This Week I Played…

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 24, 2020

Filed under: Notices 304 comments

I’m not going to complain about my health problems, because that sort of thing is so hopelessly tedious. I’ll just note that the eye thing popped up again and put me out of commission for a few days.

So I thought it would be a good time for another post asking everyone what they’ve been playing lately.

Aside from making for good conversation, these posts are good for keeping a healthy perspective on the industry as a whole. If you only follow the industry through marketing and major gaming sites, then it will probably feel like the industry is…

…like that. But when I have one of these posts. it becomes clear that the industry is more like…


Actually, this is probably still distorted. Almost nobody talks about adult games in public, but then I regularly see various flavors of anime tiddy games on Steam’s best-seller list. Not bad for a genre with no marketing and minimal word-of-mouth!

Also, mobile games are HUGE in terms of profit, but they don’t get a lot of mindshare within gaming culture. If we measured by gross income, then Mobile Games would be nearly as large as AAA Games in the image above. Like adult games, these titles get played a lot more than they get talked about. I’ve never seen a Reddit thread where hard-core mobile fans slugged it out over whether “Lootbox-Driven Puzzle Game With Chef Theme” or “Pay-to-Win Conquest Game With Viking Theme” was the better experience.

Like in the real world, sex and gambling like to set up shop in a quiet corner or back alley somewhere and make a lot of money without attracting too much attentionThere are exceptions, of course – the Las Vegas Strip is a famous example. Then again, you could argue that this isolated desert oasis is just a particularly well-lit back-alley..

Anyway, onto the topic at hand.

This Week I Played…

The new desert area is really beautiful. Or it was, until some asshole built smokestacks all over the place.
The new desert area is really beautiful. Or it was, until some asshole built smokestacks all over the place.

Up until I went blind for a couple days, I played Satisfactory. Based on Paul’s suggestions on the podcast last week, I restarted my game in the new desert area. It is, indeed, a much better experience.

I think the big problem with this game is that it’s just too damn spread out, on both a large scale and a local scale. I love building complex bases, optimizing things, keeping it tidy, balancing the power, and managing the layout to leave room for future expansions. It tickles the coding parts of my brain and lets me enjoy the fun of programming without taking on the responsibilities of programming.

On the other hand, laying down kilometer after kilometer of conveyors and power poles to reach distant resources is a mind-numbing chore. It’s a lengthy and tedious obligation that offers almost nothing in the way of creativity.

Likewise, I think the individual machines are way too dang big. The various smelters, constructors, and assemblers all have a huge footprint and they’re generally very tall. This spreads out a base so you have to spend an unreasonable amount of time hiking around and struggling to see around all the machines.

The machine size is fine in the early game when your production chain is small, but as it grows you spend less time time working and more time walking.

I think you could alleviate this by having a mid-game upgrades for the buildings. Maybe have smaller, more compact versions of production buildings that require steel rather than iron. This would be about the point in the game where you unlock the better mining equipment and need to rebuild your original production line anywayAssuming you want to take advantage of the improved mining speed, that is., so this would be the right point in the game to introduce another reason / reward for refactoring your base.

I tried making the long-ass conveyor+power project more interesting by making it a cool bridge. (Background.) That made the work less of a drudgery, but it also made it take 5x as long, so it wasn't really worth it in the end.
I tried making the long-ass conveyor+power project more interesting by making it a cool bridge. (Background.) That made the work less of a drudgery, but it also made it take 5x as long, so it wasn't really worth it in the end.

I still haven’t reached a lot of the “new stuff” in Update 3 yet. I still haven’t built a train. I love trains in video games, but I strongly dislike how the Satisfactory trains appear so late in progression. You don’t gain the ability to make trains until you’ve already built those many kilometers of conveyors of power poles. The trains are nice, but using them means tearing down and rebuilding those long delivery systems, and then building track in its place. Why would I go to all that work when the conveyors are working just fine?

The result is that trains are the coolest thing in the game but there’s no clear mechanical advantage to adopting them.

I have more to say on the game, but that’s enough whining for now.

Paul has also been playing. He’s having a lot more fun, and he’s reached the endgame. Here he gives us a tour of his base. Even if you normally ignore the videos I embed, it’s probably worth turning down the volume and skimming through this. It’s pretty amazing.

Link (YouTube)

If you’re into that, then maybe you’ll also like to see the evolution of that base over time.

This Week You Played…?

So what did you play this week? Something old? Something new? Emulated? Mobile? AAA? Indie?

Let’s hear it.



[1] There are exceptions, of course – the Las Vegas Strip is a famous example. Then again, you could argue that this isolated desert oasis is just a particularly well-lit back-alley.

[2] Assuming you want to take advantage of the improved mining speed, that is.

From The Archives:

304 thoughts on “This Week I Played…

  1. Tizzy says:

    “I love trains in video games,”
    Feels like a link was supposed to go here, boss.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      I choose to imagine it links to the asdf “I like trains” kid. It’s been burned into my brain and is always the first thing to come up if someone says they like trains.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        First thing I thought of, too.

    2. Freddo says:

      Playing Factorio with Space Exploration mod. Trains galore for me. Getting ready (very slowly) to automate the space rockets to supply my space platform

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        So actually for someone who doesn’t love to go back to games and optimize their playthroughs how much content there is in Factorio? Like, if I wanted to “play it once from start to finish”? I keep postponing buying it but maybe it’s time to take the plunge…

        1. ivan says:

          I have never managed to play it once through. And I have hundreds of hours in it. Other people can complete the win condition of launching a rocket, within an hour or so. So, your mileage may vary.

        2. Freddo says:

          I think a good analog is Simcity, Cities XL or the Anno series. When you start those games you don’t yet have a good idea how the game engine and tech tree work, so chances are you build a satisfying town, but at some point run into limitations due to earlier design choices you made without full knowledge. At that point you start a new city and try to expand beyond the previous attempt. (Depending on how far the enemy biters have evolved – or when playing in peaceful mode – you can also just rebuild your factory in Factorio.)
          A large part of the fun of these games is building up the required knowledge so your city or factory scales out to end-game level. For Factorio the official end-goal is to launch a rocket. How long that takes depends your play style and how much you like to puzzle on things vs. just copying a youtube design by someone else. For me it was 4-5 maps and perhaps a 100 or so hours.
          What really sets apart Factorio (for me) is that you are not managing some vague simulated citizens where you can barely influence their behavior, but the game executes your factory design and resource flows. You are not limited by being placed on a small piece of territory, but encouraged to keep expanding and keep mining more resources and pushing them into the factory. And expecially with a very active mod community there is a lot to experiment with.

    3. Shamus says:

      Good catch! I intended to link to:

      1) The “I like Trains” ASDF song, as Higher_Peanut mentioned.
      2) The Spoiler Warning “Trainz” episode.
      3) Factorio, because I treated that game like a huge over-complicated train set.

      And instead of choosing, I forgot about it and ended up choosing nothing.

      1. Lino says:

        Really? I thought it was supposed to link to your “Train Bowling” video!

        1. Shamus says:

          That would have been the most obvious choice, and it didn’t even occur to me!

      2. ivan says:

        3) Factorio, because I treated that game like a huge over-complicated train set.

        Ditto. When I was a kid I always wanted to get into model trains. I had sets of tracks and engines and stuff, but the most complex things I ever did was make loops, or figure 8’s. They just took too much time, effort, and hassle to set up and pack away, and even more so with the scenery accoutrements if you went that deep. Just too much effort for the fun you got.

        Now, though, Factorio is there to be the model train set I always wanted. One that’s convenient and easy to setup and pack away, comes with a decent amount of visual flair, and, most importanly, has purpose. These aren’t just trains you send around the loop to see how fast they can go (though, I also do that) – they’re cargo trains. Theres a real ingame incentive to set them up, and to optimise and improve your setup, cos trains in Factorio that’re working well – well, it’s pretty sweet.

  2. Christopher says:

    The desert area, from those screenshots, reminded me so much of Apex Legends that I almost recommend trying it just for the novelty of sliding around an environment you’re used to doing menial tasks in.

    I’ve been playing through my backlog. Last year I got through many more games than normal, but it’s not like they were all classics, I just made an effort to start and finish whatever game I wanted to play. This year I made a backlog list that includes a lot more classic games I feel like I should have played on top of just whatever stuff I want to play, and it’s getting increasingly impossible as I add more games to it.

    Two months in I’ve beaten Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Streets of Rage 1, Streets of Rage 2 and the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s awakening. That last one is a delight. It’s kind of a basic-ass, hardly any story Zelda game on account of originally coming out for the game boy. But it’s also remarkably weird and expansive for such a game. I think it’s surpassed by many other Zelda games, but I can see how it was amazing back then, and it’s still a good time. And even with a very simple plot and just a lot of “go here, do this” type storytelling, I ended up feeling pretty melancholic by the end. It’s well worth playing, and tarted up wonderfully enough with the new art style and qol control stuff that I think it’s entirely approachable.

    The old Sega classics, I’m a bit more torn on. Sonic 2 is fun, if not as much fun as Sonic Mania. But Streets of Rage is kinda… I think they’re mostly fondly remembered because they’re good home console beat ’em ups. There’s fun to had, but they’re incredibly simple games. Some good moody songs and atmospheric nighttime urban pixel art don’t make them particularly more enjoyable than like, the Pirates of Dark Water game. Certainly pales in comparison to modern takes like Scott Pilgrim VS the World or Dragon’s Crown. And compared to 3d action games, even ones from twenty years ago like Devil May Cry? There’s like no comparison. There isn’t anything here to bite into.

    Maybe Streets of Rage 3 has enough added stuff that I’ll like that more. I know it has a dodgeroll and a dash at least. With SoR 1 and 2 I just get kinda bored and frustrated after a while, even though the music tries its hardest to mellow me out.

    Anyway, what I’m currently going through is the original Doom for the first time! They updated those PS4 oarts and made them apparently quite solid, so I got Doom and Doom 2. For perspective, Doom 1 came out when I was 3, and I would not have been allowed to play it any time soon, I tell you what.

    It’s so much fun. Zooming around those maps to the midis has a real nice timeless charm to it, and the lack of any vertical aiming means I’m actually having an easier time with this than most shooters. It’s exciting and fun and I haven’t played anything like it before, which is one of the cool things about backlog diving. I’m not a great big fan of the gore and hell aesthetic Doom has, which might have pushed me away from it even when I was old enough to play – that kinda thing usually strikes me as either gross or lame. But it’s so aged and comparatively cartoony these days that it just registers as delightfully retro. It’s a good reminder that you should probably give any game a shot even if it doesn’t seem like your thing. You really can’t know for sure until you’ve tried it.

    The only thing I feel like I’m missing are some good boss fights. I also unfortunately got stuck on a stage for around 20 minutes because I missed an in retrospect pretty obvious yellow button that opened up a bridge. Running around that empty map wasn’t a great time.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      Speaking of Doom, that’s what I’ve been playing this week. I’ve been going through them again on Ultra Violent (GZDoom source port). 1, Sigil, 2 and TNT are down and that only leaves Plutonia for “official” releases.

      1 on UV really misses the enemy variety and the super shotgun of the later entries. In the later episodes there’s a lot of shooting pinky/cacodemon packs with the shotgun, which is real slow and generally non threatening. There’s also the opening 2 levels of Thy Flesh Consumed where the baron of hell spawn button got stuck on the pack setting. The opening level has 5 barons, only 9 hp pickups (9 individual 1hp pickups) and low enough ammo punching will probably be required. The 2nd follows up with 12 more but at least there’s ammo and health.

      Sigil (unofficial 5th episode to Doom 1 by John Romero) was nice but very tough. Looks very pretty with the hell aesthetic. Low on ammo early on, chainsaw gets some good use. Lots of fighting in restrictive spaces and on ledges around nukage. Significant overuse of cyberdemons to snipe or put pressure on areas, expect to run around a lot until you find the way to telefrag them.

      2 has a wider enemy roster and the newcomers tend to have unique attacks rather than a ball of hp with a single fireball which make them more dangerous. The super shotgun feel great to use and makes cleaning out pinkies far less of a chore. I did miss the episode setup of the first game. It set a good pace and the restart every 9 levels is refreshing. 2 falters in the middle with the big “city” levels. The gameplay in them isn’t great and Doom really wasn’t at the point where convincing cities could be made.

      TNT (1/2 of Final Doom) is not the best. It’s set on a UAC base and there’s a lot of really big rooms and crate mazes. Room setups that show sniping with hit scanners miles away on a ledge to stop the chip damage is not Doom’s strong point. It was the most 90’s shooter I’ve played in a long time with lots of “where the hell is this key and what did the switch do across the map now” moments. In its favour the new monsters get to see more aggressive use (especially the arch-vile) than 2 which could be quite conservative with them.

      From what I remember of Plutonia it’s “Doom: Agitated Skeleton” edition. Revenants in every level bar 2. Also arch-viles on level 1 because why not?

      1. Alecw says:

        Great reviews cheers

    2. John says:

      I used to sort-of like beat ’em ups as a kid. I certainly rented Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Streets of Rage often enough. But however much I played them, I never progressed beyond the rudimentary button-mashing phase of play. I don’t know whether it was me or the games. Is there another way to play Streets of Rage? I’ve always suspected that most damage in that game (and in its ilk) is actually unavoidable. The only way to mitigate it somewhat would seem to be through situational awareness and positioning. My problem was that I was always too engrossed in mashing buttons until the mook in front of me fell to the ground and vanished to be aware of or to do much about all the other mooks converging on me from all directions. I never had the sense that there was some clever combination of button inputs that could have helped me. I suppose it’s a reflection of the games’ age, their technological limitations, and their quarter-gobbling origins.

      1. Christopher says:

        Yeah, maybe. I’ve been wathing DNOpls play a bunch of old action games over on Twitch recently, including many old beat ’em ups. He seems pretty good at them, but the advanced tactics are always just “find an exploit to stunlock the enemy”. “Do the jumpkick in the corner”. I guess it makes sense when the mechanics are so barebones, but it’s all largely positioning, using those special moves that give you invincibility frames at the right time, and exploits.

        Turtles in Time and Final Fight 3 are on that backlog list, so I’m not giving up on beat ’em ups just yet. I also played Ninja Saviors last year and thought that was pretty cool. But I think most of these are not going to be what I’m looking for. Least not in a single player context. Streets of Rage certainly beats out Dragon’s crown for easy pick-up-and-play multiplayer.

        1. Platypus says:

          Been playing last week the nightmare abit- a game that decided to throw itself into the well of timed discord exclusives which went about as well as you would think, came on steam end of last year (pun not intended) and has basically no attention given to it. To put into context how little people care im only playing cause a friend who literally runs a discord server full of people said “nobody i know is willing to get this and it is kinda fun” and bought the game for me. It is indeed kinda fun, basically dead by daylight meets left 4 dead meets 90s american high school movie if that makes any damn sense. It is probably better with friends rather than random peeps but good luck finding five people who play it that you also like to team up (lobby times are surprisingly quick which says to me its like those sneaky adult and gambling games few talk about but more play?)

  3. Infinitron says:

    You didn’t capture one of the most important divisions. There are AAA games and then there are the “AAAA” games (quad-A) that have really made it big (tens of millions of units sold). Every AAA franchise seeks to become AAAA, but few will succeed.

    1. jpuroila says:

      The AAA/mid-budget/indie separation isn’t about how much money the game makes or how many copies are sold, it’s about how much money the studio/publisher spends on the game and the marketing.

  4. Daimbert says:

    Well, I’ve been off for a bit and so oddly not playing very much, but I did manage to get some time in to play and played:

    Steins;Gate, which I can only play for an hour or so before the fact that I’m not really the right sort of person to play visual novels kicks in, but it was recommended to me and I liked the anime.

    Everybody’s Golf, which is a cute little golf game for the PS4 that I’ve been enjoying. So far I’ve been able to get to level 5 — you get a level by beating three opponents in a one-on-one match — without learning any of the special shots or using the special golf balls, but I might have to learn them soon.

    If we count what I’ve played since I redid my schedule to include more games, I’ve also played:

    The Old Republic, where I’m playing a Sith Marauder and doing the Jaesa romance path.

    Elisinore, which is a time loop style game based on Hamlet that I played because I commented on some of the ideas on it in a preview on my blog and thought I should see how it worked out when it finally came out.

    1. GargamelLeNoir says:

      Man I am playing Stein’s Gate with a group as tabletop RPG (only the GM saw the anime/game of course) and trying to understand parallel world/time travel anime logic without being an anime character is hard work! Aspirins were popped. It’s pretty cool though.

      1. Christopher says:

        Playing Steins;Gate with people unfamiliar with the source material seems like a good way to avoid everyone going TU TU RU

      2. Daimbert says:

        I found that it was one of the more reasonable logics that I’ve encountered, at least until they contradicted it in the anime, at least. But then the anime — and now, the game — really did seem to be trying to explain it in detail so that it makes some sense, leaving things clear to deal with the character issues that really centre the piece.

    2. Liessa says:

      Ooh, Elsinore? I backed that on Kickstarter and played the heck out of the alpha and beta… meaning that by the time it was finally released, I couldn’t be bothered to play through the whole thing again. I may get around to finishing it sometime, or I may just look up the ending cutscenes on YouTube (since they were pretty much the only thing missing from the final beta build).

      1. Daimbert says:

        That might be best, because my understanding of the game is that after you select an ending and watch it, the game destroys your saved game and so if you want to see another ending you have to play through until at least when you get the book to see another. Since the first part of the game made me sick enough of the mechanics to not really enjoy the second part which should have been the most entertaining, that kinda killed my interest in the other endings.

  5. Mattias42 says:

    Been mostly hammering away at my writing + one heck of a cold, but I’ve been doing a few rounds of Dicey Dungeon in between that.

    Fun game, but I’ve hit that spot where only the toughest and least ‘my style’ characters/challenges are left, so its hit that stage where it’s best in small doses.

    Oh, and dug my old disk out and fired up STALKER: Call Of Pripyat for the first time in forever. That bleak, brown/beige art style hasn’t aged well, but damn, the game still holds up in graphics and game-play. Still as though and tense as ever.

    Really hope that second game is really still being worked on and drops one of these days, there’s just no other series quite like STALKER, and I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it.

    1. Fizban says:

      I also picked up Dicey Dungeons a couple weeks ago, and completely burnt out on it in about 12-15 hours when the challenges went from interesting to “pray the rng lets you win.” Which is annoying, ’cause I’d expected to keep it around for a while.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Yeah, I gave up on the game after I realized I was grinding to get the last couple dice for each…dice character.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          Dicey Dungeon is fun and charming, yeah… but man do some of the later challenges feel like they need that one perfect run to even have a chance at them.

          The second last character is the worst, IMHO. How her gimmick guzzles dice AND has so many even/odd abilities just means that you have to keep getting lucky, or she just sits there doing barely nothing for a round. Not a big fan of the other female playable character gimmick either, come to think about it, but she at least feels a bit more polished. Just not my usual cup of tea play-style wise.

          (Trying to avoid spoilers, by the way. Thus the vague wording.)

          Still, yeah. If I had a gun to my head and forced to marathon the game until I hit 100% I’d probably go mad, but the odd round now and then is fine. Even with the randomness.

          1. Fizban says:

            Eh, game’s lost my respect and this is my favorite character so screw spoilers: The witch I’ve actually found to be the strongest and most resilient against rng. The trick is putting your spells in the right slots so that you can chain into them and always have something useful, taking the upgraded slot and abusing it, and the fact that Hall of Mirrors seems to show up every game. So she can get tons of extra dice, and then funnel them through multiple casts of the same upgraded spell every turn. The other characters can’t just spam their most powerful attack, or take a throwaway 1 and turn it into multiple rerolls (upgraded cauldron). Also, don’t forget you can change what spell you start with each fight- I stumbled into that eventually and hey isn’t that insanely important. Once you’ve got a full load of 2-6 you don’t really need cauldron to start, though it’s useful to keep around as mentioned.

            No, there are two things which show the problem the worst to me: the Robot’s “every time you roll a die you have a 50% chance to eat shit,” and the entire Elimination Round series. The former sounds like a challenge invented by people who don’t know how probability works, in a dice game, there’s just no build that can actually work around it, pure rng at the most garbage odds. The latter has a specific problem in that say, half the enemies in the game have normal attacks which require even/odd dice, which as you mentioned can often waste most of a turn- but then in Elimination Round they’re all upgraded to work with any dice, nearly doubling the damage output in the midgame and just killing you.

            Each character was carefully crafted, their first challenge, some of the seconds, but after that it’s all the same problem for everyone and the problems are only solved with rng. Sigh.

          2. Echo Tango says:

            I totally forgot there were two female player-characters. In theory I don’t mind the gimmicks, but I think all the characters besides the first three could use a re-balance. They don’t match up with the difficulty-rating on the character-select screen, IMO.

            1. Mattias42 says:

              Honestly really loved The Jester, the last character. He’s tough to get a hand on especially when its wise to discard cards, but once you do, you can do some serious damage AND heal darn near every round.

              Heard a lot of people have trouble wrapping their head around him, though. Personally have had WAY more trouble with The Witch and The Inventor, myself, but yeah, those two really stick out as difficulty spikes.

              1. Fizban says:

                The Jester is probably confusing because he plays the exact opposite of what you’d expect from a card based character, and Slay the Spire has been out for quite a while. But the Jester isn’t about the cards, it’s about the super move.

                The Inventor was clever- their first challenge sounds nigh-impossible, but instead the fact that you have two free abilities each turn and sift through twice as many item pickups actually makes it easier. Which makes stuff like the Robot’s all the more disappointing.

    2. Lino says:

      How far into Pyre are you, if you don’t mind me asking? I got quite far into it, but never finished it. What helped me enjoy the sports part was finding a couple of team comps I really liked. I had the most fun whenever I went all-in on a certain play style – either all-out speed or all-out murder. At the start, you only have access to more balanced comps, and I was never all that thrilled by them.

      1. Thomas says:

        I loved a lot about Pyre but never finished it either. When the sports clicks it really works, and what they make you do with losses and defeats is great

      2. Dalisclock says:

        I haven’t even had a chance to liberate someone yet, so probably not very far. I think I’m still in the Intro, more or less, since I just got access to the ability to do challenges or practice matches.

        1. Lino says:

          Not that far into it, then. I’d say, try experimenting with different comps. To me, the game is worth it for the visuals alone – so many cool locations and characters…

    3. Christopher says:

      I’ve given up on Sekiro at the moment. I think that game’s pretty phenomenal but I’m all out of patience on the final bosses. The palace was the first big hurdle I got stuck on(specifically the entry point) but that area is one of my favorites in the whole game on the whole. There’s a palpable mythical atmosphere to the whole thing.

      1. Dalisclock says:

        Yeah, the Guardian Ape(and so some extent, the Headless Ape rematch) really annoyed the crap out of me until I found a method to that monkey madness. I think what made it worse is that once I figured out the rhythm to Phase 1(the toddler tantrum phase if the toddler were king kong), suddenly he has a completely different moveset and I have to completely adjust my thinking(and then go through the angry toddler again once I invariably mess that up).

        I don’t even mind the bosses so much but I’m starting to get annoyed by the copy paste mini-boss thing, where certain mini-bosses are literally palette swaps of each other. It felt like FROM was starting to get lazy. Yeah, they’re not technically required but since prayer beads are needed to have any vitality and posture worth speaking of, it gets very noticable after a while.

        Honestly, it’s hard to tell anyone who feels Sekiro could stand to be a little easier(either by mod or design) is wrong to feel that way. I say that as someone whose beaten DS1, DS2(SOTFS version) and BB+DLC.

    4. Echo Tango says:

      I’ve been playing The Shrouded Isle a bit this month. It’s pretty enjoyable, although I can’t seem to reliably progress in the game, even though I understand all the mechanics, and people on the forums say it’s “easy” to get the satisfy-your-eldritch-god ending. Allegedly it’s easier if you disable the free DLC that was added to the game, but that feels like a bit of a hassle. :)

  6. DeadlyDark says:

    I was out of town for couple of weeks. But after I returned, I played a little of Stardew Valley, couple of missions in DMC3 and Apprehension chapter in Black Mesa, which was fun.

    I played DMC 3-5 at their PC release times, and in january finally played DMC 1 and 2. 1 was good, 2 was schizophrenic. Dante campaign is a mess, where the plot makes absolutely zero sense and combat is terrible. Lucia campaign has a coherent, if bare-bones, story. And her combat is enjoyably fun to play. Enemies seems to be balanced around her moveset, not Dante’s. I actually think Lucia DMC2 isn’t a bad game. Still simpler and primitive compared to other games in the series, but fun nonetheless. Plus, DMC2 has freer levels, than other game in the series. Not always perfect, but this freedom of navigation warmed my heart, actually. I mean, my biggest criticism of DMC series, including 5, was small, linear, restrictive level design, so…

    As a result, I decided to replay DMC3 as well. To remind, how I was introduced to the series.

  7. Until a few weeks ago I was attempting to play Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint (has there ever been a more pretentious and unwieldy name?) with a friend from the US. We wanted an online shooter to play together that didn’t demand much from its players. Unfortunately, TCGR:B was so dull and stupid that it become unbearable to play. It’s obvious that Ubisoft has perfected a technique that allows them to mass-produce photo-realistic environments. The problem is that this creates a great deal of visual clutter and homogeneity to the game world that becomes absolutely mind-numbing over time.

    I’m also playing Red Dead Redemption II. While I absolutely detest playing yet another big dumb white dude in a video game, I find the story and dialogue to be very compelling.

    1. zackoid says:

      A Shamus piece on why the story works in RDR2 despite having most of the usual problems that rockstar games have would be really interesting, but the game is so big that I wouldn’t want to curse someone with that responsibility.

      1. I agree! I would love to know Shamus’ thoughts on Red Dead’s story, but asking him to actually play the game might be too much.

    2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I loved the original Ghost Recon game so much. And Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter was good -even if I thought it was more interesting because it was incorporated into the broader TC games world (with HAWX and End War and Splinter Cell). But the last Ghost Recon game was such a blooming drag that I lost all interest in the game series, and Breakpoint looks like more of the same drudgery.

      It’s a sad end to a good game.

    3. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is an extremely wieldy name, are you kidding? I think your problem comes from listing all the brands as if any human speaks that way. Like, do you call Pop Tarts “Kellogg’s PopTarts brand toaster pastries”?

  8. Dev Null says:

    Warframe. (Because it never ever ends.)
    The Witcher 3. (Never got around to finishing it the first time. Started over.)
    Slay the Spire. (Humble Bundle. Not particularly deep, but a decent time-burner.)

    1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Same -though not Slay the Spire.

  9. ivan says:

    I have been playing Path of Exile since the start of last week, having gotten 3 characters so far to the endgame and then shelved two of them. It’s an odd thing, but whenever I play the campaign I find it kind of a chore to go through, but then when I’m done with it I get super bored with the endgame very quick and start a new character. And yet I’d still overall say I like the game, though progressively less and less as they patch and patch over the things I liked, with things I either don’t like or don’t yet understand.

    Still though, when I found a new unique yesterday that was staggeringly build appropriate for one of the earlier character I played last week, I got that familiar feeling of excitement of anticipating trying it out, working out the build using community tools and whatnot. Kinda the most fun part is figuring out the build, not as much playing it.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      Have you been introduced to the game within a game that is Path of Building yet? The character/item builder so comprehensive the author now works for GGG. Some things are missing since he left but there’s a fork around that took up the mantle for updates.

      1. ivan says:

        Yeah, I use PoB. Even though it’s slowly getting updates again, it’s not really up to date very much still. A whole bunch of uniques are missing, and new uniques that are included are often not fully supported. Not helped by loads of new uniques with really weird, hard to handle mechanics, to be sure, there you go.

        1. Higher_Peanut says:

          If you want the version that gets updated a bit faster I found the link to the fork
          It’s requires the same base program but gets separate updates.

          1. ivan says:

            Oh, you were right, I didn’t have that version, ty.

  10. PS – Sorry that you’re having the EYE THING again, Shamus. I hope it goes away quickly. Did you accidentally eat a pickle? ;-D

    1. pseudonym says:

      Yes, Shamus, did you get yourself tested on food allergies? The inflammation of the eye sounds like a typical symptom of histamine release (allergic reaction). There is such a thing as a vinegar allergy.
      If you get yourself tested you can at least know which foods to avoid + you can confirm if it is indeed a food allergy.

  11. Henson says:

    Been so busy this week, the only thing I’ve played is a few dozen turns of Heroes of Might and Magic 3. Been playing while listening to videos online.

    Most recent game I’ve been seriously playing is Pathfinder: Kingmaker. I’m well into Act II, explored as much of the map as possible, and still don’t have a Treasurer. And now I’m basically skipping days and wandering aimlessly, waiting for the next plot point to happen. Or has it already? It’s hard to tell if I can progress or not.

    1. Narkis says:

      How did you manage to avoid Jubilost? He’s right there in the river crossing on the way to the trolls.

      1. Henson says:

        Dunno. It’s not like I’ve been rushing through the game, either.

        1. Narkis says:

          Odd. I didn’t think it would be possible to miss him. And I assume you don’t have the Wildcards DLC, and were unable to recruit Delgado. At this point you should just make a mercenary advisor, the third choice won’t appear until the end of Chapter 4.

          1. Henson says:

            …Mercenary advisor? I can DO that?

            Man, this game really doesn’t explain anything.

            1. Narkis says:

              Heh, it really doesn’t. I can’t imagine trying to play it as a newbie in the genre without already knowing the Pathfinder rules.

              1. Henson says:

                Well, I’ve actually been okay with the lack of explanation, for the most part, because any straightforward questions can be answered by looking things up online. It’s kinda been a throwback to the old days of game manuals! So if I have a question, I can at least find the answer. For the most part.

                In this case, however, I didn’t even know what the question was.

            2. djw says:

              Merc advisors are debuffed compared to companions though. Jubilost is very well setup to be treasurer, so you should hunt around for him. His encounter is on one of the fords southwest of your capital.

              He’s a mouthy little gnome, so you’ll know it when you meet him. He’s also an alchemist, so he’s borderline OP if you make sure he has enough bombs.

              1. Henson says:

                You know, now that I read these comments, I have a vague recollection of running across an unpleasant character in the woods, but deciding my character wanted nothing to do with him. Could have been the guy, I suppose…

                1. Narkis says:

                  Yeah, that was almost certainly him. He is rather annoyed that the roads of your Barony aren’t safe, and is not hesitating to express his opinion in an abrasive manner. He mellows significantly later on after you prove you do care about your Barony’s problem and are able to solve them.

        2. Rack says:

          You should meet him going between your capital and Lone House which you’re directed towards fairly early in ch 2.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Fun fact: first time I finished the game I was playing a Lawful Evil Dragon Disciple and when the annoying Gnome insulted me I took his head off. Much later, when I had Bart as treasurer I looked up advisors and found out I shot myself in the foot.

        Didn’t mind that at all, it’s fun being able to send people to prison/gallows when fancy strikes me.

  12. David C says:

    Mainly playing The Witcher 3, in New Game+. I left the game unfinished for a year or so after I first started, because the last quests on the main quest line and the Blood & Wine expansion looked like they needed a serious uninterrupted multi-hour session to do properly. Problem is, between work, kids, sport, & life in general, multi-hour gaming blocks just don’t happen, and neither did W3. Then the Netflix series came out, and after watching that I got the itch to play again, so started a new game. After getting up to level 15 or so, I decided I’d rather be playing with all the skills & gear I’d unlocked previously, so went back to finishing the old game, and just taking the end-game quests an hour or so at a time, which actually worked out fine. Now about 10 levels into that, and making good progress. Also re-reading the books, because of course I am :)

    Still playing Pokemon Go – as you mentioned, mobile games make plenty of $$$, and this is one of the biggest. Where I work still has an active raid community, and my son (7yo) started playing the game a couple of months ago, so we go out on weekends together sometimes. I credit the game for stopping me from spending lunch-times at work just sitting & scrolling through Twitter & Facebook, instead I get out and … well, Go :)

    Also minimally playing Elvenar – browser-based city-building whale-bait. I’m not a whale, and I’m usually very patient, but the devs have been making the game harder and more tedious for non-$$$ players lately, and I’m pretty close to giving up on it (after nearly 5 years). “Minimally” because all I need to do / can do at the moment is log in twice a day, collect & reset productions & research points, and I’m done. If it demanded more than 20 minutes a day I’d be long gone …

  13. Baron Tanks says:

    I played a decent chunk of Raft. I’m not typically into survival games and this is definitely one of those. It’s fine, it’s serviceable. It has a decent progression system and a kind of charming style. It’s decent and inoffensive and a lot more robust than some of the low effort cash grabs that litter the genre. But it can’t so much as stand in the shadow of a game like Subnautica.

    Other than that I’ve been casually playing a few rounds of Star Wars Battlefront 2 which I only picked up two months ago, at less than 15 bucks. I exclusively play it as a means of hanging out with one of my friends. It’s fine, arcade style shooting nonsense. Audiovisually it’s as gorgeous as anything out there and the gameplay itself is mostly fine. However, the matchmaking, modes and finding games is all terribly obtuse and there’s no room for the player to choose except for which playlist to roll in. Many points during the week it takes forever to find games and don’t even think of choosing your preferred map or whatever. All of the components are here, but certain choices made during development prevent the game reaching its potential.

    Other than that I’ve not been playing all that much and I’m in a bit of a lull. Got one co-op campaign in Europa Universalis IV going (my buddy is playing Ireland and I’m Norway) which is on hold for real life shenanigans at the moment. I’ve been fitting in odd games of Tetris 99 on my Switch (made it to top 3 for the first time recently, but I’m generally happily sucking). A few games of Smash brothers 1v1 on the couch. And this weekend I had a couple of proper sessions of Slay the Spire on my Switch. I still play the odd run here and there, but last couple days I played a bunch of runs in a row and really chewing down on the game. It’s still fantastic and probably my favorite game of recent years.

    1. ivan says:

      Oo, I’ve never considered playing EU4 co-op. Maybe then I could get them to help me learn how to get into it, cos I tried it once and just could not manage to get into it.

      1. zackoid says:

        I would love to play MP EU4 but I literally cannot imagine two people ever having enough free time at the same time.

        1. Lino says:

          Yeah, I also have a hard time imagining it. But If 5 or more adults can find the free time for a face-to-face D&D session once a week, then I can see how they could find time for this (which has the added benefit of being over the Internet).

          Still, it does seem like a pretty niche feature…

        2. Baron Tanks says:

          @ivan I started out with some YouTube (Quill18) introductory videos. YMMV since they keep adding to the game, but it’s still a good place to start. My buddy I play with now, I did get him into it and after having him try his hand at YouTube followed by a game or two, we proceeded to spend a couple of games where I mentored him. That mostly featured, okay you know how the buttons work, but how do you ‘read’ the current situation and inform your decisions. Plus you can literally help out in wars and such, helps a lot. If you ever get past the initial phase, I would not mind at all to get you up to speed for some more in one or two sessions, I’m always looking for an excuse to play that game :)

          @zackoid I find it’s actually more doable than you’d imagine. The game lends itself pretty well to multiple sessions and just picking up where you left off. Playing multiple 1-3 hour sessions (for example one week night and one weekend night) does not really take away from the experience, I thought it’d affect the enjoyment more. Note that I’ve only ever played with two or three at the same time though. That said, if you can’t manage at least an hour at the same time, I don’t think it would work. The game does not lend itself to shorter sessions than that, be it SP or MP. At least in my opinion.

  14. Fizban says:

    After MATN went and showed off enough of Subnautica for me to find its survival+craft mechanics within tolerance, I’ve played through that now. I’m mildly excited for the new content, as even though it might not be what I’d like (reasons to explore the large swathe of superfluous caves, build outlying bases, and use all the vehicles- which ironically probably would have made me declare it a slog and burn out before finishing my first run), Sub Zero will probably have enough to burn off the remainder of my Subnautica energy or be something fun to pick up when it hits full release.

  15. Lino says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your eye problems. I hope you’ve at least managed to find out what it is (last time you had it pinned as “Balsam of Peru”; while there might not be an actual cure for it, knowing what it is that you have is at least a step in the right direction).

    In terms of what I’ve been playing, it’s kind of disheartening that the only game I’ve played is Brawl Stars, on my phone. I gushed about it the last time you asked us what we’ve been playing, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to reiterate why I’ve stuck with it for so long.

    I’ve been playing it for well over a year, even though it’s the antithesis to the types of games I usually play. I’m a narrative- and atmosphere- first type of player, and I rarely go out of my comfort zone. And Brawl Stars has all the red flags I usually avoid like the plague – it’s a competitive, team-based, free to play mobile game that even has a Battle Royale mode! Yet, I’ve been playing it for well over a year.

    Without going into too much detail, I’ve pinned it down to a few factors:

    – The game is the textbook definition of “easy to learn, hard to master”. It has dead simple controls and mechanics, yet it’s fun as hell, extremely tactical, and has unbelievable game feel, courtesy of a lead designer who’s worked for Blizzard
    – More than 30 characters, each of which has different mechanics, strengths, and weaknesses – some are really easy to pick up, while others have a very high skill ceiling
    – You can play without paying anything, and upgrading brawlers takes some time even if you use real money, and I’ve never felt that I’ve been killed just because my numbers weren’t high enough – even when I lose, I always feel like I could have won if I had played better (indeed, there are some people that do challenges where they’ve advanced all their brawlers to the highest possible rank without upgrading them even once)
    – The game has a lot of game modes (both team-based, free-for-all, and a couple of PvE), which always keeps the game feeling fresh

    As a whole, it doesn’t feel like a mobile game. However, if you plan on giving it a try, there is a small caveat: don’t grind. Whatever it is that you think you want, you can get it eventually, and grinding for something specific will suck all the fun out of the game – Brawl Stars is best when you’re playing with a variety of characters in as many different game modes as you can. The early-game progression makes sure that you have a good selection of characters and modes right from the start. The moment you start growing tired of what you currently have available is usually the point the game has a content release that provides new maps, new level themes, often times a new character you can buy or unlock, and a new game mode.

    In terms of normal games, I’ll be getting a new video card soon, and I’ve got a lot of titles on the waiting list. But the main reason I haven’t bothered is the fact that I just don’t have the same drive for gaming anymore. I work on a computer the whole day, and whenever I get back home, I just don’t feel like sitting at a desk again, so that I can then go to bed, so that tomorrow I can sit at a desk for 8 more hours…

  16. Thomas says:

    I’ve been replaying Dragon Age: Inquisition, and my feeling towards the game (and franchise) are only getting more complex.

    On the one hand, I love the religious themes in this game. They’re messy and complicated and can be played in a lot of ways. Someone suggested the game wasn’t so good if you play someone who actively doesn’t want to be associated with Andraste, so I’m trying that out.

    It definitely isn’t as responsive as if you play an Inquisitor who accepts their role on some level. But I’m still finding it interesting. It plays into a Life of Brian ‘I’m not the Messiah’ theme. I like just how many people are glad that you’re not saying your Jesus. Also, the conflict for the religious characters in having a non religious person who they believe is serving God’s will is a good conflict and happens in the real world a lot too.

    The amount of unique dialogue for a Dalish Mage inquisitor is shocking too. Random fetch quests will respond to you being an elf.

    And what Dragon Age is doing with its evolving world, mythos and commitment to choices is amazing. There are _3_ different wardens who can appear in DA:I depending on choices made in DA:O. And the world is changing is quite significant ways, and they’re paying off mythology they started in the first game. What they do with Solas and Morrigan is fantastic. No game does what they did with Bull in Trespasser.

    The characters in DA:I are great too, I watched Blackwalls first scene, knowing who he is and it was so well done. Cullen, Cassandra, Cole, Iron Bull, Josephine … these are some of Bioware’s best.

    But the actual minute to minute experience of playing DA:I is awful.

    1. Gabriel says:

      I usually play games on hard settings, but the Dragon Age games I’ve always enjoyed more on the easier settings. The mechanics just don’t interest me for some reason (even #1 – sorry) but casually mowing down mooks is a fine side dish to my main course of story/characters. (It’s… still a bit of a slog in DA:I, but bearable IMO.)

      1. Thomas says:

        That’s probably why I liked the gameplay in DA:2 the most. You could just now through mooks in a fairly entertaining way. DA:O required more thought and DA:I is somehow more bland.

        It’s not just the combat though in DA:I. The art style is stylised in a way that doesn’t really work for me, the quests are all busy work and the map design bugs me. It’s cool how the environment will change with your actions, but it’s built like an MMO rather than an environment that feels real. It’s less than its parts.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I LOVED the combat as a rogue in DA2, where you literally jump around the field hacking things to death. DAI’s wasn’t as much fun.

          I played Persona 5 and DAI at around the same time, and noted that while both took me about the same amount of time to play — in the 80 hour range — when I finished my playthrough of Persona 5 I immediately restarted it, whereas if I NEVER replayed DAI it would be too soon. The reason was that the hours in DAI were too filled with grinding out missions and hoping that I would do enough to be leveled enough to do the next area, while in Persona 5 things mostly followed from the story, I could ignore anything I didn’t want to do, and if anything I had too many things that I WANTED to do for the time I had.

          I didn’t hate DAI, and some of the characters were fun (Cassandara, Josephine especially if romanced, Varric), but the open world elements really annoyed me in it.

        2. Benden says:

          I’m playing DA:I right now as well and all I can think is WHY did they go with all-caps for so much of the flavor text and lore text and instructional text and basically all of the text except the subtitles?!!!? It is agonizing to read!

    2. GargamelLeNoir says:

      My feelings exactly, when so many people reacted to me being a Dalish Elf it felt so freaking good, especially after the entire Mass Effect trilogy that one (1) event that reacted to your class!
      But fucking why did they make it a single player RPG? It’s sooo boring, 70% of the game is mindless torture!

  17. Karma The Alligator says:

    Recently I’ve tried the Cinders mod for Dark Souls 3: it changes a lot of the game and makes it very different. Too difficult for me, though, and some areas are downright obnoxious now due to new/moved enemies. Pity, it looked so good at the start with the new classes.

    Also been playing Megadimension Neptunia VIIR: it makes a lot of changes compared to VII (some for the better, others, not so much), doesn’t need to be played with a VR headset (VR events let you use the controller to look around), and is generally what you’d expect from a Neptunia game, with one massive drawback: since barely anyone plays the game, finding info on the new mechanics or what changed from VII is really difficult.

  18. tomato says:

    I’ve been replaying CrossCode, an underrated (or rather undertalked) 2D action JRPG. And I’m enjoying it even more than the first time, so much in fact, that I’ve been gushing about it on reddit.

    1. Hector says:

      This might be up Shamus’ alley for just being wildly different, as well as extremely high-quality. If nothing else the game deserves a brief look just for weirdness factor.

      1. Grey Rook says:

        CrossCode, yay! Yeah, I’d really like it if he gave it a look and wrote an article on it.

  19. Asdasd says:

    Closing in on 100 hours in Shin Megami Tensei IV. I hate how long JRPGs are in general, but every time I play one I end up hitting the Stockholm Syndrome point where not only do I know I’m going to see the thing through, I even find myself looking for reasons to stall things out as the ending approaches and get morbidly obsessed with completing all the side content.

    Of which there is a frankly astonishing amount. Never mind quests; try conversations. I recently realised that all the non-optimal stuff you can do, like disabling enemies instead of just hitting them with massed AoE damage spells to power through the (psychotically frequent) combats, changes the dialogue options if you choose to initiate conversation with them mid-combat (which is a thing you can do.) What the demons say also depends on what you choose to ask them for, eg whether you recruit them, initiate trade, or try beg money or items from them.

    So give or take a few factors, for every ‘personality type’ of demon (of which there are maybe a dozen or two), there are (number of unique types of conversation) * (number of status effects) conversations you can have. You can, for example, paralyse an enemy and then ‘ask’ them for money, at which they will express disbelief at your audacity and anguish at their helplessness as you rifle through their pockets.

    Some key demons have entirely unique dialogue. Some demons will only talk to you under extremely rare circumstances – a normally non-interactive demon might be affected by the random event where they’re the last of the group and they choose to surrender, a sub-1% chance occurrence. That’s custom dialogue written for a circumstance which will almost certainly never trigger in an average play-through, pertaining to the recruitment of a demon which can only happen under the same infinitesimally unlikely circumstances. Talk about a completionist’s nightmare.

  20. Grey Rook says:

    Sad to hear that you’ve got eye problems again, Shamus. I hope they’ll go away quickly.

    Anyway, lately I’ve mostly been playing Earth Defense Force 5, a third-person shooter by the old dev team Sandlot, where you pick one of four classes, between two and four weapons depending on class, and then blast away at vast hordes of giant bugs, killer robots, Greys in powered armour and even Godzilla-esque kaiju. There’s a huge variety of weapons to unlock, the enemy variety is excellent, the plot is pretty basic though it does have a few twists, the voice acting is pretty bad but in a good way, and buildings collapse in a very pleasing manner when struck by explosives or kaiju. It’s pretty fun, though it does get grindy in the late game.

    I’ve been playing Grim Dawn, though I’m started to tire of it, which is partly self-inflicted since my high-level characters keep filling their inventories with items that are far to awesome to simply discard, and the Item Assistant doesn’t seem to work. Frustrating.

    I also got back into Medieval 2: Total War and started a campaign as Venice which is going okay, even though people keep declaring war on me out of nowhere. I’ve also been trying to get into Thera: Legacy of the Great Torment, a mod for M2 which transposes the gameplay to a parallel low fantasy universe that appears to be designed specifically to enable a variety of awesome matchups. Ancient Rome versus vikings! Renaissance Spanish conquistadores versus Arthurian knights! Isengard’s Uruk-Hai versus Native American tribal confederations! Chinese Mongol Samurai versus Scotireland! The list goes on.

    The mod includes a large number of factions scattered across a huge map, starts you off with a huge twenty thousand florins that will vanish when you start building your first army, and majorly dials up the strength of the generic rebel factions. Where in vanilla you would face three or four units of generic militia, Thera has you fighting half or even full stacks that frequently include elite units, and that’s before you start getting in fights with the actual factions. It’s pretty cool, though occasionally frustrating.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Ooh — another EDF player! My son and I are on our second pass through EDF 5. I’m playing as a Fencer still in the construction-worker costume, while he prefers Air Raider.

      I’m not sure I have the patience to play on the higher difficulties, but the constant drip-feed of gear upgrades can really get its hooks into you.

  21. Gabriel says:

    For me, Caves of Qud (early access.) It’s a roguelike set in a post-post-apocalyptic world with a very deep character customization system, primarily driven by mutations. You might have four arms, wings, and night vision, or be a photosynthesizing (doesn’t need food as long as you have sunlight) mind-controller who accidentally spent too long in a spore cloud and now has fungal mouths on your back that tell you secrets.

    They really nailed the atmosphere, and both the mechanics and the world are very well-developed. I’m totally hooked.

    I had one character who had both their arms cut off by an axe-wielding legendary snapjaw. I thought I was completely screwed, since I was only using melee and a bow. However, I kept going and I realized it had actually made me stronger – you see, I hadn’t found very powerful weapons yet, and I also had horns – which are very strong but in normal circumstances only have a chance to accompany a melee attack. But since it was my only remaining attack, I now used it every time… I coasted on that a while, hoping to find a set of mechanical arms or a way to grow a new pair, but ended up dying before I did.

    1. tmtvl says:

      That’s pretty cool. Just goes to show you, when life gives you lemons, you burn life’s house down. With the lemons!

  22. Narkis says:

    I’ve been playing Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun lately which I somehow missed when it first came out. Great game, in the mold of the old Commandos. It’s been a while since we had one of those. And the ninja theme is so obvious and works so well that someone should’ve thought of it already.

    1. Lino says:

      As someone with very fond memories of Commandos, as well as that Robin Hood game, I also liked Shadow Tactics a lot (although I still haven’t finished the final mission). I’m really glad this genre is getting reborn, what with Outlaws 2, and the Commandos remaster that recently came out (although it’s quite buggy, from what I’ve heard).

      As a whole, I’m very optimistic about the future of these kind of games.

      1. Narkis says:

        I’m not really sure what you mean by Outlaws 2, and google doesn’t help. But I’m happy Blades of the Shogun was made, and I’m looking forward to Desperados 3 by these people.

        1. Lino says:

          *facepalm* Yes, Desperados! That’s what the game I meant! I never got to play the series, so I brain-farted and said Outlaws which was an old-school western shooter :D

    2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I really liked Shadow Tactic, alas I have not made it past the first level with the sniper. Just haven’t had time. But I stare longingly at it. I also picked up Desperados 1+2 in a Steam Sale, and they sit -unplayed -in my library mocking me.

      1. Liessa says:

        Desperados is one of my favourite games, despite also being one of the hardest I’ve ever played. The sequel sadly isn’t nearly as good, due to replacing the beautiful 2D backgrounds with ugly blocky 3D, and wasting time on a TPS mode which no one really wanted. I’m looking forward to seeing what Mimimi do with the sequel, though they seem to have made some… interesting choices so far (voodoo magic in a Wild West setting? Really?)

  23. Lars says:

    The Yakuza Remastered Collection. The not-cut-to-shreds-anymore 3rd entry of the franshise to be precise. Part 5 to follow (in about 60 to 80 gameplay hours left in 3).
    On Mobile I sink much too many hours in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duell Links. It wants to be a cashgrab, but somehow does that poorly. It gives you so much stuff for simply playing the game, that you never feel the need for it. I start the App and play for 2 hours staight and still have things to do before I see the roadblock many other mobile/browser games have.
    What the game did, was nugging me to invest in real (physical) cards again.

  24. Benjamin says:

    Sadly not playing much – I have started Witcher 3 (for the first time really) two weeks ago, but since then I just default to Path of Exile whenever I have time to game. Mostly because the odd hour of time doesn’t feel worth it for Witcher.

    Other than that I’m waiting for Animal Crossing on the switch.

  25. Ninety-Three says:

    With 170 hours logged, I think I’m about finished with Noita (indie roguelite with Powder Game physics), my game of the year 2019. I’ll still boot it up now and then, but I’ve wrapped up playing it enough to mention.

    30 hours in Radical Dungeon Sweeper (Minesweeper roguelite?) and I’ve reached the same point of pretty much done. It’s hard to find specific things to say about a roguelite, but if it weren’t for Noita, this would be the best one I’d played in a while.

    I tried Legends of Runeterra, the Hearthstone clone from the League of Legends people. It’s dumbed down even compared to Hearthstone: they have creatures, spells (both instants and sorceries in Magic terms), and that’s all the card types. It’s a shame because there are a few really neat bits that I hope other games steal, like the Spell Mana system (up to 3 unspent mana is banked between turns as special spell mana that can only be spent on spells, to reduce the importance of spending all your mana each turn) and how the cards don’t just have voice lines, but have lines based on specific other cards, so you get things like the Arena Battlecaster doing a WWE introduction for the Crowd Favorite.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Oh, I’ve also been playing a ton of Rimworld, and feeling constant frustration at the way that game uses colony wealth to increase enemy raiding parties and the expectations of your colonists. It creates a perverse system where crafting legendary armour is actually bad because the huge value bonus that Legendary confers means your sweet armour will attract more raiders than the statboost can defend you from. Normally playing a colony management game is about maximizing utility per unit of colonist labour, but Rimworld makes it more about utility per unit of wealth, and it just feels terrible.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        I keep trying to figure out a solution to Rimworld’s difficulty. You can’t have no scaling to player performance because the snowbally and variable nature of these sorts of games means that almost will stay on the expected progression path, leading to 49% getting stomped by fixed raids that outstripped their growth rate while another 49% outgrow the raiders and find the whole thing a cakewalk. You also can’t have perfect scaling because even if you could precisely measure the player’s killing power and send exactly enough raiders to be a threat, then you run into the Oblivion problem of “Why bother leveling up if everything’s just going to scale?” And ideally you wouldn’t lean too heavily on performance metrics like “decrease raid power every time a colonist dies” because those create perverse incentives to do badly enough in raids that the game doesn’t make them harder. Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with, listed in ascending order of how radical they are.

        Make colony wealth better track colony strength. As I complained about above, legendary armour isn’t even worth making because its tremendous value summons too many raiders. The most modest solution would be to simply revamp the wealth calculations so that this isn’t the case, or if you don’t want to mess up how wealth value interacts with the trade system, give every item a Utility Value, scale raid strength based on utility instead of wealth, and make sure that a dozen turrets have higher utility than a solid gold statue.

        Make raids survivable. Right now, if you get attacked by more raiders than you’re able to beat, it’s probably going to be a total party kill. Every colonist you have gets murdered or left unconscious and bleeding, then they set everything on fire just for good measure. Worse, there’s a thin margin between “raiders are tough enough that you lose one guy while fighting them” and “raiders destroy everything” so most bad outcomes from raids are total game overs. What if their AI worked a little differently? Turn raiders into slavers by relaxing their drive to hunt down every last colonist you have and increasing the priority of the “grab unconscious guys as prisoners and retreat” behaviour they occasionally display. Then, so long as you make sure to have one guy stay back from the fighting, you use him and your mostly-still-intact infrastructure to rebuild.

        Move the difficulty to optional encounters. The game already has a bunch of systems for optional challenges: ancient ruins that can be cracked open to find treasures but also monsters, cave systems full of giant bugs that are not actively attacking you but should probably be exterminated at some point, procgen “travel here on the map and kill some dudes to get a shiny” missions. What if you toned down the game’s emphasis on raiders (make them both weaker and rarer) but increased the frequency and rewards of the opt-in challenges without changing their difficulty? That way the game still has challenge but you can rely on the player opting in to fight enemies of whatever level they find interesting, rather than worrying about making a raid system that scales enemies to challenge them.

        1. Drathnoxis says:

          Yeeeeeessss! I hate how Rimworld scales difficulty. It feels so bad that you are punished for playing efficiently and making a productive base. It feels like the game just hates you and can’t stand to let you get any sort of advantage. You want to stop your pawns getting killed by raiders so you build a wall and traps, so they send sappers in to go through your wall and bypass your traps. You build turrets all around your base so they drop pod in right on your roof. You build under a mountain so the raiders don’t have any choice but to knock at your front door, so a million bugs tunnel up into your bedroom.

          Too bad development is finished on the game, because it’s a glaring problem that really detracts from the experience.

          1. PeteTimesSix says:

            “Too bad development is finished on the game”

            Said on the same day 1.1 and Royalty dropped. Heh.

            1. Drathnoxis says:

              Huh, that’s surprising!

    2. Rack says:

      Not sure how you feel it’s cut down compared to HS of all things. The pass return structure offers almost infinitely more depth and interaction than secrets do and the only other card type Hearthstone has is quests and those aren’t really any deeper than Champions.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Maybe the comparison is unfair: I’m a Magic player at heart and I expect more depth than either Hearthstone or Runeterra. It’s not like I demand every game be Magic (I enjoy Mythgard and that game doesn’t even let you take actions on the opponent’s turn), but the floor for my expectations definitely includes noncreature permanents: I want to do at least a little more than make big monsters and smash faces with them.

        1. Rack says:

          For myself Netrunner stole my heart and nothing else has really come close. I play Magic and Runeterra and honestly they both feel like they have pros and cons. Simic Flash is a control deck that’s basically just instants and creatures and Runeterra has its own very creature light control decks that just use a single card to seal up the game. The difference between Ali from Cairo and Worship is ultimately just a case of what removal works on them so while there is a design space in having enchantments and artifacts I’m not convinced it’s an essential one.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            The difference between Ali from Cairo and Worship is ultimately just a case of what removal works on them

            That’s a really big deal. In a game with lots of creatures, almost everyone will be playing some form of creature removal. Look at any of the Wilderness Reclamation combo decks that have been in Standard since that card was printed: all of them rely on the assumption that you’ll be able to cast Reclamation and have it survive. If you replaced Reclamation with Seedborn Muse, then everyone would be effectively main-decking combo hate, and the combo would be unplayable. Having cards that are hard to remove lets you build your deck around them in a way that’s not possible when everything dies to Doom Blade. Control decks on the other hand, if we replaced all enchantments with creatures, there would be Wrath of God decks that became nothing but lands and spells. That already happens sometimes, and historically control decks with real permanents are much less miserably grindy than those without.

            Having a way to advance your board state without losing everything to a sweeper is also important to aggro decks. Lots of them remain entirely creatures plus spells, but I think it’s essential they have the option to be resilient to wraths instead of just saying “I’m gonna play more tiny creatures and try to kill them before they wrath” or “I’m gonna play bigger creatures and become a midrange deck”.

            There are enough “creatures plus spells” decks in Magic that you could probably assemble a diverse Standard format out of only the mono-reds, UG flashes and UW controls of the world, and that format would still be fun to play, but it would be way less interesting to deckbuild in. Deckbuilding is where half the fun and three quarters of the skill in Magic lies, so why take that away?

            1. Rack says:

              I don’t think we’re on a different page here, enchantments and artifacts are an important part of Magic’s design space I’d just argue they aren’t integral to it’s depth. Runeterra isn’t a game solely about making big monsters and smashing face, and the ways it is promote counterplay. Heimerdinger control is a nice example of where that leads. There’s also a soft distinction where there are spells to remove creatures involved in combat and spells that are better targetted at non combat creatures. It’s not nothing that there’s no equivalent enchantments or artifacts but I wouldn’t hold it as a defining feature when it comes to how deep the game is.

    3. Galad says:

      Ahem. Have you tried the Goki’s things mod from the workshop, for Noita? It’s more of a complete expansion with a TON of new options, both to make the game easier, and harder.

      You’re welcome ;)

  26. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Ah, thanks for dropping this post Shamus, I hope me and a couple people talking (repeatedly) about how we miss that forum thread didn’t make you feel pressured into this. Also I just never though talking about Adult games would be really appropriate here.

    So what I have NOT been playing are Destiny 2 and Warframe. I really liked both games and I couldn’t decide between them and eventually realised that trying to balance both at the same time was leaving me no time for anything else and when I looked at my backlog and realised I’m starting to think in terms of “oh, I got Two Point Hospital from Humble Choice, I wish I could play it but I won’t have the time” I figured it was time to call it. Hard to tell, might be back to one or both of those one day, I still think they’re great, but right now I’ve either quit or at least I’m on an extended sabbatical.

    As a sort of side effect of that I’ve started multiple games at the same time because suddenly I have aaaall this time, which also doesn’t end well so I’m going to focus on stuff I put a bunch of time in. So I’ve finally sat down and did a full playthrough of Legend of Grimrock 2 campaign. It was fun but also man, is this game oldschool in so many ways, including the fact that some of the puzzles are hard, and sometimes you need that item that you thought was a random staff 10 hours ago and oh boy, sure hope you remember where you dropped it! It did however reassure me in my opinion that I like them oldschool games even if I had to check walkthroughs more than once.

    The other game I’ve invested a lot of time in, and it came up recently but I figured for once there was no point in chipping in something like five days after the post, was Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Now, full disclosure, I’m not a particular fan of the series, I got the game from Humble like I did the previous two I think and I figured now that I have the time I can wrap up the trilogy… and yeah, it is not a good game. On paper I think the shift towards less combat more exploration is a good idea but what combat is left is just awful, stealth is pretty cool when it works (not quite the satisfaction of Arkham predator sequences but it does hit the same spot if it goes smoothly( but they don’t really give you a lot of tools when you break stealth and often do a “mandatory stealth failure in a cutscene, now plonk down behind cover and mow down dudes”, also the heavier focus on exploration kinda bares how uninspired a bunch of it is, at least some of the DLC tombs had decent setpieces and special mechanics.

    But the worst offender is the writing, I did not expect to say it but this game could actually do less storyline and more action schlock because whoever was trying to be ambitious with the story did poorly. Lara is having inexplicable pangs of guilt over something that the antagonist would have done anyway if she didn’t beat him by five minutes, every couple hours she remembers her father died and she feels bad about it, entire sequences exist just to pad the game: the antagonist has the macguffin, someone grabs the macguffin, we spend the mission running around, at the end of it the antagonist has the macguffin with Lara having no input into it whatsoever, individual lines often make no sense, like telling your cohort not to use the radio because enemies are listening to it than five minutes later yelling into it begging for the same guy to answer leading me to believe that nobody reviewed the script as a whole. People who played the game will probably know what I mean when I say “and now a villain who was not established gets killed in a cutscene by an ally who has not been explained”. Heck Trinity High Council are introduced (well, mentioned) in one line of dialogue, then 10 minutes later die offscreen without ever having any influence on the story or even being shown. Lara is actually, straight faced, referred to as “The Chosen One”! Who even does that unironically in video game writing nowadays?!

    On top of that the game is trying to do some post-colonialism commentary but does so in a condescending and self-aggrandizing way. You do not drop a couple of lines to make it clear that “oh we know the difference between the Mayans and the Aztec” and then go “but we’re gonna use this flimsy handwave so that we can have collectables from both cultures and won’t really do anything with it in the story”. You do not make an entire hub meant to show cultural displacement of the natives by corporate interests and then run a full on Mighty Whitey trope with Lara, a heiress of a rich British family, schooling everybody around on their own culture!

    1. John says:

      At least the Maya and the Aztecs were neighbors, more or less. I’ve seen pop culture confuse the Aztecs with the Inca, who didn’t even live on the same continent.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Tomb Raider has a difficult hoop to jump through in that raiding tombs is literally a crime. But… you need to have Lara raid tombs. They tried going without in Angel of Darkness and it was the worst shit ever. So to make the hero a good guy requires leaps in logic to where it’s like, “the people who would be allowed to look through this tomb WANT her to do it! So it’s fine!” It would be like if you as the developer were charged with the modern remake of the classic video game “Purse Snatcher” where the Snatcher of purses is meant to be a heroic, likeable character.

      1. Syal says:

        “When you think about it, an underground volcano lair is really just a large purse.”

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        If only that was the issue. I mean, in Shadow she goes and literally explains to people what their beliefs mean. Admittedly, the most egregious example is about child sacrifice so I’m not defending the original position, just saying that it does come a bit “eeeeh”.

        Far as what you pointed out is concerned, I’m low key fine with the games sort of not addressing this, or you could make a game around an antagonist being someone who’s all “you’re a tomb raider not an archeologist” in Lara’s face only to later be revealed as working for some cabal, or unleashing some ancient evil, sort of justifying Lara’s function in the world. Point is, you can either deal with an issue (even if in a somewhat handwavy or lampshady fashion) or you can make it just an enjoyable action story without drawing attention to them in the first place. Like, I’d still comment on it, but if the game was good probably in a good natured way.

        Shadow decided to have the worst of both worlds, by which I mean it draws attention to issues then ignores them. It boasts of its knowledge (and to be honest it’s nothing that would turn heads in the first place) than handwaves why it’s going to ignore it.

  27. John says:

    For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark, which is an indie Final Fantasy Tactics-like for PC. I have elsewhere called it a “thoroughly adequate example of its genre”, which it is. Consequently, I’ve been playing it almost compulsively. Tactical RPGs are apparently my secret weakness. There are so many classes to unlock and so many ways to combine them! Combat wise, the game is very, very Final Fantasy Tactics. If you’ve played any of those games, you should be able to pick up this one very quickly. It distinguishes itself in numerous small ways, such as the treatment of items and the way in which characters who don’t participate in combat can learn abilities–but not gain levels–based on the classes and actions of the characters who do. The plot is generic and unfortunately non-branching, but it’s reasonably well-done and also pleasantly unobtrusive.

    As an aside, I really appreciate the way the game handles dialogue. First, all dialogue and cutscenes are skippable. I haven’t watched a single cutscene in my second, “now I know what I’m doing!” playthrough, and the game hasn’t objected in the slightest. Second, the game doesn’t do that JRPG thing. You know the thing. The thing where a game spells out what people are saying one character at a time. The thing where the game spells out “dot dot dot” in super slow-motion for some reason. I hate that thing. Fell Seal respects my time and my reading comprehension. It spells out everything a character says immediately and lets me hit a button to skip to the next bit of dialogue the instant I’m done reading. I mean, I love Tactics Ogre, but that thing makes it hard to go back sometimes.

    My biggest gripe about Fell Seal has to do with the art. Fell Seal has three art styles: one for the levels, another for the in-game sprites, and a third for the character portraits. I like the level art and the character portraits well enough, but I’m less fond of the in-game sprites. They’re a lot like the “design your own cartoon avatar” advertisements that I used to see. In fact, Fell Seal has what is effectively a “design your own cartoon avatar” system, as you can customize the heads of non-story characters fairly extensively. To be fair, the art has grown on me as I’ve played, or else I’ve just gotten used to it. I should also note that my daughter, now age 11, loves the art. I had to install Fell Seal on a second computer so that she could play too. (Between this and her love of XCOM, I think that there must be some gene that predisposes a person towards tactical RPG-liking.)

    But never mind that, let’s talk about builds! Oh, sweet, sweet mechanics. (Who needs characters and lore?) My favorite build at the moment is the Vampire who dual-wields pistols. I’ve named him Chow Yun Vlad, because I am a silly, silly man. He has an ability from his secondary Knight class that gives him a free shot–two free shots, actually, on account of the dual-wielding–every time another party member makes a single-target attack on enemy within range of his guns. (Guns are the longest-range weapons in the game. It’s glorious.) I only wish that I had been the one to come up with the build. Unfortunately, the developers thought of it first and used it against me to devastating effect in a late-game boss battle. My second favorite character of the moment is a melee fighter designed to do massive damage and who gets a free turn every time she kills an enemy. Even though she’s a melee character, I gave her enough levels in Wizard to get the Boon ability, so that every time she kills an enemy, she’s guaranteed to do critical damage on her text turn. Her slogan is “Kill one enemy, kill the second enemy free!” Or, rather, it would be if she weren’t a plot-relevant character with an established personality.

    I’ll end by noting that there’s a demo for Fell Seal available on, but I warn you: that’s how the game got its hooks into me.

    1. ivan says:

      Well you sold me, ima at least look at that. Ooh it’s on GoG, that removes one major barrier (that i kinda just don’t like steam much anymore).

      Actually, though, I should ask, how broken is it? Or, how easy is it to obtain a gamebreaking build or exploit or whatnot? That stuff is my jam, if I’m honest, like in Divinity: Original Sin 2, where I made everyone in my 4 man party a barrelmancer and proceeded to break the game balance about 10 minutes into the game. Also the turn based combat structure coupled with the fact characters can enter and exit an ongoing combat encounter at will, as long as at least one of your party holds the combat instance or whatever, and keeps it running and the enemies within it paused. That also helps.

      1. John says:

        I don’t think it’s too broken. The game was in early access for quite a long time, and my understanding is that most of the really egregious exploits were patched out during that process. I heard somewhere that the dual-pistols Vampire/Knight was considered broken until the developers nerfed pistols a little and added an MP cost to the Knight’s free-shot ability so that it can’t be used continuously. Even without that, however, Dual-Wielding is one of the most difficult abilities to obtain in the game. It’s at the very end of the Assassin skill tree, and Assassin is a fifth-tier class with a whole lot of prerequisites. To make matters worse, Assassins can’t use guns. Vampires can, but Vampires are a secret class with even more requirements. The point is I spent a lot of time and effort turning Chow Yun Vlad into the monster (ha!) that he is now, so to me he feels earned rather than cheap.

  28. Chris says:

    I finally got around to giving Dragon’s Dogma a go. It’s such a fascinating game. It’s janky and broken in so very many ways, but I think I’m falling in love. It cribs ideas from a bunch of other games (Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus are the most obvious), but the end result feels unlike anything else I’ve played. Usually that’s in spite of all the rough edges, but sometimes it’s because of them. It turns out that open worlds feel more convincing when they aren’t absolutely stuffed to the gills with Ubisoft busywork “content”.

    The large monster fights are immensely satisfying. Scrambling over a cyclops’s back to stab it in the eye before it can eat your mage never gets old. The world has a rough, untamed feel to it. There are so many little moments that look and feel just like the way a scene from a pulpy fantasy novel plays out in my head. I am very into this game.

    Are the Monster Hunter games anything like this?

    1. Christopher says:

      Monster Hunter is a different beast, but it does have a similar feel. Playing Monster Hunter World, I was struck by how it’s the game I’ve played that feels the closest to Dragon’s Dogma. It’s got a lot of minute differences, and I couldn’t be assed to get deep into it because it’s the kinda game that doesn’t explain itself very well and is buried in menus. But I think there’s absolutely something there for you if you can stick it out or get someone to point you through the most obtuse menus.

      Context: I’ve played over 400 hours of Dragon’s Dogma and maybe 10 hours of Monster Hunter World.

      Edit: The other game I’ve played that somewhat reminds me of Dragon’s Dogma is DMC5. Obviously that’s a whole different genre, but since they share the same director he still saw fit to give the new character mage-like abilities and a Dragon’s Dogma-style Golem of his own. Man, I hope he gets started on a Dragon’s Dogma 2 already. I love DMC5 but I can’t be a Strider/Ranger in that game.

    2. EOW says:

      there’s no proper “climb on monster” mechanic. You can mount and topple monsters, but it’s basically a slightly more involved qte.
      Monster Hunter is about methodic play, learning monsters patterns and efficiently take them down. You kill monsters to gather loot, craft better weapons, kill stronger monsters and get better loot to make even better weapons. It’s very addicting once you get into the loop.
      Just be warned, unless you play World monster hunter is extremely newcomer unfriendly, so i suggst you look at a few guides online. GaijinHunter is a good youtuber with tons of guides.
      The best games you can get are Iceborne (which is world + the expansion) and Generations Ultimate on the switch. World is more newcomer friendly, but Generations is more traditional and has more content overall.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Yeah, if you want to try Monster Hunter, I’d recommend looking at World. As much as I love the series, the other entries in the franchise are not super accessible.

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Oh man yes, it was so much fun fighting the big monsters in this game. Back when I played it there was some kind of “mage knight” or something OP build that effectively makes you into a turret with magical self-guided projectiles and the internet really tried to make me play it when I was looking for guides but the game wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun. Also, not sure how far you are into the story but… it gets weirder than expected, which was a pleasant surprise.

      1. Chris says:

        The story that begins with a dragon stealing your heart out of your chest so you have to hunt the dragon down to get your somewhat important organ back gets weirder? Good to know!

        I’ve finished with Maximilian’s initial quests and am working on the first two you get from Aldo us. But I tend to get Skyrim-style ADD, where quests take forever because some interesting nook in the world catches my attention.

  29. EOW says:

    I played and finished God of War on ps4. Good game, but i felt that the exploration was too restrictive and scripted. Combat was satisfying but by the end you could feel the lack of variety in the enemy department.
    Story was good and amazingly well written (except for one weird sequence), but it was straight up unfinished. They spend all game teasing thor and odin’s wrath that’s right around the corner, only for them to not appear.
    I feel the game was kept down by trying to appeal to current trends (open world, dark souls-y combat) that cut into the budget. My theory is that odin and thor were supposed to appear, but they had run out of budget to do all the side content, which has a surprisingly high level of quality all things considered.

    Then i started playing Death Stranding (i realized i left the ps4 without games, so i’m playing all the exclusives i’ve missed on). So far i’m liking it, it’s VERY kojima-y, very japanese. At the same time i find it oddly relaxing to play and i respect it a whole bunch. In an industry too afraid of trying anything that deviates from the lowest common denominator it’s nice to see a high buget game willing to risk with a new idea, even if that new idea isn’t loved by everyone.

    Next i think i’ll play The Last Guardian, since i loved both Ico and Shadow of the colossus. Meanwhile on the pc side i’m catching back with those old infinity engine crpgs, since i can now speak english and understand the story.

    1. Thomas says:

      I don’t think Odin and Thor were ever planned to appear in this one. The originally God of War was a trilogy, and this one feels like it’s been planned as a trilogy from the start.

      They used Baldur as a Norse god a lot of people don’t recognise and won’t mind killing, and then the twist at the end of the game sets up why we will want to kill the more popular gods in the sequels.

      1. EOW says:

        well, if they weren’t meant to appear from the start why hype them up this much?
        every turn characters mention how mad thor/odin is, how asgard is agitated and storms starts happening as you get closer to the end.
        Mimir talks at lenght about what a scumbag odin is. It feels unfinished even by chapter 1 standards.

        1. Thomas says:

          I just read that all as sequel hook.

  30. zackoid says:

    I bought a PS4 in 2018 and between feeling guilty of how little I’ve played it and the weather in Western NY, I’ve made an effort to play it the last month or two. So I beat the last half of Spiderman, decided to actually finish the story of RDR2 (instead of putting another hundred hours into Songbird Hunting Simulator 2k18), started Nioh, and what I wanted to ask about,
    beat Uncharted 1, 2 and 3.

    Maybe my expectations are just unrealistic because the games originally came out in 2007, 2009 and 2011, but I was under the impression that these games were considered among the greatest games of the time and I just don’t see it. The stories probably rise above your average video game, but they’re still full of passing the idiot ball and cutscene incompetence. They are constructed almost entirely out of cliches, which is fine for the genre, I guess. All of which would be fine except that there is waaaaaay too much combat for how mediocre it is. Am I missing something?

    1. ivan says:

      I was recenly rewatching a lets play of those three games. I got through 1 and 2 ok, but christ 3 is such a chore to even watch someone else play. The villians in that are the smuggest bunch of assholes I have seen in a while.

      Every moment they’re onscreen they belittle the ‘heroes’ with every word they speak, every bit of body language they exude says they know the writer has their back until their designated defeat point in the story, and thus they can never lose until then. They have magic mind control drugs from space that obey no consistent rules or logic, that allow them to pit the heroes against each other, or just force them (the heroes) to hand over plot crucial items or information, that the player has just spent hours of gameplay gunning down their (the villians) mooks to get to first.

      But no, mind control drug, therefore hand it over. The player has no agency in this, or in fact in any of the cutscene stupidity the heroes engage in even when they aren’t drugged. The player puts in hours and hours of what looks to me to be fairly mundane work, and then it is undone in a cutscene where the villain smugly wins, and the heroes are bumbling retards.

      I was just watching it, but christ. Awful. I can’t imagine Shamus could stand the game, otherwise I’d ask him to look it over with a view to doing a writeup on it’s story and whatnot. It strikes me as everything wrong with ME2 and/or 3, without any of the mitigating factors that ppl other than me use as justification to slog through the bad.

      Having said all that, you’ve played them, thoughts on (Uncharted) 3 vs 2 and 1, and their stories and whatnot? Cos I slogged through 1 and 2… ok, but 3 was too much to stand.

      1. zack says:

        Just throwing out some thoughts so apologies that these are more bullet points than coherent arguments.

        I think 2 is clearly the best of the first 3 games. Starting in media res was a great idea for a cinematic-linear game of this style. Usually in cutscene-heavy games where they try to make you hate the villain I end up just wanting them to go away, but I found the secondary villain in 2 to be properly hateable. The environments are generally great and the puzzles are better than the other games. The Tibetan NPC was well done.

        On the bad side, it all kind of falls apart when they have to introduce the inevitable reveal of the non-human enemies (twice), and the primary antagonist is extremely boring.

        I would kill for them to JUST ONCE lampshade a) how often Nate unlocks some ancient mystery only to be caught by the villains at the treasure b) the ridiculous body count.

        3 is a better game than 1, but if you adjust for the fact that it’s the 3rd game in the series it’s clearly the worst. The whole story feels like it’s missing the climax with how much time they spend building up the villains only to toss them away in a few minutes. The other games had actual bossfights, which while they weren’t great at least capped off the story.

        1. Thomas says:

          I think the 3rd is the worst game full stop. I was playing it recently and it’s missing the glue that makes the series great. The Shipyard should be the best Uncharted level, but in practice it’s an unfocused drag to play that clearly doesn’t fit the story.

          When 3 came out everyone thought the series was wearing out it’s welcome. Then Uncharted 4 and Lost Legacy came out and it turned out no, U3 was just bad.

          2,4,Lost Legacy1,3 is a standard order – personally I prefer 4 but I recognise 2 was better for it’s time.

          1. zackoid says:

            Thanks for the perspective, I’m really an outsider to the series having not paid any attention to console exclusives until the last year.

          2. DeadlyDark says:

            Hmmm. Weird. I played them all couple years ago and found out that every subsequent game is better than the previous one (though, I did prefer shooting in 3 more than 4) with Lost Legacy being the best in series

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              The gunplay, graphics, and game mechanics improve in each Uncharted game, but the plot and pacing in 2 are much better than 3, imo. 2 starts in a shocking and exciting place, then deploys some incredible set pieces all the way through. 3 was made with many left over set pieces that they either couldn’t get working in time for 2 or ones that they cut at the drawing board and went back to.

              Most obviously, this can be noticed at the ship graveyard, which also happens to be the graveyard of the game story’s pacing. In that sequence, Nate goes to a place to find a thing, fights a faction unrelated to the rest of the plot, gets to the place where the thing should be and… shit, it isn’t here! This was a red herring. Gosh dang it, now Nate will have to go back to another place instead and fight his way out! It’s almost as if… the whole sequence is pointless and just there because they worked really hard on the tech necessary to create the ship graveyard shootout.

              There’s also that bit where Nate gets lost in the desert and the game emphasizes the difficulty of physical travel and the need for Nate to be strong and hang in there more than ever before in the entire series. This is interesting! Then Nate stumbles, near death, to a small town in the desert that has a well. Finally, Nate can get the water he desperately needs before he dies of dehydration… oh crap enemy faction is RIGHT HERE! Nate… magically loses all of his fatigue and near death status to have a bog standard shoot out, without taking even a sip of the water. It’s real bad. And it’s completely in service of A) making sure the lowest common denominator players have a shootout ASAP before they start complaining and hating on the game and B) a sight gag where Nate realizes he’s among the enemy only at the LAST possible moment. The sad thing is, I would have zero issues if Nate discovered the well, took many LONG drinks of water, wandered into some shade, and then passed out. Then when he woke back up, he went back to the well and is surprised in exactly the same way as the game did it already. That way, it preserves all the benefits of their scene while removing the ridiculousness of what happens.

              1. zackoid says:

                Heh, the ship graveyard is where I finally said screw it and turned the difficulty down to easy just to get it over with faster.

              2. DeadlyDark says:

                Can’t say I agree with 2’s pacing being better than 3’s. 3 doesn’t have places where you have no idea what’s designer want’s from you, which happened in 2 couple of times. It improved some setpieces. Say, the truck chase in 2 was Ok fun-wise. In 3 – my god, that’s actually very entertaining (I guess addition of horses did the trick), probably the best moment in the series

                2 also has its own head-scratching moments, like “oh, there is this ancient undiscovered city in the mountains, in the age of gps and satellite surveillance”.

                I’d argue that “gunplay, graphics, and game mechanics” are more important for the overall enjoyment from the game, for this series. Mostly, because stories aren’t that remarkable, outside of making characters likeable.

                1. ivan says:

                  That’s, actually the most believable point, rlly. If you’ve every looked at the amazon via satellite photo, google earth or whatnot, if yu start from a clearing, city, whatever, and start zooming out, that thing you were looking at will disappear in the rainforest well before you hit the borders of said rainforest. Hiding a city in an utterly enormous tract of mountains or whatever, to me sounds similarly plausible.

                2. shoeboxjeddy says:

                  The three best possible places to hide a secret fabulous city to the modern day are: the jungle (under tree cover), underneath the water somewhere, and in a cave. Uncharted does all 3. The jungle and cave are in 2 and the underwater one shows up in 3. I’m not sure how you think satellites zap through the Amazon rain forest to see detailed images from the ground level but… they do not do that.

    2. Christopher says:

      Having beaten 2 and really not enjoyed it: I guess there’s just no accounting for taste. Maybe if you’re really into Playing A Movie you’re fine with frustratingly scripted sequences, boring and tedious gunplay and effortless climbing and puzzles, but it sure wasn’t for me.

      As far as I’m concerned, the good version of Uncharted, and which probably served as a big inspiration, is Resident Evil 4. Now that’s an over the shoulder, third person, npc-partnered, cutscene- and QTE-laden, oneliner-quipping setpiece party I could get into.

      1. zack says:

        I’m having a little trouble telling which comment this is responding to, but to be clear, I would not recommend any of the 3 games. I was comparing two favorably to the others.

        1. Christopher says:

          I was talking generally, but yeah, I’ll agree.

          I guess 4 is the wildcard here, ’cause I have seen the least of it and I hear good things. But also I don’t believe them, at this point? Lots of people praised Uncharted 2 as well, so who’s to say if 4’s writing and game design is significantly different.

          1. Thomas says:

            It’s not any different. The people who like Uncharted 4 like it for all the reasons they like the others. You shouldn’t think that means you would like it, the series will probably never be for you.

            1. Christopher says:


            2. Geebs says:

              Uncharted 4 is waaaaaay less silly than 2, and the writing is much better. I played 4 before going through the remasters of 1-3 on PS4, and was really disappointed with all of that Blue Man Group nonsense in the earlier games.

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                I felt like 4 had the worst problems with ignoring the fact that the protagonist murders hundreds of dudes (aka “its passé to say ludonarrative dissonance these days”). It’s not that Drake murders any more dudes than the previous games, but the story it’s trying to tell is a lot more grounded, and that makes the Luger nautical disco jabs much more severe. In Uncharted 2 it was kind of silly that you killed so many dudes, but you could ignore it because it didn’t really matter to the pulpy adventure narrative. UC4 has a whole plotline about how What’s Her Name is mad at Drake for running off on an adventure because “It’s dangerous”, and that forces us to confront the gameplay head-on. Either it’s not actually dangerous because Drake is a bulletproof superhero with quickload powers, or of course it’s dangerous because he picks one-on-ten fights with heavily-armed mercenaries. If we don’t take it seriously then she’s being an unreasonable whiner, and if we do then Drake is a lunatic.

                The weird part is that it’s not just a random bit of narrative that doesn’t work, but that it actually does work if you ignore all the fighting. Like if you take out literally all the combat sections, make it so Drake never picks up a gun, then both characters are acting in a defensible way and it’s reasonable when she overcomes her objections to eventually decide that yeah adventuring is pretty fun and worth doing. It almost makes me think that it was written that way: someone made a script for a bunch of cutscenes without worrying about anything other than whether the scenes made sense, and then a level designer stuck a bunch of climbing sections and gunfights in between each scene.

                Synthesizing Thomas and Geebs: UC4’s writing is both better and more serious than the previous games, but not enough so that it’s appealing to fundamentally different tastes. I’d describe it as “good for a console action game”, not “good”.

  31. ElementalAlchemist says:

    If we measured by gross income, then Mobile Games would be nearly as large as AAA Games in the image above

    Actually much bigger, since mobile edges past half of all game sales, while AAA obviously shares what’s left of the pie with indies, eroge, etc.

  32. Ed Weatherup says:

    I’ve been replaying GTA V story mode, re-reading everything Shamus wrote about it. The reason I’ve been playing it is mostly the world, it is so open and over-complete and I’m waiting for RDR-2 to be on sale on Steam. I even sort-of like Trevor, because he isn’t given a story arc to turn out “good” in the end. Of course, now I have loads of 20-20 hindsight to object to Shamus’s objections.

  33. CountAccountant says:

    I’ve been playing mostly Paradox strategy games, especially Stellaris and Crusader Kings 2.

  34. Canthros says:

    I’ve mostly been playing Warframe, though I’ve intended to get back to Octopath Traveler for a few weeks, now. All of which is derailed for the next fortnight, because my GPU self-destructed, my BIOS is too out of date to accept a new card, Intel yanked their BIOS updates last fall, and it’s going to take that long for the new box to get built and shipped.

    I might try installing Steam on my tablet, but I should probably spend my newly acquired free time on something productive, like cleaning up the house to set up the TV and video game consoles, or to get the home office moved out of the attic, where the heat is oppressive in the summer.

  35. Dave B. says:

    Just yesterday I started The Council, an adventure game with RPG elements. It’s got dialog puzzles, where you’ve got to figure out how to convince people to give you what you want, and some of them are rather challenging. My only complaint is that the game seems to have been designed for consoles, so it has “hold button to confirm” stuff and a fixed FOV that feels a bit too narrow for my monitor. It’s a lot of fun, though.

    1. Platypus says:

      Council is a great game, right until the end when the whole thing becomes absolute barmy, its a good ride while it lasts tho and also feck that puzzle right in the middle of the game, you,ll know it when you see it It puts a very serious and irreverisble outcome behind a multi stage puzzle based on fecking scripture of all things and has visual design that points towards the incorrect answer. I normally say screw it and live with my bad choices but i save scummed that bit and would do it again. But yeah other than that pretty solid game :P

      1. Dave B. says:

        Well, I’m only in part 2 now, so I’ll see if my opinion changes toward the end.

      2. Liessa says:

        Oh God yes, that fucking puzzle. To anyone thinking of playing, be warned: it has one clue that is outright misleading to the point where I would actually call it a bug (and as Platypus mentioned, the consequences for getting the answer wrong are extremely serious). This was the point in the game where I just started backing up my saves and reloading whenever I screwed up, and I REGRET NOTHING.

      3. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Is it a complete story? For some reason I was under the impression it was a beginning of a series or even an episode and so I was weary of it in case the storyline didn’t get finished.

        1. Liessa says:

          It’s episodic, but all 5 episodes have now been released and they form a complete story (which sadly falls apart a little towards the end).

    2. Daimbert says:

      That one’s on my list as well, but I do have a console. I played the first little bit — past the first choice/scene with your mother — and it sounded interesting, but it’s almost certainly going to get pushed out a bit by Persona 5 Royal.

  36. Michael Anderson says:

    Recently I have been on both a ‘retro replay’ and ‘Star Wars’ thing … so I worked through the entire Dark Forces -> Jedi Academy series, KotOR and started KotOR 2, and also NWN Diamond and most way through NWN2. Whew … then I needed a change.

    So restarted Divinity Original Sin on the Switch (after finishing DOOM I – 3), really love that sprawling game!

    I had skipped The Outer Worlds because … well, Epic Game Store. But then a 50% off sale plus added coupon came along and for $25? Now I am off the first planet and aside from screwing up taking one ‘flaw’ I am absolutely thrilled (and obviously the flaw thing is entirely on me, not the game).

  37. Seamus says:

    Im studying for a MuleSoft certification exam right now, but I played Jedi Fallen Order(50% through but not touching until after the exam) and I finished up Planescape: Torment in the last few weeks. Never played it before and wow was it outdated with lots of reading. The walkthrough was almost required for the game as it did not give us a pink neon sign pointing to the next quest location/area. The most difficult part though was finding the doors to places. The writing was great but it made me thankful for fully voiced games.

    1. Platypus says:

      Good luck with the exam man, you should do well if you have enough dedication to put down a great game like that :P. My preferred thing to do during exams if i feel like playing a game is to either play a pick up and play game with friends because i cant get out to meet them cause of time restraints or play a single player game that ive already beaten and roughly know. Then theres no danger of desperately playing for too long to see the next bit or know what happens next.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Every opinion is valid, but wow, I think I just felt my soul die.

      1. John says:

        I refuse to play Planescape Colon Torment because I have Obsidian issues–or possibly just Chris Avellone issues–and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. If I played it, I’d inevitably go on the internet to express my disappointment and then the “Planescape Colon Torment is the greatest RPG ever” people would come for me. It’s safer not to play it.

    3. Warlockofoz says:

      Just finished Planescape: Updated My Journal for the 2nd time myself (using the Enhanced Edition, the first being umpty-mumble years ago). Enjoyed the story and characters as much as the first time, but even nostalgia won’t save the combat…

      1. Seamus says:

        The story and character were great and interesting. Combat was rough. Hard to navigate entryways. Lots of reading. I missed it back when it came out, and maybe I would have had a different view if I played it back then.

  38. GargamelLeNoir says:

    I’ve started Kingdom Come : Deliverance last week. First thing I did was mod out that limited save stuff because that is a complete fun killer for me. The early game is pretty hard, getting the hand on the systems (fighting especially) is hard, and you start out as quite the loser, but it gets fun pretty fast. I love evolving in a semi realistic medieval setting (although the potions are still pretty damned magic), and enjoyed reading the historical codex entries but stopped when I realized I was spoiling the game. Yes, I got a 700 years old spoiler.

  39. ccesarano says:

    Hopefully this week I’ll get back into recording some other older games, but this past week taught me that I have an affinity for Japanese visual novels. At least, ones with a mystery. Last week I played Danganronpa like an addict, drawn into its story, setting, and class trial system. I’ll leave a link to PostMesmeric’s video, one of the two he had done that got me curious about the franchise in the first place. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to write about it for my blog, as it sort of exaggerates the competitive nature of the Japanese school system and, despite the importance of harmony in the culture and how it often is encouraged within their schools, that competition often disrupts harmony between peers and friends. It’s sort of like the novel Battle Royale in that way, though that book is far more interested in the idea that you never truly know someone like you think you do.

    As such, when the Big in Japan sale rolled around on PS4, I decided to grab two that had been on my wishlist for some time now and were on sale for a decent price. One of those was 428 Shibuya Scramble, a game I’d heard about but not actually seen or read anything of. It’s also a visual novel, but lighter on mechanics than Danganronpa’s (or Phoenix Wright, or 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors). It’s essentially a “choose-your-own-adventure”, but some of the choices directly impact another character’s timeline. As a result, you’re frequently jumping between timelines in order to open paths for other characters and move the story forward. This could have been a mess if it weren’t for each chapter being divided by the hour, taking place between 10am and 6pm on a single day in Shibuya. Named after the famous intersection constantly shown in anime and some film, the game is a criss-crossing of fates just as the Shibuya Scramble is a criss-crossing of people going about their day. It’s a mystery thriller, but due to using photographs instead of artwork it feels a bit different from the other visual novels. It also makes it a bit more mainstream friendly since it avoids a lot of the exaggerated anime artwork, too. Everyone’s dressed reasonably and the story is only slightly out there compared to your usual stuff (I mean, by the end Danganronpa feels like it goes off the rails).

    I started that yesterday and have been enjoying it, so I will definitely continue on with that one.

    Finally, ever since I got my Xbox One X I’ve been making my way through the Gears of War series. It’s already resulted in some interesting hindsight observations, but it led to a friend of mine and I playing Gears of War 4 for the first time. It’s… not an awful game. In fact, 2/3rds of it kind of have a familiar feel to the very first game in terms of scope. However, the game actually has very little enemy variety and many of the newer ones are far more annoying to fight than tricky or enjoyable, unlike many of the later additions in Gears 2. It’s enough to have me wondering if even Epic were struggling with how to make certain foes more interesting in a “stop-and-pop” shooter. Regardless, Gears 4’s best contribution was some of the environmental hazards you could use to defeat enemies, and they were rare additions to the level design.

    Instead, our focus was largely on the narrative, and by the end we looked at a Wiki to sort out precisely what this franchise’s lore was. I feel like Gears of War, the original, was this simple, Quake-like concept where you just took a basic idea and ran with it: rather than alien invaders from space, there were invaders from under-ground. Humans are now fighting a losing battle to survive, where once beautiful architecture has now become ruined by the ravages of war. It’s a nice, simple concept that works, and both my friend and I were under the impression that humans were “recent” settlers onto this planet of Sera. But evidently by Gears 2 that changed, and the enemy was a creation of some scientist. I hate this sort of development as it feels far more ridiculous than the simpler, easier to believe concept that we settled a planet with a subterranean race that was rising to the surface due to the infection of immulsion.

    We finished the game and the ending was… not one that left us excited for Gears 5. However, unlike Gears 4, Gears 5 has received a lot of positive comments and criticism, so we’re hoping that one will be a far better experience.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Gears lore, with spoilers to some degree. Skip the ones that you don’t want to know:

      Gears 1: Humans on the planet Sera (not Earth) live under a government called the COG and utilize powerful technology using a yellow fuel found on Sera called “Imulsion.” The humans are at war with a monster species called The Locust that surprisingly attacked from underground many years before the game started (on Emergence Day). At some point before the plot gets going, two important events happened. 1) The humans used a satellite laser weapon (the Hammer of Dawn) on MANY large population centers in an attempt to wipe out the Locust forces massing in these places. This did chop the Locust numbers down enough that the humans didn’t lose within a year, as seemed likely on Emergence Day, but also massacred a huge number of humans and created vast swaths of homeless humans now called the Stranded, who consider the human government (the COG) their enemy as much as the Locust. And 2) The main hero’s (Marcus Phoenix) dad, Adam Phoenix, apparently died in an attack on the family mansion. Adam was the best scientist in the world, so this is a pretty big loss. Marcus went AWOL on an important mission to try to save his dad, which he failed to do, and he was then court martialed and sent to prison for years as a result of his actions. Anyway, the game covers Marcus being released from prison to help a major attack on the Locust. Basically there’s a new special kind of bomb (Lightmass bomb) that should hopefully kill all of them, maybe? Marcus forms a core squad called Delta out of his best friend, Dom, a sarcastic but brilliant loner, Baird, and a charasmatic before-the-war sports superstar, Cole. They’re helped by an old friend in command, Anya, who clearly has a torch burning for Marcus. They set off the bomb and kill a Locust general. Ominous post-game narration from the Locust Queen makes it clear the bomb won’t have the desired effect and the Locust have an existential imperative to win the war against humans and take over the surface.

      2- Sure enough, the Lightmass bomb only killed off a certain, small faction of the enemy and the core Locust is doing fine. In fact, they’re somehow sinking entire human cities into the ground, one by one. Meanwhile, Dom is looking for his wife, who is lost among the Stranded population and the COG are attempting another major anti-Locust offensive. This time they’re going to drill into the tunnels and… hopefully find the Queen and kill her? It’s horribly planned and pretty clearly a Hail Mary play. Once Delta squad gets down there, they discover the enemy is using a gigantic worm to sink the cities, so they kill it. Unfortunately, they also find Dom’s wife, captured by the enemy and tortured into a braindead state, so Dom mercy kills her. Looking for data on the Locust Queen’s location, Delta leaves the tunnels and explores a COG black site, some sort of secret lab location, hidden behind many, many layers of classified information. At the lab, they discover a seemingly insane AI dropping hints about humans creating a species of monsters called “Sires” that look… a lot like the Locust. It’s unsettling, but Delta grabs the map data they needed and leave. Delta encounters the Locust Queen in the tunnels, who continues the rhetoric of the Locust being FORCED into taking over the surface and killing humanity. They also find out the Imulsion fuel is actually a parasitic organism that is puppeting the Locust to kill each other. The Queen escapes as Delta kills another Locust general. In desperation to stop both a Locust assault on the human capital AND the Imulsion monster attack on both, Delta sinks their own capital city into the water on purpose, killing humans who couldn’t escape in time, Locust attackers, and Imulsion monsters (called Lambent) alike. This grants humanity a reprieve and Marcus and Anya come together as a couple in the fallout of battle.

      3- Delta discovers a conspiracy… Adam Phoenix never died. Instead, his death was faked and he went to an even SECRET-ER COG black site (than the one in 2) to try to solve the Imulsion/Lambent thing. Even worse, he knew about the Lambent thing before Emergence Day and was working with the Locust to try to halt the problem. He made too little progress and the Locust declared war, starting Emergence Day and ending the human/Locust cooperation. Delta squad (now with Anya as an onsite member of the team) takes a cross country journey to get to this site, fighting both the Locust and the Lambent every step of the way. At one stop, they discover the Lambent problem has spread past the Locust and to humans, and Dom makes a sacrifice play, killing himself to save Marcus and the rest of Delta squad. In the end, Delta finds the site and Adam, who conveniently has JUST NOW finished an anti-Immulsion weapon. It will kill the Immulsion and anything that has become Lambent to a certain degree. The Locust Queen arrives and tries to stop Delta from deploying the weapon, as it will wipe out the vast majority of the Locust horde, but she fails. In the battle to trigger the weapon, Adam dies. Afterwards, the Locust Queen (who was not Lambent and therefore survived) starts another diatribe but Marcus stabs her to death, just sick to the death of the war and all of his losses. He and Anya retire from the COG to try to start a new life together.

      4- It’s been years since 3 and the Locust threat has been gone for decades. For some reason, the Lambent Locust didn’t all turn into dust as we saw happening to some in 3, instead most of them froze and grew an incredibly hard cocoon around their bodies. Since the cocoons couldn’t easily be destroyed (the material was incredibly hard), mass gravesites were created and the cacoons were dumped there. Over time, Baird helped the COG switch from a drafted army of men and women to a mostly robot force of safekeeping AI drones, troopers, and gunships. Marcus and Anya had a son, JD, but Anya then died trying to have a second child. JD grew apart from his emotionally distant father and joined the COG, where he met his best friend, Del. They later deserted from the COG under mysterious circumstances and took up with a faction of Stranded-esque villagers, and specifically became best friends with a girl their age from that village, Kait. JD, Del, and Kait are robbing an automated COG site as the game begins to steal needed supplies for their village. The new COG leader, Minister Jinn, detects what they’re doing and deploys automated troops to non-lethally capture and arrest the trio. Jinn is concerned because human settlements have been under attack, and she blames a militant Stranded faction. The hero trio discovers to their horror that the actual culprit of these attacks is a new faction of Locust-like monsters (different from the Locust, they’ve mutated into different forms and are no longer as intelligent as before), that they promptly label the Swarm. The cocoons have clearly started hatching and the Lambent and Locust are both no more, they have transformed into the Swarm. The Swarm assaults Kait’s village, abducting her mom and uncle. The trio flees attacks from both Jinn’s robot army (who doesn’t yet understand what is happening) and the Swarm, heading to Marcus’ place. Marcus joins the trio but is then captured as well. With support from Baird and Cole, the trio catches up to the Swarm and rescue Marcus. Unfortunately, Kait’s mom has been hooked up to some sort of horrible organic device that will kill her if she’s removed. The apparent purpose is to force her to be a new Queen for the Swarm. Kait stabs her mom to death, stopping to take a necklace that she always wore before leaving. As the game ends, the player (but not Kait because she doesn’t know) is shocked to recognize the Locust symbol on the family heirloom. (Off screen, Kait’s uncle escapes when she kills her mom and damages the Swarm forces).

      1. ccesarano says:

        Thanks for the comprehensive write-up! There’s a couple things out of order (the characters don’t discover the imulsion is parasitic until Gears 3), but otherwise, yeah, that seems pretty accurate. Nevertheless, I still hate the idea of the Locust being made from human beings, and when I think back to when the game launched I feel like that wasn’t the original intent. I’m curious how much of that stuff developed over time, as Gears of War 2 is especially a game that feels like it was a bunch of set piece ideas later connected together by whatever narrative the team could come up with.

        I’m also not sure the intent was for Kait’s mom to become a Locust Queen, or at least it wasn’t really clear by the ending. Because of this E3 trailer I vaguely remembered something Locust related regarding Kait so I predicted that’s what we’d find at the end, but more that her mom had already been transformed or something. There was enough there that you could intuit they were making a new Locust Queen, but not enough within the narrative itself (aside from Kait’s metamorphosis monologue that beats you over the head with the ideas the game would be playing with).

        Speaking of: calling them Swarm just feels so lame. They’re basically Locust, but less interesting.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          I started a write-up for Gears 5, but it sounded like you hadn’t started that one and I didn’t want to spoil that one for you at all. Hopefully anyone else will read this too, it took… entirely too long to do, ha ha. And re-reading it, I find a bunch of typos I forgot to squash. As to the order of events, yeah, I tried to include only events that matter to the scope of the series and included a bunch of information that the player eventually finds out, even if the characters take a long time to discover what’s going on. Dom’s wife, Maria, dying happens before the giant worm, and the lab seems like a huge detour, but actually the lab is… the most important thing that happens in 2 by far. So I had to include that stuff.

          I understand preferring what the series seemed to be about prior to 4, but I will say 5 makes the entire series story very cohesive. It actually seems very well planned, to the point where there MUST have been a series bible with some of this information written down even though it wasn’t actually written into 1-3. What was going on with Kait’s mom is THOROUGHLY worked up in 5, you will have no questions about that after playing it.

          As for the factions, yeah I would say it’s Locust > Lambent > Swarm. Maybe the Swarm will be competitive by Gears 6, the enemy variety is getting pretty good again in 5.

  40. Rack says:

    I’ve been playing Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners lately and it’s very impressive. We’re now seeing VR exclusive games that are long, good and polished which is very cool.

  41. Mark Ayen says:

    I just finished The Outer Worlds yesterday afternoon. I have mixed feelings about it. Clearly, a lot of care went into the game. There was a lot of ground-up worldbuilding, a lot of thought obviously went into the NPCs (both companion and otherwise), and the visual deign was striking and colorful. But, I rarely found the universe interesting enough to dig into the codex, I never felt particularly attached to any of my companions, and the worlds never really felt particularly distinct or alive.

    It was short enough that it didn’t outlive my interest in it. For most of the game, the pacing was good, and I never really felt like things were becoming a slog. The ending, however, felt rushed. Without getting into too many specifics to avoid spoilers, there’s a point where a dialog box essentially tells you, “welcome to the end of the game”, you make your way through a small-ish base, fight a big boss, then that’s it. As a denouement, it does the thing where it tells you the effects your choices made on your companions and the colony, which is nice.

    Do I recommend it? If you liked New Vegas and would like that in space, then yes. Don’t expect it to reach the scope or polish of Mass Effect or Skyrim, though, or you’ll be disappointed.

    I’m not sure what I’m going to play next. I’ve got a large list of abandoned games I could get back to, and I’ve got Titanfall 2 and Greedfall still in cellophane waiting to be unwrapped (not to mention a bunch of Games for Gold downloads I never started).

    1. Trevor says:

      I’m approaching the endgame, I think – I’m on Byzantium and have figured out the “twist” (trying to keep spoilers light here). But I share a lot of your feelings.

      Overall, it’s a game that doesn’t do anything particularly well. The art style is cartoony, but without the panache of Borderlands. The aesthetic is all over the place, with one part the retrofuturism of Fallout mixed with one part Firefly (the kitchen of your ship, in particular looks just like one on Serenity), and with a soupçon of steampunk. The approach to the hyper-corporate capitalism was uneven. The Spacer’s Choice moonheads and the signs that say things like “Only you can prevent productivity loss” have to be taken comically, but some of the other aspects of living in a hyper-corporate hellscape are just nightmarish and the game never really decides what point it wants to make about all the corporatization of the future. Your companions are fine. They’re not unfun to hang out with, but none of them are particularly memorable either.

      The game mechanics are okay. I appreciate that the stealth system is forgiving enough that you can do a stealthy run your first time through without needing a guide (I particularly like that when in stealth your trailing companions can’t aggro guards). I liked that you weren’t forced at some point to pick one particular faction of psychos to ally with – being a moderate seemed like a pretty viable approach.

      It was overall enjoyable, but other than the “It’s not the best choice, it’s Spacer’s Choice” jingle (which will be in my head forever), nothing is going to really stick with me from this game.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        Overall, it’s a game that doesn’t do anything particularly well.

        This was my feeling also and I can’t help but think this is the reason people rarely talk about the game without discussing it in terms of other games (It’s Fallout crossed with KotoR and a dash of Borderlands!) I beat the game, started another playthrough and then realized I didn’t want to play it again. It’s last-gen Bethesda mechanics in a last-gen Bioware game with Obsidian writing minus Chris Avellone. It’s a mediocre game in a genre so barren that mediocrity is still worth looking at (RIP Bioware and Bethesda). I’m sure I’ll play the sequel, sight unseen.

        1. Baron Tanks says:

          Yeah, that’s been my opinion after dabbling with it for maybe ten hours? The conversation was much more positive and energetic close to release, but I do chalk this up to excitement and desire for having something good in the genre. As someone who appreciates the genre but was never massively into this, the Outer Worlds mostly left me cold and after a strong opening, did not hook me to keep on playing. I feel like the general opinion has recalibrated to be much closer to my experience in the months since coming out. The game basically is a 6 or 7 out of ten in every department (real world 6 or 7 out of 10, not ‘games reviews’ 6 or 7), where it does most things adequately, but the lack of standouts really hurt the experience over time. Especially as you realize with time passing that it never lives up to its first impression. Oh well.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          It’s so sad that this rings so true. I want to be less harsh towards Outer Worlds because its heart is in the right place but if we had more titles in the genre it likely really wouldn’t stand out. There is a lot to like about it: I for one enjoyed the skill system, the companions were endearing (though some were clearly made more equal than others) and a lot of writing was “locally good”. But it also lacked an overarching vision, clearly couldn’t decide if it wants to be “haha, corporate speech so funny” or “the actual horror of corporate dystopia” and you can see threads from a much grander design hanging loose all over the place.

          Additionally I honestly think being hailed as “the game like Bethesda is no longer making” (which I don’t think they purposefuly did but they sure welcomed it) did the game a disservice because it builds expectations that it doesn’t really tackle. Particularly the smaller scope means it lacks those “see someting on the horizon and can’t wait to get there” moments.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            Additionally I honestly think being hailed as “the game like Bethesda is no longer making” (which I don’t think they purposefuly did but they sure welcomed it) did the game a disservice because it builds expectations that it doesn’t really tackle.

            If the game were doing something unique but these comparisons set false expectations, I would agree. Instead, so much of the whole game is “been there, done that” that I think the comparisons were inevitable even if this game were just quietly dropped on the market with no prior advertising or previews. If nothing else, the timing of the Fallout First Fiasco would have sped things along.

            1. Trevor says:

              This is kind of Obsidian’s brand, in general. They are out there making “the game[s] like Black Isle is no longer making.” They were known for making the sequels to KotOR, NWN, Fallout, and Dungeon Siege in particular, and then Pillars of Eternity was the spiritual sequel to Baldur’s Gate.

              “Been there, done that” is baked into their DNA and for the most part they’ve been good-to-great at it (I really like New Vegas and PoE). Outer Worlds was their opportunity to break free from “been there, done that” and they adhered pretty closely to things that had already been done.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      I rarely found the universe interesting enough to dig into the codex

      Wait, that game had a codex? I had no idea, and now I’m trying to figure out if reflects more poorly on the game (and on me) if I missed noticing it entirely, or if it was so bland as to be literally forgettable.

  42. TSi says:

    Thanks for asking.
    I’ve been delaying my first playthrough of Satisfactory untill i played a bit more of all the Zachtronics games (InfiniFactory, exapunks, opus magnum) but right now i’m into the old Gothic games (1 and 2). They never caught my eye back in the day. Especially since they were competing with morrowind but damn, they’re actually pretty good with original npc behaviours and interactions. You just have to get used to the crappy controls to be able to actually do anything… They’re also a bit buggy and require some patches to work properly.
    The only problem i’m having is that i suspect one of the patches to have changed item prices as i struggle to earn any money ( you sell things for a 10th of the real price) and you earn tiny amounts of xp for any kill which means the progress is way too slow with a huge difficulty curve early on unless you already know the game inside out. Since i already spent more than 20h into the second one and barely managed to do anything main quest wise, i just gave myself a quick xp boost using a cheat to upgrade my combat efficiency.

  43. Hal says:

    One of the free PS4 games this month was the Bioshock Collection, so I’ve been playing the first game. I never played it back in the day, so it’s been interesting. I absolutely love the aesthetics; the story has been so-so. Rapture seems like a place that would be much more interesting as an open world experience, but that would be a much different game.

    Sentinels of the Multiverse remains my mobile game of preference; given the almost infinite permutations available, it’s the game that keeps on giving.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I really liked Sentinels when I played it at a Tabletop Day event a few years ago. How well does it translate as single-player?

      1. Hal says:

        Very well! It’s not difficult to run all the heroes on your own, especially in a digital format. And since the game handles the environment and villain for you, there are parts that go much smoother being automated.

        It supports cross-platform multiplayer, too, in case you still want to enjoy it with other people.

        The game has a free demo if you want to see for yourself.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I tried the demo on my tablet tonight, and I enjoyed it. I didn’t finish the fight, because New Vegas is calling, but I’m really tempted to buy the base game. My only worry is how it’ll run on my weak-sauce tablet; the demo forced me to restart after the stop program button didn’t want to work.

  44. Olivier FAURE says:

    I’ve started going through games in my backlog I’ve been putting off for months.

    I’ve finished Omensight in one setting. It’s an okay game, with a clever story gimmick, but it lasts a bit too long and by the end it feels like you already know everything that’s going on and yet you need to go through it all 2 or 3 more times.

    Also the endings are bullshit, both of them. It feels like the developers took the criticisms of the sad ending to mean they needed an extra-happy ending, where I really would have preferred an ending where the Harbinger has any agency at all (eg she shows the vision to every faction leader at once to make them stop fighting).

    I’ve played Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Nice game, solid gameplay, great ambiance. Not sure about the ending. The gimmick with permadeath was well executed.

    I’m still playing the Celeste DLC. Damn that game is hard.

    I’m probably going to play Oxenfree next.

    1. Lino says:

      I remember playing Omensight quite a lot, but I don’t remember anything about it, except for the branching storyline, and the striking aesthetic (which, ironically, I don’t remember much of). I remember it being very compelling, but I have no recollection of what it was about, or what happened. Although, I do remember the main character being blue, and there being a very angry bear as a main character (I think he was a general?).

      I also really liked Hellblade, and I’m very excited about the sequel they recently announced.

  45. tmtvl says:

    Played through and finished Violett, a refreshingly original adventure game. It’s very, VERY indie and kind of awkward to get into, but I would still really recommend it to people who like adventure games that manage to have a fantastical setting without having the puzzles require insane troll logic.

    I also made the mistake of giving Starbound another try and subsequently lost 2 entire weekends because the game manages to keep me hooked like a fish. During the beta I was a little ambivalent to it, but ever since it hit full release it’s hit me mercilessly in the dopamine glands.

  46. Dreadjaws says:

    My PS4 was stolen :( so that killed my playthrough of God of War, but if I’m being honest, the game just didn’t manage to hold my attention anyway. I don’t know what it’s about it. From a purely technical standpoint it’s a great game, but for some reason I just didn’t seem to care much for it. I was going to leave it aside and start Dishonored 2, but that was for the PS4 as well, so…

    I have, though, been playing the hell out of Graveyard Keeper. I’m usually not very fond of this kind of game, tbh, as I usually get very entertained at first and then just get tired when everything becomes nothing but a grind. This one is grindy, but the fact that it has a story and a set of missions keeps me going. The dark humor does a lot to keep my attention too. The fact that there’s more than one way to reach certain objectives is a plus. And yeah, I get a kick out of the SNES-style pixel art.

    1. Lino says:

      Man, that sucks! I hope you didn’t lose anything else of value :(

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Oh, I did, since they broke into my house and that’s not the only thing they took, but my PC at least was intact, so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

  47. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    So I have a new baby in the house which is completely killing my gaming -so I’m totally up for any recommendations for games that can be played one handed (hey, maybe I should make that a Diecast question!).

    However, I have found that I can hold a baby and play XCOM at the same time (using the mouse only). And when the baby sleeps, I have been replaying Witcher 3 and Warframe. Some friends got into Warframe (I wish because of me, but no -it was independent) and playing with them is a lot of fun. I enjoy the game far more on the PC than on the XBOX I’ve discovered.

    For a while, when I had a break, I played The Outer Worlds, but I didn’t like the game. Actually, I just flat hated it. I want to shoot all the characters. Every single one. Is there a mode where I can wipe out the entire Halcyon system? Because I might play that one. How about -can I deliberately burn all their food and let them all starve? I loved Fallout: New Vegas so much. I hate this game with a deep an abiding passion.

    I also have a bunch of games that I stare at forlornly. I really want to play Sea of Thieves again, but the hour-long gameplay cycle (assuming you can find a crew that isn’t screwing around) just doesn’t work with an infant’s sleep schedule. I’d love to pop Kingdom Come back in, but just don’t have the time to get back up on all the controls. Heck, watching GDQ even made me want to try Dark Souls again (I have never gotten past the demon on the wall in the undead burg). But ain’t no way I have time for that. I might be able to pop Metro: Exodus in, if I can give up on the completionist run and just play the story, though part of the problem here is that I actually don’t find the story nearly as compelling as the previous two games. And HALO: Master Chief Collection has been staring at me for months -but the whole point of playing that is to get the consoles, and even with a walkthrough, I don’t know I have the time. Oh God, Library…

    1. John says:

      Do you have a portable gaming device? I got a lot of mileage out of my Nintendo DS when my daughter was a baby. Most games for the DS were designed to support playing in short bursts, so that it was easy for me to save and exit quickly when she needed attention. In a pinch, I could also just fold the DS closed and stick it my pocket.

      I’m not sure how well Switch games compare to DS games in that regard. I suppose that mobile games are the closest equivalent these days. They can’t all be pay-to-win cash-grabs, can they? I know that a lot of classic games have been ported to tablets, for example.

      1. Fizban says:

        The Switch itself supports the same immediate suspend into sleep mode (unless there are games that can somehow block that?), but the games would depend on the games you get- there are lots of indie games you could get on PC that are also on Switch. Though suddenly buying a whole new console and full priced games seems irresponsible with a new baby around (says that guy who doesn’t have a baby but did buy a Switch basically just to play Pokemon and then hasn’t even finished it).

    2. Syal says:

      I love mouse-only games and have various recommendations. Into the Breach and Slay the Spire are both mouse-only turn-based tactics roguelikes. One Finger Death Punch is a two-button rhythm brawler. Plants Vs. Zombies is one-button tower defense. Baba Is You is turn-based Sokoban puzzles that’s mostly just directional keys. Trails in the Sky 1, 2, and 3 are JRPGs that are completely playable with just the mouse, and I really liked 1, a very anime coming-of-age story with ridiculous amounts of dialogue, both optional and mandatory. Wargroove is an Advance Wars clone that’s fully mouse friendly, but I bogged down in it about halfway through.

      Then there’s stuff with hotkeys that you can do without. Dungeon of the Endless is real-time-with-pause tower defense, but if you don’t care about pausing or hotkeys it’s fully playable with just the mouse. Hypnospace Outlaw has some typing but there’s no time limit so you could do it with one hand if you wanted. Torchlight and Torchlight 2 are action looters that are harder with just the mouse but still playable (you’re losing fast access to more than two attacks, but you don’t need more than two attacks). Battle Brothers is a hex-based turn-based Mount and Blade style game that’s slower with just the mouse but still fully functional (permadeath and hit percentages makes it pretty frustrating though, hotkeys or no).

      Then there’s all the Match-3 games like You Must Build A Boat and Huniepop (but maybe don’t play Huniepop with a baby.)

  48. Nixorbo says:

    In video games, I’ve bouncing between The Talos Principle and Horizon: Zero Dawn.

    In tabletop games, Friday I ran the Star Wars: Force and Destiny Beginner Box as a one-shot for a group of non-beginner characters and Saturday I created a character for and played the first encounter of a Star Trek Adventures game.

  49. lucky7 says:

    The bulk of my gaming hours these past few weeks have been taken up by Fallen Order, Return to Arkham, Crusader Kings II, and Rimworld.

    Of those, Crusader Kings II’s After the End mod (set in post-apocalyptic North and South America) recently got its 1.0 update. While my first playthrough as Alberta ended due to a series of bugs, my playthrough as the Imam of Orange County was amazing. That playthrough was fairly event-heavy, and was thrown off by a Crusade from Utah, but ultimately winning back House Abbas’ throne and then choosing to work to restore California was powerful. Even though I wanted to do my own thing, I looked at my character, and I knew what he would choose.

    As for Rimworld, I’ve gotten seriously into modding, mostly the Vanilla Expanded series, which adds stuff that fits seamlessly into the core game. It’s also created some odd stories, like when an android and human colonist fell in love, and now I’m wondering how to go about giving them a family.

  50. Hector says:

    I have been playing Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight. Really odd combination of old and new design, yet so good. And also Stardew Valley, where I now have married Abigail, because she’s a goddess in human guise.

  51. Retsam says:

    I’ve been playing Celeste on and off for a few months.

    After the first level or so I thought, “I can see why other people like it, but I’m not really a ‘platformer person’, I’ll probably just finish the main story”.

    … at this point I’ve finished the main story, finished all the B-sides (much harder versions of each level), finished some of the C-sides (even harder, but incredibly short[1] versions), and I’m deciding whether to push through the remainder of the stupidly hard epilogue. Which is to say that the game really exceeded my expectations.

    One reason why the game drew me in, despite a general disinterest in platformers is the level design: the game isn’t really a “puzzle platformer” in the traditional sense, but figuring out how to clear a room was often nearly as important as the mechanical execution of the solution. And each stage introduces an interesting set of mechanics to the game, rather than just “add more buzzsaws” as I feel previous platformers I’ve played have done.

    Overall the game is an interesting game to discuss “difficulty”. It’s a hard game – I died more than a thousand times in one run of some of the B-sides. Looking at my save files overall playtime vs. total deaths, I’ve died once every fifteen seconds while playing this game, (including menu time and cutscenes and time spent exploring for collectables).

    But because the game is broken into small chunks, it’s much less frustrating. Dying doesn’t waste any of your time[2], and importantly each screen is pretty short, and it’s a distinct unit of progression. Most tricky screens take me 5-15 minutes to solve; at the absolute worst, I think I’ve spent 30-45 minutes on a very small handful of the hardest screens. That short cycle really helps the game be less frustrating, because you’re much more consistently getting small shots of “I did a hard thing” dopamine. Compared to spending hours and hours trying to beat a hard single boss[3] in other games it’s a lot less frustrating overall.

    So, yeah, fun game. Worth a play, even if you aren’t hugely into platformers. (I’m not.) If nothing else, the main story is fairly accessible even without all the customizable difficulty settings. And you might be surprised, like I was.


    [2] It’s really good this game respawns very quickly: I’ve died over 10000 times now, every second spent on a loading screen would add almost 3 hours to my playtime.

    [3] You probably think I mean Dark Souls, but I’ve actually been grinding against Hard-mode Kingdom Hearts bosses more recently, which can have the same dynamic

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      The quick deaths combined with quick respawn on screen reminds me of VVVVVV, which I really enjoyed. Where I had a similar level of deaths per minute. I should check Celeste out at some point.

  52. Matt says:

    This week I DM’d the the 13th session of my latest Pathfinder campaign. My group consists of Reese (tiefling bard/gunslinger), Penny (halfling rogue), N’gazra (half-orc cleric of gruumsh), Thea (human druid), Vend (dwarf barbarian), and Vrohim Zael (elf sorcerer). They’re all level 2-3 and are currently preparing to defend the village of Roanor from an attack by the Spineripper tribe of orcs. About half are veterans of D&D and the others are totally new to tabletop RPGs. I’ve adapted part of the first portion of the Giantslayer adventure path into the rough setting I’ve cobbled together for this group and fit it into an ongoing narrative about a coup, war with the Empire, and the resurrection of an ancient god-dragon. A little player drama this week, as the barbarian made some extremely unwise tactical choices that left the veteran players a bit flummoxed. They asked me to speak to him at the next session.

    Thanks to Shamus for getting me into tabletop RPGs. It’s become my favorite hobby over the last decade and I owe it all to this site’s campaign log, which got me interested enough to ignore the geek stigma and give it a try.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I need to prep adventures for a convention this weekend. They’re all the new edition of the Pathfinder rules, but I’m getting to play in a couple of first-edition sessions.

      I heard good things about Giantslayer. I really wanted to play Ironfang Invasion, since it gives a legit reason for a dual-shielding ranger.

  53. Ramsus says:

    The only game I’ve played this week (or month) is War of Omens, a Flash game that I check in on daily. (You can also find it on Steam.)
    I also checked to see if there were any updates to an adult game on Newgrounds. There weren’t.

    If we expand into TTRPGs I’ve played several play by post games of D&D 5e and Masks and am GMing two D&D 5e games (though one had no activity this week) and a game of Blades in the Dark (my favorite rpg).

  54. nobodyspecial says:

    I finished Disco Elysium, played a few levels of Zeus: Master of Olympus because that’s like my palate cleanser sometimes, completed Gone Home for the first time, and am going to start Doom (2016) for the first time before finally playing Pillars of Eternity II.

  55. CloverMan-88 says:

    I’ve been playing Skyrim with mods that allow me to avoid the main quest, and decided to play the game as a non-dragonborn and actively avoid the civil war /guild quests. Instead I focus on learning as much as possible about the world – reading all the books, talking to everyone – and learning as much as possible about all the cities and their social conflicts/history.

    And I find the game much, MUCH better that way.

    In my first playthrought, years ago, I focused on the main quest, civil war and guild questlines, and I clocked more than 50h by the end. What I played I found rushed, underwhelming and honestly, a bit patronising. Those quests focused on things that Gembryo engine couldn’t handle well (intricate scripted events, “massive” battles), they also didn’t capitalise on existing locations and characters, mostly taking place in nameless caves, open winderness or one-off dungeons/manors. I was a bit disappointed, in the end.

    But thus time, looking past those “mainstream” questlines, there is a lot of great worldbuilding present in the game. Each main city has and interesting story to tell, and at least a couple of good quests that use those stories as a jump-off point. I feel myself deeply immersed in the game (I also avoid fast travel unless a single quest takes place all over the map) and THIS is a game I could find myself heartily recommending.

  56. Cilvre says:

    Started playing Pokemon Go this weekend, also reinstalled Dark Souls Remastered as a friend is getting into it for the first time and I plan to help him get through the game. Also did some Age of Empires II Deluxe Edition.

  57. Mikey says:

    This past week, I became aware of an upcoming indie game that simultaneously answers all my prayers while dashing all my hopes. You’ll have to indulge me for a minute so I can contextualize this…

    You’ve probably heard of Mega Man, right? That series of sidescrollers about the little blue dude who shoots lemons out of his gun-hand and gets a new weapon for every boss he beats? No? Wait, really? So you haven’t even heard this catchy J-rock ditty about how the singer’s difficulties making any progress in the second game? Well, now you have, so you’re welcome.

    Well anyway, in the GameBoy Advance era they tried re-imagining the property as a series of RPGs called Mega Man Battle Network. The explorey bits are exactly what you might expect from a Japanese RPG on a handheld system: walking around shoebox dioramas with a bird’s eye view pressing A to interact with things. The hook of the spin-off was its take on combat, in which you and the enemies moved around in real time on a pair of 3×3 grids. You could shoot them to death with your gun-hand one hit point at a time, but if you wanted good rewards, your real meaty attacks came in the form of cards, and every distinct monster in the game dropped its own special card if you did well enough.

    I found these games quite absorbing as a kid. Unfortunately, Capcom was a bit too eager to cash in on them, so they were cranking out a new one every year, and then started copying Pokemon’s version splitting while forgetting the key ingredient of “there’s two versions so you can make friends and trade the stuff that’s exclusive to your version with each other,” so the Battle Network brand was dead after six years. They tried to get a spiritual successor off the ground, Mega Man Star Force, but they were splitting that thing into three versions right out of the gate, so that only lasted half as long.

    Still, the Battle Network games were certainly popular in their day, so I always wondered why some other developer never copied their utterly unique battle system. You’ve probably already guessed where this is going: say hello to One Step From Eden! Coming March 26th to Nintendo Switch and Valve Steam!

    Unfortunately for me, it’s basically just Slay the Spire but on a grid. You clear an encounter, you pick one of three random cards to add to your deck, then you move on to the next encounter. The rational part of my brain recognizes that an RPG where strategy is just as important as reflexes would probably be an order of magnitude harder to develop on an indie budget, but he lives across town from the emotional part of my brain, who doesn’t particularly like roguelikes or the flat, low-detail indie style of pixel art, and is continuing to wish for a “true” successor to the nostalgic classics.

    Luckily it won’t be hard to console my inner nostalgic crybaby, since the other GameBoy Advance Mega Man spin-off with a short-lived spiritual successor on the DS is getting a re-release compilation tomorrow..

    1. tmtvl says:

      Aww, I was hoping for some news on the MMBN fangame, which looked so good.

      Ah well, maybe I’ll check it out some time.

    2. CloverMan-88 says:

      Man, I loved MMBN games! I think they’ve perfected the formula with…number 3 I think? The one that had different elemental suits and tetris- like stat upgrade system. It was SO GOOD.

  58. Paul Spooner says:

    I think the huge advantage of trains in Satisfactory is the ability to geometrically expand resource complexity while linearly increasing the complexity of the infrastructure.

    For example, I had all my caterium bars transported by train a very short distance. When I needed to acquire more caterium throughput, all I had to do was run a rail from the nearest point in my rail network to the new mine, and add the station to the train’s pickup route. It would have been a lot easier to just run some conveyors for the first mine, but way harder for the second.

    Another example, I have a station that just supplies sulfur. Several trains stop there and distribute sulfur to my gunpowder assembler, compressed coal plant, and uranium refinery, all of which are substantial distances apart. Because it’s as simple as setting up the train schedule, it easily beats out running conveyors all over creation.

    Third example, when I go out exploring, my pockets inevitably fill up with cruft. The inventory is large enough that I can just carry some tools, concrete (for foundation climbing mountains), bars, and plates (for lookout towers to fight hammerheads) and have plenty of room for leaves and mushrooms and stuff. Problem is, I occasionally run across a crash site, which raises three problems. They sometimes require some random parts to unlock, so if I’m not carrying a few of every part, I probably have to come back later. They sometimes require power to unlock, so I’d need to run a chain of power poles all the way back to an outpost. They always have some random parts scattered around on the ground, which further fill my pockets with knickknacks. Running rail lines everywhere and carrying a stack of everything solves all three of these problems. I’ve got an “Exploration station” back at my main base which unloads and sorts stuff, so all I need to do when my pockets fill up is build a train on the nearest rail (no need for a station in the field), load it up with all the parts I don’t need, and send it home. When I need parts, I have them on me, and when I need power I can build a temporary station and run a short row of power poles. It makes exploration so much less frustrating than constantly venturing out, loading up, and trudging (or trying to drive) back to base to get parts. Coupled with the new re-spawning enemy mechanic, re-visiting and re-clearing old locations is even more of a chore than ever, so laying rails as you go seems like the only sensible thing to do.

  59. King Marth says:

    Pokémon Go and Fire Emblem Heroes continue to take slices of time, the former being far less obtrusive by slotting into time I wouldn’t usually use on games. FEH has started nagging with a subscription service, with the particularly obnoxious variant of providing easy premium quests for good rewards… Which show up on your unclaimed rewards list to emphasize what you’re missing. It’s odd, I’ve played the game enough and legitimately appreciate the deterministic tactics combat that I wouldn’t mind buying something, but the only things to buy are transient and more-or-less passively accumulated. More Orbs wouldn’t meaningfully change how I interact with the game until you reach the true whale point where you just keep summoning until you have enough duplicates to +10 merge and meta skill all your favourites. Due to randomness, you can’t really pick any level of in-between cost, either you set aside your gambling limit or pick a target and pay whatever it takes.
    Still playing a Warframe mission each day, just need the Baza Prime to finish off all obtainable prime gear, then just leaving the Korrudo and the Railjack rifle. My Railjack is approaching viable.

    Main focus has been Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE: Encore, which is a cute take on Shin Megami Tensei. They missed a big chance to make status spells viable by making it so only damaging skills can kick off Session combo chains, even though status skills have their own elemental vulnerabilities to target and exploit.

  60. evilmrhenry says:

    I have been playing:
    Geneforge: (the first one) It’s showing its age at this point, mostly in some technical issues that (I assume) didn’t exist at launch, but it’s still a good showing for Spiderweb Software.

    Hitman Go: (Steam version) This is a puzzle game based on Hitman. It’s obviously a mobile game at heart, with a bunch of small levels that you can earn 3 medals on each. I would have been more interested in larger levels with more opportunity to have different approaches, (basically a turn-based version of an actual Hitman game) but the game is what it is. Worth playing just to see the art style.

    NGU Idle: Am I playing it? It’s running in the background right now, but it’s an idle game, so…

    1. baud says:

      There’s a Kickstarter for a remake of the first Geneforge, have you seen it? Do you think, while playing the first Geneforge, that it’s a good idea to do this remake?

      This week I played mostly Okami (PC version), I’m close to the end (one last dungeon to clear). It’s a Zelda-like/clone, it’s fun and looks pretty (well, YMMV for this). Only issue is the lack of challenge of most of the game (again, YMMV, it might not be an issue for some).

      And some of FEAR 1; I’m playing it for the first time; well not quite, I tried it 5 years ago and bounced pretty hard and ended up refunding the game, don’t know exactly why. This time it’s going very well, the shooting is very fun and the slo-mo looks cool. I intensely dislike the horror sections, which bring down a lot of my enjoyment of the game (it’s mostly a matter of personal taste). The voicemail messages found in the office section of the game feel very close to the usual games of company politics; it’s an interesting juxtaposition with the rest of the game. Also the offices look familiar, but slightly outdated (not enough open spaces), I wonder if the game will feel different when the type of offices shown will be unfamiliar to the player.

      1. Henson says:

        The nail gun from F.E.A.R. always looked like fantastic fun.

      2. evilmrhenry says:

        Didn’t know about the Kickstarter. (Just watched the video.) I can definitely say that it looks like an improvement, just for the UI improvements. I’m OK with the original graphics, but I guess the economics of a remaster require redoing those as well. The biggest downside would be the inevitable drop in quality between the remaster of the first game and the original second game, and getting all the games remastered seems unlikely.

        I actually played FEAR 1 a couple weeks ago. My feelings are similar to yours; I didn’t dislike the horror sequences, but I was rolling my eyes a bit.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I don’t know about “unlikely” Vogel stated that he fully intends to keep remastering the most successful of his games as long as there’s market for it, and it’s a cool setting. Seeing how this Kickstarter did well he might try for further instalments later. That said the first Geneforge makes for a good story on its own so if only this one gets a remaster it’s still a net gain in my book.

          Also, at least NGU Idle is pretty involved and has multiple overlapping mechanics.

      3. baud says:

        Also regarding FEAR 1: I’ve heard praise for the IA, but I haven’t seen much outside of the norm for AAA shooters (at least those I’ve played, most of which are more recent than FEAR). Perhaps it might be more apparent on repeat playthroughs, which I’m unlikely to do since I’m too spooked by the horror sections; or because I haven’t played enough FPS to have a good baseline to compare against, I’m missing things; or IA has progressed since FEAR 1, so what was groundbreaking at the time has become standard since then and was present in other FPS I’ve played, so I’m not seeing it.

        More fun in FEAR 1: there’s one model of hammer that’s been pasted in nearly all the maps and it’s bugging me each time. And it’s weird since I don’t have the same reaction with none of the other repeated assets.

        The nail gun is fun nail enemies to the walls, otherwise I’m finding it inferior to the assault rifle (at least I feel like I’m not performing as well with the nail gun as with the AR). For me it’s more of a vanity weapon, I’ve kept it for a long time because there wasn’t a better alternative.

        1. evilmrhenry says:

          I think the hammer is noticeable because the color scheme makes it look like a powerup.

          I also wasn’t wowed by the AI, but that’s mostly because the bullet time mechanic means that most of the enemies die a few seconds into combat, after which point I retreat to the nearest chokepoint so the AI can’t sneak behind me and wait for them to either attack or for my bullet time to recharge. There isn’t much the AI can do when they get instantly riddled with bullets on attack, and there’s only one usable path to attack the player. (Would have liked to be more aggressive, but the lethality of combat is balanced around bullet time, and you don’t have enough bullet time to really go all out.) I think having the enemy bark out their intentions helps with making them look smart, though.

          If I wanted to really show off the AI, I’d stick the player in a maze-like arena without deadends, and without the ability to retreat. Add plenty of enemies, but with low enough damage that the player won’t get shot in the back a dozen times and die before they even notice the attack.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          I have never seen someone try to abbreviate “artificial intelligence” as IA before. Did autocorrect do this to you? Anyway, Fear 1’s AI is renowned because the enemy troopers shout out what they’re doing (which is IRL stupid, but bear with me) and the things they call out are intelligent and threatening. “Target has gone to ground, flank and kill!” stuff like that. The enemy breaking off a unit to attack you from the back of a wide arena is… pretty advanced stuff honestly. They use grenades correctly to force you out into the open and can down you in a few seconds if you encounter a bunch of them with no cover and fail to use slow mo properly. Of course, if you’re very very good at shooters or playing on a low difficulty, all of this might be missed and you might not notice.

          1. baud says:

            Huh, I’m French, so I learned it as Intelligence Artificielle (IA) instead of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and wasn’t careful when I wrote my post yesterday.

            I agree that being attacked in a more open area, the AI tend to use flanking attacks and they often try to flush me out of cover, but it doesn’t feel different while playing, compared to, say, CoD: MW2&3 (which I’ve played last year); yeah, the enemies have a few bark, but the barks mostly tell me either there are enemy in the next room, or I’ve just killed an enemy. Regarding barks, I think those in CoD2 were much better, with your allies shouting position of enemies.

            I don’t think I’m that good and I’m playing on the third difficulty out of four, so there might be a combination of improvement in more recent games I’ve played and also the way I’m playing the game (hide and peek with slo-mo, then hide back or circle around the arena while the slo-mo recharges to ambush another hapless goon that looks in the wrong direction, which is pushed by how the game is balanced, as explained by evilmrhenry).

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              That’s really interesting about AI in French, I didn’t know that. My problem with COD “artificial intelligence” is that many of the games (although not all of them) cheat in ridiculous ways. Infinite spawns until the player crosses an invisible line, enemy characters with infinite grenade resources, etc. I don’t think you get credit for smart behavior for having the AI use a one-hit kill attack infinitely or for just spawning troops in a vague area around the player infinity times to force the player to rush into the line of fire. FEAR uses limited spawns of troops who have somewhat similar gear to the player, so the challenge seems much more reasonable to me.

              1. baud says:

                For French, the adjective-noun order is sometime reversed compared to English, so the adjective (artificial) will be after the noun (intelligence).

  61. Geebs says:

    I finished Halo:Reach on Heroic. Great shooter but I definitely spent too much of it randomly blowing up with very little notice.

    Also just started Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It has a beautiful setting and some neat gameplay (and lovely music, although I’m already heartily sick of that Floyd Rose divebomb at the beginning of the battle theme). I just wish there was some sort of fanservice slider I could turn down a bit, so I didn’t have to feel quite so embarrassed about the character design.

    1. Moss says:

      I only played Halo CE on PC. Is Reach worth a buy?

      1. Geebs says:

        If you liked the original Halo, it’s definitely worth getting; the Master Chief Collection on PC is $40 for 6 games.

        1. Supah Ewok says:

          Worth noting that the games within the collection are being released over time, with only Reach available to play at the moment, although buying the collection gives access to each game as it’s released (Reach can also be bought as an individual game, and one supposes that the same will be true of the rest when they become available).

  62. SupahEwok says:

    I’ve been playing Battletech as a mostly mindless little relaxer on evenings. I’ve been through the main campaign so I’ve seen just about all that the game has to offer, so piddling around in career mode manages to occupy my brain just enough to pass the time without challenging me. Waiting for a sale on the DLC to inject some extra variety.

    I don’t really have the presence of mind at the moment to dig into something new, but I need to get back to Vestaria Saga, a Fire Emblem-like game from the original creator of the series. His brand of design is more puzzle-box than tactics game. Levels are highly scripted, and it’s more about figuring out the solution to a map rather than just trying to kill everything. This makes resets practically a necessity, as an event will happen across the map from where you’ve been concentrating your units that would require your immediate response, and you’re not in position to take care of it. You practically have to play through a level, explore the layout of the map and note the timing of events, then play through again to try to figure out the “right” solution that’ll net you the optional rewards and recruitment of new characters.

    It’s a “hard” game to play blind, but a puzzle game if you step back and study it. It’s an interesting flavor, but the required reset for a chance at optimal play is an inherent flaw in the design methodology. Thinking about how to do it better is actually moving me towards developing my own Fire Emblem knockoff through SRPG Studio, but I don’t anticipate much more than figuring out the tools and practicing making maps until I get out of grad school.

    1. John says:

      Sigh. I should just go finish the Battletech campaign already. Fiddling around in career mode sounds perfect, but I keep telling myself that I need to complete the last mission in the campaign first. It’s just one mission! Okay, technically maybe two missions! How bad could they be?

      1. Supah Ewok says:

        The last-last mission did take me a second try, due to the AI’s habit of singling out one of your mechs to hammer (so unfair that they get to use basic player tactics :p) and I’d put the princess lady out in front by a very small margin.

        The first-last mission is actually fairly easy. The last-last, just don’t make my mistake and keep the princess slightly in the back.

        I’m thinking of digging into the .ini file to see if I can set the time limit on career mode to something ridiculous like 9999 days. Don’t care about the score, just wanna float through space upgrading my merc company at my own pace.

  63. Chad Miller says:

    This week I did some JRPG’ing thanks to Xbox and…eh.

    Final Fantasy XV is on Game Pass right now. Unusually for a Game Pass game, it includes all the DLC, including things that weren’t originally included in the “Season Pass”-like Royal Edition. On one hand, I want to praise Square-Enix for not trying to milk the playerbase for DLC purchase money, but on the other hand, I wonder if it’s because the game is already so poor that playing it vanilla wouldn’t encourage anyone to spend money anyway. Sadly, I’ve played the game before, but I hadn’t played all the DLC and wondered if I’d like it more coming back to it fresh. Instead I found that pretty much everything I disliked about it was still there except now I didn’t have the hope that it would get better since I know what the back half of the game looks like. The controls are unspeakably janky, which is sad given it’s the first real-time actiony entry in the series. Button prompts are context-sensitive but the sensitivity is deeply screwed up, to the point where I’d be walking away from someone so I could turn around and talk to them. In combat, selecting an individual opponent is sometimes impossible. Prompts tell you when to block but often lie. Mechanically, the game just never feels good.

    The final straw was when the game started crashing regularly. At one point I had a checkpoint autosave happen, then a boss showed up, then the boss intro crashed the game, so I restarted only to find that the checkpoint autosave isn’t a real save and I have to do the whole “dungeon” over. It’s bad enough that this happened at all, but if it’s happening on a console then why do I bother having one? Ugh. If this is some plot to build hype for the upcoming VII remake it’s having the exact opposite effect. The last big games I finished were Hitman 2, The Witcher 3, and GTA V so I suppose I was due for a dud.

    Shining Resonance: Refrain had a free weekend on Xbox Live Gold. I think I played an hour and a half, during which I had three battles that probably added up to 5 minutes combined and the rest was terrible straightforward anime dialog. I don’t know that I ever would have enjoyed this, even as a kid. The voice acting really drags things down. Probably won’t play again.

    Outside of video games, I recently played some Fallout: The Board Game at a local store and that was a weird experience. It’s kind of contentious, as consensus opinion seems to boil down to:

    Point: Most of the game is really cool but all the scenarios are PvP and the win condition tends to cut off the story early while also being poorly balanced as a competitive endeavor
    Counterpoint: That’s a pretty big “but”…

    Something less talked about is that the dice/randomization is maybe the craziest I’ve seen in any game ever. Crazy enough that I’ve gained new appreciation for games that just have you roll a d20 against a bunch of modifiers or whatever. I’ve studied more than my own share of probability and I find it impossible to have any kind of intuition regarding how difficult a skill check will be. Skill checks involve getting a certain number of pips on 3 dice. The dice themselves have an uneven distribution of pips (2 on one side, 1 on three sides, 0 on two sides) and the target number tends to be in the 3-6 range. Some effects add a hit or lower the target, which is relatively easy to intuit, but what gets more complicated is that you get “rerolls” which can be used to reroll any number of dice. For just a small example of how complicated this can make decisions, consider that an average single die roll gets 5/6 pips, which means that rerolling a 1 has a negative expectation but should still always be rerolled when going for a 6 because 2 pips on each die is the only acceptable result. So what if you’re aiming for a 4 and have 0-1-1? You can probably figure out the answer but it’s not trivial and it means that intuiting the difference between difficulty 3 and difficulty 4 is also really non-obvious.

    This would all be fine if you could make decisions without estimating probabilities first, but that’s not how most of the game works. It would be one thing if you just encountered predictable skill checks and whatever happens, happens. It would also be fine if most skill checks were choices that mostly came down to what stats you have (e.g. choosing between a Strength 3 check or an Intelligence 3 check). Instead, you regularly get decisions like, “Do you attempt an Intelligence 4 check or take a guaranteed, smaller reward?” or even “Do you attempt a Strength 3 check, a Perception + Intelligence 4 check, or spend 5 bottlecaps?”

    At some point I thought about running some calculations to see if that would inform my intuition any. I got the idea to write a program that enumerates all possible results from die rolls and the probability of those results. Rather than Monte Carlo’ing it or enumerating all 216 possibilities, it actually multiplies the probabilities themselves to come up with the probabilities of combined outcomes. I ended up writing it in Python so I could use numpy to handle the resulting matrix multiplications, and then I realized I was writing a program that multiplied matrices to decide if I should roll dice in a quest-heavy tabletop game. I don’t think this was what the designers had in mind.

    1. John says:

      I once wrote a Fortran program that did Monte-Carlo simulations for Chutes and Ladders, which I am quite sure is not what the designers had in mind, as the original version of the game was not only intended to teach moral lessons to children but predates even the venerable Fortran 77 standard by, uh, quite a lot. In principle, I could have expressed the expected number of turns per game as part of the solution of a system of 100 linear equations and fed the matrix representation thereof into a routine like linv3f, but that would only have worked for a one-player game and only have given me the expected number of turns. Monte Carlo simulation allowed me to compute results for one-, two-, and three-player games simultaneously, as well as do things like find the average number of spins (as opposed to turns).

      I am quite certain that this is the most though that anyone–anywhere, ever–has put into frickin’ Chutes and Ladders which is a deeply boring game involving no decision making whatsoever but which is nevertheless beloved by .preschoolers.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        the original version of the game was not only intended to teach moral lessons to children

        Wait what? The only moral I can think of is “everyone gets where they do by sheer luck rather than skill”, and I feel like that message is kind of lost on its target audience of people too young to notice that they have no control over the outcome of the game.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it’s supposed to teach them about life, where things are complicated by virtures (the ladders) and vices (the snakes). The virtues help you along, while the vices impede you.

          And now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

          1. Shamus says:

            Amazing. That is probably the least likely thing a child will conclude based on the game. It’s just too sophisticated an idea, they have no frame of reference for it, and there are innumerable simpler readings that are a better fit.

            Old culture is weird.

            1. Supah Ewok says:

              Well, looking through the wikipedia article, old Indian versions of the original game have writing in the squares, which I’m guessing spelled out the lessons much more clearly than the modern pictures aimed at preschoolers.

        2. John says:

          Yeah, that’s the actual lesson of the game, since, as I mentioned, there is no scope for player choice, let alone moral choice. But if you look at the board, there’s a picture of someone doing something bad at the top of every chute and a picture of someone doing something good at the bottom of every ladder.

          I question the relevance of these pictures to the game’s intended audience of preschoolers.

    2. Thomas says:

      FFXV had the most obnoxious use of DLC ever. Doing the core character motivation as DLC was already bad, but leaving obvious gaps in the story where the DLC should go… Even EA couldn’t dream up ‘what if the companion disaplers, and then comes back with a different look and talks mysteriously about the great adventure they’ve been on’.

      The only saving grace is it obviously wasn’t content they’d already made and cut from the main game, because they clearly hadn’t finished the rest of the main game either.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        The only saving grace is it obviously wasn’t content they’d already made and cut from the main game, because they clearly hadn’t finished the rest of the main game either.

        Ah, yes. These obvious DLC-holes are my “favorite” part of the game. The part where Gladiolus comes back from his episode is my go-to example for anyone who thinks the situation is at all exaggerated:

        The party arrives in Lestallum by airship. The exit to the airship opens, revealing a factory in the distance. Fade to black. Fade back in. Noctis (the player character) is now inside the factory, wearing completely different clothes. The factory director says something like, “Boy, it sure is great how you agreed to clear the demons out of this factory, Noctis!” This is the first time we’ve seen this character or heard of the demons.

        The player runs further into the factory and meets up with Gladiolus, who had previously just kinda buggered off for no explained reason. “Ah, it’s no wonder you ran ahead of the other hunters,” says Noctis. These other hunters have never been seen or even mentioned before, and will never be seen or mentioned again.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          And they’re not making some of the DLCs so it’s not just a matter of trying to milk us for extra money but literally not getting these holes filled ever. This is why I tend to wait until some kind of “complete edition” comes out.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            Eh, the DLC they’re not making is apparently a non-canon, otherworld scenario from what I understand. So that would not have made the plot of the main game any clearer. It just might have been a good scenario in its own right.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Oh, that’s actually good to know, I haven’t researched it thoroughly because FFXV is not super high on my wishlist but it dropped further down when I heard that DLC was story intergrated and that they weren’t doing all the DLCs… I still seem to remember hearing that at least one of the character stories got cut this way but I guess I should look into it some more and adjust my priorities accordingly.

    3. RFS-81 says:

      Regarding obtuse skill system, I would like to introduce you to Das Schwarze Auge (aka The Dark Eye). If you’re into oldschool CRPGs you may know it from Realms of Arkania. It is (or was?) the most-played pen & paper RPG in Germany because the publisher that was translating D&D into German back in the day had some sort of falling-out with TSR and decided to make their own RPG, with bratwurst and sauerkraut.

      Aaanyway, firstly, you have attribute checks which are simply d20 roll-under. You basically never roll plain attribute checks. A skill check requires you to succeed at three attribute checks; which ones depends on the particular skill. Your skill level compensates for high rolls. For example, if your skill level is 5, you can roll over by a total of 5 points in your three attribute checks.

  64. Ninety-Three says:

    I just remembered that boardgames are games, so I’m also going to talk about the boardgames I’ve been playing.

    The big one is Avalon. It’s a Mafia-type game (a team of good guys, a team of bad guys, good guys don’t know who’s bad, have to figure it out before bad guys sabotage everything) with one twist that fixes everything I hate about Mafia games. Normally the optimal way to play Mafia is the way my university’s math department did: Ignore almost everything people say because lying is free, then don’t bother saying anything because everyone else will ignore you, focus on known information and try to logically infer which people or groups must be on the bad guy team. Avalon has a special character called Merlin: at the start of the game one good team player gets the Merlin card and he gets to see which players are on the evil team but he can’t just announce this information to the world because at the end of the game, once all the points are added up and the good guys win, the bad guys get one chance to guess who Merlin is and if they get it right, they win instead. This means that Merlin wants to make hints that guide the good team in the right direction, but do it subtly enough to not give away his identity (it’s different from the cop role in most Mafia games because the bad guys can win by guessing him even once the game is “over”), and so all the other good players have an incentive to be talkative because it creates cover for Merlin. It’s really clever and I wish every Mafia game had something like this.

    Recommended house rule: Rather than one player starting with the Lady of the Lake, give it out randomly after mission 2. This helps avoid a meta of “always put Lady on the mission”.

    I’ve also been doing some pen & paper roleplaying. World of Darkness is a terribly balanced system, but if you go into it with the same hipster attitude that drives moderns to play D&D versions from the 80s, the brokenness kind of works. This is a cold uncaring universe and evil wizards might turn you into paste in the blink of an eye. Much like D&D 3.5, I kind of like it despite everything it does wrong because it has a couple of really neat systems you don’t find anywhere else. In this case I really like blood points, both the idea of tying an important character resource directly to character action (drinking blood, duh), and the way they allow combat to feel more lethal and “wow, that was a close call” than it really is by making sure that the player always has a “break glass in case of emergency” button, with more granularity than your average system like “you can spend an Action Point to reroll a bad roll and you only get two of them per adventure”.

    1. Daimbert says:

      By PBF I’ve been playing the Battlestar Galatica Board Game, as I’ve been playing sequential games for YEARS now. I’ve also started modding an Arkham Horror game by PBF after taking a year off. For the most part, though, I tend to prefer the character text more than the game, but the games are pretty fun themselves.

    2. Syal says:

      Avalon is specifically a Resistance game, which is basically Mafia with no eliminations. Not sure I like the Merlin rule, as there’s only six players with two rebels so there’s always a 1 in 4 chance of the bad guys winning through sheer luck.

      My strategy in Mafia was always “find a truth then tell a lie”, which seemed really good at outing whether people were trying to find wolves or just pretending to. Probably depends on who you’re playing with though.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Avalon plays with up to ten so Merlin can hide in a larger crowd, but also winning is made up and the points don’t matter: the bad guys discuss their Merlin guess before making it, so everyone knows if they have well-founded suspicions or pure luck on their side and no one can stop you from feeling like you really won.

        There are a bunch of other character cards that do various things to spice up the game as you might expect from Mafia, but Merlin is the one that really feels special.

        1. Platypus says:

          In terms of actual video games this one called direwolf which is in beta is the only solid “mafia” style game right now-mainly cause it’s got a small group of regulars its not full of trolls like every other mafia/werewolf ive seen online. Its role list is also very entertaining(my favourite play was when i was a hunter who killed ghast which turns me into a ghast thus jumping from losing town ship to winning neutral ship) and the fact roles that die at night arent revealed keeps people guessing enough to give games abit of spice

  65. Zgred says:

    Recently I’ve been replaying the entirety of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro series. So you can guess in which language my brain is thinking right now.

  66. Zekiel says:

    This week I played a surprisingly large number of game in order to avoid doing the studying I’m supposed to be doing:
    – Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus (good, but needs more cutscenes j/k obv)
    – Darkest Dungeon on tablet (interesting but makes me realise how much I value a plot and characters in RPGs)
    – Solitarica on tablet (good for getting a 3 minute break)

    If you’d asked me one week ago I could have burnished my indie credentials by saying Kentucky Route Zero, which I’m gradually replaying in order to finally complete it, 4 years after I begun!

  67. kdansky says:

    I think you’re not supposed to use map-spanning conveyor belts. You’re supposed to use trucks and ferry the plastic to your main base, and you’re supposed to set up oil and coal power plants in the wild and just attach it to your base with a handful of power poles.

    However that is only marginally easier to do than long-ass conveyors, and significantly more complicated: Trucks are tedious to set up correctly, require fuel, have rather limited transport capacity, do not scale, are slow, and are impossible to upgrade. Trains are actually much more convenient, except for all the walking you need to do to set them up; Expect to walk to every train station two or three times before things work right.

    The game does not really reward these strategies enough for them to clearly out-compete the dull long-ass belts. Factorio has the exact same issue: Trains are completely optional, and only a fun toy for advanced players.

    The one other thing I think you’re not supposed to do is tear down your base. Just build more base nearby. You gain virtually nothing by tearing down your existing base to make it better when you could just add a second base three steps over with the new tech, and then splice in the production from your old base. The obvious way to do this is to just add another floor on top of your existing base. In my second playthrough I did not bother with redoing my base, and it turns out that was massively faster and more convenient. Every time I needed a lower level ingredient to build more stuff, I could find a container full of rods or screws somewhere in my old base.

    In fact building multiple bases (and then linking them up with trains to ferry around higher-level goods) would be the prime way to play, if there was not one massive issue with it: Carrying construction materials between bases is the most tedious thing ever: You basically need to fill your whole inventory with a complicated mixture of ingredients, and then you’ll still run out of one dumb thing and have to spend ten minutes hiking to your base to get some rotors. They should add a way that containers in one base can be ransacked magically when creating buildings somewhere else, so we can just stamp out massive bases wherever we want if our home base is rich enough to provide the materials.

    Like some sort of consumable flying bot: Every bot consumed flies in the ingredients to create a building from any container on the map. We would not mind filling out inventories with a couple hundred of those, and setting up another factory complex just to build them. It would be a great mid-game upgrade path.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Trains make it considerably more convenient to travel between bases, as you can just pop down an engine, hop in, set it to autopilot wherever you want to go, and then go get a sandwich or a drink or something while you travel.
      Agreed about tearing down the old base. Though I have a very messy construction “style” so the main base metastasizing doesn’t really bother me.

      Using trains to ferry high-level materials between bases is essentially what I did, though there’s still pretty clearly one main base and three specialized outposts.

  68. MelTorefas says:

    This week and most previous weeks for awhile now, I have been obsessively playing Tales of Maj’Eyal (#4, on Steam). Best way I can think to describe it is “Turn-based Diablo roguelike with an actionbar”. There is plot, but I don’t really know it because the game doesn’t force you to pay attention to it much. You just get to run around killing things and looting things while accomplishing a loose overarching objective, and really that is most of what I ever want out of a game. It cost me about $7 and I have logged 105 hours since I bought it 21 days ago.

    Main downside is the game is flippin’ hard. >.>

    1. Fizban says:

      Hey, I’ve gushed about that game! (396 hours myself). You’ll probably need to look up how to unlock a bunch of stuff as much of it is super obtuse, but the added areas can help variety a bit. Here’s a secret technique I found very helpful: while the standard Adventure Mode gives you a certain number of lives, sometimes you just need to find out how lethal something is and figure out how it works, which is crap when you’ve got a limited number of reloads (and infinite lives mode doesn’t unlock anything so eff that).

      So, cheat. You can backup your save files manually by copying them out of the save folder and decide for yourself whether a death was justified or total bs, or just save-scum your way to the end if you want/need to. Makes trying to figure out how to play something or occasionally screw the rng a lot easier. And on occasions where you haven’t backed up in a while, screwed up when you shouldn’t have, or made tactical use of the respwawn mechanic, then you can take it on the chin to your life count.

      If you want an easy class suggestion: Knight, and make sure you have no Runes so you can learn Antimagic from the Zigguranth to go with all your other defenses. This will essentially make you invincible. Or for caster types, the key to the Alchemist is focusing on their main bomb tree- in particular, increasing the explosion radius combined with the skill that increases damage if the explosion is blocked by walls. Which lets you scan an area with Track or Magic Eye from an item, then one-shot everything from around the corner.

  69. Moss says:

    This week I started a Factorio server with a duckton of mods to torture my friends with.

    I lost interest in vanilla Factorio once I won a skirmish, but these mods adds exponentially many new layers of complexity that have rekindled my love. Automating the most mundane of machine parts is now a project worthy of vanilla end game. Lots of frustration and spaghetti mess <3

  70. Rariow says:

    On my spree to catch up to the past 5 or so years of graphically intensive games after finally having my old clunker croak and replacing it with a high-endish gaming PC, I’ve picked up Fallout 4 and played a bunch of it over the past week. I must admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it, especially considering all the negative buzz I’d seen around the Internet (not a small part of which was on this blog!). It’s no New Vegas, but about 10 hours in it’s looking like it may be my favourite Bethesda world since Morrowind (though definitely not favourite Bethesda game – that’s still Oblivion, controversial as it may be). It feels like there’s a much higher density of cool little environmental stories to stumble upon than there ever was in FO3, Oblivion or Skyrim, and both the base-building element and the crafting system really incentivize carefully looking through all the junk. I think it’s the first time I’ve truly felt like a wasteland scavenger sifting through old garbage in order to find something that’ll help me survive – I can’t just grab weapons, armour, ammo, medicine and caps and ignore everything else (aside from maybe the occasional high price:weight ratio junk item) anymore. I’m amazed that I’ve only really heard bad things about the base building (only the occasional “I thought it was OK” as apologetics), since to me it’s the element that’s really bringing the game to life and forcing me to really engage with the previously pointless clutter.

    What I find most interesting though is the way the game messes up – not in that it’s bad in interesting ways, but in that it teaches me something about myself as a gamer. A lot has been said about giving the protagonist a voice (and personality, and explicit motivation, and much more concrete backstory) but it’s still shocking to me how much it sours my experience. I’d never realized just how important roleplaying had been to me in Bethesda games until now. I’d always go fairly light on the roleplaying, but I’d still pick a few very archetypal personality traits based on my build (“evil genius cannibal”, “dim-witted do-gooder”, “uber-curious scientist with a heart of gold”, etc) and go with them whenever possible, maybe making up some backstory along the way. There wasn’t even usually that much choice, but I’d at least be able to project the personality I’d chosen onto whatever dialogue options I was given, maybe interpreting them as a Mass Effectish “what you meant to say rather than what you straight-up said” type of thing if convenient. It made every playthrough feel different and unique. In Fallout 4 the protagonist is pretty much just a straight-man (with occasional options for disappointingly mild “sarcastic” lines), with a specific delivery by the voice actor for every line. It’s shockingly deflating that I’m unable to play as the character I’d first envisioned, and am just funnelled into being a generic action hero lady. Pretty much the only way I can roleplay is refusing to do quests, and I both don’t want to miss out on content and hate that I can’t tell the Brotherhood of Steel that I don’t want to interact with them because I think technology is dope.

    Also, smaller, I’m really surprised at how disappointed I am in cosmetic options. In most Bethesda games you can usually wear something that looks good at a decent stat hit but make it through the game OK (I’ve played several characters in Skyrim and Oblivion where all I wore were robes or plainclothes and I didn’t have much problem). I insisted on wearing Drifter Clothes (Drifter Armour?) in FO4 for the same reason (it looks amazing), but kept getting one or two-shot by fairly standard enemies. At some point I realised the random armour pieces you find have much better stats, put on the two or three I’d not scrapped, and was suddenly breezing through fights with no problem. I’m sure there’s unique late game armor that looks good, but the fact that for what I assume is a long time I essentially have to look like a WoW character, with random bits of personality-less and mismatched leather and metal strapped to myself, rather than wearing a cool trenchcoat that matches the personality I envision for my character is a real bummer. I’ve had this problem in other RPGs before, but it’s never upset me to this extent, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just the characters in FO4 actually look really good, especially with that cool damn trenchcoat on, or maybe it’s a one-two punch with the voice stuff.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      As one of those people talking down Fallout 4…I mostly agree with the settlement building, especially when combined with Survival Mode. I’d say Bethesda should make a sequel to that, but they kinda did, and they kinda ruined it by making it a minimum-effort microtransaction-based cash grab. Seriously, I can see how Fallout 76 may have been dreamed up by people with good ideas even if the actual implementation didn’t pan out. I hear they even fixed the armor problem you speak of! Similarly, Fallout 4 is a bad Fallout game but could have been a great Fallout spinoff.

      I’ve heard that the settlement mechanic was on the chopping block for most of the game’s development, which would explain why it’s so disconnected from everything else. I have this whole parallel headcanon version of Fallout 4’s plot that actually makes the Sole Survivor’s adventures in community-building the central focus (the Shaun stuff is still there; what gets replaced is Mama Murphy and every other development that leads you by the nose). For instance, instead of building stores and staffing them with any generic random idiot, you’d need to make the settlements attractive to merchants which would then add new personalities to your town. Instead of finding Piper because a psychic told you to run to the quest marker, you could instead have her actually be a reporter and show up in one of your settlements when they reach a certain size or you reach a certain level of reputation. Or at least send another NPC to say “hey, you’re making quite a name for yourself, why don’t you come down to Diamond City for an interview?”

    2. Higher_Peanut says:

      I’ve found FO4 lives and dies on whether or not you can enjoy the base building because they seem to have tied most of the game systems to it (or at least the systems I enjoy). I found the settlement system itself to be tedious to use and extremely shallow.

      Unless you’re committed to harvesting all the mods everything still looks ruined. I’m not expecting grand designs or anything, but “buildings” you’ve just built shouldn’t look like they’re falling apart already. You also can’t ever clean up the junk lying around without mods either, they’re covering holes in the world geometry and are permanent fixtures. Nothing you build could ever feel like a true building. You could build boxes but things like doors and having the game recognise the structure as a whole of its own is out.

      There’s no major mechanical difference between settlement areas. A settlement in an area with water or other resources doesn’t benefit from them so the only difference is visual or a fast travel location. Building a a settlement doesn’t do anything for the world and no one else seems to be developing. They’re a bunch of radiant quest dispensers and busy work. You’re not so much rebuilding civilisation as you are setting up a dollhouse with real people.

      It would be tolerable if you could ignore it but the gameplay loop of exploring dungeons was changed to expect you building up settlements. You can’t play a character that doesn’t want to be the only person rebuilding and doing all the work. There’s just nothing worth looting that isn’t junk for settlements, collecting items for sale is a waste of time. An upgrade at a shop cost me well over 100,000 caps, which I would have to make 100 at a time due to the shopkeepers cash limit. Unless there’s a hidden mirelurk merchant most “valuable” items empty out the pittance of shopkeepers limit in one go but also come nowhere close to the value of desired items. They introduced “legendary” encounters and drops, but if I wanted that style of game even the worst Borderlands does it better.

  71. Jason says:

    I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Unity. That’s the French Revolution one – the name isn’t very descriptive. I keep forgetting it.
    I’ve played all of the other Assassin’s Creed games in the main series up to this point (plus Liberation and Freedom’s Cry). I know I’m a few games behind.
    I’ve heard that this is one of the weaker games in the franchise. I like some of what it does differently than its predecessors, but I dislike some things.

    I like the murder mysteries and the additional Paris Stories missions. I wish the rewards were a little better. I’ve got my headquarters updated, so I’m bringing in thousands of Livres every 20 minutes, but the quests still only result in a few hundred to a thousand. Treasure chests too. It seems like in the previous games, it was worth it to open every chest you come across, but in this one, it’s the only reason to open chests is to collect everything on the map.

    I really don’t like the fact that you have to do the co-op missions to earn upgrade points. I get that there needs to be some kind of reward for doing co-op, but locking skills needed for the single player game behind co-op is not cool. You do earn upgrades by doing story missions, but you will fall behind, which makes the single player game tougher. You can play the co-op missions by yourself, but they are hard, so you need to already be pretty upgraded. Nice catch-22. I know there’s matchmaking, but I don’t know how many people are actually still playing, and I don’t really like playing goal-based missions with randos.

    There seem to be fewer missions where to insta-fail upon detection, so a lot of missions (for me) end up as big battles as soon as stealth fails. However, if you do get mobbed, you will probably die, especially since there’s no way (as far as I can tell) to avoid being shot. In previous games you could make a human shield if someone was about to shoot you. Now I end up throwing a lot of smoke bombs, drinking a lot of medicine and running like hell.

    1. Dalisclock says:

      AC: Unity is the only mainline AC game I’ve yet to play. I skipped over it when it released because I heard a lot of bad things about it but apparently a lot of people did like it, and apparently it’s been getting a much warmer reception in the past few years with Origins and Odyssey being the new face of the series. I picked it up cheap last year but I’ve yet to try it, mostly because I burnt out hard on open world and AC games around the same time(Playing AC: Syndicate, AC: Origins, Horizon Zero Dawn, AC: Odyssey, AC3 Remastered, AC:Liberation Remastered, AC4 all more or less back to back) so by the time the last DLC for Odyssey was finished in Summer I was like “Cool, I’m done”.

      The fact all of these games are rather time sinky and tend to merely iterate(with some exceptions) on the previous one probably doesn’t help much, so playing them in one after another tends to feel a bit much pretty fast

    2. Baron Tanks says:

      What, in the end*, bummed me out most in Unity is the lack of sense of being in (pre?)revolutionary Paris. There’s a couple of stock models of barricades peppered throughout the streets, but there’s no sense of sweeping change about to hit the city or people wanting it. Other than that I think it’s fine, serviceable. The gameplay works, although you’re fair about the upgrade systems. I’m just comfortable enough with the AC gameplay that all I need is a decent sword and some good ways to do rooftop assassinations. The rest of it is cruft to me personally. This made it easy to ignore the downsides you mention.

      *I got it for free due to Ubisoft’s promotion following the real life fire in the Notre Dame. I played maybe a good 10, 15 hours of it and left it there. I just had no desire to push further. The map is a ridiculous infestation of icons (this is peak Ubisoft open world) and the plot/narrative did not interest me, as I was just waiting for THIS DAMN REVOLUTION TO START.

      1. Jason says:

        You can get pretty good equipment with money, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on. I have max level of almost all of the equipment at this point. It sucks that rooftop assassination and double assassinations are skills that you have to unlock, but I have them now (although double seems to be hit or miss a lot on the second guy).
        The bummer is that all of the cool extra items, like poison bombs and upgrades to the phantom blade are also hidden behind skill upgrades, so I’m probably never going to get them.
        The map is a nightmare as far as icons, and the options to filter are pretty worthless, as there are only 5 (I think), preset filters. I wish you could enable/disable individual icon types instead like a real map filter. The worst is when a mission objective isn’t pinpointed with an icon, but instead is in a green circle on the map (ex: find someone within this area), and you can’t even find the green circle for all of the icons everywhere.
        Also, once I accidentally entered the DLC content because the icon to start it is right next to the one to fast travel to your home, and there’s no way to go back until you finish the first mission, which wasn’t easy or short. Very bad design there.

      2. Dalisclock says:

        I heard that’s an issue with the game. Apparently even when the revolution is in full swing Arno doesn’t seem to care much about it either way, which seems odd at the very least.

        AC3 had issues too, where aside from the set piece missions it never felt like the cities were notably different before and during the revolution(Hell, New York has an entire burnt out section, which stays the way the entire game despite a decade having passed).

  72. Douglas Sundseth says:

    Recent gaming:
    Civ VI — Cheevo hunting
    Minecraft — Continuing work on the same world I’ve been using for several years (I have a single train line that runs for over 20,000 blocks, a stadium that would hold a football game, etc.)
    Ticket to Ride — I’ve owned the board games for years and finally picked up the computer versions. Nice for a quick diversion, either against people or against the computer.

    Oh, and I backed the new Pathfinder CRPG game, because Kingmaker was so much fun.

  73. Cubic says:

    I’ve mostly played old stuff, but that aside had the luck to play an interesting new(-ish?) PS4 game, A Way Out. Cinematic in style; you get stuck in prison and have to figure out A Way Out. The twist is it’s a two-player coop with split screen, so you have two story lines to follow. A bit slow (at least in the beginning which was all I had the opportunity to play) but I was thoroughly hooked … too bad about the required coop, otherwise I might have bought a PS4 just to continue. Now I’ll have to resume next Christmas instead.

    1. Dalisclock says:

      I really liked Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and was stoked when I heard they were making a new game. Then I found out it was mandatory co-op and knew I’ve never play it because nobody I know who plays games is remotely interested in it.

    2. Thomas says:

      I enjoyed A Way Out. Co-op is a fun way to enjoy a game (but hard to set up). I’d like to see someone else work on the idea. I’m curious how you’ll find the ending when you eventually get there

    3. Lino says:

      I watched a Let’s Play of A Way Out (wanted to play it, but had the same issue as Dalisclock), and I really liked it. Especially the twist at the end!

      1. Cubic says:

        Man, no spoilers! I’ll report back when I’m done in, uh, a few years.

  74. Amstrad says:

    I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV, as a mid level player at level 60 I’m just now working my way through content from the Heavensward expansion which was the first expansion that came out in 2015. For an idea how far behind the curve I am, the latest expansion Shadowbringers is the third expansion that came out last July and raised the level cap to 80. I’ve never been a huge fan of MMOs, but the main quest line of FFXIV is fairly dense and can almost entirely be played like a single player game and thankfully just as I was starting to get bored with the content of the base game, I got access to the expansion content, so pacing is good.

    Otherwise it’s just been the occasional round of Carcassonne which was a free giveaway on the Epic Game Store that happened to coincide with my first exposure to the actual board game version. It’s a good way to get 20-30 minutes of gaming in and I’m hooked.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Carcassonne is one of my all-time favorite tabletop games, but I have to switch the Xbox version to the U.S. scoring. I hate Tiny Town Syndrome.

  75. Lisa says:

    I’ve been playing the hell out of Pumpkin Days, an early access farming game. It’s got obvious influences from Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing and the like.
    They’ve still got a bit of work to do, but it’s my kind of playable already.

  76. SpammyV says:

    Mostly I’ve been playing through Dragon Quest Builders 2 on my Switch. I’ve never used a Minecraft mod so I’m expecting to get a lot of “Well there’s this mod…” but honestly, DQB 2 is probably the best thing to be done with the Minecraft formula since Minecraft.

    The story isn’t complex but it’s charming. The writing emphasizes accent and verbal tics so you can easily tell which character is talking even if they aren’t in the camera’s focus. It’s a story about making people’s lives better and I appreciate it.

    The game leans more into needs-managing for your villagers, although it’s largely about making them happy than keeping them from dying. The game recognizes rooms and will designate something as a specific type of room depending on what you put in there. It also makes having a story in a Minecraft-style game work. Each story chapter is has you going to a new island and completing quests there, which lets the game slowly lay out concepts in a way that gives you time to retain them, and offers a pretty good blend of directed blueprints to follow and objectives that are just “Make a room with X, Y, and Z. You decide where it goes and what it looks like.” Then once you’ve completed the story on these islands you go back to the home island with these rooms/recipes unlocked and these mechanics available, and it’s all freefroom and allows you to pretty much do what you want for as long as you want before you start the next island. Optional objectives that eventually let you unlock infinite quantities of basic resources also make the game go easier the more you play.

    Honestly the game is a delight. My only real complaint is that whether in third person or first person view, the camera feels a bit too low to the ground and close to things.

    If what you got the most out of Minecraft was the survival and exploration elements then you probably won’t be satisfied with DQB 2 and it’s pregenerated islands. But if you want to see making a campaign for a free-form building game work and see it knocked out of the park, Dragon Quest Builders 2.

  77. The Big Brzezinski says:

    Still waiting for Satisfactory to arrive on Steam, so in the meantime I’ve been sating the timetabling urge with Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe. The options for routing trains are manifold. I’ve moved well beyond the simple two-station closed loops. Instead, it’s more like a highway system. I have two one-way lines branching off in every direction I want to grow. Stations are spliced off to the sides near cities and industries so as to adequate queuing room and easy access from either direction. Scores of simple block signals and a few one-ways allow multiple trains to share the railroad network, making the unified railway possible. You end up going full Isle of Sodor before long.

    I started a new survival game in Empyrion: Galactic Survival. Mostly I wanted to use the starter vessel designs I uploaded to the Steam Workshop under fuller working conditions. It’s been very satisfying. The rather outdated and ramshackle tutorial wants you to explore locally on motorcycle, refurbish a small wrecked base for manufacturing, and build a more capable hover vehicle to gather resources. My designs let me plop out a small hover vehicle in about three minutees to immediately start exploring the whole planet Easy Rider-style. Then I put together my minimalist cargo shuttle to fly to orbit and start a space station. After grabbing a bit of cobalt on the starter planet’s moon, I installed a warp drive on the shuttle and began gather materials for my light cruiser. Eventually the space station grew to include a living quarters and large garden for producing food and medical supplies. The cruiser allowed me to start raiding Zirax (evil mook aliens) facilities for loot I couldn’t craft myself, like autominer cores and epic weapons. Usually, these sort of survival-crafting games trail off once you achieve materiel emancipation. In Empyrion though, you have enemies to fight and distant planets around distant stars to explore. I understand Eleon, the developer, are looking to add player-designed hostile ships to the enemy list in the experimental build this April. I look forward to the challenge.

    Still playing Nioh as well. It’s been a different experience decoding what the game asks of me from what I’m used to. You need to learn and assimilate information as fast as possible. It reminds me a lot of progressing through World of Warcraft content as a tank, except I have to be my own healer and dps. That’s probably why I gravitated towards heavy armor and spears. Like a bomb disposal technician, I armor up and poke it with a stick. Combat is not as daunting as hype would have you believe. Human AI opponents have a hard time dealing with being constantly bopped with a spearhead, and yokai telegraph so badly they’re only a threat when you rush things. My only real complaints are how, like Dragon’s Dogma, you easily overlevel to the point of trivializing combat, and the sidequest about tracking down the Hooded Goth Snake Man who stole your faerie keeps getting in the way of the main quest; finding and collecting all the kodamas and guardian spirits.

    I’ll probably get back into Warframe as well when the next update comes out. Melee is so good in that game.

    1. Gautsu says:

      The dlc in Ni-Oh fixes the overleveling thing by starting around 40 levels higher than the endgame of vanilla and going up from there. I might be exaggerating but there was a pretty big jump to Dragon of the North and an even bigger one into the 2 Siege of Osaka’s.

  78. SidheKnight says:

    I’ve been playing Disco Elysium. Amazing game. I wonder if you have already played it Shamus, what you think about it. It’s definitely a great story-driven, character-focused RPG.

  79. Dalisclock says:

    Working through Sekiro, for the past 2 months. Finally reached the endgame area of the Fountainhead Palace(I have to beat the True monk first, but I’ve gotten her really close) so it’s a matter of working my way through the last few bosses, getting the return ending that I’ve prepped for and then saying “Awesome! I’m done” and moving on to the next game on the list. I’m very much enjoying the game but no way am I going into a NG . By the time I finish any FROM game I’m pretty much very much done and in no mood to go back through again. Must have something to do with fighting every boss 20 times or the punishing death mechanic.

    I’m sure I’m gonna rankle some but it’s hard for me to play through Sekiro and feel that the people who argue that Sekiro could stand to be a little bit easier(either using a mod or by design) have a point. It’s a massive time sink, a lot of upgrades are gated strictly behind bosses/mini-bosses which means there’s not much the way of alternate progression available. It’s still one of the better from games but it has flaws. Though it’s still one of the better FROM games IMHO, but I did end up installing a mod on a FROM game for the first time ever to improve QoL. Spirit Emblems don’t cost anything to purchase, but the cap on use is still in place. Which basically just means I don’t have to grind them/sen now if I spend too many times trying to kill a boss and failing.

    It’s the Blood Vial/Bullet problem from BB(which I otherwise loved), where having a cap and then making me farm for them if I run low feels like a way to force grinding rather then focus on learning the bosses and feels unnecessary punishing. If I’m dying a lot, making me break off to farm more consumables feels like kicking me when I’m down. It’s not “Git Gud”, it’s “Oh, go get more tokens so you can use the systems already set in place because you suck”.

    My biggest gripe so far is that while the bosses are nicely varied and interesting, there’s a notable copypaste problem with the mini-bosses and you really start to notice it after a while. So while you have unique ones like O’Rin of the Water, on the other end you have the headless and some of the generals who are basically the same boss with varying degrees of difficulty. And while most of them are optional, you need the prayer beads they carry to have any vitality/posture worth speaking of, especially important for late game bosses.

    Other then that, I’ve been playing Pyre when I need to take a break from Sekiro and throwing myself against the meat gates of those bosses. So far I’m digging the visual novel parts but the sports game part of it(yeah, the real game part) I’m still working to wrap my head around. I don’t particularly care for sports games normally and I really made an exception here because I loved Bastion and Transistor so I’ve been willing to give this a chance. I’m pretty sure I’m still in the tutorial section of the game since I just got the ability to run practice matches and challenges and I’ve yet to have the option to release someone so maybe that makes a difference.

  80. Eric says:

    Still playing The Witcher 3. I finished Hearts of Stone a while back and I finished the main game (bittersweet ending) a few weeks ago. All that’s left is Blood & Wine. I spent the last two weeks running around Toussaint doing every sidequest available and then an inordinate amount of time farming enough money (hello Skellige shipwrecks…) to buy two sets of Grandmaster Witcher gear and pay the Ofieri dude added in Hearts of Stone to enchant my stuff. I’ve decided my endgame setup is going to be three pieces of Feline Armor (glove, trousers, boots) and the Manticore chestpiece because it looks awesome (with the enchantment to count as light armor) paired with the Manticore Steel Sword and Aerondight (both enchanted to never lose the grindstone bonus). I respecced to just up my fast attack damage. It’s not maximized by any means (no points in the green skills whatsoever), but it gets the job done.

    I can tackle the main quest in Blood & Wine and most likely be done with the game by next week. Or the week after. I really only have enough free time to play a few hours a week.

    I’m also playing Shadow of War whenever I feel like dicking around with orcs.

  81. Drathnoxis says:

    I’ve been playing Sunless Sea. I like the story and the atmosphere but it’s far too sloooooooow. Even with the best engine in the game and rushing everywhere at full speed burning fuel like mad it still feels slow after 20 hours. It’s also far to long to consider itself a roguelike, which I guess is okay because I haven’t actually died and I think I’m pretty close to finishing it.

    I like it, but I’m glad I’m almost done.

  82. Nimrandir says:

    Hopefully your eye troubles abate soon, Shamus.

    As to what I’ve been playing: for the holidays, I got Bloodstained and Code Vein. I enjoy both of them, and have made a ton of progress in the former. However, somebody made a video about Bethesda and Fallout, which reminded me that I never finished New Vegas. I’ve been soldiering through the Mojave since then.

    Over the weekend, my family and I did a couple of runs of For the King. The number of dice rolls are the sort of thing that would make me pull out my hair if I had enough left, but we’ve had a good time with our failures.

    About mobile games: most mornings, I play Marvel Puzzle Quest while drinking my coffee. I mess around with Fallen London on my tablet a few times a day, but I’ve hit the ‘slow burn’ stage of pretty much everything in that game.

  83. Syal says:

    Played practically nothing this week. Played some Chess as always, then my simultaneous desire for Match-3 games and porn led me to replay Huniepop. Gets pretty challenging when you’re not using the broken “match-4 gives you another turn”

    Started Trails of Cold Steel about two weeks ago, still only in Chapter 2. Got some Persona-style social stuff, but it’s mostly superficial, it’s still very much a Trails game. Hitting the kid-growing-up notes of Trails in the Sky 1, which is my favorite in the series, plus fantasy classism which is interesting so far. Some fan-service chests going on, and some stock anime “here’s this character archetype”, but not too bad.

  84. Dalisclock says:

    I’m interested in Satisfactory and the only thing keeping me from just buying the damn thing is the “Early Access” that’s continually hanging off the title. I think the problem is that it sounds more like “Unfinished” and the game could change significantly between playing it and release. I want to feel like I’m playing the full, intended(or at least as close as could be realized) experience and Early Access obviously implies it will be better in the future, so why not just wait till it is?

    On the subject, I’ve tried Factorio several times but keep bouncing off it. I haven’t gotten very far either. I don’t know if it’s the problem of setting up basic refining/assembly lines feels like it’s not what I’m here for and I haven’t been able to push through to the point stuff actually is automated enough to get in a groove, or the annoyance of alien bugs are harassing me while I’m trying to learn how to make more ammo to fight them off with. And each time I end up getting distracted by something that looks more engaging before I can get in that groove so another attempt gets abandoned.

    Which is wierd because I ended up getting into My time at Portia last year and loving it, and much of that game is basically smelting/crafting which makes it feel like Factorio should click for me.

  85. This week I played: DDO (surprise). I keep meaning to play something else, but this is absorbing all of my playtime for now, what with the release of the Alchemist class and the new Hardcore season.

    Casual-games-wise, I play Wordscapes now and again. I wouldn’t really call it fun, but it’s kinda engaging. I spent just enough money on it to go ad-free because I feel if I’m going to play it this much, they deserve some money. Honestly I’d like a few more mobile games now that I have a tablet, but I don’t have a clue what to look for. I got World of Goo but I didn’t really enjoy it that much, got about 20 boards in and got fed up.

    My housemate has been playing Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem and been sorta Meh about it. He doesn’t like how limited the builds are or that the boss fights are very much You Must Be This High To Ride The Ride. It’s a good-LOOKING game, though.

    I have an ENORMOUS backlog of stuff I WANT to play and stream, though. I mean, huge. I just don’t have the energy. Look me up on Twitch if you want to watch, tho.

  86. Gautsu says:

    I split my game playing between phone and Surface Pro at work, and Xbox and PC at home.

    On my phone I have been mostly playing the Heartstone solo content, going back through and (trying) to beat the runs on heroic. F that stuff in the A. I just redownloaded Marvel Contest of Champions, since they finally dropped Nova in it. So of course I haven’t been able to pull him.

    Console, I recently beat Salt and Sanctuary, which I enjoyed a lot. About halfway through my second play through. Still working on Battlechasers: Nightwar, the time off between playing sessions left me thinking I just probably need to reset the dungeon I’m in. I downloaded Children or Morta on gamefaqs, and that game is beautiful.

    On PC, I still dabble in Wow. I do all my weekly stuff on my horde pally, then log over to try to level an alliance character to finally finish unlocking the Allied Races. My brother got me back into Destiny 2, and I admit, I haven’t found many other games that strike the right balance between realism and arcade shooters like Bungie is able to. I hate the grind but love the moment to moment stuff. Our clan also got into Conan Exiles, so I am finally being able to hit the endgame stuff in that that is a chore to get to, solo. I’ve also been in a bit of a frenzy playing Ni-Oh for the pc, which I absolutely love. It might have my favorite combat in a souls-like. Looking forward to when the sequel comes to pc. On and I picked up The Division 2 for $3, and so far it has been money well spent.

    Luckily my job requires me to work a lot of hours with a lot of downtime (maybe unluckily now that I think about it). Finally knocked out a complete run of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, followed up by a run through of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut, which I found to be pretty damn charming (and also making me much more interested in playing through the copy of Deathtrap that I have). I finally cleared up enough room on the Surface Pro (which has surprised me in its ability to run games) to install Divine Divinity 2, which I just started tonight.

    And sometimes, I also do things like spend time with my family and play in a weekly Pathfinder game. But only sometimes

  87. Scerro says:

    Trains in Factorio, as mentioned before are much more well done. The common resources you don’t need them for, but are required for trains. By the time you need trains for rarer resources, you have them.

    A new raid tier dropped in FF14, so I’m playing that. In terms of getting what you wanted (great fights, great music, great continuation of storyline), it’s up to standard (which is really high for the game).

    Otherwise, Escape from Tarkov eats up a huge amount of time, with a little bit of Rocket League here and there.

  88. Mephane says:

    Alright this week I played two games. Let’s start with Warframe. I don’t think the that one needs much explanation around here any more, other than for me it’s this kind of evergreen that is very liberal about how much time you spend in it and what you do with it. Where other online games push you towards a certain quota of daily and/or weekly tasks to the point where they end up feeling like chores but any more than the chores becomes totally unrewarding, Warframe let’s you determine the pace for yourself. This is good since recently I spent a less time than usual in the game because I mostly played something else – Wolcen: Subtitle of Meaninglessness. (Really, the game never even bothers to hint what the actual subtitle “Lords of Mayhem” is about.)

    It’s essentially an indie ARPG that doesn’t reinvent the wheel and borrows from all over the genre, but in a good way, like a best-of remix. You have an expanded version of the skill runes of Diablo 3, a more streamlined fusion of the humungous passive skill tree of Path of Exile and the utterly chaotic Devotion system of Grim Dawn, and a stat system that finds the sweet spot between with just enough but not too much compartmentalization, thereby allowing for proper specialization without locking you in all to tightly.

    The latter has always been my biggest gripe with Grim Dawn in particular – it has too many stats. For almost every damage type there is a second type for its DoT equivalent, and a third stat for that DoT’s duration, so x% fire damage does not increase the damage from a fire DoT and vice versa. Even if you got for a pure warrior, all physical damage, there’s still your regular physical damage, there’s pierce damage , there’s bleed damage (DoT), there’s internal trauma damage (also a DoT), etc. And then the skills are overly particular in which damage types they deal with and you end up having to specialized into a subset of a subset of damage types which locks you in very deeply into your build with little flexibility to mix things up from time to time. Yes, there are stats that cover some of these categories, e.g. elemental, but it is generally not really feasible to entirely gear up like that.

    Enter Wolcen, where you can spread out and vary it a bit. Damage types are grouped into three categories: material (direct physical, bleed, poison), elemental (fire, frost, lightning), occult (aether, shadow, sacred), and the bonuses you get are almost always to an entire category. Plus, there are damage bonuses that look at this from a different angle but also group up things, like spell damage (obviously), melee damage (regardless of damage type, if you have a flaming sword it also buffs its fire damage), projectile damage (anything that shoots something that moves around until it hits an enemy, be that arrows, bullets, fireballs or my favourite, the magic missiles of the staff attacks).

    Did I mention that I love magic missiles if done well, and it’s the basic attack with staffs and they can bounce between enemies (with homing properties, unlike the bitter disappointment that is the Replicating Missile in Grim Dawn which is just boring to use and look at) and there’s a talent that adds extra bounces and range, and the whole animation of shooting them has a certain visceral quality to it. Your character doesn’t just half-heartedly poke the air with the staff a bit (looking at you, Elder Scrolls Online), but really moves it around like in a sequence of different animations and then they hit and crit and hit the next enemy… this is the first time since Neverwinter Nights 2 that I fell in love with a magic missile style attack.

    Add to that that the game as a whole looks really really good, I could never go back to Diablo 3’s low poly style where all textures look like budget cosplay made out of paper mache. In particular, metal looks like metal (my actual ingame character), I am so glad that PBR and related rendering techniques are finally catching on. Oh, and there’s a transmogrification system where the armor skin is not applied to an item, but a slot, therefore you don’t have to repeat the process every time you equip a new piece of gear, oh and you can hide any slot if you want, too. Plus, you can find colors to dye your gear (metal included) and they are one-time unlocks, not some the consumable BS that many other games like to employ.

    However, one big caveat is that the game is still very buggy. It was in Early Access for a long time but it is clear that it’s still in a beta state in the traditional sense – fully feature complete, but lots of bugs to deal with still.

  89. jpuroila says:

    I don’t really play new games. I went on a binge playing Crash Bandicoot and sequels a while back. Just now I’ve been playing FTL(though I kind of stopped after winning for the first time – I’m sure I’ll pick it up later, though), Hearts of Iron 4(mostly with the Old World Blues mod) and Darkest Dungeon. Interestingly, of the three games I like Darkest Dungeon the most by far. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and it does really well making me ignore its annoyances compared to FTL(probably because it’s more forgiving – in FTL if you lose a crewmember because oxygen doesn’t automatically turn of after being repaired unlike every other system, you’re out a possibly vital crewmember unless you have cloning bay. In Darkest Dungeon, even if you lose a hero, you can just recruit another).

    I’ve also installed Pandemonium and tested it to see that it works, but haven’t really started playing it yet – I saw it on sale in GOG a while back, and remembered playing it with my cousin on Playstation when we were kids. I might not play it much: compared to Crash Bandicoot(which I played on emulator, so original graphics – no remaster), it has aged quite badly.

    1. Cubic says:

      “Crash Bandicoot(which I played on emulator, so original graphics – no remaster)”

      By coincidence I did the same this fall, at first because I wanted to see the 100% ending and then I just got pulled along into doing the other two. Those were some good games, for reasons of nostalgia especially the first one. Inventive, fun, hard (but that’s why you have the emulator, I can’t imagine getting 100% without it). Much faster emulated on modern hardware than when you had to wait ten seconds to load a level. Also, the cut scenes were few (I mean, a couple per game?) and brief.

      “Well well well, if it isn’t Crash Bandicoot.” Lol, a cherished memory.

      1. Cubic says:

        PS. Remastered Crash Bandicoot doesn’t look great, at least if you’re used to the good old version. Kind of plastic. A worse example, though, is remastered Ratchet & Clank which looked fairly horrible and dispiriting. (They had changed the beginning too, so who knows what followed. Maybe it’s not a proper remaster.)

        1. evilmrhenry says:

          The worst bit of the Crash remaster is that Crash Bandicoot has realistic fur now, and that just looks weird.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Ratchet & Clank Ps4 is a new game, not a remaster. It’s based on the first game, but features the plot of the not great movie. It did not grab me the way the Ps2 games did. I wish they’d port the Ps3 games up so I could play those instead.

          Gotta disagree on the Crash remasters though, they have a nice appealing cartoony look. Spyro remaster is even better.

  90. Scoppioingola says:

    I’ve been playing Dark Souls II obsessively these past couple of weeks. The annual ‘Return to Drangleic’ event started this Sunday (February 23rd) and, being a late comer to the Dark Souls series, it was the first time I could experience the game with regular coop and PVP. It makes for quite a different experience and while enjoyable, I think I still prefer playing it on my own when the servers are completely empty.

  91. toadicus says:

    Your “something emulated?” prompt reminded me that my kids are playing Operation: Neptune, an old math edutainment title that I played as a kid in the early nineties. I remember it was easily the most fun of all the constructs around “do this arithmetic problem” games from my youth. The game is a 2-D scroller (kinda like Good Robot, I guess?) that basically plays like a stealth game — you have a limited amount of ammo that stuns targets for a short period of time — outside of that, all of your defense is in timing your movements against theirs to avoid getting hit. You explore underwater environs in search of bits of crashed space capsule — with occasional pit stops to calculate a new temperature for your onboard refrigerator or a new pressure for your balance tanks. My 2nd grade son is eating it up this week.

  92. ngthagg says:

    I’ve been playing Marvel Strike Force, so you can me in the mobile category.

    I started about a month ago, and it’s scratched my itch for something quick to play where I can make steady progression.

    The most interesting part is that the community is in a constant state of fury at the developer. It’s at a point where the top alliances have changed their name to include “Fix MSF” and are boycotting the pay aspects of the game. Some of the concerns seen legit (the developer wrecked a popular team by giving one of the members a speed boost, thereby messing up a powerful sequence of attacks). Some of the concerns can be summed up as “rng screwed me over”. And some of the concerns are ridiculous, like complaining that the developer is releasing characters too quickly.

    Despite all the fuss, I’m having a blast. I get to optimize and theorycraft to my heart’s content, and I’ve found a good alliance to socialize with.

  93. Glide says:

    I ‘ve been playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain all month.

    It’s been a curious experience: as a PC-only gamer for most of my life, MGS has just never really crossed my path, so I’m jumping in without a lore connection. And I don’t think that’s super important for this game: being aware by gamer culture osmosis that there is someone called Big Boss and someone called Ocelot and so on, it’s pretty easy to just kind of sense when they’re doing lore things and not worry about it too much. The story has made sense by and large.

    The gameplay is great! Snake has a huge arsenal of tricks to take out enemies from stealth, and this game understands that it’s a lot more fun to outsmart clever and capable enemies than to take advantage of insane and stupid ones. Snake is probably a bit OP (you can pretty much instantly neutralize anyone who sees you), but the guards are good enough that it feels like a fair contest (if you did get seen, you probably had to pop off a headshot right within line of sight of another guard, and now have to deal with everyone being on alert and actively looking for you). The controls are smooth and intuitive, and the various gizmos add good variety. I have never once wished I was playing something else while I was deep in an op, and that’s pretty impressive for a game this long.

    On the negative side, it definitely bothers me that Snake, a fully voiced character in a very verbose game, says pretty much nothing about anything and reacts to every shocking development with either dull indifference or stoic determination. There was no need for him to be the strong, silent type in this sort of game. It’s also pretty clear that they padded the game length with Chapter 2 after plans fell through for a longer story. And I’m okay with that because the padding is still the same excellent gameplay, but it is pretty glaring how tacked on it is.

    I’m glad I picked it up! I’m usually more interested in playing what everyone agreed was great a few years ago than gambling on what’s marketed best here and now. In this case, the consensus on this game seemed to be “pretty good” and I’ve thought the same.

    1. Dalisclock says:

      I played the entire series in order prior to MGSV(playing it as the finale) and honestly, knowing the lore is probably a detriment for this game. There’s a few references to other games in the series but most of them are either retcons or just stupid as hell if you try to make them jive with the other games in the series. And it turns out pretty much nothing that happens in this game matters at all, lore-wise because none of it really ties with with the other games in the series. Especially if you got the “secret ” ending, where you find out You’re not Big Boss. Big Boss was doing cool stuff somewhere else while you’re cosplaying as him. Presumably that’s why Venom doesn’t talk much, at least in game.

      I do agree the moment to moment gameplay is amazing and it’s a shame the story is stupid even for this series. Hell, it managed to replace “He was controlled by the ghost of a clone through his grafted arm” with “She breathes through her skin” as the dumbest plot point in the series, which is kind of amazing.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        The ending of this game is actually the key to making sense out of the OG Metal Gears 1 and 2. I can’t say that they accomplished linking up the classic series and the new 3D series in an especially elegant way, though. I think Kojima probably wanted to spend another year on the game improving everything, but Konami decided a much stronger option was to fire him, ruin their reputation in the gaming world permanently, and make bargain bin zombie game asset flips off the engine created for MGSV instead.

  94. Confanity says:

    As someone with not a lot of money or time, I’ve been playing mostly oldies-but-goodies that you can consume in small chunks: Darkest Dungeon and Spelunky – in the latter I’m still chasing the no-gold win, which is my personal white whale. The only exception is Realm Grinder, which has the nice benefit that I can just let it run and glance at it a couple times a day to tend it and get a little hit of endorphins over how the numbers have gone up.

  95. Warstrike says:

    I’ve gotten completely sucked into mobile gaming because of logistics. It used to be another option, then it became the only thing I do. So my games are Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes (EA loot box that was pretty f2p friendly if you got in on the ground floor, and is probably one of the top 5 total grossing mobile titles ever if you didn’t), then digital board/card games like Star Realms. Then a friend had me try Mindustry which is a combo of base defense and Factorio. And, since it was available, I pulled down KOTOR which I never played on a computer.

  96. ryanlb says:

    I picked up Hitman 2 a month ago or so, so I’m playing that maybe four days a week, and the other three I’m playing Factorio. This week specifically I decided to try out the Industrial Revolution mod for Factorio, which changes things up a lot. I’ve also depended a lot on other peoples blueprints in the past, so I’m trying more to solve the problems on my own, and it’s been interesting since IR changes up Factory significantly.

  97. Mephane says:

    Shamus, it appears my previous comment was marked as spam when I edited it (removed a duplicate word “actual”), probably because it also contained a link (hotlink to a screenshot on imgur). I was expecting you to reenable it once you get around to it, but now you’ve posted a new article yet my comment is still missing.

    1. Shamus says:

      Found it.

      Stupid WordPress sent it directly to the spam abyss, where I never see. Most suspect comments go to “pending review”, where I have a chance to notice it.

      I swear WP is getting dumber and more prone to false positives. Really annoying.

  98. RFS-81 says:

    I got into Magic again, may the Lord have mercy on my wallet. My format of choice is Pauper though, so it’s not that bad. You can use a card only if it was ever printed at common rarity. One might think that leads to low-powered decks. One would be wrong :D

    I’ve also been drafting the new set, Theros: Beyond Death, a bit, which is quite fun! And I’ve been playing Magic Arena, but I’m a bit annoyed at how I get hooked on the stupid daily quests. And at the price of drafting.

    I tried out Magic Online, too, because Pauper is played a lot more on there than with paper cards. I haven’t bought a full account yet, I’ve just played some free games for new players. It’s baffling how much worse it feels than Magic Arena, though. I don’t care about the graphics, but how is it possible that Magic Online feels less responsive than Arena?

    1. Chad Miller says:

      Magic: The Gathering Online sucks because Wizards of the Coast moved development in-house without actually having the technical skill in-house to do that. It has varied in quality between “an abomination” and “merely complete garbage” since version 2, nearly 2 decades ago. (I was playing in V1, all the way through V2 and was a V3 alpha tester who quit in disgust when they changed the alpha to a live release WITHOUT EVER GOING INTO BETA because the V2 servers crapped out)

      I don’t want to hit a sore spot here, but perhaps it might have been a good idea to verify that the much vaunted”9-5? queues were actually paying out 9-5 in prizes before allowing people to join them. It’s only been fixed just now, a good week after the update. Of course, a couple of days after the update went live,”Hall of Champions” icons were still floating around seemingly at random throughout the Casual Play area, and a successful connection to the server required an unholy pact with Yogg-Soggoth the Star-Eater, Goat With A Thousand Young. Maybe I was unrealistic in hoping for things like”queues that work,” considering the 2.0 patch team was spending the first few days shirking blame and trying to prevent rampant”Clan” icons from obscuring the whole Sanctioned Events room.

      Oh, and my settings! I love the fact that I can’t actually see which buttons I’m pressing now without changing my resolution, switching to windowed mode, and minimizing my taskbar. Thanks, guys. It gives me a special feeling inside – sorta like a hangover but without the drunken sex the night before to make it worthwhile. Of course, blind-button pressing is an improvement on what the settings were like when the update first went live, since during that fun little stretch, MODO decided that it didn’t feel like saving them. Yield to all combat damage? YES SIR!

      The real issue, though, shouldn’t be whether some bits of the new client are better than the old. I see tons of commentary about how the beta “isn’t that bad”, or how this thing or that thing are small improvements over the old client. The fact is that there shouldn’t even be a debate. This new client has been in Beta for *two years* now. That’s longer than Hearthstone has been out. Hell, that’s before we even started designing SolForge. How is it still in the state that it’s in? Why are we looking at whether it’s marginally better in some areas than the existing ancient program, instead of whether it’s actually objectively *good* by the standards set by the industry today?

      Magic Online has been out for over ten years. Hearthstone came out of beta mere months ago.

  99. RTBones says:

    Late to the party, but I have two games I am alternately going through at the moment.

    The first is Hitman 2016. I have had it for ages, and played it sporadically. Now I am going back and doing challenges and giving the campaign another go-through after seeing a walkthrough and a speedrun online. Been a blast.

    The other game is part of an attempt to play an entire series – namely the Witcher – remastered. While there are any number of complaints about the combat in this game, I am so far enjoying it. The intent is to go through all three games, though given my lack of ability to have multi-hour gaming sessions these days, we’ll se how this goes.

  100. SimeSublime says:

    My wife and I are currently playing through Disco Elysium together(we had separate play throughs, but we were getting jealous when the other was playing) and finding it absolutely amazing. It really is the Planescape: Torment of today and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    On my own I’m playing Danganronpa V3, which doesn’t seem as good as the first two. I’m not that far into it though so maybe things will improve, but the two characters I was most interested in turned out the be the first murderer/victim. Otherwise they seem to be cranking the wacky to 11 so everything is a bit ridiculous (even by Danganronpa standards).

    In the casual space I play Fallen London when I have a few minutes downtime. For a casual the writing is excellent and although the end game is a bit of a grind, the monthly premium stories are worth sticking around for.

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