but this isn’t really a good case of Bethesda being the villain.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Except they cant trademark a word,especially not a common usage word like prey or pray.So them doing this(and the whole scrolls thing)was just dickishness,not them abiding by the law.

        • Redrock says:

          Not quite. Check this article out (https://www.polygon.com/2017/5/8/15572464/zenimax-bethesda-prey-for-the-dead-trademark). I also believe I remeber Shamus once writing someyhing among similar lines, but I may be mistaken.

          • Redrock says:

            Dang autocorrect. And what happened to the edit button?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yes,this was discussed before.And Im not the only one who disagrees with that article,because CD Projekt* also responded to it by saying that its bullshit.

            *They werent the only one,but they are the one I remember without really digging back to see who else.

            Dang autocorrect. And what happened to the edit button?

            The void ate it.Some update shenanigans,I guess.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its not apple the word thats trademarked,its the brand,the logo,the product,…..You are free to market apple juice,apple sauce,apple whatever.They will only come at you if you try to market an apple phone,or to use their logo for something unrelated.But just calling your product apple wont mean shit.Otherwise,apple would constantly be suing farmers for daring to sell their fruit.

            • Redrock says:

              They did however get into a lot of scraps over the word Pod. Like I said, everyone knows it’s silly, but the law sucks, so there is no way around it.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Were they doing it to people who tried to market electronic portable computer like stuff?If so,then its understandable.If they went against people who were making vehicles,or selling fruit,or marketing a software,or were a band,….then they were just being dicks for no reason.

                • Redrock says:

                  Come on, DM. You did read the article? It’s not about diluting the brand. It’s about losing the trademark. If you don’t appeal a possible trademark infringement, you can lose the trademark. And then someone might start selling mp3 players called Pods, but by then it would be too late. This sucks, but the companies don’t like it any more than you do.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Thats what I am talking about.You dont just lose trademark because some rando starts using the same word as a part of the name for an unrelated thing.But you can potentially lose it if someone does a similar thing using the exact same trademark.So making an apple bike does not influence the apple phones,but “xerox” entering a dictionary as an equivalent of “exact copy” does.

                    • djw says:

                      Do you have a source for this? I was under the impression that Redrock’s interpretation is correct, but I am not going to claim to know this for certain.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Velcro made a commercial addressing that exact thing.

                      As for the other claim I made,check the site Jack mentioned(USPTO),and youll see that every trademark has a list of what things they are related to.Heck,if you search for apple there,youll see that there are (at least) three apples doing three different things:The one that does computers,one that does clothing and one that does paintings.So unless they are doing a thing from your field of work(say they are trying to make a mobile phone named apples),you really have no need(nor basis) to go after them.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                The only time a company actually has to go against the usage of a word,no matter who is using it,is if its a made up* word,like xerox or google.”Xeroxing” and “googling” getting so widespread that they ended up in dictionaries may have damaged those trademarks.But for words that already exist,especially if they are widespread like apple,or scroll,or prey,or pray,they are either ignorant(which is unlikely,seeing how many lawyers they employ) or dicks.

                *Or an obscure foreign word like nike.

        • Jack says:

          “Except they cant trademark a word,especially not a common usage word …”

          “Its not apple the word thats trademarked,its the brand,the logo,the product,…. ”

          To paraphrase a mutual (I assume) acquaintance, every word you just said is wrong.

          OF COURSE you can trademark a word. There is a whole category of trademarks called “word marks” which can be phrases or single words. There are many many thousands of trademarks that are single words–including common words.

          And certainly including the word “apple.” If you don’t believe me, you can look it up on the USPTO website (serial number 87628828). So is the logo, of course (and many other things — most large companies own staggering numbers of marks), but the *word* “apple” _by itself_ is a registered trademark.

          If you don’t understand how that can be the case and yet other people can still sell “apple juice,” then maybe you shouldn’t be providing public analysis of intellectual property law?

          I apologize if this comes across as overly aggressive, but seeing people emphatically assert legal nonsense online is a major pet peeve of mine. I know you’re a major contributor to the site and I often enjoy your perspectives, but you are completely and demonstrably wrong about this.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Thats not a word thats trademarked,its a specific usage of it.On the page that you reference it specifically states what that name is tied to (computers,hardware,telephones,and a bunch of other stuff that apple deals in).So apple does not own the word apple,just the word apple used in context of that list.

            Its a big list admittedly,and it can be kind of confusing to differentiate how specific an APPLE COMPUTER is and how it would differentiate from a random APPLES AND ORANGES CONSOLE.But if the console in question was completely different in appearance,specs,functionality,logo and marketing,apple wouldnt really have a leg to stand on.Though even then the similarity between that console and an apple product would be bigger than in the praey case,which was basically like disney going after american beauty because they dared to use beauty in their name

            As for your comment,I welcome people calling me out.So keep at it if you still think Im wrong.

      • Dreadjaws says:

        that’s a problem with trademark law in the US. Companies have to at least threaten with lawsuits, or else they might lose the trademark

        That’s not even remotely close to true. You mention down there Shamus having talked about the subject, and he did… he mentioned it wasn’t even remotely close to true, and linked to an article or two explaining it.

        In any case, let me give you the short run: losing a trademark is very, very hard. It can only happen two ways: generification or abandonment. The former is when a term is used so often as the word for something that it becomes the generic term for it. This happened, for instance, to Thermos, which used to be a brand but now it’s the way everyone refers to these kind of containers. The latter is when the company refuses to use their brand for a period of, I believe, a couple of decades.

        Now, I think we can all realize very easily that neither happened or even risked happening in the case of Prey, so yeah, it was most definitely bullying.

        • Redrock says:

          Interesting. Can you provide a source on that? I pretty much based my analysis on the Polygon article I linked above, as well as a couple of similar takes published during the scandal around the word ‘Scrolls’. Would love to read an alternative take.

  13. Cybron says:

    Yeah, that’s an accurate description of the Dark Souls Fanboy experience. You have my sympathy but also my poorly concealed smugness.

  14. Rymdsmurfen says:

    I bought Prey on the Black friday sale. Had heard some good things about it but didn’t expect much more than an above-average shooter. But it is a really, really great game. Definitely my favorite game since Alien Isolation, and it might even nudge that one out.

    I can’t understand why people aren’t talking more about it. As I said, I had heard good things about it, but not great things. Well, not until this post..

    […]BioShock as an example of better combat

    They wrote that?!? That’s like saying “Nidhogg as an example of better graphics”.

  15. Wangwang says:

    This comment is about a movie, not a game, but after reading your rant about Prey I have the urge to share this. I love the latest Pixar film, Coco. It’s the best Pixar movie in my list. And unlike majority of people, I feel pretty cold toward the Toy Story series. Monster Inc. is ok. The Incredible is ok. And Up is a mess after the first 10 minute. So you can guess my feeling when, after exiting the theater, I dive into the sea of internet film critic, and find the general view to be “While not Pixar’s best, ‘Coco’ is ‘vividly good,’ beautifully animated”. I just want to yell at their face:”This is the ONLY Pixar movie that make me cry you wanker.”
    Just like Prey to you, Coco is tailor make for my taste. The others see Coco as a “very beautiful and heartwarming” but “familiar and done a million time before” story. And while i grudgingly agree with them, I think I would remember if I have felt that good after watching a movie a million time before.
    I know my case is not the same as yours. Prey is a niche game that feel AAA company dare to make, and Coco is a conventional story from a studio famous for its innovating story telling. But I can relate to you about loving something so much while the others thought it’s “good but not the best.”

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      No movie after wall-e can be pixars best,and thats an objective fact.

    • Wangwang says:

      Also, “holding a grudge because the people who do like the game don’t like it enough”. Yup, I can definitely relate to that. The film 96% score on Rotten Tomato from critic, and 95% from audience, and yet I still grit my teeth when someone say the film is “kind of done before.”

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I always roll my eyes when someone says that.EVERYTHING has been done before already.That sentence doesnt mean a thing.This time,it couldve been done badly,or well,and that has nothing to do with the way it was done previously.For example,compare the thing reboot/prequel with the force awakens:Both are doing the same thing that a previous movie in the franchise has done before,yet the one is regarded as a piece of shit cash grab while the other is treated as the second coming of our mouse and savior.

        • Blackbird71 says:

          the other is treated as the second coming of our mouse and savior.

          I didn’t realize that “The Thing” was considered that good of a movie; maybe I’ll have to check it out.

      • Alrenous says:

        Got bit by the Western ‘originality at all costs’ thing.

        Sounds like a prime example of the fact that premise counts for little, while execution is everything. Jim Butcher, to use a book example, has made an entire career out of deftly executing the most cliche formulae.

        • John says:

          I was puzzled by your use of the word deft in a sentence describing Jim Butcher’s work, but then I spotted the word cliche and now the world makes sense again.

        • Redrock says:

          I feel like too many people judge Butcher solely on the Dresden Files. The Codex Alera and the Cinder Spires are quite a lot more fresh and interesting. Not Sanderson level, surely, but still.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Thing I dislike in a review more than “it’s been done before” = “why did they make this?” or “this has no reason to exist”. So rather than coming up with a reason it’s bad, the reviewer starts getting philosophical about whether the piece of media has “earned” its existence. This phrase immediately tips me off that the reviewer wanted to dislike the thing more than they actually did through their critical lens, so they are now just inventing gripes.

        Example for context: “The Lego Batman movie is funny and has heart, but one has to question why this movie had to exist.”

        • Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

          Well, that point is still valid though, especially with movies like the Emoji Movie being released

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            It was just a badly made movie though.I can still see a talented group of people making something good with that concept.In contrast,everyone was just as negative about lego movie before that was made,but that was a masterpiece.A talented person can make gold out of any premise,no matter how stupid it is.Or an even better example:Compare the ouija movie with its sequel.

    • Redrock says:

      Have you seen Book of Life? I found that one much more interesting, to be honest. Coco seemed fine, but overly safe and not all that inventive in terms of world-building, not like, say, Inside Out. And hell, if making someone cry is the stated goal, than nothing beats the intro sequence of Up.

  16. Chiller says:

    Just wanted to let you know I’m feeling pretty much exactly the same about Prey.
    There’s, like, dozens of us!

  17. Ninety-Three says:

    I feel like I ruined Prey for myself by finding all the overpowered strategies. The wrench being able to stunlock Phantoms was pretty good, but what really wrecked it was the bullet time power. For just a quarter of your unupgraded PSI bar, it made enemies move at half speed and gave you a huge damage bonus for a full twenty seconds: just the wrench was enough to effortlessly kill anything that didn’t fly, and the fliers (plus the giant boss monster) would die to one bullet time shotgun clip.

    For some reason I kept using the stupid god mode button, and it made the game’s atmosphere something like Diablo: walk around fearlessly clicking on things with your wrench in order to make loot (that you don’t even need) pop out of them.

  18. Decius says:

    Every couple of months I consider trying to get a Prey “Glitchless, exit the station” speedrun category.

    I just don’t feel like I can sell a 30-minute run that starts with about 8 minutes of boring and then turns into bunny hopping down corridors to the next cutscene.

    I don’t have the patience to even route a glitchless full ending, and I respect the game too much to run it with the clips that make it fast.

  19. SKD says:

    I know they’re expensive, they have niche appeal, and their mechanics run against AAA sensibilities, but…

    Is their appeal really all that niche? Is it a bad thing that it isn’t just another assembly line shooter? I would really love to see more diversity in the AAA industry. More teams and companies willing to take risks on”niche” products would be refreshing. Assembly line shooters have their place and I enjoy them as well but it’s nice to have variation in our gaming diets.

  20. Gawain The Blind says:

    I’m with you on Prey. I think it was the best game I played this year.

    My only real gripe is that I wanted more lore crap. I wanted to read more interoffice emails and magazines and newspapers and stuff. I guess I really enjoy rifling through people’s lives for some reason.

    scifi shooters with character building and too much plot are directly my jam. Probably why (to the consternation of my friends) I liked doom 3 a lot and got bored really fast with the new Doom.

  21. Duoae says:

    It’s really funny. I played Prey before Dishonored 2 and, while I enjoyed them both, Prey was by far the superior product/piece of art.

    D2’s leven design is pretty boring, the characters are largely uncharacterised, the lore is sparse and the enemy AI is clunky as hell.

    Granted, I’m a bit weird because, for some reason, my first playthrough of both games was a “no supernatural powers” run. I spent around 35-40 hours in Prey and around 30-35 hours in D2 – but I like to explore the levels and worlds fully.

    Currently working my way through D2 with corvo and powers then I plan to go back to prey and do a no human upgrades run the back to D2 with Emily for the last style of play.

    I think Arkane have a really good formula going on here – especially considering that I thought that the last Deus Ex dropped the ball on their design, I don’t really have any other immersive sim rpgs to play…

  22. Redrock says:

    I have a question for all you guys who played Prey. Something was bothering me the whole time. Did I miss something, or did they screw up the neuromod lore? Everything in-game points to the neuromods being like plasmids – a specific neuromod device holds a specific skill, like speaking a language or playing the piano. They are even shown recording the skills. But Morgan uses neuromods as generic skill points, with skills costing more or less neuromods. I’m fine with abstractions for mechanics sense, but it seemed weird in a game that goes into such detail on its lore. I mean, the Praxis points lore in Deus Ex is clunky, but kinda sorta works. Or did I miss some bit of info in Prey?

    • Alex says:

      A neuromod consists of two things, one very general and one very specific. The serum itself is mod-agnostic: it just makes your brain able to be modded. The mod itself has to be generated on application – the device maps your brain first before it figures out how to apply the mod. A consumer-grade neuromod might be restricted to applying only a certain type of neuromod, but if you’ve got access to the entire TranStar database there’s no physical component that must be manufactured to choose between hacking and shooting skill.

    • PeteTimesSix says:

      I figured the data for the neuromods came on like little CDs or something (or the cloud, can we do that in retrofuture land?), and the neuromod devices themselves were general but single-use only (running out of nanobots or whatever it was that they inject into your eye). That’s headcanon stuff though, and its been a while since I played Prey in any case.

  23. Mephane says:

    Shamus, I am very surprised Opus Magnum was not event mentioned in any of these denouement posts. I would have thought this game should be right up your alley. (I played it and found it really good.)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      He did say that he did not play a lot of games from 2017 this year.

      Opus magnum is great.But Id love it more if it were using actual chemicals.Basically I want spacechem on opus magnums board.

      • TheJungerLudendorff says:

        That would probably make it more complicated though. I don’t think the real world chemical system (or something) would easily slot into Opus Magnum’s alchemy system.

        But that’s relying on years-old memories of spacechem, so take that with a big spoon of NaCl.

  24. respectinducinghyphen says:

    What I would really like, is for someone to write a detailed article about how System Shock 2 is better than Prey. Because for my money it isn’t. I think Prey does most things better than SS2 (obviously it doesn’t have Shodan, but what has?) and it really annoys me when in most of Prey’s reviews the superiority of SS2 is treated as a given.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      how System Shock 2 is better than Prey

      Shamus has written a book set in the world of system shock,but there is no such thing in the world of prey.

      QED

  25. Malimar says:

    I just keep playing the games that are in my wheelhouse forever, never buying new games. I’ve spent last several years playing Crusader Kings II, Dwarf Fortress, the Fall from Heaven 2 mod for Civilization 4, and Age of Empires 3.

    The trick is to have your wheelhouse be games with lots of replay potential and to be content with not having shiny new things (although CK2 and DF are slowly but steadily churning out new content).

    • Droid says:

      Since you seem to like very similar games to me (well, CK2 is a on-and-off for me, but still), did you hear about Thea: The Awakening? I have recently found it, and it combines all the aspects of Civilization I’m interested in into a game that is primarily about progression (getting better and better at doing essentially the same tasks) more akin to Mount & Blade: Warband or Factorio, but the actual gameplay does not have much to do with either. The progression that is there is actually mostly about crafting and acquiring resources (similar to Civ and DF in that way) and levelling up your people. But unlike Dwarf Fortress, you get hardly any new population and it’s not a complete sandbox, since there is a main quest to fulfill and a clear end to every game. Still, it has a randomly generated map with lots of things to gather, fight and craft, and apparently a very interesting endgame, even though I have not yet arrived at that stage. Also: co-op or singleplayer only.

      Sorry if this seems too out of the blue. I hope you don’t mind.

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