This Week I Played… (July 2020)

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 23, 2020

Filed under: TWIP 195 comments

A few months ago, everything was in lockdown. Then it lifted for a couple of months, which was just long enough to move to our new place. Now everything is shutting down again. These are strange days, but luck seems to be with us for now.

I’m still trying to get my home office put together.

Everything Old is Even Older

I’ve got a stack of old computer books and magazines from the 80s and 90s. At the old place, I had these on a bookshelf. But now that my office is set up, I like how open and sparse it is and I’m not eager to add shelves full of crap. So now I’ve got three large containers filled with stuff I don’t want to unpack but can’t bear to throw away.

I feel like it would be a shame to just send these old programming books to a landfill. If nothing else, they ought to be scanned for historical purposes / reference. But then, that’s a ton of work and I can’t be bothered.

I’ve got a bunch of old PC Gamer magazines here that I can’t bear to throw away because of the bygone era they represent. Like, I’ve got the WORLD EXCLUSIVE FIRST REVIEW! of Half-Life 2 from December 2004. These magazines don’t just represent a dying medium, but also the glory days of my once-favorite gaming magazine. They offer a peek into an exuberant gaming culture that no longer exists.

I’ve also got boxed copies of many 90s games. I already did a huge purge of my collection 15 years ago when I threw away a lot of floppy-based games that had perished due to bit rot. I feel like I need to do another purge to clear out the stuff that I now have access to digitally, but damn it… I miss the days of physical media and owning stuff. These shiny disks are, in a practical sense, the last games I will ever really own. Everything since then has come prepackaged with Sword of Damocles 2.0.

On the other hand, this stuff takes up a ton of space, collects a ton of dust, and I never use any of it. I’m going to have to throw some of this crap away eventually. I just need to figure out which items I’m least likely to regret discarding.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to…

Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order EA™

Spoiler: At some point in the game you somehow get to wherever this is and do some stuff.
Spoiler: At some point in the game you somehow get to wherever this is and do some stuff.

Spoiler: This is my next big retrospective. I’m currently on my third trip through the game, gathering footage and trying to organize my thoughts into some sort of order. As it turns out, I have a lot to say about Star Wars, Star Wars games, EA’s relationship with Star Wars, and how Star Wars media has evolved since 1983.

I don’t have a firm release date yet, but I expect the series will launch sometime in August.

No Man’s Sky

I couldn't get beyond the patch notes for the Beyond update due to bugs that were never patched in the previous updates.
I couldn't get beyond the patch notes for the Beyond update due to bugs that were never patched in the previous updates.

Like I said on the Diecast earlier this week, I tried to play a little NMS just to see what’s changed. I haven’t really spent any time with the game since the summer of 2018, and there have been several major updates since then.

So I fired up the game to discover it kept auto-minimizing itself for no discernible reason. I’d start the game, it would appear on screen for a single frame, and then vanish to the background. I click on the icon in the taskbar, and the same thing happens: A single blink-and-you-miss-it frame, and then back to desktop.

I searched online and found scattered complaints about this going back to 2018. It’s not a common problem, but it’s apparently an old one with no known solution.

I decided to check on the settings file. Maybe I could force it into windowed mode? For whatever reason, the settings are stored in the game’s install directory under /binaries. That’s wrong twice. You’re supposed to store settings files under /users/Username/whateverI hate this rule, but this is the way you’re supposed to do things in Windows land. I’d rather have games store their settings with the app itself, but Windows doesn’t like that and requires administrator privs just to write there., and the settings file is an XML  and thus not a binary.

I set the game to windowed mode and tried again. This time, when the game opened up it had the window centered on the upper-left corner of my monitor. No, I don’t mean the window was on the top-left side of my screen. I mean the exact center of the game window was the top-left point on my monitor.  This means I could only see one-quarter of the screen. I couldn’t reach the title bar to bring the window into view.

I have never seen a game make this mistake and it seems like it would take extra work to even make it possible.

Once I straightened all that out , I loaded an old 2018 save and discovered that all the stuff in my base was powered down. Apparently you now have to build generators to keep your base going. That seemed reasonable enough. But then I realized this was going to be yet another system that will have you shoving fuel into yet another gizmo. The need to obsessively fill random bars to complete mundane tasks was my biggest gripe with the core “gameplay” in my previous interactions with the game. And now developer Hello Games is taking that mind-numbing busywork and expanding it even further.

I stared at the screen for a good fifteen seconds before saying, “Nah.” and hitting Alt-F4.

I’m sure I’ll be back in another year or so for my next dose of disappointment.

Hue

What a fascinating game. You can change the background color at will. Any foreground objects of the same color will then blend into the background and effectively cease to exist. I didn’t think that could yield a lot of interesting puzzles, but the game has been tickling my brain for hours without running out of ideas. You run into situations like…

“If I just switch to orange then I’ll be able to walk through this wall to the exit. Easy. Except… the FLOOR is also orange, so if I do that I’ll fall through and land on those spikes. Maybe I could switch to blue, but then the ceiling will vanish and drop all those boulders on me. But if I switch to purple and then move this red thing to stand on then maybe I could… hm. Interesting. I need to think about this for a minute.

Now, if this was the whole game then I’d be happy. But sadly, about one out of every four levels is more reflex-based. It’s not really a puzzle, it just has you hopping around while switching colors to avoid being trapped / crushed / dropped. These levels are more irritating than fun, and I get the sense that the fun vs. irritation balance is gradually pushing me away.

Still, I like how this simple idea has yielded so many interesting puzzles.

Eastshade

What a strange / charming game. I’ll talk more about this on the Podcast with SoldierHawke next week.

So Anyway…

It looks like some games are finally going to come out.  Horizon: Zero Dawn (PC) and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 are both due in August. We’ll see which one I get.

So what have you been playing lately?

 

Footnotes:

[1] I hate this rule, but this is the way you’re supposed to do things in Windows land. I’d rather have games store their settings with the app itself, but Windows doesn’t like that and requires administrator privs just to write there.



From The Archives:
 

195 thoughts on “This Week I Played… (July 2020)

  1. Liam says:

    Did you try windows key+left or windows key+right to move the game window around?

    1. Shamus says:

      Annoyingly, I don’t remember how I fixed it. (Apologies to anyone in the future who arrived here from Google, looking for a solution to this problem.)

      It was fairly trivial to fix, though. It wasn’t really frustrating so much as a, “How did it get this bad?” kind of moment.

      1. ivan says:

        For those same ppl, I know of at least one utility that can be used for this, called AltWindowDrag (googling tells me it’s also native functionality in Linux, curses).

        1. Asdasd says:

          Thanks for this! I use a portrait monitor next to a landscape monitor. I prefer to have the taskbar on the portrait monitor, and it gives me no end of headaches when it comes to applications launching halfway (or sometimes all the way) off-screen.

        2. tmtvl says:

          I (GNU/Linux user, currently using Xfce for gaming) prefer rebinding it from Alt to Meta (AKA “Windows key”), as Alt+Click is a thing in some games.

          1. SidheKnight says:

            Sorry for the off-topic. I’m curious about gaming on Linux. How good is it? Would you mind telling me what distro are you using? Thanks :)

        3. OldOak says:

          Windows 10 still natively has this (available at least since Windows 3.0): to access the system menu of a window you can press Alt+Spacebar.
          For those interested Windows system menu is the menu you get when clicking the leftmost part of (or mouse/right click) the titlebar (that allows you to move/size/maximize/restore/close a window). For game windows (which might capture and not pass the sequence to windows) you’ll have to make sure the window is active, but doesn’t have the focus (that is your mouse cursor is somewhere outside the window surface).

      2. Rick C says:

        This doesn’t always work, but for many windows that are partially or fully off-screen, you can usually click on the icon in the taskbar to select the window, then hit alt+space to open the system menu (of course you won’t be able to see it because it’ll be off screen), and then type M (for Move). From there you can use the arrow keys to move the window back where you can see it.

        1. Richard says:

          ^ This

          Also, Shamus is indeed correct that it takes effort to screw this up.

          If you do nothing at all, Windows will always position a newly created window such that it is fully visible, unless it’s too large, when it will make as much of the titlebar visible as possible, and always show the top-left corner of the titlebar.

          In order to break this, you must explicitly set the window position.
          For even more “deliberately broken”, the top-left corner of the primary monitor is (0,0), with positive going down and right.

          So in order to do what they’ve done, they had to choose negative numbers for both coordinates. By default.

  2. Daimbert says:

    I’ve been really busy lately, and so ended up redoing my schedule to focus on other things such as trying to get through “Pretty Little Liars” before hockey and baseball season restarts, and reading some philosophy that I had been trying to get through for years. That didn’t leave much time to play games. I carved out a slot for it on the weekend but have been installing GOG games to play on my new laptop, but haven’t decided what to play yet. I’m leaning towards starting Knights of Pen and Paper +1 or Tender Loving Care.

  3. ivan says:

    I have no real things to say here, unfortunately. I had 2 hard drive failures in the last month or so, one of which killed my Windows install, the other of which destroyed my massive collections of quasi-legal mangas and similar, as well as destroying my installs of a huge number of games and applications. So, re-downloading and reinstalling things has been taking up loads of my time. Keep robust backups, kids!

    Other than that, Skyrim. Some nice, nonconfrontational comfort food was called for, which Skyrim is the game version of for me. Also it’s pretty easy to get that re-setup, vis-a-vis mods and whatnot, as opposed to Morrowind for example. I did buy Oblivion on GoG, tho, so hopefully next time this discussion is posted I’ll have things to say about that game.

    1. Mark Ayen says:

      Funny, Skyrim is my comfort food of choice as well, and I’ve been playing it for about the last month when I have time. (I’m still working regular business hours-plus at the office.) I abandoned it last week for Final Fantasy VII Remake, even though I didn’t get to the Dragonborn or Dawnguard content I’ve never played before.

      As for FF7R, it also scratches that nostalgia itch, but there’s a lot of padding. Still, nice to see the old gang. Except Barrett – he’s even more grating than he used to be.

      1. Mark Ayen says:

        Oh, I did finally finish Greedfall. I liked it! It definitely gave me a pleasant early Bioware vibe.

    2. Daimbert says:

      Oblivion is the one I finished, and is overall a bit simpler than Skyrim — visually, at least — so it might well work for you. But if you get DLC, get Shivering Isles, as that was the part of the game that I enjoyed the most.

      1. Mark Ayen says:

        I’ve completed Morrowind and Oblivion several times (including Shivering Isles). I’m definitely an Elder Scrolls fan. Still haven’t bought the horse armor, though.

    3. tmtvl says:

      If you want to legal that quasi-legal, I’d recommend Book Walker. They’ve got a massive selection and I found the Japanese site (for when what you want just isn’t available in English) very easy to use.

      1. Shas'Ui says:

        Thanks for the reccomend, was able to find some titles my other sources were missing, plus the reader seems to work better than a lot of the others.
        The downside is I now have yet another separate library that the particular book I’m looking for could be in…

  4. Mako says:

    I’ve finally gotten around to playing Dujanah, and it’s great.

    Also, I’ve been playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in real life. It’s hard when you start out with 0 points in every stat, but man is it fun.

  5. Asdasd says:

    As someone who also has a bunch of PC Gamer mags in a box in the attic, I couldn’t agree more. I miss that time; the genuine sense that hardware and software were coming on leaps and bounds with every year, that there was new ground to be broken just over the horizon, and that gaming was a more enthusiastic, less fractious, more joyous and less angry place. It couldn’t stay that way, but I’m glad I lived through it.

    I also dearly miss big cardboard boxes and phonebook-thick manuals.

    1. Hector says:

      I have a bunch of issues from the gaming mag I worked interned for. Lot of memories there so I will never throw them out. Plus they have my first published material.

  6. Bubble181 says:

    I’ll say: hang on to any EA/Westwood/Maxis games you have on hard media! Even if you can manage to get them on line in re-releases or something, you’re stuck with Origin versions, whereas the original discs are still supported and simply work without. I just finished replaying some old C&C games before the remaster of the first two came out. Very happy to still have those CDs.
    But yes, I do still have a huge closet full of CDs and DVDs of old games, even though I very rarely use them, I do on occasion. Those I now own on GOG go the way of the dodo, those I don’t, stay.

    1. John says:

      I keep my old game CDs and DVDs around mostly because I just can’t bring myself to throw them out. I seldom use them. In some cases–Majesty and Galactic Civilization II, for example–it’s because I just can’t get the game to work on modern hardware or with Linux. In still others–Knights of the Old Republic–it’s because I’ve given up and purchased a disk-less version of the game from GOG. In still others–Command & Conquer or Tie Fighter–it’s because I have ISOs of the disks stored permanently on my backup drive and it’s easier to work with the disk images than with the disks themselves.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        Majesty still works on modern hardware – but not the disc verison. The version sold by GamersGate and GOG does install and work under Win10 without a problem. Just an FYI ;-)

    2. jpuroila says:

      Blizzard should be on that list too(see their kerfluffle with Warcraft 3 remastered).

  7. Forty-Bot says:

    > Half-Left 2

    Half-Life 2?

    > I hate this rule, but this is the way you’re supposed to do things in Windows land. I’d rather have games store their settings with the app itself, but Windows doesn’t like that and requires administrator privs just to write there.

    Every (desktop) OS does it like this for a few reasons. You prevent normal programs from messing with other programs’ (and their own) executables. In addition, if settings were packaged with the game, everyone on the same computer would use the same settings.

    1. Richard says:

      Actually, every commonly-used OS does this – Android and iOS too.

      As you say, it’s primarily for security.
      It allows you to mostly secure a machine by saying “Things in this folder cannot be touched without special permission”.

      Settings obviously must be editable without special permission, so they go somewhere else.

      It’s become a nasty mess on Windows because the rules usually weren’t enforced in Windows XP, so developers ignored them for many years. (This is one of the problems Vista encountered)

      And then loads of developers hardcoded the absolute path as found on their own PC, instead of using the well-documented APIs to look them up. Which of course breaks all localised installs, and means Windows now has a huge amount of built in “You bloody moron developer” workarounds.

  8. TLN says:

    I’m interested to hear what you have to say about Fallen Order. The bad parts of the gameplay by far outweighed the good parts for me, but in terms of being a “Star Wars game” it might be one of the best ones yet.

  9. Steve C says:

    I’m playing Star Traders: Frontiers. It is ok for what it is; a lightweight space shipping game. Three aspects keep frustrating me though:
    1)Unlocks require hard mode and hard mode = ironman. I do not like ironman in (almost) any game. Without working towards unlocks there is very little in the way of goals or point.

    2)Results are very arbitrary. Randomness is fine. I do not like random results though. The game is about mitigating the randomness, which is fine and not what I mean. I mean that you can take an action and it could give great results or terrible ones in fairly equal measure. No matter how good I am at mitigating it always feels like I’ve left value on the table for reasons outside my control. So every reward feels like I’ve failed to gain something better rather than actually gaining something. I think it is a terrible idea to pair it with point #1. Note these aren’t decisions, but random encounters and card games.

    3)The story and flavor text does not match the mechanics. Which means that decisions are arbitrary too. Like “sneak in and do X, don’t get caught.” Ok. I do that and somehow lose a ton of reputation. Or “dig up hidden data stashed in the wilderness.” I do that and I somehow lose a ton of reputation. Or an option to very deliberately throw your weight around and intimidate will result in less rep loss compared to a clandestine meeting in a bar. It makes no sense. If anything bad happens in the universe, someone somewhere automatically knows you were tangentially connected and should be severely punished for it. And faction reputation is more important than money. Since the description and the mechanics don’t jive, when I make a decision it feels like a random result. (See frustration #2 above.) Which means I’ve been save scumming to see exactly what results give what to learn why. (See frustration #1 above.) And I’ve determined the results of decisions aren’t random, just backwards and/or nonsensical.

    I would like it a lot more if it wasn’t shooting itself in the foot with all the variability. If it was a bit more deterministic and less random it would be a far better game. It is way way too in love with its RNG. Dialing down the standard deviation a few notches would go a long way.

    1. John says:

      I have also been playing Star Traders: Frontiers. Thank you for calling it a “lightweight space shipping game”. I’ve been trying and failing to find a good, short description for the game for some time now. I had been planning to go with something like “imagine Elite as a party-based RPG”. Either that or “you know, one of those space games”. And it is just one of those space games, isn’t it? For those who haven’t played it, Star Traders: Frontiers gives you a spaceship and turns you loose in the galaxy. As the name suggests, you can try to make your fortune buying and selling commodities. Or, as is also typical of space games like these, you can perform missions for NPCs. I generally go the latter route, which I think is more interesting, but even if you prefer the former you’ll most likely end up doing a few missions so that you can get valuable trading permits. The game also has a plot of sorts, though you aren’t required to engage with it. The early bits of the plot, which involve spying, sabotage, and a nasty space-feud are much more interesting than the simpler, drier stuff that comes later.

      Gameplay wise, the game breaks down into three types of mini-games: the space combat mini-game, the crew-combat mini-game, and a handful of extremely simple card games representing various other activities. The space combat is turn based. During space combat, you try to position your ship advantageously relative to the enemy ship, choose which of your weapons you want to fire given your position, and deploy various buffs and debuffs drawn from your crews’ pool of talents. Combat ends when one of the ships involved flees, explodes, or is crippled in some way. You can also perform boarding actions, in which case space combat is temporarily interrupted by the crew combat mini-game. The crew combat mini-game is basically Darkest Dungeon. Crew combat also occurs on planets during missions and as the result of certain bad outcomes during the card-based mini-games.

      I am not a huge fan of the card games, which represent various activities such as spying on an inhabited planet from orbit or exploring a wilderness planet. Each card game involves five cards representing five possible outcomes. Each card contains a short description of the associated outcome and a risk or reward rating of 1 through 5 so you have some idea of how bad or good it is. The possible outcomes are all clear (mostly) before you play. If most of the outcomes are bad, you’re perfectly free to walk away. (Unless of course you need to play this game in order to complete a mission.) The problem is that you have very little ability to influence which card you get. The game, such as it is, consists of the computer randomly assigning a card to you. If your crew has talents related to the activity that you’re doing then you may be able to affect cards before the draw. There are talents that let you remove a card, talents that let you replace one card with a new, random card, talents that let you replace a card with a known reward card, and even talents that let you replace the entire hand with new, random cards. However, you can only use one talent per hand and using a talent commits you to playing. You can’t replace a card with a new, random card and then decide that you still don’t like the odds.

      I am not always good at reading Steve’s mood, but I think I like the game more than he did. There’s a lot of scope for ship and character customization, which I enjoy tremendously. In my last run, my ship was specialized for boarding actions. The point was to get in close, quickly, and to defeat enemy ships by killing or incapacitating their crews. The ship’s weapons, such as they were, were there mostly to fight off enemy small craft (fighters, assault shuttles, etc.) while my boarding party did the real work. In my current run, my ship is designed to fight at extreme range. It’s armed mostly with torpedo launchers, which are fairly weak weapons. But it’s armed with a lot of torpedo launchers, and torpedo launchers are more likely than most weapons to deal crippling status effects to enemy ships. Unlike the ship from the last run, I’ve been careful to choose crew and equipment that make my new ship harder to hit. I’ve also put quite a lot of work into customizing my ship’s officers for crew combat. I don’t use them much for boarding actions, but they’ve been very effective against Terrox xenos (i.e., alien bug monsters) whom I normally avoid at all costs.

      Finally, a minor correction: only some of the game’s unlocks require you to play on Hard difficulty. The rest require only Normal difficulty, in which it is perfectly possible to save-scum if, like me, you don’t mind doing that. I’d say it’s about half-and-half. The unlocks affect things such as (a) which character classes you can start with, (b) what kind of NPCs are known to you at the beginning of the game, and (c) what ships are available to you. In my opinion, nether (a) nor (c) are terribly important. Your character can multi-class, and there are no locks on your second character class. Most ships have reasonably close non-locked substitutes. The initial NPCs matter more to me because they determine what kind of missions and special recruits are available to you at the beginning of the game, but even that’s just personal preference. You’ll meet more NPCs as you play and if you aren’t meeting the right ones you an always buy an introduction to new NPCs from the ones you already know.

      1. Steve C says:

        I think you probably like it more than I do. I do like it though. Just that I’ve had opportunities to play it and I’ve not. Which tends to make me ask myself why. “I like this. But if I like this, why am I not playing it?” I felt the same way about Thea 2 for similar reasons — too much randomness encourages save scumming.

        I agree with what you wrote about the importance of the unlocks… however my point was two fold- 1)It’s a unstructured game with no explicit goals nor win condition. You also cannot affect the setting in any way. Which means the only goals the player works towards are ones they set for themselves. That means the unlocks unless the player has strong feelings about something. And 2) it pushes you towards an ironman play if you want the ‘default goals’. I know I would be more excited to play it if I was making progress towards crossing off the checklist. Even if it was progress and rewards I did not care about.

        I also agree with the card games. I’m not a huge fan either. I was thinking about those in particular when I was referring to the extreme variability. Choosing to remove the worst result isn’t a particularly interesting decision nor interesting gameplay mechanic. It’s not even a bell curve. It’s just a 1-5 random roll where you get to see what you did *not* get. Pull the arm. See if coins come out.

        I feel the fundamentals of Star Traders: Frontiers are quite good. At least for what it is trying to be. Just a few things don’t sit well enough for me to be excited to play it. (Again I still enjoy it.) It feels like a few mods would be perfect for me. Like those card games. I would enjoy it more if I could mod it to use multiple talents and the hand did not refresh. This would turn it into more of a ‘push your luck’ style mini-game compared to the slot machine it is now. I would also cut all the negative rep for things nobody could know about. And of course allow saving at any difficulty level. Sadly there are no mods.

        1. Steve C says:

          Oh one other thing with Star Traders: Frontiers. I would mod ship combat and crew combat to display what is going on mechanically.

          I have the gist of the RNG mechanics. (Both sides throw huge handfuls of opposed dice at each other resulting in a yes/no.) I have enough info to determine that I’m winning or losing. However in a given battle I’m at a loss to why things are happening specifically one way or another. I just want enough information that if the enemy shoots and hits and I shoot and miss, I can properly judge why. If he is better than me, fine. If I’m better but he got lucky and I was unlucky, that is also fine. The problem is it could be either of those things and I cannot tell which one. It is the high variability yet again. I cannot determine how stats and damage are affecting both sides. And if I cannot tell, I cannot make meaningful gameplay decisions.

          That’s kind of what I mean by the fundamentals being good. The combat is fine. It just lacks the part that gives me a meaningful decision to make.

          1. John says:

            Hm. Have you tried looking in the combat log? It probably doesn’t have all of the information you want, but it’s much more detailed than you’d get from just watching the combat play out.

            1. Steve C says:

              I find the combat log to be too cumbersome to use. It is on a different page, is hard to parse, is full of irrelevant info and is ugly to boot. I just want to know what the size of our dice pools are and how far from max.

              All the stats for everything just translates into dice pools anyway so I don’t know why that can’t be displayed in combat instead of the intermediary info which is too complex to parse anyway. Take ship combat for example. Stats for agility, speed, range, gunnery, pilot, navigation, command, tactics, buffs, debuffs, damage (and probably some other things I’m forgetting) all translate into a single number= dice. I just want to see that represented visually. Not a line of text after it happens on a featureless green screen.

        2. John says:

          I have a certain weakness for space games like Star Traders. Possibly I just like buying and upgrading ships. Star Traders has a lot of ships and, even better, multiple valid playstyles for those ships. When I last went back and played Wing Commander: Privateer I came to the conclusion that once I had a fully upgraded Centurion fighter the game was basically over because Privateer’s plot wasn’t particularly compelling and the space combat was actually pretty bad. (I am convinced that sprite-based space sims were only ever popular because 3D space sims weren’t technically feasible yet.) Similarly, my Endless Sky campaigns tend to lose their appeal once I’ve got a fully upgraded heavy warship.

          Star Traders also has a certain RPG appeal. The crew are mostly disposable extras, there because I need to have a certain number of Pilot or Gunnery points or certain Talents that will allow me to automatically pass skill checks or avoid fights with enemy ships. That said, choosing Talents for my combat crew is very interesting and choosing classes and Talents for my officers appeals to my inner min-maxer. Which classes synergize well? Do I have enough Repair points that I can get away with multi-classing my Engineer into some class that also learns Command? That kind of stuff is fascinating to me.

          The result, I guess, is that for me Star Traders mechanics are largely their own reward. I might wish that the card games were more interesting–honestly, I’m not entirely comfortable calling them games; they’re just too simple–but they don’t bother me too much. My big wish for the game is more scripted quest chains. I think I’ve seen or done most of them at this point with the exception of some of the branches of the Faen court storyline from the beginning of the game. The devs are still working on the game, at least in the sense that they make regular little balance tweaks. They’re also very active in the Steam forums, where one of them suggested that they might add some post-Jyeeta end-game content at some point. I don’t really expect a lot from them, to be honest, but it could happen.

  10. GargamelLeNoir says:

    I have very limited nostalgia for boxes, but it’s because I lived in constant fear of scratched CD or lost CD-key.

    This week I’ve given another go to Age of Wonders Planetfall, but it doesn’t entirely click for me… It feels too slow I think. And the differences between commanders are not as meaningful as in AOW3.

    Otherwise I still regularly play Heroes of the Storm with my friends. My goal is to find how to be somewhat competent with every possible characters (except for Samuro who is a pathetic craven piece of dirt and not worth my time). I’m getting pretty close now!

    1. Retsam says:

      Oh man, I had successfully forgotten about CD-keys. Digital has its disadvantages, but I’m just glad we don’t live in a world where I can no longer install a game that I purchased because I lost a slip of paper that came with it or lost the original case.

  11. Fizban says:

    I picked up Dead Cells on the Steam sale and hit it pretty hard for the last couple weeks, but I think I may be about burnt out. Can’t get past the difficulty ++ (two boss stem cells). Either I burn my heals surviving a mere 1 mistake per map or so and thus can’t reach the end even if I’m crushing bosses, or I play a hands-off build which saves all its heals until I hit the 2nd to last boss and have to burn them all to survive. Either way, the enemies in the final zone are just so ridiculously ludicrously tanky that even with a level 7-S weapon and every possible point specialized to one stat, they just don’t care. The fun fades.

    And I also picked up Besiege, which I’m now tinkering my way through. I’m sure there are all sorts of impressive machines people can make, but I just hit the first air level and yeah I just made a balloon car.

  12. Geebs says:

    This Month I Finished:

    1) Sekiro. It’s absolutely fantastic, like Bloodborne crossed with a deeper, much tougher MGR: Revengeance.

    2) Death Stranding. Yes, I was (pleasantly) bored during the middle of the game. In the end I loved the way the systems came together and also it is the prettiest thing ever. Like, latest Unreal demo looks ugly in comparison.

    3) Dark Souls: first ever Str/Sta build. Forgot how easy this game was when you actually level up ;-)

    4) Breath of the Wild, like, about 20 times. The eldest absolutely loves the final Ganon fight.

    Otherwise I’ve been playing both Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, because Zelda. Also did a bit of Jedi: Fallen Order; it’s pretty good, but it’s no Sekiro. Also really odd that J:FO is actually much jankier than the FromSoft game.

    1. Geebs says:

      Addendum, because I forgot:

      5) Innocence: A Plague Tale. Starts out as a surprisingly effective Medieval tLoU, which does amazing things with its comparatively tiny budget. Then proceeds to Ratnadoes before going full Assassin’s Creed 2 for the ending. It all feels very Videogames. Bit disappointing, really pretty though.

      1. Scampi says:

        I didn’t find it too disappointing, despite expecting a more grounded and realistic setting and the fantastic elements imho came out of left field. I also played it over the course of the last week. Before, I had spent some time on Unruly Heroes, Slain and Valfaris.
        I also had some real fun with Dead Cells lately, but then a recent patch seemed to have messed with many elements at once and it either caused some bugs or the devs had a different idea of what needed improvements than I did.

        1. Geebs says:

          I liked I:APT but, even though some of the puzzles were pretty competently designed, it usually felt like the solution was “what would I do if I was playing a videogame”. Also the rat physics started out really cool but got badly undermined by later developments. Still a decent game, just could have been better.

          I love the moment-to-moment gameplay of Dead Cells, but losing half an hour’s progress to a mistimed parry of a previously unseen enemy is very off putting, and the devs do seem determined to make it worse with every patch. I wish they’d just made a (procedural) metroidvania without the roguelike nonsense.

          I keep thinking of picking up the slain/valfaris pack but haven’t got round to it yet; are they worth a play?

          Speaking of metroidvanias, if you haven’t already tried Blasphemous, it’s pretty darn good.

          1. Scampi says:

            I enjoyed Dead Cells until that patch really destroyed my fun. Losing that progress wasn’t all that bad anymore since I kind of had developed a flow of apparently quite good on-the-fly-judgements and I had reached a point where I (under the conditions as they were before) was confident in my ability to improve my tactics quickly and progress in shortening intervals.

            I really had a good time with both Valfaris and Slain, though I played them in backwards order. I’m not able to decide which one I liked more, but Slain I felt was a bit easier, though it might have to do with improved reflexes after carving my paths through Valfaris, Sundered and Oniken in the last months.
            Anyway, I would recommend both if you like linear action games. They are no Metroidvanias, so if that is important to you, you might want to avoid them, but I found them immensely rewarding to play.
            Blasphemous is already on my list i.e. I already have it installed and just need to decide to play it.

  13. Ninety-Three says:

    Monster Train Monster Train Monster Train!

    My Game of the Year 2020 is preemptively awarded to Monster Train. It’s one of those indie roguelite Dominion-style deckbuilder things which is a surprisingly populous genre for how niche it sounds. The game takes place on a train with four floors: enemies enter at the bottom floor, each turn they exchange attacks with any monsters you’ve placed on that floor, then go up a floor. If they reach the top, they start bashing the heart of the train which is your health bar. Each turn you get 3 mana, draw 5 cards, place monster cards, cast buff and attack spells, and when you run out of cards in your relatively small deck, you shuffle your discard pile back into the deck and start drawing from it again. In between combats you earn new cards, buy upgrades, remove old cards from your deck, normal indie roguelite things. You probably have an idea of what it’s like if you’ve played this sort of game before.

    The thing that makes me love it so much is hard to really sell in a description is that it’s incredibly well-tuned. A lot of these games eitiher have too much randomness in deckbuilding such that you feel like you have no control over your archetype and usually the best thing to do is just draft midrange goodstuff, or there isn’t enough randomness and if there’s a particular archetype you like you can force playing it every time. Monster Train is in a sweet spot where you are responding to what cards, artifacts, etc are randomly available, but you’re still making major decisions about what direction to take your deck in. Aside from generally being well-balanced, I think the magic is in a couple decisions of the progression system. One: when you visit a magic or weapon shop, you can buy upgrades that are applied to individual cards which do things like “-1 cost”, “Gain Multistrike”, “Return to the top of your deck when this dies”, ” 20 magic power but remove this from your deck for the rest of the combat when cast”. Which upgrades are available is randomized, but you get to see a lot of upgrades over the course of a game so if you’re looking for a particular set you can almost certainly find it. Two: There are locations you can seek out between battles that allow you to duplicate cards. This is great for achieving consistency, if you’ve got a particular card that does a cool thing and you want to make it the focus of your deck, a couple extra copies will make sure you have the effect early and often, and now you have a solid build-around.

    Almost every time I play it I end up with a deck that does something wild and wacky, and it’s usually something I haven’t done before. A single playthrough is short enough that putting together something totally overpowered delivers satisfaction and a quick victory instead of “Well, I broke the game, this is boring”. It’s really good you guys.

    I have played 150 hours so far and literally my only complaint is that “Hell Train” would’ve been a cooler name.

    Terraforming Mars

    This is a straight PC port of a very popular board game, with online play and AI opponents added for the lonely. Even max difficulty AI can’t challenge an experienced player, but it’s still fun to beat them by twenty point margins. If you want a min-maxy game of choosing between ten different ways to make numbers go up and scoring eight different types of victory points, get Terraforming Mars.

    Rimworld

    I very nearly gave up on this game, but the latest major patch feels like it was designed to address specifically the critiques I had been writing for years. They fleshed out the game’s quest system and shifted more of the challenge into opt-in quests rather than being entirely in the periodic raider attacks. They revamped the psychic system so that using it is much less punishing and it provides an outlet for low-skill colonists to do something productive that will increase your combat readiness rather than increasing your wealth. They added a bunch more cybernetics to the trade goods so you have more cool stuff to buy. This is a really good patch and I’m looking forward to the game continuing in this direction. I still wish they’d either rebalance the food and sleep bars, or let you automate how colonists address them because right now you can get way more productivity out of them by restricting and micromanaging exactly when they rest, eat, etc and even when I give up on the micromanagement it feels bad to know I’m throwing away all that potential productivity.

    1. sheer_falacy says:

      Monster train is excellent and my biggest problem with it is red. Like, everything about the faction, but the champion most of all.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Yeah, his revenge spec isn’t tanky enough to get revenge value without significant risk of dying, his slay spec is tricky to get kills on with tanks in the first row, and his multistrike spec has so little health that it instantly crumbles to spikes or sweep enemies. None of them are unplayable but they all feel like it takes work to make them useful, where most of the other champions just do their thing instantly. I do love Endless Welder Imps though and Alpha Fiends with multistrike are unreal, so I still like them as a secondary. Purple’s my least favorite: neither their champion nor any of their minions are individually powerful: they need to be supplemented with another faction’s attacking units to avoid leaking the first few waves while they get set up, and it always leaves me wondering why I’m bothering to play these crappy purple units instead of just focusing on the solid midrange of the other faction.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, I also almost gave up Rimworld. The new quest system adds just enough to the barebones message-history system, that I feel like I’ve got medium- and long-term goals now, instead of just fighting random raiders all the time. (There were quests in the game before 1.0 (1.1?) and the Royalty DLC, but they didn’t have these new UI-pages to keep track of offered / accepted / finished quests.) The sleeping mechanoid bases also help for these longer-term goals, because you can plan how you’re going to attack. Raiders that just drop-pod in, either with machine-guns or mortars, put you immediately into a fight, usually with your pawns in a poor position to fight back.

      The default nutrient dispenser is still hot garbage, so I updated my mod that makes it work like a normal stove with special, no-food-poisoning recipes. Then I updated like four other mods, and started a new one… A good use of my vacation. :)

    3. Baron Tanks says:

      I’m going to assume you’re already familiar with Slay the Spire (I think you maybe even posted about it before). If you’re not, do check it out. It’s also a great deck builder. If you are however, I’m curious to here how they compare as experienced by someone that actually dove deep into Monster Train. I’ve seen some comparisons, but those were mostly when Monster Train just splashed onto the scene.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        It has a very similar feeling to Slay The Spire in terms of the deckbuilding being well-tuned such that you’re responding to card availability, goodstuff.dek is viable but not the obvious only path. The moment-to-moment gameplay is pretty different, feeling vaguely like a tower defense but the kind of people who like Slay will probably also like Monster Train. I think Monster Train has one big improvement on Slay in letting you have customizable upgrades for cards instead of fixed progressions. It’s not just the obvious benefits of expanding the possibility space but it creates a good feeling of goal-directed progression. “Okay, I really want to find an Endless upgrade for my Bounty Hunter, I’m going to prioritize paths that lead to weapon shops and it’s gonna be really sweet when I find one…”

  14. Wangwang says:

    I’m playing Tokyo Xanadu, which, according to some people, is as main-stream anime as a game can get.

      1. ccesarano says:

        I can’t speak for Wangwang but I know I enjoyed my trip through Tokyo Xanadu this year. It was my first Falcom title, and after having played so many jank mid/low-budget JRPGs the last few years, it was surprisingly polished with dungeons that never over-stayed their welcome. It’s clearly got that Persona influence going for it, but given that I’m playing P5R right now, I have to say I might prefer some of what Xanadu does better.

        I can think of games that get more “anime”, but yeah, the structure and style of Xanadu is definitely an anime, but in video game form.

        If you have 60-80 hours depending on your completionist tendencies, then I’d say it’s an easy pick-up on a sale.

        1. Daimbert says:

          How action is the action RPG combat? I like the Persona games but tend to prefer the turn based combat in it to real-time combat.

          1. Wangwang says:

            I prefer turn-based, too. TX is my first action RPG. I started the game in easy mode, then turned it to normal after two chapters and some combat guide.

          2. ccesarano says:

            That’s a tough question for me to answer because I’m a big action fan in addition to liking a really good turn-based system. It definitely demands more from the player than most lower-budget JRPG’s (I’m lookin’ at you, Crystar), but enemies aren’t damage sponges and stuff. It’s basically about knowing which character to use against which enemies, so element matching.

            I believe you can set difficulty at any time, so if Normal mode is too much then you can drop it down to easy simply enough. I don’t think I was ever too challenged myself, but again, I’m an action game fan as it is, so…

      2. Wangwang says:

        I don’t regret spending more than 50 hours with it.

        1. Wangwang says:

          Which is all I can say because i’m suck at analyzing.

  15. Karma The Alligator says:

    Been replaying through Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen with mods, including one that makes it so you level up very slowly, so you can play the whole game at the intended level or lower even if you explore and do side things like massacre entire goblin tribes, instead of getting insanely high level and making the game a cakewalk (which in turn means you need to use the game’s mechanics and fight smart instead of just effortlessly win every fight).

  16. Mephane says:

    But then I realized this was going to be yet another system that will have you shoving fuel into yet another gizmo. The need to obsessively fill random bars to complete mundane tasks was my biggest gripe with the core “gameplay” in my previous interactions with the game.

    This is also my #1 gripe with the game. People keep suggesting I use sandbox mode, but I don’t want to just have infinite of everything, just get rid of the obnoxious amount of busiwork to refill and refuel everything all the time. I got by with a few mods, in particular one that quadrupled the amount of oxygen and protection against the elements your suit holds, one that removes the need for “launch fuel” altogether, and some more, but it was still merely barely tolerable with all that.

    My #2 gripe is the randomization of the stats, quality tiers, and look of ships and equipment. I ended up resorting to a savegame editor that let me copy the seed for the look of any ship, tool, gun etc onto another one, and a mod that just has everything in the game spawn as S tier with maximum stats, inventory capacity etc. Still, this only made the ordeal barely tolerable and made me spent a lot of time outside the game fiddling with my savegames and not actually playing.

    My #3 gripe was the frustrating rendering optimizations, in particular for player bases. See, in any game that allows some sort of freeform construction, I have this tradition to build a Menger Sponge. I made one in Minecraft. I made one in Space Engineers. I made multiple iterations for the Planet Coasters workship. Heck, I made a whole Menger Sponge puzzle for InfiniFactory.

    But when I tried building one in No Man’s Sky – not sandbox mode, but normal mode – the game soon began to stop rendering distant cubes at random, so you would never be able to actually see the whole thing. Halfway through construction I said screw it and just uninstalled the game.

  17. Dev Null says:

    Re: throwing away the old games.

    Somewhere, either in the depths of my parents garage or in a landfill because they purged it without the slightest clue as to what it was (and quite rightly so, after I left it there for multiple decades) there is a 5 1/4″ floppy of Infocom’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that 14-year-old me got autographed by a bemused Douglas Adams at a book-signing in 1984 or 5. That, and that alone, I allow myself to feel sad about. The rest of it is just packaging; the art is in the dance of electrons making pictures in my brain.

  18. Lino says:

    – I’ve almost stopped playing Brawl Stars. Ever since they added the new Season Pass, I’ve had less and less incentive to come back to it. Still, the occasional game is kind of fun.

    – Started playing Shadowverse. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a free to play CCG with an anime aesthetic. The game came out very shortly after Hearthstone, and there is quite a bit of resemblance. But unlike Hearthstone, Shadowverse doesn’t have as many (almost any, really) random effects that decide the outcome of the game.

    I’m a bit late to the party, evidenced by the tons of expansions the game has had, and the general complexity of the game. But I really like the story mode, and I’ve been trying to get through it whenever I have the time. The story mode itself is a bit like a visual novel, with CCG matches used for the fight scenes. There are quite a lot of pre-built decks you can use for the story matches, and I think the story mode will have me occupied for quite a while.

    It’s weird how much fun I’m having with the game. I generally don’t like anime, and I’ve never been a fan of visual novels. Maybe it’s the non-comittal nature of the story mode, and how easy the story is to follow? I don’t know, but I kinda like it.

    Homeworld Remastered. I’ve got quite a bit of nostalgia for the original Homeworld 2. Back in the day, I was completely blown away by its graphics and general aesthetics. So, when I saw the Remastered Series during the GOG summer sale, I jumped on it like a dog on a mailman. The bundle also included the Deserts of Kharak expansion. RIght now, I’m on one of the early missions from the first game, and I’m having a total blast. I’ve been on a bit of an old-school sci-fi binge, so this came at the exact time.

    Yoku’s Island Express. It’s a cutesy, 2D puzzle platformer, where the platforming is in the form of games of pinball. I beat this game after it came out, back in 2018, but I left it sitting on my hard drive, waiting for the day to be 100%-ed. Deep down, I knew that day would never come, as I usually don’t 100% games. But I just couldn’t bring myself to delete it. And I’m glad I didn’t. I had just hit a bit of a rut in my life, and I really, really really needed something to lift my mood, and this was just the thing for it. As far as I can remember, it’s the only game I’ve ever 100%-ed.

    If I have any complaints about it, is that the best parts of the game are the gorgeous, sunny parts of the island. Unfortunately, a lot of the game takes place in underground caves and not-as-gorgeous forests. While those environments do have their own charm, they’re not as fun as some of the other environments.

    Spelunky Classic. My preferred comfort food/time waster. Beaten it well over 20 times, now. After I beat Spelunky HD for the 3rd or 4th time, I uninstalled it with frustration. It just made me appreciate Classic even more. Everything HD changed, was a change for the worse. The controls in HD suck, the clutter they added was confusing, the way they track your time is baffling, the way of displaying loot and kills was unsatisfying, the sheer amount of stuff they added to my favourite area – the Ice Caves – made them trivially easy, and wost of all – unlike Classic, HD doesn’t support fullscreen windowed mode! I appreciate the variety of new enemies and zones they added. A couple of the new enemies are even kind of fun to fight, but it seems that no one thought about how that impacted on the level design. But the levels are almost the same size as in Classic, and the layouts aren’t all that different. This is a huge problem. In Classic, every time I die, I know it was my fault. The tight controls and large enough screen size makes sure you know everything you need to know, so you can make a good decision, and if you get killed, it was because you were greedy or clumsy. But in HD I frequently felt that I died, because my RNG just wasn’t good enough. This post is long enough as it is, so I’ll just say how baffled I am that this game got better reviews than Classic. Anyone who’s played both games should be able to see how many things HD changed for the worse.

    Crypt of the Necrodancer. Never been into rhythm games, but this one’s kind of fun. Bloody hard, though.

    1. Asdasd says:

      I was pleasantly surprised by Shadowverse’s campaign. The stories are interesting, considering they’re fluff that accompanies a free to play card game. The audiovisual production values are great, and the gameplay is fine (a tad simple, but that also makes it accessible), so it all adds up to an attractive package.

      How much, you ask? Er, well, it’s free. Completely free.

      I found Crypt of the Necrodancer an absolute delight. By far my favourite of the new wave rogueli(k/t)es. Got stuck on the third difficulty setting (where 2 hits = game over) but no regrets at all with the time I put into it.

      I’ve yet to summon the courage to try out Spelunky HD, just because I love Classic so much and I’m sure I’ll be forever finding faults with it. I suspect we’re in a minority though.

      1. Lino says:

        We definitely are in the minority when it comes to Spelunky. I think most people who like HD just haven’t played the original. I had the same problem when HD came out. I had already had over 1000 games in Classic, and I just never got used to the controls. But it was when I replayed HD recently that I saw I actually don’t like most of the other decisions they took with that game.

        Also, I’m STILL not over the fact that they changed the music of the first zone! In the face of that iconic Classic theme, the new tunes for the Caves are so faceless and generic…

    2. John says:

      If you want an easier version of Crypt of the NecroDancer, try playing as the Bard. (I think the Bard is unlocked from the beginning.) Playing as the Bard turns the game into a conventional turn-based Rogue-like: there are no rhythm elements and enemies don’t move until you move. It could be a good way to learn enemy patterns at your leisure.

      1. Lino says:

        Wow, I never actually thought of that! Thanks! I almost beat the 4th zone thanks to switching to the BardIt makes the game so much easier! I never paid much attention to the other characters, because I saw that most of them were harder than the main character.

  19. Zekiel says:

    I finally finished Pillars of Eternity 2 (after more than 3 months) and have moved onto Uncharted 4, which is amazing. Particularly nice since I got frustrated with Uncharted 3 about a year ago for constantly forcing me to do fist fights with rubbish controls.

    1. raifield says:

      I beat Pillars of Eternity 1 a few weeks ago and just started another playthrough. It’s kind of a “love it or hate it” game, but I really enjoyed the plot twist and how all your companions were…well, that would be a spoiler, I guess.

    2. Kyle Haight says:

      I have been playing Pillars of Eternity 2. Then last week a friend finally convinced me to pick up Sunless Skies, and I’ve been playing that instead. I’m not actually sure I like it, but I keep going back and playing just a bit more, so that says something.

  20. tmtvl says:

    Fallout: New Vegas. I don’t foresee having the spare time to play two games a week anytime soon, so when I finish the DLCs, the sidequests, and the apparel gathering I will resume my playthrough of Chrono Trigger.

  21. raifield says:

    I’ve got a massive stack of late 80s/early 90s ‘PC Magazine’. It’s a physical viewport into the world I grew up in, but was too young to comprehend. Computing was an extremely different thing back then and it just all seems so optimistic and naïve in 2020.

    I just flipped through a 1991 issue and came across an advertisement for some back-office software. You know, that business function that every employer has outsourced to India. It used to be done in-house. Everything, apparently, was in-house. What a world that must have been. I graduated college in 2008, so I never experienced it.

    I also have boxed copies of all my favorite childhood PC games and I’m never getting rid of those. Again: a physical view into a different world. Going to Babbage’s/Electronics Boutique was an absolute joy. Looking at all the massive cardboard boxes of PC games, eagerly reading the back, looking at the screenshots, and hoping the computer your parents sometimes let you use met the technical requirements.

    Now I just log into Steam, browse for a sale, and “I’ll probably never play it, but it’s on sale, so why not?”

  22. Hector says:

    Mark down Code: Vein for me. Its anime Dark Souls. Like *REALLY* anime. And it works so well.

    The basic idea is that you’re a random Revanent (a vampire soldier) who awakens from the dead, and you go fight evil with the power of friendship and blood. It mixes science, urban fantasy, and classic anime tropes without a care in the world. Characters are fun and the game just really cool to look at. You’re also never fighting solo unless you choose, which makes the game far less frustrating, as the AI will revive you once or twice. This really eases the learning curve against even tough bosses since you rarely get one-shotted by an attack you couldn’t see coming.

    You also can build many classes you master new abilities. You’ll be getting these Blood Codes right to the end of the game and basically all of them are viable if used correctly.

    1. Thomas says:

      I spent hours in the character creator of the demo. More games should look like that!

    2. Redrock says:

      I’ve heard people complain that the combat is a bit floaty and unsatisfying compared to Soulsborne, Nioh or the Surge, which has been giving me pause on that one, despite it going on sale frequently. How would you say it compares, purely in terms of game feel, the weight of the swings, that sort of stuff?

      1. Hector says:

        Actually very good. It’s clearly designed to be unrealistic with lots of oversized weapons, if course. That being said it feels responsive and weighty to me personally. Though you end up using iframes for defences quite often and monsters seem to not understand that.

        That being said, this is not a precision game and comparing this to The Surge would miss the point of either. It’s more about building a suite of good, matching abilities and equipment, not flawless combat strategies. But it’s also not a grindy game; that’s really only for mastering extra powers and is entirely optional.

        1. Hector says:

          Let me qualify the previous: enemies tend to have whopping health pools. You can *sometimes* get away with mashing the attack buttons but it’s poor strategy and enemies punish you for it. Combat is mostly about avoiding attacks and trying to work in the most counters when you can, or hitting an enemy from surprise so you can down then before they have a chance to recovet.

          Additionally, enemy attacks often clip through one another, but so do your allies’ attacks. There’s no team damage. I’d probably say it’s more like Bloodborne than Dark Souls. More about mobility and you usually need to match aggression.

          1. Redrock says:

            Sounds like it might just be up my alley, then. Think I’ll check out the demo to be sure, didn’t realize there was one.

            1. Gautsu says:

              It’s built around you having a companion with you at all times so difficulty is balanced with that in mind (they can resurrect you with their health about once every 40 seconds and tank pretty well). If the purism of a level 1 souls run appeals to you, the balance in this game might not. Some bosses are extremely easy due to this, but running without a companion (which you can also do) pushes them up to almost quite not feasible territory. Combat does feel a lot floater than FromSoft’s titles, but not enough to make me not enjoy the game.

      2. Thomas says:

        There’s a demo (at least on PS4, I assume other platforms) that might give you a good sense of the combat

    3. Addie says:

      It’s a good effort, but I feel it’s let down a bit by a lack of enemy variety, which is especially grating towards about the last third of the game. They’ve spent a huge amount of work on all of these beautiful, varied environments, and then copy-pasted the same four enemies into them, hundreds upon hundreds of times.

      It also breaks up the action, which is generally good, with some very frequent and lengthy walking-simulator dream/flashback sequences, which are clichéd at best, and downright tedious at worst. It will make you doubly appreciate how Dark Souls keeps its lore out of the way.

      1. Hector says:

        I’m going to give a contrary view, sort of. At first, I agreed with you, but eventually grew to like these sequences. They turned many of the generic NPC’s into real characters and showed a lot of links between events. It provides a way to build in backstory that doesn’t require a huge up-front info dump. Of course ,the player can always cancel these sequences immediately so if it bothers you, just… don’t go through them. The game doesn’t *make* you do them.

        Finally, they do break up the action. And that’s no accident, it’s the point. These give you a breather between the more tense and concentration-heavy action sections. You don’t have to like it, but it’s pretty clearly designed that way deliberately.

  23. Chris says:

    I finally got around to giving the 2013 Tom Braider a shot (and burned right through it in a few hours because Modern AAA Game). I thought it was pretty fun, but it definitely would have benefited from more exploration, less mook shooting, and no quicktime events.

    I’ve also been playing Outward. As horribly broken and janky and hodgepodge as it is, damn does it have some really interesting elements too. I would really love to see the core ideas of that game done better. Oh, and game designers: if you’re going to have me boil water for the sake of realism/immersion (which I am there for, as the kids say), a knee high wall should not pose an insurmountable barrier. Also, if you feel the need for an auto-run button, you have fundamental problems in your design.

    1. djw says:

      I love Outward. It is very janky, as you say, but given the small dev team I think they did a really good job.

      The biggest plus for me is the complete lack of level scaling. No levels at all, in fact, which means no hit point bloat.

  24. Syal says:

    Woo, this didn’t vanish into the ether!

    Finished Bug Fables a while ago, and have many good things to say about it. It’s basically a fangame of Paper Mario Thousand-Year Door, but a very good one. The characters are well-written, the story is interesting, the enemies are varied and tactical and there’s like six or seven different superbosses. Low-number RPG fans should pick it up. (I don’t like the environmental puzzles, though, those were all fairly annoying.)

    Played Monster Train which is basically a Tower Defense version of Slay the Spire, aka “build a better deck to fight tougher monsters”. Play two of five different decks, try to kill all the enemies before they get past you. It’s good fun, but mostly made me want to play Slay the Spire again. Part of that is having direct Slay the Spire artifacts, but I think the big thing, ironically, is that Monster Train is too balanced. Slay the Spire has a nasty difficulty spike going from Act 1 to Act 2, while Monster Train has a pretty smooth one.

    Had a powerful itch to play Final Fantasy 2 again. Played it correctly for the first time, as in “move forward and let the characters balance themselves,” and can officially say that Agility is broken and unbalances the game completely naturally; I was invincible by the halfway point not from grinding, just from getting lost. Still, despite the broken mechanics and trollish level designs, the game is quite fun, and I don’t know of another game that has those growth mechanics in such a good ratio, especially not a turn-based game.

    Having gotten back into emulators for FF2 I started replaying FF5, which still holds up quite well. I’m realizing that I don’t much like Act 2, though, and it’s probably to do with already having all the classes unlocked so it feels non-progressive.

    EDIT: Oh right, and FF13. Combat’s been alright so far, the voice acting is good, the plot is… okay, but I’m not liking it. The Paradigm system is annoying, especially because they show names of combinations instead of just listing people’s abilities so you have to memorize their arbitrary combo names (and some of the combos have the same name!) And the one Eidolon fight I’ve had was rank bullshit; “learn a new mechanic under a timer against an opponent with an AoE attack that cancels your attack and hit faster than you.” That by itself has killed all motivation to continue.

    1. Joshua says:

      I recently replayed FF IV again on my Kindle, and it will definitely be the last time. The game mechanics are so-so, and the story really did not hold up well to me.

      1. Hal says:

        I loved FF4 and have replayed it many times over the years. It holds a very special place in my heart.

        I think, though, part of the reason it doesn’t hold up very well is that so much was lost in localization. A lot of the game seems to come off as nonsensical when much of it was just material that never made it over from Japan, which will really mess with your ability to follow the plot, so to speak.

        1. Syal says:

          I think FF4 has the least going on mechanically. Party compositions are fixed at all given points, spells are gained at fixed levels, just not a lot that can be varied. Plus the graphics are early SNES, so not interesting there either. It’s probably the worst in the series to revisit. Which is a shame, because it’s the first one I played and I’d love to be able to recommend it.

          (But it’ll always be the boss music that others are compared to.)

    2. BlueHorus says:

      The paradigm system was what killed FF13 for me, within a few minutes of using it. One of those mechanics that makes me tersely shout “WHY!” at the screen every time I’m forced to use it.

      Dafuq would I need to try and memorize a set of AI routines in order to remotely control my allies when I COULD JUST BE CONTROLLING THEM DIRECTLY…like in all the previous games in this series!

      In the 20sided tradition of using car analogies:
      Turn-based combat is a car with a steering wheel; perfectly adequate for the kind of driving promised by this type of vehicle.
      But then some bright spark had the idea of fitting a high-tech steering wheel on top of the old one, so that I can’t actually turn it. Instead I get to try and work out how to get the boondoggle mounted on the steering wheel to turn it for me.

      Even if I can learn the system and get it working as well as a basic steering wheel – not a guarantee – I can’t see anything it adds beyond irritating busywork.

      1. Kathryn says:

        Personally, I loved it because I like running strategy better than running tactics. Much more fun for me to tell Vanille to be a Ravager and know she’ll automatically cast her best Fire spell (once we’ve found out the enemy is weak against Fire) than to have to manually go through Lulu’s menu and tell her which spell to use every turn. I found it allowed for fast-paced, exciting combat.

        (I will say, if I’d played XII first, I’d have been much more annoyed by XIII because XII allows such granular control.)

        Also, memory has its quirks…I find it significantly easier to remember that Relentless Assault is COM-RAV-RAV than to remember which side of the controller has the square button, which of those four buttons is the square, or what the square does in that given game. I haven’t picked up 13 in some time but could probably still list off a good chunk of the paradigm names and their constituent positions, while QTEs are a nightmare for me despite the fact that the square button has been on the left (I think…) for, what, twenty years now? Words are just so easy for me to remember (provided they’ve been written down) compared to anything else.

        1. Thomas says:

          I wish the game let you mix and match your paradigms much much earlier than they do though.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            This is a fair complaint about more or less the entire game. There’s a reason even a lot of the game’s fans talk about the 30-hour tutorial.

      2. Syal says:

        I try to avoid changing characters in realtime games, so it’s not a dealbreaker for me. (I played all of Tales of Berseria exclusively as Velvet.) But yeah, forced autobattle was bad in Dragon Quest 4 and it’s still bad today. And you could change characters back in Secret of Mana so no excuses.

      3. Vinsomer says:

        You wouldn’t want to control them directly, though. Not unless the battles were significantly slower. You’d be incredibly suboptimal and waste a lot of time.

        I know this because you actually have the option to manually select skills. You can play it like that, but the ATB system is just too fast.

        I approached FF13 much less like I was trying to control a turn-based battle and much more like Final Fantasy Manager. Much like Football Manager, you’re not directly controlling your party but rather controlling the broad strategy they use. And unlike Football Manager, FF13’s characters always pick the most effective option.

        If anything, I think they could have leaned into the management side even more. Maybe pre-program paradigm shifts like you can program tactics in Dragon Age. Or give players the ability to change formations to maximise/minimise AOE damage. I can accept that, with FF being what it is, a lot of players wouldn’t like the whole ‘spend time strategising outside of battles, then watch it all come together beautifully while you sit back and let the battles play out’.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          …with FF being what it is, a lot of players wouldn’t like the whole ‘spend time strategising outside of battles, then watch it all come together beautifully while you sit back and let the battles play out’.

          You can count me as one of those. However good an AI is, if it can strategize as well as a person, I’ll eat my (nonexistent) hat. With a human, you can enact changing strategies:

          “So it’s weak to fire, but it’s only a random encounter: I’ll cast a basic Fire spell on it to weaken it, then use physical attacks to finish it before it gets its turn. It’s not worth spending TOO much MP on, I won’t be resting anytime soon…”

          Meanwhile the AI would go: “Weak to Fire? Spam the best Fire spell until it’s gone, with no regards to the ‘threat level’ of the encounter.”

          And the idea of turn-based battles going too fast to that seems like it’s horribly missing the point. If you want your battles to go quickly…don’t use a turn-based system! Use a real-time one.
          Trying to combine both most often gives you the worst of both worlds, usually in a terribly arbitrary way.

          1. Syal says:

            It’s more a Chrono Trigger ATB system, enemies don’t wait for you. FF13 doesn’t have MP at all, and everyone heals fully after every fight, so no attrition to worry about. The changing strategies are the Paradigm system; “stagger/debuff/heal me/hit as hard as you can.”

            I don’t know if the AI knows when to hold charges and when to use them early, though. And the Odin fight came down to using an attack that moved my character out of AoE range, which I doubt the AI can handle.

            And any game that defaults to “autobattle” immediately loses points. You should have to turn that on in the options, not turn it off.

  25. Glide says:

    As always I’m playing old games, not anything fresh. I just prefer waiting until the bugs are fixed and the reviews have revealed what is worth the hype and what is No Man’s Sky. In the past month:
    Banner Saga 1,2,&3 — Had a really good time with these. The combat system is really unlike anything I’ve seen due to attack power and health being the same stat, and each army getting the same number of turns regardless of team size. It means you always prefer injured enemies to dead ones, which cuts against a lot of long-developed RPG instincts. The story’s good, and I always like having X-management sims stapled to every genre of game possible so the Oregon Trail-ish caravan-management segments are amazing.

    Her Story — Short FMV game with no particular objectives or progression, just use keyword searches to watch all the videos and learn about the story of one woman. Solid stuff, but not worth more than a couple bucks.

    FATE — I had fond memories of playing the free demo for this Diablo competitor that came packed with Windows a good 12 to 14 years ago, so I finally gave the actual game a shot. It…kinda sucks? I mean, it’s got a fun core gameplay loop, but it does absolutely nothing to change over time. Once you’ve seen the first five levels, you’ve seen 100% of what’s on offer here. It also has some infuriating design elements that actively resisted progression, most notably that it wipes the map and repopulates all earlier levels of the dungeon every few hours, so retreat and death become incredibly costly in terms of pure playtime wasted. I eventually gave up on the game before finishing, which I rarely do.

    Kerbal Space Program — I don’t usually play a lot of games without clear endings. KSP is really fun to mess around with and I put 25 hours into it as a sole focus before sidelining it. I’ll keep working on it as a side game for months to come, I think. Building ships is fun and doing orbit-y stuff is fun, but I haven’t quite figured out how to build a ship that reliably does the exact orbit-y stuff I set out to do.

    Shadowrun Returns / Shadowrun Dragonfall — Great tactical RPGs. I was surprised by how much story and roleplaying were in these – by the look and feel of the game I expected more of the Invisible Inc style where there was an overarching story but it was really a fig leaf to cover and connect the missions. I’m not super far into Dragonfall yet but I’m more excited to start gaming after a long day at work than I have been with anything this year.

    1. Redrock says:

      I believe I do this every time Shadowrun is messaged here, but it bears repeating – I believe Shadowrun Dragonfall and Hong Kong to be some of the finest retro-styled cRPGs to come out in recent years. They are downright my favorite. Sure, Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland or Divinity are much bigger, with bigger names attached, etc, but the Shadowrun games are tightly designed, the combat is solid the writing is great, the role-playing is heavily present in the dialogue system via skillchecks, which, for me, is a massively important aspect for a cRPG. I mean, I am biased, since I’m a sucker for anything and everything cyberpunk, but there’s just something incredibly neat and focused about those games.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Wasteland 2 was a massive letdown, it really doesn’t hold a candle to DF or HK. D:OS2 may be good (haven’t played it), but D:OS1 doesn’t hold my attention long enough to make it through the first town. PoE1 was a snoozefest, kinda interesting lore, but not much fun to play. PoE2 and Tyranny are the only Obsidian “solo” products that match DF & HK.
        The Antumbra saga and Caldecott push the two SR games to the top of my ranking where recent-ish top-down/isometric RPGs are concerned. (Though Kingmaker is also pretty great.)

        1. Redrock says:

          Huh, I now realize I’ve never actually looked into SR mods and user campaigns. I’ll have to check Antumbra saga out. And I should point out that D:OS2 is much better than the original in terms of writing and characters, so you really should consider checking it out even if you didn’t like the first one. The first game has a lot of trouble with establishing stakes and drawing the player in, the sequel fixes a lot of that, even if the writing still veers into “poor man’s Pratchett” territory occasionally.

          I actually quite like the two PoE games, but the combat and the DnD-inspired systems are a bit of a turn off for me. I’m firmly in the turn-based camp when it comes to isometric RPGs, and the whole DnD thing where you have a metric ton of skills with only a handful being more or less effective, and the effective ones being among the most boring ones, well, it just annoys me. I suspect that the only reason I managed to enjoy the combat in PoE is because the cipher class is just too damn cool.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            I haven’t played Antumbra but I will second the Caldecott Caper recommendation, and the love for the SRR games in general.

            1. John says:

              Antumbra, if it’s the one I’m thinking of, is not very good. To the best of my recollection, it consists mostly of exploring large, inadequately lit spaces looking for the last enemy you haven’t killed yet so that you can finally exit turn-based mode and go back to real-time movement. Caldecott, by contrast, is excellent.

          2. tmtvl says:

            I will also recommend the HK bonus mission, if you haven’t played it yet. It puts a nice cherry on top of the 3-layer cake that is the main campaign.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          D:OS2 may be good (haven’t played it), but D:OS1 doesn’t hold my attention long enough to make it through the first town

          I’ll jump on the ‘D:OS2 is better than the first game!’ bandwagon. (Like Redrock, I think I might do this every time…)
          Nevertheless, it’s…surprisingly, kind-of-unbelievably, a-bit-shocking-ly, better than D:OS1, and made me say ‘Wait, was this game even made by the same people?’ aloud.

          Also, it’s REALLY not a point in it’s favor, but Divinity: OS has the worst opening to a game I think I’ve ever played. If you can stick it through the initial slog through Cyseal, you can get to the combat, which is where the game shines.
          (However, the writing doesn’t get better at any point, and if that’s what was putting you off…)

      2. Kyle Haight says:

        I enjoyed Shadowrun Returns, but somehow never went on to play Dragonfall or Hong Kong. They’re on my list, though. Maybe I should up the priority.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          With Dragonfall the mechanics are nearly identical. The big differences are:

          * Less linearity. You still have the mission-based map system without any kind of open world, but there’s a lot more optional sidequesting and even the main story missions are more flexible.

          * An actual party. Instead of having the occasional interesting party member and mostly filling out your team with randos, you have a full named party and the option to hire randos (which almost no one uses). These party members also have individual loyalty missions.

          For a lot of people this is what puts the series over from being yet another tactics game to something more interesting.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            From what I’ve heard, Shadowrun Returns was a Kickstarter project and the devs had a stark choice to make: they had the time and money to make either A) a polished game with a decent campaign, or B) a passable game with modding tools alongside it…but not both. So they went with B).

            Dragonfall was the follow-up Kickstarter after Return’s success, in which Harebrained Schemes had a lot of the technical aspects out of the way and could focus more on the story and campaign. Thus it’s a far better RPG with all the trappings: companion characters, sidequests, a better story, etc.

            Hong Kong is the next step up: a Kickstarter that blew through stretch goals and apparently delivered on a load of fan requests. On the one hand, it’s like a bigger version of Dragonfall with more of everything, which is awesome, but hen again…you can feel the bloat in it. The between-mission ‘chat with the team and the shopkeeper NPCs’ sections can be exhausting. A fitting example of ‘too much of a good thing’.
            Still, very good, and some people like their games big…

            TL:DR? Dragonfall and Hong Kong are better versions of Shadowrun Returns – sequels in a good way. Definitely recommended.

            /Endorsement From Internet Rando

        2. djw says:

          The tactical gameplay in Dragonfall is basically a continuation of Returns (this in my opinion is a good thing).

          The story in Dragonfall is extremely good. Much better than Returns. If you enjoyed Shadowrun Returns then definitely pick up Dragonfall.

          1. Kyle Haight says:

            Well, GOG just put Dragonfall and Hong Kong on sale for 75% off, and I’m smart enough to know when the universe is trying to tell me something. Purchased. Now I just need to find the time to actually play them…

      3. jpuroila says:

        I liked Shadowrun Returns and started playing Hong Gong… just didn’t properly get around to it. I really should play it through at least once or twice.

    2. evilmrhenry says:

      Yeah, FATE just isn’t that good. There are sequels and the Torchlight series by the same dev, which get better, but after a lot of attempts, they’ve never hit it out of the park.

      1. Asdasd says:

        FATE feels good for a few hours before the repetition really starts to kick in. Not bad for a first effort I guess? The pet felt like a major innovation for the genre. Also, catching fish to turn it into various monsters was cool.

    3. Henson says:

      Some solid game choices here.

      I enjoyed my time with Dragonfall, though I’m not sure I would play a Shadowrun game as anything other than a hacker.

      1. Redrock says:

        Well, I think Dragonfall kinda expects you to play as a decker, honestly, since a lot of the interesting dialogue options pertaining to the main quest are locked behind decking skills.

        Hong Kong, on the other hand, is more into the mystical aspect of Shadowrun. That said, I still get the impression that a high charisma decker gets the best dialogue options and game-world skillchecks in any SR game. I usually throw in point in wizardry or shamanism for the third eye as well. Comes in handy.

        1. John says:

          It’s not so much that the game expects you to be a decker as it is that the game expects you to have a decker in the party. Blitz is more than capable at doing all the decking stuff you’ll ever need. I can think of only one mission where it is particularly useful for the player character specifically to be a decker, and that mission is optional.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            Yeah, it’s counterintuitive but this was probably left out of SRR for technical reasons…even though the engine is basically the same as Dragonfall! As it turns out, the scripting isn’t flexible enough to use conditionals like “if there is a party member with at least Decking 5”, so instead it all has to be written something like “if the player has Decking 5 or Blitz is in the party or Alnur is in the party”. With the large number of random mercs in SRR, this would have been insanity especially if you were trying to implement it in a GUI rather than by typing code.

            This is also probably why the hirable mercenaries in DF and HK don’t do much even in missions where you’d logically expect them to (Lucky Strike never helps the Black Lodge even when they’re ordering you around, Felicia Day has nothing to say about the soap opera star level in HK, that rando rigger can’t take over the cyborg troll in DF, etc). The scripting for that would be a surprising amount of work even if you know about programming in general but don’t know the specific limitations of that level editor. You can’t even code things like “make party member #2 say X”; every line of dialog has to go to a specific character, which means there’s an elaborate series of cascading conditionals for nearly every single dialogue scene in both games.

  26. DaveMc says:

    Any chance you might want to write a series of commentaries on things found in those ancient PC Gamer issues? It would give you an excuse to scan some pages in the name of content-generation, and perhaps provide a pleasant stroll down memory lane for all of us …

  27. Redrock says:

    Well, I’ve finished The Last of Us Part 2 last week and, yeah, everyone is wrong about that one. It’s not as good as the critic reviews suggest, not remotely as bad as the user reviews on Metacritic suggest, and not nearly as important as the whole discussion around it might lead you to believe. Everything they’re trying to do narratively was done a million times better by games that came before, but the graphics and the physics and the animations are all first-in-class, which in a sense makes the overall product even more dissapointing when you consider that such talent and effort was wasted on a story that’s partly a poorly conceived stunt and partly the result of a writer tragically overestimating their talent and skill. In the end, it’s a mediocre game with sublime production value, but no one is really talking about that and what it means for the medium going forward, if anything. In fact, the whole thing made me so annoyed that it’s probably going to become the first video on my Youtube channel sometime soon. I even got myself a lot of footage, so you know I’m serious about it this time.

    Other than that, I played a bit of Deadly Premonition 2, but decided to wait a bit for a couple of patches. The framerate really is as bad as they say, but mostly my problem is that it didn’t charm me immediately in the same way that the first one did. So, we’ll see how that goes.

    I’ve started playing ELEX again after abandoning it for more than a year. It’s the definition of eurojank, but it’s the perfect palate cleanser after playing an AAA title. If I bounce off ELEX, which is likely, I think I’ll give Greedfall another go, another nice but flawed eurojank RPG.

    I’ve also been playing around with VR after I got an Oculus Quest for my 30th birthday last month. VR is weird. It’s extremely fun and effective at what it aims to do. Shooting blindly while physically crouching behind cover is amazing, and something you just can’t get in flat games. But it is also exhausting. Every second I spend in Half-Life Alyx is a marvel, but the moment I take the headset off I realize that my face is itchy, I’m all sweaty, slightly nauseous and can feel the beginning of a mild but infuriating headache. Those are the negatives. The fact that I don’t register any of those things while I’m in VR is the positive, and it’s a pretty huge one. Still, setting it up, clearing out the play area, adjusting the fit – it’s a hassle, and a hassle is not something you want when you finally get some time for games.

  28. John says:

    The first time I tried posting this, it got flagged as spam when I edited it in order to fix an italics tag. But hope springs eternal and here I go again. Since we last did one of these, I’ve played Egypt: Old Kingdom, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Tie Fighter, and Star Traders: Frontiers.

    I don’t want to say too much about Egypt: Old Kingdom here. If you really want to hear me belabor the point, I covered it in the comments on the Diecast maybe a month ago. Here’s the short version. Do you like worker placement games? Do you like your history on rails? Then go play Old Kingdom. Were you hoping for more of an ancient Egypt simulation? Maybe don’t play Old Kingdom.

    I purchased Knights of the Old Republic from GOG because it was on deep, deep sale, because it was my birthday, and because my computer won’t read the third disk from my boxed copy. It’s a known Linux thing, apparently. Funnily enough, my boxed copy of Knights of the Old Republic is actually my third boxed copy of the game. I had to exchange the first two because my computer wouldn’t read the third disk. It was a known Windows thing, apparently. Anyhow, Knights of the Old Republic is still Knights of the Old Republic. It looks pretty good in 1600×1200, which the GOG version supports without mods. (Once upon a time I had a lot of goodwill towards Bioware because every time I re-installed Knights of the Old Republic on a new computer and applied the latest patch I discovered support for newer, higher resolutions. “How nice of them,” I thought to myself.) I did install an upscaled armor-texture mod, however, because the original textures, which were designed for 640×480, don’t look so good during in-engine cutscenes at high resolutions. I did not purchase Knights of the Old Republic 2 because, as much as I like parts of that game, other parts–Kreia, the plot–just make me mad.

    Similarly, Tie Fighter is still Tie Fighter, which means that Tie Fighter is still amazing, though I only got about a third of the way through the original campaign before I got distracted by Star Traders: Frontiers. I don’t care that it’s only 640×480. I don’t care that the ships are super low-poly and that the polygons are Gourad-shaded rather than textured. It’s super-smooth, it’s glorious, and I love it. And I swear, I swear, that one of these days when I get out my flight stick I will use it to finally play Freespace instead of just diving back into Tie Fighter again. Really! I mean it!

    I have already discoursed at length about Star Traders: Frontiers in this very comment section, so I will try to restrain myself now. In short, I dig it. It’s a space-sandbox RPG with enough crunch and enough scope for interesting builds and alternative playstyles that I have already sunk an embarrassing number of hours into it despite owning it for maybe two weeks now. I wish it had a little more narrative–which is unusual for me–because the latter half of the game doesn’t really deliver on the promise of the first and I wish the card games were more interesting but those are my only real complaints.

    1. Steve C says:

      with enough crunch and enough scope for interesting builds and alternative playstyles

      Well said. This is what I like most about Star Traders.
      I see two types of common mistakes regarding game balance in games in general. The first is where there is ‘one best way’ or some limited subsets. Where you should be doing X and if you aren’t, you are not playing optimally. Which can be ok, but kills long term interest and replay value. The second is the opposite. Where everything is balanced perfectly. When every choice is balanced against every other choice then they are all equal. When there are no right or wrong choices to make, there are effectively no choices at all. Do whatever. It doesn’t matter. (A Battletech patch suffers from this. And WoW managed to fail both ways.)

      Star Traders gets it right. It doesn’t do either of those. Instead it gives lots of choices and strategies that are valid, but you still have to implement them properly or you will fail. There’s both scope and crunch. For example you don’t need weapons on your ship. But if you don’t, combat is still going to happen and you better have an effective strategy to deal with it.

    2. Thomas says:

      My comment got eaten by the spam filter too when I edited it. I hope it just goes into the queue. It’s not worth the risk of fixing typos sometimes

    3. Mr. Wolf says:

      Last time I tried installing Knights of the Old Republic from disc it wouldn’t work. I kept fiddling with the compatibility settings until the installer got so confused it thought it was installing Empire at War.

  29. Eric says:

    I’m trying to get into Divinity: Original Sin 2 again and once again feel myself bouncing off of it pretty hard. Like Pillars of Eternity, in theory it should check all of my boxes, but there’s something about the core gameplay that is repelling me. I’d say I’m just not into party-based RPGs anymore, but I played a bit of the Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition again early last year and enjoyed that just fine. I’m starting to think that the mechanical complexity of the genre has evolved to the point where it’s too much work for me to find enjoyment with the games anymore. This thought saddens me, since I’ve been looking forward to Baldur’s Gate 3.

    1. Kyle Haight says:

      Just finished a co-op run of DOS2 last night. I think we’d been at it well over a year. I may finally be able to uninstall the thing.

    2. djw says:

      I feel the same way about Divinity: Original Sin 2. I really should like it, but I’ve never managed to get off of the first island.

      My best hypothesis is that the aggressive gear replacement is a turn off for me. I *did* like Pillars of Eternity 1 and 2 (as expected based on past preferences) and both of those games have gear that you can keep for pretty much the entire game.

      1. Joshua says:

        While I really like the game, it does have a bit of dissonance between some of the story and the constant need to optimize the character unless you’re playing on one of the lower difficulties. You have so much role-playing potential, but when you realize that you need every single point of XP you can get, and need to constantly swap out your gear, it does tend to take away from the “play your character like you want”.

        It doesn’t help matters that the NPC chatter is on a constant repeating loop when you have to shop so often.

        “Keeping it together, Bree?”

    3. Bubble181 says:

      This comment could’ve been written by me.

  30. Simplex says:

    “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 are both due in August. We’ll see which one I get.”
    I know you and Microsoft store mutually hate each other, but MFS2020 will be available for “free” in the GamePass Subscription, so you will have a new excuse to rant about how bad it is.

    I’d be interested in your take on Death Stranding (did not play it myself).

    Regards,
    Simplex

  31. Retsam says:

    The main thing I’ve played in the last month is Outer Wilds. Really loved the game; it says something that it’s a ew weeks later and I’m still pretty actively thinking about the game. (Also: listening to the soundtrack)

    There’s really nothing quite like it; it reminded me the most of Subnautica, if you took out all the crafting busywork and the base building; but really only because they’re the only games that really feel like proper “exploration” to me. I was fairly impressed by the plot and especially the world-building (literal and otherwise). It’s not a detailed and riveting plot overall, but genuinely surprised me in execution, and there’s lot of “fridge brilliance” where aspects of the plot and setting that felt like plot contrivances or hand-waving actually make a lot of sense.

    Also, there are some really clever easter eggs around one aspect of the world-building: (very minor spoiler) the time loop.

    Personally, I do wish the game had leaned a little harder into being a “puzzle” game. There’s only a few places in the game where I really felt I had to do lateral thinking to get past an obstacle. (And in one case, my lateral thinking turned out to be an accidental shortcut, not an intentional puzzle…) Most of the “obstacles” in the game are solved just by exploring and finding the answers in other places, and then doing what they say.

    It’s probably better for the game as a whole that it’s more of an exploration game and fairly “easy” overall – but I personally would have enjoyed the game even more had it leaned a little harder into its potential puzzles.

    Otherwise, I’ve played a bit more of Don’t Starve. I’ve played that game off-and-on over the years. I enjoy the game, but I find it a bad combination of mechanically opaque in game, but made a bit too easy if you just look stuff up on the wiki. I try to avoid wikis when playing these sort of games as I like figuring things out in game… but there’s just so little in-game explanation, and the rogue-like format is so punishing of mistakes that it just doesn’t work great in practice.

    I’ve also been trying to get into Cities: Skyline, both due to Shamus’s recent praise of it and a friend who has recently been playing it. I bought it years ago, played a few hours, but it just didn’t grab my attention. I enjoyed Sim City growing up, but it seems given more options of games to play, the city building genre just isn’t high on my list.

    I’ve gotten farther this time, trying harder to give the game a chance to grab me, I’m starting to hit the “interesting traffic problems” that the game is known for, and that definitely seems more appealing to me than just plopping down alternating green, blue, yellow districts, but I’m still not sure the game is going to stick.

    1. Joshua says:

      Don’t Starve also has its difficulty so heavily affected by mods as well. Wilson Houses, Throwable Spears, Freezer (as opposed to Ice Chest), Tiki Torches, etc. While I enjoy the game, it’s more of my wife’s thing and is not meant for long-time gaming in the same way that something like Minecraft would be.

    2. Redrock says:

      I have a very weird relationship with the Outer Wilds. I really like the concept, the world is extremely interesting, but I just can’t bring myself to care. I blame the style. The whole chill rustic vibe they have going on is unexciting at best and downright annoying at worst. If all of those weird-looking assholes just want to sit around campfires without a care in the world, why the hell shoud I be running around trying to figure out how to save them? I just wish there were some actual characters I could give a shit about. I still intend to keep trying to play it, but it’s just not drawing me in yet.

      1. Geebs says:

        I think only one or two of those assholes actually realises that anything is wrong, though, hence everybody being so relaxed. You’re SOL for actual characters, although one of the optional quests has an NPC with a bit more personality than the average.

        I loved the Outer Wilds, but the ending is a load of hippy-dippy BS which annoyed the heck out of me. Still worth playing through to the end, because there’s some genuinely really cool stuff to explore on the way there.

        1. Redrock says:

          I guess my problem with the game is that the whole solar system, as impressive as it is, feels like a windup toy. Coupled with the lack of decent characters it comes off as a bit too artificial. It’s like a puzzle box in one of those The Room games – intricate and beautiful, but not something I’m willing to spend hours on. That said, it’s one of those games where I feel obligated to power through it just so I can see for myself what all the fuss is about.

  32. Joshua says:

    I must confess I’ve not been playing many new games since the last time this post came up. Still replaying Civ V, Divinity:OS 2, Pokemon Go. Funny about Paul trying out LOTRO is that the game has been struck with server issues for the past week or so, and some game worlds have been completely unplayable in that time. A couple of days ago, I logged in for the first time in four months on a back-up server just to see what was going on.

    Occasionally I get around to playing Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the Switch. Really looking forward to Wasteland 3 when it drops in a month.

  33. evilmrhenry says:

    Recently finished Vexx (Gamecube). This is basically a super-edgy version of a 3D mario game, where you collect the still-beating hearts of your enemies instead of stars. The game’s main problem is that it’s too difficult. I finally gave up on beating the final boss, but even before then, a lot of the levels were basically comprised of five minutes of precision jumping, where if you mess up, you die and have to replay the whole thing again. Still not sure if I liked it or not; a lot of it was rather frustrating.

    I’m currently playing through Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. This is a 2.5D platformer with a couple gimmicks. First is that the final boss is available from the start of the game, but it’s really hard, so you’ll want to collect extra hits from the other levels first. (The speedrun is around 20 minutes long, because they go in there immediately.) The second gimmick is that the levels can be modified in the overworld in various ways, which creates a new level for you to explore. (For example, you can redirect a stream into a level, at which point the level will flood.) It’s basically a way to extend the game without building more levels, but it’s still interesting. I’m actually enjoying exploring the overworld more than actually playing the levels; the instant I unlock a new area, I’m crawling all over looking for secrets, and only visiting the levels once I’m reasonably sure I’ve explored everywhere. Not sure why, the overworld stuff isn’t that deep, but there are a lot of secrets.

  34. Henson says:

    Assassin’s Creed 1. First time through this game. It’s taken me a while to really ‘get’ what it’s going for, but I think I’m starting to get into the groove. But man, this game really suffers from 2000s-era interface and control scheme jank. It just feels so…unnecessarily clunky in places. And did you know that it requires eleven clicks to exit the game? Four is probably as high as you should ever go, eight is annoying, eleven is just obnoxious.

    Legend of Grimrock II Loved the first game, I think this one is even better. The ‘hub’ design is much more appealing for my gaming sensibilities than the linear path of the first. Was hoping my ‘farmer’ character could be a broken build, incredibly powerful, but it doesn’t seem like I can make it work. Still worth it, though. However, now I’m stuck. Have no idea how to proceed. Man, I’d hate to have to look up a walkthrough on this.

    1. Fizban says:

      I really hope the Grimrock devs make a Grimrock 3 someday. Sure there’s community maps, but I watched a best of showcase on youtube and they still all looked like they were trying to hard/missing the most important part (level/map/world design).

      Well if you’re stuck and don’t want to check a walkthrough, give us some info so we can give you a hint!

  35. Chad Miller says:

    Hitman 2: Finding out that they plan to let us import progression from this game into the third game rekindled my interest in getting all the unlocks I haven’t already. Elusive Targets remain an awful idea, and the Sniper Assassin mode feels less like playing Hitman and more like IOI trying to figure out if there’s something else they can do with the Hitman engine, but the actual Hitman levels themselves remain fun and I’m still finding stuff I never noticed the last time I played these games. Currently going for Master level Suit Only runs and loving it.

    Slay the Spire: Old news but the new Watcher character breathed new life into this game for me. The stance-changing mechanic is the best.

    The Outer Worlds: Tried to start a second playthrough but it petered out before even leaving Terra 2. Since I went full Phineas the first time, I had the idea to start with a different build and side with the Board. This led to the revelation that things are even less interesting than I previously thought; an early dialogue lets you discuss the possibility of turning in Phineas. When a character asks why, your choices are things like “I want the money,” or even “I don’t know,” but conspicuously missing is any option implying that you might side with the Board for ideological reasons. So basically the factions in the game are The Right Answer, The Cartoon Villain, and The Excuses to Get Slightly Cheaper Prices in Shops. Bleh.

    ATARI Vault: A collection of old ATARI games I got in a cheap Steam sale. Given how well these games don’t hold up, once the initial nostalgia wore off I found myself more interested in the manuals. For example, games were still new enough that the Adventure Manual includes things like:

    To move from one area to an adjacent area, move “off” the television screen through one of the openings; the adjacent area will be shown on your television screen.

    I don’t know if this is because video games themselves were so new that audiences wouldn’t be expected to figure this out, or because the art of writing video game manuals was so new that it wasn’t clear what needed to be explained. The second explanation is supported by the fact that Video Checkers includes almost an entire page explaining the alpha-beta pruning algorithm the AI uses.

    Night Call: A neat little narrative game. You play as a cab driver who nearly gets killed by a serial murder and roped into catching that same murder by the cops. This gives you an overarching goal while the meat of the game is still driving people around town while getting to know various locals (and possibly pump them for information). I had a good time with it although it would have benefited from a more structured design; there are some “wacky” cab fares like a ghost and a cat to keep the player on their toes, but I think it shouldn’t have given me one of those right off the bat and saved them for later in the game when the player might actually be getting bored of more normal fares. I also think that the inclusion of 3 mysteries + a free roaming mode was a bit much. All three mysteries start with the same dialogue, to the point where it strains credulity that all three could be placed in the same continuity.

    Coffee Talk is another narrative game that showed up on my Xbox and so far it’s…not as good. The setting is a coffee shop in an urban fantasy Seattle. In this case I imagine most of the interest is supposed to come from the coffee shop customers themselves, but then the first customer is a writer talking about how she’s putting off her day job’s writing for a novel she’s supposed to be writing, for which she already has a contract but hasn’t actually written any of the novel itself yet. It just felt too much like college students writing about their own surroundings (but with elves), and after what felt like 10 minutes of reading writers writing about writers writing I was already uninterested. I may still look at it again later.

    Red Dead Redemption 2: My experience with this game has been…baffling. It’s the most surprised I’ve ever been to not like a game, so much so that I’m almost certain to try it again at some point because I have to imagine that if my experience were even the slightest bit typical I’m sure I would have heard about it by now. I even played and enjoyed GTAV earlier this year. But somehow every other mission in this game had something go horribly wrong and left me with the feeling that I was banging my head against jank.

    The first time came with the hunting tutorial. The tracking mechanic uses a faint white trail, and they have the tutorial in an area almost entirely covered with snow. This leads to a session of fiddling with brightness settings until I give up on even trying to use the tracking mechanic. “Maybe this is the fault of my own eyesight or equipment,” I tell myself as I spend 20 minutes trying to find a deer corpse in the forest by brute force.

    At the end of one mission I have to chase some guy escaping the town. At some point I lose sight of him. I ride up to a road and see some random nobody NPCs. After a few seconds of looking around trying to figure out where the guy went, I get the Mission Complete popup and lose honor. What? I end up having to google the name of the mission to even find out what happened. Apparently there’s supposed to be a choice between saving that guy and letting him fall off a cliff, and my actions were somehow interpreted as intentionally letting the guy die even though I couldn’t see him or hear him or know what happened even after the fact. I think this is also the first time I gained or lost honor in the game.

    I had “borrowed” that horse for the chase so I ride it back into town and realize that the cart I drove into town is no longer there. I don’t know where to legally get a horse. After a few minutes, I give up and walk back to camp. A character immediately gives me a horse and then suggests we ride our horses into town for the “getting a horse in town” tutorial.

    Later there’s a mission involving ambushing some guys in a cabin. I equip my bow. There’s a cutscene starting a stealth tutorial. I try to draw my bow. I failed to notice that the cutscene had switched my weapon to a gun. I fire my gun at nothing, alerting the entire enemy camp. I still win the mission handily, which creates a dilemma: I know I just did the whole thing “wrong”, but since it wasn’t even hard, does it matter? I’m not inclined to skip a tutorial if I’m not sure whether there was stuff left to learn, but I also just proved the stuff I was supposed to learn wasn’t actually necessary for the mission which also calls into question how effective it actually would have been for teaching anything.

    Later I get another hunting mission. The mission ends when we find the bear we’re hunting, but without actually killing it. The character who gave me the mission asks if I want to go back to camp or continue hunting the bear. I choose to continue hunting the bear, but also save the game and quit for now because I wasn’t feeling it right that second. I load the game later and I’m in a patch of wilderness I don’t recognize. “That’s right,” I think. “It’s a Rockstar game.” I open my map and try to figure out how to get back to the bear. It’s not marked anywhere, I can’t find any kind of notes or questlog telling me where it was, and I can’t remember how to get back to it. I look at the map to see what else looks appealing, and the answer comes back “Nothing.” Haven’t touched it since.

    Even after all of that I’m not willing to say the game is bad, though if I were on a desert island with video games and somehow never heard of Rockstar, I probably would have written the game off entirely by now. Just this week I had this conversation with someone else that went something like:

    Him: RDR2 is so great narratively.
    Me: I couldn’t get into it. I can’t remember a single character’s name, including my own. How far would you say someone would need to get into it before they’ll know if they’ll like it or not?
    Him: How many hours did you play?
    Me: That’s a complicated question. I think most of the stuff I did took longer than it was supposed to. [relates all of the above]
    Him: Is…is that normal when you play video games? Does this happen to you a lot?
    Me: No, I seriously think this is some kind of anomaly.
    Him: Was there alcohol involved?

    Fallout 76: Just kidding. I’ve installed this one, for free, and still can’t bring myself to play it.

  36. Mattias42 says:

    Why throw that stuff away?

    Don’t get me wrong, I doubt any of it is that valuable, but the games at least might net you some dosh over on Ebay, or your sale site of choice.

    I mean, I don’t know any American sites/stores that does that stuff, but I know at least one here in Sweden that’s willing to buy games on a collection basis. You basically send in a few pics, and get an offer/evaluation based on the titles & condition.

    The tech manuals might be trickier, must admit. Not sure how big a market there is for those, but just thought I’d mention the idea.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      I’ve been trying to pare down my collection, and getting actual money for old PC games is difficult. There’s simply no market, and shipping those things is terrible. Then there’s CD-keys, bit rot, and technical incompatibilities to worry about. I’m sure the thrift store would take them, but that’s more making them someone else’s problem.

  37. Ramsus says:

    I finally got back into my playthrough of Disgaea 5: Complete after about a year of pausing mid-way because of getting too busy/distracted with other things. Beat the game and normally that’s about where I stop playing Disgaea series games because previously I’d been playing the initial release of the game and most post game content requires insane amounts of leveling. But in this one I’m playing the version with all the DLC and such and they clearly put in more effort to make the post game stuff actually within grasp and pull you along slowly rather than expect you to grind for longer than your playthrough of the main game. Of course there’s still some insanely high level stuff I’ll probably still wind up skipping, but I’m just happy that that’s just a small part of the extra stuff to do post-game that I’ll miss out on rather than basically all of it in my favorite game series for once.

    1. John says:

      I played a lot of Disgaea DS (i.e., the DS port of the first game) trying to get unlocks: alternate story routes, alternate endings, and new character classes. At a certain point, however, I realized that most of what was left was sheer grind, and for what? A couple of character classes with absurd prerequisites and optional, story-less boss battles! It just wasn’t worth it. I learned my lesson. When I played Disgaea 2 PC not too long ago, I played through the story stuff once and then just stopped. I think I might be done with the Disgaea series now. I like the gameplay, but I’m sick of the grind. (I’ve also lost faith in the writers. Disgaea 2’s story was just utterly awful.)

      1. Asdasd says:

        There are many Japanese games that are like a black hole of grind. Even celebrated series like Persona are all about it. I presume it has to be demand driven, which means there’s a major appetite among the audience over there for sinking hundreds of hours into arbitrary bullshit for little reward. Not that we’re immune to it in the West, but it does strike me as odd given how crazy their work culture can get – who has the time? The unemployed?

      2. Ramsus says:

        Disgaea 2 was the weakest game in the series, though I don’t recall the story being explicitly bad either. (It was also the least interesting of the entries past the original game in a mechanical sense.)

        But yes, prior to 5, most of the post-game stuff has required a lot of grinding to get to.

        1. John says:

          I didn’t like the story in Disgaea 2 mostly because the two leads were a couple of lazy anime stock characters and quite possibly the tropiest tropes that have ever troped. The plot, which, to be fair, did have a couple of fairly clever twists, suffered from filler and serious pacing problems. Even the twists were undercut by the totally lackluster way in which they were revealed. It was maddening. Then there was the post-game content, all centered on the single most annoying character in the game.

  38. Dalisclock says:

    Playing Red Dead Redemption for the first time(yeah, I know I’m really late to this particular party). I just finished the Mexico arc and made to Blackwater. I am impressed how what isn’t a particularly big game world FEELS rather big and somewhat varied and John makes a rather likeable mass murderer(who at times comes across as the only sane man around). Especially in Mexico where he literally wants to find 2 men and everyone keeps dicking him around in pursuit of that goal, to the point by the end he literally doesn’t much care what’s going on around him.

    Admittedly I haven’t played a Rockstar game since GTA:San Andreas a long time ago(and I didn’t even finish it because all the extra shit in the game just got on my nerves) but adapting GTA into a western feels like it works well, and while there is more to do, it’s not forced upon you most of the time, so the optional stuff is truly optional.

    It is interesting playing this having a general idea of what happens in RDR2(I haven’t played it but I’m somewhat aware of the various important bits of it). Including the exploits of the Van Der Linde gang.

  39. Christopher says:

    I’ve kept some old Club Nintendo magazines in a box. Last time I paged through them, I enjoyed the art competitions the most. Norway doesn’t have a large population. It was funny going through those pages of everyone’s best Princess Peach At The Beach and recognize many names from my art circles.

    I haven’t played a lot of games. Not like I haven’t got the time, but current events have me feeling pretty down. I feel like I don’t have the energy. I did beat A Short Hike and play an evening each of Princess Maker 2 and Sparkster for the SNES however. Sparkster’s Darth Vader is really phenomenal, and what drove me to it in the first place. It’s cool, if a bit hectic. More of a setpiecy spectacle thing than a big ol’ exploratory Mario World platformer or something. I almost finished it in that sitting.

    Princess Maker 2 is a little too grindy for my taste. I like raising the kid, but buttoning through endless repetitions of the same tasks to grind stats isn’t fun.

    A Short Hike is worth the couple of hours it takes. The controls are nice, and it’s kinda novel to 3d platform your way up this relaxed mountain while being so mobile. The writing isn’t my favorite, it’s the milennial angst sorta writing that’s definitely relatable, but not necessarily entertaining. These guys are no zelda NPCs or anything. It’s a good time though.

    1. raifield says:

      I like raising the kid, but buttoning through endless repetitions of the same tasks to grind stats isn’t fun.

      That’s how actual parenthood works though.

  40. baud says:

    I’ve just finished Halo 2 from the Master Chief Collection on Steam. I had played part of it on the original Xbox in coop with a friend, but now I played it from front to back.

    My laptop was too slow for the remastered graphics, so I used the original ones, which held surprising well. Though the few time I switched to the remastered graphics, I’ve found them a little too ‘busy’, less clear than the original. For the gameplay, I still had fun, but perhaps less than the first one: I think it could be in part due to more bullet-spongy enemies and more limited ammo loads, so I had to spend more time scrounging for ammo and perhaps too many combat area that are too small.
    Or perhaps after playing the two one after the other, I was bored with that genre of FPS.

    I’ve tried my hand at MP and it was a shameful display on my part.

    I also finished all the campaigns in Warhammer: Mark of Chaos & its expansion Battle March. As a RTS it’s mediocre, with maps that are too empty and takes too long to traverse, but as an adaption of the Warhammer setting, it’s mostly good (though it depends on the campaign or faction currently controlled).

  41. unit3000-21 says:

    I’ve discovered that if I open user content in Blood Fresh Supply then I can play Cryptic Passage, which I never did (I’ve only played vanilla Blood in the 90’s) so that’s what I’m playing now.
    Also Supraland, a quite fun indie Metroidvania/Zelda/Portal/Talos Principle. I really like the gameworld, which is an actual sandbox in which some kid constructed a world for little plastic dudes (you play as one of them). It’s actually pretty fun, the usual discovery of the world, it’s secrets and ways of traversal is as fun as in it’s inspirations. My only gripes are with combat, which is meh, and I kinda wish the puzzles were harder (they’re nowhere near Talos for example).
    Oh, and there’s the almost finished Tau campaign in Dark Crusades – after that only two more to go :)

  42. MikeK says:

    I’m currently playing KOTOR for the first time. I just got off Dantooine and landed on Tatooine. To be honest, I’m having a really hard time getting into the game. I was a big Star Wars fan in my childhood (back when there was still some magic left) and I enjoyed the Baldur’s Gate games when I played them many years ago, so with all the hype around KOTOR maybe my expectations were just a little too high. I still plan to push on and hopefully get a little more absorbed.

    That said, I’m really looking forward to the upcoming Star Wars series.

    1. Laser Hawk says:

      I was really, really fond of KOTOR. I hope you find the same magic in it that I did. As for me, I still have many, many old copies of tips&tricks magazine. It was my favorite gaming magazine by far. I also have a question for Shamus: Are you going to cover the Xbox Games reveal that happened a few hours ago? I feel like they have some strong titles for next gen, like Psychonauts 2, Crossfire X single player (by Remedy), Stalker 2, Avowed, Warhammer 40k Darktide and Medium. Fable is also coming up, I want to know if you have any hope of it being less infuriatingly obnoxious this time around, I haven’t seen any mention of habitual liar Molyneux being involved with it. Apparently it is a completely different studio working on it, the one associated with Forza.

      1. Gautsu says:

        I hope he covers it since we got 2 articles on the PS presentation earliet

      2. Syal says:

        So is Avowed a prequel or a sequel to Unavowed?

        1. Redrock says:

          Spiritual successor, actually. They’re also working on a fantasy spy thriller called Disavowed, and also, I believe, are in very early talks to make a new Matrix game called A-whoa-d.

          Am so, so sorry.

    2. John says:

      I like Knights of the Old Republic pretty well. I think it’s a great pastiche of classic Star Wars and a mostly elegant mashup of Star Wars and the usual Bioware fare. Also, it was the first new PC game that I’d played in around five years. The jump in graphics and presentation was amazing to me. That said, even I can admit that some of the dialogue is pretty rough. If you’re burned out on Star Wars, you might prefer Knights of the Old Republic 2. It’s famously buggy and unfinished, but it’s also more ambitious than the first game in some respects, has better dialogue and vocal performances, and is probably better at conveying its intended mood and tone. I have plenty of issues with it, but it seems to appeal to a lot of people because it’s a Star Wars game by and for people who have fallen out of love with Star Wars.

  43. Hal says:

    I’ve still got a box full of Nintendo Powers and PC Gamers back at my parents’ house. I keep meaning to retrieve them at some point.

    In any case, I recently finished Iconoclasts, a retro-design game with Metroidvania/Megaman influences. It comes off very light-hearted, but gets dark and heavy fast. I really enjoyed it, but do not let the aesthetics fool you into thinking it isn’t going to do something powerful.

    1. ccesarano says:

      It’s nice to see someone else have a positive response to Iconoclasts. It was one of my favorite releases of 2018 and I’ve already played through it three times (though yet to 100% it). I was incredibly surprised by how much I absolutely loved the story. Not many indies hit me like that game did.

    2. Redrock says:

      Oooh, I loved Iconoclasts. The story is all kinds of surprising, not just in how it combines the lighthearted design and humor with really dark themes, but also just how much of it there is. I thought it would be your typical Metroidvania, with long stretches of roaming around and exploring, and the occasional story scene sprinkled in. What I got, however, was a story-driven adventure. The thing really is impressive. I do feel that it suffers a bit from having a silent protagonist, like this is one of those games that absolutely shouldn’t have one of those, but it has enough interesting characters that pick up the slack in that area, so I guess it evens out.

      Also, that scene towards the end where you have to leave someone behind to open a door, and it’s all communicated via gameplay, is just fantastic.

      1. Hal says:

        Oh yeah. That was heart-wrenching. (Ha!)

        You know, the character I still have trouble figuring out is Elro. He went through a lot, to be sure, so I can absolutely understand how he might end up on the cranky side. But, you get to the end of the game, and after everything has happened, he refuses to trust Robin in anything. Never leaves his attitude of, “This is stupid, nothing we do matters, I’m going home and you’re going with me.” It was understandable in one sense, and yet it still felt like he was being purposely obstinate by writer fiat.

        1. ccesarano says:

          Given that I have a very obstinate family member that refuses to learn no matter what, I actually was able to understand Elro quite well. I think he’s a perfect example of someone that is just so incredibly stubborn and incapable of real introspection.

        2. Redrock says:

          I got the impression that Elro’s behavior toward the end was more about him distrusting Royal than Robin. It’s another area where Robin’s muteness drags down the whole game – because their relationship is so one-sided, you have to assess Elro’s behavior in a vacuum. Also, the guy really went through a lot, and he also had to deal with the knowledge that he was responsible for the death of his family and most of the stuff that’s happened to him. And that’s hard on a well-meaning idealist, can cause a man to break all the way down.

  44. ccesarano says:

    I look forward to your Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order series, even if I dislike it more as time passes. Or, more specifically, having played that last autumn, then played Bloodborne, then replayed Darksiders 3, I realized the latter achieves everything that Fallen Order had attempted, but better. The only problem is that Darksiders 3 has some glitches and other issues, but in terms of a character-action Metroidvania with some Soulsborne influence, it actually hits all those notes in a far more effective manner.

    I’ll try to keep some of those comments in check, however. :P

    This month I’ve dabbled in Dark Souls 1 and 3, seeing as I found Bloodborne enjoyable enough to effectively play a second time solo. I got a bit further in Dark Souls 1, and I “get it” when it comes to why people love these games, but I feel like the jank and other minor elements just… don’t function as well for me as Bloodborne, so I dunno if I’m going to play much more of them.

    Speaking of, I think I’m going to drop DOOM Eternal. I began a second playthrough of it on my Xbox One X and I have a better sense of how “For PC” this game is. And I’m not going to complain too much about that given the history of awful ports of console games to PC. This is a good port, but it’s clearly a console port of a PC-centric game. Even more, I can’t imagine how many keys this game requires me to memorize on what I already find to be an uncomfortable keyboard and mouse setup. It results in a game I like on paper, but even with the difficulty knocked down I feel like I’m just not good at the game (despite having 20 extra lives sitting there). Note that I only set it to easy after playing four missions on normal and just finding the game exhausting.

    I feel that this is, in part, due to the narrative. DOOM 2016 may have occasionally forced the player to sit still for a villain’s monologue (and every forum poster and games writer seemed to forget about this when discussing the game), but it kept its setting material simple and within codexes to read. Big evil corporation tries to capitalize on infinite Hell energy and only succeeds in bringing blood-thirsty demons into our realm. That’s it. That’s the plot. Now in DOOM Eternal we’re dealing with some Norse-race of Demon Killers and Hell Priests and the DOOM Slayer is part of this Norse-race Demon Killer order but is human? I dunno, and where DOOM 2016 at least had a sense of setting, so that each map was a continuation from the last in some semblance of narrative, DOOM Eternal is just a series of locations that themselves are a series of combat arenas.

    And after eight-to-ten hours of this exhausting experience that I only ever felt bad at, I was only done level five of thirteen. Time to call it quits, I think.

    My July has otherwise been a back-and-forth of Persona 5 Royal and Ghost of Tsushima. I am at the final boss of the former, but due to the nature of JRPG pacing and having found it completely unnecessary to use or purchase restorative items for 90% of its 107 hour play time, I now find myself stuck on a damage sponge of a final confrontation without the supplies to restore my magic/mana and therefore limit my strategic possibilities.

    It is very likely that I’ll have to roll back to an earlier save that’s about 1-2 hours earlier so that I can purchase the necessary restorative items, and then go through the two final dungeons that the game offers no opportunity for stocking up between.

    While I will claim it is partially my fault, I am certainly feeling quite frustrated that I’m stuck in this situation at all. I’m also tempted to just knock the difficulty down so that I can more easily attempt the final boss and see the ending (which isn’t even the true ending, I’ll need to play New Game + for that), but I’ve just been demoralized to the point of taking a break.

    Which is funny, because I was nearing the end as a quick break from Ghost of Tsushima, a delightful game that I can see becoming exhausting if I play it exclusively. It’s a curious title where every facet of its game experience is in some way flawed, from its melee combat to its stealth to even some of the open-world shenanigans, and yet I’d ultimately it is greater than the sum of its parts. It is also a nice compromise of the typical open-world hand-holding with Breath of the Wild’s absolute player-freedom approach, finding a middle ground that allows for player agency but with more of a guiding hand.

    In the first zone, at least. Follow-up zones may end up having more constant Mongol patrols or more aggressive bears. In the first of three areas, the game does not force these attempts at “emergent gameplay” on the player as much as recent Far Cry titles, and they are also often easy enough to escape. So the game isn’t frequently interferring with the player’s fun by trying to force a particular brand of fun.

    Those are the games that have largely been occupying my time. Yakuza Kiwami 2 hits Game Pass at the end of July, however, which is probably what I’ll be jumping to next. Then again, I just got myself a new, more powerful PC, and thus am not only transferring files, but installing some old gifted games in my Steam library to see how they play. Also curious to see how the Switch Pro Controller feels as a PC game pad. I had to shift some old consoles back into storage until I can move, so if I can get some cross-platform titles I’d hope to discuss for cheap on PC (or perhaps via Game Pass on PC?) then I’d be able to record stuff off the PC as well as the Switch. So who knows what I’ll be playing next.

  45. Jason says:

    Well, I haven’t been playing LOTRO this week due to the server outages. Actually, I was able to get on for an hour here or there, but without the world chat working, coupled with the fact that I’m in a pretty boring area, I just didn’t feel like playing.

    Started Assassin’s Creed Origins. I’ve played all of the other Assassin’s Creed games up to this point. Even played Odyssey for a couple of hours during a free Steam weekend a few months ago. Not sure I love the formula change with Origins. It’s very different than every previous games.

    Speaking of old games, I’ve been going through boxes in the garage. I’ve got an SNES, N64, PS1, PS2, PS3, Dreamcast, and maybe a Genesis, plus just about every flavor of Gameboy from original to DS (no 3DS though).
    I’m debating either setting up a retro gaming area in our loft, or just getting rid of all of them (probably selling on eBay). I don’t know how much use they will really get, and I’ve got emulators for most of them anyway if I want to play old games, I can do it on the PC.

  46. MR G says:

    “Everything Old is Even Older”

    You know what they say Shamus. You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older, and now you’re even older, and now you’re even older. You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re older still

    1. Joshua says:

      Not sure if you’re being ironic, but Shamus made a whole video with this song as the soundtrack.

      1. Syal says:

        Although that video is older than it’s ever been.

        1. Kyle Haight says:

          Things are less like they were and more like they are now than they’ve ever been.

  47. RFS-81 says:

    Magic, lots and lots of it. Mainly I’ve been playing Core Set 2021 drafts on Arena and Pauper on Magic Online. In Pauper, you can use any card that was ever printed at Common, so you can have competitive decks without absurd price tags.

    Imperial 2030 A board game that looks like a slightly more involved version of risk, but is nothing like it. You’re not playing as countries or armies. Instead, you’re playing as investors who buy shares in the superpowers of the grimdark future of 2030. Whoever owns the most shares in a country controls its actions. At the end of the game, you score based on how many shares you have, how powerful those countries are and your personal cash reserves. It is possible to control multiple countries. It’s also possible to control none and still win.

    It’s hilariously cynical. “Hm, Brazil is encroaching on my African colonies. Better buy some of their shares, in case they beat me there!” (In the end, I managed to buy out Brazil and won the game on the back of that purchase.)

    It apparently has quite a bit in common with the 18XX train company games. I’m going to play one of those tomorrow!

    Root A sort of … light war game about woodland animals, I guess? It’s highly asymmetrical to the point that every faction really plays a different game. However, it still has a lot of player interaction and bashing the score leader is almost always possible.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I’ve played Root before. Definitely a different experience with the way the factions all play completely differently. Had fun though, it’s an interesting direction for a board game.

  48. Joe says:

    Torchlight 3. I love the first two games. But somehow, 3 is just missing that essential spark. Doesn’t help that they’ve forced a crafting system into the game. I’m not a crafting fan. The one element I do like, though, is the railmaster class. It’s a variation on the pet master style. In this case, a train follows you around and provides additional offence and defence. Yes, really. However, the game is still in early access. They queued an essential update, but it’s a couple of weeks off. I hadn’t played it in over a week anyway, so I decided to uninstall. I’ll probably come back once it’s fully done.

    Liking ARPGs, I also tried Path of Exile. Again, it’s pretty good. But lacks the spark of my old favourites. This is less cartoony and more like Diablo 1 & 2, though with a ridiculous skill tree. That doesn’t bother me so much as the crafting aspect. There’s no money in the game, just crafting supplies and gear, which you can turn into crafting supplies. But I’m enjoying it enough to play some every day. It’s due for a big rework sometime soonish, whcih should be interesting.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      I don’t know if you’re aware of the official trade site (Trade is done alt-tabbed or on a second screen and requires both parties meet up in person. It’s a total mess.), but PoE has money. As with most multiplayer games with trade the community immediately established a standard trade currency. Everything tradeable is priced in Chaos orbs or Exalted orbs for bigger ticket items. In fact until you get used to the “crafting” system and get top level base items to craft on using your currency for things other than trade is an awful option.

      The “big rework” isn’t coming anytime within a year, but there are 3 month long leagues which reset the economy and have new mechanics. They’re nice, but suffer strongly from quantity over quality. It’s pretty much a given that any league will be borderline unplayable in multiple aspects (from new mechanics not working all the way to game not running at all) for the first few weeks until it’s patched to an acceptable standard.

      1. Joe says:

        Oh, interesting. Yeah, I follow. I meant money in the standard sense, not just crafting items. :) One day I’m going to look at the wiki to work out the crafting system.

        I have no interest in leagues. They look much like seasons in Diablo 3, and I don’t play in them either.

  49. The Big Brzezinski says:

    The internet ate my first attempt at this post, so, condensed version.

    Satisfactory left me cold. The map is solvable, the planning tools are wrongheaded, and the combat seems to only be there because video game. I broke the game in half by having a single factory I shipped raw materials to. It’s not as good at what it does as Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe or X3: Albion Prelude are. It does run well in spite of everything.

    Bannerlord is awesome. The combat is immensely satisfying and interesting for its simplicity and focus on movement and timing. I think horseback may be my favorite perspective to control an RTS. The stories this game generates could rival Dwarf Fortress. I’m looking forward to watching it become more fleshed-out.

    Age of Wonder: Planetfall was insisted to me as something I should purchase, and rightly so. It’s a great 4X, with tighter systems and operating at a higher pressure than its predecessor. I’m still trying to figure out why in every game I’ve started, I immediately drop to last in the power rankings.

    Finally, Empyrion: Galactic Survival is rounding out the month. Recent updates have added a procgen galaxy map with hundreds of star systems to explore, respawn options to hopefully end death loops, and a heck of a lot more narrative content. They’re even shedding the early-access tag next month. It’s a very different experience playing from just a few months ago. So many old ship designs to go back and tinker with…

    1. Redrock says:

      I read “Empyrion” as “Endymion” and thought, holy shit, did someone really make a Hyperion Cantos game? Reality, however, is often dissapointing. And now I badly want a Hyperion Cantos game.

  50. jpuroila says:

    Fallout: New Vegas
    Yet another playthrough, yet another set of mods. I’m not on my desktop right now, so I don’t have the list, but Deserter’s Fortress turned out to be very disappointing. Very powerful enemies with ridiculously expensive gear, that somehow couldn’t deal damage to me. The real kicker was that when I found the target I was supposed to kill… he was marked as essential and couldn’t be killed.

    I also have set the game to very hard and actually enabled hardcore mode for the first time. The game doesn’t really feel much harder than hard difficulty and hardcore mode is… as I was expecting, really. I like the idea, but in practice it just doesn’t add much to the game apart from some minor annoyances like needing to stock up on water and doctor’s bags (though part of that is no doubt because I’m playing heavily melee focused and thus don’t need to lug around tons of ammo).

    <Hearts of Iron IV with Old World Blues mod
    Played New Vegas, got functionally infinite manpower(there’s a policy which gives you 300 manpower a week, exclusive to New Vegas. For those of you who haven’t played the mod, it tones down numbers, so that’s a HUGE amount when the game runs for years), then was attacked by Ceasar’s Legion and NCR at the same time. Eventually started winning the war(it’s really easy to survive as New Vegas so long as you control the dam and Mojave Raiders since there are three bottlenecks that can be used to force enemies to standstill so long as you’re not attacked from North), got bored since it would take forever to take all the territory and started another playthrough.

    Played Republic of Rio Grande, flailed around until achieving technocracy, then took out two of the major AIs(not to be confused with AI-controlled players – basically, there are two major artificial intelligences who, according to this mod, control large parts of Mexico and one of whom eventually splinters to three), realized that to continue down the focus tree I’d have to attack Petro Chico… who has huge reserves… across a river. Not fun.

    So… yeah. That’s HoI4(or at least, this mod – I haven’t played much of the base game) for me. Play for a couple days, either achieve my major objectives, lose, or get slogged down in some war that I can probably win but will take forever, then grow bored of the playthrough and either stop playing for a time, or start another with a different nation. I usually end up favouring high tech. Right now I’m playing as New Reno going for supermutant faction(New Reno can also become the Enclave – or rather, AN Enclave, there’s another that can spawn when NCR civil war starts but sadly I don’t think you can actually play that one) but after I’m done, I think I’ll put the game aside for a while – or maybe try the base game.

    Hitman: Absolution
    Got it for free from GOG a while ago(fortunately I have friends who inform me of these things at least sometimes), and I’ve been sort of interested in giving the series a go, so I figured why not. Installed the game with Wine no problem, then discovered that it looks awful with 16:9 screen(it detects the resolution, but instead of giving a larger field of view the game is just stretched). Alt+F4. Tried digging around for a fix but couldn’t find one. Might give it a try anyway, but it’s supposed to be the worst(or one of the worst?) game in the series, so eh.

    [blockquote]I hate this rule, but this is the way you’re supposed to do things in Windows land. I’d rather have games store their settings with the app itself, but Windows doesn’t like that and requires administrator privs just to write there.[/blockquote]
    It’s actually how you’re supposed to do things in *nix as well. Well, sort of. There are global configuration files for programs, but those are overridden by the user’s own configuration files(which, naturally, are located somewhere in the user’s home directory). Of course games(from outside the package management system, anyway – doesn’t apply if you’re installing OpenMW via a PPA or 0AD or SuperTuxCart) are installed into the user’s home directory, so that shouldn’t be an issue… but .ini files and mods STILL end up being in a different directory(presumably because Steam and other clients can randomly decide to overwrite the game’s own directory with an update).

    Hue
    I distinctly remember playing at least 2 or 3 flash games on Newgrounds with the same(or at least, very similar) core concept.

  51. Mr. Wolf says:

    I think I may be the only person I know who still buys print magazines. My publication of choice was always PCPowerplay, “Australia’s #1 PC Gaming Mag”, which to be honest was an overly narrow superlative even back in their hey-day. Despite that, it was a quality publication: news, reviews, everything you’d expect, and their writers had style and seemed to be on the same wavelength as me. Unfortunately it’s gone downhill in recent years. I don’t fault the writers or editors, it’s just that that long predicted “death of print” is slowly happening, and tech news is among the first to be hit.

    Anyway, first this week’s games are Beyond a Steel Sky, sequel to 1994’s cult classic Beneath a Steel Sky, It’s not bad. It’s still a post-apoc cyberpunk adventure game, but the tone is different. Less Blade Runner and more… actually I don’t know enough dystopian fiction to make an apt comparison. Also, the ending was trying way too hard.

    Second, A Plague Tale: Innocence. I believe Geebs had it right in an earlier comment: the game is a little too gamey at points, but the atmosphere is fantastic.

  52. The Wind King says:

    Have been playing Dying Light (because it’s still apparently getting “community events” and “Texture pack DLCs”)

    There’s something oddly charming about that game, which I think is best summed up in the “Magic Fortress” series of quests, but my god the game is jank in the most perverse way. Throwing up a “NIGHT SURVIVED” banner as it teleports the nocturnal super zombies into the cave I’m in because I need to harvest mushrooms for a “Witches brew” (read in Homestar’s voice).

    Yes I survived the night, now I’m not likely to survive the next 30 seconds.

    Still once you start getting into the swing of things and realise how to break the combat (Burning Throwing Stars) it is a genuinely fun experience.

  53. Dreadjaws says:

    So, for some reason I missed this article yesterday. I refreshed the page a few times during the day and simply assumed there wasn’t one. I launch the browser today and there it is.

    So, I’m late to this, but now I’m playing recently launched Carrion. And by “recently”, I mean “yesterday”. It’s quite a lot of fun. Imagine something like John Carpenter’s The Thing in which you play as the monster. It’s rare for me these days to purchase a game on launch day, but this game released a demo a few months ago and I loved it, so I purchased the full game on GOG.

  54. Lars says:

    The disappointment engine let you build solar panels early and easy. Power is not much of an issue once set up.

    In July I played a lot Satisfactory (Steam), which is really good, a lot of Dark and Light, which is not recommended, a bit of Spider-Man: No Subtitle (That fighting system is driving me nuts) and too much Duel Links.

  55. A Gould says:

    Thank you for putting your finger on why I bailed on Hue – I think I’m not far from the end, but it’s getting to “do mid-air color switches” shenanigans and I just don’t have the reflexes for it.

  56. Dragmire says:

    I’m playing Command & Conquer now that it’s been updated to work on new systems.
    I’m amazed at the sheer volume of nostalgia I feel while playing it. I got chills from the installation video and that feels so weird…

  57. MelTorefas says:

    I’ve been playing a lot of ARK: Survival Evolved. It’s poorly optimized and poorly maintained, but offers a unique experience, and love taming things and turning them into pets in games. It also has mod support and a LOT of mods, which have made it a great deal more fun. I am currently playing with a mod called Pyria: Mythos Evolved. It adds a bunch of fantasy creatures and magic crafting to the game, and I am loving it. So far I have tamed a shark person, a centaur, and a small wyvern thing. I journeyed north to hunt for pelts for crafting, and both me and my awesome pteranodon mount were then subsequently devoured by a firebreathing dragon-thing.

  58. Jordan says:

    I’d rather have games store their settings with the app itself

    Oh that’s kind of garbage too. Then you run into the situation that uninstalling a game now erases your savefile (potentially, at least). I do wish there weren’t generally at least 7 seperate common save file locations (roaming or local appdata, Users/Saved Games/, My Documents, My Documents/My Games, My Documents/Saved Games/, and for some reason also My Documents/SavedGames too). Not to mention cloud save folders. Makes backups a real pain. Plus it means My Documents will never be a tidy folder because of applications saving things that are not documents into it instead of just using the appdata folders as intended.

  59. EOW says:

    I’ve been playing old jrpgs on emulation, in particular i got hooked to the first Shin Megami Tensei for snes. It’s a fun dungeon crawler with a nice story (as much as an early snes jrpg could give) and a rudimentary morality system. It’s basically law vs chaos with an option to be neutral and unlike many karma systems being neutral actually has benefits and a story route. Actually i feel the morality system is deeper than some rpgs in which the options are only “be jesus” and “eat babies”.
    For those who don’t know SMT is the series from which Persona spawned, but the two are fundamentally different in tone and stories. SMT tends to be darker and more morally grey.
    Also it’s a monster catching game, you capture demons and you use them to fight and capture more powerful demons.

    I found myself surprisingly hooked

    1. Syal says:

      As a warning: haven’t played myself, but I’ve read that SMT1 mid-lategame requires a lawful alignment because the chaos option is bugged and doesn’t trigger. So chaos playthroughs have to become lawful for that and then go back to being chaotic afterward.

      (Although apparently the bug is caused by the English translation patch, so if you can disable that it works correctly? I dunno.)

  60. Philadelphus says:

    I’ve been on a…nostalgia trip, I guess, lately, and playing a mix of new (to me) games and games I haven’t played in a while.

    — I’m still playing Noita off and on—it’s nice because you can play for as long or short as you want, and the Holy Mountains make a convenient stopping point between levels. I’ve a little collection of mods to tailor it to how I want to play, so that I regenerate the bottom 20% of my health and always start with the ability to edit wand anywhere, for instance.
    — I picked up Satisfactory in June after it came to Steam, and have been enjoying that. I’m almost 60 hours in and have just started setting up oil refineries. I realized I like it partly because there’s no way to lose—a Creeper isn’t going to come along and blow up half the factory you just spent an hour building because you momentarily let your guard down, or anything like that. Anything you put there will stay there until you explicitly change it later, and it’s a comforting feeling of control and stability in these chaotic times. (You can die to aliens and lose the stuff you were carrying—and as a mild arachnophobe, oh my word are those giant alien spiders terrifying—but the one time it’s happened to me so far I just reloaded an autosave from 5 minutes before.)
    — I started playing through Knights of the Old Republic II again. I had it on CD way back in 2008, then picked it up on Steam when it released (with surprise Linux support!). I played through it maybe 7–8 times on CD, now I’m trying to get all the achievements in 2 playthroughs.
    Creeper World III: Arc Eternal. I just love physics simulations in games, and if you don’t know the Creeper World series they’re basically a semi-tower defense about fighting an evil fluid simulation. It’s another great game for firing up to play a few (of the many ten of thousands of available) maps on for as long or a short as you like in between other games.
    Stellaris. I was reminiscing about some past games of it with my brother last week, and I’ve now fired up a game with the largest galaxy and maximum possible (unmodded) number of other empires/entities. Currently on yet another attempt to get The Unbidden to spawn as the crisis, which I have not seen in the…*checks Steam*…440 hours I’ve put into the game so far (it’s one of the four end-game crises that can happen, and I almost always play long enough to trigger them, I just have really weird luck apparently).

  61. Thomas says:

    I’ve been stuck in a non-completionist rut lately.
    ———————-
    Stars Wars: Fallen Order. The combat is fun, it was the first game that sold me on the “die repeat” thing but I can’t get into it 1) Ponchos are not cool. 2) All the levels are monster labyrinths.

    Some people play for the gameplay challenge, some play for the immersion. I’m very much in the latter camp, so level design which is obviously just a bunch of non-sensical gameplay corridors just doesn’t do it for me. Particularly in Star Wars where I want worlds to feel like worlds. And none of the mechanics feel very Star Wars.

    I’ve only done Dathomir, the first level and the cold level with the stormtroopers, so if you ever go to a planet that feels more like a real place, let me know.
    ———————————————
    Assassins Creed: Odyssey. I went to an island where there were a series of sidequests that all contributed to the main quest, with the same characters throughout, and there was a climax and an epilogue that asked you to make choices. That was a novel experience in an AC game. Shame the grind spoils it. I enjoyed that section, but I got bored and quit again but probably only advanced 1% of the main storyline. I killed a major cultist. Nothing happened.
    ———————————————-
    Superhot. The mechanics for Superhot are so entertaining, it’s a total dream to play. I’d love to replay levels endlessly to get the perfect cool and quick takedowns. Unfortunately the game doesn’t let you replay levels until you complete the story.
    I’m not a fan of the story. Spec Ops: The Line worked because Walker was a character in his own right and the story made sense as a story about him. Superhot tries for the same meta style storyline, but without real characters or a world. There’s a part where they make you punch yourself and it says your head hurts. But my head doesn’t hurt because I’m just playing a game. And the protagonist barely exists. So what do I care?
    I thought there was an ending choice in the final level so I spent half an hour bossing waves of endless enemies. It turns out there wasn’t an ending choice. And I’ve no desire to go back and complete it ‘properly’.
    ——————————————-
    Frostpunk! My only success on this list! The console controls are unbelievably good – good to the point where it’s a city builder and I don’t feel any disadvantage to playing on a console. All city builders need to release console versions with Frostpunk controls.
    I love city-builders, the atmosphere is great, the story works and the visuals for melting snow is just fantastic. Highly recommended.
    ——————————————-
    Middle Earth: Shadow of War. The nemesis mechanic is a neat system, but everything else about this game is horribly outdated, and it’s story belongs nowhere near the Lord of the Rings franchise. It looks like a PS3 game, and plays like one. I’m sick of open world games with NPCs standing around in groups in the open and as soon as you kill one group it’s replaced with another. The density of enemies is so high it’s no fun travelling round. And it makes even the nemesis system feel pointless because you kill one orc and they’re just replaced with another.
    I didn’t even finish all the tutorials. Perhaps if I’d unlocked the invasions and territory controlling mechanics I would have enjoyed it more. But I couldn’t even get that far.
    —————————————-
    Katherine: Full body. First – it’s obnoxious having a watermark on screen all through the game. Second, I love everything else the game is doing. I love the set-up, the story it’s committment to themes and even the block pulling gameplay.
    It’s a roleplaying challenge for me, because I want to be a good person, but the main character and Katherine are really terrible together and should possibly break up (except due to a particular revelation, perhaps they shouldn’t?). I don’t know what the mature thing is to do and that’s great. But also, being a good person doesn’t really fit the protagonist at all, so perhaps I need to pick responses which are more arseholeish? Either way, it’s wonderful to be pushed by a game like this.

  62. Corvair says:

    The last two weeks, I decided to tidy up my library a bit, and played through Shadow Warrior 2 again. I really love the moment-to-moment combat, but the loot management needs to die. I could write an essay on that, but comments don’t lend themselves to that, so, I’ll carry on instead:
    I also replayed, and finally finished, the Metro series. That series would also warrant its own essay; Its mix of immersive elements on the one hand, almost brutally crude hand-holding on the other, and its insistence of maintaining a strict identity (they don’t even change subtitle styles between games) makes it a really divisive series in even my own mind. I love some of it, and wish other games would use it as example to follow, and yet, I cannot stand some of it as well, and fervently pray that no-one goes “well, that worked for metro, let’s try that out”.

    Lastly: Shamus’ comment of “These shiny disks are, in a practical sense, the last games I will ever really own.” kind of made me curious for a debate about game ownership. Because I still feel I own my games – because I buy them from GOG, and GOG only; I download the stand-alone installer, archive it on an external drive (and one of these days, I’ll back that drive up, I swear), and then I really own that copy of the game: It needs no launcher to run or install, it needs no internet connection whatsoever, and I can play my game where and when I want, with nobody tracking anything about it; It’s my copy, and nobody can take it away from me.

    So, I guess my take is: Why is it that we tend to associate physical disks with game ownership? I mean, they had their copy protection, too – SecuROM for instance could well invalidate your “ownership” of a game even when you physically still had the disk with the game data on it. In fact, I re-bought Diablo on GOG not only for the convenience of being able to run it on a modern system without fiddling with ini settings and compatibility modes, but also because I am not so sure how long my actual game disks from 1997 will hold up, and wanted a copy that would endure.

  63. JDMM says:

    Shamus I would be very mindful about that Star Wars retrospective of yours, Disney Star Wars and by extension (or by reverse) the Sequel Trilogy is one of those landmine topics like whether hot dogs are sandwiches where explosions of anger happen

    Return of the Obra Dinn: It’s one of those games that gives me choices and so robs me of choices, a person is shot by a firing squad commanded by a Lieutenant who reports to a captain, I have something on the order of several hundred ways to say someone died but no option for Legal Proceeding? Beyond that it has a nice retro charm sort of thing to it without going full retro and making the graphics terrible and static because “That’s how it was”

  64. Decius says:

    Jason Scott will gladly take your old computer history, digitize it, and preserve it. Send it to him before you keep it in boxes that risk mildew.

  65. Galad_t says:

    Whew, it’s been a while since I posted a comment here, and as is tradition, I post it way too late for most people other than Shamus to see it. Over the last three weeks I mostly played [b]Sunless Sea[/b] (~110 hours of it), and finished it completely. It’s a gorgeous exploration roguelite game, with a difficult learning curve at the start. I’m talking “played 30 hours previously over the last 3 years” difficult. The secret to overcoming this frontloaded difficulty curve is to look up on wikipedia how to do the venderbight curator’s quest – it’s not hard, if you know what to do, and gives you some significant startup currency on each stage.

    Then I played [b]Curious Expedition[/b](~60 hours of it). It’s also an exciting rougelite romp, albeit through a very different kind of world. Who could have thought being an asshole Indiana Jones adventurer can pay off :> Jokes aside, the game does have a small teaching angle to it, in that it taught me about various historical figures, explorers and trailblazers, and otherwise people that have advanced humanity (eg. Marie Curie) even if the gameplay itself is more built on tropes and having fun.

    There was a little Monster Train as well, I like that they added a googly eyes mod, and achievement, but I’m pretty much done with that otherwise enjoyable roguelite ( sensing a theme here) unless they add new features and achievements to them, Also a little Tales of Berseria, 50 hours in, I probably have another 100 before I get to the story’s end.

  66. I have actually been playing games OTHER than DDO lately, particularly Pathfinder: Kingmaker . . . which is a really annoying game in a lot of ways but at least has some interesting options to it. I did download some mods to make some of the more irritating aspects trivial.

    I think my main gripe is that the plot organization is just all over the place, things just randomly fall on you or there are long stretches with nothing much to do other than tedious busywork to net you some loot/xp. That, and the plot stages are way out of order–they basically tell you everything that is going on directly and obviously mid-game and then everyone spends the next 4 acts being all “WHAT COULD THEY POSSIBLY WANT?!” I know what they want. The game LITERALLY TOLD ME DIRECTLY. There was no possible way to AVOID knowing. WHY are you all still confused?!

    Also I tried Greedfall, which IMO is so badly written that like ME2 I couldn’t even get out of the tutorial zone, my eyes just rolled too hard for me to stand it.

    1. Oh, and I tried out Donut County, which was cute and kinda fun.

    2. Henson says:

      Ouch. And I had heard such good things about Greedfall, too.

      That’s probably a good summation of Pathfinder: Kingmaker. The game dumps content on you, and consistently too. The pacing of each individual act is more or less fine, but the pacing on the whole is pretty glacial. It took me over half a year to get around to finishing that game, which I think overall was worth it, but not without problems.

  67. Duoae says:

    I’m late to this post but wanted to add a comment for Shamus to look at Ghost of Tsushima on the PS4. I know someone above mentioned it as being flawed in every aspect but managing to rise above those flaws but i would lean more towards the game being a masterpiece, dialed back a few notches to merely very good through some relatively minor flaws.

    The reason I’m mentioning it for Shamus is that i find the combat absolutely amazing. It’s easy to play, difficult to master. It has gadgets, group fights with appropriate measures to deal with groups, blocks deflections and counter attacks.

    There are also decent stealth options to whittle down enemy numbers or outright challenges to reduce the difficulty of small encounters or increase the difficulty of large encounters by purposefully encouraging everyone to attack you.

    The game has a good default difficulty and more optional “lethal” difficulties through updates the developers made to the game.

    Further to this, the game is beautiful, the technology the game stands on is amazing and must really only be possible on PS4’s limited/ specific architecture as it relies heavily on particle simulations, alpha decals and other shader effects (I’m not saying it’s not possible on other platforms, I’m saying that the engine wouldn’t need to be designed to run in this way and might have to be completely recoded to work on, say, PC).

    Lastly to this, the load times are amazingly short for both a console game and an open world game.

    Seriously, i know Shamus loved the combat in Arkham Asylum and i think this adds even more on top of that type of system. I think he would like it too!

  68. Thomas Steven Slater says:

    Lately I’ve been playing Bug Fables. It has a battle system like the first two paper Mario games and a lot more world building and character development which isn’t locked behind having a particular (very weak) companion. It also has the best Bestiary that I’ve ever seen.

  69. Armagrodden says:

    I would be interested to know what Shamus thinks of Horizon: Zero Dawn. I really liked the game, but the revelation of what Zero Dawn actually was kind of offended me as a scientist, and I found that the game’s story grated on me more and more as it progressed. I’d like to know if it’s just me, or if Shamus has a similar experience.

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