This Week I Played… (February 2021)

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Feb 16, 2021

Filed under: TWIP 225 comments

Like I’ve said in the past, this series is more like “This fiscal quarter I played”, but we have to make due with the branding we have. Also, I use this series to give myself a snapshot of what people are playing. It helps give me a sense of perspective by showing just how diverse everyone’s playlists are.

Without this series, I’d have to do like the big sites and just assume that everyone is playing the most recent two or three AAA games to hit the shelves. But here we can see that indie and retro games are a major part of the hobby, even if they don’t show up in fancy trailers or on the front page of Steam.

With that in mind, here is what I’ve been up to…

Noita

The game gives you just enough levitation that it runs out about two seconds before you expect.
The game gives you just enough levitation that it runs out about two seconds before you expect.

This game made my best-of list for 2020. After that post, Paul let me know that the game had been updated since the last time I played. So I came back to see what’s changed.

I honestly can’t tell the new stuff from the old, but the game is as fun as I remember it. Tinkering with wands to make custom effects to synergizeExample: I gain fire immunity, and then I find a wand mod to make the particles leave fire trails. with your builds is still fun and interesting. Hopping  around above a sea of fire and exploding barrels while hoping my levitation doesn’t run out before I find a safe place to land is tense yet vaguely comical. The rounds are short and fun; even a successful run is under an hour.  The enemy types are varied so you don’t see every enemy in every round.

The crazy wand mechanics are perfect for creating absurd situations. I’ll go overboard on making a wand and then realize that I’ve just bounced a MIRV-style fireball off a wall and back into my own face. So I leap to go over the scattering projectiles, but the fireballs detonate on the ground and create an inferno so large that I don’t have a safe spot to land.

I love this balancing act between giving yourself MORE POWER and increasing the odds that you’ll kill yourself. I swear a majority of my deaths in this game have been self-inflicted.

Mafia III

This game has been languishing on my Steam wishlist for over a year. I saw it was 50% off in the most recent Steam sale, so I decided to finally give it a try.

The game is set in 1968. That’s just three years before I was born. So I’ve been kind of curious about how the world might feel in terms of nostalgia.  It was a land before the personal computer, before cable TV, and before shopping malls ruled the retail world. America was still smoking cigarettes, still drinking out of pull-tab cans, still using fuel doped with lead, and still using black and white televisions.

Obviously THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT was the most important thing going on, with the Vietnam war coming in a close second. Those are the two big stories that grab everyone’s attention when we discuss the time period. And while both of those issues are featured prominently in Mafia III, I was more curious how the game would handle all of those other minor details regarding the time period.

The game nailed the general feel of the era, and even managed to capture a bunch of fine details I’d forgotten. The first time I jumped in a car and heard the engine trying to turn over while “dry”, I stopped and marveled. That was a sound I’d forgotten about because I haven’t heard it in decades. Then I heard a particular style of car horn that I haven’t heard since I was a small child. The game has lots of little moments like this, and I’m having fun discovering them.

Oh yeah, I remember bloom lighting looking just like this back in the 70s.
Oh yeah, I remember bloom lighting looking just like this back in the 70s.

Sadly, I HATE the mechanics of Mafia III. I loathe cover-shooter mechanics. As someone who fell in love with the run-n-gun mechanics of the 90s, I find stop-and-pop combat to be relentlessly tedious. Playing peek-a-boo with waves of grunts is not my idea of a good time. I can kinda tolerate it in games like Grand Theft Auto V where you can leave cover for a few seconds to change position, grab ammo,  or do a melee takedown. But this game is one of those, “Stay in cover or die!” type deals, and you can catch a stray shot just popping up to shoot at the bad guys.

This frustration tends to feed on itself. I’ll be fighting at long range and I’ll get sick of waiting for my foes to poke their heads out so I can shoot them. So I jump out to close distance and wind up getting cut down in the process. Or I’ll lose an encounter in the open because the foes are bullet sponges with really good aim, and their pain animations are shorter than the player’s reload animations.

Worse, the shooting in this game is extremely lethal, so you die in just a few hitsIt’s hard to count, but it really feels like enemies can take more shots than the player.. Bad guys can even sometimes hit you around or through cover, adding a lot of randomness to the proceedings.

But Shamus, that’s more realistic!

It’s fine if you enjoy the steady pacing of this sort of whack-a-mole shooter, but let’s not pretend that realism is the goal of shooters.  If you really wanted realism, you’d be playing Receiver. But you probably want to compromise some realism in favor of playability. We just disagree on where you draw that line.

It would have made a lot of sense if I'd captured some combat footage for this. But I didn't.
It would have made a lot of sense if I'd captured some combat footage for this. But I didn't.

More importantly, dying is such a chore. The camera lingers on your dead body for several seconds. Then (sometimes) you get a cutscene where we cut to some CIA agents in the future saying, “Wait. That can’t be how things went down! What am I missing?” Then you sit through a tedious loading screen. Then it drops you back to a checkpoint from several minutes ago.

I turned the difficulty down to “Easy” and I honestly can’t tell the difference. Protagonist Lincoln Clay is so hopelessly fragile that you need to play extremely conservatively. Which means this cover-based combat takes forever. The game has you killing thousands of people by the end, suggesting that this is supposed to be an empowering game. But the gameplay goes out of its way to make sure you never feel powerful. It’s the worst of both worlds: You have the implausible body counts that comes with a cheap power fantasy, but you never get to feel that sense of power.

Worse, I know ahead of time that this game has excruciating pacing, where you spend endless hours with these mechanics by plowing through innumerable map markers before the plot is allowed to proceed.  Here the map markers aren’t Ubisoft-style “side content”, but instead are directly linked to story progress.

I wanted to stroll through the game, explore the world, and soak in the story, but the designer isn’t willing to give me a casual low-stress way to do that. I’m probably going to drop this game rather than playing until I smash my controller.

Shame. I really did love the world and the attention to detail, but this game designer is overbearing, single-minded, and way too in love with their rote shooter mechanics. In the past I’ve talked about games that end with a slog, but for me Mafia III is all slog, all the time.

Wrapping Up

I’m also playing Minecraft, but after 12 years I don’t have much new to say about the game. This is still my go-to game when I need to relax and do something to keep my hands busy while I work on an article in my head.

So what have you been playing lately?

 

Footnotes:

[1] Example: I gain fire immunity, and then I find a wand mod to make the particles leave fire trails.

[2] It’s hard to count, but it really feels like enemies can take more shots than the player.



From The Archives:
 

225 thoughts on “This Week I Played… (February 2021)

  1. Joe says:

    “The game gives you just enough levitation that it runs out about two seconds before you expect.” I like to imagine you going Wile E Coyote with the hangtime before falling. Is that how it feels?

    I recently tried playing Fallout 4 again, on my new PC. More power leads to a smoother experience, right? Not so much. I swear, it’s more prone to locking up than on the old machine. Makes for some frustrating playing. To save the inevitable comments. I know the story isn’t up to much, but when the game is working smoothly, some of the actual gameplay is fun. But when the game isn’t, it drives me away from playing.

    Also, I went back to Witcher 3. This doesn’t feel much smoother either. Geralt really isn’t smooth at moving around, and saving takes just a little longer than it should. I know CP77 has its problems, but I’ve found that moving and saving are improved.

    1. Vinsomer says:

      If you’re having problems on more than one game, could it be your computer, rather than the games? Or maybe some super-intensive setting that you can turn off?

      My experience of TW3 and CP2077 are kind of the opposite. Sure, Geralt is a bowling ball who often inadvertently crashes into people, furniture, really anything… but I find the movement in CP2077 to be weird and I just can’t get it right. Maybe it’s the dead zones or the sensitivity scaling, maybe it’s because it’s a more immersive first-person perspective, maybe it’s just because my controller has been dropped one too many a time.

  2. MerryWeathers says:

    I’m also playing Minecraft, but after 12 years I don’t have much new to say about the game. This is still my go-to game when I need to relax and do something to keep my hands busy while I work on an article in my head.

    The game’s progression system is fucked, I’ve said it here before but Mojang prioritizing adding new content rather than improving the core gameplay loop has been stagnating Minecraft and what’s stopping it from truly becoming THE game.

    They added half-completed Nether portals in the Overworld, not at all a bad idea as it nudges new players to the existence of the Nether but the problem is that it spawns with a chest beside it that has some pretty powerful items, at least for a new player, and that the portals themselves spawn a bit too frequently despite being supposed to be “rare”.

    1. John says:

      Hey! That resembles my limited Minecraft experience. I found a ruined portal and a chest and fell in some lava when I tried to get the chest. You can tell that I don’t play this game a lot.

      1. ThricebornPhoenix says:

        Nah, falling in lava is pretty common even if you do play a lot.

        … That could just be me, actually.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’ll admit I’ve only kept track of Minecraft’s state rather loosely but to be perfectly honest even if for some reason someone gave me creative control of the title I simply wouldn’t know where to go with it. The game was just such a phenomenon that it doesn’t really have a strongly defined core audience and consequently there is no specific direction that it’d be pulled in. What’s more, considering how much survivocraft style games have released since I’d almost call it surrounded on all sides by titles that may or may not be doing what it does better. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good game to play, but a lot of its staying power stems from its initial success.

      1. Ciennas says:

        I would include a function to import older world builds to newer maps in some fashion, because I’ve poured a lot of effort into improving the village that I spawned near- it has a coffee shop and a university class library and study hall, and I don’t like that the game is punishing me for staying with old worlds by not spawning in the new features- maybe let me reset the world out from where I have explored? Something, because it’s simultaneously the most magical and frustrating part of the game- starting over in a new world and not knowing where to go.

  3. Mattias Svensson says:

    Hey~, somebody actually mentioned Receiver in the wild! Neat-o! Those games definitively don’t get talked about as much as they deserve.

    That series is pretty much on the top of my list of games where I’d be infuriated if every game did its thing, but the whole careful semi-simulation is just really refreshing in small doses. Definitively gave me a new appreciation for just how simplified the operation of those shockingly simply and somehow yet complex machines called guns are in 99,99% games and other media out there.

    Like, just as simple a thing as needing to completely clear the chamber of a revolver, pick up any unspent bullets of the floor, and then feed ’em in one at a time. It’s not for everybody, but it’s sure a different type of shooter. Definitively the sort of experience that flashes through your mind the next time you’re playing a game where you just press ‘R’ and watch the neat animation.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      If games had proprioception[1] the way that real-world activities do, I don’t think nearly as many people would notice or complain about Receiver. Like, the actual mechanics are no more complicated than anything else you do in a typical game, but it’s added like 10 buttons that you have to memorize the positions of. If the various buttons for ejecting rounds, inserting the magazine, etc were all used for other things which mapped easily to the gun-related versions of the buttons, there’d be a lot more opportunity to acclimatize to the controls.[2] Plus, you wouldn’t need to take your hands off of the controls, which is akin to having numb hands in real life.

      [1] I don’t think this would be w worth-while trade-off for cyber-jacking, compared to the constant risk of having spam and viruses operating directly inside your eyeballs / brain.

      [2] For example, maybe when in gun-loading mode the jump button is ejecting a magazine, and the crouch button is inserting the magazine.

  4. Lee says:

    I recently finally got around to beating Moonlighter, and I’ve been playing the Space Exploration modpack for Factorio with my sons. It’s surprising to me how much more fun Factorio is as a multiplayer game. You still have to slog through the fiddly bits, but someone else is doing (in my case) 2/3rds of them, so you get to spend more of your time on the parts you want to focus on.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, multiplayer Factorio is great! Single-player just ends up with me running back and forth trying to build things as fast as I can, to keep up with the huge production facilities I’ve set up. I’m still a bit disappointed they didn’t figure out a better way to handle alien expansion. For a player who’s having fun fighting the aliens, the constant threat of new aliens popping up is engaging. I play slowly, so after I finish barely fighting off some waves of aliens, I’m behind the curve and future fights are harder. Then after I’ve managed to set up some decent defenses and want to start expanding, I find out that the entire game-world is covered in alien bases, that I will have to grind my way through… :|

      1. beleester says:

        Alien evolution and spawn rate is tied to your pollution, so it’s self-balancing to an extent – the more you produce the more threatening the aliens will get. And by the time you actually need to expand, you should have enough tech that wiping out alien bases is reasonably easy. Once you get a car, you can just kite them forever and chuck grenades at their base and it actually becomes pretty fun. And of course, once you get a tank you can just run them over.

        If it’s the early-game rush that you’re finding difficult, you could try turning down the alien base frequency or enlarging the starting area, meaning the aliens will have to expand farther before they’re close enough to attack. Or pick a spawn area with lots of trees, which block pollution.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Nah, it’s the evolution and expansion that’s the problem. Even with those turned down, by the time I get to exploring, the aliens are all very powerful, base-dense, or both. I think part of it is also how good tower defense is, once you get it set up. You can turtle pretty hard, and the pre-expansion resource patches are all big enough to let you go for a long time, all the while the aliens are expanding and evolving. The other part that’s annoying, is that expanding is so effortful because the player needs to run around placing things. If the game ditched the player character as the central unit and just played like a normal RTS, I think it would be a lot better. You could send drones to expand where needed, send tanks to fight off aliens in hot-spots, so turtling wouldn’t be as dominant a strategy.

          1. The Wind King says:

            Playing on Peaceful mode I definitely felt the “run back and forth, laying rails and power lines, and then double check your “traffic lights” grind” to be dull as dishwater

            Trying on normal mode it’s maybe more engaging, but that’s just because I have to plan my expansions around alien spawners, and the extermination there-of.

            Flamethrowers are fun though.

  5. Lord Visjes says:

    For the moment I’m replaying FTL Advanced Edition, mixed with Asscreed Valhalla and Slay The Spire for mobile.

    I personally disliked the cover shootouts as well in Mafia III, but I had a lot more fun using stealth and a silenced pistol (and grenade launcher for emergencies).

    Looking forward to trying Noita, you make it sound quite fun.

    1. chukg says:

      FTL is great, I’m still playing it on PC at least a few times a week.

  6. BlueHorus says:

    So I bought Noita when it was on Steam sale, based mostly on Shamus’ reports, and…
    …it’s okay? I die very quickly, which is expected for a roguelike. The simulation of the environment is great.

    But what it’s lacking is purpose and progression. I have no idea what my Noita is trying to achieve, beyond getting to the bottom of a big cave. Whenever I die, I’m back to square 1 with nothing to show for it but a bit more skill and knowledge for next time.
    Just…what am I trying to achieve here?

    (Also: periodically, you go to an end-of-stage safe room called The Holy Mountain, where you can stock up and heal before moving on. This is a very unfortunate/amusing choice of name)

    1. Vinsomer says:

      I guess roguelikes gonna roguelike.

      Except for a few exceptions like Hades, most roguelikes only provide the barest of narrative justifications for what you’re doing. I feel like if you’re asking what you’re going to achieve, then maybe roguelikes aren’t for you.

      I say this because I often ask myself that very same question and had to come to the conclusion that Roguelikes aren’t for me.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        My other experiences of Roguelikes are Crypt of the Necrodancer, Hades, and Spelunkey. Loved the first two, gave up on Spelunkey because, again, the difficulty is random and I’m not sure what I’m actually achieving. I’m guessing the same will happen with Noita, but for now making stuff explode is fun.

        I don’t expect the game to have a complicated story. Maybe the cave could be part of a Rite of Passage for Finnish witches? Someone stole her broomstick and she wants it back? She left her black cat at the bottom of the cave? Hell, someone kidnapped the President (or Prime Minister)’s* daughter and she’s the only Dude (Or Chick) Bad enough to go on a rescue. Etc.

        Just, y’know, something.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          The point of Spelunky is the platforming challenge; It’s barely got any story. In theory a story-heavy game could be randomized and feature perma-death, but most of the games that feature those things usually don’t have much in the way of story. The only game I’m aware of is Disco Elesium, and you’ve already played Necrodancer and Hades, which I would consider mid-sized for the amount of story. I’m still waiting for a randomized game that’s like the turn-based Fallout games. :)

      2. Joshua says:

        I think my only real experience with Roguelikes is For The King, and that whole aspect of the game ran contrary to the things I was enjoying about it, so I guess they’re not for me either. If one has to muster self-discipline not to scum-save, I guess you’re not the target market for Roguelikes.

    2. Fizban says:

      I, too, am playing Noita. It’s what I think of as a “true” rouglike, in that while there are unlocks, you get completely dirted out with each death. Which is rather annoying, because having zero control whatsoever before slogging through the first area again (and you must slog through with your starting gear to find loot, else you’ll just die faster in the second area), is not fun. And the inevitable spending ten minutes carefully crafting a wand only to get stunlocked and blown up by some rando first thing is what it sounds like. I don’t have as much of a problem with blowing myself up, instead it’s killing enemies as they get tankier and tankier.

      That said, I have made it to like, zone 8? And the cheevo sure sounded like if it wasn’t the last, it must at least be second to last. Dunno how I’m supposed to deal with those guys, and I actually just kinda facetanked my way through the previous two zones, so I wasn’t expecting much. I can also easily see the rng factor, which is bad when you’ve got a starting slog every run- it’s all up to chance whether the shop will have anything useful to combo, and whether you’ll get any decent perks.

      Before that, got back into some Deep Rock Galactic, which just added two new biomes, and a bunch of variants on the Dreadnaught so Elimination missions are more interesting. I think that brings the total to what, 10 biomes?, and with the previous major update, 7 mission types. That’s nuts.

      Before that, aside from finally deciding to go ahead and play Fallout 4 (MATN is finally doing Fallout 4 YOLO), I was breaking the hell out of Popup Dungeon. It’s a turn-based strategy with cardboard aesthetic, claims it’s a roguelike but is more of a diablo-like except without building up a pile of loot to sell- that is, the layouts, enemies, and loot are random, but the bosses are fixed and you really just grab better versions of your existing gear. One of its big features is how you can and make your own stuff, right down to the details of the abilities, and it’s all “automagically balanced,” and the trailer even takes a bit of a “come at me bro” attitude with the main campaign (of course it also provides essentially zero help for making skins, and kinda actively mocks this with the framing antagonist saying “you could always just comission it,” effing rude).

      Naturally, once I noticed the system would let me do a solid version of the mechanics from Lost Kingdoms, I did so. And immediately broke the early game, then continued refining it until I broke the rest of the game. Kinda flamed out like two missions before the end though, should go back and finish it.

      1. bubba0077 says:

        Noita has a crazy amount of content, and it isn’t just following the main line down through the caves. I won’t spoil any of it here in case anyone wants to explore blind (hint: every direction from the starting location has stuff), but you can check out the Biomes page in the Noita wiki. There are all kinds of secrets, and secrets within secrets, and parallel worlds, and all kinds of crazy stuff.

        If you’re getting frustrated or otherwise looking for an easier experience, there are also mods that can soften the game up a bit (or a lot). This includes starting with extra health, vampirism, or having gold heal you (my choice), or you can add respawns instead of permadeath or even god mode.

        1. Fizban says:

          I got the vampirism perk once, naturally ran into zero blood afterwards. Gold heal would be great though- hey, could you tell me what the “eat” button is for? Said vampirism perk mentioned something about satiation, and I got a warning on the right hand readout once, but I haven’t since.

          1. bubba0077 says:

            Mostly it is for drinking liquids. Drinking some liquids (berserkium, mana) will give you the same effect as the stain but over a longer period (or, for some like Worm Blood, an effect that only occurs when you drink). Drinking other liquids will make you sick (oil) or just do nothing. When you drink, there will be a stomach meter on the right. If you fill your stomach more than 100%, you will be slowed. Further penalties apply if you go over 150% until you burst at 200%. You can drink either from the environment or straight from a flask.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      But what it’s lacking is purpose and progression. I have no idea what my Noita is trying to achieve, beyond getting to the bottom of a big cave.

      So, there are actually a few different endings you can get for Noita depending on what you do in the world (and the mines you descend into are merely a tiny amount—maybe 10%—of the world you can explore*), but it has a lot of Finnish mythology in it mixed with a bunch of medieval Hermetic alchemy. I consider it a fairly minor spoiler due to the sheer amount of stuff in the game, but the most straight-forward ending has your character completing The Work and literally turning the entire world to gold. Beyond that, there’s an absolutely massive world to explore with several other endings to find, including New Game+ and a “good ending” where all the enemies become friendly to everyone.

      *And that’s not even getting into the infinite parallel worlds to the left and right!

  7. Lino says:

    I dropped Mafia III pretty early on – I got to the first (or second?) set-piece boss fight, and I loved it. But then I had to do a bunch of tedious quests, and I just couldn’t be bothered.

    As for me, I’ve mainly been going down memory lane:

    Severance: Blade of Darkness (BoD). My favourite game of all time. I could write pages upon pages about it, but suffice it to say, I’ve never seen a meatier and more visceral combat system, or a better atmosphere of foreboding. Not before or since. Some games have deeper combat. Others have more systems. But nothing has ever felt as good as Blade. And before I get some Dark Souls cultist trying to convince me that actually no, BoD was a nice stepping stone, but it has been improved by the SoulsBorneo formula, let me just clarify that for me, personally those games don’t feel nearly as good. What they gain in complexity and challenge, they lose in player agency and believability in the way combat looks. And even though BoD isn’t strictly a horror game, I’ve never, ever played or seen a game that has made me feel this tense.
    Again, I could wax lyrical about it all day. Maybe I’m just too nostalgic about it. Art is subjective, after all. In any case, I couldn’t/didn’t want to finish it due to technical issues. Still, for me it holds up extremely well.

    – I also started playing Go again. For anyone who doesn’t know what Go is, it’s basically chess, but better designed. For anyone interested, here’s a fun video that goes over the basics. While it isn’t technically a video game, you can play it online, so I think it counts here :D. It’s an amazingly deep game that I’ve always liked, and even though I suck (20 Kyu, for anyone curious) at it, I love getting better. The only downside to playing online is that you don’t get that social element of interacting with someone else that you get when you play in person.

    Hammerfight. Another game I have fond memories of. You pilot a flying machine that has giant weapons attached to it – flails, axes, swords… You control it solely with the mouse, and each weapon handles differently. The combat feels great, and the worldbuilding is surprisingly ambitious (think an Arabic Roman Empire with some Dune sprinkled in). What I didn’t remember, though, is how atrocious the UI is. So atrocious that it frequently gets in the way of playing the game. I would have loved to see a sequel that polishes the concept up a bit. Still, the game is fun (and free on Steam), and it has some very fun modes (duels, horde mode, football, and a surprisingly deep story).

    Brigador. Isometric mech game. People love it, but I was very disappointed. A few weeks ago I explained why.

    Spelunky Classic, Hades, and Alto’s Odyssey. A.k.a. my comfort food. Or what I play when I’m trying to escape from my responsibilities :D. Although Alto, which I play on my tablet, is more of my “zone out/relax” game. It’s a gorgeous endless runner where you surf a beautiful desert. And you can also play as a llama.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I also loved Blade of Darkness, and haven’t seen anything like it since. It somehow managed to integrate visceral, skill-based and RPG-like progression combat long before I saw any other game try. Even the jank and flaws charm me, in a way. (That one ‘chomp’ sound effect whenever your character eats something always amused me. Man, that’s one one crunchy cheese slice you managed to eat in one bite, Mr Barbarian)
      Terrible story, though.

      Sadly, I lost my copy a few years ago, and with the studio that made it gone, I have no idea where to get a new one. Ironically, this good old game is not available on Good Old Games…

      1. Lino says:

        As far as I know, it’s not available on any online store. After the company went bankrupt, the rights to the game have been stuck in licensing hell :(

        Regarding the story, I actually really like it. Yes, it’s kind of simple, but a lot like the original Half-Life – it’s there mainly for the atmosphere, and you can choose to not engage with it at all.

        1. Javier says:

          It was definitely on GOG at one point. I wonder what happened.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Stuck at 20k? I assume you’re already watching Batts’ basics videos? I’m only 8k, but if you ever want to play, feel free to shoot me a message (I’m tmtvl on OGS, CGS, KGS, and IGS).

      Also I agree on Severance, it’s a really nice combat game.

      1. Lino says:

        I’ll definitely check out his videos! I’m mainly watching In Sente’s Beginner series and Nick Sibicky (although some of his lectures go over my head a bit). But mainly, I just need to play more games – as of right now, I’ve only got 56 games on OGS (and a couple more on Pandanet). One of Go’s big drawbacks is that It’s a bit like DoTA – if I have to go out in 30 minutes or something, I literally don’t know if I’ve got time for another game :D

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Man, I wish I had a game that was as easy as Spelunky Classic, but had the extra worlds of Spelunky 2…and then even more worlds and branches. It seems like the devs for this series are following the same philosophy of the larger studios, and prioritizing shiny graphics over in-depth gameplay or larger worlds. Between my completion of the “easy” boss, and watching some let’s-plays, I’ve seen 100% of the content already. The only thing that’s keeping me from seeing the things in my own games, is the extra difficulty compared to the previous games. ^^;

      1. Lino says:

        I hear you! The newer games seem to double down on the exact aspects of Classic that I like the least. Also, I don’t like how floaty they made the controls in the newer games. And the fact that they changed the theme of the Caves was a crime against humanity :D

        I don’t know, I just wish there was a mod that added the content from Spelunky HD and 2 to Classic…

    4. Galad_t says:

      I tried a few years ago to replay BoD, and I couldn’t bear with fighting again the same orcs in the same place the first time I died. That being said, I agree it has its brilliant horror moments, mostly the vampire boss and the final boss. *So* much can be done with the proper introduction.

      As for me, let’s see.. Been on a Worms binge, different games. Played some Deep Rock Galactic and quit it for good after a few bad altercations with rotten parties. Last, and best – Gloomhaven! Quite possibly one of the best digital board games I’ve found, that constantly teases my brain in a good way, while still having an enjoyable fantasy wrapping. Sadly, still in early access , I found a scenario-breaking bug. And since I adamantly do not want to restart this particular scenario, it turned into a game-breaking bug for me, so now I’m waiting for an update that fixes it.

  8. Ester Lüken says:

    I haven’t played anything myself, lately, but I was watching my husband play “Outer Worlds” as a persuasive, decent guy aligning with the rebels. We both enjoyed it. I can’t say anything about the gameplay, obviously, but apart from Parvati’s companion quest we both really enjoyed the writing. We will definitely play it again. Maybe as a trigger-happy sleazebag? Or somebody selfish and money-oriented? So many options…

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      I think OW gets a bad wrap nowadays, it’s not as great as previous Obsidian RPGs but I don’t believe that automatically makes it bad. It’s a decent RPG and the setting works. The biggest problem is just that the writing just isn’t strong and memorable, it’s like the “average MCU film of RPGs”, fine and enjoyable for what it is but doesn’t leave a lasting impact.

      Looking at a lot of the criticism, I feel like people were expecting a Bethesda game (as in open world sandboxes) and have been unfairly judging it by those standards rather than hub-based quest centric RPG that it actually is. It actually reminds of back when the consensus was still that Fallout 3 was the better game than New Vegas, the major complaint being that the Mojave was boring to explore compared to the Capital Wasteland and most of the writing and quests went unappreciated until after Fallout 4 came out.

      1. Freddo says:

        There is a decent first-effort RPG hiding in Outer Worlds. Alas 50% of the writing is doing social commentary by setting up a conspicuously bad straw man and then going “hurrr, straw man bad, me bash player in face with straw man”. The combat system is decent, but gets repetitive. I’d rate it “buy on Steam when under $10”

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Honestly I think it’s because the game didn’t commit to the bit. I was pretty much giggling with anticipation waiting to meet the characters behind those companies (Auntie Cleo definitely made me think of Futurama’s Mom), expecting something as out there as the Old World Blues Think Tank. Or seeing some inept revolutionaries basing their entire agenda on three random lines from the communist manifesto. I dunno, maybe that’s too Fallouty but it just felt like the game built up this whole idea of pushing things to absurdity (and there certainly were moments of that) but then went with what was a pretty mundane plot overall.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            And on the flip side, it didn’t really commit to “serious” all that well either. The Board’s plan is doomed to fail and they know it’s doomed to fail, so the whole “we give you the power to choose sides!” things lost all its appeal for me.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Looking at a lot of the criticism, I feel like people were expecting a Bethesda game (as in open world sandboxes) and have been unfairly judging it by those standards rather than hub-based quest centric RPG that it actually is.

        To be fair, the game basically sold itself as the former, taking advantage of the backlash against Fallout 76 and giving people the impression that they’d get to have the genuine Fallout experience with OW. So people’s expectations weren’t unwarranted.

        Releasing as a EGS exclusive didn’t help matters, with the hype for the game dying out and very few remembering its existence when it finally launched on Steam.

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      I recommend a science build! Science weapons are super fun!

  9. Asdasd says:

    Following from yesterday’s podcast, I wondered if someone might have made a rebalancing mod for Mafia 3. I wonder if this might improve your experience of the game, Shamus?

    https://mafiamods.com/mods/its-war-time-realistic-damage-difficulty-mod/

    “It’s War Time is a mod that aims to turn Mafia 3 into a more realistic and fast paced shooter by increasing the damage you deal to enemies encouraging you to be on the move and leave cover more often.

    – No more throwaway weapons that become useless as you progress. Normal pistols and SMGs kill in just a few shots to the torso. Even grenade launchers are a more viable option.
    – Shotguns, Revolvers and Sniper Rifles are significantly more deadly as they are one-hit killers if you land a direct body shot at most distances.
    – Assault Rifles and Carbines give you the results you expect from them… a high kill count.”

    There’s also a mod called ‘NoFuckingGrindMod’ on the same site which seems to adjust the metaprogression sidequest-y stuff.

  10. Vinsomer says:

    After a long-awaited upgrade, I finally decided to pick up where I left off with Cyberpunk. And, a few hours in, it’s great and all… but there’s something off with the control and movement using a controller. I just can’t get it feeling right and I’d really rather not use a keyboard and mouse. So I’ll probably be tinkering with the controls a bit more before I make any real progress. Although I will say the game is remarkably more stable than it was at Christmas after the recent patches, although I suppose that could be because I tripled my memory…

    Having had no gaming computer in the weeks before, though, I’ve been limited to emulators, and I can safely say that nuzlocke runs of Pokemon Sapphire and Emerald are a lot harder than you’d think.

    Fallout 4’s survival mode is also harder than you’d think. I hit a wall and am probably going to put it down. I only really started replaying it because I was enjoying Many a True Nerd’s You Only Live Once series.

    As for what’s next… I just finished Yakuza Kiwami 2 in time for 3, 4 and 5 to release remastered on Steam, but I’m flat broke right now. So it’ll be the backlog: I’ve still not finished Valkyria Chronicles despite owning both 1 and 4 for a long time now, Ni no Kuni 2 which did NOT go in the direction I expected, Resi 2 and DMCV which I got with my GPU ages ago, Indivisible, God Eater, Outer Worlds, Remnant: From the Ashes, And tomorrow Shamus’ favourite game of 2019 goes free on EGS: Rage. I’m spoiled for choice, but lockdown gonna lockdown.

    1. DavenIchinumi says:

      Not quite the same as owning it, but the entire remastered collection for Yakuza is on the Microsoft Game Pass right now. That oughta save some dosh.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        Thanks for the heads up, but the rate I play these games at, I think I’d end up spending like half the amount anyway by the time I actually completed all 3. And, if everything goes to plan, I may end up making a few video essays on the series. If that’s the case, I’m going to have to buy them sooner or later, so I may as well just wait a month and shave down my enormous backlog a little. And I don’t know how their service is now but every experience I’ve had using Microsoft’s game platforms on PC has ranged from bad to an affront to hunam decency.

        Plus I do love me some steam trading cards.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      Fallout 4’s survival mode is also harder than you’d think. I hit a wall and am probably going to put it down. I only really started replaying it because I was enjoying Many a True Nerd’s You Only Live Once series.

      Oh man. I’d have probably beat FO4 Survival unmodded except Downtown Boston started crashing for me and this is apparently a common problem, so I couldn’t finish the plot.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        I haven’t even gone to downtown Boston yet. I’ve been doing Minuteman quests and haven’t even reached Diamond City. I’m not surprised to hear it’s bugged to hell and back, even now. Any idea what causes that particular bug?

        The wall I hit is, funnily enough, Longneck Lukowski’s Cannery. Those ghouls just keep one-shotting me and Codsworth is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, but I exitsaved after going down the lift and can’t go back.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          The problem part is near the library (the one on the way to the railroad if you’re actually following the trail). In my desperation to try different workarounds I actually managed to delete all my saves which put me into “well, probably not thinking about this game ever again” mode.

  11. EOW says:

    This week i finally finished cyberpunk and man, through the rough it was such an amazing scifi story, the kind of big budget rpg i’ve been waiting for since mass effect.
    Night City is a beatiful painting. You need to respect it a bit and understand it to truly enjoy it, but once you do it’s amazing.
    Shame this game is nigh impossible to discuss online. What were valid criticisms were expanded by the social media machine into a true hatedom that will attack anyone who likes it.

    A guy posted your video in a discord server i’m in and some asshole said something like “the dude must have not played many games if he thought the story was good”.
    I confess i chuckled

    1. Mark Ayen says:

      I’m getting close to the endgane of Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One and just hit the level cap. The game is so great in so many ways that the bugs are just that much more jarring when they crop up. In fact, yesterday I hit my most egregious bug yet in a quest that stopped me in my tracks. I was only able to resolve it by reloading an autosave from about a half-hour earlier. It only took me about ten minutes to catch up, but it was worrying.

    2. Dev Null says:

      I’m still liking Cyberpunk quite a lot, and that’s what’s eating all my time. I haven’t had much issue with bugs; one quest-breakingly bad one with one of the cyberpsycho side-quests came up recently, which is going to prevent me from seeing if there is any kind of resolution to that whole quest series. That irks me. I love the layout of the city, and have only ever used the fast-travel mechanics twice – I enjoy roaring around town at 130 mph on my indestructible motorcycle too much. I do find the bullet-sponginess of the combat a bit annoying sometimes. The fifth time you put a “high-powered” sniper round through the same guy’s head you start to wonder whether it is literally loaded with peas, and the same guy will then one-shot you with a pistol from 150 yards.

      1. EOW says:

        maybe you are tackling high level enemies? I never had to put more than two sniper rounds in an enemy head.
        I noticed the game is very demanding in terms of keeping your stats up to date, so much so i wish there were more special layered outfits, since you are forced to look like a bargain bin sale reject to put on the best stats

  12. miroz says:

    I tried playing Crusader Kings 3. I’ve put hundreds of hours in the first two installments. This one is a better game, I can see it. But I just don’t have fun with it. It feels like busywork: fabricate a claim, get some army, win a war, and don’t go bankrupt. It was the same before, maybe I just had it enough.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      Usually for Paradox titles, you wait a few years for the expansions that fully flesh out the game out.

      For Crusader Kings, I always considered the appeal of the series to be the role-playing and event shenanigans you could stumble into while Europa Universalis was the series that was all about growing and conquering other lands.

  13. MerryWeathers says:

    Technically a month ago but I still want to talk about it, I tried out Fallout: The Frontier and had a blast playing through it, not in a serious sense of course. It really is the Hunt Down the Freeman of Fallout mods although I found The Frontier to be more enjoyable gameplay-wise than Hunt Down The Freeman. The writing is simultaneously the worst and most entertaining thing about it, it’s someone’s edgy and pretentious fanfiction adapted into video game form.

    A video game I actually played this week was Little Nightmares 2, pretty solid game, about as good as, if not even slightly better than the first. It’s a bit basic on the gameplay side of things, no Nintendo tier level design where it really explores and pushes the limits of the mechanics but it still manages to engage. Obviously the best thing about the game is the world, atmosphere, and visuals, all of which are quite great and interesting. The music is also pretty good.

  14. Daimbert says:

    It’s been a while since the last one, hasn’t it?

    Since I asked a question about it, I have to mention Ring Fit Adventure. My main exercise is walking (when the whether is halfway decent I get in an hour+ walk first thing in the morning, and always used to find ways to walk to various kinds of shopping and the like), followed by mowing the lawn and then shoveling snow. But since I walk around less while working from home, I was looking to start up some sort of half-hourish exercise, and something with a bit more intensity. The problem for me, though, is that I can’t handle the combination of being tired and being bored, and being bored is the worst, so doing things like riding an exercise bike don’t work for me, even with the TV on (commercials are PARTICULARLY bad). So Ring Fit Adventure works really well. There are points where it makes sense to stop, which then gives me something to push towards before quitting. The exercises and the things you do are varied. And it makes me keep moving without, in general, forcing me to go all out most of the time. The story is just serviceable enough to keep my interest but not so great that I’m very tempted to go past the time I want to play just to see what happens next. This along with my time constraints means that I’ve been working at it at a slow and steady pace since about October. I’m not done my first runthrough of the story yet in that time and yet have been using it in general about four times a week. I’m neither bored with it nor tired of it, so it’s working out pretty well.

    I’m continuing to play The Old Republic, trying to carve some time out in the mornings on the weekend to play it, but things like snow and groceries and work have been getting in the way. I’m playing as a Dark Side Consular, and then am thinking about making a Sledge Hammer Bounty Hunter.

    I also replayed Star Wars: Rebellion, playing the GOG version. Despite the fact that that version crashes a fair bit, I still did enjoy the game and did manage to win on easy as the Empire (it’s a lot easier to play as the Empire because the computer has a strategy of hopping in, bombarding planets, and hopping out. The Empire starts with ships that are good at that and the Alliance doesn’t, and by the time the Alliance really gets ships that can do that you usually have ships and fighters that can chase them off and are likely close to Interdictors so you can trap them). I also think that the typical “root out the last few remnants of the enemy” end game works better here because you have a set goal: destroy (Empire) or capture (Alliance) the headquarters, and then if you want capture two important characters. Also, while those things can be hidden, the process for finding them is pretty set, so you always know what you want to do and know what resources you need to do it, and you can toss it on fast speed so that the waiting times aren’t all that long.

    I also played two FMV games, Tender Loving Care and Late Shift. Both were quite disappointing. The former dropped its framing device — of a psychologist trying to reconstruct an event — at the end, which was the most interesting part, and exploration was so boring that I probably missed some scenes by not doing it. The latter promised more choices but most of them were pretty meaningless, and the main character was a bit of an idiot when you weren’t directly controlling him, so the promise of many, many choices was never really paid off.

    I started a new run of Dragon Age Origins since I have the GOG version with all of the expansions (I played it on console the previous four times) but have now become somewhat obsessed with Star Wars for some reason (and no, it’s probably not Shamus’ series but more my re-reading my Legends Star Wars novels) and so am dropping it in favour of Knights of the Old Republic, and probably some of the other Star Wars games like X-Wing and Rogue Squadron, and also maybe Galactic Battlegrounds and, well, everything they have on GOG [grin].

    I just recently tried Huniepop 2, but don’t care much for it. The match 3 elements are deeper, but the penalty for making broken hearts matches is much worse, it’s harder to get rid of them because date gifts are much more limited, and worst of all I only like ONE of the girls I’ve met so far, and at least for me if I find the dateable girls annoying then I have no motivation to play. This is also getting dropping in favour of Star Wars games.

    In terms of board games, I managed to play a couple over my Christmas break: Agents of SMERSH and Albion’s Legacy. Agents of SMERSH is really good, although the fact that they keep closing airports which is the main way to get around quickly and that you can’t know if you have stored enough resources to win the game before going to the endgame makes it a bit frustrating. Albion’s Legacy is a King Arthur themed Arkham Horror or Touch of Evil, but is very confusing (even compared to Arkham Horror!) and so was just frustrating and fiddly for me. Which is a shame because I love King Arthur and think that that style of game, and even King Arthur themed board games would be wonderful, but the gameplay and confusing manual just annoyed me too much.

    I also played some Scrabble and Star Trek Scene It!, which are nice quick games that are a lot of fun.

    Finally, I’ve taken up chess again, playing against the computer on chess.org. I’m trying to get a game in a day, and I’ve won two games out of probably something like 30+. I’m not sure I’m really learning much playing against the computer here, but don’t really want to play against real players right now because, well, I suck [grin].

    1. Thomas says:

      Chess.com has different levels of computers, and a nice hint system (with easy analysis), so you might be able to find something you can play against and work your way up.

      Although it hasn’t helped me, because I’m terrible at chess. Even if my grand strategy was okay (which it’s not), I don’t have the consistency. It’s hard to win games if you’re prone to accidentally sacrificing your queen to a bishop that you’d forgotten was there.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I’m playing with the default, which is level 2. I tried to go down to level 1, but I found that the computer didn’t change how it played, it just let me get away with more mistakes, which wasn’t what I was looking for. And what I’ve found is that the computer is VERY aggressive in the early game, and so many of my losses come from there. Whenever I’ve survived into mid or late game, I’ve done pretty well. That’s also not really the sort of thing I was looking for to improve my ability.

        I also find that it’s easier to miss things like the bishop thing you mentioned with that version than I remember being the case when I was playing chess. I think it’s the 2-D vs 3-D representation of the board, where it’s just easier to follow the standard method of move, keep your hand on the piece, and then look around to see what you might have missed than it is with the 2-D board.

        1. Thomas says:

          The chess.com ‘AI’ have different openings and personalities, so some are less aggressive off the bat than others. But you only get one AI free per difficulty level, and I’ve found they play pretty similarly past the opening stages.

        2. Syal says:

          Chess puzzles typically will help improving a lot more. As far as I know the computer levels are just how many mistakes they program the computer to make; it’s going to alternate between missing nothing and missing everything and is not going to teach much.

          Lots of titled players have Youtube channels where they explain principles and why they make their moves.

          1. Daimbert says:

            I tried reading a chess book to learn (“My System” by Aron Nimzowitsch, which I highly recommend if you like chess if for no other reason than his sense of humour) but I ran into two issues. The first is that I can’t read chess notation. And the second is that I have very poor visualization skills and so working through intermediate steps doesn’t work for me.

            A youtube channel might work if they’re playing the game, although I tend to not enjoy watching videos to learn things (I read a lot faster than I can watch a video). Any recommendations?

            1. Syal says:

              Looks like John Bartholomew is an International Master with a good presentation. I pretty much only watch ChessNetwork, he’s a National Master, but he’s fairly stammery so if video speed is the biggest issue, yeah probably not ChessNetwork.

              I’ve never read any Chess books, I should probably read My System at some point.

            2. Thomas says:

              GothamChess (an IM) made a living from teaching chess, so he’s pretty good at explaining ideas, even if his attitude is very New York

            3. Daimbert says:

              Thanks, I’ll give the suggestions here a try at some point.

      2. Daimbert says:

        I should add that I watch the matches that are shown by default on chess.org, and sometimes find things they miss, so I may not be as bad as I think I am. But I still don’t want to play against players that are too much better than me, and always have issues finding the time to play with actual people without having to go and do something else in the middle of it, which is why playing against the computer was the better option for me.

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      I tried Hunie Pop 2 to get my fix of good match 3, and my problem with it was that the endurance mechanics punishes you for playing well. “Oh you did a massive combo? Your date is exhausted and you have to switch to the other one, better not make that mistake again!”

      However I love the baggages mechanics, super fun and challenging. Some can even be beneficial if you play it well.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Yeah, I noticed that as well. I think it would have been better if stamina went down per move, not per how many matches that move made. That way, planning for better matches would be the ideal approach, not a detriment. It would also work better if tiring them through matches didn’t result in exhaustion. It’s still a big limit to have to build their stamina up so that you can make sets of moves again.

      2. Rariow says:

        HuniePop 2 is really weird. I think most of the new mechanics it introduces are to the game’s detriment, but at the same time I think they’re about as well done as they could be for a game that’s trying to be mechanically distinct from the first. I expected it to basically be the same puzzle system but with the rest of the game reworked, but it is a fundamentally different puzzler. I really admire the dedication and effort there, and while I think it’s a worse puzzle game than the first one I prefer this sequel over just doing “more of the same”. This way there’s two really good match-3 puzzlers in this style out there instead of just the same one twice, even if one of them is a little worse than the other.

        I personally found that the game’s funnier than the last one. Some of the writing got a couple chuckles out of me. It’s crass and dumb, but it’s aware of that and embraces how crass and dumb it is with really infectious glee.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I think that its biggest weakness is probably that along with adding the new mechanics it seems that it’s biggest goal is to make the matching more difficult, instead of making it more strategic.

          Yeah, it really does seem to double down on the humour, which is a good thing, since the concept isn’t something that you can actually take seriously. But it runs into an issue that “Sakura Wars: So Long My Love” ran into as a dating sim: to play off the humour, the characters needed to be more eccentric, but if they’re too eccentric, then it’s hard to like them.

  15. ivan says:

    I’ve been playing Factorio, started a new game in 1.1. I like a few of the things they added since 1.0, but most of them seem like useless fluff. Like, I still don’t quite understand the appeal of this new feature to limit the number of trains you can have queued at a station. I may have missed something, but I kinda can only see that as a crutch for ppl who don’t design their off/onloading stations well enough that trains stays are brief. Maybe someone more familiar with low length, high density train setups can fill me in, cos mine are usually extremely long trains, of which I have at most one or two for each item type.

    Also Skyrim, cos why not. I don’t have to think while playing that game, which is nice sometimes.

    Only other thing is several brief forays into Hitman: Blood Money, which I’ve been trying to get installed and running via GoG, but haven’t been very successful with. From what I read on the forums a new patch was put out towards the end of last year that caused it to crash when finishing the tutorial mission, before the progress of having completed the tutorial mission is saved. Which means if you haven’t finished the tutorial mission already, you never will, and you have to before it’ll let you play any other missions. Bit of a problem :(

    1. beleester says:

      My usual strategy with trains is to have one train per mining outpost, feeding into a central unloading station. The trouble is that loading a train is usually pretty fast, since you can do it as fast as your mines can output, but unloading is usually pretty slow – once the belts are saturated there’s no way to get more iron off of the trains except by finding more ways to consume it. So the trains start to stack up at the unload station, which is the worst possible place to stack up, since it’s in the middle of the factory where space is at a premium and any backups probably spill onto nearby train lines.

      With the new system, I can just say “one iron train at the unloader at a time” and have the other ones wait at their outposts until the unloader is ready for them.

      I could even make things simpler than this, in theory – just say “every iron train goes from iron load to iron unload,” and let them go to whichever station is available. Then I don’t even have to set up individual routes for each train.

      1. ivan says:

        Yeah, but like, I have maybe one or two iron trains at most. Usually just one. Cos, about 90% of any single iron mine train station’s lifetime is time where the chests are slowly being filled up with ore. The other 10%, if that, is the time spent loading the train. then the train spends an equivalent amount of time unloading at the smeltery, and goes out to a different iron mine thats ready to load it up.

        In that way, 1 iron train can handle 5-10 stations handily. So how many Iron mines do you have, that you need so many trains, that this train limiter at stations comes into play at all. Cos I usually don’t have more than 5 Iron mines on the go.

        It might go up, briefly, when one’s about to be depleted and I make a new one, but usually the number of active mines I have is finite, and the number of trains I ever need is considerably less than that.

  16. Joshua says:

    In the past I’ve talked about games that end with a slog, but for me Mafia III is all slog, all the time.

    No link to your take on NWN 2, because the ending dungeon of that game was excruciating? I guess that was back when the game reviews were shorter here.

  17. Henson says:

    Been playing The Tower of Time while listening to online videos. It’s…waaaaay too long. And difficulty is oddly paced. Like, playing on Hard difficulty, I’ve spent hours upon hours in samey battles with almost no problem, and now suddenly, all the battles have become quite hard. I’m not finding the experience very compelling, so I guess it’s fortunate I got it for free.

    Also finally played through SOMA. A lot of interesting ideas, but I think the narrative isn’t very clear on a single playthrough. There are too many names for me to keep track of, so I found it hard to piece together who was doing what. I like the setting and the presentation, but I also found many encounters where the hand of the developer is very heavy indeed. Overall, pretty good, but…feels odd.

  18. jurgenaut says:

    This week I made an effort to finish HL:Alyx – having built a new machine I never actually bothered to hook up my Oculus Rift S and install all the drivers. A few hours later (Oculus app is 5Gb for some reason) I started Alyx for the first time in 8 or 9 months. I solved the physics puzzle I had stopped playing at back then, played for 20 minutes more or so and the game was over. D’oh.
    Had I just played a little more back then I would have finished it. Oh well, at least the new machine felt much better for rendering VR (RTX3070 vs my old GTX1060). Maybe I’ll play it through once more now.

    Otherwise, I got a new phone (pixel 5) from work, so I picked up my old “World of Warships Blitz” account and been enjoying that again. It’s a freemium game, one match takes 5 minutes – perfect for when I have to rebuild my current react-native app.

    Also levelling a druid (41 now) in wow classic for burning crusade.

  19. Will says:

    Still playing Cyberpunk when time allows.

    So, the thing about the plot in this game is…

    (Um. Consequential spoilers follow. I’m not gonna tag the whole thing. Be warned.)

    …there’s basically one line that more or less ruins the main plot for me. Right after the heist goes bad, while Victor is discussing the side-effects of terrorist-brain-chip-induced resurrection with you, he gives you a prognosis of “days, maybe a few weeks” to live (roughly, I don’t have the line in front of me).

    This basically says you need to skip all the side content. Victor is telling you, fairly authoritatively, that you’re on an *extremely* tight, Majora’s Mask-like clock (except you won’t get to go back and do all the stuff you missed). My expectation, therefore, was that Silverhand was a solvable problem, and you should postpone your sidequestravaganza until he’d been solved. But nope: the game ends in every ending.

    Cool.

    So I reloaded my save right before the point of no return and now I’m just doing everything else, leaving Hanako to extend her reservation indefinitely (I’m sure she can afford it) and stringing that “maybe a few weeks” prognosis out to months and months of in-game time (which sure makes me question Victor’s competence…). This is fine, I guess, but it badly threw me out of the plot, and it’s especially galling because you could 100% fix it with one change to that one line: have Victor say “months, maybe a year” instead. This is a much better level of urgency; yeah, you better get around to it, but it’s not so insanely critical that you’re risking your life by taking a few hours here and there to hunt down cyberpsychos or buy cars or help the cute smut editor rescue her traumatized friend.

    (Spoilers end, if anyone tried to skim over that.)

    My thoughts on the rest of the game? It’s pretty much a future urban Witcher 3. (It’s also glitchy as hell, even on an “adequate”-level PC. I’ve started getting crashes to desktop with the latest patch, which is ironically probably less frustrating than getting out of your car into the middle of a bunch of scenery and being stuck and having to reload. Non-game-breaking bugs happen with a period best measured in minutes. It’s playable, but I’m very sympathetic to people who think it’s unacceptably incomplete.) Go to place, use witcher senses^W^Woptical implants to follow the trail of clues, kill the monster^Wbunch of gangers at the end. Lather, rinse, repeat. The progression systems are very very broken (which is honestly fine by me, it drives me nuts when games try to hamstring or rubberband powerlevelers), the gameplay mechanics are solidly adequate (driving is pants, though), the writing (other than the major flaw above) is competently executed, and the voice acting is superb. If you liked Witcher 3, and you’re reasonably tolerant of bugs and glitches, you’ll probably like Cyberpunk. If you’re trying to choose between Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk, though, definitely play Witcher. Pretty much everything Cyberpunk does well, Witcher does better.

    (A random endnote. The game abuses the prefix “cyber-” so much—which to be clear, is not its fault, it’s a genre trope at this point—that I’ve started mispronouncing it with a hard “C”, “kai-ber”, in my head, which makes the game at least 30% more enjoyable.)

    1. Shamus says:

      The thing that drives me crazy is that the prognosis was such an easy problem to solve. Instead of “Days, maybe weeks”, just say you don’t know! The real answer is that it takes as long as the plot does, so just keep it vague so the player can engage with side content without feeling like they’re being an idiot / breaking character.

      1. Sven says:

        This is such a staple of RPGs, though. Mass Effect’s main mission is even called “Race Against Time,” but nothing bad happens if you spend hours dicking about elsewhere first (which is what made the actual ticking clock with the suicide mission suddenly jarring in ME2, but that’s another story).

        1. Chad Miller says:

          This is such a staple of RPGs, though

          I really hate “we’ve always failed at this so we should keep failing like this” as an argument, especially when in this case it sounds like it would be really easy to fix by just minor alterations to dialogue. I have similar feelings about Fallout 4 including a psychic character whose primary purpose seems to be creating this same kind of dissonance.

          (and FWIW I appreciated ME2’s “time limit”)

  20. Redrock says:

    I recently finished Wasteland 3, which was a vast improvement on Wasteland 2. The number of skills was optimized, the number of skill checks reduced – no longer do you have to pass three separate checks to open one container. The combat, while still relatively simplistic, is now much more fun, because they’ve added at least some combat abilities apart from moving and shooting. And I came to it after the game had received several major patches, so it was mostly smooth sailing. The world and writing are still just okay and not remotely as compelling as that of Pillars of Eternity or Shadowrun, but it’s fun enough.

    I’m still playing Cyberpunk 2077 on and off – and it’s still pretty great. It’s a weird hybrid, though, that doesn’t really excel at everything. When it tries to be and RPG, it makes me want to play Fallout New Vegas or Bloodlines, when it tries to be an immersive sim, I find myself thinking back to Deus Ex and Dishonored. But the combat is consistently satisfying, and just being in Night City is a joy, bugs notwithstanding. It’s probably the only game I’ve ever played where the act of getting into my car is enjoyable every time. The driving sucks, but seeing the car drive up to you, getting inside and looking over the interior just doesn’t get old.

    I also did half a dozen runs of Hades – and it’s still as perfect as it was last year. I’ve completed most of what can be considered the “main story” by now, but there are still new conversations and even sidequests on almost every run. I can’t help but be impressed by the sheer volume of writing that went into that thing, and it’s all quality writing, too. I still think Transistor is a better experience on the whole, but Supergiant Games is probably my favorite game studio right now, and it’s so great to see them find the mainstream commercial success they’ve always deserved.

    Oh, and I’ve actually reinstalled and modded New Vegas, Bloodlines and even Arcanum, but I do that from time to time. Whether I’ll put any significant number of hours into either of those remains to be seen.

    EDIT: Huh, there’s actually another game that I’ve played quite a bit, but that completely slipped my mind, which might say something about the game or alternatively, the state of my mind. It’s Crying Suns, a riff on FTL with a stronger narrative component and an RTS twist on the combat. It’s fun, and I really enjoy the worldbuilding, which seems to be a slightly cheeky take on the Dune universe, all millenia-old space empires, noble houses, mysterious AI, you know the drill. It’s a much easier game than FTL, which works in its favor, I think.

    1. Luka Dreyer says:

      Ey! I’ve also recently re-installed and completed Fallout: New Vegas again (third full playthrough now) after having bought the Good Old Games version with all the expansions and “remastered” the game myself through a combination of the director Josh Sawyer’s rebalance and mods that fix bugs, restore some cut content, improve the feel of the gunplay, upscale the vanilla textures and improve the lighting. Nothing too fancy – just polishing the game up while not changing or adding anything drastic. All while playing a ridiculously fun character based on Hawkeye Pierce from MASH and liberal, decentralised political ideals that fought for the independence of the Mojave through wit, diplomacy and reason. I’ve fallen in love and become moderately obsessed with this series all over again and this game easily sits among my favourites of all time.

      Between this and the nights I spend playing War Thunder with friends, I haven’t had much time to check out any new releases, although there are a bunch I have been meaning to get to. Still making peace with the year that has been, it feels like a fitting moment to play Spiritfarer. Other games in my sights are Hades, Disco Elysium (a big RPG that needs to be built up to with some smaller games first) and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (another big RPG sparked by my renewed interest in Obsidian Entertainment).

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I’m still sort of re-playing New Vegas, although I’d forgotten that half of the game is still yet to happen, by the time you finally get inside of Vegas. It’s not too bad of a game, although it’s very crashy, and was randomly not playing for the first week after I re-installed it. It kept saying it couldn’t find some ini files and that the install was “incomplete”, even though they were right there…in the places the internet said to check…right beside other files from the install…

      Anyways, it’s still a really good game. I just wish it had more of a visual aesthetic, instead of generic semi-realistic-for-the-time graphics. Like, if it all looked like a charcoal sketch, or watercolors, or anything like that, that would have fit in well with the desert-cowboy motif the rest of the game has! :)

      1. Luka Dreyer says:

        It is the strangest thing – even when the game just came out, I experienced minimal crashes and bugs (far less than others seemed to report) and playing it again now with unofficial patches, the only times my game gave issues were due to my lack of technical savvy with mod orders. Even so, it still sucks to know that such a great game let down so many people because of technical problems.

        As for the game’s art direction, even when it was just released, I remember thinking that it fell significantly short of what could be considered “realistic” at the time. I quite like the overall aesthetic and think it strikes a balance between colourful exaggeration and semi-realism (matching the balance in tone of Fallout overall). My only gripes are with the slightly overdone yellow filter (we get it – it takes place in a desert!) and “flat” look stemming from a lack of shadows and ambient occlusion. Though that watercolour comment does stoke my excitement for Disco Elysium. :)

        1. Echo Tango says:

          So, the billboards, posters, and magazines in-world, and the UI elements – those I’d agree are all somewhat stylized, to look like old-timey advertisements. Nothing else in-world is stylized very much, if at all. Contrast that with XIII, The Walking Dead (Telltale), Wind Waker, and Team Fortress 2. Even Breath of the Wild has more stylization, and that game’s pretty mild – it looks more like a normal “realistic” game with a slight toon-shader applied to it. A really good comparison is the Borderlands games, which all have their stylization applied to in-world, and is also in a sci-fi, cowboy-ish fantasy land! :)

          1. Luka Dreyer says:

            All of those games have cell-shading in common. I don’t think that would have suited the world of Fallout, which isn’t a whacky setting like Borderlands and Team Fortress, a comic book-inspired setting like The Walking Dead and XIII or a fantastical setting like Wind Waker and Breath of the Wild. Instead, it’s built on the juxtaposition of a heavily stylised 50s-inspired retro future against the harrowing post-apocalypse that world led to. I would also argue that a game’s visual design doesn’t have to be as explicitly stylised as those games to still have a visual style. Compared to games of 2010 that aimed to look “realistic”, like Heavy Rain, New Vegas very clearly has a different style. That being said, it is very apparent that the Gamebryo engine holds the game back in terms of its art direction. I also just think it’s a bit uncharitable to say it looks generic. Mileage varies, I suppose. :)

            1. Echo Tango says:

              So like…Fallout has had comic-book[1] stylings since the original games. Like, half of the loading screens were literal comic-book covers. For example, this one. The worlds may or may not count as “wacky” (depending on which game in the franchise), but comic-books and cel-shading totally fit the franchise. I also wouldn’t say that cel-shading necessarily implies the world is “wacky” or anything. The films A Scanner Darkly and Waltz With Bashir are both very dark, grim, and nihilistic in places, XIII and The Walking Dead are both serious, and all of these are cel-shaded!

              I’ll agree that style can be had without any heavy stylization – the world of New Vegas totally gives off the same vibes as the Man With No Name, and old sci-fi B-Movies. However, the lack of stylization makes the game age pretty poorly. All the cartoony bits of the world and UI look fine today, but the “normal” stuff…just looks like really old graphics. Contrast this with the even-older games I mentioned, which all still look fine as well. ^^;

              [1] plus movies, music, and other random media

              1. Luka Dreyer says:

                Ja, a lack of coherent visual style definitely leads to games ageing poorly. I can be very forgiving towards low-res textures and the like, because those are products of their time, but keep an eye out for overall art direction. Although there are games for which the “realistic” look works, I am so glad that we seem to be moving out of the period where everything was, to quote Yahtzee, either “dogshit brown or gunmetal grey”. :P

    3. Chad Kreutzer says:

      People say the driving is crap, and suppose it’s because I don’t play many driving games, but I honestly enjoy the driving and I do get somewhat of a different feel from the different cars/bikes, and despite the limited viewports, I actually prefer driving in first person. I have played almost 150 hours and I have used fast travel maybe 20 times total just because I just enjoy driving around Night City.

      1. Dev Null says:

        I enjoy the “driving” in first-person too, but only on a motorcycle, where I can see what’s going on around me much better, and can thread the needle around / through traffic. (Which means that, when some quest forces me to drive a car I’m absolutely _terrible_ at it, because I’ve had no practice.) I think I’ve used fast travel twice.

      2. Redrock says:

        Funny thing is, I wouldn’t say I dislike the act of driving in Cyberpunk – I actually drive a lot, but mostly because I like how the cars look and sound. In terms of how the driving feels – it mostly seems too floaty, except with a couple of cars. Luckily, my favorite – the Javelina – seems to be one of the best in terms of traction and steering, so I’m lucky there. But driving some of the other cars just feels like ice skating.

    4. Philadelphus says:

      Hadn’t heard of Crying Suns before but as a big FTL fan I’ve been checking out the demo. Seems pretty cool, so far!

      1. Redrock says:

        Now, I realize this may be anathema around here, but the only reason I even heard of Crying Suns, let alone played it, is because it was a freebie on the Epic Store. I’ve actually amassed quite a lot of those. Only played a couple, but that’s par for the course.

  21. zackoid says:

    Kerbal Space Program. I’m completely addicted to it, but dear god this game is not respectful of your time.

  22. Geebs says:

    I’ve been playing Bowser’s Fury. It’s a cracking little Mario game and the most fun I’ve had since Galaxy.

  23. tmtvl says:

    Aside from some GregBlock and Enigmatica 6 (Minecraft mods) I’ve mainly been wearing my Software Engineer hat. Working on some build process tools.

    GregBlock is a fairly light-weight skyblock modpack. It’s centered around the GregTech mod, which takes you from low-powered steam machines up to ludicrous fusion reactors. GregBlock also includes Ex Nihilo (sieving stuff like gravel and sand to get resources) and tinker’s construct, and that’s basically it. I kind of prefer this more focused approach to a skyblock over SkyFactory style “add in all the tech and magic mods,” where I just get way~ overwhelmed.

    Enigmatica 6 is an “all-in” modpack, it has a bunch of magic and tech mods. The main draw for me is that it works with Minecraft 1.16, so it’s got the updated village mechanics, the nice oceans and swimming, the updated Nether, and so on. While it doesn’t have Twilight Forest, between Biomes o’ Plenty and Dungeons+ it does offer some incentive for exploration.

    Between those mods and work I’m doing a lot of automation, and it’s slowly losing it’s appeal, so lately I’ve been starting to eye the GNU Image Manipulation Program (aka GIMP), and OpenSCAD and thinking something along the lines of “you know what I like? I like architecture. Maybe I could architect me up a building.”
    …well, something like that anyway.

  24. Leviathan902 says:

    Due to some personal circumstances, I haven’t really been in the mood to play games very much. I currently have 3/4 finished play-throughs in: Dishonored 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and Iron Harvest that I haven’t touched in weeks.

    Dishonored 2 is absolutely incredible and I’m so glad I finally got he chance to get around to it. I’ll eagerly finish when my situation improves.

    Cyberpunk I’ve talked about before. It’s basically the Witcher 3, with the same pros and the same cons. So it’s really good, basically, but it definitely doesn’t hit the highs that Witcher 3 does.

    Iron Harvest is…I mean it’s good. I love RTS games and was really looking forward to this one, but the game has some serious balance issues in the single-player campaign, to the point where by the time I got to the 3rd campaign, I was kind of over the slog. It’s been a few months so I might try to go back to it and see if it’s improved. The game has a VERY active developer with a non-stop roadmap of free content and balance patches so I’ll give it another shot.

    I’ve also been messing around with Cyber Shadow. It’s a great 8-bit style action platformer that clearly takes cues from Ninja Gaiden. Also, the soundtrack absolutely SLAPS. It’s got probably the best chiptune music I’ve ever heard. I’ve been playing it on Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming to my phone and the technology is incredible. I got a new phone and they gave me an xbox style controller for the phone for free so it fits my current mood (not enough energy to sit in front of my PC or Console and deep dive, but hitting a retro style game for 15 minutes seems to work for me). Just the fact that I can play a tough as nails twitchy 8 bit retro game over the cloud with no real input lag impresses me.

  25. Echo Tango says:

    I’ve been playing Spelunky 2, but am putting it down for a while due to the difficulty. (I can only consistently beat the “easy” boss.) I still play Rimworld occasionally, since the Royalty DLC added quite a bit of content with psionics and the need to babysit a prissy aristocrat (psionics are usually royals). I’ve started playing Lisa: The Painful, but the game is both very difficult and somewhat depressing; I’m not sure if I’ll finish this one. I managed to beat the boss in A Robot Named Fight, but really don’t like the slippy-slidy ice / sewer levels they added to the game, since they’re a lot harder than the rest of it, so I don’t think I’ll be able to beat The True Boss. (YouTube will have to suffice, for that ending.) The Shrouded Isle is pretty short, although very difficult and depressing. It’s fitting for a Cosmic Horror type of game, but damn, I don’t think I can beat that game. Fallout: New Vegas is still really good, but I don’t like all the crashes and lack of strong visual aesthetic. I played Sublevel Zero semi-recently, but the game’s still pretty difficult, and somewhat grindy since the way you need to play is to harvest so much loot, then craft into things that are actually worth a damn. ^^;

    Although, given that games might be messing with my head and could be the reason I’m so damn jaded and tired all the time, I’m giving them a bit of a break for a couple weeks. I’ve actually put in a couple hours of effort per day in making a tiny video-game myself this weekend, and that’s a habit I want to keep going. If I could make something worth releasing on Itch.io, that would be a massive win! :)

  26. Rho says:

    I’m trying to 100% CP77, though I am taking a break after reaching 100 hours in it. Enough has been said that I spare people here.

    I’m running through Yakuza 0, which is a frankly bizarre game. Many aspects of the game are quite well designed, but there’s so many rough edges. For example, it’s all about the minigames (the series is apparently like Shenmue, but I only played this one so far) but the minigames themselves are often random and frustrating. They also way too long to setup and play and reset. The side activities have a way of sticking around just long enough to become intensely irritating.

    The other I’ve been enjoying is Genshin Impact, a brilliant take on the Breath of the Wild formula mixed with RPGs mechanics. You don’t just have a character here – you build a party of 4 and then use elemental reactions as you swap between them. The game is a blast and there’re surprisingly good stories to be found here. It’s also free to play and you don’t really need to spend money even to get into the endgame.

    The downside is that the monetization is absurd. Basically it uses the Gatcha or wish system and its ugly. Like, there might be a time-limited you would enjoy, but your odds of getting that one are a fraction of a percent. Oh, and to master a character, you need to roll them as much as 7 times. Yeah. Some of these characters are unbelievably fun and powerful, but you’ll likely never get to try them.

    1. Fizban says:

      More like, Shenmue was the rough-draft of the Yakuza games. I watched Ian play Shenmue 3 on LRR’s Play it Forward, and I wouldn’t recommend making a point of “going back’ to Shenmue, especially if you’re finding yourself irritated by one of the more recent Yakuzas. If you like to 100% games, that might be the issue: the way Ian played, it definitely feels more like finding the minigames you like, popping into them whenever you feel like, and then moving some more main quest when you feel like, and yes many of them are straight random carnival style gambling games (or even literal gacha machines). If rather than killing a few hours durdling around having fun, you’re trying to grind through everything, yeah that would get frustrating.
      (Edit: heh, must have typo’d my email again).

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I’m honestly not sure where Rho got the idea that “Yakuza is all about the minigames”. They are certainly there and there’s a bunch of them but to me it felt like it was about the over the top drama main story and mostly over the top silly sidequests (0 in particular felt like it was great at balancing those two moods). I’ve played some of the minigames but never felt like the game was pushing me to do them for any particular benefit, whereas in Shenmue you largely have to do them since you need to grind for money.

        1. Rho says:

          I have only played “0” so far, so it is possible the others are different. That said, the actual combat and story is good for being hilariously over-the-top. But completing almost anything requires minigames. Lots and lots of minigames, from disco to arcade machines to shooting pool. You can skip any of these, but if I’m skipping all of them there’s not much left. And that would leave some of the quirkiest and most fun stories on the side.

          Additionally, the Business side quests are rather lengthy and involve a LOT of time and money to max out. And you may need to so because it takes massive amounts of cash to even get halfway through your characters’ skill trees. Of which they have 4 each.

          1. Syal says:

            Unless you’re trying to unlock the 100% completion superboss, you don’t need to do any sidequests or side activities. The main quest will take you to several of them once as an introduction, but the game isn’t going to lock the main quest behind doing well at them. They help unlock stuff, but you can unlock a lot of that stuff without them and you don’t need any of it for the main quest.

          2. Vinsomer says:

            But at the same time, just finishing the main story doesn’t require maxing out your character, especially when the game is so generous with health items.

  27. beleester says:

    I revisited Stellaris since it was on sale and I picked up some new DLC. The last time I played it seriously, there were still three different FTL systems, so there’s been a whole lot of change since then. We’re all on hyperlanes, wargoals got redone, and planetary economics got totally reworked. So like most Paradox grand strategy games, I had to play it with the wiki open, but on the whole, it was pretty good.

    The early game exploration is still the best part – your science ships wander around and get into little episodes of Star Trek in each system and show you the galaxy of wonders that you’re about to conquer. The Ancient Relics DLC introduced archaeology, which kept my science ships busy for a lot longer. It also adds some new Precursor event chains, so I ended up discovering the last survivor of an ancient hivemind-tree-thing, which gave me the ability to turn habitable planets into Gaia Worlds, which basically doubled the number of colonies I could build.

    In short, I’m playing a race of psychic aquatic space lizards that spreads life across the galaxy with the aid of an unfathomably ancient sentient tree, which is pretty cool.

    The reason it’s only “pretty good” is that it really falls off in the midgame, when the scramble for the galaxy is over and you’re just watching your empire grow until you can declare war on someone. The influence system feels like a stranglehold at times – everything you do to claim territory costs influence, and there’s very little you can do to get more of it. I’m not limited by my ability to take and hold territory, my limit is that I don’t have the political power to draw some new lines on the map. It also clashes a bit with the war exhaustion/occupation mechanic – even if I just want to bite off a couple border systems (since that’s all I can claim), I need to conquer half their empire and invade a planet or two before they’ll surrender.

    Also, I suspect that the AI doesn’t understand the new economy, because they were really bad at keeping up with me even before I started Gaia-ifying the galaxy. When I conquered one of their planets I found that they’d built nothing but city districts, resulting in a planet with 27 unused housing and no useful production. I’ll probably have to revisit it again on a higher difficulty so that the xenophobic despots next door are actually scary instead of being a free Rivalry farm.

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      If it were possible to have a 4X game that did away with the second through fourth X’s, I would probably never play anything else.

      1. bobbert says:

        So, explore and expand only?

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I think they just mean Explore, which would be pretty cool. There’s some old games from the early 2000s, Strange Adventures in Infinite Space and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, which are both mostly you exploring a galaxy with a single ship, or maybe one or two wing-men. Games were usually pretty short and sweet, and although there wasn’t much content, I think the game was simple enough that you could make your own mods. (Just image files and XML or something?) I suppose you could also count No Man’s Sky here. :)

      2. Steve says:

        If you don’t mind something that’s low res graphics, because it came out in the days of DOS…
        Look up Master of Magic on GOG. For me, I enjoy exploring with my armies and the combat is pretty entertaining. There’s some city building and empire building, but you can have the AI handle any part of the game that you don’t enjoy.

    2. Javier says:

      I love how Stellaris is THE sci fi game. Pretty much every Sci-fi trope you can think of is in there.

      Conquer planets, create xenomorphs for shock troops (and have them actually work), genetically alter races to make them better warriors/researchers/workers, welcome aliens into your multi-racial federation, interbreed with the aliens, borgify the aliens, borg yourselves, purge the aliens, EAT the aliens, build robots, raise them to sentience, have your robots rebel and try to take over the galaxy, play as the genocidal robots taking over the galaxy, build the death star, build a dyson sphere, build a ringworld, meet the Ancient Aliens, get enslaved by them, conquer them and steal their tech, etc. etc.

      The economic changes aren’t necessarily better or worse IMO. The old system might have been TOO simple, but the new system isn’t terrible. You’re right though that the AI is inept, I always play with the scaling difficulty on which simply cheats the AI past their flaws at a certain point.

      I wish they would just settle on ONE war system and leave it at that. At point point they made it so any system you occupied would be yours at the end of the war, even if war goals weren’t achieved (Status Quo resolution), but at some point they changed it so you need to ‘claim’ them first. I missed that so at one point after laboriously invading and conquering most of an empire, when I tried to settle the war I had zero claims so they got all their planets back and the whole thing was a giant waste. That caused a rage quit and I haven’t been back since.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I’d really like a game with the sci-fi depth of Stellaris, that wasn’t an RTS. Like, I want to have borg, psionics, evil empires and all of those things – but I just want to control one or to dudes! :)

        1. beleester says:

          The GalCiv series is turn-based strategy, that might be more up your alley? It’s got plenty of stock sci-fi goodness but it plays a lot more like Civilization.

      2. beleester says:

        I wish they would just settle on ONE war system and leave it at that. At point point they made it so any system you occupied would be yours at the end of the war, even if war goals weren’t achieved (Status Quo resolution), but at some point they changed it so you need to ‘claim’ them first. I missed that so at one point after laboriously invading and conquering most of an empire, when I tried to settle the war I had zero claims so they got all their planets back and the whole thing was a giant waste. That caused a rage quit and I haven’t been back since.

        It was a cool idea, but I understand why they stopped using it – if a fleet got loose inside your borders and started flipping systems, and you couldn’t chase them down fast enough, then status quo would lead to horrible border gore as systems got flipped back and forth.

    3. Fizban says:

      One of the things that originally made me want to try Stellaris was the multiple different FTL modes. Naturally by the time I got around to paying way too much for it, that system had been completely abandoned.

      even if I just want to bite off a couple border systems (since that’s all I can claim), I need to conquer half their empire and invade a planet or two before they’ll surrender.

      It sounds like you’re playing a more unified government with greater military power (less “influence,” no fear of combat, though I actually found the more authoritarian options easier since I didn’t have to waste influence fighting my own people). In theory, you can just bite off border systems and wait it out due to the war exhaustion mechanic, but in practice the fact that it freezes you out of alliances (maybe even other war declarations?) while you’re at war and the AI often gets exhausted far slower than the player (who has probably teched up a bunch of production and expansion stuff), means that it’s still usually easier to go in and smack their planets around. Until committing that far leaves you exposed to a backstab and you roll back three hours of gameplay or ragequit.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Having played Stellaris back when it had multiple FTL modes: while it was an interesting idea, I agree with the devs that it just didn’t work in practice. Hyperlanes was always the weakest of the three (and there really was no way to balance it, despite much trying), because it required following pre-set paths while warp space and the teleporter station-using empires could just jump in and out of systems with impunity. On the flip side, hyperlanes allowed you to have actual galactic “topography”, for lack of a better word—you could have systems that were actual choke points due to a limited number of hyperlanes in a way that just wasn’t possible with the other two systems, which it turn made for more interesting wars and colonizing. (“I’ll just grab this system here even though it doesn’t have much in the way of resources because it’s a great choke point that’ll allow me to close off this entire star cluster…”) With the other two systems there was basically no way to force an engagement at a strong defensive location of the defender’s choosing, meaning you either had to armor up every system, or rely on a very mobile fleet to cover attacks from anywhere. I wasn’t particularly happy when I first heard about the upcoming change, but I’ve come to accept it and agree that it was probably for the best. (And you can still get the late-game Jump Drive which allows you to teleport fleets between nearby star system instantly with a cooldown.)

        1. Fizban says:

          Did they try adding passive defenses? The current system only forces chokes because ftl inhibtors anyway- if stations also projected fields that say, diverted all nearby wormhole travel into their system or shortened its range and massively slowed down dark space travel at the edge, that would still allow some choke points. Did they try anything like that?

          Though in a lot of ways, space stations and/or planetside fortresses are their own problem there. It takes a huge amount of money, tech, and most importantly *time* to get any significant defenses up somewhere, so chokepoints are absolutely required. Defense platforms which should be the cheap and easy spammable defense are instead just terrible. A planetary fortress on the other hand, is a completely insurrmountable wall if they can’t get the troops there, or a nothing speedbump if the world isn’t massively built up.

          Basically, I had hoped for a game with different ftl modes where fleets move around. Instead, indeed, it’s pretty much the same as any other: grab a section of territory surrounded by as few choke points as possible, massively fort up one side, and put your entire fleet on the other. Maybe there’s some git gud high tier play where things are more interesting, but not at my level, vs computer only.

      2. beleester says:

        Yeah, I decided to go with a militarist+fanatic spiritualist empire, since I haven’t tried psionics and I spend most of my “peaceful” playthrough looking for excuses to expand anyway. If you’re not expanding, you’re basically just sitting there watching your empire grow and waiting for random events.

        The multiple FTL modes occasionally led to some cool moments – I’m very proud of the time that I deduced the existence of a hyperlane chokepoint by watching the enemy fleet’s movements and intercepted them there – but it was just so damn frustrating to force a battle. Wormhole and hyperlane fleets moved so fast that you couldn’t really pin them down unless you could guess where they were going. Warp drives were easier to handle thanks to the long spinup/spindown, but they made up for it by being even more unpredictable.

        (I wonder what would have happened if they’d gone with Wormhole tech for everyone – having to construct wormhole stations gave your fleet a “logistical tail” of sorts that made combat interesting – if you cut the enemy’s wormhole network, you gained a major mobility advantage – but it would still be much more flexible than the hyperlane network.)

  28. DanMan says:

    Stardew Valley 1.5 update came out and pretty much all the Twitch Streamers I watch started playing that at the same time. I had never played the game. I was able to convince my wife (who exclusively games on her phone those kinds of time management games) to try out the mobile version. She liked it enough that I convinced her we should buy it on the PS4 so we can play split screen co op. It’s great because she HATES the fishing sections and I’ve gotten pretty good. So she gets to do farm planning and crop management and I get to do the mining and fighting and fishing.

    1. bobbert says:

      Stardew got an update? Do wives now hold their children sometimes? That’s what really drove me away from the game last time.

  29. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    Been playing Jedi: Fallen Order in order to keep up with the review. I like it a lot. It almost makes me want to try Dark Souls again. But only almost. I am not enamored of the New Journey Plus mode. On the one hand, it is amazing to see creatures on Bogano that used to take me 20 minutes to whittle down going away in less than 5. On the other, I really want my Jedi Powers, and the chance to see what the world looks like if I go to, say, Dathomir, first without having the broken bridges.

    Also been playing Warframe. I don’t play it as often as I did, but try to get in a couple times a week. There’s a Valentines Day event going on right now which I’m trying to get some items out of. It’s a very nice zen game for me. The missions are generally fairly short, and the loading times are short. I can get into the rhythm for a bit, then get out and go do something else.

    My new game has been Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail. I played the previous game -Ultimate General: Civil War -and liked it. Something about this game just doesn’t work for me, though. Some of it might be that it is too realistic (I know there was a reason that Age of Sail battles often turned into boarding actions -but from the RTT Admiral View, “close to boarding distance as soon as possible” is not very interesting).

    My reach game – I really want to reload XCOM: Enemy Within with the Long War Mod -but just haven’t had the time. I have also been trying to get back into Sea of Thieves with their new Seasons. But the loading times are still atrocious and the necessary multiplayer doesn’t work very well unless everyone has a microphone (rare) or you know your crew. It’s almost a contrast with Warframe. Both are 4-player squad MMOs, but Warframe loads fast, has easy communication, and does a good job of directing the squad to its common goals. Sea of Thieves loads slow, communications is cumbersome, and has no direction at all.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I really want to reload XCOM: Enemy Within with the Long War Mod -but just haven’t had the time.

      This made me laugh. Long War is NOT a mod for someone with limited time; if you don’t even have time to INSTALL it…

      ;-)

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I can definitely see Warframe being chill but not when it triggers your “gotta catch ’em all” impulses and you join the game waaay after release. I was playing it with a friend and when we decided to stop he actually went through to the lengths of convincing support to delete his account because he didn’t want to be tempted to go back.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I have that problem with Sea of Thieves, since I have been on it since the beginning. I missed a couple of one-time event items (the damn skeleton ship was about to sink and then the cycle changed and I never got the commendation for sinking all the skeleton ships when they were first released), and promptly found the game so frustrating that I stopped playing. It’s far enough along, and I’ve missed enough, that I can almost go back and play it and not mind. But now I have a backlog of Tall Tales to do, and the loading, communicating, and coordinating problems are all still there.

        Warframe I started playing at the tail end of Wolf of Saturn VI, and didn’t figure out how Nightwave worked until the intermission -so I missed out on that. Fortunately, at least from time to time, the unlocks from past events do come available. But again -there are so many of them I can just take them as they come.

        (Conversely, some of the people I play with have enough money they have just bought everything.)

  30. Dreadjaws says:

    Well, I gave up on Cyberpunk 2077. Performance was already taking a major hit with every update, but the latest one literally and inexplicably uninstalled the game for me. Having to download the whole thing again for no goddamn reason is a major issue with an internet service like mine. I took it as a sign and applied for a refund, which I actually got. I’ll get the game again in the future, once it’s more or less properly patched and I have upgraded my system.

    For now, I’m still having a great time with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on the Switch (a tactics/X-Com kind of game). This game has taken over most of my gaming time, as I’ve found it hopelessly addictive. Also, I recently started Little Nightmares II (atmospheric puzzle platformer), which seems to be more of the same compared to the first one. That is not a negative, it’s exactly what I expected. No more, no less. Also got me Toki (arcade platformer remaster), for nostalgia’s sake.

    On PC, I’m still achievement hunting in Defense Grid (tower defense) and these last few ones are really demanding. I don’t mind replaying stages over and over because that’s part of the fun of the game, but I always ragequit when a stage goes perfectly right up until the last wave, where everything goes to hell. God, that drives me crazy. I prefer when things slowly escalate, but the sudden spike makes hard to gauge when I’m supposed to tweak my strategy, since everything was working perfectly until that moment. Still, after a few minutes of calming down I’m back at the game. You just don’t get better than this at tower defense.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I love love love Defense Grid’s time rewind feature for that reason, I can retry a wave as much as I want without having to restart the stage entirely, and if it turns out I just can’t do it with the decisions I’ve got to that point I can just jump back to a previous wave or even further with an eye to building for the future. I’ve managed to get most of the achievements for Defense Grid 2, but still have a bunch for the original I mean to get around to getting at some point. I picked it up way back when I first got a Steam account and it was part of the ARG for Portal 2, and it’s still one of only like 3 or 4 tower defense games in my library.

  31. Thomas says:

    I enjoyed Yakuza: Like a Dragon but I didn’t get round to finishing it. They have a massive level grind just before a key event in the story, and by the time I’d got through the grind I didn’t feel like doing the key event. I’m also not very into the whole disconnected mini-game design style.

    I tried Genshin Impact. It’s close to being a game I love. The elemental system was neat, as were the organic puzzles, and the freedom of movement from Breath of the Wild, and I like the anime aesthetic and the collectible characters. But there were too many MMO/free-to-play cliche mechanics.

    It’s not even that I really hate the mechanics. It’s more that they’re so codified across so many different games, it’s dull. It’s all too reified, I’m so used to seeing guilds, and guild boards, and daily rewards in games that I can’t embrace them as part of the game world. They’re a checklist. They carry baggage beyond the games they’re in.

    So it’s back to Rocket League. I’m fairly sure this is the best game ever made.

  32. Glide says:

    Morrowind – Unbelievably my first ever crack at this game: I was a Nintendo-only guy in my teens when it came out, and have been too intimidated to try it for years. It was pretty great – much more mechanically accessible than I expected, and packed with so much good content. Saving the expansion packs for a bit later after some breather games.

    Final Fantasy VII Remake – I generally enjoyed this game. I’m not a superfan of the original but I played it (many years late, so no nostalgia goggles) and liked it well enough. I think the story expansions they made here worked well to flesh out the world and characters, and it was done with enough care that I don’t mind the Hobbit-ization of one game into (likely) 3. The combat system is the most exciting I’ve seen in a Final Fantasy game yet, though I haven’t played them all. It looks good and is also very tactical and occasionally difficult. There is a bit of a problem with healing: since both item and spell healing require “ATB points” which must build up over the course of the battle, there is literally no way to save the battle sometimes when you get surprised with big damage and aren’t already holding ATB – ATB doesn’t build much on computer-controlled characters, and also enemies are programmed to swarm the player-controlled character, so there’s no way to prepare a heal without summoning all the enemies to immediately kill you. So you have to stay on top of the battle or it turns on you fast. But 90% of the time, it’s fun and well-balanced.

    A Bird Story – Barely a game. A little RPG Maker story about a boy nursing an injured bird back to health. I didn’t enjoy it but I expect to enjoy Finding Paradise later this spring and this is an offshoot of that so I got it in first so I’d have some backstory.

    Jedi: Fallen Order – 3/4 done or so. I’m about as Souls-averse as Shamus, though for reasons of boredom more than rage – I find zero enjoyment in overcoming a challenge after ten failures that I would not have gotten from overcoming it the first time. The combat here is pretty respectable in terms of being “hard” without being too punishing, but it’s definitely not my thing, and it’s not the part of the game I’m enjoying. I do really like the exploration and platforming, and the story’s been fun enough.

    Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy – So far just played the first game. It’s a lovely modern take on something that maybe should have stayed in the 90s. I admire how faithful the redesign is to that 90s platformer feel, but I’m not sure I was actually having fun at any point.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      I also feel Crash doesn’t hold up well. My feeling is that it’s putting a 2D platformer into 3D without adjusting how the game actually plays. Single-hit deaths, bottomless pits everywhere, and precision platforming are all things that work much better in 2D than 3D, but 3D platforming was still new, and the rules were still being written.

      1. tmtvl says:

        I guess Crash 1 is less fun when you don’t have massive amounts of nostalgia when playing it.

    2. Mr. Wolf says:

      Glide, I declare thee The Fresh Prince of Balmora!

      I’m always relieved when a newcomer to Morrowind enjoys it, I’m always afraid I’m crazy for remembering it wrong. Objectively, the game doesn’t have a lot going for it, so maybe I was just crazy for enjoying it so much? No, it is the haters who are wrong.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I got Morrowind for free with a new system years ago. I tried it out, created the character, hopped on the Silt Strider out of town, wandered around with no idea what to do, got bored, and then went psycho on a guard, died, and uninstalled the game. It put me off the Elder Scrolls games until I was finally convinced to try Oblivion, and even then it took me a number of tries to get through that game (Shivering Isles was the best part of the game in my opinion). I then tried Skyrim a couple of times but can’t get into it either.

        Morrowind may not be a bad game, but I really think you have to have the right mindset and like the genre to like it.

        1. GoStu says:

          Rutskarn did a series on this very site that covered Morrowind, and I have to say his description here meshes perfectly with my recollection of the game:

          Give it time, and that’s exactly what Morrowind is. It may not be your favorite videogame, but give it time and something about it will crawl into your brain and refuse to leave.

          The world of Morrowind is absolutely unquestionably unique. There’s a screenshot in the article I linked that shows one of the game’s largest temples, and it’s absolutely unlike anything I’ve explored in any other video game. It has a story unlike anything else I’ve read and it’s “real” in a way that feels like a complete world. Not our world, but A Different World and that’s cool.

          Every iteration of the series has refined some mechanics to be more playable and approachable, but made the Faustian bargain of losing some of its uniqueness. Skyrim is a VERY playable game but there’s little in it that I feel that I haven’t seen before. Dragons, kingdoms of humans that are basically what fantasy imagines vikings are like, armor with horns, and countless caves with just enough level-appropriate monsters and treasure to keep me grinding away for hours.

          Morrowind is different. It presents the utterly alien as completely mundane. One of the main foodstuffs is giant eggs laid by massive bugs – and nobody has a word to say about it. There’s a long and complex history between the ashlanders, the native trinity of deities, and the gods and priests the empire brought with them – and no-one tries to ram it down your throat in a torrent of exposition. This even extends to the various dungeons and such the like; some of the completely unique pieces of treasure and one-of-a-kind dungeons are just kind of *there* in the universe. Nobody steers you towards them, no pointed courier or rumour or message arrives to suggest you go there: the treasure is LOST and you’re exploring.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            In fairness, later in that same post, Rutskarn also wrote:

            Morrowind is my favorite Elder Scrolls game.

            I understand every complaint everyone’s ever made about it.

            Before we get to the good part of Morrowind, we’re going to have to do what plenty of people very reasonably failed to do: suffer through its bullshit. Like its predecessors, Morrowind was as approachable as the rotted feral zombie of a terrorist skunk.

            I’ve never been able to put my feelings about the game better than this.

    3. raifield says:

      Morrowind’s Bloodmoon expansion is worth it. The first expansion, Tribunal, is pretty weak gameplay-wise, nearly all the new locations you’ll be visiting are Dwemer ruins with right-angle corridors and rectangular rooms. Very Wolfenstein 3D. There is an important in-universe event associated with Tribunal though, if that tickles your fancy.

  33. Grey Rook says:

    I’ve been playing Hearts of Iron 2, an old grand strategy game from Paradox. Short version, it’s a World War 2 simulator where you pick a country and try to come out on top. I’ve been playing the Armageddon multiplayer scenario where the world is divided between sixteen great powers sorted into three factions, then you get to try to leave your own alliance at the top of the world. I ‘won’ the campaign, which is to say, I defeated every country that wasn’t part of the Allies, so I’m calling it done though the end date is several game years away.

    I also played Amid Evil, an excellent retro FPS in a fantasy setting. The plot is barely there, something about you being the chosen champion who is to cleanse the holy lands of the gods from evil by killing everything you come across, but it does what it needs to by putting you into a wide variety of exotic locations where large numbers of people and/or monsters and/or robots try to kill you, and you have to kill them first. The levels are beautiful and frequently contain hidden rooms granting ammo, health, or sometimes new weapons a bit earlier upon discovery, the enemies are visually, acoustically, and behaviourally distinct, and have weaknesses to certain weapons that usually makes some sense in context (a large statue is weak to an explosive weapon, firebased enemies are weak to the one that turns things into water).

    Speaking of the weapons, they’re an unusually cool bunch. You start out with a surprisingly awesome axe that chops things up good, quickly pick up a staff that turns things into water and a sword that cuts at a distance, and later you can recover a Star of Torment that nails baddies to the walls with huge shards of crystal, the Celestial Claw that launches planets at your enemies, or the astonishing Aeternum that can conjure black holes.

    That’s not to say that the game is easy, because it isn’t. Enemies are frequently very fast and able to deal high damage quickly, but will usually die just as quickly once you draw a bead on them. It also has a horde mode where you just have to stay alive for as long as possible, and a short level designed to show off its support of Raytracing. It’s great fun, and pretty cheap.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I keep meaning to get into Hearts of Iron 2, but I was always worried that the combat would be too involved for me, as I prefer the political aspects of it to the combat ones.

  34. John says:

    Just spent an hour shoveling the foot of snow that fell over night. Please forgive any typos, malapropisms, or ungrammatical constructions. Thank you.

    So I bought a GameBoy cart reader last month. My GameBoy Advance died sometime circa 2007 and my DS Lite followed suit a few years later. It’s been ten years, give or take, since I’ve been able to play any of my GBA games. But now, thanks to the cart reader and the modern miracle of emulation, I have been engaged in some quality retro-gaming.

    Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis

    Tactics Ogre was my first tactics game. Of course when I bought it in 2002 it wasn’t called that. It was called a strategy RPG. But whatever the genre, Tactics Ogre is the game that ruined me for standard JRPGs. It had everything that I liked about those games–story, characters, graphics–but the combat was actually good. Maneuvering for advantage through an actual, recognizable environment will always be much more interesting to me than watching two sets of sprites line up on opposite sides of an abstract battle space and spam attacks at each other. (I’m told that the state of the art in JRPGs has since moved on, but that’s about where we were in 2002, at least on the GBA.) Tactics Ogre also gave me significant amounts of control over the characters in my party. I chose their equipment and their classes. I even got to make significant narrative choices. (Well, one. But it felt like more. And I’d yet to see any kind of branching narrative in a JRPG at that point.) I fell in love with Tactics Ogre and, even though I’ve come to recognize that it’s far from perfect, it’s still the game that I measure all other tactics games against.

    For those unfamiliar with the game, Tactics Ogre is a Final Fantasy Tactics-like. Strictly speaking, Final Fantasy Tactics is a Tactics Ogre-like, as Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was released in 1995 and Final Fantasy Tactics in 1997, but Final Fantasy Tactics is the game that more people know. There are some significant differences between the two series, however. The biggest is the way the two series handle turn order. Turn order in Tactics Ogre is like turn order in XCOM. First you move all your guys. Then the AI moves all its guys. Repeat until one side is all dead. I don’t dislike the way Final Fantasy Tactics does it, in which move order is determined by calculations based on characters’ stats, but I think I prefer this way. It’s easier for your characters to cooperate and it’s easier to anticipate and prepare for the enemy’s turn. Another difference is that the class system in Tactics Ogre is much less complicated than in Final Fantasy Tactics. Characters have fewer and simpler abilities. With only a few exceptions, a character’s abilities are completely determined by his current class. The character’s class history is reflected only in his stats. No character, not even special story characters, ever gets more than four abilities at a time. Finally, you get to field eight characters at a time to Final Fantasy Tactics‘s six. Combined with the way that the game handles turn order, the result is that in the early game, before you get access to equipment that expands your movement options, it pays to keep your characters in some sort of formation. Battles look at least a little like actual military engagements rather than chaotic free-for-alls.

    Advance Wars

    Advance Wars is just so, so good. It would be the perfect handheld strategy game except that Advance Wars 2 also exists and has more (and more interesting) commanders and more maps. In any case, Advance Wars is the happiest, cheeriest series about teenage–maybe younger!–military leaders ordering comically over-sized tanks to machine-gun people ever made. (Except for Days of Ruin. I don’t know what they were thinking with Days of Ruin.) Advance Wars is a turn-based military strategy game in which you send your infantry, vehicles, and aircraft to capture cities, barracks, factories, ports, and airports and to capture the enemy headquarters or else to wipe out all enemy forces. You pick a commander character for each battle which affects your units’ stats and also gives you a special ability that charges over time at a rate that depends on your casualties. There’s a campaign, which starts off very, very easy but gets very, very hard by the end. The final level is not only very, very hard but also very, very gimmicky. I’m maybe a third of the way through the campaign at the moment. I would probably be farther in, but I keep getting distracted by non-campaign missions in the Battle Room (which offers special challenge missions) or by skirmishes against the AI on Vs. maps. A four-way skirmish against three AI opponents on a small-ish map is actually my favorite way to play Advance Wars. If I didn’t need to play through the campaign mode to unlock more commanders and more Vs. maps I’m not sure I’d bother with it.

    Street Fighter (various)

    I also have Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha 3 for the GBA. I haven’t played either of these a lot just yet and I don’t know that I will. I played the heck out of both of them back on the GBA, but about the nicest thing I can say about either of them now is that they are remarkable for being as good as they are. They are, alas, not remarkable for being actually good, even if Alpha 3 on the GBA is actually something of a miracle. It is not a lot of fun to play fighting games designed for six buttons on a system that only admits the existence of four. Graphics that I remember as tolerable to good on a tiny GBA screen don’t fare as well on a ten-inch notebook screen. (For some reason, Tactics Ogre and Advance Wars do not suffer from the same problem.) The sad fact of the matter is that I have other, better fighting games that I can easily play if I want to, including various superior versions of Street Fighter, and that, as much as I appreciate the GBA version of Street Fighter II for finally allowing me to learn to do the dragon punch input semi-consistently, it’s hard to go back.

    Fire Emblem

    I haven’t actually played this one again yet. I just started it up in the emulator to confirm that the ROM worked. I’ll probably get to it eventually. I also have Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, which I remember not liking as much for some reason even though it had several much-appreciated convenience features that Fire Emblem lacked. I think I was just burned out on Fire Emblem at that point. I think I might still be burned out on Fire Emblem. I was, however, deeply invested in it at one point and I feel like I ought to give it another try. The problem, I think, is that I just prefer games like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics to games like Fire Emblem.

    Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

    I’ve also got Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which I haven’t tested yet but will assuredly get to at some point. I like the game a lot, and I can even tolerate the law system that so many people seem to hate, but the game suffers from an excess of story. I’m not sure if I can take all the melodrama and slowly scrolling “…” all over again. That said, the emulator does have a fast-forward option which I’ve already been using to speed up enemy turns and attack animations in Tactics Ogre so maybe it won’t be that bad. I do love the job system. One of the big features of Final Fantasy Tactics relative to Tactics Ogre is the depth and complexity of the job system. I will build a Viera assassin, she will learn the Concentration ability, and I will use her to one-shot half the enemies in any given engagement, oh yes. Unless it just so happens illegal that day because of the law system. Ah, well.

    Other

    I have a few other games whose ROMs I haven’t dumped yet and probably won’t, but I figure I’ll mention them now in case anybody has any compelling arguments to offer on their behalf. They are: Breath of Fire, Breath of Fire II, Lunar: Legend, and Guilty Gear X. The first three are JRPGs and the last one is a fighing game. I have, as I mentioned, lost interest in JRPGs. I still love fighting games, but the GBA port of Guilty Gear X is an utterly awful, non-functional mess with terrible, washed-out graphics and an AI that consistently fails to do anything ever. It’s bad. You have no idea how bad it is. Ugh.

    1. bobbert says:

      What did you think of Cling?

      I always thought it was really good (and HUGE) )for an SNES game. While the gameplay is brutal, the story just keeps me coming back.

      This may seem strange to say about a game with dragons, wizards and bird-men, but the story is very realistic. There is great-power influence jockeying and most of the cast feels like real people with real motivations.

      That said, being a realistic war-story, it tends to be very very bleak. The big moral choice at the end of the first act is between Oath-Breaker and Kin-Slayer. Which I guess is better than most handle that sort of thing.

      1. John says:

        Alas, I have never played Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. I’ve never owned any of the systems it’s been released on. I’d like to play it, as my understanding is that it’s a lot like Knight of Lodis but bigger and with a more complicated branching narrative. It sounds amazing.

        Knight of Lodis is at least less bleak. Fully one third of the endings are non-downer! Of course, the one non-downer ending is also non-canonical, as the secret ending reveals that Knight of Lodis isn’t merely set before Let Us Cling Together but is in fact supposed to be a direct prequel.

        1. Syal says:

          The story is good, and has three completely separate routes based on character decisions. But you’ll be spending maybe half your time on it. LUCT is really hard to recommend because the leveling system is bad. You don’t get enough experience to level up naturally*, and you have to level up because every level boss is a level higher than the previous and levels make a huge difference; a barehanded Wizard at level 7 will out-melee a sword-equipped Knight at level 5. So you have to drop the plot and play the Training mode constantly, where you take one high-level character and 19 lower-level characters and just pelt the high-level one with rocks for as long as you can.

          If you can find a cheat to deal with the leveling you should play it.

          *(3 xp for hitting a same-level enemy, 10 xp for killing one; 1 xp for hitting a lower-level enemy, 2 for killing one. Non-boss enemies are always your level, level-up always takes 100 xp, and you have ten characters to level.)

          1. John says:

            Oh, that’s terrible. Leveling in Knight of Lodis is much more generous. You still need 100 XP to level up, but you can get nearly that much from landing a single, non-fatal attack on an enemy several levels higher than you. Under-leveled characters can sometimes jump three or four levels in a single fight.

            Unfortunately, I don’t think that I’ll ever get around to playing Let Us Cling Together. Emulation is a morally fraught business. I’m willing to emulate some GBA games because I own the cartridges and dumped the ROMs myself. Nintendo and the publishers may or may not regard that as piracy, but my conscience is clear. I was willing to buy the hardware that let me dump the ROMs because I had a sizeable collection of ROMs to dump (and because it was cheaper than buying a new DS Lite). The moral and financial calculus for emulating Let Us Cling Together just doesn’t work out the same way.

            1. bobbert says:

              Hey, I have a PSX copy in my attic. I am willing to put a sticker on it that says “On loan to John of 20sided until July ’21” and refain from playing it. :)

            2. Syal says:

              To be fair, LUCT has that too; hitting an enemy four levels above you is pretty much a guaranteed level-up. But that hit will do 1 damage, and that enemy will be swinging for 80% of your character’s health or more, in a game with permadeath. It’s a really dangerous way to try to go.

        2. bobbert says:

          If you enjoyed Knight I would recomend, in the strongest possible terms, that you play Cling on SNES emulator with the fan translation patch. The PSX version is actually very well done and the disc-loading problems in introduces are minimal. Cling actually got a remake a few years back, but it changed around a lot of mechanics and I understand feeling on it is mixed.

          Caveat: You NEED to able to handle the permi-death. If, psychologically, you can’t deal with, “Gee, that was a really tough map. I lost two of my men. I guess it’s time to train up a few green recruits.”, you will have misérable time. Arrows are very deadly. I know some people make a point to never use story characters to avoid the pain of loosing them.

          Syal is right that enemy units scale up to your level and this is bad for all the traditional reasons Shamus would list, and trying to make to the game easier by getting a durable level advantage is basically impossible.
          I really like the 100 point XP scale, though.

          Equipment is in fact very weak stat-wise compared to unit base stats. In fact, if you are having trouble, I would suggest stripping all of your men naked giving them all short-bow and nothing else. You would be surprised how effective this is. the increased action speed and being able to focus-fire from range (just as good as it is in starcraft) is amazing, and you will not really take that much more damage.

          Another advantage of playing on emulator is that save-states/rewinds can really take the edge off of some of the more frustrating parts, while you are learning.

          The other big problem with the game is the Guest-AI is well… They are kamikaze-lemmings. This is (very) frustrating if you want to recruit everyone, but you really don’t need to to enjoy the game.

          I really like Alphonce’s character in Cling. He basically gets sent to the boonies to manage one of Lodis’s Client kingdoms. He looks down on his allies as Queislings who have sold out their country and admires his enemies idealism. It is a classical Roman-style arrogance that really makes things interesting.

          http://luct.tacticsogre.com/ is a great resource if you want to give the game a try. Let us know in the next thread how it goes :)

    2. Husr says:

      This might not be related to your lukewarm feelings on it, but I find Fire Emblem far more fun to play when I make some effort to move quickly. In FE (and many tactics games), turtling up and slowly crawling forward can be a very effective strategy, especially given the permadeath making things dangerous, but it’s not a terribly fun way to play, and often means you miss out on side objectives. Sacred Stones is one of the easiest games in the entire series. Almost every map can be beaten by just mindlessly charging forward with invincible Seth as he soloes the entire map without effort. That may be why you find it less compelling, potentially.

      Some FE games, like Thracia 776, parts of Roy’s Binding Blade, and the hot moments of Genealogy of the holy war, do actually incentivize faster play properly, and disincentivize turtling, but those are all Japan only for official release and require emulation. They do all have english translation patches though, and all are on systems old enough that my microwave could emulate them, so they’re perfectly playable and I’d recommend them. Start with Roy’s game, since it’s the most similar to the other gameboy fire emblems, but with more difficulty and incentives for efficiency in the map designs.

      I’m pretty experienced with the whole series (even been part of a Fire Emblem podcast since 2015), and there’s actually a lot of differences between games, so depending on what your feelings are, I’d be happy to offer other recommendations/thoughts.

      1. John says:

        I originally got Fire Emblem because it was a strategy game from the developers of Advance Wars. Those guys seemed like they knew what they were doing, strategy-wise. I must have really liked the series at some point because I played through the first game a good three or four times, including at least one run on the hardest difficulty setting. Even though I didn’t like The Sacred Stones as much, I still played it twice, once for each route. The problem may have been that I played them more or less back-to-back. Too much Fire Emblem all at once.

        I think. It’s been a while.

        Apart from some of the inconveniences in the first game, like having to send someone off to go shopping mid-battle because you weren’t allowed to do it between battles for some reason, the only thing that I can remember actively disliking about the series was how puzzle-y and scripted some of the levels seemed. Otherwise it was fine. I didn’t even mind the perma-death, and I’m the kind of person who will repeat a level until I get through it with zero casualties.

        As I said, I’ll give Fire Emblem another try at some point, but I think I now generally prefer games where the characters have more varied abilities and I have more ownership over the characters I control. There are no character builds in Fire Emblem and, although you get to pick who you bring into battle with you, you have no meaningful control over the pool of characters you’re picking from except to the extent that you fail or refuse to recruit certain characters when the opportunity arises.

    3. Fizban says:

      I think I might still be burned out on Fire Emblem. I was, however, deeply invested in it at one point and I feel like I ought to give it another try. The problem, I think, is that I just prefer games like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics to games like Fire Emblem.

      I presume you mean FE7, the english GBA release? ‘Cause I would not recommend the remakes of the earlier games, they’re just too boring. (Ah yes, response further down seems to confirm that).

      I would recommend skipping to some of the newer games, if by burn-out you mean you’ve been trying to get through 7 and just got tired. Fire Emblem’s rpg mechanics are light enough that there’s not much customization, or at least they were, but Awakening and Fates are where they really turned up the skills (each character can have up to like 5 equipped, which they pick up from going through their classes) and class-changing and “breeding” the perfect army by pairing people up to pass down skills to potentially far different characters, as well as adjacency mechanics that can make positioning even more important, and you can turn on respawn mode so you don’t have to replay the same mission half a dozen times. Sadly, they didn’t quite get said mechanics perfect in Awakening, and then the requirement to continue some of them clashes with Fates’s story. I haven’t played Three Houses yet, since I still haven’t finished the third arc of Fates (’cause I had to retry a mission one too many times and took too long a break, ’cause I was still refusing to use respawn mode).

      1. John says:

        I’ve only ever played the (first?) two GBA Fire Emblem games. The newer games do sound mechanically closer to what I want, but I don’t have the hardware to play them on. My PCs can play enough video games that I don’t need or want a Switch.

  35. GreyDuck says:

    In early December a friend was doing a Twitch stream of Satisfactory and when I saw the Hyper Tubes and the trains I was, like, “Okay, gotta play this.”

    Several months later, I still gotta play it.

    My other gaming time is spent with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, my third play-through now is going through the Blue Lions house’s travails and… wow, this route really is the “bad end” path, not that you can know that in advance (without going online to look it all up).

    I dropped several mobile games and have yet to replace them. I like having something to putter around with on my tablet during lunch or whatever, but at this point Gems of War is about the only one left standing. Sigh.

  36. Confanity says:

    Call me behind the times, but recently I’ve been playing the first Spelunky (with my son!) and Civ VI, and I recently got back into Terraria when my (RPG) gaming group had a night without the DM and we decided to do some online multiplayer together instead of a TTRPG oneshot. Also various Picross games on my phone when I have a few minutes to kill, in between reading actual news and checking up on the browser game Fallen London. Oldies but goodies, for the most part, and I’m certainly getting my money’s worth out of all of them.

  37. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Guys I’m so proud, I’ve finally finished Pathfinder : Kingmaker! And I got the golden ending too, which apparently only 2% got, many using a guide. This game is all over the place. I recommend it if 1) you like CRUNCHY games with optimizing classes, prestige classes, perks and stuff is your jam and 2) you play on a powerful PC with mods for quicker movement, removing encumbrance mechanics, more classes/magic, better UI.

    The writing is non offensive for most of the game but really picks up in the last third, and I was very happy with the epilogue. That fact that the story turns so much around fey incursions instead of orcs or demons keeps things fresh. The kingdom management system is ok. What is really fun is how councilors will solve situations, for example I shouldn’t be surprised that my lawful evil treasurer solved an underground attack by letting the attackers kidnap the undesirables of the capitol…

    I’ve started a new campaign of Pillars of Eternity and by comparison it seems an incredibly simple CRPG, which is a nice change of pace after that crunch marathon.

  38. Rob Lundeen says:

    I just finished Spiritfarer and I really enjoyed it. I’m now playing Trover Saves the Universe and it’s hilarious so far.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Did it manage to get some tears out of you?

  39. Andrew says:

    Hmm, let’s see. I’ve been replaying a lot of stuff lately, all roguelikes (using the permadeath-and-procedural-generation definition, not as in game-like-rogue-with-ASCII-art):
    FTL
    Slay the Spire
    Monster Train (OK, so that’s “replaying” something I had originally played less than a year before)

    I also played the digital versions of Galaxy Trucker and Gloomhaven (both based on boardgames).

    I don’t think I’ve played a AAA game at all since The Witcher 3.

  40. Douglas Sundseth says:

    For me, it’s been Minecraft when I can’t be bothered to think much (“watching” sports or YouTube videos, often). But when I’m actually paying attention:

    Cities: Skylines with most of the DLC and quite a few mods, mostly to improve/extend the UI. The game is deep enough to reward thought and quite pretty.

    Ticket to Ride: Mostly against the computer, but it’s fun to play with friends while also running a Meet session to talk to friends who also have the game. It’s not the same as playing across the table, but it’s pretty good.

    Lords of Waterdeep, Small World 2: Pretty much the same deal. Fun for multi-player or solo.

    One Deck Dungeon: Decent puzzles, but I think I’m approaching the end of this one for myself. It’s pretty samey after a few dozen games.

    Star Realms: Decent fast deck builder. I have the full set of cards, but I haven’t popped for any of the DLC for the computer game. Also running low on interest against just a computer opponent.

    Gloomhaven: Only solo for the app. It does a good job of replicating the board game feel, which is very Euro-puzzle rather than adventure-like.

  41. Wolf says:

    I am still playing Deep Rock Galactic with friends, such a good team shooter.
    Also finished Eco and started Valheim. Lots of Coop stuff.

    Started looking at puzzle games for solo play with a programming kind of bent and tried out algo bot, the puzzles are good, but the load times and control limits just make it more stiff than necessary.

  42. gresman says:

    I am currently deep into Beat Hazard 2. It is better than the first one but still has issues. Even the performance take a bit of a hit on higher difficulties with maxxed out intensity. At least the pacing is smoother than in the first one. I sort of zone out while playing. That is nice.
    Furthermore I played a bit of Khimera Puzzle Island. Also really nice for zoning out in the evening. But that seems to quite normal for Picross-like games.
    Speaking of zoning out. World of Warcraft is still my go to for that. :)

    Keeping my train of thought on that. I did enjoy Mafia 3 quite a bit. Played through it twice. But I am one of those people who do not mind collectathons and side quests. Most of the sidequests in Mafia 3 are not as monotonous as in other games. They even have a bit of world building and story. Which really helped. But there was a bit of a slog going on at places. I thought two of the DLCs were well put together and had better pacing than the main story. The one was somewhat supernatural and the other one was some CIA counter soviet operation. My takeaway was not all DLC is garbage filler content with a playtime of thirty minutes. Bringing it back to my point: I played the side stuff mostly in the evening on weekdays after work and the meatier stuff on the weekends. Zoning out to sidestuff and enjoying the story in one block more or less. Find those sidemissions really nice to relax to. Let the brain idle. Mad Max was bad with the sidestuff, if I remember correctly. Most of it blends together for me. Maybe I should find myself another games where this works.

  43. evileeyore says:

    If it were on GOG and my computer could play it (no graphics card), I’d probably be playing Valheim.

    Okay, who am I foolin, I’d still be playing Cyberpunk 2077. But I’d have picked up Valheim to play it once my CP77 itch had been fully scratched.

  44. Christopher says:

    I’ve been playing something called Dark Souls, maybe you’ve heard of it.

    It’s been at least four years now since I played it, and I dunno, something gave me the craving to do another playthrough. It will be 10 years old this September, but I think it was more the release of Demon’s Souls Remake on PS5 that had me hungry for some souls. It’s also a game where I can put on a podcast to listen to while exploring old areas again without feeling like I’m doing the game a disservice. So I put on Dark Souls Remastered on PS4, which as far as I can tell is the same game with 60 fps and some minor changes in lighting effects.

    It’s been a good time. I’ve been taking it slow, doing things differently from last time, trying out some Faith and bow stuff that make things a lot easier. Taking some photos, written like a little travel log in my local Backlog discord server. Lordran ain’t so bad all things considered. Dunkey once described Modern Warfare 2 as the only Call of Duty in color, and that’s how I feel about Dark Souls 1. Things actually look pretty lush and green and gorgeous for a lot of it, compared to the gray or low-contrast or desaturated pallettes in the other games, sans Sekiro.

    While it’s been a long time since I played it, I did go through and almost through it maybe three or four times back then, and I’ve watched way more Dark Souls streams besides those trips, so it’s been pretty hard to get stuck, which is really convenient to keep my frustration low. I haven’t died a lot besides to traps in Sen’s Fortress, and I’ve generally been having fun. I do regret kinda taking it slow, though. You can play through it in like 5 hours if you know where you’re going, but I’ve been going for 40, doing various co-oping and grinding for upgrades, so I’m starting to get a little tired and there’s still the DLC to go.

    I think I beat Aggelos too in the time between this and the last post. It’s this Monster World-styled(theoretically: I’ve never played a monster world myself) retro pixel art metroidvania platformer out on steam and switch at least. It’s pretty fun, but it feels incredibly faithful to at least my impression of those old games. So it’s like fine, but it can’t generate any hype the way something more modern like Touhou Luna Nights or whatever can because it’s so stuck to this pretty mundane, early console template. No rocking soundtrack or screen shake or whatever, lol. It is remarkably straight-faced. No meta, nothing out of place, just feels like an unearthed old game. It’s cool in its own way but I find it difficult to be that excited about it, though it is nice to have one of these that’s like a Proper game and not some roguelike setup these days. It is a good game, though it’s hard for me to say it’s up there with the classics of the genre. Even putting it next to SNES games from 30 years ago, I’d rather play Super Mario World or Donkey Kong Country y’know.

  45. evilmrhenry says:

    Recently I’ve been playing Path of Exile. The new expansion is out, with a bunch more end-game stuff to do, and the challenges this time look decent. This is the sort of game that wants all your time, so I haven’t been playing much else.

    I’ve also been finishing up Super Mario Galaxy. I got the credits a month back or so, and have just been working towards 100% completion. I still feel that the game’s gimmick of gravity changes combined with the Wii controller makes for a sub-par Mario game, but it’s still a Mario game, and I’m enjoying it.

  46. baud says:

    I was feeling lazy last month, so I played the simplest possible game in my library, being Lego: ninjago movie: the game, which I’ve got for free some time ago. As the other ‘modern’ Lego games, it’s the same basic gameplay, but with slightly more complex combat (like there’s two additional attacks you can do! Amazing!). I didn’t know anything of the setting, so I ended up watching to movie in question and it was alright. Though the game is also pulling from the original TV series (I think), so unlocking new characters wasn’t as rewarding as in other Lego games where I was familiar with the setting (like the SW or LotR games). It was a pleasant diversion.

    I also finished the Spartan Ops of Halo 4 (from the MCC) and the quality of the levels went from mediocre to above average. I also feel I got better at this type of FPS gunplay, but I didn’t try to join the MP, as I got crushed so much last time.

    And I’ve recently started playing I am not a monster (solo version), a turn-based tactical game. Gameplay is slightly like XCOM (you control a small handful of characters, they have 2 actions per turns, can only shoot once per turn), but all characters are set, there’s no strategic layer, rather a succession of map to fight following the story. I mostly got the game because of the pulp/early Star Trek style, but the story (so far) is well written and mostly engaging. And the gameplay has a few very major differences to XCOM: first turns are resolved simultaneously, there’s no randomness (weapons always hit, damage is always the same) and the order of action is really bizarre: first it’s movement skills (like teleportation), then your attacks, then attacks from the enemies, then skills (like heal), then movement, which takes some time to get used to.
    The biggest default so far is the uneven difficulty, with some levels being a breeze, some making you feel like a tactical genius and some being stupidly hard: in those case, it feels more like a puzzle game, where you’ll restart the level until you find the solution.

    1. baud says:

      I am not a monster kicked me down one time too many (how about a level with a time limit, restricted movement, loads of enemies and no cover), so I’m taking a break with this one to play Faery: Legends of Avalon, which is a strange mix of RPG styles: combat it basic turn-based JRPG (except that you get multiple actions per turns), you only control the equipment and leveling of the main character, the maps are small hubs, but you can fly freely (the second map is set around a giant tree and you can fly all around), the setting is kinda European tales and myths (but bowdlerized ala Disney), for the quest there’s some elements of choice and consequences, like different ways of completing, but the general tone is fluffy so far; the game also copies the Mass Effect dialog wheel and the red/blue dialogue choices (but here it’s not to fill colored bars, rather on well you get along with party members). Still I’d say the mix has been enjoyable for what I played this evening.

  47. The Big Brzezinski says:

    Valheim has taken over my gaming life. It plays like, rather than being made by a brilliant-but-undisciplined modder with a fetish for “hardcore” survival mechanics, it was made by a real, professional developer who took a great ax and cut away all the cruft and baggage that usually ruins this genre of game. It’s like Minecraft with a tech tree tied to a boss kill list. It’s a survival game where you can’t starve to death. It’s an open world game where you decide for yourself what the points of interest are. It doesn’t consume anything to repair your gear. You only increase your health and stamina by eating (up to three) foods. Demolishing building pieces has no loss, so you can experiment as much as you like. In Valhaim, it’s somehow fun to cut lumber, build houses, fight trolls, delve dungeons, AND farm turnips.

    The art style deserve special mention. It’s low resolution textures and low-polygon models combined with modern effects. The surreal, dreamlike impression this produces recalls the weird polygonal horrors of Alone in the Dark. The music is great too.

    And seemingly just to be cheeky, the game is only a 1 gigabyte install. I highly recommend it, especially with friends.

    1. Misamoto says:

      Hear hear! Same here. Been itching for a survival game where ui isn’t a mess for a month now, and then Valheim came out. So good!

  48. Javier says:

    I had an urge to play a city-builder and got super addicted to Anno 1800.

    I played through the campaign, got overwhelmed, uninstalled, then reinstalled and restarted a new sandbox game. Now I’m playing all the DLC.

    Every once in awhile I’ll have a “What is the point?” moment and try to quit. Even though all videogames are a waste of time in the hunter-gatherer sense, games without explicit goals often trigger this response in me. “Why bother, why am I clicking this?” I can build the buildings and get the bars full but then I’ll just need more buildings to fill more bars. Yet it’s super fun for some reason.

    I feel like my limbic system has been hacked.

  49. Parkhorse says:

    I’m in my second or third week of playing Persona 5. It’s a rather long game. It is my first playthrough, and I’m going in blind, but so far (I’m in September)… I liked Persona 4 better in every way but looks (P5 is seriously stylish, with that pseudo-trash polka aesthetic). Story, sound, JRPG-gameplay, characters, voice acting, part time jobs… all better in P4G. That’s not nostalgia goggles – I only played Persona 4 Golden for the first time when it came out on Steam.

    1. Thomas says:

      Definitely agreed on story and characters. I think dungeons are slightly more convenient in 5. The non-Golden version of Persona 4 has the rubbish save system that all the earlier games had too, that I find to be a motivation killer

      1. Parkhorse says:

        P4G’s card system and fox healing let you finish any given dungeon in a day, and run through them for as long as you want if you played it right. Time to enter Dungeon N? I’ll go hit the bonus boss from Dungeon N-1 first, then talk to the fox and fuse some stuff in the Velvet Room, and then go do the entirety of Dungeon N, all that day.

        Versus Persona 5, where you have to infiltrate, find the treasure, and then are forced to leave the palace so you can go write a calling card on a subsequent day, and then reenter the day after that… And that’s if there isn’t an arbitrary barrier that you have to open in the real world (like in the museum palace), which stretches things out for another day… It feels like I waste so much time compared to rushing through in P4.

    2. Rariow says:

      I’m actually really surprised to hear this take on it. I played Persona 4 way back and it was my favourite game for a while (and also, I recently replayed it), so I’m in prime position to be nostalgia-goggled for it, but I definitely think Persona 5 is the better-playing game. The hand-crafted dungeons alone I think make it superior. You get a lot more interesting gameplay than just running down samey corridors and swerving behind Shadows, like puzzles and cool visual setpieces (I love stuff like jumping across the chandeliers in the first Palace, it really sells the thief theme). Combat’s more fluid and enjoyable because of the baton pass system (though it’s admittedly maybe a bit easier as a result, maybe it even skews a little too easy for my taste) and the addition of new elements like gun attacks and light and dark attacks that aren’t just instakills. Social Link choice also feels more important because of the rewards they give out, which in turn affect the way combat works (there’s some really powerful ones associated with mid to late-game SLinks that I don’t know if you’ve got to yet). There’s an argument to be made about Persona 5’s writing being weaker than Persona 4’s, and that (probably plus a healthy dose of stubborn nostalgia for P4) is why I’m on the fence as to which game I like more overall, but I’ve always thought of 5 as the unambiguously mechanically better game – essentially a straight upgrade. If you don’t mind I’d love to hear your thoughts on how Persona 4 plays better, I’m very curious.

  50. Syal says:

    Mentioned most of the games I played during the Best Of lists.

    Final Fantasy 7 Remake has been a bit of a mix so far, but mostly a lot of fun. The combat feels good, even with me completely forgetting the shortcuts exist, but the game has some enemies that become immune to non-resource attacks which is unfun even when you get the hang of them. All the characters are fairly over-the-top, mostly in a fun way, but newbies Roche and Beck’s Bandits are a big miss. Jessie and Tifa are uncomfortably forward but Aerith is perfectly sassy and spends all her time sniping Cloud. New sections and expanded sections have been fun so far. Still haven’t gotten to The Kingdom Hearts Ending, have yet to deal with the pillar.

    Replayed Super Mario RPG, and did a few runs of the SMRPG Randomizer. Still easy, still excellent.

    Yakuza: Like A Dragon was fun, but I haven’t played it since I got FF7R. Part of my Job System complaints were just me not realizing what the red dots meant, though it’s still a system that encourages sticking to one Job. Somewhat janky but it’s got a whole lot of the elements I like from various RPGs (but also the Persona “main character=game over” nastiness), plus a really engaging story. I’ll get back to it eventually, the jank does wear me out after a while.

    Dead Cells actually hooked me pretty well this time around. The speed doors make it worth running past things, which is very nice, and the no-damage doors at least suggest it’s possible to no-hit every floor. But there’s some trash in there; blind falls that have spikes or maces under them, guys that teleport you and are invincible until you kill something you can’t reach because they keep teleporting you back to them instead. Unlocked Boss Cell 1, basically on a fluke. Nowhere near clearing it.

    Hades is still fun. Noticing it’s significantly easier than Dead Cells. I’ve also messed up my ability to play it now since Dead Cells’ dodge button is in a different place. Still, I’ve had very good times with it.

    Picked up Hunie Pop again, playing on “just keep raising the requirements” mode, which actually doesn’t raise the difficulty because it’s up against The Combo. Doesn’t matter how big the goal number is when I have a percentage item that can exceed 100%. Kind of guts most of the mechanics, but I’m still having fun.

    Tried King Of Dragon Pass, which plays out in all text and pictures. Not sure if it’s as complex as Crusader Kings, but it’s definitely in that field. My one run feels like it’s in a death spiral. Good complicated fun, but I don’t like the heroquest system seemingly making you memorize all the lore. I’ve tried one and whiffed it real fast, and I don’t even know if I got the lore wrong. That’ll be a game for the future I think.

    Type Knight is a very casual typing game. Nice and clean, you pretty much always know which threats will reach you first. Not as complex or immersive as Epistory Typing Chronicles, but Type Knight fits in the corner of the screen so I can play it while watching Youtube stuff.

    Muse Dash is a fairly porny 2-button rhythm game that kicked my ass. Maybe veteran rhythm-ers wouldn’t be impressed but the thing gets way too fast for me to keep up. Fun, with enjoyable music though I have no idea what they’re saying.

    Replayed Hotline Miami. Controller didn’t work well, it just wouldn’t aim properly. Forgot how short the game was, beat it in a sitting.
    Hand of Fate didn’t last long, the character sticking to a downed enemy significantly breaks the flow of combat.
    Party Hard has no pretensions of realism but is still fun. I unlocked most of the characters, think I’m done with it now.
    Done with Disgaea 5 for a while, got enough 9999’s to satisfy. I’ll be back again when the numbers once again need going up.

    I think Weird And Unfortunate Things Are Happening was this cycle. Free RPG Maker game, quite meme-heavy but manages to have an engaging Lovecraftian horror story throughout. Free and Good, go play it.

    Only watched someone else play Omori, but it left enough of an impression I’m going to mention it. Another RPG Maker game with a hand-drawn style, about a kid going into Headspace to deal with mysterious traumas and his apparent complete lack of empathy. Very dark, very surreal, very funny, very touching, and very very dark. It also gets points for having Hangman collectibles you mostly want to avoid collecting. That’s neat.

  51. pseudonym says:

    Age of Empires 2 definitive edition.
    In my high school and university student days, my computer was not very beefy. Especially in my student days this was a safeguard against me playing games like Mass Effect, which would have kept me from studying (I played those at my parent’s home during the weekends). Instead I played lots and lots of Age of Empires 2. It is not addictive, allowing you to sink in 1-2 hours when desired and then stop. It was also a lot of fun in multiplayer mode together with other students.

    I haven’t been playing Age of Empires 2 for a looong time. I know every corner of the game, every scenario, every tech, every civ. But also every annoying shortcoming in the UI. These made single player and multiplayer less enjoyable, as some frantic clicking was necessary to compensate.

    Enter Age of Empires 2 definitive edition. It is basically the same game, but the UI has some tremendous quality of life improvements. Also a lot of civs were added. Some technologies were added. Some balancing occurred. Basically all my gripes with old AoE2 are fixed. So now I am very very happily playing Age of Empires 2 again! I finished 3 of the new campaigns, but still have more than 10 (20 ?) to go. I can heartily recommend it.

    1. Grimwear says:

      I got the DE edition during the winter sale and I agree it’s great. Especially the fact they remade the Forgotten Campaign in its entirety. Playing that in the HD edition (now just 2013) was one of the worst experiences of my life that I forced myself to play through and regret.

      1. pseudonym says:

        The worst part is that “Forgotten Empires” used to be a mod. Also being able to play full hd, was a mod called userpatch. The userpatch also added multiple building queues and some other improvements. This was all free community work.

        All the HD edition added was proper multiplayer capability over the internet. Playing with strangers on the internet was extremely wonky in the original and required third-party apps. Since I had no desire to play multiplayer anymore (frantic RSI inducing clickfest in the first minutes) it was not for me. For me it felt like Microsoft repackaging all the community’s work and charging money for it.

        Fast forward to the DE edition. Microsoft has shown to love age of empires and continue to pour time and money in it and listen to the community. Coming back to your point I also love that they changed the original campaigns to include the new civs. The Hungarians in Pax Mongolica are now Magyars (Hungarians) instead of Teutons. This used to be a little jarring as the scenario intro talked about the Hungarians being fearsome horse riders with ties to steppe cavalry and then in the scenario you would face slow knights on foot.

  52. Syal says:

    (Made a list, tried to edit it for readability and the whole thing got marked as spam, help a guy out huh Shamus?)

  53. Luka Dreyer says:

    After reading about the impending Disco Elysium Final Cut and Spiritfarer updates (both games that are next on my to-play list) and given that Twenty Sided is an all-around great forum, I thought this might be a good place to ask what folks think about developers continuing to work on games well past their initial release and the limbo regarding a game’s finality that it creates.

    On the one hand, I think it is a great thing for a developer to realise their full artistic vision because of the boost in cash from their initial run of sales (Disco Elysium) or to refine and improve their vision through smaller add-ons (Spiritfarer). However, I also think it is important to reach a point where a work is considered finished, free from continuous tinkering, standing as a representation of the time and place in which it was made. It’s a scenario that makes me pine for the days of expansion packs. These allowed developers to take the lessons learned while making a game and improve upon it, but in the form of a stand-alone product that didn’t make you feel conflicted about having to play the original game all over again just to experience the new content (as is the case with DLCs and other updates that are integrated into the base game).

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I both love it and hate it. There are a few games I keep replaying or return to but in most cases, particularly story focused titles, I want to play the game, see it through and, unless it offers an essentially different experience or I can mod it into such, file it under “done”. This is why I very rarely play games in early access, or wait untill all the DLCs are released before buying it, or keep the game installed but don’t actually play it… because I’m always thinking of the possible content drops down the line. On the other hand it is great to see devs responding to feedback, being able to build on their ideas (particularly with indie games) and sometimes even salvaging games that had issues, needed polish or lacked focus.

      Having said that I wish the Stardew Valley guy would stop updating it and start working on something else. I’d both like to start a new playthrough of this one, but I have this feeling like I’d miss out if I didn’t have it in me for yet another playthrough later, and at the same time I’d love to see a new thing from the same dev, even if it was “Stardew Valley but”.

      1. Luka Dreyer says:

        It’s weird how this trend completely changes our buying patterns, such that you might actually hold out on buying titles until they are released in their final form of sorts (like I’m doing with Disco Elysium and Spiritfarer). I share your love-hate relationship with it, but am also not entirely convinced it is a negative thing. It’s just… different. Unprecedented. And made possible through the unique qualities of gaming as a medium. (Although some filmmakers have dabbled in the practice of adding to and tinkering with work, it hasn’t been to the extent seen in video games.) I’m both apprehensive and curious to see where it goes in the years to come.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      I have mixed feelings about this because three of my favorite games are in this exact strange limbo. KSP, Minecraft, and Rimworld (though not so much any more) have all seen extensive development after release. It’s great to have the new features, but I kind of miss the old experience sometimes. Can’t we get the patches and QoL improvements with the gameplay features being optional?

  54. Ramsus says:

    Well I played Monster Prom through to completion a month or two before the year rolled around, earlier I was playing Pathfinder: Kingmaker which I plan to get back to eventually. In this actual year I’ve played Monster Camp a bit and Hades a lot.

  55. Zgred77 says:

    Second playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077. This game is amazing, walking through Night City is unreal.

  56. Cyranor says:

    I’ve been replaying the StarCraft 2 campaigns. Every so often I get the itch to replay them or the StarCraft1/Brood war campaigns

    1. Grimwear says:

      I too sometimes get that itch. The problem I find with SC1 though is that games have advanced now so the amount of time it takes to research and collect minerals seems so freaking slow. I’m a slow turtle player to begin with and I still get to a point where I’m bored it’s taking so long.

  57. doppleganger says:

    Started playing Arknights in may 2020, and it has been my game of the year 2020 and is likely to retain its title in 2021. It is a tower defense game unlike anything I had ever seen, and I have played quite a few of them. I think I heard Shamus mention a while back that there were no more good games of this genre, so maybe he should try this one. BUT, it is developed for mobile. Still, it can be played on PC with an emulator such as BlueStacks.

    It is also a gacha game, but from what I have read, it is the most player friendly gacha game there is. Could not comment on this as it is the only gacha game I played.

    The gameplay is way more dynamic than your typical tower defense game where you usually put down towers and mainly upgrade them and rarely sell them. In this game, instead of towers, you use operators, and they can deployed for very brief moments in some cases, or for longer, depending on the objective they fulfill in your strategy.
    And there is not much labyrinth building to redirect mobs to a kill zone, as most maps dont provide you the ability to use blocks for such purpose, but some rare ones do.

    One thing is for sure, if you want a challenging tower defense game, then you should try it.

  58. Grimwear says:

    I finally got around to beating the Halo: Master Chief Collection. I’d played most of the before and they’re as I remember but I’d never played ODST or Halo 4. ODST was surprisingly fun. I honestly wasn’t expecting that. And then I reached Halo 4 where Bungie left and 343 took over and holy crap that game is garbage. Not only the terrible, horrendous, confusing story but also the gunplay. It’s not the worst shooter I’ve ever palyed but it’s the worst Halo shooter I’ve played. Suffers from the Halo: Reach problem of needing to do most of your fighting from long range but also has the longest shield recharge from any of the games so have fun hiding in cover a bunch. And Halo 4 isn’t even supposed to be the worst one. I’ve heard Halo 5 is a disaster but I literally know nothing about it.

    1. GoStu says:

      I think Raycevik had the best videos about the Halo games. Here’s his video about Halo 4.

      From watching the early part of that, Halo 4’s development was a mess. They added a new faction (Promethians) and set their sights really high – aiming for six enemy types (more than Halo 1’s covenant!) and they ultimately only shipped with three, only one of which was really interesting. The little dog-things were boring and the hovering shield & grenade-throwers only had 1-2 moves. So yeah, you spend a lot of your time with a really dull enemy type, the only really dangerous variant being dangerous as hell up close.

      Like you said – you engage them from long-range and deal chip damage to their shields only for them to teleport somewhere else. Try and grenade them, and the fliers block the grenade. Try and punch them and they’ll ruin your life with a nastier punch back. Combat against the Promethians is a CHORE sometimes… and they’re 50% of the game. The other half is the Covenant, and they’re at their worst due to dumbed-down AI.

  59. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Treating this as “since last time I’ve played” so things have piled up, and I have to say it’s been pretty good to me overall.

    Just finished a replay of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (with fan patch and restored content). All this talk about the sequel made me want to replay this game again. A Malkavian playthrough remains a delight and the game is basically strong in all the areas I remember. Having said that the combat heavy endgame slog is quite… bad. Particularly since you can play most of the game avoiding combat in various ways.

    Outer Wilds Played this one in… January I think? Oh my this was quite an experience. It’s actually difficult to talk about this game simply because discovery is such a key component that revealing virtually anything feels like doing it a disservice. The following spoiler tag is just for stuff that’s covered by reviews and mentioned or at least hinted at on the game page. So you’re exploring a tiny solar system and you’re stuck in a 22 minute time loop, you’re trying to figure out what is happening, why it’s happening and what to do about it. Your mileage may vary but to me almost everything about the game is “just right”. The mini-planets have just enough room to allow for exploration but are packed densely enough with content that it doesn’t feel like you’re wasting time combing the desert hoping for a lucky break, they are each unique but there are mechanical connections between the astral bodies that are additionally complicated by changes to the system as the loop progresses. You can get the broad strokes of the story easily but there are details that require more specific actions at more specific times to obtain and depending on the order you get the story bits in there are a few good moments where I was like “I’ve got it” only to discover “oh, that’s actually not how it went”. I’ve seen people complain about the handling of the spaceship but to me it, again, struck this perfect balance between being able to manouver it delicately or send it widely spinning if you rushed it or weren’t careful. Even the time loop didn’t really get old during my playthrough, I basically had almost no “wasted” loops and hearing the time loop music trigger almost (more about that below) never caused frustration and instead I would often find it exciting witnessing it from a new spot in the system. And now an almost spoiler free ending comment to me the game was almost ruined by the ending sequence. Unsurprisingly in a time loop based game it requires you to do a certain set of things in order, it starts with a wait and then leaves that one thing that can easily kill you and is based on highly fiddly mechanics basically for last, and then because you’ve technically broken the loop at this point it doesn’t reset you but instead kicks you to the main menu, forcing you to go through a fairly long (on my machine) loading process This ending sequence has almost soured the entire experience for me, when I finally got through it I think it bugged and I was missing a key item that I’m sure I’ve picked up, I’ve decided not to go through the process again and just watched the rest on YouTube, which was a good thing because what I’ve seen I’ve found extremely unsatisfying. Having said that it doesn’t erase the sheer joy of watching the pseudo-physics of the world in action, discovering a major secret or sometimes just starting at this universe in motion. It’s a game where the journey definitely felt more important than the destination.

    Paradise Killer Oddly enough another game where you’re trying to piece together a story by searching the environment for clues, but this time you’re a sorta detective. To be more precise, you’re a detective who is part of an eldritch cult which has created a pocket dimension for the purpose of farming sacrificial essence and feeding it to cosmic monstrosities that you worship. And the best thing about it? It’s not gloomy, dark caves with everybody getting arthritis and permanent sniffles because of the dampness. It’s a mostly pleasant, resorty even, california summer style island, with appropriate music, people wearing bright colours and generally most everyone being quite pleasant about their daily goings and just being somewhat casual about the bloody sacrifice of thousands. No, you know what’s actually the best about it? The story is rather smart, even if at some point obtaining information may boil down to “ask everyone about everything you’ve found” and there is one piece of (crucial) evidence that I’ve stumbled upon by accident and I’m not sure if there are dialogue hints towards it. And on top of that at the end of it the game lets you also fiddle with the evidence and effectively decide if you shouldn’t let some guilty people go, or maybe even frame someone who was not responsible.

    Assassin’s Creed:Unity also finished it by now. In my quest to play through the series from the beginning I’ve reached this one. It was… better than I expected which is not saying much considering my expectations were set up by reviews at the time of release. Honestly it was just plain fine, I much prefer AC games set in big cities so Paris was a welcome environment after Black Flag and Rogue, the Vidoq murder investigations were a propos nothing but I enjoyed them on their own, the “big plot” writing remains utterly stupid and the character writing swings wildly between poor and abysmal but it was not as infuriating as Rogue.

    Hades Hades is good and I don’t play enough of it. I like the roguelite variant that gives you some persistent progression (like this one or Rogue Legacy), so while it is banging your head against a wall you at least get progressively better helmets, and I greatly enjoy both Supergiant’s take on the story and characters (at leats so far) as well as the visuals. It is also probably to the game’s credit that I’ll take a weapon that I don’t quite like because I want to get a drop from the boss, it has a bonus or I want to complete a prophecy and if I play to its strengths and get a couple nicely synergizing upgrades by the end of the run I’ll be like “omg, this is awesome and I never want to use another weapon again”. This has happened to multiple weapons.

    Path of Exile I’ve returned to PoE sometime in early February. Since I had no idea what my old character was about I’ve started a new one in the newly released Ritual League and I’m honestly having quite a bit of fun with it. Both before and now I’m a very casual player and I’m not sure I want to commit to the level that’s required for the strict endgame, at the same time it’s a very consuming title for someone like me, who can easily fall into grindy stuff and the enjoyment of watching the numbers grow. (Ask me about my idle games, I dare you)

    Stellaris I haven’t played much of it but I want to mention it because it’s probably the first time I’ve come as close to “finishing” a playthrough as I’m willing to. A new expansion is coming out soon and since it’s inevitably going to mess up mods and saves I’ve figured now was the time to complete my last stalled game. Nowadays I’m much more into roleplaying “fun ideas” empires than into optimizing though this one was pretty strong in its own right. Necrophages are a type of species that has some nice bonuses and -75% to population growth, in return they have a building that every couple years turns a number of non-necro pops into necro-pops, they also start with a secondary species technically meant to be slaves and “host breeding stock”. By doing some perk stacking that’s probably not allowed in a non-modded game I’ve stacked the birthrate waaay below -100% (to be clear this does not cause them to die out, it just makes them not breed and cancels out potential growth rate bonuses you might stumble upon) set everything so that the slave population would be assimilated unto extinction and then proceeded to obtain new pops exclusively through either diplomatic subjugation or raiding (there’s an ascension perk that makes you kidnap pops as part of planetary bombardment). To be perfectly honest between the default bonuses of necropops and the traits I’ve added for the points I got for all the negative pop growth after a bit of a rough start the empire got rolling and it went pretty smoothly from there. The fact that events obviously didn’t recognize my “we’re going to have our young spring from your chest” approach and I got an influx of refugees from some unrelated conflict (of course you’re welcome!) certainly didn’t hurt. It’s probably time to bump the difficulty further up, maybe cut some more years from the endgame countdown… but I don’t think I’ll start another game until the expansion comes out, no idea how effective the espionage will be (in my experience it’s usually bad in 4X games but maybe this will be the time) but it definitely sounds like something that will add another dimension to the roleplay. Also doing the advertised “become the crisis” route sounds like fun to do at least once.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Oooh, forgot, playing Outward in co-op with a friend. It starts fairly brutal, it continues being fairly brutal. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Combat is deadly, there are mechanics that will kill you unless you know to be prepared for them, and sometimes you won’t know that it’s something you should prepare for, or even that it’s something that exists. At the same time death is… kind of forgiving most of the time? We’re currently stalling on joining a faction and exploring the world poking our heads into places we probably shouldn’t until the game tells us to but we both want to get a better feel for the factions and we’re worried about time limited faction quests before we’re ready to do them or know the lay of the land.

    2. Lasius says:

      Regarding OW:

      When I realized what I had to do in order to finish the game, I did what every person trapped in a time loop who knows they have only one shot at doing the things correctly would do.

      Practise the final run in the time loop until you are certain to pull it off once you make it count.

      I have never failed it since.

      (Also you can skip time by waiting at a campfire.)

  60. RFS-81 says:

    Magic: Still into drafting. The new set Kaldheim is out and I’m enjoying it so far. I love the whole viking theme of the set! It’s really weird, though. It feels like if you follow normal drafting strategies, you’ll get crushed by four-color nonsense decks. It became tons of fun when I learned to pull off the nonsense myself. It feels like the complexity is a bit much, bordering on parody at times. Are new players even supposed to play these cards?

    Detention: I played this during the Christmas holidays. It’s a sidescrolling horror game by the Taiwanese studio Red Candle Games. (They recently got their latest game pulled from Steam and GOG because Chinese president Xi Jinping is a sensitive little snowflake, and you should absolutely not compare him to Winnie the Pooh!) It’s a somewhat minimal adventure/walking simulator thing, though there are a few enemies. The story is an interesting mix of history, supernatural stuff and, well, the personal life of the main character.

    The monsters are based on Buddhist folklore (e.g., hungry ghosts) and they each have their own weird way to avoid them that goes against your fight-or-flight instinct. For example, hold your breath and walk past. Put down a food offering. Look away and stand still.

    It’s very short, I wish there was more of it!

    I played Final Fantasy X during my Christmas holidays, but I haven’t continued so far, and don’t really feel like it. The fights are actually more interesting in FFX than in the average JRPG, but the classic random encounter driven JRPG gameplay is, at best, something I put up with. And I don’t feel like FFX is giving me enough of a reason to put up with it.

    1. tmtvl says:

      If you like the FFX combat system, but don’t like the random encounters, you could try Grandia 2. It has an even more intricate combat system and it has Field-On Enemies. If the camera weren’t atrocious it’d be great.

      1. Syal says:

        I’ll warn that my Steam version of the Anniversary Edition ran abysmally on my old computer, which I still think is unreasonable for a Dreamcast game. Fights at quarter speed, and the Zap spell could still crash the game, even when enemies used it.

  61. Chad Miller says:

    Fallout: The Board Game – Recently they released a co-op expansion which I picked up so my lady and I could try it in quarantine. I don’t know that I’d call it good at this point, but it’s certainly interesting, in that it’s the only board game expansion I’ve ever seen that literally patches out the original game’s win condition. Sadly, because it doesn’t replace all the base game’s cards the balance is atrocious (they don’t need to all be the same difficulty, but it ranges from “we beat the scenario with half the time limit remaining” to “literally impossible without errata”)

    Fallout 76: Steel Dawn – Speaking of me and giving this franchise far more attention than it deserves… They actually kinda tried here, putting in questlines, honest NPCs, etc but a lot of problems still remain and some new ones arrive (one of my favorites is a line in an audiolog that only makes sense if you know what the game looked like before recent patches, because it talks about landmarks that no longer exist). At some point I had a level 10 quest that involved a Deathclaw that completely wasted me, leaving me to decide I didn’t really care enough to go grind whatever it would take to fight it. The game had been uninstalled for over a month before the idea of finding another player to team up with even occurred to me.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda – I was hankering for this franchise but intentionally keeping myself unspoiled for the upcoming Ultimate Edition. At some point a tutorial window popped up, blocking the thing it was supposed to be explaining to me and wouldn’t go away until I selected the thing the window was hiding so I had no idea what I did. “Well, now I remember why I didn’t finish this the first time,” I thought.

    Dragon Age: Inquisition – So I moved to this one and I may end up liking it better. I almost let myself get exhausted in the Hinterlands but it turns out this game works better if you realize that there’s a bottomless pit of sidequests and you can just go find the plot when you want to most of the time. I just went back in time and it feels like things may be about to get interesting.

    Greedfall: I can’t remember the last time I wanted to like a game this badly and didn’t. One of the last things that happened before I quit the game:

    I’m in the middle of investigating a recent death. I need to examine the body in the morgue. The doctor outside doesn’t want to let me in, so I make a Charisma check. It fails. So then I pick the other dialogue option and he lets me in anyway

    I go inside and look at the body. There’s a Science check but my skill isn’t high enough. But luckily for me, there’s a note right next to the body written by the doctor admitting that the cause of death he’d just given me was a lie.

    This and other incidents really make me think they went over time and budget and this was what they were able to get out the door. Stuff like this really feels like “we were trying to make branching storylines, but we couldn’t finish it, so here’s a game.” Pity as the setting was just unusual enough that it really did pique my interest at first.

    Jedi Fallen Order, Sekiro After the Jedi game I may just work my way backwards through this genre, whatever the hell we’re calling it now. Sekiro’s been fun so far.

    Roguelite Deckbuilders: That is, Slay the Spire, Monster Train, Neoverse, and maybe some other titles I forgot. This is a genre now. This genre seems like it should be my jam in a lot of ways but after playing some Neoverse I finally figured out what was bugging me:

    In games like tabletop deckbuilders (Dominion and its descendents) or limited M:tG, you build a deck and play it all in one go, and if it’s bad then you just lose that one game/tournament and that’s that

    In constructed CCGs, or video games meant to mimic the same (Shandalar, Duels of the Planeswalkers, Pokemon CCG on the gameboy, etc) you build a deck and if it sucks you can go back and change it

    In these games, you slowly build a deck over a series of games, and the difficulty ramps up such that you start with a bunch of nearly unlosable games intertwined with the deckbuilding phase. Then if you lose once (or twice in the case of Neoverse since you get one do-over) then the entire deck is wiped and you have to start over. This combined with an escalating difficulty mode (Ascension in Slay the Spire but they all have an equivalent) means that you spend a lot of time where you can be “dead” to a bad foundation but not be feeling the effects until after what I consider an unreasonable amount of time Steamrolling everything for the first hour of Monster Train only to then have a boss 100-0 my shard with over half its health left is not a good time for me. I think the first entry to this genre that solves that problem will make me a full-blown addict.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Spiders, the studio behind Greedfall, are clearly people who love the Bioware formula but their reach seems to basically always exceed their grasp so this sounds very in line for them. Mars: War Logs was janky and clunky all the way and yet it did some consequences that Bioware (particularly modern) wouldn’t have the balls to do. Technomancer implies a much more robust faction mechanics than it ends up having. I have not played it but I hear Vampyr’s choice are highly arbitrary.

      1. Thomas says:

        Vampyr was DONTNOD.

        Greedfall tends to ding you with a reputation penalty if you fail the skills checks, instead of blocking progress. or sometimes you miss out on information that would have led to the perfect solution.

        I thought that was a fairly neat solution for a game about diplomacy with limited resources, although it fails even there.

        The first big twist of the game is quite fun in a -your choices matter- way, but also totally fails to line up with the story leading to it.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Whoopsie, now why did I think it was Spiders? Also, let me fix that: Of Orcs and Men (made apparently by Spiders and Cyanide) was an okay concept but nowhere near as original as the devs thought it was (essentially the idea was “what if orcs were good and humans were the bad guys” but they went a very “noble savage” route).

    2. Thomas says:

      This is definitely the right approach to Dragon Age Inquisition. There’s virtually no quest worth doing outside of the companion quests and the main story (perhaps also the main quest for each map), but there’s plenty enough to do if you just do those.

      There is exactly one other memorable quest, which is a haunted Orlesian mansion, and I didn’t even realise it existed in my first 2 playthroughs

  62. Rariow says:

    I’ve been on a on-and-off Persona kick for… jeez, almost a year now? I finally finished Persona 4 Golden, which I’d never played before it came to PC recently (I had played Persona 4 vanilla, just not Golden which was stuck on PSVita), and in my desperation to bridge the gap before Persona 5 Strikers (the umptillionth spinoff, this one hailed as “the continuation of Persona 5’s story”, which I’m cautious of but very excited for) I picked up the Persona Dancing games, which are… a weird concept, for a JRPG series. Persona 4 Dancing is cool in that it has a full fledged 10-hour long story mode. The story’s really bad for a lot of it, but there’s a few moments that did legitimately give me the warm anime tingles, and it’s at least nice to spend a bunch of time with these characters, even if some have completely different voice actors. Plus, there’s something inherently charming about a story that very earnestly tries to justify our heroes running around dancing at their enemies instead of fighting them.

    What I don’t get is the choice of songs. You’d think that a series that’s consistently hailed as having some of the greatest music in gaming would just take a greatest hits list and dump them into its dancing game, but what the game has instead is like 4 or 5 songs from Persona 4 and its various other spinoffs and then a bunch of remixes of those songs. Some I get, they’re just making songs that were meant to be background music for walking around town and making them into dance numbers, and the songs are basically the same just with a more noticeable beat, but that approach only happens for about three songs, and the rest just get two or three remixes each, and most of these remixes are absolutely dreadful. It just seems incredibly bizarre to sell a Persona 4 dancing game that barely has any music that was in Persona 4. From what I’ve seen of the Persona 5 Dancing game, which I played an hour or two of, that basically has no story at all, but a lot more of the tracks from the actual game, which is sort of what I expected when I bought these games.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I liked Persona 4 Dancing, but that was mostly because of the story itself. P3 Dancing and P5 Dancing replace the story with unlocking Social Link events, which was kinda interesting, too. But then, I’m a sucker for anything Persona, which means that, yes, I’ll probably get Strikers at some point (although finding the time to PLAY will be an issue right now).

  63. Khazidhea says:

    I haven’t been playing as many games in general in the past year, but I’ve made some efforts to play a few from my backlog recently. During the last fiscal quarter I’ve mostly gone back through games I’d previously finished apart from some side content:
    Mass effect 3 expansions : I haven’t played (or had interest to play through again) Mass Effect 3 since it first came out, so I finally purchased and played through (nearly) all of the DLC (not realising that the re-release of the games was just around the corner…). For some reason I couldn’t find my saves so I went through a painful process of trying to find online saves of the game that matched my party, then editting them to get the character look + items + other backstory elements I wanted. I must’ve done something wrong at some point as I managed to play through all the dlc aside from the end of Leviathan before everything broke somehow preventing me from continuing (and my interest had waned to the point of not trying to make it work or go back to an much earlier save). I’ll join the others who’ve said previously that Citadel is well worth playing (for some reason I particularly enjoyed Kasumi this time around), but it hasn’t reawakened any interest in me to play through 3 again.
    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided : had played through most things aside from the Jensen stories. These were a mixed bag, ranging from fine to pretty decent. I most liked the one where you’re stuck in a prison (and I went for the non-augmented mods achievement, which was good as a change of pace/style).
    Grim Dawn: I’ve had this from near launch but never got around to playing. Partly due to my computer being hooked up to the TV and my preferring to use a controller for most things nowadays and my not realising that it now (always?) had controller support. Pretty decent, it’s been a long time since I’ve played any Diablo clones. Quite enjoying a build a bit like the wizard from D3, with an energy beam that just demolishes all in my path.
    Pathfinder: Kingmaker: not really one I can include on this list as I’ve pretty much only just created a character. I’ve been quite into 5e D&D over the past year or so, so I’ll be interested in playing more even just to compare, but I’ll probably hold off playing more til after finishing GD (I can really only focus on one game at a time).
    Control: I quite enjoyed this game. Wasn’t perfect for my tastes in games, but I had great fun in the basics of the gameplay and theme (levitating and throwing people/furniture around). And the in game TV show with the creepy puppets really worked conceptually for me, though I can’t explain why.
    Dishonored:Death of the Outsider: Another one in my tidying up not-quite-completed games from my games pile. The setting/story/characters both do and don’t work for me, but I appreciate the game play. Conceptually I should like these games more, being non-standard fantasy, but I find that this series doesn’t grip me to push me forward into playing more. I enjoy the time I put into them, but I could easily finish a mission partway through the game and have no need/desire to continue playing (aside from my ocd must-finish games/works through to the end habits).
    Greedfall: I think this falls just outside this last quarter, though I haven’t kept track of the dates. This really worked for me as a Dragon Age 1 style game set in a non-generic fantasy world. Combat etc had worn out it’s welcome by the end, but I still really appreciated what this game did well that hasn’t really been offered anywhere else often.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Provided I can get through my current slate of single-player stuff, GreedFall is probably the next thing I’ll play. I hope this line of free PS+ software doesn’t get insurmountably long; at least they have yet to have two games I care about available in one month.

  64. Rosseloh says:

    I picked up Yakuza 0 a couple weeks ago and…..I just finished it on Sunday. Anyone who knows my track record when it comes to finishing games should realize just how….odd, that is.

    Now, it’s not for everyone. I didn’t think it was for me, even, before I started playing it. But with the difficulty on easy and ample healing items in my inventory (which, once you’re past the first five minutes, cost practically pennies so you can easily stock up before going into a lengthy combat section), it’s not so bad. I even think I got “decent” at the combat, and some of the styles are quite satisfying (when you’re not getting raked over the coals by stunlocking enemies with bladed weapons or guns, that is). But overall, I quite enjoyed it, even if half of my 32 hours were cutscenes.

    Other than that, I’ve basically been flight simming and that’s about it.

  65. Nimrandir says:

    Have I played anything different from the last time we did this? Heck, since school started back up, I don’t feel like I get much time to play anything.

    [ looks up last TWIP ]

    Huh, so I have . . .

    Fantasy Strike: The ‘Street Fighter with Smash controls’ approach has me pretty hooked, and I love the twist on the 3-character team matches (you have to win with all three of your characters, rather than just beating all of your opponent’s). Somehow, I’m on a ten-match winning streak, which I presume will fall by the wayside now that I’m out of the first ‘bracket’ of the ranked matchmaking. One more time, I’d like to thank John for bringing this title to my attention!

    Hollow Knight: I got it free through PlayStation Plus, and I really like its aesthetic and Metroidvania feel. I’m not too far into the game, as I play in 30-minute bursts to post on YouTube. My biggest concern is the nigh-overwhelming sense of melancholy I get from the playing; even the happier NPC’s manage to feel bittersweet somehow. I’m also worried the game is leaning into a Shadow of the Colossus-style twist that my quest for . . . whatever it is . . . is actually Capital-Letter Wrong.

    Monster Hunter Rise Demo: Like I said in the 2020 wrap-up, if I can play a game like World cooperatively with my son, sign me up. I also love being able to say, “Hold on — I need to reload my lance.”

    Dauntless: Still inferior to Monster Hunter, but still free.

    The Series That Shall Not Be Named: I’m still doing a playthrough of Dark Souls II for posting to YouTube, but Hollow Knight and Fantasy Strike have stalled it for a bit. My wife and son have been claiming the PS4 for Minecraft and Stardew Valley sessions lately, so I also picked up Dark Souls Remastered for my Switch. I’m currently working up the patience to take another crack at the stupid Capra Demon; the fact that the Bell Gargoyles took me ten tries before I caved and summoned NPC help makes me worried that I’m getting creaky.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Without spoiling things I’ll tell you that the mood of Hollow Knight doesn’t get any more cheerful. In my opinion maintaining that atmosphere is one of the game’s strengths (and what makes it actually really “Dark Soulsy”). As for the ending… not even vaguespoiling unless prompted.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Don’t get me wrong; I’m not wanting the game to veer into Paper Mario or Crash Bandicoot territory. The opening cinematic sells the heck out the melancholy, and I’m pretty much down with it. The distinctions I’m missing from the Souls games are the moments of levity, brief as they may be. Stuff like Siegmeyer’s ridiculous armor and hmm-hoom dialogue outside Sen’s Fortress, or Rosabeth’s insistence on getting new clothes before heading to Majula. Hollow Knight has some moments like that, but they feel undercut:
        – Cornifer is super cheerful, but shortly after meeting him, we find out he’s basically abandoned his wife above ground to wander a dangerous labyrinth.
        – Quirrel also has a bright disposition, but he shares his name with a Harry Potter villain. Between that and the fact that he’s better armed than we are, it’s feeling signposted that Bad Stuff will somehow happen involving him.

        Thus far, Willoh is the only NPC I’ve met without some sort of ominous baggage. I guess we could also count the Last Stag, since opening fast travel points seems to jog his memories. I’m not entirely convinced that rescuing the sad caterpillars isn’t going to result in some larval golem superboss later in the game.

        I appreciate your avoiding spoilers; Hollow Knight is the first game I’ve played completely blind in quite a while. I haven’t even looked at the trophy list. I’m looking forward to seeing the journey to its end, even if it lands in the same ‘amazing game I’ll never play again’ zone as Shadow of the Colossus.

    2. John says:

      Which characters are you using for ranked matches in Fantasy Strike? I’ve been using Jaina, Valerie, and Onimaru. Sometimes I think about replacing Onimaru, but I haven’t found anybody I like better yet. I’ve tried Setsuki, Grave, DeGrey, and Geiger in casuals with mixed results.

      I envy your winning streak. I had a seven game streak last week that moved me from Silver to Gold, but it ended abruptly last night and I’m back down to Silver again.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I’m running Geiger/Onimaru/DeGrey. I picked the first two because they remind me of how I played Blanka in Street Fighter IV (a turtling charge character and a dude who controls space with big normals, respectively). I like DeGrey because he feels like a Marvel vs. Capcom character thanks to Persephone, and I always wanted to be good at one of those games. Beyond cheesing some trophies with my son, I haven’t really used anyone else yet. He’s into Valerie, Setsuki, and Lum, but Valle-style rushdown isn’t my usual approach.

        My win streak is more a commentary of what gameplay looks like in the bronze division than any reflection on my skill. So far, I’ve seen:
        1.) Someone who apparently went to make a sandwich while still in queue, so I won my first match with nine perfect rounds;
        2.) A player who thought Onimaru’s armor moves were a foolproof route to victory, even as I kept knocking them down with those same armor moves;
        3.) A Jaina player who was rather fond of midrange Dragonhearts;
        4.) A Setsuki player who only used teleport kicks for an entire match (even sadder, they beat me with that!);
        5.) A tight, gripping DeGrey mirror match, followed by my opponent more or less letting me pulverize their other two characters.

        I suspect a good chunk of this can be attributed to ‘beginner’s league syndrome,’ and I look forward to seeing what play looks like with some of the chaff culled from the wheat, so to speak.

        1. John says:

          Hah. That takes me back. I haven’t played a Bronze match since July, but that’s similar to the experiences I had then and to the experiences I still sometimes get when I’m playing a new character in casuals. The difference between Bronze and Gold, I’m afraid, is that the guy in Gold who apparently wandered off and made a sandwich while you won three straight rounds will come back from the kitchen and proceed to destroy you in the next nine. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen, and when it happens it hurts. Ouch.

          I tend to choose characters on the basis of how intuitive their moves feel to me. Onimaru was my first choice because I like long-range attacks that keep my opponent at a distance. I’m not a rush down kind of a guy, but I like Valerie anyway because her B-B mixups are so good for whiff-punishing. Jaina is just a solid all-around character. I figured I needed a zoner in the rotation and I find Jaina less fiddly than the other three, though Grave is also pretty good.

  66. RamblePak64 says:

    Resident Evil VII: Just finished this up last night on stream. I discovered with both Alien: Isolation and the demo for RE7 that I don’t do first-person horror well. It makes me way more anxious and nervous, and after a game session I typically need something to calm me down. However, Resident Evil 8 looks like it could be awesome, so I decided to download 7 off of Game Pass, set it to Easy, and play it on stream. That latter detail was surprisingly effective in easing up the tension. I agree with a lot of what Night Mind had to say regarding the game, but I wouldn’t call it secretly genius from start to finish. When you’re creeping around the house, a nearly invincible presence stalking you, that’s when the game is at its best. It takes the standard old school Resident Evil atmosphere of wandering an environment that requires keys and puzzle solving, and instead of littering minor threats everywhere, you have one threat to be concerned about. It also makes it easier for the game to add moments of calm after madly intense moments.

    But then the Molded show up, and it’s basically like playing Resident Evil: Revelations all over again. Each room has at least one monster, and that monster is an uninteresting design that absorbs bullets. It’s like they wanted to combine the fleshy monster of Revelations with the Ouroboros from 5. These foes don’t show up often enough to be that much of a nuisance… until you hit the final stretch, which is basically a long series of corridors where enemies can show up in front of or behind you. The horror is gone at that point.

    Still, good experience, and while I prefer the RE2 Remake, I’m only more excited for RE8.

    The Medium: I technically beat this at the end of last month and wrote about it on my own blog. I only mention it because, though I’m pretty sure you don’t have Game Pass after your many horrific experiences with the store front, I’d be interested in your thoughts on it. Silent Hill is clearly an inspiration, and the devs have even said that fans of that franchise should give The Medium a look, but I found it to be unable to measure up. It’s not bad, but a combination of an awful ending and endless series of questions regarding the logic of its world kept me from truly loving it. I appreciate what it does… I guess fine, but it’s probably the first forgettable game I’ve played in 2021.

    Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition: This is not only the third time I’ve purchased this game, but the fourth or fifth time I’ve started it. However, I’m actually about to finish it! I’m at the final dungeon, and… I… have to grind. Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed discovering how grinding in a lot of JRPG’s is actually not necessary, and have additionally learned to more deeply enjoy that game’s mechanics as a result. When everyone claimed you had to grind between the first two chapters of Octopath Traveler, I objected because I did no such thing. I feel like grinding is a crutch many rely on, but many games aren’t built with grinding as a necessity.

    Xenoblade Chronicles, however, needs you to grind before the first of many bosses in its final dungeon. The most efficient way to level up are side quests. Unfortunately, those side quests all require me to be ten-to-twenty levels higher than I am in order to complete. So, I either need to just fight every monster in the final dungeon, maybe gaining a level or two despite the time investment required, or I can just knock the difficulty down to “casual” and bumrush through. I’m leaning on the latter. Very unfortunate, because it tarnishes an otherwise excellent game.

    Touhou Luna Nights: I discovered this game after researching Team Ladybug, current developer of early access Metroidvania Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth. It was my first early access game, what with being based on a favorite OVA of mine (okay, the game itself is likely based on the light novels, whose story did not turn out as excellent as the OVA), and the excellent implementation of Ikaruga-style mechanics into a ‘vania was just… superb. So I found that this Touhou Luna Nights game was on Game Pass and their prior project, and decided to give it a whirl. It’s been just as excellent and just as creative, relying on throwing daggers as the protagonist’s soul weapon and clever time-stopping mechanics. The bosses are the highlight here, as is the ability to regenerate health or magic/time through the “graze” mechanic. Basically, get close to a foe or let their attack just barely touch you, and you can recover instead of suffer damage. The hit boxes are extremely generous as a result, but attacks are also fast or plentiful enough that a careless player can get wounded easily rather than recover. There’s a whole series of creative platforming and boss fights, and it may be a game I return to regularly. Team Ladybug is definitely a developer I’ll be keeping my eye on.

    Blue Fire: I just started streaming this last Friday, so I don’t have much to say yet. Won’t be playing more until this Friday. As a platformer, it controls really well. There were a number of jumps that I was concerned I’d misjudge, yet I performed them perfectly. In that regard, the character is perfectly mobile. The combat, however, is not so smooth. I don’t have a way to really describe it in a useful manner, though. It may be that locking onto an opponent means any use of “dash” will lunge you towards your foe, removing your ability to dodge attacks. I’m not sure, because dodge never seemed to do much for me. Nonetheless, platforming feels like it’s the primary focus, combined with world exploration. They imitate the “bonfire” element of Dark Souls, as well as limited quantities of healing, but you can pick up more healing items, and enemies don’t respawn unless you exit and return to an area. So it’s a fusion of inspirations rather than a clone of any one specific game. It’s only $20, but the game also crashed on me (on PC), so might be worth waiting a bit for some additional post-launch polish.

    That should cover everything I’ve been playing. Once I’m finished Xenoblade I’m contemplating Valkyria Chronicles, Steamworld Quest, or Grandia HD on my Switch. Not sure which I’m more in the mood for at the moment.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I watched a bit of The Medium on Matt McMuscles’s Youtube channel. It looks pretty cool. I later found out that the developers patented their split-screen gimmick, which seems less cool.

      1. Syal says:

        Supergreatfriend just played through the whole thing. It’s pretty but doesn’t do much; it’s very linear, and there’s at least one checkpoint problem.

        1. RFS-81 says:

          This is so sad. The cutscene was genuinely creepy the first time.

          1. RamblePak64 says:

            Yeah I died a couple times there. It wasn’t immediately clear what to do for some reason.

            The funny thing about them patenting the split-screen gimmick is that other devs already did it on DS and 3DS. They’re not doing anything unique. However, as has recently been discussed with the Nemesis system patent, language has to be broad and you have to be able to prove no one else has done what you did, so they don’t really dominate the market with “two screens” gameplay.

            I think the best way I could describe The Medium is that it is a perfectly fine Game Pass game. I enjoyed it enough to play it, but I’m glad I had it as part of a subscription instead of paying money for it.

  67. Blue Painted says:

    I’ve been playing GTA V – overwriting my saved games from 2019 and earlier. I got back into it because I was finally getting bored on Farming Simulator 19 but rapidly became me playing through the single player story. To me, as a non-American, the world feels very “game American” with the visuals, the chat, the NPCs, the cars, radio and TV and the layout and so on and so on, and while I wouldn’t exactly claim the satire defense (note spelling!) I do think it conveys the feel very well. There are plot holes and disjointed story there are places where sticking plaster (band aid) has been applied; e.g. when Franklin and Trevor aren’t being paid for stealing high value cars by Devin Weston, Trevor’s response “after we get paid he is going to learn why you don’t piss off a man like me”
    But really … the main reason I like GTA V is the auto-aim (stands back and waits for the obligatory abuse) because I like to use a controller to drive with but I can’t twitch-aim and it’s tedious and mood-breaking to be a rubbish shot when playing an experienced and lethal gangster like Michael, Trevor or Franklin. That’s partly what put me of the Saints’ Row series, as well as the naff cartoony look, and Mafia 2, which was lovely to look at for period detail.

  68. Mephane says:

    I got myself Torchlight 3 recently for some simple monster slaying (I love Grim Dawn but sometimes I just don’t want to deal with that much compexity), only to be recruited into Final Fantasy 14 by a friend a few days later. So that’s what I have actually been playing since then.

  69. Adrian Lopez says:

    AoE 2 definitive edition.

    I get some weird satisfaction being terrible at microing my units and losing to the AI every match…

  70. Fugu Tabetai says:

    Tyranny – a really great RPG built on the Pillars of Eternity engine. It is short (I finished one play through in 40 hours?) and I’m on my second playthrough since it has real replay value with large chunks of the game changing based on choices you make. It has the most fun magic system I’ve seen in a long time, where you get to create and customize the spells you want to use. Very nice.

    I’m also playing Street Fighter V, but I’ve been playing an hour or two of that week for the past 5 years. I’m a gold (low) level player just having fun on ranked matches and some online tournaments here and there.

    I’ve also started, based on hearing about it seemingly constantly, playing (gulp) Hunnie Pop, and I really enjoy it. Much better than Bejeweled.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I genuinely enjoy Fantasy Strike more than Street Fighter V, but I should probably keep up a practice regimen of sorts so I don’t lose the ability to throw a Shoryuken. I really want to give KoF XV a shot when it launches.

  71. I’ve actually been playing several games, not just DDO:

    The Falconeer: I’ve only played this a little because the tutorial and story are rubbish. They’re just rubbish. And I’m pissed off because they have you pick a “character” (although apparently you play as several different characters? This choice makes no sense to me.) and there are NO. FEMALES. None. Zip. Zero. This is a stupid oversight in this day and age because the “characters” are just an animated bust that you see for maybe 30 seconds. The “story” consists of some weird mystic lady mumbling mystic stuff with zero context or meaning and some NPC’s shouting at you to do things. Also, I’ve been having trouble rationalizing the controls because I flat refuse to use a controller. It has an idiotic design where you can only change SOME of the keybinds, the rest are locked in. I can’t tell if the game part is any good or not because the tools I need to EXPERIENCE the game all suck. People who are actually willing to play with a controller might have a different experience, though.

    Bee Simulator. I got this because I’ve been wanting to play a fantasy flying game since Drakkan: Order of the Flame and apparently that genre just doesn’t exist on PC any more except for The Falconeer. So when that game turned into a big frustration fest, I got Bee Simulator, which . . . actually turned out to be a pretty decent buy. It’s a “kid’s” game (say 5-11), really, but the “game” part is actually quite well-developed and pretty fun. The story is short (I finished it in 3 hours), but the sandbox is bigger than I was expecting (I didn’t explore all of it). My only major quibble is that they screwed up on their terminology and kept saying “bees need to collect pollen for winter” and “we need to store more pollen”. Bees don’t collect pollen. They collect NECTAR, which flowering plants produce specifically to lure in pollinators. The pollen sticks to them more or less accidentally. However, this can be overlooked, and I think it might just have been a translation issue because the game was actually made in Russia by a Russian team. The game also has a multiplayer mode so you could, in theory, get this and play it with your kids.

    Woodoku: The name is misleading because this game has nothing to do with Sudoku except for the 9 x 9 board. It’s just a “fill in the blocks to clear them” game, but it’s actually quite tough due to the variety of block shapes and the fact that you have no idea what is coming shape-wise and has a few challenge modes with more complex puzzles. It’s a fun little mobile game, and I haven’t noticed any in-app purchases or constant asking for money apart from the ubiquitious “get these other games!” ads. When you fail a puzzle, you can just retry right away (after watching a 5-second ad), you don’t get X number of tries per day and when those are out you have to buy more.

  72. CloverMan-88 says:

    This year I decided to make a dent in my impossibly bloated backlog (500 games that haven’t been touched) and decided to play a different game for an hour every day. If something grabs me, I might play longer, but as soon as I feel like I’ve seen most of what the game has to offers, I’m off to a next game.

    And this approach is A LOT of fun! Every evening is exciting, and I no longer force myself to finish games I no longer enjoy. I’ve checked out more than 35 games in January alone, so I might actually play all games I own in the next 3-4 years if I don’t slow down my purchasing.

  73. Philadelphus says:

    Been playing a lot of Age of Empires II: Definitive Editions with the new Lords of the West expansion (which…not a name I would’ve picked, especially considering that of the two civilizations it adds one is the Burgundians and one is the Sicilians). Two of the three campaigns it adds are basically “Betrayal of your Childhood: The Campaign,” where you play as the antagonists in two of the original campaigns from 1999 and undo all the work you accomplished as William Wallace and Joan of Arc. They’re well-made, though, and interesting enough, and the new civilization seem fine to me as a non-multiplayer player (though I’m not chuffed at the Sicilians having both unique techs be one-time rewards).

    Finally got around to finishing Astroneer lately—I’d gotten lost a few months ago underground with a drilling rover on my way to the core of the planet you start on, and it was just a bit more than I could handle. I finally went back, dug my way to the surface, found my base again, and went on to finish the game with some additional upgrades, and had a good bit of fun with it. I like the automation stuff they’ve started adding since mid-last year, like the automation arms and the auto-miners; you can set up some nifty automated bases now. I love the stylized art style the game has going on.

    I’ve also been playing Monster Sanctuary since picking it up just after release in early December. It’s been interesting. It’s like a Metroidvania crossed with a competitive monster-collection/battling game, where they claim every monster is balanced with every other and viable in competitive, from the first ones you find to the end of the game. I’m not much for that, though, so I’ve just enjoyed the collections aspect and the story, though the monster ideas are sometimes a bit…less-than-original. (Did we really need four different species of “Blobs” [basically slimes]? And don’t get me started on “Catzerker”…) Also it’s very focused on ability, so you get rated on how well you do each battle and your ability to acquire new monsters is linked to doing well, as instead of catching them you have a chance to get a monster egg after each battle if you did well enough. I’m not 100% sold on the idea (though I like the different means of catching monsters other than tossing a Pokéball-equivalent), but I mostly do well enough that it’s not an annoyance.

  74. Utzel says:

    I’m currently playing Hitman 3, amongst some others. Currently on mobile and short on time, but just wanted to inform Shamus (and other readers) that owners of the previous titles on Steam can now import their games and unlock the levels on Epic, no need to buy again.

  75. Retsam says:

    I could talk about some of the novel things I’m playing, like Oxygen Not Included.

    … or I could talk about some of the old standbys that I’m playing like Stardew Valley and Minecraft.

    … but if I’m being really honest? I’m playing Simon Tatham’s Portable Puzzle Collection and it’s become something of an addiction. Send help!

    But seriously, it’s a pretty solid set of no-nonsense implementations of some really good puzzles. I’m really impressed with it’s ability to quickly generate varying difficulty puzzles of all these various types. I started with Slant, I’ve spent the most time on Loopy, with it’s many interesting variants, and I’ve also enjoyed various others like Net, Palisade, and Signpost.

    Honestly, I’ve had a better sense of progression with a lot of these puzzles than I’ve had with most games recently. I’ve had a lot of really satisfying progression from “this seems impossible” on the easy levels to “this is pretty trivial now” on the harder levels. It’s less about solving the individual puzzles and more about figuring out the sort of “meta-rules” that I need to solve each puzzle in practice.

  76. I’ve been playing a lot of Hades. Its just about the only Roguelike/lite I’ve played where the Rougeish elements helped the story rather then making it so you ended up replaying the same few scenes at the start several dozen times in the hopes of getting to a few pages of new stuff at the end game. Also you can pet the dog.

    I’ve been playing dragon quest 8 on the DS. Mechanically its standard JRPG with a few quirks. The bestiary has a little description for every monster. There a few new things for the DS version like a photo taking quest and full heal on level up. Has the best the long term villains in the series and slow burn plot.

    Bit of playing of Lord of Rings Online. It deals with a lot of the annoyances of the genre by having auto looting, it being mostly sole-able and possibly the most mature chat in any mmorpg. Its a game that let you have a modest and consistent fun level of hours on end.

    I’ve been continuing to player Sryth for at least an hour a day whilst I record it for my podcast (link on my name). Its a text based RPG with were nearly everything you do is unique handwritten events and you can truely play the hundreds of the hours at your own pace. Also its fully accessible to blind people.

  77. Dalisclock says:

    After finishing Dark Souls 3, I decided to finish my run of the Ace Combat series(after 7 introduced me to it last year).

    Ace Combat 5:The Unsung War: In some ways it’s an improvement over 4 and in some ways it’s got a number of steps back. On the bright side, getting to customize your squadrons planes is really cool and the fact your wingmen have actual personalities is nice. The cutscenes being related to you and the people around you is nice, and less events happening on the far side of the world only tangentially related to you is also a step up(though it’s silly the lengths they got to avoid showing the PC when in cutscenes). The game also has some cool bits where you get alternative mission branches(some missions have A and B variants) but unfortunately are determined by a coin flip and some of these missions are much more annoying then their alternative variants(THE FOUR HORSEMEN). There’s also some really nice setpieces and it’s a lot of fun.

    The downsides that fairly grounded military campaign of AC4 is traded in partially for some plot twists and bombast that gets a bit much after a while. The Boss/superweapon encounters are fun but stretch credibility with just how many there are and how much punishment they can take(A Spaceplane that can lose all of it’s engines while in atmosphere and still somehow not die). There’s a whole conspiracy plotline that emerges that(to it’s credit) is telegraphed pretty early, like when the first cutscene tells you about a war that happened 15 years earlier and then moves on like it’s not supposed to mean anything(SPOILER:ITS VERY RELEVANT). It also feels like your military is flat out incompetent with the amount of shit only you can accomplish and how much you have to hand hold your allies.
    The game also throws some annoying bits at you where you have to do several missions in a row with no save points offered(at least you don’t have to redo them all when you die) but one of them is fairly tedious combined with a bit that requires you to fly through a long, dark tunnel near the end(have fun repeating all of that when you die). Also, every so often your wingmen ask you questions over the radio, and you’ll have a chance to answer YES/NO, except sometimes they will ask you one after another and at the worst times(in the middle of combat) and the controls to answer(the d-pad) are the same to issue wingman commands, so you can’t issue commands while they’re taking. So one step forward, one step back.

    Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War: So this is the prequel game to the entire series, detailing the settings version of WW2(but with 90’s fighter planes). This time, you play as a mercenary hired as a last ditch attempt to keep Not-Germany from overrunning one of it’s neighbors, which I think is Not-Italy along with your wingman, who is frighting good for an AI pilot and has an interesting character. The plot is generally fine and grounded until about the halfway point, when you’ve begun taking the war to the enemy in their territory and the plot takes a very dark turn, including WAR CRIMES and it suddenly starts looking like nobody is the good guy in this war(and this becomes a plot point) and in retrospect your involvement feels kinda sketchy since you’ve been enabling some of this shit with your victories. The fact the game offers you optional targets to kill for more money(to buy better planes and weapons) that are non-combatants(and some of no military value) is kind of a subtle indictment if you choose to indulge in this. One notable gimmick is the fact the mini-bosses, various special aircraft squadrons, are variable based on just how often you have been killing these optional neutral targets, so while some are fixed, others will be one of 3 different squadrons that will show up in that particular mission.

    It does have a killer final boss fight that feels much more impactful then other games in the series because of how it’s set up. Less because of “you need to kill this guy to save the world” and more of who the final boss ends up beingYour wingman who has gone full nihilist after both sides went scorched earth the fact the fight is a 1 on 1 fighter duel set to some killer music(SPANISH GUITAR INTESTIFIES) that frames the whole thing as a particular deadly dance.

  78. SidheKnight says:

    Pretty late to the party, but I’m currently playing Dragon Age: Inquisition and though it was hard to get into, I ended up quite liking it . I just finished the main storyline and I’m about to start the DLC missions.

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