Heads up: I’m finally getting back to video production after the move disrupted everything. I had a video on the Epic Games Store that was ready for editing, but then Epic did something really lame and stupid. I thought it would feel really odd to have a video about Epic that somehow didn’t mention these current events, so the video went back in the over for another week.
I’m not sure what I can scrape together in time for tomorrow. If we don’t get a Tuesday column, can I just blame Tim Sweeney?
Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
This game has been out for two and a half years, and I’ve never seen it before. I even went looking for an MMO a few weeks ago and I somehow didn’t encounter this one.
I complained about the writing. Maybe I should provide a sample. This quote isn’t verbatim, but it’s very close and I promise it’s not worse than what’s in the game:
There was once a man who could fight stronger than anyone else in the world, but he could never find rest.
Sorry I didn’t grab an exact quote. I didn’t get any footage or screenshots while I was playing. I honestly expected to bound off the game after an hour or so, but then it ate most of Saturday.
I see little snippets of text like the sample above while furiously clicking past the nonsense the NPCs are spewing. In light of this, I want to thank the developers for two features:
- The non-localized vocals, meaning I can’t understand anything the NPCs are saying and so the bad writing is undetectable as long as I don’t do anything foolish like read the text.
- The “Skip dialog” button, which makes it easier to not read things.
The game is very flashy, grindy, and not particularly challenging. This probably isn’t a game you’ll play for months on end, but it makes a good distraction game to keep your hands busy while your brain is elsewhere.
I had enough fun that I thought I should kick a few bucks to the developers. I went to the cash shop, but then I realized I didn’t really want or need anything. I wasn’t interested in any of the doll clothes, and I was already more than powerful enough to handle all the content in front of me.
If only they had robot suits. I’d pay for some robot suits!
09:37 Visual Studio: “Community” Edition
Fun fact: Whenever I type “Visual Studio”, there’s about an 80% chance that I’ll type “Visual Stupid” instead. I worry this means I type the word “stupid” too often and my muscle memory is just leading me down the most familiar path.
Or maybe I’m just really studio.
25:35 Horizon vs. Flight Sim
On one hand, I’m always wary of Microsoft’s video game offerings. On the other hand, this is a quasi-procgen world that uses real-world maps and machine learning to generate the cities. I can’t skip something like that.
32:52 Mailbag: Software Disenchantment
I recently read an article about Software Disenchantment, the feeling of disillusionment when you realize that despite systems getting vastly more powerful, software doesn’t run vastly faster.
I’m not very up to date with my gaming, but I haven’t really noticed the same problem in games. Aside from install sizes ballooning out of proportion they seem to run fine with ever more impressive tech.
Have you guys noticed games getting slower and bloated as systems improve?
49:03 Mailbag: Punishment and Fire Emblem
Hi Shamus and Paul,
I don’t think you’ve ever played Fire Emblem that I know of, but after the Dark Souls punishment ask last week I thought it would be interesting to hear you consider how they handle punishment.
Fire Emblem is sort of like Xcom, where you have a set of units that die permanently, but unlike Xcom they all have unique designs and personalities, and there are a lot fewer of them (generally around 20-40 for the whole game, each joining at some point throughout the game). The end result is that in normal “good” play, you will want to reset the map when you lose a unit.
But every time a character dies, you have a dynamic choice. Is it someone you cared about? Probably want to reset. Your crutch unit who’s carried the last few maps? Same thing.
But maybe you’re at the end of a really challenging stage, and you just want to be done. Someone died, but you can probably move on without them. Most of the time, there are “replacement” crutch units who join at a usable power level later in the game and can help your team if it isn’t up to snuff, but they are generally weaker than fully trained player units from early in the game (since characters level up like a JRPG). The choice is yours whether to reset the map, and depending on the circumstances, it can be a very gruelling choice.
The upshot of this punishment system is that it leaves a lot of agency in the player’s hands as far as how punished they are for a given mistake. And it means that every time you “let” a character die, you really do feel responsible, since ultimately you decided that they weren’t worth going back for. When you beat the game, every character gets a little epilogue telling you what they did after the war, but the ones you let die simply say something like “Perished in Chapter 18”, which can be a huge gutpunch, potentially, and can definitely motivate you to play better on a future playthrough.
What do you think of this dynamic, player-driven punishment approach? How do you think it could apply to other genres?
56:22 Mailbag: Retcons
First off, I’d like to thank you for the Fallout recommendation a few months ago. I have been thoroughly enjoying the game repeatedly since. Though I do like New Vegas more.
One of the most surprising things to me while playing Fallout was the lack of vault experiments. Vault Tec definitely isn’t painted as a saint in the game, but they are far from the mustache twirling evil Umbrella like entity in later games.
On one hand, this makes them more relatable and real. Cutting corners and ignoring concerns to help their bottom line at the cost of human lives are things shady corporations do. On the other hand, the vaults in later games are some of my favorite parts of the series, but there is no logical reason to clone a bunch of Gary’s, lock recovering addicts in a vault filled with drugs or force people to elect an overseer to be killed repeatedly. I wonder – are the vault experiments new to the Bethesda games or were they introduced in Fallout 2?
Either way, it got me thinking about retcons. Outside of comics which have them every few years, the only other major retcon I can think of off the top of my head is Riddles in the Dark. Do you know of any other major retcons from video games? What are your favorites and least favorite retcons?
1:05:25 Mailbag: EPUB Mass Effect
This isn’t a Diecast question (feel free to include it however), but I couldn’t find any other means of contact.
I recently decided to convert your Mass Effect Retrospective series into an EPUB ebook, so that I can on-the-move indulge in my petty bitterness over a 8 year old game’s narrative failures. I have converted the first two chapters (see here: https://github.com/namandixit/mass-effect-retrospective, the file `book.epub` is the one), and was wondering whether it would be okay for me to leave this in public. If not, I can make this repo private, and not let anyone else share into my ritualistic masochistic resentment — over a story about writers’ personal sexual fantasies fawning over a hero, a bloody icon.
The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.
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The plot of this game isn't just dumb, it's actively hostile to the player. This game hates you and thinks you are stupid.