This Week I Played… (April 2020)

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Apr 7, 2020

Filed under: TWIP 288 comments

It’s time for another round of video game Show & Tell. How are you getting through the quarantine? Replaying old favorites? Buying new stuff? Finally getting to work on that huge backlog?

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Doom Eternal

ETERNAL, you say? Clearly false advertising. This game is actually finite in length.
ETERNAL, you say? Clearly false advertising. This game is actually finite in length.

I finished this game last week. It was pretty good. I liked it less than Doom 2016, which I liked less than Doom 1993, but Doom – like pizza and sex – manages to be fun even when it’s not the best.

I know I have a reputation for being the weirdo that reads all the lore items, watches all the cutscenes, obsesses over codex entries, and listens to all the audiologs, but not this time. The designer really wanted to flesh the world out and so there’s lots of background details explaining why Earth wanted to tap into hell energy, what the demons want, where the demons come from, how the Doom Guy became an unstoppableIn the story, he’s unstoppable. When I was playing, he got stopped a lot. killing machine, and a bunch of other stuff. I like that they tried, but this franchise was always based on narrative minimalism and I’ve never been curious enough to learn more about how this wacky world works.  I read the various codex entries for the first couple of hours, but there are a lot of them and I didn’t feel like bringing the flow of gameplay to a halt every couple of minutes to read three more short paragraphs on the military structure of hell demons.

I appreciate that they were trying to make the game more skill-based. In the old games, you just need to keep firing and backpedal like crazy. You could switch weapons if you ran low on ammo or you got tired of your current murder-tool, but you were free to settle into a rut with your favorite gun for hours on end. Now you need to switch weapons constantly and use your specials on a regular basis: Chainsaw to replenish ammo, grenades to refill health, and flamethrower to get armor.

It’s not a bad system, but I wasn’t in love with it.

Graveyard Keeper

You are the Graveyard Keeper. Technically you're also a cleric, farmer, beekeeper, vintner, miner, architect, mortician, chef, merchant, adventurer, and fetch-quester. But you're mostly known for the graveyard thing.
You are the Graveyard Keeper. Technically you're also a cleric, farmer, beekeeper, vintner, miner, architect, mortician, chef, merchant, adventurer, and fetch-quester. But you're mostly known for the graveyard thing.

I’m finally done with this. Like I said before, the pixel art here is fantastic. This is a great looking game with a lot of charm, but the longer you play the more unfinished it feels. I never reached the end, and I’m not sure how close I got. Eventually I hit a point where I needed to raise a bunch of money. I worked out it was going to take me several in-game weeks of saving to make that much. A day is a few minutes long, so we’re probably talking about an hour and a half of real-world time. That’s not a lot, but I was already suffering from repetition fatigue and my heart just wasn’t in it.

The big flow-killer for me was the lack of inventory space. You need to build and upgrade a lot of stuff around the map. Ideally, you’d just carry a few stacks of all of your building supplies with you and draw from those as needed. But your storage space is too tight to do that. Also, there are way too many workstations.  There are four different workstations just for wood production alone! Imagine if Minecraft had twenty different crafting tables for different things, and each one had a unique and complex recipe. I really don’t see what that adds to the game, aside from busywork and more trips to the wiki.

Maybe it's the recent Corona scare, but it drives me crazy that I can't wash my hands when I go from autopsies to baking cakes.
Maybe it's the recent Corona scare, but it drives me crazy that I can't wash my hands when I go from autopsies to baking cakes.

So you decide to build a new widget factory. But it requires some doodad you don’t currently have on hand. So you walk all the way home to get a stack of doodads. Oh, but you’re out of them. So you walk to some other location to gather a resource, and then walk home to make more doodads. Then you take your doodads, walk back to where you started, and realize that somewhere in all that messing around you consumed a couple of nails. You need ten and you only have eight and so you need to walk home yet again but who cares the day is over at this point and your character is falling asleep and to hell with this noise I’m tired of walking and wiki-reading and why am I even playing this game every action has so much friction and I’m losing my mind ahhhhhhhrrrrg!

Despite this, I really did like the game. The gameplay loop of getting a body delivered, doing an autopsy, embalming the body, burying it, and decorating the grave was really satisfying. Doing research in the alchemy lab was fun. Building up all your production facilitiesWorkshop, vineyard, farm, quarry, graveyard, alchemy lab, church, and beekeeping field. was really great for delivering a constant sense of progression and giving the player new systems to play with. But ultimately I got tired of the endless walking, constant alt-tabbing to read the wiki,  and endless inventory shuffling.

Cities: Skylines

The new expansion feels like a bit of a grab-bag of vaguely redundant systems. Why would I build child care or elder care rather than just more regular care in the form of clinics or hospitals? I didn't think the simulation was granular enough for this to matter.
The new expansion feels like a bit of a grab-bag of vaguely redundant systems. Why would I build child care or elder care rather than just more regular care in the form of clinics or hospitals? I didn't think the simulation was granular enough for this to matter.

About once a year I come back to this gem and remember how good it is. This thing is still getting new DLC, still being updated, and still retains the distinction of being the very best city-simulation ever made.

I don’t have much to say beyond, “Yup. Still good!” So let me throw in this random nitpick that’s been bugging me since 2015.

I keep hoping one of the DLCs will address the goofy-ass system the game uses for handling dead bodies. I can understand the other city services: Police cars are dispatched to eliminate crime, fire trucks eliminate fires, and hospitals cure non-specific sicknesses. This all works as an abstraction of problems we have to deal with in the real world.

But getting rid of dead bodies? That’s just not a major challenge of building a metropolis. It’s something that needs to be done, sure. But it’s not an area where city planners need to be involved. But even if we ARE going to simulate body-disposal in the game, can’t this system just piggy back on the existing hospital / clinic system? Do we really need to maintain a completely different set of buildings for this?

Worse, the buildings don’t even make sense. Once your city gets big enough, you need a ridiculous number of crematoriums. Like, I’ll  get to a point where crematoriums are covering the map like Starbucks, and yet they still somehow fail to keep up with demand. Bodies will linger in a building for months without getting picked up.  And when you ask on the forums people just recite the usual suggestions: Build EVEN MORE of these damn things and make sure traffic is flowing freely.  I don’t think either of these things addresses the root of the problem: I’ve even had bodies linger in a building when there’s a crematorium right next door that had many available hearses. Then you click to see where the hearse is for this body and you discover it’s on the other side of the city, stuck in traffic in the industrial district. I don’t think that’s a problem with my city design.

Yup, that's a city, and it has a skyline. Story checks out.
Yup, that's a city, and it has a skyline. Story checks out.

I’ve made a lot of cities, and eventually body removal becomes a big problem regardless of how robust my disposal system is or how efficient my road system is. This system is flat-out broken, and has been so since launch. And none of the dozens of patches have addressed this. I’ve even downloaded mods that made crematoriums 10x as effective, and I’ve still found instances where bodies hung around so long that occupants abandoned the buildingWhich also doesn’t make sense. If this actually happened, people would just start tossing bodies in the river or whatever. That would create problems, but it wouldn’t result in entire factories going out of businesses and abandoning the building due to the presence of a single body..

How often do you see crematoriums in real life? I know they exist, but I can’t remember the last time I saw one. You don’t need that many. You certainly don’t need ten crematoriums for every police station in the real world, even though that seems to be how things work in Cities: Skylines.

I think part of the problem is the “death wave”. Sometimes you’ll get an absolute ton of people suddenly dying at once. My money is on this being a problem with immigration.

At the start of the game, your city grows very, very quickly. You’ll go from zero to tens of thousands in the space of a year. My guess is that the vast majority of immigrants start out as young adults. So you get this abrupt surge of people that are all about the same age. Then a few decades later, they all hit old age and die at about the same time, overwhelming your vast network of crematoriums. I don’t know if this is actually the problem. To study it, you’d have to go around and click on individual citizens to perform a sort of manual census. That sounds like a tedious job, so I’ve never done it.

I don't have any screenshots of my body-ridden cities. I wish I did. The scattered icons really do drive home how ridiculous the system is.
I don't have any screenshots of my body-ridden cities. I wish I did. The scattered icons really do drive home how ridiculous the system is.

At any rate, this is simulating a system that doesn’t need to be simulated, that doesn’t add anything to the game, and that doesn’t work properly anyway. If there’s one change I could make to the game, it would be to remove body disposal entirely. The game treats all commercial services as one big abstraction, and crematoriums should be part of that system. I didn’t need to manually place gas stations and grocery stores to make sure they’re properly balanced, and I shouldn’t need to manually construct crematoriums. This isn’t a hard problem to solve and it doesn’t need to be in the game.

I’m glad I got that off my chest. I still love Cities: Skylines, but this body disposal stuff has always bugged me.

How About You?

So what’s your story? What have you been playing for the last few weeks? Anything good? Terrible? What are you looking forward to?

 

Footnotes:

[1] In the story, he’s unstoppable. When I was playing, he got stopped a lot.

[2] Workshop, vineyard, farm, quarry, graveyard, alchemy lab, church, and beekeeping field.

[3] Which also doesn’t make sense. If this actually happened, people would just start tossing bodies in the river or whatever. That would create problems, but it wouldn’t result in entire factories going out of businesses and abandoning the building due to the presence of a single body.



From The Archives:
 

288 thoughts on “This Week I Played… (April 2020)

  1. Asdasd says:

    So you decide to build a new widget factory. But it requires some doodad you don’t currently have on hand. So you walk all the way home to get a stack of doodads. Oh, but you’re out of them. So you walk to some other location to gather a resource, and then walk home to make more doodads. Then you take your doodads, walk back to where you started, and realize that somewhere in all that messing around you consumed a couple of nails. You need ten and you only have eight and so you need to walk home yet again but who cares the day is over at this point and your character is falling asleep and to hell with this noise I’m tired of walking and wiki-reading and why am I even playing this game every action has so much friction and I’m losing my mind ahhhhhhhrrrrg!

    This is interesting to me because I know you’re a big fan of what I think of as ‘systems games’ – Minecraft, Factorio, and so on – and this paragraph basically describes how I imagine it feels to play any of these games. It’s the same reaction I have when CRPG Addict complains about the frequency of repetitive combats in a dungeon crawler – in my head that’s 90% of the experience, so I struggle to understand how anyone can be a self-professed addict of the genre if they object to such a fundamental aspect of the gameplay.

    (I’m currently playing Super Mario 3D Land. It’s just ridiculously delightful.)

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      this paragraph basically describes how I imagine it feels to play any of these games

      Tedium: The Game? That has always been my experience with such things. It’s not an itch I’ve ever felt a particular need to scratch. I don’t mind the odd bit of crafting in a game, particularly an RPG, but I’m more interesting in customisation-type stuff like stats and appearance.

      It’s the same reaction I have when CRPG Addict complains about the frequency of repetitive combats in a dungeon crawler

      Depends on how you are defining “CRPG Addict” and “dungeon crawler” I guess. For me, I like RPGs for story. Endless combat with little else is just as tedious to me as Minecraft et al. Which would be why I generally don’t consider those types of games as RPGs, even though they often get slapped with the label (or ARPG).

      1. John says:

        The CRPG Addict, alias Chester Bolingbroke–Chester Bolingbroke being an actual alias and not his real name–is a real, actual person. He runs the CRPG Addict blog in which he chronicles his attempts to play every RPG ever released for personal computers, no matter how old or obscure. The blog is well worth reading. He may, from time to time, complain about “repetitive combat in a dungeon crawler”, but when he does it’s usually because the combat in said dungeon crawler isn’t very interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him complain about repetitive combat in games with rich, interesting combat systems. In this context, a “dungeon crawler” would be a game like Wizardry or Dungeon Master rather than something like Ultima VII, which is what he’s playing at the moment.

        1. Zekiel says:

          I remember reading some way through his archives years ago. It was quite eye-opening… but I can’t quite believe he manages to keep going!

        2. ElementalAlchemist says:

          The CRPG Addict, alias Chester Bolingbroke

          Ah. The capitalised “Addict” probably should have given away the fact that it was referring to a specific person and not a generic term. Thanks for the clarification. I’m not familiar with their work.

    2. kdansky says:

      I recently got into Satisfactory, and while I adore that game a lot, this is the one issue I have with it: Every tech level (and there are many) requires a new set of items to craft and use, but that also means that you need to spend inventory space on keeping a few stacks on hand. Satisfactory gives you inventory size upgrades, so at least you don’t start running out of inventory to make it ultra-tedious.

      Where things get hairy is restocking: Building a second base involves multiple trips to the main base to go grab some rods, and then some plates, and then some concrete, and then some other stupid thing. All of which I have containers full of, but I cannot transfer the correct mixture easily from A to B.

      Weirdly enough, Factorio’s biggest mistake fixed this: Flying bots. All these games need to have some sort of mid-game upgrade which allows you to summon missing ingredients from across the map, possibly by expending a cheap resource (so they don’t break the game completely like in Factorio). That would mean you’d still stock up your inventory periodically, but it would save you from having to walk across the map because your 80% full inventory only contains 9 copper wires out of the 10 you need for the last factory you wanted to build.

      Just let me build consumable bots that I can carry in my inventory, which will then summon the ingredient I am missing at the cost of themselves (plus the ingredient from the base). That way I’d keep ten stacks of always needed items, plus ten stacks of bots in my inventory, and would just keep building with a trade-off of in-game resource expenditure vs my time, and then once an hour I’d go put a thousand more bots into my inventory.

      Inventory management is fundamentally very boring, and needs to be removed through good system design. Imagine how convenient it would be if any item in a storage chest was available to any crafting bench in the game. It would be the same game about supply chains (which is fun), except with way less walking and dragging stacks into your inventory (which is not fun).

      1. Adam says:

        I find Factorio’s bots interesting because they bridge the gap between “individual” building games like Graveyard Keeper, Minecraft, Terraria and “god” building games like Dwarf Fortress, Oxygen Not Included. In the former, the player is explicitly embodied and directly building stuff themselves. In the latter, the player is not embodied and gives orders for others to execute.

        Factorio has both – in the early game you build it yourself by hand, but in the late game you’re laying down blueprints for entire facilities to be automatically built via remote radar view and may never actually visit them “in person”.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I still wish there was a mod, that removed the player-character from Factorio. I’ve seen individual mods, which could almost be combined to get what I want, but they’re all a little bit off. The start-with-flying-robots mod doesn’t really make sense thematically, and it’s still both over- and under-powered. The tank-tread robots (“helper drones”?) are pretty cool, but there’s no mod to start with those guys. Then there’s the whole coal-stage-is-totally-meaningless-and-mostly-skipped thing. If I get time, I theoretically have all the skills needed to combine and modify all these mods into one cohesive one (or set of independent mods). ^^;

      2. Decius says:

        Satisfactory is doing a lot of improvements as it approaches release, and I stopped playing after the first update to wait for it to be finished… but an expansion can be completed with a couple stacks of each material, which easily fit in your inventory.

    3. Daimbert says:

      Speaking as a CRPG fan in general, usually when addicts complain about that sort of thing it’s a sign that it’s been done wrong. For CRPGs, in general either the combats are too frequent — in Suikoden V in one area it happened pretty much every time I took more than four steps which annoyed me because I kept getting lost on the paths anyway — with no reasonable downtime to perform the actions required in the dungeon or else the combats themselves are too repetitive where all you do are the exact same actions all the time, which is boring. So it usually indicates either an issue in the randomizer or an issue in the combat itself.

      The same thing seems to be happening here: the collection and building type of gameplay is something Shamus likes, but that it’s boring him suggests that they’ve made it overly tedious, so much so that it gets in the way of doing the fun things that he likes such games for.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Err… isn’t Suikoden a JRPG instead of a CRPG? If we’re talking about JRPGs, I would agree that there are many where the encounter rate is bonkers or the fights are too same-y. Although fights being somewhat same-y can be fine if there’s enough downtime between them. Chrono Trigger being a good example.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Yeah, technically it’s a JRPG but I use it as an example because that area, at least, had the design of a dungeon crawler, and there are obviously explicitly dungeon crawler type JRPGs (Dungeon Travelers and Wizardry, just to name two).

          1. Kyle Haight says:

            I’ve always considered CRPG to be the general term, which subdivides in various ways. JRPGs are one type of CRPG; WRPGs (western RPGs) are another. It’s also a bit weird to see Wizardry considered a JRPG, as its original incarnation was one of the ur-examples of the WRPG. Times change.

            1. Chad Miller says:

              I’ve never heard Wizardry called a JRPG before either. That said, this was back when the line was less clear than it is now; the original Final Fantasy practically could have been a Dungeons and Dragons game if they had the money and desire to acquire the license. Even now you can see traces of this in the series (I’ve fought not-Illithids in Final Fantasy XV)

              1. Daimbert says:

                There actually are JRPG spin-offs of the Wizardry series in Japan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizardry:_Tale_of_the_Forsaken_Land

                That’s the one I was referring to, actually, because it’s a clear dungeon crawler JRPG.

                So, yeah, a bit confusing since it was a CRPG first, but the JRPG versions are clear dungeon crawlers while the later games in the Wizardry CRPG series — like Wizardry 8 — aren’t as clear.

              2. baud says:

                The original Dragon Quest was a mix between Ultima for the map movement and Wizardry for the combat, so even the first JRPG was a CRPG :D.

                Though regarding the history/genesis of JRPGs, I like this article: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/FelipePepe/20161010/282896/19821987__The_Birth_of_Japanese_RPGs_retold_in_15_Games.php

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  That’s a really interesting read, thanks.

                  The author makes a crack about the beholders, but those did show up in the original Final Fantasy: https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Evil_Eye_(Final_Fantasy)

        2. ivan says:

          So, what’s a CRPG? Is the C for Console? Computer? Those are just pieces of hardware to play games on, so I sure hope it’s neither.

          1. Ander says:

            Computer. I agree it’s not a great name, but it is a helpful term insofar as it calls to mind Baldur’s Gate rather than Final Fantasy.

            1. Daimbert says:

              It also might have arisen to differentiate those games from tabletop RPGs, which was the initial bigger divide in North America.

          2. Erik says:

            C = Computer, as opposed to TTRPGs, for Table Top RPGs. The latter acronym was never a thing until recently, when CRPGs became so common that people (like you :) ) forgot about the original version. Back in the day (get off my lawn!), RPGs were all tabletop, and CRPGs were the weak attempt to emulate them.

            1. ivan says:

              I play D&D every week. Don’t confuse not knowing arbitrary confusing acronyms with not knowing what things are/exist.

        3. defaultex says:

          jRPG encounter rates are what got me to the point where I rarely enjoy one without being able to at a minimum double the frame limit. I even know exactly what spot your talking about in Suikoden V, there’s a patch you can load in emulators to drop the encounter rate more in line with the rest of the game (which actually felt about right). That game however illustrates another problem jRPGs and CRPGs both suffer from. Encounters become so trivial so quickly that you can pretty much auto-pilot through them, that’s just not much fun. Not talking about length of encounters but more complexity. FFX had a great solution to that with the weaknesses being so pronounced but at the same time it became easy to over power before you were even halfway through the game.

    4. Decius says:

      First. I don’t see much similarity between Minecraft and Factorio, so you and I are at different scales of the fractal here.

      But the problem with Graveyard keeper is that you have to pick up the raw materials from a storage, go to the workbench, and interact with the workbench to make a thing, and further that neither your inventory nor any of the storages have enough space to contain everything, and ALSO that they have stack limits.

      That means that you need to also track WHICH storage each item should be in, because if you put a yellow flower in the chest it takes up an entire slot. And some materials are used in more than one thing that can’t be near each other (salt is used in alchemy and in cooking, which are in different maps).

      The loop of “get alchemy ingredients to make fertilizer, get good seeds, make enough top-quality produce to sell this week, then make enough boxes and deliver it to the warehouse, and also make all the locally sold goods this week and sell it to the appropriate people, then give a sermon, just to get another few percent of the gold needed for the next completely arbitrary plot gate” was my stopping point twice.

      1. Retsam says:

        But the problem with Graveyard keeper is that you have to pick up the raw materials from a storage, go to the workbench, and interact with the workbench to make a thing

        FWIW, this is often not true, it’s one area where Graveyard keeper gets it right that many other crafting games don’t: you can craft with items in storage in the current area without taking them out of storage. This is a huge QoL thing, and it’s only provided by mods in minecraft, and not at all in some other crafting games I can think of. (e.g. Subnautica)

        1. Decius says:

          Is that part of a recent update? Because having to run around all my shelves to figure out what alchemy ingredients I could have was a major reason I stopped playing.

          1. Retsam says:

            As far as I can tell, no, it’s always been this way, at least looking at their version history, I don’t see it.

            You can craft with items in storage, and if you scroll your inventory you’ll see the contents of all the storage containers in the area. The only time you really have to shuffle items around is when you’re moving between the different crafting areas.

        2. Dalisclock says:

          My time at Portia does the same thing, which made the game feel so awesome once I realized it. Considering you end up building a factory in late game this is even more useful.

    5. Retsam says:

      The general appeal of the genre is “progression”. You start out with next to nothing, and by the end of the game you have a large base and lots of materials and whatever the game’s specific goals are. In a sense this is the same as an RPG where you start off as a level 1 wizard who can barely beat a cat in a fight, and by the end of the game you’re a force of nature. I like crafting games because the progression usually feels more natural: it’s not just “level goes up, numbers get bigger”, the progression comes from tangible actions on your part.

      But every crafting game involves some level of “tedium” and or “friction” in various different ways, and everyone has different tolerances for different kinds of friction. So it’s very possible to be a fan of the genre, but for certain games in the genre to just be beyond your tolerance for its particular brand of tedium/friction.

    6. beleester says:

      Factorio puts a lot of work into avoiding this problem. If you handcraft something, then it will automatically handcraft any intermediate products, so long as you have the raw materials for it (e.g., if you craft an inserter it will automatically queue up copper wire, circuits, and gears). If handcrafting is too slow or there are too many intermediates (e.g., advanced circuits take about 10 seconds to craft and are used in the dozens), then that’s generally a hint that you should be automating its production since you’ll need it everywhere. But basic stuff that’s needed in small quantities (like assemblers or chemical plants) can generally be made on-demand with no hassle.

      (In the late game you’ll still automate those things, so that you can use bots to construct them in bulk. But you’re never impeded by it in the early game.)

      There are some mod packs that have this problem – they don’t really understand how handcrafting is balanced, and you end up needing to wait around for 5 minutes every time you want to add a new assembler since there’s 10 different intermediate products that you have to craft first and there’s no way to automate all that in the early game. But the base game is pretty damn good at getting out of your way and letting you focus on the problem of “How do I automate this one item?”

    7. LCF says:

      I liked Graveyard Keeper, there were nice humourus moments to it, though there was some unfinished aspect too, kind of No Man’s Sky at release.
      Also, you’re going to end up doing everything but keeping the graveyard, and if you stop putting carrots in the donkey’s box to secure a constant corpses flow, you may very well not bother tending to the graves at all!
      It’s a bit as if Factorio was called “Steam power simulator”.
      Not exactly the main reason I bought it. Also, the City is hinted at, but is not in the game, you can’t go there. Also, there is a dungeon to go hack and slash, but nothing respawns in it. Once it’s cleared, it stays cleard. Also, the combat is lackluster.
      So I still like it, but I’m a bit disappointed.

      1. Veylon says:

        Heh. I actually burned all the bodies and just made the titular graveyard into a regular yard. I got upwards of three hundred Graveyard Prettiness Points without a single corpse in the ground.

        I still kept having bodies delivered (it’s free money, why not?) and kept them in the underground room until I was ready for mass burnings.

    8. defaultex says:

      Minecraft really depends on how you play it. If you play through adventure type of maps and mods, it’s a very different game from playing so called challenging mods like Age of Engineering or Exoria where it pretty much is a game of navigating tedious systems. Probably a big reason why your more technical players tends to automate as much as they can get away with as soon as they can, strips a lot of the tedium out of the game allowing you to just enjoy the fun aspects.

      For me that’s why a lot of systems games suck. They focus so much on the systems that they forget to include something fun to use the systems on. Or if they do, you spend all this time building up this really awesome armor and weapons to find there’s nothing to make anything beyond it’s most basic features fun to play with. That’s a big part of why I love the Star Ocean games despite the story being really “meh”. You beat the game, some stuff unlocks and knocks your punk arse down a notch. Go back do some crafting to beef your gear up just to barely get by and just as you catch up with difficulty it ramps up a bit more or throws a boss shaped curveball your way. By no means perfect but fun power climb non the less.

    9. Radkatsu says:

      I bought Factorio a few days ago. 30 minutes and I refunded. REALLY not my thing. It started out like any other crafter, but then it started getting me to lay conveyors and automating and my brain was like ‘yeah… this isn’t for me, I can already feel it’. I don’t have the logical brain for that sort of process, heh.

  2. Geebs says:

    Last week I played Half-Life:Alyx. This week I played Having A New Baby, so videogames aren’t really a thing for a while; although I’d been running through Shadow of the Colossus with my eldest. This means we’ve been playing live-action SotC; I have to stomp around on all fours roaring, and then the eldest jumps on my back, grabs my hair and beats me over the head with an empty plastic bottle. It’s a pretty faithful adaptation.

    1. Zekiel says:

      :-) Congratulations!

    2. Thomas says:

      Congratulations!

    3. Lino says:

      Congratulations!!!

    4. Baron Tanks says:

      Congrats

    5. Nimrandir says:

      When my son was born, I played Halo while wearing a Baby Bjorn. I guess that’s not an option if you play on PC, though.

      Also, congratulations!

    6. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

      Congrats. Did the same in January. After the first week or so I was able to sneak in a couple hours of gaming every couple days -my wife took over childcare duties. And sometimes I just play with our son sitting on my lap (he loves the colors -I imagine he has no idea what he’s looking at). With an older son already, I’m sure you have your own methods.

    7. Geebs says:

      Thanks, everyone!

      Videogames are a pretty good way of staying awake on the night shifts with a new baby. With the last one, I was able to just hang him over a shoulder to get the gas out after a feed, and I got a fair way through Bloodborne like that (with Souls games, you make your own difficulty options). The latest, though, is a right little fusspot and is having none of it.

  3. baud says:

    I’ve finished FEAR’s two expansion, I had a good time, just like the base game.

    First expansion: the enemy seem to have more HP, but the firefights are over more quickly, perhaps because the arenas are smaller and with more visibility. The laser is fun to use, much more than the plasma rifle from the original game, even if it’s less efficient. I had a teammate for a few levels and apparently to compensate for all the time spent alone, the devs made him a chatterbox, even if he doesn’t say anything interesting. I miss a little the voicemail messages of the base game, it made going through the levels between firefights more interesting and they were telling a story (well mostly those in the office segment, but still). Also it fixed the bug in the original that dropped a black screen when saving at a checkpoint.

    Second expansion: I’m glad the voicemail are back. AI teammates are dumb, but perhaps it was intentional so that they don’t overshadow the player and die quickly enough. There’s much more equipment to pick up, it makes the game easier: I arrived in nearly all firefights with full armor, for example, which lessen the tension a lot. But because of this, equipment placement feels more random than in the base game, with explosives dropped in offices and labs. Still can’t stand the spooky segments, I’m forcing myself to go through it to reach the fun parts (aka the shooting) but there’s less of it in this one. At least this sequence was fun.

    I also appreciate the bonus for health and reflex to pick up, it adds some rewards for exploring a little and some character improvement.

    Favorite weapon is the rifle that uses explosive ammo, pinpoint accuracy and a lovely kickback each time it’s fired. It nearly feels like a Bolter from 40k. Too bad there’s never enough ammo to use it for more than one or two firefights.

    Now I’ve started playing Van Helsing, an action RPG. I’m not a fan of how the game switch gear from classical monster hunting (mostly werewolves) to magiteck/steampunk half way through, even if it’s just an art style change. I like having a permanent companion, who is useful to tank enemies while I shoot at them and can go back to town to sell loot. I’m not a big fan of the game systems, I don’t feel it’s as polished as Titan Quest (the other A-RPG I’ve played).

    1. Gautsu says:

      Van Helsing lacked a lot of polish, but had a lot of charm. I wouldn’t have wanted to pay full proce dor the Final Cut, but I don’t regret my play through at half off, at all

      1. baud says:

        I bought the Final Cut during the last gog sale, for 15€, I wouldn’t have bought it at full price for sure. I agree that it’s got a lot of charm, in good part from from Katarina. I also enjoyed the puzzles, like those in the swamp area, to bad there’s missing/not as present from the other levels.

      2. The Wind King says:

        Really?

        I found Van Helsing to be almost unplayable.

        Although I think it’s mostly on the sound design, and general feedback of the game, nothing is very punchy, even when I’m blasting through enemies with flamethrowers and high-explosives.

        Would recommend Victor Vran over either of the Van Helsing games.

    2. houser2112 says:

      If you felt Titan Quest was a good polished ARPG, then you need to check out Grim Dawn. It’s made by the same people who made the original TQ (ex-Ironlore employees), and they licensed the engine and have made a lot of improvements. I am a huge fan of TQ, and GD is even better.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I’ve only played a little of Grim Dawn to give it a test run, currently waiting until both me and my co-op friend have the expansions so we can sit down to it together, but it did strike me as “Titan Quest but with a much better atmosphere” (and also some deeper mechanics? Like I said didn’t get too far but I’ve seen the constellations thing).

        1. Decius says:

          I’d say… Additional mechanics.

          It’s not really deeper, just another spreadsheet for optimizers.

        2. baud says:

          I think what I preferred with Titan Quest was the atmosphere, or perhaps the sense of place, like walking up the Nile, going into the Valley of Kings, walking from the hanging gardens of Babylon to China via the Hindu Kush, Himalaya and the Great Wall and walking across central Europe to the North Sea/Baltic Sea (still Greece wasn’t as interesting or lacked any landmark). Having real-life places made the travels much more enjoyable, compared to the “fantasy” parts like hell in the Immortal Throne expansion, though some “fantasy” parts were enjoyable, like arriving in Olympia or walking on the Bifrost.

          Thank you for the recommendation for Grim Dawn, I think I’ll have to choose between TQ’s latest expansion, the other Van Helsing games and Grim Dawn next time I’m in the mood for an ARGP.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            For the record I didn’t think too highly of TQ’s atmosphere, I’m a bit tired of pseudomythological settings and I tend to see them as a cop out from thinking of a setting.

  4. Philadelphus says:

    Apparently the Elder Care building from the newest Cities: Skylines expansion is supposed to make your elderly people have a chance at living longer, which miiiight help with the death wave issues, maybe? I’ve just gotten back into the game for the first time in over a year and am working on getting a good-size city going. I always get to ~20,000 people and get sort of overwhelmed and bored, for whatever reason, so I’m really going to try and stick this one out (thus I’ve never quite encountered these death waves myself, though I’ve certainly heard about them on the forums). I’ve got a few mods going, including one which lets me buy additional plots of land at any time, which I think is helping; I always have these sweeping grand designs for where I’ll put a new highway or rail line which get stymied because I need to go through one corner of a plot I don’t own yet and can’t buy till my city gets another few thousand people. I like being able to just buy as much space as I need for laying out the broad stroke, and filling in the details later. I definitely agree that Sunset Harbor feels like a bit of a grab-bag when it comes to new stuff, but apparently it’s a bunch of stuff fans have requested over the years.

    Also been playing a bunch of Stellaris with the new Federations expansion, and I’m really liking it. Paradox has finally overhauled the diplomacy system, and they did a pretty good job of it all things considered. You can now finally do basic diplomacy like increase or decrease someone else’s opinion of you over time, and the new Galactic Community is a fabulous way to throw your diplomatic weight around. The game finally has soft power, and it’s great. I’ve already managed to pull an “I AM the senate!” and have myself voted the single, permanent Galactic Council member, giving me free reign to veto proposals or call emergency measures to speed up legislation I like in perpetuum. The new origins system is interesting and gives you lots of replayability options, and the Juggernaut ship which acts as a mobile starbase which can build, repair, and upgrade ships is pretty cool and great for extended campaigns. Federations are slightly more interesting, in that you get bonuses if you invest in them a bit so they’re a bit more dynamic, but nothing too crazy. All in all with the diplomatic overhaul I’d say it finally feels like pretty much everything in the game has been reinvented at this point and it’s finally in a pretty solid place, so I’m excited to wait and see what they come up with next (they’ve already teased stuff about fleshing out the space fauna, which I am so down for).

    Also still playing a bit of Noita, though not quite as obsessively (it’s nice for short burst in between long Stellaris and C:S sessions).

    1. Echo Tango says:

      @Shamus have you tried this mod which makes (newly-spawned only, not existing) dead bodies just disappear? It should be what you’re after. :)

  5. Mephane says:

    Apart from Warframe and Mordhau, which have been my mainstay games for months now, I have been playing The Outer Worlds. More specifically, I started yesterday. Just recently I did a nice big PC upgrade and finally made the switch to Win 10 (installing a new OS just wasn’t worth the hassle on the old machine). Lo and behold, just shortly after there is a sale on the Microsoft Store, so I got it now instead of October when it will out on Steam and I’ll be busy with Cyberpunk for at least the rest of the year, heh.

    ——————-
    Regarding the problem with dead bodies in Cities Skylines, I dealt with that by using a mod called Better Crematoriums, which basically just buffed their capacity, range and efficiency at transporting the dead bodies to a much more reasonable level.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    I figured you’d end up having the same problem I had with Graveyard Keeper. It’s a fun game, sure, but it overstays its welcome.

    I know you don’t care about these games, but I played through the Resident Evil 3 remake. Loved it. Consensus on the game seems to be mixed, based on what are entirely unreasonable expectations, if I go from reading people’s user reviews, who blame this game for stuff the original (and the RE2 remake) already did. If I have one complaint is that the new dodge move makes the game almost a cakewalk (at least in regular difficulties). Ignore all the comments about your main foe Nemesis being too easy. If the dodge move had been in RE2, the tank-like Mr. X would have been laughably easy to deal with.

    I played through Night Shift. Nice concept (you play as a cab driver that solves murders under the premise that people are more relaxed when talking to a cabbie, making it easier for you to gather clues). Beautiful noir visual style. Horrendous execution. This is a game that would have benefitted from less content. It would have been a great visual novel if they just focused on the whole conversation aspect and ditched the mystery solving, for which calling it “half-baked” would be too generous.

    1. Syal says:

      Ignore all the comments about your main foe Nemesis being too easy.

      Been watching supergreatfriend play the original and the remake. You can take Remake Nemesis down in a single attack.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Sure, at first. And he goes back up almost immediately, even in lower difficulties. And you still need serious firepower for it.

    2. lkw says:

      Sounds interesting, but do you mean Night Call?
      I found a game called Night Shift but it doesn’t seem to be about solving murders.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        You are correct. I’ve been betrayed by my subconscious, since yesterday I started working the night shift, and my head was still spinning from lack of sleep.

    3. TemporalMagnanimity says:

      My complaint with RE3 is that it’s as expensive as RE2, but there is around a third of the single player content. RE2 had you complete four single player campaigns. Granted, there was a lot of overlap, but it’s still four campaigns.

      I’m assuming that it costs as much as it does because of Resistance, which I have no interest in. I wish the two were sold as separate products and the total price was split between them.

  7. Tizzy says:

    Playing Last of Us for the first time because it was on sale and the sequel will come out eventually. Pathologic would be more topical, I guess.

  8. ElementalAlchemist says:

    This last week I dug Blood Bowl II out for another spin. Put together a mixed race Greenskins/Lizardman/Ogre team, which I figured would be amusing with a roster of mostly Black Orcs and Saurus along with an Ogre and Kroxigor, filled out with some Orc Blitzers/Throwers and a Goblin and Skink for good measure. Not quite as fun as my preferred bashy team Chaos with all their mouth watering mutations, but still proficient in pulping things. Oddly I seemed to have more success in killing/injuring opposing Black Orcs rather than more squishy Elves and Humans. But after a dozen or so games I think it is going back into hibernation again.

    I wonder if we’ll hear anything about BB3 this year, especially with Coronavirus throwing a spanner into the works. I’ve heard GW are supposedly shaking up the tabletop rules pretty drastically for their new addition, which the videogame will be tied to. Not sure I’m overly keen on the idea, given some of GW’s recent shakeups.

    1. Decius says:

      Squisher opponents generally have more abilities that result in them getting armor penetration checks against them, while the ones with less bad armor will take the hits instead of dodging.

      I main daemons, and the only way I consistently beat elves is to get possession and injure their receivers and runners before scoring, even if that means losing a few players to getting fouled out.

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        Yeah I wasn’t talking about dodging, just pure armour rolls after the were on the ground. For some reason even though having many more rolls against opponents with 7/8 armour, I over all seemed to get more injuries against opponents with 9 armour. I think my best ever achievement was where in the first two blocks of the opening turn in a game against an Orc team I Badly Injured one Black Orc, then killed the second one. Pretty sure I BH one of their other BOs by the end of the game as well. Typically this is much easier with Chaos teams, since you always aim to get Claws on your Chaos Warriors ASAP.

        I don’t know if the game provides granular enough data on that sort of thing to pull out any real numbers. So it could all just be in my head I guess.

        1. Decius says:

          Keep in mind that stunning a target is the most common result of breaking armor, and armor doesn’t affect the injury table (only how often you roll on the injury table). Sending off a player is pretty rare.

  9. Adam says:

    I’ve been playing Prey (2017). Or at least, trying to start it. With hind-sight, probably not the best game to start during Lockdown – trapped in a confined structure, perpetually stressed and low on resources, seeing movement out of the corner of your eyes, hearing creepy noises and voices, and being attacked by household objects such as mugs and chairs.

    So I guess that’s an anti-recommendation from me – play it, but not right now!

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Apparently, all of my existing Steam library is either skill-testing intense, emotionally intense, or some other type of intense game. I spent half an hour, using filters and checkboxes (include these games, exclude these) in Steam, to get to around 150 indie games, that were some kind of “relaxing”, but not porn / nudity, and also low-skill. None of them seemed to be my style. If anyone knows a sci-fi game (robots? cute aliens?), that’s like Firewatch, or a low-effort zoo, or an alien-aquarium, that’d be cool. Parkasaurus is pretty intense management, even turning on all the free-money, and Slime Rancher has you running around doing fetch-quests… ^^;

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Starbound can be played this way if you stick to the easy planets and just build a farming base.

      2. Shamus says:

        Based on the description of what you want, here is a list of games, sorted from “Very likely to be what you want” down to “Might be what you want, but you’ll have to take a chance.”

        Not a lot of sci-fi out there, but here is what I came up with in terms of tone & gameplay:

        Life is Strange – Pretty close to Firewatch in tone and gameplay: Walk around, click on things, and experience narrative tension.
        Night in the Woods – Cool art, very focused on story. Very little in the way of mechanical challenge. I dug it up until the final act, when the story took a turn that made me stop caring. I was in the minority on this. Most people say that the final act is when it got really good.
        Obduction – The classic MYST formula brought into the modern age.
        The Novelist – You’re a ghost. Your job is to help a novelist get his mojo back. I am not kidding.
        Gorogoa – If you want a dreamy atmosphere and gorgeous art.
        The Strong Bad Games – If you ever cared about Homestar Runner, then you’ve probably already played this and you already know how good it is. If you didn’t care, then I’m not sure it’ll appeal. I’d love to hear from a non-HR fan that played these games to see how comprehensible they are.
        Cities: Skylines – If you want SimCity, except good. There are one-click-install mods to give you infinite money so it’s more like a big free-form train set.
        Factorio with the monsters set to “passive” – if you’re into logistics planning.
        Hexcells Infinite – If you’re into logic puzzles and soothing atmospheric music.
        Universe Sandbox2 – If you’re into astronomy and No Challenge whatsoever. It’s a total sandbox. Look at planets and stars, modify them, and fling them around and see what happens.
        No Man’s Sky – A really relaxing game if you download a save editor and give yourself max inventory.
        Chime – Not so much “relaxing” as “Trance inducing”.

        Good luck!

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I actually found No Man’s Sky a pretty good ‘zen game’ after I forced myself to stop collecting everything. This is ironic, as I quit the game when I couldn’t bring myself to leave a planet without discovering all its wildlife.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          A note that there’s actually an infinite money mod included with Cities: Skylines itself, no need to even download anything. There’s also mods included that give you infinite dirt for terraforming and that stop oil and mineral resources from running out (which is basically infinite money, if you’ve got the Industries DLC).

        3. Richard says:

          Obduction is wonderful is you liked any of the Myst series, and pretty good if you like puzzle games in general.

          Solar 2 is a fun casual game in a simulated infinite universe. You start as an asteroid, become a planet and eventually, if you so desire, you can devour the entire Universe in a Big Crunch.
          Or just whizz around the place if you like. There’s missions but entirely up to you whether to bother.

        4. Dalisclock says:

          I really dug a Night in the Woods but I can totally see how the final act can be offputting. I don’t mind it but damn does it feel like a shocking swerve that doesn’t really get built up much prior to that and almost feels like a different game.

          I got a lot more out of Mae wasting time with her buddies and exploring her angst of not knowing what to do with her life now that she dropped out of college with no idea what to do next and not in the mood to tell her parents whats really going on with her. The reveal explaining a lot of her issues and acting out stuck with me a lot more then the….other thing that happens in the final act.

        5. Misamoto says:

          I think after the Beyond update the inventory stopped being a problem in NMS

        6. Radkatsu says:

          “Life is Strange – Pretty close to Firewatch in tone and gameplay: Walk around, click on things, and experience narrative tension.”

          Funny way of saying ‘narrative stupidity.’

      3. tmtvl says:

        Maybe Mr. Robot or Starscape?
        If you’re fine with VNs, Invisible Apartment is cyberpunk-y.
        For Myst-style adventure games there’s always J.U.L.I.A. Among The Stars…
        If you’re fine with RPG Maker games, and if you can find it, Guile Machination is amazingly good.
        RymdResa markets itself as a relaxing game, but it doesn’t run out of the box for me (customized Linux system), so I can’t say.
        While I haven’t played it myself, I’ve read articles praising Spacebase DF-9.

      4. Lino says:

        – I wrote about Beautiful Desolation below, so I won’t repeat myself.

        – I recently got Symmetry on GOG. I haven’t installed it yet, but it looks rather peacful.

        – Although it’s not sci-fi, I strongly reccommend Yoku’s Island Express – it’s a platformer/pinball game with some of the cutest characters I’ve seen in a long time.

        – If you like old-school dungeon crawlers in the style of the old Might and Magic games, I reccommend StarCrawlers. I didn’t get all that into it, but it didn’t strike me as too difficult. I stopped pretty early, because I’m just not a fan of this genre.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I went through Prey very carefully, stealthily and deliberately (and scumsaving the heck out of it), then near the endgame got a bit frustrated with some parts of it and decided to go all out and… blazed through it. Apparently I’ve been way too conservative with the use of available resources and definitely could have just rushed certain things guns blazing.

      1. Fizban says:

        There’s definitely a threshold: earlier in the game guns blazing is risky, but while you’re stealthing around hoarding upgrades you eventually hit the point where you can just steamroll things. At least if you’re using sufficient Human upgrades- I stalled out about halfway through my Typhon-only run, but the lack of hit point and basic weapon upgrades leads me to believe you’d have to stay stealthy for most of the game.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          That could be it because the Typhon upgrades came in a bit too late in the game in my opinion and by that time I’ve kind of already invested my playstyle into the human ones, I might have ended up doing an actual non-typhon run by accident.

  10. Zekiel says:

    I’ve started Pillars of Eternity 2 which is absolutely awesome but naturally does not fit into my life properly because I am an adult with boring adult responsibilities that take up 90% of my time. But it is excellent. I am currently roving around on the high seas trying to work out how the ship combat system works and stopping at random islands to steal from or murder the indigenous inhabitants, which feels a bit icky. Sure, those xaurips attacked me, but then I landed on their island without permission…

    Tangentially related to Shamus’ post, Pillars of Eternity has a bottomless inventory which is of course how all RPG inventories should work :-)

    Also Darkest Dungeon because it fits better into my life since you can play in 15 minute chunks. Playing on the easiest difficulty I just had my first character deaths for several hours (two at once fighting a veteran-level boss) which has reminded me that setbacks are quite painful in this game!

    1. camycamera says:

      To be honest, ship combat is completely pointless in PoE2 and when presented the option to engage in combat, it’s often just quicker and more rewarding to just board a ship anyway.

      But PoE2 is a pretty good game, though if a bit bloated with things like ship combat and the topics tags that the lead designer himself said he thought should’ve been cut. It took me 140 hours to beat what I felt like was almost a 100% playthrough (all DLCs, all companion quests, discovering all the islands, most side-quests I could find etc), so yeah you’re in for the long-haul. Probably one of the longest and content-packed wRPGs I have played next to Bethesda-RPGs. It is very rewarding though and often surprising how much and how quality it is for how large it is, such as with every single NPC being voiced, and a lot of them – particularly the pirates and companions – are excellent.

      1. djw says:

        Late game once you collect various companions and sidekicks and upgrade gear you can roll over enemies with a boarding party. Early on though boarding can be dangerous, at least on PotD upscaled.

        On the other hand, the starting ship is the only one in the game that allows you to perform a jibe maneuver in just one turn, and that allows you to bring to bear double the firepower that you might otherwise expect. You do need to “hold” one turn after the jibe in order to improve your cannon accuracy. So combat looks something like this:

        turn
        hold
        fire
        jibe
        hold
        fire
        jibe
        hold
        fire

        That will often allow you to defeat ships that are otherwise much better equipped. You can even beat Junks and Galleons this way, but you need a bit of luck early. If you manage to set them on fire with your first broadside they will waste many actions putting it out rather than shooting you.

  11. Alpakka says:

    I have been going through my backlog of “random games I have probably gotten for free, or from a bundle, or something”.

    In the last 3 weeks I have calculated I have tried 173 games from that list. Now there’s only 94 left!

    I have a separate list of “games I have actually bought and seriously intend to play”, which currently has 7 games.

    I haven’t really run into any that I would have played for more than a few hours, the average is probably 15 or 20 minutes. Probably nearly 10 games that did not actually start at all or did not get to actual gameplay because they just crashed, or played at 3 FPS or something. I did not spend much time trying to investigate those.

    However, the remaining games may take much longer to play through, since I started from the less interesting looking games. The rest actually look like they may be at least somewhat interesting.

    I have bought about 2 game bundles per year for the last 10 years (although I think I mostly stopped in 2018), and picked up game giveaways from different stores when I have noticed them. I guess that is enough to create quite a backlog.

  12. Daimbert says:

    I’ve been playing a game that I only picked up because it was described on this site: Saint’s Row the Third. I originally was interested in it because of the comments on how you could customize your character, but I found the process for creating and customizing the character’s image tedious and so just went with something that I kinda liked. There are a number of options for what you’re wearing which is nice, but I only like a few of them on my character so I’m not really taking advantage of that.

    I’ve been playing it for a couple of hours a day for about a week, so in the ten hour or so range, and I’ve only completed the second mission. What I spent the rest of my time on was driving around and buying properties and doing the gang missions and things that my gang asked me to do, and lately stealing interesting looking cars (I couldn’t resist stealing the ambulance when I came across it while trying to buy the wharf). I’m not all that interested in the missions themselves yet, and am running out of interesting things to do in the world. As I’m not an open-world gamer myself, this limits how interested I am in the game.

    I’m not hugely interested in the activities. The Insurance Fraud and tank missions are interesting, but not enough to make me want to play them at higher difficulties. The TV show one where you have to survive has some interesting dialogue but involves intense combat which is not the thing I most like about the game. So that’s something I might pick up when I gain a few more levels.

    So far, I am enjoying it, but most of that is driving around listening to the music on the radio and increasing my ownership of the city, with sporadic bouts of combat to break up the monotony. There is a good chance I’ll finish the game if it doesn’t get too difficult — I’m playing on “Casual” but am not good at these sorts of games — but it’s not as interesting as I’d hoped when I bought it. The humour is fun, though, when it isn’t too coarse.

    1. Syal says:

      More side missions are unlocked with plot progression. Can’t think of too many I’d call really fun, at least if you don’t like the tank, but one of them involves driving a car with an angry tiger in the passenger seat, keeping the tiger happy while avoiding Zoologist vans.

      1. Daimbert says:

        The tank is fun but would be a pain at higher difficulties of mission, I think, and isn’t fun enough to just do. That tiger one … doesn’t seem like something I’d enjoy more than once [grin]. Although it does fit in well with the overall tone of the game …

      2. Dalisclock says:

        At some point you can unlock missions where you escort a car, but the fun bit is that you have an attack helicopter, so it plays less like a standard escort mission and more like the Call of Duty mission “Death from Above” but with an attack helicopter you fully control instead of a gun turrent on a orbiting gunship.

  13. Joshua says:

    I’ve been going back to playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 to beat it with the second team of characters. Unfortunately, I’m in Arx (the final chapter), I’m under-leveled (level 18, and most fights are level 20), so it just ends up being a huge beating with many reloads.

    My wife’s always been big on Crafting/Survival Games, so in the past couple of days she’s been getting me to play Rising World with her.

    Oh, and a really old game I was looking for forever on stuff like GOG I found out is actually available as a browser game: https://classicreload.com/knights-of-legend.html

    1. Asdasd says:

      Knights of Legend is the one with simultaneous turn resolution, right? So you could dodge out of a space an enemy was striking, or aim at a space they were moving into. And there was a stat that made it easier to predict enemy movements? I always thought that was an interesting idea for a combat system.

      1. Joshua says:

        Yep, part of the forecasting mechanic.

  14. miroz says:

    I finally took some time to play XCOM 2 (without expansion). Somehow I’m managing to play just a few hours every other day. The game is interesting enough, I enjoy playing. The only problem I have is with alien design. In old games, they were… cute. Now they are white, grey blobs.

    I found it interesting that the more modern the game is, the more limited it becomes. Only 4 (5 with upgrade) squad members. Only 1 grenade (2 with upgrades). One weapon (or two for special classes, but fixed).
    In UFO from the nineties, you could carry as many soldiers as you could fit into the interceptor (15 I think). You could stock the whole pile of reserve weapons. It felt more generic. I could play as I wanted, not how designers decided.

    1. Decius says:

      Xenonauts 2 is moving back towards the roots, with more soldiers and bigger loadouts.

      I dislike that their shotguns are basically melee weapons and the general lack of accuracy that soldiers have.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      I think the alien designs in XCOM 2 are intended to be more “menacing” than “cute”, to fit the whole “plucky resistance against the world-controlling invaders” theme. (Also you can actually get up to 6 squad members with upgrades, so I’m guessing you haven’t gotten that far yet. I actually play with a mod that ups the limit to 8, which feels about right; by the end of the game each of your high-ranking soldiers will have so many different options and abilities each turn that managing more than ~7–8 starts to get a bit tedious and/or overwhelming.)

    3. Radkatsu says:

      You can easily edit the game’s files to have as many characters in a squad as you want. No mods needed, just tweak the files as you like (though back them up first of course). Be warned that anything over 8, while fun initially, quickly becomes a slog.

  15. John says:

    I haven’t been playing any new video games, but I did start playing the board game Ticket to Ride this week. We got a copy as a gift several years ago. It’s spent most of the time since gathering dust under my dresser with my chess set and the rest of my meager board game collection. I opened the box and read the instructions once, but I never made any serious attempt to play it until now.

    I dig it. I’m not going to claim it’s a great game or anything, but I had fun. To me, it feels like a faster, simpler, more relaxed version of Monopoly, even though the games don’t have a whole lot in common, mechanically speaking. According to the manual, you are some sort of Phileas Fogg-type character, trying to outdo your compatriots on some sort of railroad-riding adventure. This nonsense is totally unsupported by the mechanics. For one thing, the players have no physical presence on the board. In practice, you are obviously some sort of railroad magnate, connecting cities with rail lines, trying to build the longest and most complete railroad network in North America.

    My daughter, age 11, is unexpectedly good at the game. There’s a fair amount of luck involved in Ticket to Ride, but strategy absolutely matters and I’ve never seen her display strategic thinking like this before. She’s particularly canny about choosing the destination cards that confer bonuses or penalties at the end of the game. (Perhaps she’s finally ready to learn the fine art of the satellite rush in XCOM? I have so much to teach!) She’s beaten me two out of three games so far.

    1. Decius says:

      Ticket to Ride is mostly a strategic game- much of the strategy involves not relying on getting specific color cards and also predicting how other players will act. If you can tell that someone is building a route that uses a segment that you want, it would be wise to build that segment before them, even if that means you have to pick a wild card.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I drive my family nuts when I play Ticket because I hoard up cards like Smaug and only claim routes I’m worried about losing due to demand. Then I build seemingly random bits of track to mask my tickets, even though I’m the only one who would remember what cities are linked.

        I personally prefer the Europe set, because stations relieve a bit of the ‘gotta claim that one!’ pressure in my head.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Ah, yes! I first played it with some friends from work, including my then-boss, who said at the end of the game he’d been worried that I hadn’t understood the game because it seemed like I was building all these random connections all over the board. Turns out I’d just been obfuscating my plans by doing so, and actually ended up I think in second place with all my routes completed and in one continuous line.

          I agree that the additions in the Europe version make it more fun, especially people gambling on tunnels!

        2. Decius says:

          That’s a very valid strategy, and the canonical counter to someone who is obfuscating their tickets is to go for your own as directly as possible. (the counter to going directly for one’s own routes is to try to block, and the counter for trying to block is to obfuscate, oversimplifying).

          I like to spend the first couple of turns drawing additional tickets. It’s a very high-variance strategy, but one advantage is that I know more about what tickets other people don’t have.

    2. Thomas says:

      Did you read the article someone wrote ages back on the dissonance between Ticket to Rides story and what the game was actually about?

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I’m ashamed to admit I was unaware that Ticket’s manual even has a story blurb. I was introduced to the game by veterans, so I never needed to look at the rules. By the time I bought my own copy, the rail baron conceit was so firmly etched in my mind that the destinations being actual tickets never occurred to me.

        The game’s elegantly straightforward design and reputation as a tabletop ‘gateway drug’ probably don’t do the plot any favors.

      2. John says:

        I did not, though I’m not surprised that one exists.

        1. Thomas says:

          It’s a curious incident. The person I read tried to apply it to find other games where the mechanics told a different story to the game, which is a fun exercise but one that’s quite easy to go astray on.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            On one of these earlier threads someone brought up Chutes and Ladders descending from a game that was supposed to demonstrate that bad things happen if you succumb to your vices.

            Monopoly was created by a self-described anti-monopolist, which should demonstrate just how far it’s strayed from its intended message: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_(game)#Early_history

            1. John says:

              Hah, that was me. It seems I have a gimmick. Who knew?

      3. RFS-81 says:

        Do you mean this one by Soren Johnson (of Civ 4 and Offworld Trading Company fame)?

    3. eldomtom2 says:

      I think they eventually ditched that story – I know the UK expansion features cards representing technology upgrades, which of course would be nonsensical to for the players to claim if they were passengers.

    4. Jason says:

      My 12 year old son is good at it too (we’ve been playing it for about 5 years though), but he obsesses over getting the longest route to the point where he will miss goals.
      I tend not to worry about that, get my routes quickly, and then just grab random 5 or 6 car routes wherever I can just to score the big points.

  16. Glide says:

    Despite being mainly an RPG guy, I only now got around to playing Pillars of Eternity. I liked it a lot! The combat was just okay, but damn was the dialogue system intricate and thoughtful. One of the best system of skill checks and reputation checks I’ve ever seen – continuing to exhibit a certain personality type unlocks other dialogue choices down the road since people have heard about how clever or benevolent or cruel you are. And these skill/rep checks are interwoven with pretty much every conversation in the game.

    I also started Tales of Symphonia which is going way back. It looks great for a PC port of a 2003 game. It’s got pretty good quests and sidequests. I do get the sense that it’s just going to go on far too long for what it is, though. I’m starting to long for signs of a third act when I’m not even sure I’m out of the first based on the “howlongtobeat” average time.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Did you do the DLCs of PoE? I find them far superior to the actual game.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Really? I loved PoE but never got the DLCs because I heard they were very combat-focused and I didn’t feel I needed any more of that. Oh well, I’m onto the sequel now so too late…

      2. Glide says:

        I did not buy them together, but I certainly plan to pick them up at a later sale and return to the game.

    2. Zekiel says:

      I loved the reputation system in Pillars. It gave me a feeling of roleplaying MY character like no other RPG I’ve played.

      The only issue with is that you can never lose reputations, so if you play for long enough you’ll end up accruing reputations you didn’t really intend by accident. You can have a reputation for being both Honest and Deceptive, or Aggressive and Diplomatic, which is weird.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Yeah, I found the reputation system odd. My character with Reputation 4 in Honest (quite hard to get) did occasionally get called a liar because of her 1 point in Deceptive.

        It also doesn’t quite reflect what it’s meant to – if people KNOW you’re deceptive, then you’re not very good at it!

        1. jpuroila says:

          Well, you yourself said that it’s reputation, not skill.

    3. Fizban says:

      Warning: the Tales of Symphonia PC port has some dialogue and scene (possibly game) breaking bugs later in the game, because fuck it they got your money why patch it? If you’re about to go to the Tower of Salvation for the world regeneration, yeah that’s basically the first act of the game, there’s a lot more.

  17. Joe says:

    I recently downloaded a LOTR mod for Skyrim. The designer did a decent job of recreating LOTR architecture using mostly vanilla assets, but the world is very sparse. Every minute or so in Skyrim, there’s something. A bear, or an ingredient, or a ruin, or a cave entrance. Something. Here, not so much. You can wander around the various areas, get into a couple of fights, but it’s still lacking. The mod was abandoned before Gondor, Mordor, and quests could be implimented, which is a pity.

    On the other hand, there’s a small Harad area. I got to ride a mumak. The handling is terrible, but it’s still a fun gimmick.

  18. tmtvl says:

    Still playing some classics from the Neverwinter Nights 2 vault. Just finished Live Forever, which is the fourth best book I’ve ever played (or third best, if a play doesn’t count as a book). Still churning my way through Path of Evil, which is oodles of fun.
    I’m also still playing Dragon’s Dogma, where I’m just about done with my pint-sized powerhouse, might make another master of the arcane next.
    I finished Ultima IV. Before returning to Britannia for Ultima V, I’m gonna play something else, but I have no idea what. Maybe I’ll grab the remaining 2 cheevos for Ittle Dew 1.

  19. Smejki says:

    There are 27 crematoriums in the Czech Republic, a country of 10.2 million people. Prague alone (1.3 million residents, 2.6 in metro area) has 3 crematoriums. And yes, cremation is very common.
    Yup, the game is totally bonkers in this regard.
    However, why even simulate this particular thing? Aren’t there dozens of other more interesting phenomena to incorporate? Like planning of road reconstructions, public/resident parking optimization, spatial distribution of specific stores/goods (instead of automated general-purpose light, mid, high density blue zones), homelessness/slums (Tropico does this!) etc.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      Yeah, seems really weird to simulate that. Not even Pharaoh tries to simulate body disposal, and if any city building game had any right to care about that, it would be this one. (Not because it’s so detailed, but because ancient Egypt.)

  20. Jackie says:

    Quotes without context:
    “Sometimes you’ll get an absolute ton of people suddenly dying at once. My money is on this being a problem with immigration.”

  21. Crimson Dragoon says:

    I also finished Doom: Eternal last week. I talked about it in a previous post, so I won’t reiterate too much, but I really enjoyed it, even more than Doom (2016).

    If I had one real complaint it’s this: screw the Marauder. He defies multiple game systems (unbreakable shield and immune to damage most of the time). I hated whenever he showed up, even after figuring out how I was supposed to beat him. I grabbed every single collectible, upgraded every weapon mod, and did every secret encounter, except one. The one where you have to beat him in 30 seconds. And I have no desire to try again, even with that little bit of unfinished business hanging over my head.

    Other than that, just biding my time trying not to start a new game until FFVII:Remake comes out this Friday.

    1. ivan says:

      So he’s the Kai Leng of the game, or not that bad?

      1. Crimson Dragoon says:

        Kind of, actually. Story-wise not so much, as he’s not even a character or full-on boss, just an enemy type that shows up from time to time. But like he does get an energy shield that can’t break from plasma weapons like every other energy shield in the game (so a cheaty shield just like Kai Leng), and is immune to the super weapons like the BFG, which no other regular enemy in the game is. Overall, he just breaks the flow of combat every time he shows up.

  22. Matt says:

    I’ve been trying to get my regular Pathfinder game ready to run this week on Roll20 and it’s been a bit of a struggle. I’ve never played an TTRPG online because I feel like it would be missing the qualities that make such games fun, so my motivation to get my maps and notes and such translated has been lacking. I had problems creating the campaign on the site and almost gave up right then. If Pathfinder weren’t so map dependent, I’d just do the whole thing without a map. However, I like my group of players and it’s been a month since our last session, so we need to get something together.

    I’ve also been working more on my GURPS Fallout adaptation set in Florida. It’s been an ongoing project for over a year and I’m making steady progress. I’m pretty happy with the work I’ve done converting all the various weapons and armors and with my worldbuilding and factions so far. I’m a little stuck on gear prices, which I’m coming to the conclusion are just arbitrary and imbalanced in the games and too “realistic” for a post-apocalypse in GURPS.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Good gravy, you’re dedicated. I had enough hassle making a game-world for Fate[1], and you’re using GURPS? [salutes furiously]

      [1] Technically I modded Fate, but only to make it simpler, and with less edge-case rules.

      1. Matt says:

        It’s fun for me to just tinker with converting this or that item or character build. Before Fallout, I half-completed a Warhammer 40K adaptation, specifically in the style of Dark Heresy, which was reasonably successful in that I got a few games out of it before players moved away.

        GURPS is my favorite system, even though its time consuming to build a setting and pare down options and a challenge to find players. A lot of folks are turned off by the volume of crunch, but I think the basic mechanics are easier than 3.5/PF. And I just love crunch! GURPS scratches the same itch as the character building minigame of 3.5/PF with better balance and fewer trap options. I’ve never been able to get properly into more free-form or narrativist systems. They feel wrong to me in ways that are hard to articulate.

    2. Stormkitten says:

      There’s a new site Astral Tabletop that’s far simpler to use than Roll20. https://www.astraltabletop.com/
      It’s still under heavy development with the influx of new players, but it might be worth a look if you’re still struggling with the Roll20 setup. We used it last week for our Shadowrun game purely for the maps and tokens. We did our own offline character sheets and dice.
      Also, ignore dynamic lighting for ease of use.

    3. Nimrandir says:

      Are you running a published adventure or a homebrew game? I’m taking my wife and son through the second-edition Fall of Plaguestone right now, and I played my first game through Roll20 on Saturday.

      I remember GM setup within Roll20 taking some time, and that was with importing map images. I shudder to think about map drawing . . . I also never messed with dynamic lighting. My game on Saturday had it, and it was neat. On the other hand, it also made getting through doors a bit of a bother.

      1. Matt says:

        The campaign has been mostly homebrew, but for the part they are currently doing, I ripped out the first act of the Giantslayer adventure path and used that with some tweaks and different NPCs and context. It doesn’t look like the assets are already on Roll20, unfortunately.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          Try checking the PFS (organized play) shared prep site. You might find something there.

          1. Matt says:

            Thanks for the tip.

    4. etheric42 says:

      I know you’ve probably been spending quite a bit of work on Roll20 so far, but I tried and was frustrated and gave up on Roll20 three separate times before I tried FoundryVTT (it’s in beta, but it’s very polished and you can get a beta copy for $5 by hopping on the guys Patreon and only the host needs a copy, it hits 1.0 in about a month, the details should be on their site).

      I had a Pathfinder 2E game up and running very quickly. The UI is leaps and bounds ahead of Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds (but Fantasy Grounds has better purchasable product and automation)

      There’s even a community module to import data from Roll20 in case you bought anything there. Their Discord is very friendly.

      1. Matt says:

        After spending a few more hours trying to get my maps created in Roll20, I finally gave up. I texted my group and I think we’re going to do a Zoom call and set up a webcam to capture my physical mat & minis. Trying to draw buildings and doors and such just felt agonizing, like trying to draw in Paint.

        1. etheric42 says:

          Please report back on that if you don’t mind, I’m curious how that goes. Simplicity check (which as a GM is great) but in exchange for a bit of “no, not that square, the other one” from players.

          FoundryVTT was great for that. Upload png/jpg of map. Use tool to adjust the game gridline to match map (if the map has a gridline already). Then either tell players not to walk through walls just like you’d expect them to do on a real board or add the wall effects by drawing lines (and holding down control to automatically connect to the previous line drawn) to get some neat fog-of-war effect. If I don’t have a map in advance, then I just use a blank board of the color I choose and then draw on it like I was using a wet-erase marker.

          I threw together a map of an adventure site with 4-5 encounters
          -Upload map and align grid: <2 minutes
          -Trace walls and doors: <5 minutes, including "terrain walls" that let you see the rock blocking the way but obscure LoS behind it
          -Create NPCs for the map: 15-20 minutes (mostly because I was clipping art for their icons using TokenTool, if I had instead used the Library module to automatically assign art it would have been <5 minutes
          -Pre-add NPCs to the map: <2 minutes
          -Add journal entries and pin them to the map: 30-45 minutes (because I was copying from a PDF and then made the formatting look better on the app, instead of copying from raw text or dealing with the manual line breaks the PDF included… or I probably could have just read from the PDF instead of using the in-app journal system)

          I then spent an additional hour or so searching for good ambient nose, programming in lighting effects from torches and fireplaces, and building a soundtrack for the circus (we are doing the current PF2 adventure path).

        2. Nimrandir says:

          Ouch. I take it you weren’t able to find any map images to import. Could you take a picture of your flipmat and import that?

  23. Thomas says:

    I finished Dragon Age Inquisition. The ending to that game is incredibly dull.

    On the other hand the ending of Dragon Age Inquisition: Trespasser is so good it’s only flaw is it should never have been DLC. I’m incredibly hyped for DA:4 (especially it’s villain) and it really feels like Dragon Age is building up to a massive world changing climax. There are all sorts of hints in DA2 that suggest this was coming.

    One thing I’d note is Dragon Age is very focused on literature and metaphor compared to Mass Effect 1’s scientific detail. Most of the dragon age codex entries are poems or stories or unreliable narrators or experiences. And to understand the spoilers best you need to interpret the metaphors. Characters like Valta, Sandal, Cole and Solas speak in riddles which turn out to be very accurate depictions of future events. In DA:2 Sandal even talks about the fade going away and a man ‘rising’.

    My mind isn’t set up well to understand this symbolic style of communication, but ever since I started watching YouTube videos to guide me through some of it, my respect for the series has grown massively

    ——–

    Now I’ve started Persona 5 Royale again. The game is so stylish, and the time management stuff is my absolute jam. I wish more games were like this and that they’d remake the earlier Persona games on newer consoles (the versions with the kinder save systems).

    ————-

    In terms of cardboard, Fog of Love is a two player game less about winning and more about exploring the idea of relationships. It’s revelatory, in the true sense of that word.

    I’ve also been teaching my partner Magic and found it much easier for her to grasp than I thought. Teaching her has made me think of the game in new ways. I think they need more interaction in the beginner decks because it’s too easy to conclude that the player who draws the best creatures win.

    I also really wish the game had been designed to draw two cards a turn. It would make the game feel more decision based because each turn you might have two things you have to decide between even in top deck mode.

    Speaking of which the latest Magic set Ikoria looks bonkers. They’re changing fundamental rules of the game 25 years in. I think the Magic game design team is one of the best game design teams in the world and you can learn so much about creativity and organised thought from Mark Rosewaters columns. I didn’t think something I knew so well could surprise me so much.

    EDIT: Also Lotus is an underrated board game. It’s beautiful, simple and quick. As an introductory game I wasn’t expecting it’s point scoring nature to click with the newby people I play with, but everyone loves it.

    1. Christopher says:

      Props to that part of Trespasser’s soundtrack. I don’t remember most of Bioware’s music at all, but I think the nice little sorrowful, mysterious hook in the song that plays over the final conversation really made it stand out.

    2. Matt says:

      I played and enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II (which I will defend despite its flaws), but quickly lost interest in Inquisition, partly because of lore issues and partly the way it played and looked. When I later read in-depth reviews and spoilers, I’m glad I gave it a pass.

      Any recommendations for good Dragon Age lore videos on YouTube?

      1. Thomas says:

        I can definitely understand people giving Inquisition a pass. It’s such a drag to play and even though I love it, only half the plot is good and even then only from a certain perspective. Yet somehow I do love it?

        Jackdaw summarises a lot of clues and info in expanded material and does general DA4 news
        https://youtu.be/EqsI4FzxJf0

        These videos speculating on the origin of Dragon Age races are potentially hugely spoilerific and wild:
        https://youtu.be/1mMCt0W2qCo

        This person reads codex entries, summarises characters and rates fan theories:
        https://youtu.be/ayYweV4WMEs

        I enjoyed this video analysing Elven Murals in the game:
        https://youtu.be/pd0VYlysWtc
        Statues and pictures are an untapped well for games to explore.

        There’s other too, but I didn’t really take in who I was watching, I just followed my recommendations.

      2. djw says:

        I pretty much agree 100% with your post. Exactly my feelings.

    3. RFS-81 says:

      I’ve also been teaching my partner Magic and found it much easier for her to grasp than I thought. Teaching her has made me think of the game in new ways. I think they need more interaction in the beginner decks because it’s too easy to conclude that the player who draws the best creatures win.

      Just out of curiosity, how and when did you explain the stack? It took me forever to wrap my head around that way back when.

      I learned to play with Portal which had only creatures and sorceries, but some of the sorceries had rules text that let you cast them at specific points in the opponent’s turn (example). That way, you can have more interaction without having to explain the stack. I don’t know if it was a good idea to make the intro game so different from the normal one, though.

      1. Khizan says:

        It’s easiest to handle the stack as an actual physical stack of cards. You want to cast a spell, you put the card down. If they want to react to it they put their reaction on top of it. If you want to react to that you put your reaction on top of that. Then you evaluate from the top down when nobody has anything to add to it.

      2. Thomas says:

        I didn’t explain it at all at the start – the planeswalker decks are low on instants. But when I did it was the physical pile Khizan suggested. I’ve also heard it explained as a pile of dishes – to get to the bottom plate you need to take the top plates off first.

        I still haven’t fully explained phases or priority. One of my discoveries was how much you can get away with not knowing as a beginner.

  24. Ninety-Three says:

    One Step From Eden (Mega Man Battle Network meets FTL) came out so I’ve been playing a bunch of that. It’s good but not perfect: my major complaint is that it wants you to play a hectic bullet hell while at the same time shuffling a deck of attack cards and choosing which one to use. The attack cards work in radically different ways (one might shoot a regular projectile, one places a turret in front of you, one hits every enemy in the back row…) and if you’re too busy with the bullet hell aspect of the game you find yourself either not attacking or mashing attacks randomly hoping it’ll work out. The result is that the ideal deck has all attacks of the same type: when everything shoots a projectile, you don’t need to pay attention to which card you’ve drawn, just line up a shot and mashing the attack key will work. This is fine I guess, but it feels like it would be so much more interesting if it were viable to have a diverse deck. I’m not entirely sure how you’d make such a system, maybe don’t shuffle the player’s deck so they can get used to always having the same attacks in the same order.

    I’ve gotten very into Oxygen Not Included. The low-pressure (heh) colony building of ONI makes a lovely contrast to Rimworld which I’ve been frustrated with lately (raiders that scale to your colony strength in min-maxable ways are miserable). It also has the best morale system I’ve ever found in a colony builder game: it does most of the standard things where you raise morale by making nicer bedrooms and fancy meals and so on, colonists have mental breakdowns if morale is too low and get bonuses if it’s high, but the trick is that their morale needs are determined by how many skill points you’ve spent on them, so the player has control over how high their needs are and you can hold off grabbing that tier 3 skill until the nature reserve is complete.

    I finally started Sunless Skies, pseudo-sequel to my 2015 game of the year Sunless Sea. The pace is as glacial as Sea, and I feel like it confirms my theory that Sea’s pace was only tolerable because the music was so damn good that you were okay with just sitting there listening to it. Skies’ music isn’t bad by any means, but it’s not that good. The writing’s still excellent so it’s worth my time, but I’m sorely tempted to ruin the atmosphere by loading up a podcast or something while I play. It bothers me though that gravity seems to run on the rule of drama: all sorts of things (ships, islands, random containers) will just float through the sky, but if people end up with nothing beneath their feet, they fall to their death. I don’t mind a magical world where everything floats because don’t think about it, but if you’re going to do that then don’t make me think about it by bringing up the threat of falling.

    1. Decius says:

      The thing about raiders in Rimworld is that they aren’t supposed to make you lose when they win. That they sometimes do is sometimes a failure of the AI and sometimes the player forcing them to be an existential threat by refusing to give an inch until everyone is dying.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The problem is that if raiders show up and kill only half your colony the next wave is going to be even worse because raider scaling is proportionate to, among other things, colony wealth. You’ll be down to half manpower but still have most of your wealth, get even worse odds than you did in the last fight, and thus begins the death spiral.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          It’s also scaled by how long your faction has existed. So every month when you sacrifice a pawn or items for the raiders to steal, the next raid next month will be worse. Raiders will exterminate you if you’re monks, who are eating gruel, living in a a wooden shack, but who have been around “too long”.

          The game already calculates total wealth by including money, inventory, people, pets, animals, buildings, weapons, clothing, artificial body parts, research, and defensive structures. Raids take that wealth into account, and you only get raided of the enemy tribes hate you. There’s zero reason to also care about how “old” your society is, but Tynan wants to force ever-escalating conflict, because that’s the One True Way to play the game. :S

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            you only get raided of the enemy tribes hate you

            The most annoying part of that system is that you can befriend enemy tribes to stop raids from them, but it doesn’t reduce the frequency of raids at all, just makes it so that the game removes them from the table of random raider encounters it pulls from when it decides to do a raid. And you can never exhaust the table entirely because it contains some unbefriendable factions. Sure, go ahead and make nice with the pirates, get ready to eat shit fighting mechanoids.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              Yeah, that actually leads to one of the strategies that forum-people will tell you – don’t befriend the non-pirate, non-mechanoid factions, so that the raids stay easier…by being enemies with more people. I really wish the game would use both raid-frequency and raid-strength, so that players could be peaceful if they wanted. :S

              1. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

                I wish raids respected the world map. Even if your enemy has only one small base remaining, on the literal opposite side of the world, with impassable mountains and oceans between you, even if they’re tribals with no access to proper transportation, they’ll still show up en masse to raid you regularly.

    2. Drathnoxis says:

      That’s unfortunate. I was told by someone that the pace of Sunless Skies was better than Sunless Sea. I have no idea why they think it’s good game design for the player to spend 50% of their playtime sitting and watching a little ship move slowly through the same empty sea over and over.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Skies might be 25% faster, I haven’t played Sea recently enough to do a perfect comparison, but they’re definitely in the same ballpark.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        I mean, they started with a rather grindy text game. Are the Sunless games slower than tapping the same button a dozen times to build up a bar so you can fill up another bar?

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Do the islands, ships, and crates all have magical float-crystals? Maybe the people all forgot their jetpacks…

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Doesn’t seem like it, given how ships can be destroyed and break into a bunch of floating fragments.

  25. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Videogames wise I’ve finished Borderlands 3 which was amazing, I just wish that the money I spent went to the promised bonus to the devs instead of that asshat Pitchford. I also play Heroes of The Storm with my friends regularly, and Robo Recall in VR.
    Otherwise I’m converting more and more less gaming oriented people to Skribbl. It’s super easy to set up and always fun. I tried Drawful but didn’t find it nearly as good…
    And I still run Mage : The Ascension games over roll20. I get more and more used to this interface and the games are going very smoothly now.

  26. Binary Toast says:

    Well for me, burnout on various online games has caused me to turn my gaze to the dreaded Steam Backlog. Namely, the Witcher series.

    Apparently I started playing the first game back in 2016, but never finished it for some reason or another. And then it turned out the other two games were on sale last week, so I pulled the trigger on that, and figure between the three I’ve got a good few months of gameplay to chew through.

    I gotta say though, the first Witcher game kinda shows its age, as far as game design goes. Behold the mighty Geralt of Rivia, hero of song and story! Watch as this great hero is turned aside, by the insurmountable ankle-high wall.

  27. Lino says:

    I really like these threads! Unfortunately, I haven’t played a lot of games on account of a course I’m currently doing. Nevertheless, here goes:

    Brawl Stars. I talk about it every time. If you’re interested – here’s a bunch of words I wrote about it last time we did this.

    Spelunky Classic. Although I started replaying it mainly for the nostalgia, it’s still a pretty good game. For those who don’t know, it was one of the first (or even the first?) high-profile procedurally-generated 2D platformer indie games, and it still holds up. Most people know the HD version that came out a couple of years later, and although it is objectively better, I still think it’s inferior to Classic (although I am in the small, minuscule minority on that one).

    Beautiful Desolation. Wow! How do I describe this one? Well, for starters, it’s a top-down point-and-click adventure game with optional, albeit rudimentary, turn-based combat set in what I can only describe as post-apocalyptic Native African world with a dash of cyberpunk? It’s weird. Imagine Planescape Torment with some Chappie thrown in, add a healthy dose of native African mythology, and you’d be in the right ballpark.

    The main draw for me is obviously the setting. The developers are from South Africa, and that sensibility shines in every aspect of the story.

    Really, I’ve never seen something like this in a game before. Yes, it’s the post-apocalypse, and yes, everyone is living in the overgrown ruins of a once-great technologically-advanced civilization. But not only have these post-apocalyptic communities bothered to sweep the floor, they’ve formed unique factions with their own cultures, stories, religions, and worldviews. Some are advanced in a technological sense, others aren’t. Yet, all of them are simultaneously tied to what came before them, and completely divorced from it.

    Each area has several opposing factions, and your choices determine which ones come out on top. Sometimes it’s about choosing the lesser evil, other times I felt like I was choosing the lesser crazy, but it’s never black and white, and it’s always very interesting.

    The characters are expertly written, and barring one of the main supporting characters, the voice acting is the best I’ve seen in an indie title. Every faction is extremely distinct, and it makes you hungry to understand more about this world, and why it came to be like this.

    This is the closest I’ve seen a game story come to a classic sci-fi novel, not only in the moral dilemmas it proposes, but also in the way the world and its technology works. At the start, you have no idea what anyone is talking about, but with time it all makes sense, and it feels like these are actual characters inhabiting this world.

    What really elevates it, though, is the fact that I have no frame of reference for 90% of the characters. Nearly all of them are obviously inspired from pieces of traditional African culture – from the way they look, to the things they want, to the dieties they worship, all the way down to the way they talk. Although this game doesn’t give me much context on the life and culture of actual African tribes (and it’s not really trying to), now more than ever, I have a genuine interest in learning more about it.

    As a game, it’s not without its issues, of course. For starters, it does have a fair share of pixel hunting which is why I’ve resorted to a walkthrough on more than one occasion. Also, your companions get some bits of characterization that feel a bit rushed. All that aside, though, I’m extremely impressed with what I’ve seen so far! I’m about 15 hours in, so I should be near the end. Here’s to hoping that the ending is just as good as the rest of the story!

    Oh, yeah, and fair warning – the game includes a fair bit of body horror, although for the most part the nasty stuff is described rather than shown, so bear that in mind. Also, it tends to get into some dark subject matter. As someone who usually avoids these kinds of topics, it didn’t strike me as too off-putting, but it might bother some people.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Classic Spelunky seemed better balanced to me, at least for the cutesy visual style. Heck, the original was arguably less cute-looking, with it’s very pixellated graphics, but easier to actually finish. Plus, boulder-trap idols in the new game are basically useless, since there’s almost no way to avoid them, and also not kill a shopkeeper. The boulders just go waaaaaay too far. The later idol-traps in harder levels are cake-walks by comparison. :)

      1. Lino says:

        Yeah, also for some reason, the controls in HD felt very floaty and weird. Granted when I first started playing it, I was fresh from over 1500 runs of Classic, and that might have lead to some unreasonable expectations, but it still felt much worse.

        I also didn’t like that they added a story – one of the things I liked about Classic was that even the story was procedurally-generated, with those three little lines you got when you started the game. That added all the context you needed. It made every game feel unique. The story in HD focused on the aspects of the “world” that I cared about the least.

        However, the biggest sin against humanity was that they removed the music from the first area! The moment I started my very first run on HD, right to my very last, this is the only thing I could think about: how could they not at least remix such an iconic track!?

    2. Asdasd says:

      I still think it’s inferior to Classic

      Ah, I see you are a man of culture!

  28. Christopher says:

    I continue to make my way through Nioh 2, but thats also the only game I’ve stuck with. There was a collection of Sega games on sale on PS4 however, and I’ve played a little bit of Sonic 1 and Gunstar Heroes in the mornings. Barely enough to warrant mentioning.

    I’ve fallen off of the original Doom for the moment. After a couple episodes further into the story I felt it got kinda samey. But I’m also trying to finish off Nioh 2 ASAP so I’m ready for FF7 Remake Part 1 to come out this month. A lot of games are coming out this year that are filling up that backlog (DOOM Eternal, Trials of Mana, Yakuza :Way of the Dragon, Deadly Premonition 2, Persona 5 Royal and Scramble etc), but I think I’m spending my money on FF7 on release and everything else has to wait. I can’t be bothered to play the original first, and I’m usually pretty anal about adaptations’ changes anyway, so it’s probably for the best that I don’t. But I strongly want to experience these iconic characters and locations as a big budget action RPG.

    1. Christopher says:

      Oh wait, hahah, I completely forgot. Granblue Fantasy celebrated it’s sixth anniversary, so I’ve been playing that, going through story events and, mostly, draws. Gachas aren’t very worthwhile experiences I think, but at least they’re easy. That’s probably what keeps me coming back when there’s an event going on.

  29. Echo Tango says:

    I’ve been playing Urtuk: The Desolation[1], and Stoneshard[2]. I need more easy / relaxing games. ^^;

    [1] A cartoon barbarian-team-in-the-wasteland thing. Pretty dang difficult, on anything except the easiest difficulty.
    [2] Difficult turn-based resource- and food-managing RPG, where you bash skeletons with maces, and slice up brigands with a long-blade.

  30. Syal says:

    Bought Fell Seal and Hades off the last games thread. Fell Seal looks like Final Fantasy Tactics, but it’s a lot closer to Tactics Ogre; stats matter nearly as much as abilities, mana regenerates over time, players revive wherever the cleric wants them to revive, nothing so far is tremendously broken. Story is entertaining fantasy politics. Will get back to it eventually, but I made the mistake of trying Hades halfway through.

    Hades is a roguelike Bastion, and is excellent. Combat is fast and punchy, in-run powerups are all useful, bosses are really nasty until you get the hang of them, and since everyone is immortal you have long-running character development over multiple runs. Finally burned myself out on it, beating it with all the weapons and finishing most of the character gifts. Definitely coming back to this after updates. Maybe before.

    Hades inspired me to retry Transistor. It’s interesting, but combat is quite clunky coming from Hades. Will probably finish won’t, probably won’t replay it.

    Started replaying Doom ’16, with so much talk about Eternal going on and TheStrawhatNO playing through original. I think I’m doing better than last time, but it turns out there’s long platforming sections which have managed to kill me more consistently than any demon. I’ve actually reached Hell, will probably finish this one this time. Also tried Ultimate Doom, but the fixed wonky controls (CTRL is the fire key, c’mon) and getting badly lost in one of the early levels means I probably won’t be back.

    Started Graveyard Keeper again. Still in early game, still having fun. Of note, it takes four work stations to make a hollow wooden box, and it takes a furnace to make the parts to build a furnace. I’ll play until I’m bored, like last time.

    Trails of Cold Steel is on hiatus, it’s now in “when I don’t have anything else to play” territory.

    1. John says:

      Bought Fell Seal and Hades off the last games thread. Fell Seal looks like Final Fantasy Tactics, but it’s a lot closer to Tactics Ogre; stats matter nearly as much as abilities, mana regenerates over time, players revive wherever the cleric wants them to revive, nothing so far is tremendously broken.

      All my experience with Final Fantasy Tactics comes from their handheld iterations. If you’re more familiar with the console versions, I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on the subject. To me, most of the time Fell Seal seems closer to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance than to Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis. In Tactics Advance it didn’t really matter whether, say, your guy was a Ninja or a Fighter or a Paladin. What mattered was that he could hit really hard and that was determined by his stats rather than his abilities. However, there were certain character classes that were incredibly useful, like Assassins and Gunners for instant-kills and crowd control. That’s largely been my experience with Fell Seal as well. The Fell Seal Assassin doesn’t have any instant-kills–there are no instant-kills in Fell Seal–but his Sabotage ability, on the right map, can be devastating. Crowd control is less of a thing in Fell Seal than in Tactics Advance partly because it’s less reliable than in Tactics Advance–where I’d argue that it’s probably overpowered–and partly because by the late game and in the optional end-game content enemies tend to have a lot of immunities. However, a character who specializes in crowd control can still be very useful at times.

      1. Syal says:

        I only ever played the original FFT, where stat gains averaged roughly one point every eight levels, and power was overwhelmingly based on your abilities and your equipment. My level 22 Wizard team could smash through Level 65 enemies no problem. I don’t think that’s happening in Fell Seal.

        (also played Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, which was severely based on stats; the only way to beat a character four levels higher than you was to hit them until you leveled up so they would no longer be four levels higher than you. Thankfully nobody does that anymore.)

        1. John says:

          No, no it will not. I haven’t tested it, but my guess is that, all else being equal, it would be very hard for a party in Fell Seal to beat another party of the same size if the level difference between the two parties were more than about 5. If the enemy AI in Fell Seal weren’t occasionally (and also, I suspect, deliberately) stupid, it would go from a challenging game to an almost impossible one. In any case, level-grinding is a practical and reasonable thing to do if you ever get stuck in Fell Seal.

      2. etheric42 says:

        I got stuck right after the mission where you go to the doctor’s house and avoid/fight the zombies. I hadn’t done any patrol/random encounters until then and I was suddenly fighting groups 2+ levels higher than me. I didn’t even have a difficult time with the boss that came prior to that level.

        I found it suddenly went from a fun semi-modern tacticsalike to one that wanted me to grind old-school, so I dropped it and went to playing Wildermyth instead. Now Wildermyth has enchanted me, but I don’t want to burn out since it is still in early access, so I’m looking for a bit of an excuse to go back to Fell Seal: did I just hit a rare difficulty spike or is the expectation to grind ongoing at this point?

        1. Syal says:

          Is that the fight with the grass and the orbs? That was the first one that killed me, but I beat it second try and got to the second temple without needing to grind (I fought one random encounter by accident). The fights get tougher but if you’ve stayed in classes long enough to get higher tier skills you should be good for a while. And sometimes enemies randomly get nasty skill loadouts that they don’t have on reload, that’s what killed me in a later fight.

          (Stopped shortly after second temple, fights started involving powerful classes I hadn’t unlocked yet, figured that meant I should grind to unlock them. But I haven’t hit an actual roadblock yet.)

          1. etheric42 says:

            That may be my problem, I kept hopping classes to find to progress up the tree instead of maxing basics like healer to get the good revive.

            Also due to the way the death mechanic works I have probably nearly an extra party worth of backup characters to cycle in and of course they aren’t as high level as my mains.

            The one that got me was https://www.neoseeker.com/fell-seal-arbiters-mark/walkthrough/Battle_10_The_Resting_Giants

            Arid cliffs with chickens. Their damage per hit was really rough and the terrain wasn’t optimal for me to gang up on a single target (and even if I did, the map is small enough and they have access to enough movement and range they can quickly have all of them engaged with me. And that’s even with me charming one of them as a form of hard CC).

            I think they are 2 levels above me. And again the weird thing is the spike hit immediately in chapter 2. Mission 9 also took me two tries and it was just a stay alive mission which was easier. Mission 8 (the boss) was easy due to the action economy differential.

            Note to devs, stop making the mission immediately after the bossfight harder than the boss. I don’t care if it’s chapter 2 instead of chapter 1.

            1. Syal says:

              That could be the difference, I only made two spare characters so probably had higher level per. (And those two characters are far behind the main group now.)

              If you’ve unlocked Ranger classes, their base skill Root Shot is your best friend, I haven’t taken it off since I unlocked it. Enemies can’t hit hard if they can’t get into range. Fleet of Foot might also help there, since that mission’s just “reach a point on the map”. Also you can craft your items to make them stronger and use them more times; I’ve been ignoring them but it’s possible they can make up for not having a great healer.

              Long-term, I’ve always got a healer, a wizard, and a crossbowman with Root Shot in my party, with the other three being a mix of whatever you want. Apart from healing and magic damage, passives make a good difference, you’ll want to stick with classes long enough to learn those.

              1. John says:

                The Ranger is a very solid mid-tier class. Rooting Shot is effective in the early game, Collect Pelt is the key to some fun optional stuff, and Sniper Shot is . . . well, possibly the best physical attack in the game. At 36 MP, it’s certainly the most expensive. It makes a great finisher and is sometimes a one-hit kill. One of these days I’ll have to try something like a Ranger with the Mender’s Mana Font ability so that I can do it more often than once every four turns or so.

          2. John says:

            Stopped shortly after second temple, fights started involving powerful classes I hadn’t unlocked yet, figured that meant I should grind to unlock them.

            This matters less than you might think. My daughter is also playing Fell Seal and she’s reached the end-game without unlocking very many of the high-tier classes. She is, however, playing on Beginner difficulty rather than the default Veteran.

            1. Syal says:

              Yeah, probably don’t need them, but it’s annoying not to have them. Mostly it’s the Gunners shooting me from across the map. “Well TWO can… actually my bows don’t reach that far, I’ll grind to get myself a Gunner. TWO will soon be able to play that game.

        2. John says:

          The trick to the fight at Yates house is that only the bits on the roof really matter. You can take your three ground-level characters and park them in the corner near where they start in such a way that only one zombie can get at each character. As long as you have one healer down there they’ll be fine. The rooftop bit is a little trickier, but not too bad. You’ll want another healer up there with Reiner. (My rule of thumb for Fell Seal is to always have at least two healers per fight.) Then you just focus down the undead harpy whatevers.

          The following mission is much tougher and doesn’t have an obvious strategy. Again, you’ll want at least two healers. It can be helpful to let the enemy come to you near the bottom of the hill–the harpies will fly right in to the middle of your party sometimes–so that more than one of your characters can get at them. Ranged attackers are also very useful on this map. The important thing with this mission is that you don’t need to kill all or even any of the enemies. You win as soon as you get one character to the giant shell thing in the upper left corner.

          1. etheric42 says:

            I failed Yates the first time because Reiner had swapped into a squishy class to learn a skill combined with some bad RNG even with a healer up top focused on him. The second time (even with a death penalty) I loaded him up with armor, paired him with both a healer and a guy who could taunt, then sacrificed all but one of the lower team to run a fourth character up top. It wasn’t communicated clearly the first time that zombies can’t climb ladders so I had been trying to hold the base of the ladder previously.

            But yeah, that cliffside mission…

            Okay swapping topics a bit here, how do people feel about the death penalty in this game? On one hand I love it because it encourages you to rotate characters. On the other hand I think it fails in its objective, since your side characters can just have the same build as the dropped characters and the more side characters you have, the more XP you are going to spread around, the lower level you are going to be, the more drops you are going to have, the more side characters you need.

            I really have a problem with games with large casts of characters where the only reason to bring another character in is to do their personal quest. I guess you could say picking your party in games with named NPCs is like picking your build for your character: a decision you make based on preference and tactical/strategic need. You could also say it encourages replay to try it with a different party. But I’m never going to replay a 40+ hour RPG when I have so many others to play and most of the plot points will just be the same anyway (and the one I did replay, FF9, I ended up using the same characters anyway).

            Wildermyth helped with that by giving me time pressure and a geographical space so I could split my party. Xcomalikes have permadeath (which has its own problems in games that rely on leveling) and injury times. Long War has fatigue. Neither of these have prewritten NPCs. Are there any other games with good gameplay incentive to swap out your party regularly? Any at all with prewritten NPCs that have dialogue/plot?

            1. John says:

              Okay swapping topics a bit here, how do people feel about the death penalty in this game? On one hand I love it because it encourages you to rotate characters. On the other hand I think it fails in its objective, since your side characters can just have the same build as the dropped characters and the more side characters you have, the more XP you are going to spread around, the lower level you are going to be, the more drops you are going to have, the more side characters you need.

              I’m mostly okay with it. Fell Seal, on the default settings, is a pretty hard game. If injuries were worse or characters could actually, y’know, die, it’d be punishingly hard. You’re right about the XP though. The most important thing I learned from my first playthrough was to keep my party small so that XP didn’t get spread around so much. Since then–I’m near the end of my third playthrough at the moment–I’ve limited myself to twelve characters total. There are ultimately seven unique story characters (one of which is sort of a secret) and you start the game with two generic characters already in the party, so I never recruit more than three additional generics. With this size party, and with my character builds more or less figured out, I don’t have to do much in the way of grinding. The drawback of the system, as I see it, is that it discourages experimentation. The smaller the party, the less room for wacky experimental builds. If I add more characters, I have to do more grinding to keep those characters competitive with the enemies I’ll be facing.

              In games like Fell Seal, I don’t really like to have duplicate character builds (healers possibly excepted) because at least half the fun in the game comes from experimenting with character builds. In something like XCOM with actual character death, I consider substitutable characters a virtue. I am not the kind of XCOM player who has one really good squad and a bunch of substandard bench-sitters. I constantly rotate near-identical characters into and out of the active squad. If my Sniper is in the hospital, or, worse, dead, then I absolutely want another Sniper with the exact same skills to replace him.

            2. Syal says:

              I like it. It’s an incentive to keep everyone alive, and it makes Full Revive less busted because they come back with increasingly lower stats, but it’s not steep enough to make someone reset over, like permadeath in the old games (TO: LUCT was brutal), or loss of exp or money. And some named characters have unique classes that can’t just be swapped out, like Kyrie (even though Kyrie can’t be injured).

              Of course, random encounters clear injuries and the starting zone maxes out at Level 5, so you could just make six junkers who do nothing but run the Level 5 quest whenever a mainliner is injured. But that’s still a minor nuisance, and that’s doing its job I’d say.

    2. Higher_Peanut says:

      If you don’t like the wonky controls in Doom ’93 you can run it in a source port to get full WASD + mouse support or at least rebind the keys. It can be slightly fiddly to set up depending on your experience with it and choice of port.

      I run GZDoom with ZDL as a launcher, mostly because it works so I can’t be bothered testing anything else.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Source ports are definitely the way to go, but one thing to keep in mind is that they often allow actions that the levels were not designed for, like jumping. I honestly though that Dead Simple from Doom 2 was a troll level when I realized that I could just jump to the exit. (“Haha, you went through all this trouble, but this level is really Dead Simple!”) I only found out later that you were not supposed to be able to do that.

        1. Higher_Peanut says:

          That’s true. I think the two biggest options to look for are jumping and “actors are infinitely tall”. Jumping breaks things in obvious ways. The second is less obvious but heavily impacts cacodemons, you can run under them easing congestion and they become terrible melee combatants in infighting since they won’t lower to bite and miss consistently. I think it can also impact explosion mechanics as it might also stop explosions from being infinitely tall as well, which doesn’t break anything in vanilla at least.

          You may not be supposed to be able to jump to the exit in Dead Simple, but it’s still possible in vanilla. The world record speed run is 6 seconds long. There’s probably a bunch of ways to lock progression with jumping in the wrong place though. Best not to enable it unless you’re playing a level set that needs it.

          1. RFS-81 says:

            Launching a rocket at your feet is a valid strategy ;-)

  31. MelTorefas says:

    I never wanted to play Factorio. I never thought I would enjoy a game like Factorio. I had no desire to find out more about Factorio. Then Day9 started playing Factorio and it got me to buy Factorio and now I am playing Factorio and discovering that I love Factorio and I don’t know if I can stop help me

    1. Decius says:

      You’re beyond help. You’re one of us now.

  32. Baron Tanks says:

    Last week I got a new monitor (AORUS FI27Q) part of finally revamping my working space as I spend a lot more time at the computer than before working from home. In stead of one, puny regular 22inch monitor, that is now the secondary one with the glory of the 27 inch AORUS as my main screen. It was not exactly free, but it definitely does provide. This led me to play a bit of more graphically intensive shooters, where I played 20 minutes of Doom 2016 as a pure test drive and the odd round of Rainbow Six Siege. I have also gotten a new desk so I’m sitting way better and more comfortable.

    Other than that I kind of fallen off Eco since last time, although my buddy still plays. Whenever we hang out (which is two, three times a week as that couple is the only people I see atm except for work and groceries), I’m often on the side playing Animal Crossing or Slay the Spire on my Switch. Good times. I enjoy Animal Crossing where I play up to an hour every day, I find the pacing for the game works well. I know people have been frustrated with this one as they try to power through, which especially in the first 10 days is not rewarding in this game. As I’m naturally playing at the game’s preferred pace, I am actually gradually, steadily filling up the museum and populating the island quite a bit. Wonderful.

    Other than that I finally booted up Cities Skylines again this morning and spend an hour or so on it. Laid down the first two neighborhoods and some roads. As others have posted, I quite often burn out within the first 2, 3 hours of building a city. Hope to play this one quite a bit more, spread out over the coming days. I play with only a few mods, traffic president and buying plots as the main ones. I’m excited to try more the coming days, lets see how far we get this time. Definitely notice a growing urge to be productive and construct things, also in my gaming time. Perhaps as I see many other aspects of life being challenged and sometimes crumbling.

  33. ivan says:

    Mount and Blade, the original. I watched a streamer I like play the Bannerlords beta or whatever it is about a week ago, and not only did it look like it had really borked progression – several hours in he still had no army to speak of, cos they kept getting slaughtered by the shittiest tier of bandits, and his several levels had afforded him no improvements anyone could notice, either – but it also kept all the worst aspects of the previous games that they really really should have fixed by now.

    Things like, tournaments where you cannot pick your equipment set (weapon types), and don’t get to know what random weapon set you’ve been assigned until after the fight has already started, and after you’ve bet on yourself. Also, you do get to bring in your own Armour to the fight, meaning that tournaments were a giant griefing session by whichever high-level Lord or Knight brought in their heavy plate mail that particular day.

    Or, my personal bugbear, Warbands alteration to the combat controls where camera movement shifts what particular directional attack you are about to do – after you have already readied that attack to swing. So, if you’re on horseback, where you need to keep your eyes on the situation all around yourself, your character will be constantly spazzing out with changing attack direction, when you just wanna pick a side attack and hold it till you get in range.

    So, yeah, seeing that, I decided to install the original M&B again, the only one I’ve ever been able to stand playing, and 2 hours in I was wrecking half the map with an army of 60ish dudes and dudettes, and enjoying the fact that my character didn’t need any Ritalin to keep his hands still. So, probably gonna give Bannerlords a miss, at least for a few more years. Maybe someone’ll finally mod the originals control set into it or Warbands, then I could play them.

    1. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

      Warbands alteration to the combat controls where camera movement shifts what particular directional attack you are about to do – after you have already readied that attack to swing. So, if you’re on horseback, where you need to keep your eyes on the situation all around yourself, your character will be constantly spazzing out with changing attack direction, when you just wanna pick a side attack and hold it till you get in range.

      Either that’s a bug or you’re confusing the attack type changing with the character’s stance changing when you look to the left or right while on horseback.

      The former isn’t a thing in either Warband or Bannerlord, once you’ve picked a swing from the right, and hold it, it will always be a swing from the right and no amount of camera movement will change that.

      The latter is a thing in both games: if you’re looking to the right while riding a horse, your character will take a stance that’ll let them swing/thrust/whatever on the right side of their horse, and they’ll switch to a different stance that’ll let them swing/thrust/whatever on the left side, as soon as you turn your camera far enough to the left.

      1. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

        Somehow missed you were talking about M&B vs M&B: Warband. Need to add points to reading comprehension. And now I can’t edit the comment.

    2. John says:

      It took me a little while to adjust to the new combat when I made the switch from vanilla Mount & Blade to Warband. As I recall, I was unhappy with the changes to lance-couching and to the arc of certain weapon swings. I don’t think I noticed the phenomenon you described. To my mind, however, the most important change in Warband is that Warband lets you stop following your Marshall without incurring any opinion penalties. Marshalls in Mount and Blade are often stupid and indecisive, going in circles indefinitely without ever accomplishing anything. Getting stuck following one of them, running out of food in-game and bored out of my mind out-of-game, was unbearable. Warband is so, so much better in that regard. I could never go back to vanilla. I hear that Bannerlords eliminates the Marshall system entirely, though what that means and what they’ve replaced it with I have no idea.

      1. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

        I hear that Bannerlords eliminates the Marshall system entirely, though what that means and what they’ve replaced it with I have no idea.

        Marshalls have been replaced by “armies.” When you hire troops, you’re hiring them to join your “party” and once you join/create a kingdom, and gain some influence, you can start an army (for free) and use your influence to call other parties to join it. Armies share food (each party uses their own food first. You get a bit of influence as compensation for sharing), movement speed, maybe morale, and have a new stat called Cohesion that ticks down every day but can be replenished by spending more influence. The bigger the army, the more cohesion you’ll lose. I don’t know what happens, if cohesion runs out.

        Whoever started the army gets to control world map movement as if it was just a bigger party and also gets full command over all troops during battles. The leader also gets a steady trickle of Leadership XP.

        There’s no penalty for leaving an army and I haven’t seen any rewards for joining nor any invites or orders from AI to join, just a notification whenever someone starts a new one. I haven’t seen any AI refuse to join my armies, after I spent the influence to invite them, but I also haven’t seen them join me on their own.

      2. ivan says:

        Oh yeah, forgot about lances too. Yes, I also hated that change.

  34. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

    I’ve been playing Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord. It’s in early access, some content is missing or not working properly, lots of people have reported bugs and crashes (I’ve only seen one bug – an AI army stuck in an endless loop, unable to decide whether to siege a nearby castle or a town, and slowly starving to death – and two or three crashes in the first 30 hours or so, before I added mods…), but I still love it. It’s pretty close to M&B: Warband with a graphics upgrade, better siege mechanics, and NO MORE GOD DAMN CATTLE HERDING?! 10/10, game of the year, sign me up.

    Also picked up Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris while it was free a few weeks ago. It was pretty fun and I ended up finishing all the challenges and tombs, finding all the hidden upgrades and even bought all the DLC (heavily discounted, about 2,50€ for the whole bunch). That said, I’m a sucker for all kinds of twin-stick shooters, the game is short, the story is nothing to write home about, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend buying it for full price. 50% off, maybe, and even less for the DLCs (5€ for one forgettable tomb? Get the fuck out.) It might be better in multiplayer, but… ehhh.

    1. djw says:

      +1 no herding!

      I’ve only had 2 ctd in 90 hours so far, and the second one was *probably* due to a mod that conflicted with an update (the mod was to add tournament XP, and the crash happened the first time I loaded a tournament after the patch that added tournament XP).

  35. Karma The Alligator says:

    like pizza

    Maybe it’s just me, but I never found pizza to be fun. Pretty good, sure, but fun?

    Anyway, been replaying FFX (along with reading your articles on it, and I was really tempted to make new comments because turns out back when the articles were fresh, we got a few things wrong you and me). I managed to max out Tidus, Auron, Riku and Wakka, and it’s the first time ever I’ve seen Penance (just finished all the dark aeons, haven’t fought Penance yet). I’ve also watched the Eternal Calm cutscene (it is made in-engine with FFX models) and it’s a nice intro to FFX-2 (much better than what we get in-game).

  36. Moridin says:

    I started a new game of New Vegas with a Warhammer 40k mod(https://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/35912). Unfortunately the mod feels very much incomplete and what there is isn’t very well made so I decided not to finish that playthrough. And on top of everything else, it doesn’t play nice with mod managers, so removing it requires reinstalling the game. Now I’m thinking of maybe trying Tale of Two Wastelands again.

    Besides New Vegas, I’ve been playing Crusader Kings 2. After a number of false starts, I finally stumbled upon a strategy that’s gotten me an empire that won’t fall apart the moment your character dies. Of course, like happened with Hearts of Iron 4, now that I’m getting good(well, “good”) with the game, I’m also getting less interested in it.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Thing about Tale of Two Wastelands is that it REALLY highlights the difference in design philosophies between Bethesda and Obsidian. After playing New Vegas for so long, I simply couldn’t stand Fallout 3’s encounter design or story.

      And that’s BEFORE the hassle of trying to get TTW working…

      1. ivan says:

        For me it was the opposite. Well, not exactly. Let me explain with a tangent. I have 3 hours to my name on Fallout 3. I have 1,416 hours in New Vegas. I hate Fallout 3. I bought it first, and played it first, also, to be clear.

        But, via TTW, I find I can… tolerate… Fallout 3. In small doses. I’d estimate about 10-15 of those hours on New Vegas, are with TTW installed. I liked… the Moira Brown quest. I struggled for ages writing that last sentence, trying to find something that I could say I actually like. But, I did go to a bunch of places, Tenpenny Tower, Megaton, the aircraft carrier city whose name escapes me, some other places. I did the DLC that gets you the Chinese Stealth Armour. And, well, I did not do any of those things with vanilla Fallout 3, so kudos to TTW for making it slightly tolerable.

        Actually one thing I really liked – the Union Station zone. :) Cos I knew I was close to getting back to New Vegas lol.

      2. Moridin says:

        TTW also highlights the good sides of Fallout 3. Some of the DLC(mainly Pitt and Point Lookout) are good, and New Vegas lacks random encounters. Also, for all the shortcomings of the writing, playing an evil characters in Fallout 3 is pretty satisfying(so long as you don’t pay too much attention to BoS and their complete disregard for what you do in the rest of the wasteland). You can blow up megaton! You can enslave people! You can poison the project purity and nuke the Citadel! One might argue that helping Legion win in New Vegas is at least as bad as those, but the writers at Obsidian worked hard to make things morally grey(sure, the legion is bad, but at least they offer stability. NCR is letting the likes of Fiends and powder gangers run amok because they don’t have the resources to police the territories they already have and they still keep trying to expand) and even ignoring that, it’s just not as satisfying.

        1. Thomas says:

          Its also not as fun being a bad person Caesar Legion style compared to being a cartoon supervillain. It’s less fun when you can see the crucifixions

    2. John says:

      Are you playing as a tribal ruler? By the time I form a feudal empire in Crusader Kings II I’ve usually established primogeniture succession for all my king-level titles and the empire I create inherits those succession laws. Forming a tribal empire is possibly easier than forming a feudal one, but managing one well is usually much harder because of gavelkind succession. There are exceptions, however. Some cultures, like the Irish, have access to unique succession types that can prevent realm-split.

      1. Moridin says:

        I’ve tried both. With feudalism, establishing the empire is the hard part – last time Sunset invasion kind of screwed over the entirety of France, which also messed up my plans(didn’t help that I switched religions, which means that after a generation there were both catholics and pagans in my court and among my kin, although I think my titles would probably have been revoked otherwise). Right now I’m playing as the Emperor of Mali. Eldership succession is REALLY good since as long as the elders are okay with you, you can pretty much pick your successor(without having to deal with assassinating your eldest son or whatnot).

  37. lethal_guitar says:

    I’m playing Doom 64. It’s a recently released modern version of the original Doom for N64, by Nightdive Studios with official blessing from Bethesda/Id. It’s essentially Doom 1/2, but with better graphics and some new features/weapons/enemies, and a new set of maps. Pretty cool so far.

  38. ccesarano says:

    Last week I mostly delved into Personal 5 Royal with an added dash of Resident Evil 3. The latter I honestly haven’t put all that much time into, in part because I was just enjoying the former so much. However, I’m not sure I’m really enjoying Resident Evil 3 all that much.

    Keep in mind I never played the original Nemesis for PlayStation, so I can’t really say whether this is a good remake or not. What I can say is that it feels like they wanted Resident Evil 3 Remake to be more action-oriented than the Resident Evil 2 remake was, and yet it doesn’t feel built for it. Environments feel too cramped and cluttered with too many zombies, which is odd considering how much more open Resident Evil 3 technically is. If you told me the directors of RE2 Remake weren’t involved and that it was a junior team, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    It’s still fun, but I feel like if I had the option I’d rather go back and replay RE2.

    I’m already approximately 45 hours into Persona 5 Royal, on the other hand, which is absurd when you take into account that I’m not even halfway through, I think. I’ve completed three dungeons out of I don’t know how many and I guess I’ll just be playing this game all month. I think over the next few days I’ll try and dabble in some other stuff, perhaps the SNES/Super Falcom Trials of Mana which I started up via Collection of Mana on Switch. Maybe I’ll plug some time into Super Smash Bros. I dunno. I could use something a bit more action-oriented and empowering after powering through a turn-based RPG and dabbling with a survival horror.

  39. Retsam says:

    I’ve been playing Mount & Blade Bannerlord. I’m a pretty big fan of the games, but haven’t played any Mount & Blade in literal years. It’s fun, and I’ve had pretty good luck with not hitting any major bugs (a few bits of missing/placeholder dialogue).

    On the one hand, “more M&B” can’t be a bad thing, but on the other hand, it’s the same sort of incremental improvement over the formula that Warband was to the original: it’s essentially a more polished version of the same game. Which is cool, but after waiting 8 years, I have to say I was maybe hoping for a little more.

    I’ve also started playing League of Legends “autochess” in the last week. Pretty overwhelming at first, but I’m starting to get a feel for it, and it’s pretty fun. It’s got a lot in common with Magic: the Gathering drafting, where you’re trying to build specific synergies out of a shared pool, but instead of cards, you’re drafting MOBA characters and trying to build a synergistic team.

    And unlike League of Legends, which I played fairly briefly, years ago, it’s a free-for-all game, so no toxic team dynamics. So that’s nice.

  40. Douglas Sundseth says:

    Still playing Civ VI, which, given the amount of time I spent on Civs I – V and associated games, wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me.

    Started Witcher 1. I had been thinking about restarting Witcher 3, but then the first two games were on sale …. and you know what happens then. Very weak combat system, but a fun story so far. I’m not sure how long it will keep my interest, but I’ve gotten my $1.99 or whatever out of it, which is better than a lot of games.

    With the release of Stellaris: Federations, lots of streamers are showing playthroughs. Which got me to pick it up again. Well, not the Federations DLC, which I haven’t bought, but whatever stuff I already have. Some significant changes in the base game, which is making it more entertaining. If this is the kind of game you like, this will be exactly the kind of game you like.

  41. Chad Miller says:

    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: This is the most recent “random Xbox giveaway” game I’ve latched on to. I’ve 95%’ed the main story and seen the final boss at this point. I felt like this did a better job of capturing the 16-bit era platformer than recent games usually do, which made sense when I did some research and found out this series has been going on since 2002. It has Metroidvania-like secrets in all its levels, but the levels themselves are discrete, making it sort of a cross between a Metroidvania and a Mega Man game. I found myself liking it right up until about the 80% mark, then my enthusiasm started waning toward the end. I’m going to try the alternate game modes (there are several) and see if I like those better.

    The biggest problem with the game, which only gets worse as you buy upgrades, is that attacks don’t do much damage on either side. Repeatedly smacking an enemy with your melee attack is not particularly fun, especially since Shantae isn’t very good at dodging anything at close range (all the projectiles are huge). This would indicate a tedious game of jumping close to an enemy, attacking a few times, then jumping back to get out of attack range, except attacks don’t do much damage so you might as well just eat the counterattack. Contrast to something like Mega Man X where your character is so mobile that you can just never take damage through skill and your upgrades are mostly ways to get better at killing enemies.

    As an example: I’m in a room with two platforms intermittently covered in instant kill lasers, followed by a third platform with a guy throwing dyanmite. I know the crab form can become immune to damage, so I jump past the first platform, change to the crab, then turn invincible. Dynamite Guy throws a dynamite and I take no damage, as expected, but it knocks me back and I fall to the level below. The next time I try it, I just jump past all the lasers and then eat a dynamite to the face, which deals 2 damage (out of my 40 health) and I melee Dynamite Guy to death before the invincibility frames wear off. There comes a point where everything is like this.

    There was also an interesting bit of ludonarrative dissonance at the start of the same level. Interesting because before I actually ran into it, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible. I mean, this is a game about playing a half-genie girl who whips enemies to death with her ponytail, where the first boss is a monster whose full name anagrams to P.O.O.P. T.O.O.T., where you ride between levels on a hawk that grew to flying mount-size by eating salted caramel. I’m not expecting much. Yet there’s one level where I’m told there’s a flying carpet race and someone’s plotting some kind of attack. So, the heroes plot to have Shantae enter the race as a competitor so she can be close when the bad things happen. This is a pretty standard cartoon heroics setup and I’m looking forward to it. Then it turns out that:

    * You can’t control the flying carpet you’re on
    * You can’t finish the level staying on the flying carpet you’re on
    * You’re expected to jump on the flying carpets the other competitors are using
    * You’re not exactly forced to attack these competitors, but you can and you’re rewarded with money and powerups if you do
    * There’s an achievement if you take out all the racers

    There’s a non-trivial amount of dialogue setting all of this up (although none of it’s voice acted, so it sure seems like at any point someone could go back and just, you know, write something else). It didn’t seriously bother me once I figured out what the level was actually expecting, but it did feel like the writing did its level best to tell me the exact opposite. Like if Super Mario Brothers had started with a cutscene detailing Mario’s plans to save all the mushrooms even after deciding Goombas were not only in the game but the first enemy you meet.

  42. Drathnoxis says:

    I’m playing Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. I’m not really enjoying it, but I got it when it was new and, gosh darn it, I’m going to finish it.

    I also downloaded the new release of Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead. I always read the changelog and think, “oh boy look at all this new stuff, what fun!” But then I play and the game plays nearly exactly the same for 20 hours and I don’t touch the new systems or see much of the new content because I’m collecting and reading books for weeks on end.

    1. Matt says:

      I like Nathaniel Howe & Justice, as well as the map locations you can visit, but I remember it being a little buggy, a lot of the fights feeling like time wasters despite a higher level cap and bonkers late-game powers, and the Broodmother vs. Architect conflict not feeling very compelling. We just saved the world from the Blight, but oh no! here comes a smaller, more regional Blight, that doesn’t have a dragon to kill.

    2. Kyle Haight says:

      The lead designer of Awakening lived next door to me in college and was the best man at my wedding. I’m sorry to say I never finished playing it. I got about a third of the way in and realized playing felt more like a chore than fun, so I stopped. Don’t think I ever told him that, though.

  43. Vinsomer says:

    I finished Yakuza Zero, and the ending… I’m not sure how it would compare if I’d played the original Yakuza first but it was bittersweet and felt (in the best possible way) like it wasn’t a prequel. I still have a lot of side stories, the cabaret club and real estate stories to go. I would talk more about the ending except I loved the game so much I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But it was genuinely one of the best experiences I’ve had gaming in a long time.

    I’ve played a bit of WWE 2K15, a game I obviously bought long ago and never really played much. It’s like a weird shot of nostalgia that makes me feel like the entire decade shot by: people who have moved on are in prominent roles in the story, people who have become mainstays are absent, and the menu music features the likes of Wiz Khalifa. I’ve come back mostly because I remember how fun creating your own wrestler is, and because WWE is in such a weird place, currently trying to make shows work without an audience (and not really making it work if ratings are to be believed). Professional Wrestling is a strange beast and Vince McMahon is even more idiosyncratic: for a long time people have said that following the real-world events of WWE is more interesting than watching the show. And if that wasn’t true, it definitely is now.

    I’m going to play Valkyria Chronicles again. It’s a game which I love, and I have the 4th one waiting, but never got round to completing. It’s one of those white whales where, just as I’m really getting into a groove with it, real-world events conspire to take my attention away from gaming for a while and by the time I get back to it, I’m no longer in that groove. Once I’m no longer as busy as I am now I won’t have that happen, and the curse will (knock on wood) be broken. Other cursed games for me include: Devil May Cry 5, Catherine, AC Origins.

    I might also get started on Tales of Symphonia, a game I picked up a while back during one of humble’s build-your-own-bundle promotions, where it was cheaper to buy what I was going to buy alongside it than to, so not only is it in essence a free game, but I’ve actually gained money by taking it. But it looks interesting, but Tales of Zestiria disappointed me massively, but I got Tales of Berseria in a bundle and like the look of it and want to play at least one previous game first. I’ve never been a huge JRPG guy but I absolutely adored Golden Sun on the GBA. I’ve made tentative steps with the Shining games but never had that experience I had as a kid with Golden Sun 1 and 2.

    1. Thomas says:

      I wish the WWE games kept up technically. It feels like it’s the perfect subject for a videogame but they make FIFA look like Half Life in terms of evolution between games.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        It’s the problem with having a yearly cycle. I guess they do it because real sports games do, but EA manage to release mostly functional entries in the FIFA series year after year. They’d be much better off selling a game every 2/3 years that was stable, well loved, and you could also pack it with more DLC.

    2. Fizban says:

      Aside from a couple direct sequels, the Tales games are all stand-alone, and Symphonia has nothing to do with Berseria. I haven’t played Berseria, but if that’s the one you’re actually interested in playing, I’d say just start with that. I presume you’re aware that the Tales games are real-time combat, and since you haven’t played one before the main advice I’d give is that they’re not button mashers either: you need to block or dodge and attack during the correct window if you don’t want to be dead most of the time.

      If you’re looking for the experience of Golden Sun again, yeah I haven’t found it either (granted, I haven’t played that many turn based JRPGs in some time). There is a Golden Sun 3, which is fine but has its problems (trying to cram in 8 new characters in one game because the previous two had 8) on the DS. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky 1-2 are great, very different mechanically and much more anime and talky bits (one chapter is helping a boarding school put on their play), but is also a loooong journey with a growing cast of characters with looming questions about the ancient tech and your adversaries, all of which are things in Golden Sun- but it’s linear regional zones, no world map.

      Hard to define what sets Golden Sun apart really. It uses fairly common themes: other games have you play a prologue as kids who see a hint of what’s going on, have family members held hostage to control you (though usually not through two full games), recurring villains you have to grow to overcome, figure-it-out-yourself world map navigation with a quest to either reach the end of the road or find the three thingies, turn around right before the end to use this door opening power for a bunch of sidequests. Basically the only things that really stand out are the class system, which isn’t nearly as variable as it looks on the surface, and the fact that it’s actually pretty easy and non-grindy- you have a myriad of tools at your disposal, and you can focus on unleashing, summoning, casting spells, or buffing and bashing, and any of them will get you through the game just fine.

      That, and the fact that it’s just written. There’s never a point in Golden Sun where you just walk through a placeholder town, all of the characters have very good reasons to be on the quest which are explained (if not explored) in detail, your abilities are tied into it far more so than even FF3’s direct “get crystal unlock jorbs!” system, and many legs of your quest involve dealing with people and events.

      So in that respect Trails in the Sky lines up quite well- its magic system is an in-world tech with ties to all their other tech and the mysterious ancient tech, everyone has their reasons to be along (some mysterious), and each chapter takes place in a region where you will be interacting heavily with current events. Trails in the Sky 2 also has one of your main characters apparently in the hands of the enemy, recurring villains you have to grow stronger to beat, and eventually unifies all the characters. Yeah I think it maps better than I originally expected. In any case I loved Golden Sun, and I loved Trails in the Sky.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        If Trails gives me anything near Golden Sun vibes then I’m definitely going to give it a look. And I’ve enjoyed Persona and Tokyo Xanadu so it sounds like my cup of tea.

        As for Golden Sun, I don’t know what their secret was but they got everything right. The story had interesting twists and turns, characters had good motivations, the world was both believable and unique, the mini quests actually mattered. The puzzles were great: not too hard or frequent but still a major part of the game, which broke up the pacing of the battles and conversations. The turn-based battle system was both familar enough to be easily understood, and, because of the djinn system, full of a bunch of interesting decisions both in battle and during setup. The graphics were absolutely as good as you could get out of the GBA and the music was fire. There were enough secrets and hidden extras to encourage exploration but not so many that you’d be overwhelmed, at least not until the latter half of the Lost Age.

        And there were a lot of small things like being able to mind-read people. Not only was the game full of npcs, but every one, animals included, had extra lines written just on the off chance you’d mind read them. That level of detail and effort is why the game is great. Nothing was phoned in. Everyone brought their A game and it shows.

        I honestly think that Golden Sun was the best game on the GBA, which was a fantastic console. If not number 1, then a close second/third to Pokemon Emerald/FireRed/LeafGreen. Honestly, talking about it makes me want to play it all over again.

        1. Retsam says:

          The closest anything’s come to the Golden Sun lightning striking twice for me is Bravely Default. It’s also got a really solid combat system, and a similar feel to the world and the story and overall polish of the game. Characters are similarly memorable.

          If the game’s plot didn’t fall over and light on fire towards the end, I’d be much more unequivocal in my praise and comparisons, but alas…

        2. Fizban says:

          Bit late, but I’ll continue: Trails doesn’t have much in the way of direct object moving/button pressing/etc puzzles, but there are “timed” sidequests (where time means main plot triggers) to ignore or studiously do all of. And while you don’t read minds, every NPC has multiple lines of dialogue which update as you hit main plot triggers.

    3. Christopher says:

      You’re in luck, everyone were disappointed in Zestiria. Unlike it, Tales of Symphonia, the Abyss, Vesperia and Berseria are universally appreciated. I can only vouch for Symphonia and Vesperia personally, but they’re fun games.

      1. Syal says:

        Berseria’s the only one I’ve played, and I never felt I was missing any lore or anything like that. There’s one optional fight that’s clearly a reference to a prior game, and a couple of past events that made me wonder if they were in previous games but the answer’s just as likely no. Berseria’s story meanders pretty hard for a bit, and has a contradiction or two, but there’s a lot to like.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          I thoiught it might be like Final Fantasy where each game is completely disconnected from the last. If they’re linked, is there anywhere where I can get the cliff notes version of important past events and characters?

          1. Christopher says:

            Some games take place in the same universe or continuity FFX-FFX-2 style, but most are entirely separate and the only crossovers might be a fun little secret Colosseum fight against previous protags. Symphonia is followed by the widely despised Symphonia 2 and is technically a prequel to Tales of Phantasia, but not in any way that matters, it just shares the same setting hundreds of years apart. Vesperia is enteriely independent.

            Berseria shares the same setting as Zestiria, but AFAIK it’s not like Zestiria 2, it just uses the same world some hundred years prior.

          2. Syal says:

            I legitimately don’t know if it’s standalone or not, it feels like it could be either one. Berseria’s story is absolutely self-contained, every major character gets plenty of buildup. The cameo fight opens with “I’m from another world”, so they’re probably standalone.

    4. Lars says:

      I abbandoned VC4 about 4 missions before the end. Just didn’t feel to go on in this murder plan. And Welkin and Alicia wäre far more appealing to me than the VC4 crew.

      Also just finished the Saejima episode oft Yakuza 5. The end sequense of that episode didn’t make any sence, but I still love the series. Witz Zero beeing the one with the most coherent story. Except the car Explosion scene and the disco scene.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        The disco scene with Iwano? I thought that was coherent. He was making a point: the Tojo Clan can kill without repercussions. It was cruel and kinda pointless and it made it much harder for me to have any sympathy for him later, just as I had no sympathy for Oda (seriously, he never actually apologised to Makoto) when the game expected me to see them as somewhat honorable in death. That’s really the only thing in the story that didn’t work for me.

        I haven’t played any other Yakuza games, other than about an hour or so of Yakuza 3 years ago that I’ve completely forgotten by now.

        Shame the VC crew of 4 isn’t as appealing but I guess I’ll see when I get to it.

        1. Thomas says:

          It’s not without faults but it still has the things which made VC1 great

  44. evilmrhenry says:

    I’ve been “playing” the newest Path of Exile league. Unfortunately, the Internet is a bit overloaded right now, which really wrecks the playability. I’m basically sticking my head in once a day, seeing that it’s still broken, and leaving. (half-second ping times do not combine well with high-speed twitch gameplay, especially in a league all about going as fast as possible.)

    Recently beat Luigi’s Mansion. (For the Gamecube.) It’s good, but not great; I feel the central ghost capturing mechanic isn’t deep enough, the environment of a mansion restricts level design too much, and the linearity of the game combined with the puzzle-like nature of the major ghosts combine to ensure you’ll end up stuck at some point. Maybe I’m being unfairly harsh because I expect better from Nintendo, and these complaints are fundamental design issues which are difficult to correct late in development, but they’re still problems with the game.

    1. Drathnoxis says:

      I like Luigi’s Mansion a lot. I found it a lot more fun that Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, with far more interesting ghosts and environments. And it’s just fun making Luigi shriek out Mario’s name whenever you want. I have a lot of nostalgia for the game though, it was the first game I played when I bought my Gamecube.

    2. evilmrhenry says:

      Followup: the Path of Exile performance issues appears to be more a problem with the servers than the Internet at large; I just noticed that my standard characters are fine, it’s just the league characters that are unplayable. Really don’t know what the deal is there.

      1. ivan says:

        Yes as someone who was there at the start of the current league, it’s on POE, not internet slowdowns due to corona. I’m not saying that isn’t making things worse, I imagine it would be (I disliked the current league and have set the game aside for the foreseeable future, so I couldn’t comment on the current current state of it myself).

      2. Higher_Peanut says:

        It’s not just on their servers, the game has had notoriously poor performance for years. Even on insane set-ups it will hitch in the late game if it doesn’t like your PC. There are guides around to disabling all but the necessary sounds and changing the graphics settings you don’t get in game just to get a decent fps.

  45. Jason says:

    I’m still working my way through the Assassin’s Creed games. Currently playing Syndicate (That’s the one that takes place on London during the Industrial Revolution and has the twin protagonists).
    I’m enjoying it more than Unity. I like the switching between the twins, but once you get all of the upgrades, there aren’t many differences. Evie is slightly better at stealth (I really like the perk where she turns invisible while hiding) and Jacob is stronger, but that’s about it. I tend to do more missions with Evie (when you have the choice) because of the stealth factor.

    I’ve taken a break from the story to do the collect-a-thon now that I’ve gotten strong enough to unlock the whole city. The music boxes are a pain because the clue poems are useless. The pictures help, but usually don’t help identify the area where there are. I’m going to try to find as many as I can without cheating, but I will probably go online for a map to the the last few that I can’t find.

    1. Thomas says:

      Syndicate is one of my favourites. I love the subtle art style and the animation to make London feel lived in.

  46. Mr. Wolf says:

    Spyro Reignited Trilogy. They’re still as much fun as they were 20 years ago. Moreso, now that Yeti boxing isn’t completely broken (only mostly broken).

    Though it did again get me wondering if there are any dragon-flight-sims out there. Seems an obvious thing to make, but I’ve never seen anything matching that description that looks even half-decent.

  47. Kyle Haight says:

    I finished Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero over the weekend, then tracked down a fan-translated copy of the sequel, Trails To Azure. That one is a lot more janky and it took some work to get it running properly, but it’s going well enough now. Once I finish this one I will finally have all the back-story and context required to fully understand the events in Trails of Cold Steel III and IV.

    It’s odd to think that by this time next year I will probably have played all the Trails games and will be able to get back to work on the rest of my backlog. Assuming we don’t all die of the plague.

    1. Cilvre says:

      I’m about near the end of trails of cold steel 1, but came to it after finishing all the trails in the sky games. Great series so far.

      1. Kyle Haight says:

        Trails of Cold Steel I was my first Trails game. I finished it on the literal day that Trails of Cold Steel II released on the PS3, which was excellent timing on my part because the first game ends on kind of a cliffhanger. It’s a slow burn, but when all hell finally breaks loose it breaks loose!

    2. Fizban says:

      Yeah, why am I not surprised that the games they skipped to comply with licensing demands or whatever (do this game right now!) do in fact become important later on, almost as if they existed for a reason.

      Edit: huh, gravatar’s off, must have botched my email.

  48. Cilvre says:

    I’ve been binging Octopath Travelers, and it’s been a great game so far. Excellent story telling and voice acting, great gameplay and combat system, fun class systems. I’m maybe a third of the way into the game and i’ve already passed 35 hours.

  49. rabs says:

    Well, I’m fully following the buzz currently…

    Finished Half Life: Alyx last week-end. Great game, I love the details and how they arranged the scenes. I feared there would be too much shooting or waste of time travel, but it’s paced to my taste. Also the progression is linear, but with a great architecture. Maybe with too much zigzag in the same area at time.
    I miss the melee fighting I enjoy in other VR games, but well it makes sense here. Would be different if we played Gordon in his armor.

    My playthrough of Doom Eternal was on hold, but I’ll continue now.

    I’m also playing Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord, for a bit less than 10 hours currently and didn’t get game breaking bugs or crash yet. I’m having fun for now, exploring the possibilities.

  50. evileeyore says:

    “Doom – like pizza and sex – manages to be fun even when it’s not the best”
    Clearly said by someone who has never had sufficiently bad sex or pizza.

    Thanks for the Gravekeeper review, I’ve been eyeing but wasn’t sure it was exactly in my bailiwick. You’ve convinced me it probably is so I’ll have to give it a shot!

  51. SidheKnight says:

    I’m working on The Witcher 2, Electric Boogaloo.

    I’ve owned all the Witcher games for a long time (bought ’em on sale, since I was mostly playing WoW back in that era of PC
    gaming). When I heard of the awesomeness of the Witcher franchise, I decided to give it a go.. but not before reading all the books! Which was definitely worth it.

    This was 4 years ago. Fast foward to last year, and I finally decided on playing the first Witcher game. The first 1.5 chapters were a drag (the game’s divided in 5 chapters) and I wanted to quit playing many times, but forced myself to go on. It was worth it.
    The game and the story start flowing and get better later on. I ended up really liking the game, though I wouldn’t play it again, the game definitely shows it’s age, and I’m pretty satisfied with the choices I made and the “path” I chose in my playthrough (the game has a branching storyline in the final chapter).

    I really like the way the game captures the spirit of the books and what it’s like to be Geralt, to be a Witcher. The people who made the game really love and respect the source material (even if the author disagrees).

    As for the game I’m currently playing, I’m liking the Witcher 2 so far (I’ve reached the beginning of Act II). The combat is still kinda bad (it’s less clunky, but more difficult). And some of the “uniqueness” of the previous game has been lost in the streamlining of this one. Potions last less time, and you can’t drink them in combat. There’s a focus away from magical folk tale creatures and curses and more towards medieval fantasy politics. But overall it’s a pretty good game.

    One big nitpick I have: The Anti-Aliasing in this game is non-existent. And due to the way it’s implemented, there’s no way to force AA via the GPU. The only solution is to use DSR, but that makes framerates dip in some areas where there are lots of pareticles and weather effects.

  52. Soldierhawk says:

    Work has been crazy, and the world’s a bit scary now, so I’ve been retreating into my happy place: Stardew Valley. Even when there’s nothing to “do” in the game, I just like living in the world and talking to the villagers.

    I’ve also discovered Baba Is You. What a joy of a puzzle game that is. Not once have I felt the urge to just look up a solution, because the puzzles are that good, and usually simple(ish) once you get it. But sometimes it takes a lot of time staring at an “impossible” screen to get it. Wonderful way to get your brain fully engaged in nothing but thinking about the puzzle at hand.

    I’ve also recently started playing Moonlighter. Jury’s still out on that one for me. I’ve almost beaten the fist dungeon (made it to the last boss a few times), and I enjoy the loop of explore dungeon–>sell stuff. Learning how to price things is a good time, and treasure hunting is a lot of fun too. I’m just not sure that the fun is going to last; I don’t foresee the game doing much beyond that base loop, and eventually that’s going to get boring. Maybe I just need to step away for a while and come back fresh.

  53. RFS-81 says:

    I went on a bit of a Switch e-shop spending spree in the last few weeks.

    I got the Sega Genesis collection including Landstalker which is my favorite Zelda game ;-) Well, it’s like Zelda in the way that it has dungeons and you need to find keys, solve puzzles, kill monsters etc. to open doors. Unlike Zelda, it has a lot of platforming, and it uses an isometric perspective. Objects in the air don’t cast shadows on the ground. Yeah…I think you need some amount of nostalgia to enjoy this. I like the backstory of the hero: he’s a treasure hunter who just sold off his latest find and could now live on that money for a long time. But he happens to meet a fairy (this game had a fairy sidekick before Ocarina of Time!) who tells him of an even larger treasure on a remote island. Instead of waiting for a ship, he gives the entire money to some giant bird to fly him there.

    Streets of Rage 2 doesn’t need any nostalgia, I think. It’s just a great beat-em-up. I didn’t play it as a kid and first encountered it when a friend bought a Sega collection for the Playstation 3. I now have the game on PC, 3DS and Switch… It’s fun to play in co-op for all the chaos (friendly fire is always on!) but it’s also fun to git gud at it in single-player, though it’s a very different experience. And the music is great! Off the top of my head, it’s the only game I can think of where the composer is prominently credited on the title screen, and Yuzo Koshiro deserves it.

    I’ve got some random games that looked interesting and were on sale for only around 1 Euro, so I just got them more or less blind. Persian Nights is like a very rudimentary point-and-click adventure. It has beautiful 2d graphics and absolutely amateurish animations. If people change pose, they blink in and out of existence. Merchants of Kaidan is a medieval fantasy trading sim. It kept me hooked for 5 or 6 hours in one session but I have no interest to return to it. The Paradox strategy games have a similar effect on me, FWIW. I guess the reason is that the progression in Kaidan doesn’t really lead anywhere interesting. Making money to add more carts to your caravan to make more money is not all that engaging after I stepped away from it.

    I bought Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X while they were on sale. That should keep me busy for some time. I’m currently playing IX. I like how abilities work in this game: initially, they are tied to equipment, but after using one in enough battles, the ability becomes innate to the character and can always be used. (I knew that concept from Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. Too bad FF9 doesn’t have a job system like FFTA.) I’m not that far into it yet, but I like the story so far. I mean, yes, it feels a bit Disney, you only need to look at Queen Brahne to tell she’s evil, but I have no idea what’s her end goal, and I want to find out more!

    1. Joshua says:

      Seems like there were variants on this basic theme (in the FF I played anyway). In FF VI, you learn spells from Espers. In FF VII, you learn spells and abilities from Materia. In FF IX, you learn everything from equipment.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        6, 7, and 9 are the exact ones that work like this, oddly enough. 8 had you junction spells to stats (and all spells could be freely traded to “respec” anyone anytime). 1, 3, and 5 used a class system. 4 had fixed abilities for each character. 2 I’ve blocked from my mind. 10, 12, 13, and 15 all use a point buy system with varying degrees of customizability (10 and some versions of 12 let you make everyone good at everything, while 15 has fixed abilities you can buy for each character and 13 does something in between)

        1. Nimrandir says:

          FFV sorta did the AP thing, since you could change classes on all characters. As I recall, the optimal approach was to learn the skills you wanted, then switch to either classless or Mine.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        By design, FFIX was kind of a love letter to Final Fantasies past. Along with the AP-building stuff, characters were basically locked into set roles for (I think) the last time in the series.

        Also, Vivi is one of my all-time favorite RPG characters. I openly wept at his appearance in the final sequence.

        1. RFS-81 says:

          I like Vivi! And I’m eager to find out what Black Mages even are in this world…

    2. Christopher Wolf says:

      The Megadrive and Genesis collection is under $13 on Steam today, 80%+ off.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Well then, what’s everyone waiting for? Go punch crime in the face and Do! Baseball!

        (My comment is probably flirting with the spam filter. Let’s see if this works…)

  54. Henson says:

    I think I’m finally about to finish up Pathfinder: Kingmaker. This game is immense.

    Also played a little of Shadows of the Metal Age, a popular mod adventure for Thief II. It’s nice to get back to that type of stealth, but I really feel the design lacking a bit. Layouts are just a bit too…i dunno. Maybe I’m just still early into the game.

  55. Nimrandir says:

    Las week, I finally got a Diablo III character to the level cap. Still need to finish Act V of the campaign with her, though.

    My wife has been playing Dragon Quest Builders on our PS4, so I was looking for something to play without swapping discs, because we’re lazy. We picked up a Switch online card for our son, so the two of us started playing Dauntless today. We had pretty much run out of content in Monster Hunter Generations, so it’s scratching that itch on the free.

    While I’m thinking about it, I also bought an as-yet-unredeemed PS+ card. Anyone up for playing Monster Hunter World, Bloodborne, Dark Souls II, or Diablo III?

  56. I’VE BEEN PLAYING WORDSCAPES AND WORLD OF GOO ON MY TABLET.

    (No, I’m lying, it’s still DDO). I’ve got a few more reincarnations to finish up and I can do some endgame stuff for a while and chillax on my throne of pure awesomeness while I make a run at my backlog, which looks something like this:

    Banished
    ArcaniA
    Disco Elysium
    Divinity Original Sin
    Eastshade
    Ember
    Firewatch
    Greedfall
    New World (when it comes out in a couple months anyhoo)
    Pathfinder:Kingmaker
    Prince of Persia: the one without a subtitle that came after the other three
    Spellforce 2 and 3
    Conan Exiles
    Tyranny
    Pillars of Eternity II (I played the campaign but I haven’t done ANY of the DLC)

    as well as a stack of games on Twitch that I got because they were free and several on Origin that I got because they were free, and the Dishonored trilogy on GoG

    Basically I have enough games to last me roughly until the heat death of the universe and I still buy a new one every once in a while.

    If you want you can watch me cussing at noobs and champions on my twitch channel: twitch.tv/psyychoblonde

  57. Leipävelho says:

    I’ve been playing Skyrim, on XBOX 360, as my a wire in my computers CPU fan melted and blew the PSU.

    I accidentally managed to make my character completely immune to magic. It seems that Todd quite didn’t manage to scrub Morrowind out entirely.

    1. ivan says:

      Yea it’s not very hard to do. Even easier if you’re a vampire, or just become a vampire temporarily for that specific purpose.

  58. GoStu says:

    I’ve been playing Disco Elysium.

    I heard that it’s something like Planescape: Torment in that it’s an isometric Role-Playing-Game with a heavy emphasis on dialogue. Disco Elysium is based on being a detective in a fictional town, investigating a murder.

    I love the way the game handles your character’s stats/skills and internal dialogue. Each ability score represents a sort of aspect of your personality – an intellectual character might get some input from their Conceptualization or Rhetoric skills, while a more emotional one will get feelings of Esprit de Corps or their artistic conceptions. Or perhaps you lack the Volition to just come right out and ask someone for money; the player behind the character might wish to, but without the Volition to just come out and say it.

    It’s an utterly unique game, and for that I think it deserves attention.

    1. Dalisclock says:

      I played it when it came out. I almost never buy games at launch but I was so facinated I made an exception for this.

      Fun fact: Your stats can actually start driving your decision making if you level them up too much. For example, level up hand-eye coordination enough and it’ll keep trying to convince you to shoot things(or people). Level up encyclopedia too much and it constantly try to feed you trivia, even when you don’t want it. And so on….

  59. Lars says:

    Darksiders: Genesis is currently hogging my attention. Pretty fun twin stick shooting and riddle solving. Even though the New perspective it’s still a darksiders.

    In multiplayer it is back to the buggy mess oft Conan Exiles. For Evers fixed bug I find 3 new ones. But somehow: Sill playing. At least there is no game breaking bug till now, like the last time.

  60. Sleeping Dragon says:

    So apparently my own comment got eaten by the spam filter.

    Finished Nier:Automata (avoiding spoilers), by which I mean I got endings A-E, it’s definitely an “anime game” in the sense that like most of anime it is an “emotions first” story. Personally I’d prefer a bit more explaining, maybe replace one of the “weird” endgame sequences with at least one or two flashbacks to give the player more background to certain events (for the record: I have not played previous games so that might be what’s missing here), there were also a few narrative dead ends, some things presented as big reveals with a big “so what?” in terms of where they were going. That said I think the final sequences did the “emotions first” thing pretty well and I personally enjoyed it, particularly ending E as from a certain point I did start suspecting that this is actually the story of the pods, there is also a 4th wall breaking thing there that I’m not going to spoil but I personally loved it. Mechanically I would say the game feels slightly unfocused because of its many game modes, I’d prefer if they, say, got rid of the twin stick shooter sections and put more depth into the chip system because a bunch of sequences feel flashy but shallow gameplaywise. Still, while I wouldn’t necessarily call the game a work of utter genius like some people do for me at least it played the emotional beats just right and I came away satisfied.

    Also played through Ori and the Blind Forest, it’s light on the story but good on atmosphere, pretty visuals, good background music. What really sells the game is the very tight and fluid platforming, also by the end of the game you have a lot of abilities: triple jump, dash, wall run, wall jump, charged jump and charged jump from a wall, launch yourself off of projectiles and enemies, stomp, slowfall… but they somehow don’t get confusing and if I didn’t get what the game wanted me to do immediately I usually got it on the second try (executing it all perfectly was another matter). Highly recommended for people who are into the genre and I bumped the sequel up on my purchase list.

    Other than that I’m kind of bouncing between games right now. I’ve played the tutorial to Pathfinder:Kingmaker (using the turn based combat mod) with like three characters and can’t decide on race/class/alingnment combo, also Humble Choice had Opus Magnum and I’ve played a bit of that, so far it seems like the most mechanically approachable of Zachtronics games but I’m still fairly early on so it might get really complicated down the line. Though I do seem to recall that the hardcore fans were complaining that it is too easy compared to the previous titles. Can I also add that I’m always impressed with how these games manage to both be challenging puzzlers but also have some entertaining writing, which is a combination that you don’t encounter often? Put some time into Destiny 2 grind and me and a friend are progressing through Divinity:Original Sin 2 at a slow pace.

    1. Shamus says:

      My spam filter is like:

      Oh, here’s Sleeping Dragon. Let’s see…

      1. Over 2,500 approved comments.
      2. This comment has no links in the body.
      3. No links for the username.
      4. It’s constructed of valid English characters and isn’t a soup of improperly encoded unicode garbage.
      5. Was made in response to a live discussion and isn’t talking to ghosts in some ancient 2007 thread.
      6. It doesn’t share any formatting or grammar with known spam messages, and doesn’t contain ANY keywords that indicate spam.
      7. Is from a generally agreeable European IP that isn’t known for spambots.

      Conclusion: This is obviously spam. In fact, I’m SO SURE this is spam, I won’t even put it into moderation for Shamus to review. I’mma throw it into the spam abyss where no one will ever see it.

      The punchline? On this SAME DAY a stupid bot left a comment to the effect of:

      Hello???? Webmaster??

      It is such a pleasure to see these????
      kind of informations on your???
      helpful web site??? have you????
      considered to using a?????
      [spam product]. we are offering ???
      services for you!????
      [naked URL]????

      THAT bullshit? That actually got posted to the site where people can see it. But Sleeping Dragon’s comment got flagged.

      The WordPress spamfilter is turbo garbage and it’s making me crazy.

      Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience. I restored your original comment, but it looks very similar to your repost. (Which makes me wonder why the second one got through?) Let me know if you want me to kill the original. (I’ll be very humane. I won’t put it in the spam bin. It will have a dignified death.)

      1. pseudonym says:

        Looks like someone coding forgot to add a ‘not’ or ‘!’ in some statement.

        Or they have used ‘machine learning’ which means they have also no clue what the filter is doing, except that it works really well on their training set. Maybe they have made the newbe mistake of not properly separating their training set and test set… That would explain a lot of this behavior…

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Sorry for the late reply. Because it might be of use to you the comment actually got eaten when I was trying to edit it and close some runaway tags (which I didn’t manage fully even in the final version), also I had some slight issues accessing the blog on the 7th, at least once I got redirected to an archived version of the page. Anyway, if you want to delete one for cleanliness sake the first one should be good to go live on the farm upstate since it got no replies.

        Also, for the record, sometimes with longer comments I have them pasted in a text file when I’m typing them out, which is why the second repost was so similar.

    2. Cilvre says:

      After I finished all the endings in Nier Automata, I couldn’t handle not knowing more, so I binged the wiki hard. This page alone helps put a lot into perspective from what you read in the game. https://nier.fandom.com/wiki/Timelines

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I guess that’s the problem with not releasing a complete series on a platform. To be fair I don’t think all of this is necessary (though an interesting read, I was on the fence whether I want to fully dive into wikis but since you dropped the link…), heck most of it isn’t necessary, but I think at least a few things should have been (either at all or more prominently) featured in Automata, like A2’s involvement in the pre-game events (being vague for the sake of spoilers).

  61. Dalisclock says:

    Currently playing Divinity Original Sin 2. I’m running around Reapers Coast working the 20,000 quests in the area but I’ve got a handle on the combat which is the big sticking point I’ve ha so far. Enjoying the game so for, particulary for it’s Quality of Life features and the origin characters, though the overall plot is a bit…..okay. It’s my first Divinity game so I kinda feel like I’m missing some important context on who some of these people are(apparently Lucian was the PC from the very first game) but still having a good time.

  62. Higher_Peanut says:

    I’ve been playing Doom: Eternal and dropped it. It’s a significant step down from 2016 and has joined Doom 3 as the other mainline Doom game that just isn’t entertaining enough to finish.

    I really don’t like the core combat loop and the game is tuned so that every system drives you to play a certain way. There are no alternate avenues to avoid what feels like an MMO hotbar rotation and gimmick enemies. You can in the early game use about half your entire shotgun ammo pool (of 16) killing one cacodemon or play the gimmick game and one-shot it. This trend continues throughout the cast, everything has some gimmick or weakness culminating in the marauder. Who’s gimmicks are so important to the designer they gave it functional immunity to weapons and equipment (including the BFG and chainsaw) when not playing the minigame. You have functionally infinite ammo at all times (making pickups mostly useless) but are limited by cooldown timing, not using the gimmicks means more time waiting.

    I also hate the dash and how easy it makes it to avoid projectiles. Movement is slow and crippled (Compared to classic shooters and their spiritual successors) to justify its use, strafing or any movement other than directly forwards slows you down. The demons learned how to lead targets in 2016 so you couldn’t just use speed to circle-strafe to victory. I’d much rather faster movement and moving intelligently to avoid projectiles than the dash.

    Not enjoying the main combat means other problems which would be smoothed over are more grating. The tone is a mess, there’s far too much platforming, nostalgia bait landing poorly (infighting is a lie, archvile has none of its abilities), “vehicle” segment, voicing a silent protagonist with memes feels so corporate, finishing an arena cuts control for a 3 second cutscene of a door. New enemies (marauder aside) are nice. Pity we lost the summoner to the archvile, there was room for both if the archvile kept its old kit.

    Seeing your coverage of Rage at a similar time makes me think Id does a very poor job of tutorials and doesn’t seem to bother integrating them smoothly into gameplay. Thankfully you can hide them in Eternal.

  63. Mark Ayen says:

    In celebration of Mass Effect 2’s tenth anniversary and Bob’s “Hypothetical ME4” articles, I’m playing through ME2 again (for the I cant-remember’th time). I’m playing though as a Sentinel this time, a class that never interested me before, but is actually pretty fun. ME2 is really starting to show its age, and even the nostalgia is starting to wear thin, so this may be my last playthrough.

    To continue the Bioware fun, I dug KOTOR out of storage and may give it another spin, although I’ll probably play some lighter fare in between as a palate cleanser.

    1. Redrock says:

      You’re a stronger man than me. Every time I try to replay ME 2 or 3 I tell myself that this is the time I’ll try a different class, maybe an Infiltrator. I sometimes even get to Omega before caving in and just rolling a Vanguard once again.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        See, I can’t aim for crap, so I lean toward Adept and Engineer. Endless chains of biotic explosions are my favorite gameplay memory from ME3.

  64. Chad says:

    I’ve been playing Witcher III: Question Mark Hunter. I still don’t love the combat, although I do enjoy when I can get all potioned up and use careful planning to beat a monster that is theoretically too hard for me. As many people have mentioned, it is a beautiful game and a large part of the draw is finding out what is around the next bend and all the side quests.

  65. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

    Got Bannerlord in Early Access (I mean, it was 20% off, and I’m going to buy it anyway…). I’ve enjoyed it -though part of me doesn’t like the map changes. Oh, I love that it is much larger, but why is there a massive sea in the middle of the desert? And why is the precursor to Uxkhul in the wrong place?

    I can only presume some pretty Calradia-shattering events happen in the 200 years between Bannerlord and Warband.

    I do love the Roman Empire falling motif. It’s like the best of Viking Invasion in Warband. Now if only they’d add boats…

    Cities:Skylines has been on my list to get back into for months -I got a bunch of the DLC. The problem for me now is that, with all the DLC, it takes forever to load up, and is far more likely to crash.

    I have never run into the bodies piling up problem before -and I’ve grown cities to the max size.

    Also, I worked in a city planning office in grad school -I’m not saying that the city cemetery absorbed a huge amount of time, but yes, actually, the siting and expansion and maintenance of the cemetery and mausoleum was a thing we worried about. Also leads to my favorite “local officials say the darndest things” story:

    The cemetery was running out of spaces, so the city decided to try offering a discount to bury two people in the same plot with a larger headstone. During the discussion, one of the commissioners (a woman) asked whether the burials would be done vertically, or one on top of the other. Upon be told that they would bury the first casket lower, then the second casket on top she said “well I’m glad women live longer than men -because it means I’ll finally get to be on top.”

    In a public meeting.

    Being recorded and broadcast to the city.

    The silence followed by laughter was epic.

    1. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

      I think it would be nice if a DLC implemented a cemetery like what they’ve already done with the Parklife DLC, as that would make it more planning oriented than plopping 20 crematoriums throughout the city.

  66. Ander says:

    Didn’t plan to comment on this, but then I started Sayonara Wild Hearts. It’s one of those games like Tetris Effect (ever played, Shamus? I’d think you’d like it based on how you liked Chime) that apparently gives my brain precisely what it wants in a game between electronica music, colorful visuals, and rhythmic gameplay.

    1. Dalisclock says:

      I enjoyed that game. It was the closest thing to a music video game I think I’ve played(Like if a music video were also a game). I don’t know if anything happens if you get gold ranks on all the songs, if it unlocks new tracks or something but I as fine with just enjoying it for what it was.

  67. RCN says:

    I don’t know why these crafting games never have a central inventory. Like, sure, you need to build a storage somewhere, but once you have, you should be able to access it from everywhere and check the exact inventory of everything you have in different storages. Also, allow you to access all your workstations from the same inventory system. I mean, these games already abstract some stuff and skip other simulations, but the one that would streamline the greatest frustration they won’t? Make it more efficient if you manually go to the workstations, but ugh, don’t make the player fiddle with 12 different workstations and storage dumps to find the one he put the stuff he needs.

    Been playing Xcom Long War 2 and a few assorted cell games, especially Space Arena and Might and Magic Chess Royale.

    The Long War 2 campaign is lost for good. Not Ironman, but even with save scumming it is beyond saving. Even in missions with “extremely light” advent manpower I get upwards of 16 aliens in the map even though the limit is supposed to be 9, so I put 2 or 3 guys in the mission thinking I could just avoid the patrols but there are 2-3 pods of aliens in literally every direction and no way in hell for my guys to fight them. Not to mention that I just got mag weapons and do around 6 damage on average with mag rifles but all non-reinforcement advent personel has 14 and upwards HP. I can’t one-shot anything making shinobis and rangers (who rely on being able to one shot their targets) all but useless while half the advent soldiers are capable of one-shotting almost everyone I have. I got ridiculously outmatched in the research arms race and while granted I was in the second hardest difficulty I thought I was making good time with 2 scientists on the lab by month 2 and fully upgraded lab with 4 scientists by month 3.

    Also, I really dislike how the mod handles reinforcements, since it changed so much about alien pod behavior. Some missions start with out outside concealment, but with no aliens knowing where you are so you could conceivably still avoid large pods and being pinned down in a location (which is a death certificate in LW2). But reinforcements always know exactly where you are and even if you run like hell to avoid them dropping on you they’ll drop still knowing where you are and going for you. At least least they don’t seem to be as upgraded as regular pods… but they escalate into a drop every other turn in basically every mission.

    Star Arena flat out stole the ship building and fighting system from the real time 4x Star Drive, which I don’t mind because I loved the system but the game died out in early access so the creator could make Star Drive 2… without the real time systems. Which was the most original thing about the original. So I can still tinker with it in this game. Lots of cash-grab, sure, but so far I feel it isn’t as cheap as certain other freemiums with the special in-game cash you can buy. Usually you need 5000 freemium bucks in the least to get a special building/weapon/etc, while the game gives you 2 or 3 for tedious grinding tasks designed to wear you down so you’ll buy the damn freemium bucks. But here there are lots of tasks which gives you the freemium bucks and the stuff you can spend them on is usually reasonable (except repairing ships. It costs way too much freemium bucks to instantly repair ships. Not worth at all.)

    Might and Magic Chess Royale is yet another… auto-chess game? Is that the genre? I was surprised at how good it was, because being a Might and Magic product under Ubi I fully expected it to be a quick cash-grab. And while asset-reuse is rampant (I don’t think there’s a single original asset in the whole game, everything is made with art assets taken directly from Heroes VI and VII), the gameplay itself is… surprisingly engaging. My main complaint about these auto-chess games is that the matches last way, waaaay too long for what amount to only setting up your forces and then watching them clash without your involvement. Taking 1 hour when you know you lost half an hour ago because you didn’t get the creature/hero matching pairs you needed and being slowly grinded to dust as you can’t really do anything in the battle to change that? Well, here everyone has 3 HP in an arena of 100. Every loss you lose 1 hp. People are eliminated fast, but in 5-8 matches in under 10 minutes you have the same progression as other auto-chess games in 30 minutes to an hour.

    Also, it has some interesting mechanics. You can spend your money on spells as well as creatures and levels. There’s only a limited number of spells for all 100 contestants every match to keep the pressure on to get them early instead of late (though the strongest spells could be more limited since when they are accessible there are a LOT less players in the match). And the synergies aren’t as all-or-nothing as other auto-chess games. They are nice, but they’re not wining you the matches single-handed. They are more subdued in nature. One of the synergies is HP bonus for the creatures, which is about trash-tier bonus for other auto-chess games but here it pulls its weight.

  68. Jabrwock says:

    I had picked up GYK again after a haitus, and everything you said is why I put it back down after a bit, and probably why I went on haitus the last time too…

    Their recipe book needs a lot of work, but I guess they figure why bother when you can just look it up on the wiki. I heard the same problem with Stardew Valley. Friend of mine played it split screened between the game and the wiki…

  69. C__ says:

    I’ve been playing Yakuza Zero these days, it’s the first Yakuza game that I’ve ever played and i’ll tell you what: i wast’n a big beat’m up fan back then, and i’m not now. But the story is so good, so cheesy in the right way that keep me hooked. Also the management minigames are great – not Gwent great, but close enough.

  70. Paul Spooner says:

    Played all the way through Hob this last weekend. Don’t really have time for gaming during the week, but I bought a copy of Sim City 2000 and Rollercoaster Tycoon from GOG. Looking forward to showing my kids what gaming was like back when I was their age.

    1. John says:

      Kids dig Sim City 2000. Or, rather, one kid digs Sim City 2000. Look, I’ve only got the one child to test these things on! City builders aren’t really my genre, but GOG gave the game away for free some years back. My daughter sat next to me on the couch and watched as I played–which is not something she’s historically been wiling to do for just any game. (It may have helped that I named every city after her.) She offered advice, made suggestions, and occasionally issued orders. We were, uh, not good city managers but we had some wholesome, heartwarming fun for a couple of days.

  71. Redrock says:

    I found Doom Eternal to be exhausting more than anything else. Must be getting old. Oddly, I bounced right off the new Doom and wound up obsessively playing Ace Combat 7 of all things. That was my first Ace Combat game since Ace Combat 3 on the PS1 and it’s surprisingly addictive. It’s got that relatively rare ability to make each kill extremely satisfying, and also gives you a feeling of steadily improving your own skills and understanding of the game. I’ll probably go back to Doom Eternal eventually, although after I beat AC 7 it’s probably RPG time again. Have to finish Kingdom Come Deliverance and Greedfall, having those two in my backlog is constantly nagging at me.

  72. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    I’m not sure if anyone’s mentioned it here yet, but in Cities Skylines you can click on the name of your city and it’ll give you some statistics, including the amount of citizens and their age categories, which can be quite useful to tell when you might need to place an extra 10 crematoriums before a death wave.

    My current city that I have just finished has ended up with over 200k cims, and I haven’t touched any DLC or mods for it yet, although I still have a couple expansion plans for it.

    I discovered Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord had come out recently, so I’ve been playing that a lot.

  73. Syal says:

    Inexplicably started playing Final Fantasy 10 again, specifically postgame, grinding and trying to beat the Monster Arena. The PAL version added Dark Aeons that are absurdly powerful, and then put them in some really inconvenient places, like “The Only Entrance To Besaid”; if you didn’t get the Destruction Spheres on your first run through Besaid or Macalania, you can’t get Yuna’s Aeons or her ultimate weapons unless you’re already strong enough to kill the superest of superbosses.

    I guess that’s a running problem in the series. Omega in FF5 was on a two-panel walkway and would switch which side he was on, Emerald Weapon in FF7 was roaming around mandatory areas. FF12 had giant elemental balls that would kill you if you accidentally hit them, and some of them were already hostile; 15 had a Level 50 griffon parked outside a mandatory Level 30 dungeon.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Indeed, and the original has a painfully unforgiving save system to boot.

        Funnily enough, I’ve taken three parties across that bridge, and I’ve never run into Warmech. The tension on each walk has been unbearable, but not as bad as seeing a party of not-illithids.

  74. James Block says:

    So the mod you’re looking for to fix the bloody deathwaves in Cities: Skylines is Citizen Lifecycle Rebalance. I think it’s here these days, though I haven’t played in a while. I haven’t looked too much under the hood of that mod, but I had the exact same complaints as you, and with it they’re just gone. Much recommended.

  75. alchemyheelsi says:

    Reading the Cities: Skylines section about how the body disposal shouldn’t really require such micromanagement around the same time I encounter this article https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/nyregion/coronavirus-new-york-bodies.html

    I do agree the game created this problem for itself by including a broken system to simulate an industry which, if absent, would have gone unremarked by players. But it did seem topical that there is at least on city dealing with the very same not enough morgues problem which Shamus’ simulated cities do.

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