This Week I Played… (October 2021)

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 12, 2021

Filed under: TWIP 247 comments

I’m recovered from surgery, freshly infused with iron, and feeling like myself again. The weather has been ridiculously nice lately and I’m getting some exercise.  If I continue to eat right and get the exercise I need, then maybe I can wring another two or three weeks out of this broken-down old body before I drop dead. All in all, things are going pretty good!

So here’s what I’ve been playing lately…

Filament

Let's see, if I wrap around the left side, then go up, then move to the right, I'll still be confused but I'll be standing in a different part of the room. Progress!
Let's see, if I wrap around the left side, then go up, then move to the right, I'll still be confused but I'll be standing in a different part of the room. Progress!

I really enjoy these puzzles. You begin with a tether / wire,Or maybe it’s like, I dunno, a filament or something? Who can say? and you need to wrap it around all of the pillars in the room. The trick is that some pillars need to touch the wire on a particular side, and you can’t cross over any of the wire you’ve already put down.

People warned me that the game is “really hard”, but I actually find the difficulty to be confusingly uneven. Here is how a typical play session will go.

I faceroll through half a dozen puzzles in under a minute.

“Bah! This is easy. I wish I still had Twitter so I could flex about how awesome I am at this “hard” puzzle game.”

Then I get to the next puzzle and all forward progress just STOPS.

“I don’t get it. There are only five pillars. I’ve been at this long enough to brute force the dang thing, and I still can’t see how to solve it. Is this real? Is this a joke? Is this puzzle actually impossible?”

I start to get embarrassed at how long I’ve been stuck on this particular puzzle. Eventually I’ll blindly stumble into the solution, without really seeing what I was doing wrong. Then I’ll plow through another handful of puzzles and the process will repeat.

I dunno. It’s weird.

Also, there’s some girlI’ll actually be disappointed if it’s really just a person. I’m hoping I’m dealing with an AI or an alien or something. gently negging you over the radio between  puzzles. You’re supposedly here to rescue her or something? I tend to have strong negative reactions to this sort of behavior, so I really want to just flip off the security cameras and walk out. I’m a busy spaceman and if my rescue is not to her liking, then she’s free to wait until someone else comes along.

Death Loop

Man, someday I want to play a game that looks as awesome as its own concept art.
Man, someday I want to play a game that looks as awesome as its own concept art.

This rogue-lite has you attempting to break out of a time loop. This is clearly Arkane taking what they learned from making Prey: Mooncrash and making an entire game built around this concept of repeating a single day again and again while learning new things and attempting to “solve” the day once and for all. It’s not an instant classic like Prey, but I’m still having fun with it.

Or I guess I was. I’ve learned enough now that I know what I need to do. I know which zones to visit at which time of day in order to assassinate all of the faction leaders. But now that I’ve seemingly solved the puzzle, I don’t feel a strong urge to enact my solution. So I sort of lost interest in the game and wandered off to play…

New World

Explore strange New Worlds...
Explore strange New Worlds...

As I’ve said on the podcast, this game is a mixed bag for me. I really love how open the gathering / crafting is. You don’t need to pick one profession and stick to that. You can gather everything, refine everything, and craft everything. The various systems feed into each other, so getting better at (say) smelting will give you access to higher tier items at the workshop, which will let you make a better skinning knife. In turn, skinning gives you more resources for tanning, which gives you more materials for armor crafting. And so on.

You may remember my series on Lord of the Rings Online. I know I was merciless in roasting that game, but I actually have a lot of affection for it. One of my favorite features was the way you could equip one item for stats and another for cosmetics. This allows you to stick with a particular look for your character instead of wearing an ever-changing clown suit as you rotate through new equipment.

Sadly, that feature came and went around 2010. Older games didn’t make allowances for cosmetics like this. Newer games got rid of this system because they want to sell you their gaudy overpriced, overdesigned doll clothes. Depending on how you count it, MMOs are roughly 30 years old now. And their “golden age” was just a few years long. The old games thought that wasting your time was part of the game, and the new games think that incessantly badgering you for money is part of the game.

The three factions. Every player has to pick a side, and then spend the rest of the game trying to benefit your side at the expense of the other two. Sigh. Welcome to the MMO version of, 'Everything Wrong with Humanity' Ugh.
The three factions. Every player has to pick a side, and then spend the rest of the game trying to benefit your side at the expense of the other two. Sigh. Welcome to the MMO version of, 'Everything Wrong with Humanity' Ugh.

New World is… fine. In terms of microtransactions, it’s not even bad by modern standards. But I still wish the LOTRO system had endured. I can wear the gear I find and end up dressed like a conquistador + pirate + knight + court jester, or I can shell out fifteen bucks and look like a foppish pirate king. But I can’t just run around looking like a peasant / commoner / deck hand. Those clothes are in the game and someone took the time to make them, but you’ll never wear them because they don’t have the stats you need. (Or if you do wear them, you won’t wear them for long, and they probably won’t match the other stuff you’re wearing.)

If we had the LOTRO system that allowed everyone to choose their own look, then we could have a huge variety of styles. But no. Instead we have the clown suit brigade on one side, where everyone is wearing some combination of the same half-dozen armor pieces shuffled together at random. On the other side we have the folks who paid for cosmetics and are thus resplendent in their glittering novelty armor. The first group all starts to blur together after a while. The second group can’t even dye their purchased armor, so if you buy the Golden Pantaloon Set you’ll end up looking exactly like everyone else who paid $15USD for the Golden Pantloons.I made up the name, but I promise I’m not overselling how ridiculous and overdesigned the paid armors are. So now we have to pay money to have less variety and less individual expression.

Boo.

The PvP meta-game is pretty interesting. It doesn’t embrace the glorious emergent chaos of EVE online, but I do enjoy logging in each day and seeing how the map has changed. I do notice there’s a a positive feedback loop where new players will prefer to join the strongest faction. And I’m willing to bet that PvP players on a losing faction will stop logging in once they get tired of getting overwhelmed every time they leave town. So it seems like this system would lead to runaway feedback where one faction will claim the entire map and bring an end to PvP. Maybe there are systems to counter-balance this tendency and I’m not seeing them. I don’t know.

Above I said that every player has to pick a side, but I’m curious what would happen if you were to pull a Doubleagent and simply refuse to choose? You’ll end up paying higher taxes everywhere you go, and I’m not sure how you could obtain storage bags. But I do wonder how far can you could reasonably get without picking a side.

This was a few days after launch. Now that we're a couple of weeks into it, the map is turning green. Who would have guessed that the faction thematically tied to PvP would perform so well in a game built around PvP?
This was a few days after launch. Now that we're a couple of weeks into it, the map is turning green. Who would have guessed that the faction thematically tied to PvP would perform so well in a game built around PvP?

There are lots of interesting weapons and playstyles, and any character can shift to any role. If you’ve been playing as a tank and you want to see what life is like as a healer, you don’t need to roll a new character and level them up. You just need to collect the required gear and you can switch to the new role.

It’s stable. It’s reasonably interesting. It looks great. The only thing wrong with it is the same thing wrong with its contemporaries. Microtransactions attack the foundations of what makes these games fun. It’s not about the cost, it’s about replacing gameplay systems with a storefront. It’s inherently hostile to the idea of a game, and it makes me sad.


So that’s what I’ve been up to. What have you been playing?

 

Footnotes:

[1] Or maybe it’s like, I dunno, a filament or something? Who can say?

[2] I’ll actually be disappointed if it’s really just a person. I’m hoping I’m dealing with an AI or an alien or something.

[3] I made up the name, but I promise I’m not overselling how ridiculous and overdesigned the paid armors are.



From The Archives:
 

247 thoughts on “This Week I Played… (October 2021)

  1. ivan says:

    So, I saw someone streaming New World during the beta. We basically agreed, it was a perfectly fine, pretty, MMO. Just about as good as another MMO and just exactly as boring to play as most.

    So, I downloaded TERA instead, to see if the combat in that game is actually as good as I remembered. Long story short, it’s hard to tell, because so much about the game has changed. It’s now trivial to walk through a level appropriate 5 man dungeon, and take legit 0 damage even from the secret bosses, that’s how much the game has been made a complete joke during the levelling process.

    As well, the game is littered with vestigial remnants of old mechanics, for example dye merchants in major cities selling you toolkits to make dyes, even though the ingredients you need to harvest don’t exist anymore in the game, and those dye kits are now entirely useless. Just one example, there are plenty.

    The game was never perfect, naturally, I quit it years ago (about 7), but it is still as shame to see that it has been reduced so much

  2. tmtvl says:

    I’m still gathering up things for my all cheevos run of DS2 (the original, not SotFS). I have done my no-death run of NG, after I clear out the DLCs I’ll do a no-bonfire run of NG+. I think the most tedious part is getting 40 sunlight medals which I need to trade in for a miracle (faith-based magic).

    1. Mokap says:

      How do you feel about DS2? I’ve only played SotFS, but to me it was definitely my least favourite of the series.

      1. tmtvl says:

        I haven’t played DS3, but DS2 is my favourite: being able to roll in every direction when locked on is nice, the level design reduces the amount of wall-clipping hits, power stance is a nice alternative to sword & board, it’s nice being able to get the NPC invasions without needing to keep human form, I prefer the DS2 Fashion Souls, being able to aim with crossbows is nice, I like the addition of hexes (resonance is an interesting mechanic), I like that parry-riposte is no longer stupid OP, and I like the Lucatiel storyline.

  3. Lino says:

    4 months since the last TWIP thread. Such a long time has passed that people have been asking for a new TWIP in other articles! My body is SO READY for this thread :D :D :D

    As for me, here are the games I remember playing:

    Horizon: Zero Dawn. I absolutely adored the worldbuilding in this one! I was lapping up the lore like a man possessed! Unfortunately, I wasn’t as crazy about the present-day characters – they all seemed a bit too generic for me. Also, since this was my first open-world RPG I had seriously begun playing since Witcher III, I was very disappointed with the sidequests.

    I’m used to the Witcher approach where the quest starts off as pretty mundane, but WAIT! There’s a twist, and it turns out nothing was as it seemed! Next time you have a mundane-looking quest, you come in expecting a twist, but it turns out the twist is EVEN BETTER than you thought! In Horizon, the mundane quest turns out to actually be… well, mundane, what did you expect?

    That being said, though, the game looks gorgeous, and the fighting system is pretty fun, too. I definitely recommend it, if nothing else thanks to the really captivating backstory and worldbuilding.

    Control. Loved the worldbuilding and the combat system – Telekinesis hasn’t been this fun since the powered-up Gravity Gun! Although by the end of the game, the fighting really began getting in the way of the story.

    E.g. I had just gotten to the model-city of Ordinary, which felt like a real payoff to the enthralling story thus far. The mystery had finally began to unravel! Eager to explore I went in, but then BAM! – here’s another giant fight vs 50 mooks! All I could do is scream internally “STOP IT WITH THE FIGHTING! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A NARRATIVE MOMENT!”. Oh, also I’d like to make an official request for The Former to eat shit and die! What the fuck were they thinking with that fight and checkpoint, FFS!

    On the whole, though, it’s a really cool game with some really interesting worldbuilding. Somehow, it works better for me than the SCP Wiki ever did.

    Star Wars™: Jedi: Fallen Order™: EA™. Boy, do I have a lot to say about this one. I’ll try to keep it short:

    1. Not only does the game look gorgeous, but I think they really nailed that Star Wars feel. I loved the characters, and the story – even though the latter isn’t entirely something we’ve never seen before. But I think it adds enough new elements to make it feel new and fresh. Also, I know Shamus hated it, but I thought the Vader fight at the end was sick!

    2. No matter what people tell me, the fighting system is nowhere near as good as the old Jedi Knight games. Call me a boomer, but lightsaber combat shouldn’t look like you’re hitting each other with glowsticks. But wait, having a lightsaber hit be lethal means your Jedi will feel unstoppable! No, it doesn’t. Just look at Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast. Play that on Jedi Master, and tell me how powerful you feel – especially right after you take your lightsaber. Oh, and speaking of difficulty:

    3. I’m really starting to hate the effect Dark Souls has had on the 3rd person hack ‘n slash genre. Even more than before. I played this game on Jedi Master, and didn’t find it too difficult, apart from one or two places. BUT OH MY GOD, WHY DO YOU HAVE CONSTANTLY RESPAWNING ENEMIES?!?!?!? It makes sense in Dark Souls, narratively speaking – everybody’s in this Purgatory kind of thing, the world is full of magic that’s gone to shit, etc., BUT THIS IS STAR WARS! It makes absolutely ZERO sense for Stormtroopers to respawn right behind me on this remote, desolate planet in a place nowhere near their garrisons! And how much native fauna do I have to kill before I’ve genocided the entire planet? Where TF are they coming from? Also, unlike Dark Souls, this is an actual Metroidvania, so respawning enemies make backtracking (a traditional feature of this genre) extremely annoying. Say what you will about Darksiders III (I admit, I’m in the minority who actually loved it), but at least it had the decency to NOT respawn its enemies.

    4. That being said, I had a lot of fun collecting all the things, and ended up nearly 100%-ing it

    Super Auto Pets. Really cute auto-battler I play mainly on mobile. It uses an infinite lobby system, which solves my main issue with the genre, namely – I always feel rushed to make a choice in a complicated system I don’t understand yet. In Auto Pets you have all the time you need to make choices, and you can play at your own pace. The only issue is that after a while the meta becomes really stale, as you’ve quickly figured out all the good builds

    Blade of Darkness My favourite game of all time. Since this comment is long enough as it is, here’s the quick and easy of why I like it. It just became available on GOG, and I’m beside myself with joy!

    At the same time, a small part of me feels kind of guilty playing it. I mean, I just paid a bunch of money for this beast of a machine, yet here I am playing a game that came out in 2001, and which no one else really cares about. But then again, that little voice tends to get drowned out by the sheer joy and elation I feel as I dismember orcs, and use their limbs as weapons….

    1. Geebs says:

      You don’t actually know that the Stormtroopers have respawned. It might just be a different one who happens to be posted to the same unreachable ledge.

      1. Lino says:

        And the rest of the Stormtroopers were nice enough to quietly walk past the meditating Cal, so they can take the exact same places of their brutally massacred comrades. So considerate!

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          I love the thought of stormtroopers gravely sliding down all those swoopy vine things.

    2. boz says:

      Also, unlike Dark Souls, this is an actual Metroidvania, so respawning enemies make backtracking (a traditional feature of this genre) extremely annoying.

      Constantly respawning enemies is one of the pillars of Metroidvanias. You just start ignoring them during your backtrack sessions.

      1. Lino says:

        Yes, but in normal metroidvanias by the time you go back, you can blaze through all the enemies. It’s even kind of cathartic. Not so much the case with a game aping Dark Souls, where even later on you still need to be careful when backtracking.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          My solution to the backtracking was not to do it.

          I didn’t even go back for the stim upgrades.

    3. RamblePak64 says:

      Say what you will about Darksiders III (I admit, I’m in the minority who actually loved it), but at least it had the decency to NOT respawn its enemies.

      I feel the need to specify that the enemies do not respawn unless you die. At least, on the difficulties I played on, which were on the higher end. However, it’s still enough of a difference once you decide to make your item collection rounds (and if you’re doing a replay of the game, it makes back-tracking all the easier because you’ll likely be good enough at the game to defeat some of the bosses without dying, and thus once you have new abilities you’ll be able to tread back through old zones combat free).

      I’ve said it several times in these comments sections before, but Darksiders 3 really is the better version of Jedi: Fallen Order to me. They’re both a triple fusion of character action, Dark Souls, and Metroid, but Darksiders 3 manages to make all of those elements mix in a cohesive fashion whereas Jedi: Fallen Order just seems to stumble all over itself and feel mechanically inconsistent with its own goals.

    4. evilmrhenry says:

      Oh, hey, Darksiders III. Fun game, the instant you learn how to dodge. That learning curve, though….

    5. BlueHorus says:

      Blade of Darkness…just became available on GOG, and I’m beside myself with joy!

      Huzzah! Guess I know what I’m buying next…

    6. Sabrdance says:

      I have the same take on Horizon. I like the game a lot more in theory than I do in practice. If I hadn’t spoiled the plot, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of the Embrace. Also -the size of the world without the ability to save at will is moderately annoying, even with overriding and mounting machines.

      As for Jedi: I also liked the game, and also thought the lightsaber combat of Jedi Knight was superior. I still have fond memories of the Tavion fight. (And, of course, putting on g_saberralisticcombat 1).

  4. Duoae says:

    Hmmm. The very high view of the PVP mechanics in New World sound a bit like Planetside’s dynamics.

    From the couple of servers i played on back in the day, it could go one of two ways:

    – The smallest side never recovers, leading to them having brief breakout points in the day where they have more members than the other factions but which gains are quickly overturned as so as the other faction turns up to their shift.

    – The constant battling against huge odds leads to very cohesive and ordered structure on the weakest side. The players get better because they have to and ultimately, high profile wins and tales of daring raids attract other players to the faction, correcting some of the lopsidedness.

    I’ve played on both sides of those situations. It can be fun to feel you’re the little guy battling against the odds.

    OT: This week, I’ve been playing PC building simulator… which I’ve discovered is a terrible title for the actual game. It’s more akin to Recettear crossed with game dev tycoo – where you get orders and must meet timelines in your business, as well as trying to do a bit of prediction with what parts you can pre-purchase to enable troubleshooting and faster turnarounds without holding too much stock.

    I’m thoroughly enjoying it and best of all it was free through EGS!

    Though, my main criticism of it so far is lack of randomness (in terms of setbacks) and lack of difficulty due to the fact that there’s no time limit per day.

    You’re not really tested on the skills you learn in terms of optimisation and diagnosing because you can spend as long as you want, as long as you have parts in stock to perform repairs/builds.

    Unless this is all coming at some later point in the game? I feel like this is a major oversight which will kill any long term interest on my part.

    1. From what I’ve seen on my server, the PvP mechanics are pretty well balanced regardless of how big or small the factions are. The wars are 50 man groups max, so it doesn’t matter if 300 people sign up on one side as long as the other side can field at least 50. What matters A LOT at the moment is the level that everyone on either side are, and how many of them bring a good PVP spec with a lot of AOE and crowd control. I think this will even out as more people get their characters to the level cap and the casuals with level 30 characters stop trying to join the war.

      The other big factors is that the defender just flat out has an advantage due to the way the war combat is laid out. They can invest in their town and get defensive upgrades that make it even harder for an attacker. Also, the defender schedules when the war takes place, which can include scheduling it for an inconvenient time when most of the heavy hitters on the other side simply can’t make it. And people in the third faction can participate and sign up on either side if they feel like it.

      There’s also strategic stuff you can do, like triggering multiple wars simultaneously so the heavies have to split themselves between multiple different locations.

      There are also guilds with a bunch of dedicated top-level players who will hire themselves out to fight in your war.

      So there are a lot of strategic things you can do. I think they need to do one more thing which is to force-equalize the levels on both sides of the war. So, say, if you have a lot of 60’s and the other team has mostly 40’s and 50’s, you lose several slots because your total levels can’t exceed theirs. This would give lower-level characters a chance to be of value, because they’d be adding warm bodies while costing the other side slots. Due to the way the scaling, damage, and crowd control works, 2 40’s can still usually take down a 60 if they’re fairly smart. So being outnumbered would be a SERIOUS disadvantage that would probably compensate for any level disparity.

      Also, you can prevent the other side from even declaring war by organizing a lot of people to run Influence missions and keep the war bar from filling up.

      1. Thomas says:

        The classic EVE tactic, scheduling all your PVP timers for the Australian timezone because no-one lives there or wants to get up at 5am.

        1. I think there’s a range based on which server zone you’re in, but within that you get to pick.

          I was just in 2 wars today (we won, hooray!) and I have another one tomorrow.

        2. Ofermod says:

          I always enjoyed that feeling at the end of a long night of WvW in Guild Wars 2, when you’re just barely holding on to the gains because you’re in a weak time zone… and then one of the big time zones wakes up, logs on, and the reinforcements arrive.

  5. Arta_Shrike says:

    The system you mentioned for wearing on set of gear for stats and one for cosmetics? That system still lives on in Final Fantasy XIV. There’s a glamour system that lets you wear literally any piece of gear you find, as long as it’s appropriate for your chosen job.

    I’m not going to sing the game’s praises too highly – it has a slow start and I probably wouldn’t have made it through level 30 if a friend who loves the game (especially the most recent expansion, which to date is Shadowbringers) hadn’t practically dragged me through it. But I enjoy it now, there’s the same system in New World where any character can train any class, and while there is a cash shop, it’s not nearly as egregious as some games I’ve seen.

    1. Daimbert says:

      The Old Republic also specifically added it in a later build, and also made it so that your companions don’t need to be geared. This means that you can wear whatever you want while still being able to equip better armour, and then dress your companions however you want. And they did that while still selling things through the Cartel, which means that you can — as I do — buy those costumes from there (I use the Cartel Coins I get for free from being a subscriber) and wear them while keeping the in-game armours and the like for your character progression. So really, MMOs should be stealing this idea — which was a HUGE part of City of Heroes’ free-to-play store — to allow them to sell things that change the aesthetics without risking unbalancing gameplay and having people complain about that.

    2. DaveMc says:

      The example that always comes to my mind is City of Heroes, where your character’s appearance had nothing at all to do with their powers and abilities: making a superhero/villain/ambiguous figure to your exact visual specs was a big part of the game, and nobody had to change hats to get an extra attack boost … (Well, I shouldn’t entirely use the past tense: City of Heroes Homecoming is still out there, chugging away …)

      1. DaveMc says:

        (Whoops, I completely missed the fact that you were already referencing CoH in your comment! Well, it can never be mentioned too often …)

      2. Daimbert says:

        When they went free-to-play, the aesthetics were a big part of their store, as they could offer powersets and costume parts for sale without really impacting the ability to play the game for free. The coolness factor of building your own sets was already in the game so that should have worked to get people to pay for those things, avoiding most of Shamus’ complaints.

    3. Thomas says:

      Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (and presumably Valhalla?) use the same cosmetic set system. It’s great unlocking a cool legendary sword in a game and not having to use it to get to have your character wear it. This should be how all RPGs should work, single player or otherwise.

    4. Rariow says:

      In the MMO realm, Guild Wars 2 has a similar thing where you cn collect currency called Transmutation Charges which you can use to change the look of any piece lf gear into any other piece of gear you’ve collected before. The friend I duoed through the game wound up treating the game more like a cool character outfit simulator than anything else, hunting for rare skins and whatnot. I think it’s pretty cool that something as silly as cosmetics can open up an entire different avenue of play, though I guess WoW accomplished the same thing with mounts years before.

      It was also a feature added into Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, which is a great choice even if it’s single plsyer. Shockingly often the best armor available to the player is just swimming apparel, the wise mentor/legendary fighter from another war character has an entire skill tree dedicated to getting massive stat boosts when naked and the healer lady really loves to wear assless chaps, especially during the arc dealing with her missing fiance, all of which makes the cutscenes come across very weird. It’s not uncommon in a playthrough of the original game to wind up with the party rolling up to a confrontation with the villains dressed for a relaxing day at the beach. The story takes itself super seriously, but the armor designer seemed to not get the memo.

      1. Sleeping+Dragon says:

        IIRC Neverwinter (the MMO) also introduced a separate cosmetic system at some point.

    5. Bubble181 says:

      Also Diablo 3, though it’s not an MMO, just small-group multiplayer.

  6. Geebs says:

    Metroid Dread. It’s a good’un, although I’m amazed that Nintendo signed off on the player getting instakilled quite so often.

    No More Heroes. It’s fun but not as much fun as I remembered.

    Pokemon Shield. I can’t see the appeal at all but the offspring loves it.

    Lots of retro stuff on my new Anbernic. Mostly because I was gobsmacked that I could easily buy this thing on Amazon.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      In regards to Metroid Dread being signed off on, I feel like it’s a mixture of factors. I think within the core Metroid community there’s a fondness for Fusion due to its challenge compared to Super or Zero Mission. Similarly, MercurySteam seems to have a love of challenging/difficult games themselves (hence the original goal to make a Fusion remake, but Nintendo had them remake the second Metroid on 3DS before giving them the chance to revive and execute Dread, finally). I also wonder if it’s partially due to younger audiences seeming more open to challenging games these days (and by younger, I mean teens and twenties). Action games that thrive on reflex and difficulty are doing better than ever after the aughts and early 10’s saw them approach extinction, and while the go-to explanation is that Dark Souls popularized difficulty again, I think it’s more than that and perhaps just due to the rise of streaming and YouTube influencers being a set of core gamers that grew up with the more punishingly difficulty retro games, and therefore passing on that appreciation.

      That said, while I am finding the difficulty satisfying and only dying a bit to bosses/enemies (I don’t really count EMMI deaths, though I’ve improved at countering their pins), I’m in a community of mostly older games in their 40’s, 50’s, and some even approaching retirement, and most of them are having a very frustrating time with the difficulty. I imagine younger kids would also have an issue.

      On one hand, I feel like it makes sense for Nintendo to let one of their franchises whose following is pretty much made up of experienced, enthusiast gamers with less casual appeal to let loose with the challenge. On the other, I think they ought to patch in an easy mode for free, at the very least for some of the kids that may have a harder time with it. Of course, I also know that there will be a bunch of core audience that will beat the game and want a harder version, so knock yourselves out with a free hard mode DLC as well.

      We’ll see whether they bother with any of that, though. Nonetheless, Nintendo’s marketing push and the Switch’s marketshare seems set for this game to be the most successful Metroid yet.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        I managed to counter an EMMI exactly once, outside of the tutorial. Congrats on gitting gud at that!

        1. Geebs says:

          Yeah, it’s the EMMI stuff which feels really out of place for me; Metroid games are not really about sudden deaths and in fact are usually pretty blatant about auto-balancing by giving out more health and ammo pickups whenever the player has taken a hit. I’m not really sold on being required to avoid a quick-moving enemy in areas I haven’t had time to explore, and where I don’t yet know which bits of the environment I can interact with (which doors will open, what’s a switch, etc.) or even whether I arbitrarily can’t jump or climb walls with a particular power active.

          RamblePak64 mentioned Metroid Fusion as being challenging, but honestly I think I died 2-3 times in my entire playthrough of that game, as opposed to the 40 or so deaths I’ve had in the first couple of hours in Dread. I’m not finding it too onerous at the moment but it’s oddly jarring in a game that’s otherwise all about fluid movement and freedom to explore.

  7. Thomas says:

    My Mass Effect grand play through ended without completion in Mass Effect 3. Not because I wasn’t having fun, but just because I don’t have the will power to play through three 25 hour games back to back. This is how most of my attempts at a Mass Effect playthrough end. The concept of continuity across games is fun, but I’m unable to truly enjoy the full experience on replays.
    ————————
    I briefly played a mobile gacha game and then put it away for ever. The free-to-play is very generous. But that just reveals how awful free-to-play designed games are. I got almost everything I wanted without ever spending money, and that left me with…what? The only decisions areabout optimising time investment. I managed to out-damage fellow clan members who were 20 levels higher than me – something that wouldn’t be even dreamable if they played optimally, but if I played for another 20 days I’d have been doing that damage even if I played suboptimally.

    It’s not really a game, it’s a obfuscated clicker.
    —————————-
    And then I tried Voice of the Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars demo. The gimmick is that everything is card-based – the world-map is a series of cards that get turned face-up as you explore. It’s a very neat idea, the gamplay itself is a traditional JRPG with some deckbuilding aspects.

    The game is by the Nier people. All the NPCs you meet have little descriptions like “She worked at the potion shop but dreamed of sailing the oceans, where her brother had done”, and all the monsters look very cute and seem intelligent, so I can see the crapsack twists coming. Added to my wishlist.
    ———————————————-
    I tried the Tales of Arise demo. It looks beautiful and fun and I want to try it, but my PS5 fried two minutes into the demo, and I’m not sure it’s worth the risk when the console comes back from repair.
    ———————————————-
    I have learned that memorising at least one opening in chess instantly makes you a better chess player, but doesn’t stop you blundering you queen because you still can’t see bishops or calculate more than two moves into the future.
    ——————————————–
    I tried the Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy demo which is being made by/with Platinum games I think and is a bit Dark Souls-y. The combat looked well put together. But early into the demo I walked into a giant room with a bunch of monsters standing in groups, and it was clear I was meant to fight the monsters group by group and get through the room. I deleted the demo.

    I can’t play games that just want you to play the game for the games sake. There’s no attempt to create an atmosphere or place the monsters so they feel part of the world. It’s a videogame level that screams ‘this is a videogame level’, and it’s not for me.

    Later, I saw a clip online where the protagonist cuts off the female character who is talking to him, puts in his headphone, plays some music on his smartphone (this is a fantasy world), walks out of the room, takes his headphone off and starts talking to the girl who followed him out. So I don’t think I’m missing much.

    It looks like the fun but silly Platinum macho bravado, but I guess I’m older than I was when I first played Devil May Cry.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      Team Ninja is who Square Enix are working with on this one. It’s a bunch of members from the Nioh team, which is why a lot of players have said it plays and feels similar to how Nioh 2 plays and feels.

      Later, I saw a clip online where the protagonist cuts off the female character who is talking to him, puts in his headphone, plays some music on his smartphone (this is a fantasy world), walks out of the room, takes his headphone off and starts talking to the girl who followed him out. So I don’t think I’m missing much.

      Yes, that is now a big meme, and is only pushing this game’s narrative being sold on irony rather than sincerity. Which would be fine if this weren’t Tetsuya Nomura and Kazushige Nojima, who no doubt believe the moment above was sincerely cool.

      I might give it a whirl, I dunno, but I’m infinitely disappointed because when I first heard “a remake of Final Fantasy 1 as a Souls-like”, I thought of minimal narrative/cut-scene with the 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons monster art that inspired much of the first game and it was glorious in my mind. And instead we have… Papa Roach on a smart phone.

      I can’t wait until Tetsuya Nomura retires. At least they have the real talent working on Final Fantasy XVI, with Hironobu Sakaguchi having say on costume design so it actually looks like a fantasy setting again.

      1. Thomas says:

        Ah Team Ninja, that makes even more sense then.

    2. Marvin says:

      Yeah, a single opening can be a decent rating booster, but learning several openings by hard is a common “trap”, as it doesn’t make you a better player. The best way to improve as a beginner is to play and analyze games (preferably on longer time-controls, such as 30 mins. Yes, I know this is hard online.), and optionally train tactics via puzzles (chesstempo is a good and free site).

      In any case, study basic opening principles before learning an opening in detail. And when studying openings, first learn the general ideas before memorizing concrete moves.

  8. Tuck says:

    I played through Pathfinder: Kingmaker recently. It’s one hell of a frustrating game, which should really have been two separate games rather than an unwieldy mash-up of RPG and kingdom-management simulation.

    Biggest gripe: invisible timers. I failed some key quests (and missed at least two whole locations) simply because they disappeared after a few in-game days while I was busy following up other things. Other quests failed because I tried to use the built-in ‘auto’ kingdom management, but that runs your kingdom into the ground and makes it impossible to complete some of the game. I had to install a mod to allow me to actually get through the endgame.

    1. Henson says:

      The endgame is really brutal for a first playthrough; I had to turn it down to casual difficulty my first time through. I recently re-played the game, and actually knowing how things work from the very beginning helps a lot to build characters in a way that doesn’t screw yourself in the endgame.

      I’m surprised you had trouble with timed quests, though. I thought the game was generally pretty good about telegraphing when a quest was urgent.

      1. Tuck says:

        I was playing on the easiest difficulty settings for the whole game. The mod I needed was simply to allow me to bring my kingdom back from the dead — I was up to the end of the Armag chapter before I took over kingdom management, and the auto mode had failed to rank any advisor over rank II (so no arcane or espionage advisors), kept failing to resolve problems, and had a built a village in the Outskirts where I couldn’t access it to upgrade anything. Most stats were in single digits.

        When you actually handle the kingdom management yourself, it becomes slightly more clear when things are urgent (although events time out on the first day of a month, and there’s no calendar to see how soon that is). On auto you miss the event cards, so for example I didn’t see “Get to the Bald Hilltop!” until it had failed (not to mention no advisor was assigned to the problem so that failed too).

        As for character builds…I mostly just made sure the party had a decent spread of skills. On the easiest settings nothing else really mattered, which was fine because I didn’t want to spend the time micro-managing every encounter for the whole game!

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I got recommended a mod called Bag of Tricks for my Kingmaker playthrough, and now I’m a thorough convert.
          It’s very aplty named, and equivalent to a developer console.

          Particluar highlights for me:
          Multiplying the retraining costs by 0.0001
          Ooh, an NPC who lets you retrain any character (though there are limits to changes you can make to the NPC comanions)! How fun for experimentation! Wait, you want over 10000g, and it multiplies every time, game? No, no, you meant 1g, clearly. I mean, what modern game would hamstring such a fun mechanic in such an awful way?

          Rigging d20 rolls
          A character goes up to a chest. Fails a lockpicking check. Well shit, I guess that’s that, right?
          No, game, I am NOT going to come back to this dungeon after a level up just for this one fucking chest, because YOU decided that Linzi is too dumb to try again after failing to pick a lock on an unguarded chest. Whoever decided on this rule should be slapped.
          What’s impressive here is the sheer range of things you can do to skill checks, from a Take 20 mechanic, to setting a mimimum roll score, to just allowing people to retake them…a solution for everybody.
          This helps a lot with the kingdom management, too.

          Give Yourself Feats
          Ugh, don’t get me started on Pathfinder’s approach to ‘Exotic Weapons’. You may well have called that thing a ‘duelling sword’ and an ‘exotic weapon’, Paizo, but you can’t fool me – it is a fucking sword. The stat block is even identical to a longsword!
          Why the hell would my *fighter* need to invest in a ultra-specific feat in order to be able to use it!?

          Anyway, that turned in to a rant, so I’ll stop. The TL;DR is that the Bag of Tricks Mod is a fantastic way to iron out the jank and make playing Pathfinder: Kingmaker a lot more fun.

        2. Sleeping+Dragon says:

          Yeah, on my playthrough I was diligently doing kingdom management but about halfway through the game I dropped that to easy which made things much more fun. As for the combat side I feel like I did an okay job with character builds and managed to get through most of the game on normal but finally broke and lowered it about 1/4th through the final area because I simply got tired of constant passive will saves effectively locking characters out of an encounter (was playing on turn based so combat took forever). Which might suggest I didn’t actually do such a good job but my personal opinion is that it’s the game’s fault along the lines of “oh, you should have known what specific thing to prepare for for the endgame”.

          Having said that I still really, really liked the game and I’m constantly thinking of starting a second playthrough but just don’t have the time to commit for another 200 hours to a game that I know already.

    2. Freddo says:

      Currently playing the recently released Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous. They are finally getting the bugs under control, but it suffers from the same issues as Kingmaker. An incredible amount of classes and feats to choose from, but only a few builds are actually viable. Difficulty can be way off at times. And indeed an new unwieldy management simulator, where making mistakes can catch up with you in a bad way much later.

      So either you look up the viable builds on the internet, and then spend the game playing someone else builds (and read a lot of spoilers), or play at story-mode difficulty, where there is no challenge and hence the game is boring. Not recommended.

      1. On the one hand, Pathfinder: WotR is legitimately making a run for my favorite RPG of all time. On the other hand, I think I’d willingly pay another $60 to get a version of the game with some of the jank cleaned up.

        The game isn’t just buggy; it’s downright broken sometimes. As in “people can’t complete the game” broken. And even when the quests are straight-up bugging out, they can wind up being uncompletable because you didn’t visit certain locations in the right order and get locked out. There’s actually one puzzle in the game that, as best I can tell, people were only able to solve by datamining. Nobody knows the actual logic behind the solution.

        The gap between “reasonably build party that you would expect to be able to beat the game with” and “well optimized party” is absolutely massive, even without getting to exploit builds. The game’s normal difficulty setting is built around the assumption that you find a way to really stack the hell out of attack bonus or figure out a way to beat monsters without ever actually hitting them – (hint: Destructive Shockwaves is awesome).

        The campaign management part of the game is completely trivialized once you figure out that a general with scorch/fireball can destroy an enemy army by himself. You never even need a second general- a single one can walk the whole map and kill all of the demon armies by himself. Having a stack of archers as backup helps, but both times I’ve played through the game now I’ve defeated the end-game demon army in the first turn using the massive fire AoE that generals get at high level and- if you get the right perk- they can use twice in one turn. It makes 99% of the rest of the campaign management irrelevant.

        That said, the game is easily the most ambitious RPG I’ve played since BGII. It has a ton of content, a ton of classes and mechanics to explore, a lot of player choice that is actually fun and meaningful, and while not quite the best RPG writing out there, easily in the upper echelons. The companions are fun and interesting, the dialog system actually lets you choose what you want to say (and it doesn’t constantly make you say stupid/embarrassing things), and the writing is never dry or overly wordy.

  9. John says:

    Huzzah! A chance to talk about me, me, me!

    In the last four months I’ve played what seems like a lot of games, but few of them are games I haven’t talked about before. I’ll try to be brief, but I warn you now that I am going to fail when it comes to Fell Seal. In alphabetical order:

    Advance Wars 2

    So very nearly identical to Advance Wars that I get confused whenever I encounter something different. In the years since I last played this game I have completely forgotten (a) the existence of Super CO Powers and (b) the shtick of every CO that isn’t in the first game.

    Civilization V

    A deeply relaxing game about irrigation and war crimes.

    Fantasy Strike

    Still my favorite fighting game, but I’m not playing as much as I used to. I actually made it in to Diamond League near the end of last season. I have not been doing quite so well this season.

    Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark, Missions & Monsters DLC

    For those who do not know or who may have forgotten, Fell Seal is a turn-based tactics game inspired by Final Fantasy Tactics. The Missions & Monsters DLC adds three new character classes and a large number of new but optional missions. It also adds a class system for monsters and allows the player to recruit monsters into the party.

    The best of the new character classes is the Samurai. The Samurai has an ability called Razor Wind that allows him to use any short range single-target ability on a target up to four squares away for a small additional MP cost. It’s not game-breaking, but paired with, say, a Duelist’s Flourish attacks it is very powerful. It significantly improves the tactical flexibility of any character who has it. The other two classes are all about monsters. One, the Wrangler, is about recruiting enemy monsters and buffing allied monsters during combat. The other, the Beastmaster, gets more powerful the more monster characters are in the party. I haven’t figured out really compelling use-cases for either the Wrangler or the Beastmaster yet.

    Monsters retain their abilities from the vanilla game but can now also take on up to two monster character classes. All monster types have access to the same classes though a given monster type will be a better match for some of these classes than others. Enemy monsters are, as far as I can tell, assigned random classes depending on their level at the beginning of a mission. Because monsters can do things with the expansion that they couldn’t do before, the game is a little harder now but not unbearably so.

    There are two kinds of new optional missions. The new combat missions include Hunts, fights against small numbers of unusually powerful monsters, and Large Battles, 9 vs. 9 fights against normal enemies. Combat in Fell Seal is usually a 6 vs. 6 affair. The new non-combat or “Guild” missions allow you to send some of your party members off on sidequests, making them temporarily unavailalbe for combat. Each Guild mission has a certain duration, typically between 15 to 45 minutes. The funny thing is that those are real, actual minutes rather than in-game minutes. If you send some of your characters on a 30 minute Guild mission at, say, 8:22 pm, you can close the game, turn off your computer, walk away, come back at 8:52, turn your computer back on, load your save, and the mission will be complete. It’s an unusual choice, though I’m not prepared to call it a bad one, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

    As the length of this wall of text may suggest, Missions & Monsters got me back into Fell Seal in a big way. If you like Fell Seal, it’s more Fell Seal or at the very least an excuse to play Fell Seal again. I don’t consider it essential though. You could theoretically install the DLC along with the base game and then complete the game without once engaging with any of the DLC content in a meaningful way. (Some of the enemies you fought would have the new character classes, but that would be it.) I waited until Missions & Monsters went on sale before I bought it and I think that turned out to be the right call.

    Galak-Z

    Galak-Z is still good, but I am still bad at it.

    Loop Hero

    For a game in which you almost no control over your avatar, Loop Hero is oddly compelling. I had a lot of fun with the game, but I’m afraid that the fourth and final level, a boss gauntlet, is beyond me. I’ve never seen the final boss and at this point I don’t ever expect to.

    Mark of the Ninja: Remastered

    Almost completely visually indistinguishable from Mark of the Ninja, as I suspected it would be. The difference between cartoon art at 720p and the same cartoon art at 1080p is apparently not large. If it weren’t for the fact that some of the animated cutscenes seemed to be framed a little differently, I could have sworn I was playing the exact same game.

    Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

    I love mag tubes beyond all reason.

    Sid Meier’s Starships

    I really wanted to like Starships. Unfortunately, Starships does want me to play it. It has a serious problem with communicating information to the player. I can’t seem to find the tutorial. I’m not sure there is one. I don’t really understand how to control my ships in combat or even how to scroll the tactical map. Out of combat, I don’t know when, why, how or whether I should upgrade my ships or my planets at any given moment. I uninstalled the game with great regret.

    Surviving Mars

    So far, I have only played the tutorial. I like it, or at least I want to like it. I’d like it more if the tutorial would only acknowledge that those two buildings, which I have clearly connected with pipes, are in fact connected with pipes.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Almost completely visually indistinguishable from Mark of the Ninja, as I suspected it would be.

      Yeah, I don’t get the point either. As far as I know there’s no real benefit on getting this if you already have the original. I guess if you felt your game could look a little better and decided to update it to replace the older version, sure, but it should have been a free update. It’s worse when you consider they already had larger sprites originally and compressed them for the original release. This time they just let them at their normal size. So they basically didn’t have to do any work.

      1. John says:

        It was a free update. It just showed up in my GOG library, presumably because I already owned the original.

        1. zackoid says:

          It’s $5 USD on steam.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Pipes are notoriously visually tricky. I’ve played through every single sponsor and gotten all but a handful of the achievements, and still in my latest run trying out the latest expansion I got tripped up because I thought two buildings were connected by pipes, when they weren’t. When in doubt, place more pipes about. They’re cheap enough it’s not a big deal.

      I’d suggest looking into mods if you find yourself liking it, there are a good number of quality-of-life ones on the Steam Workshop that don’t change much but make it more enjoyable to play.

    3. Mattias42 says:

      Surviving Mars is the game I play when I’m too sick to focus properly, but still need something to occupy my mind with.

      I find it a bit too simplified and automated while also being annoyingly sloppy a game when I’m at full attention, but it just hits this really nice sweet spot when I’m loopy from a fever or something…

      Haven’t admitedly gotten around to the new Season Pass 2 thing-y that’s currently being rolled out, though. Might have shaken up things a bit.

      1. John says:

        Oddly enough, when you put it like that Surviving Mars sounds pretty good. I should give the tutorial another go. I could really use a chilled-out sci-fi city builder in my life.

  10. Chris says:

    I assume in New world having 3 factions would allow 2 weaker factions to gang up on the stronger. Which is actually what was missing from warhammer online, because “WOW has 2 factions so we should have that too lol”. I think it is unfair to say that old MMOs were made to waste your time. Its more that making themepark rides takes longer than riding them. When you make WOW (5 years of overwork) and you have people play 12 hours a day, you want it to last. So you have stuff like reputation grinds and attunements. Otherwise those diehards will complain they finished the game in a week. Thats i think a big problem with MMO development. Most of your customers play a few hours a week, and want reasonable rewards, but the hardcore plays the game nonstop.
    Also having that girl give you hints sounds annoying. Why wouldnt you make a hint system on demand?

    1. Daimbert says:

      I kinda like The Old Republic’s approach, which is aimed more at replayability since you have a different story for each of the eight classes (and also some story-based end game content). The idea that I think they even explicitly stated was that their goal for the end game was to have a player start over with a new class and follow a new class story, with some other end game content for people who wanted to play at high levels sometimes. And, in general, that’s what I keep doing with that game. For the hardcore gamer, getting through eight classes will still take quite a while, and the more casual gamer will enjoy slowly progressing through the stories.

      1. Thomas says:

        One of the advantages of this kind of system is that the beginner levels arent empty wastelands. I saw a post about someone starting WoW recently where the entire beginning of the game was deserted because everyone is in the end game regions.

        Apparently FFXIV is designed in a way that encourages levelling up different classes even more (so you can switch on the fly) which means every region always has some players to make the MM part of the MMO still pop.

        1. Steve C says:

          Well that’s kind of the reason. The reason the entire beginning of WoW is deserted is because of deliberate design decisions that make it deserted even if people are there.

          Cataclysm (the expansion that came out as Shamus was blogging about it) turned the game into instanced layers that were relatively seamless to players. All the players on a quest would see the zone a certain way. As players quested, their actions might change the zone. However that meant that the only people who could see each other in the game world had to be on the same quests.

          A zone might have 50 quests, with 10-15 distinct layers based on which quests are complete or not. With ~3-4 zones for each of the mid level ranges. And 7 early game zones for each of the races. Per faction. Which means the early game has been subdivided two hundred ways.

          Players just aren’t going to run into each other under a system like that. Even if there are a dozen in the same area. It’s a bit like a pub where every table is in its own sound-proofed room. Where the only way to talk to people in the adjacent room is by playing the exact same song at the exact same time. It doesn’t matter how busy it actually is. It’s going to feel empty.

          1. Joshua says:

            LOTRO has instanced layers, but you can still see other PCs. You might not see the same NPCs or parts of the world but you can still see each other. I’m guessing WoW must have some pretty severe landscape changes that would make this impractical like bridges being broken or buildings being created?

            1. Steve C says:

              Sometimes yes. Most of the time, no. I don’t believe the game checks fine details like that at all. The landscape tends to change in cosmetic, non-interactive ways. (At least for Cata.) Like a house might become destroyed or rebuilt. But it still has the same bounds box. The walls and open areas will still be in the same locations and passable or impassible etc. At least as far I remember. It would never really matter though.

              You had to leave the immediate area and return for it to reload. Because it is not reloading. It is all static. You are moving between layers as you exit. Which makes no immediate changes. When you return it loads you into a different layer. I’m pretty sure the quest turn-ins are designed to be far enough away and/or break line of sight so you don’t notice how it all changes. However you can see the changes by watching other players. Sometimes they will disappear upon turning in a quest or walking past an invisible line in a zone. Or sometimes they will disappear because you did that instead. Either way, it looks the same as if they logged out or got out of range.

              That’s not what happened though as you can check that they are online. Also you can coordinate with other players to meet at certain locations and both be there unable to see each other. A big problem if you are a player who’s finished that content and there specifically to help someone else. You literally can’t. (Well at least when I was playing.) And not just someone who’s higher level. Someone who completed that content 10mins ago.

              I’m pretty sure it is a set of flags associated with the character keeping track of quest completion rather than keeping track of the world. WoW managed it by making every zone become a singular quest chain. It would not at first glance seem like an earlier quest was a prerequisite. But they were. Those quests would branch off and recombine. Website tools like wowhead made it clear how much the design philosophy had changed between pre-Cata and post-Cata. Before, quest chains were a handful long with lots of isolated quests for a zone. After, they were 50 chain behemoths that accounted for every quest in the zone. Decide to skip one and that’s it. You won’t be offered any more quests in the zone until that one is done.

              The LOTRO system you describe sounds better. With the noticeable drawback that two players could see different things and be frustratingly trying to communicate different world states to each other and not realize it. I think the way WoW did it was designed with that in mind. The result was far more unintended side effects that made the game unfun.

              1. Joshua says:

                With the noticeable drawback that two players could see different things and be frustratingly trying to communicate different world states to each other and not realize it.

                I’ve heard some people say that excuse before, but it doesn’t seem like it would come up very often, especially not unintentionally. There is one town in the world that really takes advantage of the dynamic layers which is a set of ruins in Rohan named Hytbold. It was the endgame of the Riders of Rohan expansion (level cap 85), and as you completed certain quests the town would be rebuilt bit by bit (your choice in what order) and would fill back up with people. It would look completely different to a person who was just starting vs. someone who had completed the whole thing, but they could still talk to each other.

                https://lotro-wiki.com/index.php/File:Hytbold_Ruins.jpg
                https://lotro-wiki.com/index.php/File:Hytbold_Square_(Rebuilt).jpg

                Ironically, the point where you *do* have frustrating interactions with other players about different world states that have quest objectives is the good old standard MMO fetch quests, like “Pick up 10 roses” or “Tear down 6 sets of clogging vines” and when one person completes their set the items tend to fade which makes it harder for them to guide a teammate that needs the rest.

      2. Chris says:

        The problem is still that it is a lot of work. Especially in SWTOR where stuff is voiceacted. If someone really just wants to be a jedi, they play through the story, then are stuck. And because the stories are class related, he only has 1/8th of the content to enjoy. Which is why WOW dropped class quests pretty quickly. They already struggled keeping the content going, so making a bunch of class unique stuff seemed like a bad choice.
        That said, I wish blizzard spent some of those millions they raked in every month on expanding their team to make more content. Class stuff like the paladin hammer, epic mount, warlock epic mount, warrior whirlwind axe, are all fondly remembered.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Yeah, it is expensive and a lot of work, which means that it can only be done in an MMO context where you can hope for a constant and steady income stream. As for the player who only wants to play as a Jedi, there IS some high-level content to play and the class story is long enough that they’d at least feel like they played a decent single-player RPG.

          1. Chris says:

            I think a lot of players expect they can go into an MMO and just play it constantly. They come home, and they boot up the game. WOW’s 1 to 60 also took the time of a decent single player game. Now of course it is not as in-depth as SWTOR or a single player RPG, but it is there. For those people you want more content, or they will say the game is dead. Or you get players like me who just sub for a month, play all the content, then unsub and wait for the devs to get something new out (I dont have a problem with that, but hardcore players (and investors) do). And even if you have the cashflow of a sub MMO, it can be difficult to set up a pipeline that cranks out content.
            Heroes of the storm released a new hero every 3 weeks, and those were high quality in both animation and design. That team was like 600 people large (the largest team blizzard had) and still had to work overtime to keep it all going. I can imagine keeping up a patch cycle that constantly adds fully voiceacted content to every class every few months, you would have similar teamsizes and workloads. Telling a player to kill 2000 monsters is just a lot easier.

  11. Daimbert says:

    I haven’t had time to play games, which has been bugging me. I’ve been looking around for a game that I can play for a couple of hours in the evenings when I have some time and haven’t found one. I also never got back to my human noble run in Dragon Age: Origins. What I did play:

    I finished off my Dark Side Consular run in The Old Republic. I want to start another character and switch back to the Empire side, but I’m going to have a lot of vacation coming up in December and am planning to play that game a lot then, so I’ll wait until then and use any free weekend mornings I have to do other things.

    I started playing the remastered Mass Effect games with Mass Effect. I did enjoy it, but it’s not a game that I can play for a couple of hours in an evening so it’s fallen by the wayside.

    I started a run of Wizardry 8 with characters based on Gilligan’s Island, but while the character voices worked not too badly, I ended up hitting a combat with crabs that was not going to be hard but was going to be boring and couldn’t bring myself to go on.

    I started Champions of Krynn since I’ve been reading The CRPG Addict while compiling or installing, but I found that I would have needed to pay more attention than I had available to play that properly (mapping cities and remembering locations and the like) so I dropped it.

    That also inspired me to play around with my emulators and now I have the old Amiga Space Crusade game running on my newer laptop, but I haven’t played it yet.

    So, disappointing. I would like to try to get through the Mass Effect/Dragon Age Origins games before December, but that doesn’t seem likely.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Ah, Wizardry 8, I love it but the only pleasant way to play it is to have every character with full critical skill and a class that allows them to get their critical hits off. Chopping down 2,000 HP obstacles is more fun when every other hit just blows them to bits.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I don’t mind that, but then I usually barely get to Trynton in most games so the combat isn’t in general as annoying at that point. In this game, though, I accidentally made my alchemist and bard too good with slings and so they kept fighting with my gadgeteer for stones, but turning that off but remembering it when I needed to was a bit grating for me at that stage of the game.

    2. bobbert says:

      I only ever played Wizardry 1. I remember 3 things from it.

      * Murphy’s ghost
      * Contra Dexter Avenue
      * Killing myself with the teleport spell

      1. Daimbert says:

        I’ve never played any of the others, but what I really liked about Wizardry 8 is that it let you create characters and then give them voices that align with a certain personality, and then in-game they’d often chime in with things in that voice. This means that they will chime in with things that reflect that sort of character and so can make the character feel like a real character. It gets even better if two of them coincidentally chime in with something that sounds like the two of them reacting to each other.

      2. Ektenia says:

        What I remember from Wizardry 1:

        * Learning and entering the spell names: MADIALKO, TILTOWAIT, …
        * Exploit: A bishop can identify item 9 (there are only 8 items in inventory) to gain a massive chunk of XP.
        * I accidentally put the Wizardry disk while I was running the Apple Pascal system and was blown away that catalog (list files on disk) showed a meaningful list of files instead of garbage. Turns out Wizardry was written in Apple/UCSD Pascal.

        1. bobbert says:

          Yeah, I remember now. You had to spell the spells correctly or else they would fail. I think dumapic did something useful.

    3. Joshua says:

      I played some of the Gold Box games last year (Savage Frontier ones), and they don’t hold up terribly well. Great for having computerized D&D at the time, but very sloggish games these days with excuse plots.

  12. I’m currently playing Aragami 2 with my husband.

    It’s a fun little co-op game that answers the question, “What would Hitman look like if you were a ninja in a mythical feudal Japan?”

    I definitely recommend it.

    1. Sleeping+Dragon says:

      Wait, Aragami games are co-op? I somehow completely missed that! That might move them waaaay up on my priority list.

  13. Dreadjaws says:

    So, I’m playing through Dishonored 2 for the first time, and while I enjoy the experience better than you did I’m annoyed that this game has still the same issues its predecessor did:
    – You can’t know if you managed to complete a “no kill” stage until the scenario has ended, but the game still insists on blaming you for deaths that occurred when you’re not even around. If I failed the “no killing” run, then the game should have the decency of telling me the moment a person dies so I can at least reload an earlier save and try to figure out what happened.
    – The way the game saves and reloads is annoying. It seem to load characters and their cones of vision before it loads the scenery, which means that characters that weren’t seeing you before because there was an object between you now see you the moment you load a save, screwing with your strategy. Alternatively, a character that had their back turned to you when you saved might now be looking straight at you when you load, which is something not even the previous game did. Fucking hell.
    – This is normal in every stealth game, but I still find it supremely annoying: whenever foes hear my steps they instantly assume it’s a stranger, even if the place is populated with other soldiers. This goddamn trend has to end. I know stealth games already make concessions for my benefit, but this sort of crap breaks immersion worse than better AI would.

    I played throug TOEM, which is a quite charming adventure game that relies on taking pictures of the game’s characters, objects and scenery to solve puzzles. A nice and relaxing experience.

    I aso played and finished UnMetal and I had an absolute blast. As a fan of the Metal Gear franchise, I’m glad that this game exists, not just because it parodies the series masterfully, but because it still manages to nail the gameplay as well as the originals do. If you weren’t paying attention to the dialogue you could easily confuse it for a legitimate entry in the series. Absolutely fantastic.

    I’m playing through The Gardens Between, which is a nice puzzle game that relies into advancing and rewinding time to solve the stages. Quite creative and nice looking. The minimalistic storytelling I can take or leave. It doesn’t get in the way, but it also doesn’t contribute anything. I’d prefer if they did a bit more with the story or got rid of it altogether.

    I should be playing Metroid Dread, but I made the mistake of ordering the physical version, which means it’ll take a couple of weeks to arrive. I’ve even considered just purchasing a second copy on digital and then maybe selling the physical when it arrives, but no. I’ll just have to arm myself with patience and wait.

    1. TFrengler says:

      With regards to Dishonored 2 I believe it’s possible to check in the menu (under some stats section) at any time how many people you’ve killed. In DS1 you wouldn’t be able to see this until the end of the level. This may help you with a no-kill run of DS2 :)

  14. Glide says:

    It’s been a while since the last one! I’ve done a lot since then.
    Horizon Zero Dawn – One of my favorites of the year. It’s playing off the Ubisoft formula but it’s got some good twists on the formula, which is all I really ask of someone making another open world game. The action combat is pretty strong, there’s a lot of tactics involved. Adding even a small sprinkling of Bioware dialog wheels to an action game is surprisingly value-added.

    Last Word – Indie mystery game about a world where whoever gets the last word in a conversation can control people’s actions. I really like the concept; the gameplay needed another balancing pass though.

    Control – Slow-starting game carried by great worldbuilding; combat was cause for a tired sigh for most of the game just like its spiritual uncle Alan Wake, but once levitation was in the mix it was a very fun action-adventure.

    Yooka-Laylee – Does a flawless imitation of N64 era platformers with modern graphics. Content was fun but the worlds were sparse and not very evocative or distinct, so where I can remember most of Donkey Kong 64’s maps by heart 18 years after I last played it, I can barely navigate Yooka-Laylee while looking at it.

    Uncharted 4 – Absolutely wonderful cinematic action game. You’d think they would have run out of ideas after a whole trilogy but I found it continued to be super fresh and creative with the scenarios Drake got into. I may have enjoyed the UC2 story a little more but this was the game with the most polished and balanced gameplay of the series for sure – they get the blend of action, climbing, puzzles, and story JUST right and I wasn’t bored for a single moment of this masterpiece.

    A Plague Tale: Innocence – Spiraled into chaos in the last three hours, both in terms of gameplay where it oddly chose to focus on fiddly open combat rather than the very decent stealth combat, and in terms of story where it suddenly decided to throw in a cackling Palpatine caricature into what had to that point been a pretty gritty game. Enjoyed most of the game but it took a hard left at the end and left me wondering if it was really worth it.

    Hellblade – Senua’s Sacrifice – This game was particularly ill-suited for me because it was a story-heavy game that delivered roughly 95% of its story as monologues, and I have severe issues processing unbroken verbal information dumps of more than a few seconds. The sound design and motion capture were excellent, the fights and puzzles were both passable enough to keep you engaged in between the signature bits. I applaud the innovation and experimentation, just wasn’t for my particular brand of broken brain.

    The Last of Us – Game had a real problem with giving you six different ways to handle encounters and deciding that only two of them work in this particular room. So I never really enjoyed any of the actual gameplay. Story was great, one of my favorites I’ve seen in a long time, and more than worth the cost of admission on its own. Glad I played even though I might have preferred watching to playing.

    Danganronpa – Murder mystery game that is utterly ridiculous on purpose, god bless Japan. This game had an odd duality: I found it utterly boring for every second of ‘downtime’ when you’re supposed to explore the world and connect with the other murder game participants, but the instant the plot finished its smoke break and showed back up I was riveted. The investigations and murder trials were both incredible; I usually entered the trials with a good picture of what happened but there were consistent twists that were both surprising and well-supported by the evidence. The cast was mostly silly stereotypes but I particularly enjoyed how they did the “smart jerk” character and the “smart deuteragonist” character, in that the jerk wasn’t stuck in the jerk lane and the #2 wasn’t stuck in the perfect angel lane.

    1. bobbert says:

      Didn’t ‘Yooka’ decide that ammo pickups were un-modern, and that is why everything feels empty?

  15. Henson says:

    So……..Disco Elysium

    What a disappointment.

    Okay, so the primary gameplay mechanic, aside from clicking through dialogue, is choosing among 16 different skills to allocate experience points to. In addition to aiding in the completion of tasks, these skills automatically activate hidden text in conversations, representing inner thoughts your character has. And so, you choose what kind of character you want to play: when I allocate skills to Visual Calculus, I want to be solving crimes and putting together the pieces of a mystery; when I put skill to Drama, I want to be the smart guy who can detect when people are lying.

    But I don’t get to do any of that. These thoughts, along with all descriptive text, is spoken by a narrator, who I refer to as the Voice. The Voice is omnipresent, always speaking your inner thoughts and describing things to you – and this is the problem. The Voice does it all, the Voice is the one with all the skills. The Voice is the one constantly talking in my ear, telling me what’s going on and what I should do.

    A typical interaction will go like this:

    NPC: “I don’t know anything about the dead man.”
    Voice (Drama): He’s lying. You should put pressure on him.
    Dialogue choices: (1) Put pressure on him. (2) Don’t put pressure on him.

    Gee, I wonder which option I should pick.

    The end result is an incredibly passive experience. I’m not doing anything, I’m just following instructions. Click the next option, do what you’re told. Don’t internalize the narration, it’s someone else’s thoughts. I’m not even reading, I’m just listening to people talk. The whole reason I’m playing a videogame (and an RPG in specific!) is to feel involved in the story, and this constant narration of ‘my’ thoughts sabotages that goal. The most meaningful skill choice I can make is to reject what the Voice tells me to do…in other words, to reject the very skills I’ve been buffing with skill points. It’s terribly unsatisfying.

    It was only after finishing this rather long game and catching up on the online chatter that I discovered that…you can actually turn the Voice off. In the Options menu, there’s a small line buried under volume sliders where you can choose between ‘Full’ ‘Psychological’ and ‘Classic’ voice-overs. But the game doesn’t tell you what any of those options mean. If you’ve checked out the options menu at the start, like I did, by the time you realize there’s a problem, you’ve forgotten this cryptic option even exists. No, fully voice-acted is the default, and it makes the game so, so much worse.

    Voiceovers aside, I can’t say I was terribly impressed by a lot of the dialogue in this game, either. Many characters drone on and on about their pet obsessions, dumping walls of text on esoteric topics, that ultimately don’t amount to much. I’m not finding these conversations particularly interesting, some conversations are irritating to get through – heck, many of the characters are actively irritating, constantly taunting and belittling my character. I’m just not invested in this narrative, and when I happen to be reading a very good book at the same time, it only highlights the inadequacy.

    (I do wonder if part of the issue is that, in Disco Elysium, talking is not a free action. Every step of every conversation advances time by a small amount, and so every paragraph is a reminder that the clock is running. Will I fail if I take too long? Do I need to complete objectives by certain days? It’s harder to get immersed in non-critical dialogue because it uses up in-game time, but I also felt that I had to listen to it, in hopes that it will somehow lead to relevant information. I spent two days wandering around town talking to people, hoping for more clues to proceed, only to find out that I had to go back and pass a skill check where my proficiency was terrible.)

    Weirdest of all is the game’s insistence of shoving a political theme into the dialogue. For example, there’s one conversation where a character gives long worldbuilding exposition about a mysterious phenomenon surrounding the habitable areas of the world like mist, a phenomenon which affects people’s minds and can do serious mental damage through long exposure – and it’s slowly growing. At the end of this dialogue tree, the player can express fear, hopelessness, concern…and then there’s this:

    5) “Its advance can only be stopped with immediate, total, ruthless Communism.”

    …the hell? Where did that come from? We’re talking about a mysterious, dangerous feature of the physical world, and the writers give my character an option to start talking political ideologies?

    But oh no, you actually can give three such responses:

    5) Sounds awfully anti-Communist. That’s bad.
    6) Sounds awfully anti-Communist. That’s good!
    7) This calls for a good dose of Liberalism!

    I still can’t wrap my head around why these are an option, and this isn’t the only conversation where this happens – it’s just the most blatant. It’s as if the writers wanted to give you the option to roleplay as the kind of jerk who makes everything about his personal politics, which…I guess is a choice, but it’s such a random and yet oddly specific choice in the context of the whole game. It feels very much like these options are shoehorned into dialogue; I don’t think they feel natural at all.

    All that said, I actually don’t think the writing is bad, per se (which is more apparent when I happen to be reading a deeply mediocre book at the same time). There are actually a few points where I got invested! But overall I find it lacking, and not nearly as good as I would expect for a game so universally lauded. It makes me wonder if a lot of the appeal is about style rather than substance.

    I really wanted to like this game.

    1. Daimbert says:

      NPC: “I don’t know anything about the dead man.”
      Voice (Drama): He’s lying. You should put pressure on him.
      Dialogue choices: (1) Put pressure on him. (2) Don’t put pressure on him.

      Gee, I wonder which option I should pick.

      Hmmm. It might make an interesting roleplaying option to play as someone who has voices in their head who has to decide whether to believe them or not, as long as ignoring the voices doesn’t kill you or lock you into a walking dead situation. It would be interesting to see if ignoring the voice can work …

      1. ZekeCool says:

        You can in fact ignore the voices in Disco Elysium and in some cases it’s absolutely the best thing to do. Your skills are good at their particular area of expertise but they will often speak up even outside of it. For instance if you put a lot of points into Half-Light (your skill for danger sense and violent survival instinct) it will almost constantly tell you to escalate to violence. Your character is good at violence and senses danger where it doesn’t actually always exist. I absolutely love DE so I’d recommend everyone play it. It handles “failing forward” better than any videogame I’ve ever seen and it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to playing a good narrative TTRPG with a good GM in a videogame.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Does it ever trigger multiple voices based on differing skills with different opinions? Because that would be SO cool [grin].

          1. Henson says:

            It does.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Oh, dear. I might have to look into getting that to play in my non-existent free time. And if a friend of mine doesn’t have it yet, I think he’d love that [grin].

          2. Syal says:

            I was watching an LP of this; there was a yes/no choice at one point that triggered about eight different voices, four on the one side and four on the other.

            There’s also a very early quest where you find a serial number for a boot, and Drama will jump in with “tell them it’s this other number, it’ll be more dramatic!”

            1. Daimbert says:

              Okay, it’s on sale at GOG so I picked it up and giving these examples makes me glad I did, as that’s the sort of thing that I’d like to see (although I may miss some of them if I build a character that doesn’t take those skills, since I like to build my characters based on an idea of a person instead of to min-max anything).

        2. Zekiel says:

          And just to state a possibly-obvious thing, if you have a low score in something, the voice will often tell you incorrect information. Sometimes this is hilarious. I had a really low score in the interpersonal skill and the first time I talked to the barman I was prompted to work out what he thought of me. He gave me an irritated look and my interpersonal skill told me that he thought I was great.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Oh dang, I was actually considering getting this game, but I’d be annoyed by the same things as you! :)

      1. Henson says:

        Oddly enough, I wouldn’t outright say ‘don’t buy this game’. I didn’t have a good time at all, and the writing didn’t impress me, but how much of my experience was due to the narration ruining things? Especially considering that the Voice didn’t even exist in the original release, and was an addition for the Final Cut version. It’s hard to be objective about this, so the most I’ll say is ‘don’t assume the hype is earned’.

        1. Lino says:

          don’t assume the hype is earned

          Solid advice about any game, really.

          1. Laxativus says:

            I would instead put it as “don’t assume just because a game is hyped (or good or even excellent) it will be your cup of tea.” There are plenty of games with 90%+ steam approval which I believe to be great that I won’t play because I know they are not something I would enjoy. Most of the 4X, JRPG, twin-stick, squad-based RPG games fall into this category. But it could also be a metroidvania, a genre I really dig, and still don’t click. (Ori)
            It’s why I absolutely love having a demo for a game.

      2. Mye says:

        It absolutely isn’t on rail and you shouldn’t always follow the skill voice, they often lie to try and get you to act certain way. Think of it more like a room full of politician that all try to handle every instance using their philosophy, sometime it makes sense but sometime it doesn’t, you should only listen to their advice and make your own choice.

        I personally really like the writing, the world at first appear normal but has you get more and more world building you slowly realize that a lot of it is actually quite weird, but this is delivered in a normal way. ie the character in the world don’t think the weird aspect are weird (its their world) so they don’t necessarily make a big deal about it.

        The political aspect are well integrated, the country you’re in just went trough a revolution and the backdrop of your investigation is a worker strike with many of the player being personally involved in this along with the victim. Think of it like if, say (random example to avoid spoiler), a muslim was killed a few weeks after 9/11 and you were investigating the crime, the topic would naturally come up all the time in conversion, along with terrorism, patriotism and such.

      3. GoStu says:

        For what it’s worth, I found the Voice to be more like an intrusive thought: part of you suggests a specific course of action could be taken, but it’s more like an impulse or something.

        I found one part of the game fascinating (trivial spoiler): at one point, you are likely absolutely hurting for money. There’s a very wealthy character you’ll meet and have a conversation with, and if you have enough Volition you can simply *ask* her for the money you need in a reasonable way, and she’ll give it to you. I liked the idea of simply having the audacity (?) to ask for something to be an interesting idea.

        I never finished the game though, eventually I just felt aimless with no particular lead to solving the thing I was working on and a lack of sidequests that were gripping me; I turned it off, didn’t turn it back on again, and never bothered to look it up.

  16. Mephane says:

    Sadly, that feature came and went around 2010. Older games didn’t make allowances for cosmetics like this. Newer games got rid of this system because they want to sell you their gaudy overpriced, overdesigned doll clothes.

    […]

    New World is… fine. In terms of microtransactions, it’s not even bad by modern standards. But I still wish the LOTRO system had endured. I can wear the gear I find and end up dressed like a conquistador pirate knight court jester, or I can shell out fifteen bucks and look like a foppish pirate king. But I can’t just run around looking like a peasant / commoner / deck hand. Those clothes are in the game and someone took the time to make them, but you’ll never wear them because they don’t have the stats you need. (Or if you do wear them, you won’t wear them for long, and they probably won’t match the other stuff you’re wearing.)

    If we had the LOTRO system that allowed everyone to choose their own look, then we could have a huge variety of styles. But no. Instead we have the clown suit brigade on one side, where everyone is wearing some combination of the same half-dozen armor pieces shuffled together at random. On the other side we have the folks who paid for cosmetics and are thus resplendent in their glittering novelty armor. The first group all starts to blur together after a while. The second group can’t even dye their purchased armor, so if you buy the Golden Pantaloon Set you’ll end up looking exactly like everyone else who paid $15USD for the Golden Pantloons.[3] So now we have to pay money to have less variety and less individual expression.

    100% absolutely full ack. Now these systems – transmog, style slot, glamour, these are so rare that there does not even exist one agreed-upon name for them – have not disappeared entirely in the meantime, they just have remained very niche choices for game studios.
    I have turned down many a game that had neither a built-in transmog system nor a known workaround (e.g. mods, savegame editors), and in particular for MMOs this is my #1 must-have feature or I will not touch the game, not even for free.

    Final Fantasy XIV is a notable positive example here, which by the way I cannot recommend enough. There’s a free trial with no time pressure if you want to give it a shot.

    There are lots of interesting weapons and playstyles, and any character can shift to any role. If you’ve been playing as a tank and you want to see what life is like as a healer, you don’t need to roll a new character and level them up. You just need to collect the required gear and you can switch to the new role.

    FF14 has that, too.
    Which is as you might guess also the answer to your closing question. :)

    1. Mark Ayen says:

      I started playing Final Fantasy XIV about a month ago and I’m level 56 now. The Glamour system goes a long way towards alleviating the costume issue Shamus referenced above. And changing jobs is straightforward as well, although I haven’t strayed from the Archer/Bard progression yet (except for my crafting job of Carpenter, which synergizes nicely with Archer). I will say that FF14 has a lot of systems (many of which aren’t well-explained) to the point where it’s intimidating to newcomers.

  17. Asdasd says:

    The LOTR Online system was good. City of Heroes/Villains went even further, completely separating costume from gear equips. You could design your character and costume however you wanted right out of the gate (with a range of options that puts WoW to shame even 15 years later), and unlocked additional costume slots as you went. Joining a supergroup (a guild) also gave you a special slot to build a colour-coordinated uniform emblazoned with your team’s insignia, which you wore when you grouped with them, which was rad.

    I also really loved how that game let you build your power set out of two main classes and a bunch of ancillary pools. It really felt like you had tools to create your own unique hero, while not being SO freeform as to leave you feeling paralysed by choice (something I struggled with in The Secret World).

  18. Gautsu says:

    I finished my rookie play through for Alpha Protocol, immediately followed by a veteran play through. The game has not aged well. Not speaking about the jank (Mike’s crouch run still looks like he needs a proctologist), but the dialogue. I tend to try to steer clear of politics in my games, but there was a lot of cringe that I didn’t remember. It felt like it came from a sexist, immature writer. Deleted from my hard drive.

    Death’s Gambit: Afterlife was a free remake for those who owned the original. It was really well done, some of the bosses were really difficult. And some (Thalamus) really creative. Beat it as well.

    My Cyberpunk 3rd playthrough (200 hours in) has not encountered a playthrough ending bug yet, so here’s hoping.

    I think my game of the year is definitely Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. I beat my first playthrough as an Aasimar Angel Beast Rider Cavalier mounted on a triceratops. I have my Aeon, Lich, amd Trickster play throughs up to chapter 3, and my Azata, Legend, Gold Dragon, Devil, Demon, and Swarm That Walks are still at the beginning.

    I am on the final temple in Curse of the Dead Gods. I had a good run last night and got the last boss down to 40%. It’s a good roguelite, but with no story doesn’t have quite the staying power of Hades.

    I leveled my Nioh 2 character up to level 925 got the set bonuses I wanted and then said I need to take a break.

    I restarted Nioh 1 on the EGS to play with my 65 year old mother. That is more painful than the bosses.

    I downloaded Marvel’s Avengers on gamepass. I am glad I didn’t pay full price, but what I have played has been enjoyable. I also downloaded Aragami 2 and Tainted Grail but haven’t played them yet.

    The only thing I have been playing on mobile is Lol Wild Rift. I play a lot of bot matches at work since my connection sucks. But with mercenaries coming to Hearth stone maybe I’ll pick that back up.

    Lots of games do the transmog thing. WoW, Lotro, DCEU, Champions, City of Heroes, Rift, FF14, GW2, EQ2, Neverwinter. Some have 2 sets of gear, some let you change one pieces appearance but functionally almost every MMO lets you do this. It’s weirder to see one that doesn’t

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      I was very pleasantly surprised with the state of Pathfinder : Wrath of the Righteous at release, especially compared to Kingmaker which came out as a piece of crap, but this is great! Here’s what I’d like to know, related to the system, what’s the point of healers other than clerics, with their insane energy channels that heal the entire team at will? Am I missing something?

      1. Rho says:

        Not having played WotR specifically (…yet), Clerics are strong but limited, so there’s always a trade-off. Plus, channeling is bit weak later in when characters get hundreds of HP and foes start dealing sizable chunks of damage routinely. You also might focus on other sources of health recovery and trade off for summoning it bugs, or go for a healer with more single-target healing. After all, if only a couple of party members take hits, group heals are wasteful.

      2. Gautsu says:

        Warpriests and Paladins can use a swift action to heal themselves, versus standard actions to Channel. Paladins also get riders with their Mercies on LoH. Oracles like Daeran only learn a finite number of spells unlike Clerics who can choose from any they qualify for, but get more per day. Which helps when you unlock 6th and 9th level spellcasting and get Heal and Mass Heal. With the additional Mythic abilities, any class that heals can heal well. Honestly pumping Wisdom on Sosiel and taking up to Greater Abundant Spellcasting, 9 Mass Heals a rest is a lot. The Angel path gets a lot of unique heals as well. For early levels, Channeling Divinity is probably the best use of healing

    2. Mark Ayen says:

      Champions Online’s costume system is completely separate from powers, with a few exceptions. (For example, if you use a bow, you have to have a bow costume piece). There are some paywall costume unlocks, and others you unlock through gameplay, but the default selection is very thorough.

      EDIT: You also have multiple costume slots (I forget the default, but you can buy/earn more), so you can cycle through costumes, for example if you have holiday-specific costumes or an underwater or deep space costume variation.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Indeed, Champions to this day still has my favorite costume system:
        – Completely separate from whatever class you’re playing as and whatever abilities you have, so you can be a little girl with a teddy bear backpack that summons demons or lifts containers with one hand. You can pick up the “jetpack” travel power and your body will always act as if you’re wearing a jetpack, even if you’re not wearing a jetpack costume piece.
        – Entirely independent of equipment, so grabbing new gear doesn’t change your look.
        – As you say, there are several costume slots for you to use, and you can go to the menu to change them at your leisure or even bind a key to change them on the fly. There’s even a “transformation” sequence that you can pick to change from one costume to another (which can also be earned or bought), and you get a bunch of different classic choices, even a telephone cabin.
        – Costumes aren’t even tied to a specific physical build. Every new costume you create can give your character an entirely different look. You can have a tiny, chubby boy as one costume and a giant muscular man as the other. I believe you can even change genders now.
        – A ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous amount of variation. You can pretty much create any character you desire, with very few limitations (you can’t, for instance, create a character with four arms, even though the game does contain these). While playing with the costume creation system’s settings to create children and obese characters is already neat enough, I’ve seen people create stuff like penguins, mushrooms, Xenomorphs and I even saw a guy who was just a giant hand. Creativity is really your only limit here.

    3. Platypus says:

      Considering AP was written in part by Chris Avellone? Yeah sounds about right… Basically i figured early the trick to having fun and not looking like a twat in that game was just never pick the fucking suave options unless talking to leland or conrad in which case only go suave cause it pisses them off in very deserved ways. Shame the game wont get a sequel but an obsidian led spiritual successor with a different writer could be absolute dynamite.

      1. Gautsu says:

        The emails were probably the worst part. Thornton definitely left an electronic trail of sexual harassment

    4. Damiac says:

      So, you played through Alpha Protocol, a game where a super duper secret rogue government organization that self funds through blackmail, weapons trafficking, assassination, and all manner of other evil horrible things is trying to do more evil things, two times. The game where countless civilians are killed, both because of and in spite of your actions.

      That was ok. But suddenly it’s a moral imperative that it be deleted because charming manipulative murderer Mike sometimes has the option of being a bit pervy.

      So… you’re morally ok with all the murder, manipulation, and life ruining stuff, so long as nobody says “Dame”? Cold blooded murder is one thing, but hitting on women? Fetch the fainting couch!

      Alpha Protocol was an excellent branching story espionage game with pretty mediocre to ok gameplay. I hate the idea that game devs will see such a fun thing as too “risky” due to moral busybodies.

      Hell maybe if we’re lucky it’ll be a slow news day and someone will pick up this “Chris Avellone is a bad racist sexist and gamers like his games so they’re all racists and sexists again too!”. It was so much fun the first time around, after all.

  19. Grey Rook says:

    I’ve been playing Earth Defense Force 5, a third-person shooter where you’re a grunt in a war against the alien menace. It’s a major step up from 4.1 gameplaywise, but the writing and song took a step backwards, more’s the pity. It also gets pretty grindy if you want to play on higher difficulties, which can be frustrating.

    Still, unloading a rocket launcher into a horde of giant ants and watching buildings collapse between the fireballs as bug bits fly in all directions is great fun, and seeing the mothership open up and reveal that it actually consists entirely of cannons and shield generators followed by it starting to indiscriminately shell the entire map is a rush, even more so once you breach its defenses and watch it tear itself apart in a huge explosion, followed by the final do-or-die duel against the nearly godlike alien leader… it’s pretty awesome.

    Unfortunately, increasing your maximum health is bound to collecting random drops during battles, as is healing damage and obtaining new weapons, or improving those you have.

    I’ve also been playing Hedon, which started as a Doom mod and later went commercial. It’s pretty impressive, considering what the designer had to work with – GZDoom isn’t exactly cutting edge, but he managed to create a fairly believable setting that isn’t just a succession of arenas for you to blast your way through. While there is a lot of combat involved, you also end up spending a fair amount of time searching the levels not usually for keys, but for power cells, repair tools, or spare parts to fix whatever’s broken and allow you to progress. Some of those get rather complex.

    The game also recently received a free expansion, Bloodrite, that is by itself about twice the size of the original game.

    There is a nice variety of environments, weapons, and enemies, and you occasionally get assisted by other friendly NPCs. (Do note that the game’s art style is really horny. You probably shouldn’t look it up if you’re in a place where people might get mad at you for looking at pictures of women in fetish wear.)

    The levels are littered with hidden spaces containing extra supplies – or sometimes just easter eggs – most of which are really well hidden. Don’t expect to find very many unless you make a habit of obsessively searching every last inch of the level. Pretty fun, though not by any means easy – even lesser enemies can kill you quickly if you don’t dodge their attacks, and later opponents can deal massive damage to you and/or your allies, unless you kill them first.

    There is a free demo out on both Steam and GOG, so you can check it out without having to pay for it.

    1. Fizban says:

      I’ve seen MATN do a couple of the Earth Defense Force games, but they only ever play for one video’s worth, so a couple hours. Sounds like their signature “I think you get the point” sign-off hasn’t done the games justice, if the game escalates that far (unless your description is simply giving me a greater impression).

      1. Grey Rook says:

        Well, I was describing the last two levels of the main campaign of 5, though the entire series is about fights against huge hordes of giant monsters, robots, and Godzilla-likes. The intensity, and thus difficulty, of any given level is very variable. The Steam forum is usually fairly helpful if you don’t understand something, though I would recommend waiting for a sale to buy the game – I don’t think it’s worth the full fifty Euros.

        There are plenty of videos on Youtube, like this one: https://youtu.be/fAt2NBJvMt8 that would give you a look at what the endgame looks like. That one is admittedly in Japanese, to prevent spoilers and not give you a walkthrough, and the player is playing as the Ranger, the simplest and most straightforward class.

  20. Lars says:

    I played the first two Add-Ons to Immortal Fenyx Rising. A modern game, that actually has the feature of having the stats of one gear and the look of another. But there are no RNG elements and level restrictions to the game – just puzzle solving and fighting to get designed gear. Both DLC were good. Not as good as the main game but they entertained me 6 hours each. The isometrice persective of DLC3 felt wrong. Haven’t played it through even though the level design was still good.
    In multiplayer I’m sinking hours into Satisfactory and boardgame adaptions of Scythe and Wingspan.
    Also I tried to play Ghost of Tsushima but that game is collect-a-ton at its worst. The world has constant asset reuse and is empty elsewhere. Houses, trees, NPCs and enemies – all the same. NPCs standing around 24/7 without a purpose. Most of the sidequests consist of collect X of Y – Shrines, Haikus, Onsen, meh and that is integratet in character progression, like more health, more stamina, … So you have to do all the dull stuff to be able to compete with the high level enemies (I counted 7 different enemies in 3 different armor colors till now).

    1. Hal says:

      Hm, that’s disappointing to hear. I’ve been playing the multiplayer part of that game, and wondering whether the single-player campaign will be worth getting into. Now I know.

      1. Thomas says:

        I enjoyed Ghosts, although I found I needed to get to the second area before the game really started clicking with me. You can skip a lot of the side content and get through the game fine if you focus on one aspect.

        The mainline story is pretty good and there are some very beautiful moments in the game.

  21. Chad+Miller says:

    For some reason I’ve been playing some really bad games lately.

    The Avengers recently showed up on Game Pass and…it pretty much lives down to its reputation. You can actually see some glimmers of what may have been a fun single player game (Kamala in particular is genuinely endearing at times even as she toes the Mary Sue line) but the decision to make it center around a half dozen different characters while also being based on an mtx treadmill sucks most of the fun out of it.

    Funnily enough, there was a recent controversy when they nerfed XP gains because “it was confusing and overwhelming for new players to allocate so many skill points” and then later added XP boosters to the money store. I agree with the playerbase consensus that this is a transparent attempt to cover for the real motive of “this game is still in the red and we’re desperately trying to make our money back”, but I actually think there’s a grain of truth to this concern when it comes to the loot. You’re constantly picking up treasure chests which almost all contain gear, which is not only absurd (my favorite is the Hulk, whose normal outfit is “just enough torn pants to cover his Hulk dong” so you get loot that shows pictures of bones like his ribcage and spinal cord that he’s apparently jamming some kind of implants into, which introduces its own fridge logic when you wonder what happens when he turns back into Bruce), but also means that if you’re trying to optimize it then you’ll spend more time in menus than in fights. And then there’s some gear modding system on top of that which I’m pointedly not bothering to learn. If the goal were really to design the best possible game and avoid newbie overload I’d say they should cut the gear treadmill entirely, but I know they can’t sell that.

    If anyone else wants to try it, I highly recommend turning on subtitles. They look like someone copied the entire script, and by that I mean not just the lines but the stage directions.

    https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/290695409159110657/893665479355416576/unknown.png
    https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/290695409159110657/893667311762944041/unknown.png

    Because I apparently hate myself, I also tried picking up Assassin’s Creed again recently. So far my experience with the series has been to play what I think is about half of two games, and I think this playthrough is going to end much like the first; I had one mission in Damascus, one in Jerusalem, and one in Acre. Then it gives me “why don’t you do the same thing, but with one mission that takes place in Damascus, Jerusalem, and Acre?” I think I just fundamentally don’t get Ubisoft’s appeal.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      Huh, that looks less like subtitles and more like closed-captioning for hard of hearing. Are you sure you don’t have a setting for descriptive text to be turned on? It’s a growing feature for games, I think, and might have been left on in your options.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        Nah, it was just one setting for both that and what you’d normally think of as subtitles. The thing that makes these silly to me is that they’re describing things happening on the screen, not sounds (there’s an even more blatant one I didn’t get a screenshot of along the lines of “Kamala smiles at the pictures on the wall”)

        Now, I do know of entertainment products that have descriptive tracks of things happening on the screen, but since those are for the visually impaired, they tend to be sound. So you have visible text for people who can see but have trouble hearing, and audible text for people who can hear but have trouble seeing, and the two are normally entirely separate because those two groups are distinct.

        So what I’m really finding the entertainment value in is the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen a game, or any work really, think that it needs to have readable text describing the exact thing that you can very well see with your same eyes by, er, looking at it.

      2. Chad Miller says:

        So, I just tried a bit more of the game and need to double back and correct myself a bit; you were correct, there are separate “Subtitles” and “Closed Caption” settings. I’m so used to turning all that stuff on that I just blanked over it. I remain baffled that we have text describing things that are happening on the screen as they’re happening on the screen, but I am prepared to believe that it’s intentional.

        The other takeaway from this session: I played one mission. It wasn’t that long; I only got in two combats total, over the course of three waypoints. It’s probably intended to take longer because they expect most people to actually care about loot grinding, which called attention to the fact that this game desperately wants you to loot grind. I don’t know if it wasn’t doing this before or if I just hadn’t noticed.

        Before I even started walking into the level, I get a tooltip telling me there’s some elite enemy that drops extra good loot. I’ve made the conscious decision not to care about loot so I ignore it. I walk a little further and get another tooltip telling me that there’s a chest nearby with some loot. I press on. Jarvis starts talking about something plot-relevant until the game interrupts him (as in the entire game pauses in the middle of his line) to tell me that I’m passing by a building with loot in it. All told this level with two fights ended up nagging me about loot FIVE TIMES. You are never going to make me enjoy swapping out Hulk’s ribcage implants, game! Simmer down!

    2. GoStu says:

      It really warms a chilly part of my heart to think that a game that nakedly MTX’d and commercialized is doing poorly.

      No shit, guys. Hope you figure it out before you burn a few hundred million more dollars.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        FWIW, I don’t know that they’re still in the red, and I certainly have no inside information, but the last publicly available information didn’t look good: https://www.pcgamer.com/square-enix-reports-losses-following-release-of-underperforming-marvels-avengers/

        Other things to note is that practically everyone seemed to stop giving a shit about it pretty much immediately, they still haven’t included some features that were discussed pre-launch including Spider-Man’s entire character (which was supposed to be a PlayStation exclusive, so lol if that affected your purchase decision). Also it showed up on Game Pass less than 2 weeks ago and I’m told that even high-level multiplayer on Xbox is a ghost town. The one-two punch of adding XP boosters to the MTX store right before presumably getting some cash from MS for the Game Pass deal really looks like they’re trying to milk what they can before they’re forced to go F2P.

        1. GoStu says:

          Even if it’s not technically in the red any more, failing to deliver a big return on the millions invested is still a major loss by studio standards. That’s “bring in the project manager, and have them figure out why the game is not making money” levels of failure.

          I might be being naively optimistic, but I can hope that the lesson is “huh, all the monetizing made it not very fun” instead of “MONETIZE HARDER, IT DIDN’T WORK!”.

          From what I recall, the gaming public caught two whiffs of that turd and (broadly) gave it a miss, and then I’m those that did grab a copy didn’t stay around as long as they’d have hoped.

          1. RamblePak64 says:

            The Beta pushed a lot of folks like myself off, yeah, because the gameplay just didn’t feel very good. Then even the most positive reviews effectively stated the single player campaign is alright but the “endgame” and other content was a lame and repetitive grind that was no fun and not worth sticking around for.

            The irony is, from the sounds of previews, Guardians of the Galaxy sounds like the game players would have preferred, being a single player experience with a narrative drive, but I’m curious if it’s going to suffer in sales due to how Avengers turned out.

    3. baud says:

      The first Assassin’s Creed is rough around the edges; if you want to play one of the older AC games, I’d say go for 2, it’s way better, unless you don’t want to leave the Holy Land

      1. Thomas says:

        In particular AC2 drops the requirement to do the exact same missions each time to unlock the assassinations.

  22. RamblePak64 says:

    Like others, I’m playing Metroid: Dread because I am a dyed in the wool Metroid fanboy. I don’t do speedruns and barely sequence break but I love the structure of these games and have yet to play a Metroidvania that gives me that same sense of satisfaction (Touhou Luna Nights and Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth being the closest, with Bloodstained being the first “vania” style game to really pull me in and Hollow Knight being more 2D Dark Souls/Bloodborne with the shared Metroidvania inspirations). I was curious to see if Dread would break away from Fusion and Other M’s linear natures where each zone was blatantly blocked off, and the answer is…. yes and no. The zones aren’t packed together so they still feel more isolated from one another than in Super Metroid, but there are far more connections between them. As a result, it’s more of a Metroid Prime design style than Fusion or Other M, where connections between zones were absolutely minimal.

    When I discussed Super Metroid in an old video, I noted how the game had a habit of letting you explore a certain portion of map before locking you away from backtracking, forcing you forward while limiting how much you could explore while being “lost”. It was an elegant method of steering the player and allowing them to learn the map before opening it up for further and less guided exploration. Dread is a strange in-between, where it feels more open and less guided in part because you’ll be bouncing between multiple different zones at any given time. However, the map will change in subtle ways that will also lock your progress at certain points. So, we don’t really have a “perfected” execution of how Super Metroid did it, but we still have a method that is effective, especially as I’m pretty sure Dread is the largest map in a 2D Metroid game. We’ll see how back-tracking for an attempted 100% goes.

    As mentioned above in another comment thread, Dread is also gaining a reputation from reviews and some players as the most difficult entry in the series. I think the only area this is a detriment is in back-tracking. They added the “counter dash”, but while this does a decent job of knocking enemies back, that’s all it does. It can help speed through old zones, but otherwise combat can still be an unfortunate slow down. Otherwise, however, I’ve been enjoying the boss fights and how abilities work in combat.

    Metroid Dread is also the game that could potentially knock Resident Evil Village off my current spot of “game of the year”. I’ve already got a second save slot for when I’m not playing on stream, so I’m effectively juggling two simultaneous playthroughs. However, Capcom still claims top spots overall because Monster Hunter Rise is unquestionably my Destiny replacement as a “solo or multiplayer chill game for whenever I want to game but nothing else strikes me”. It has such a solid gameplay loop, is a lot of fun, and hunting for materials feels like such less of a grind than all the live service model games since you just fight monster after monster after monster. It’s a “grind” without the grind since you’re doing all boss fights.

    The Great Ace Attorney is the other excellent Capcom game I’m playing, though currently on hold because Metroid Dread is fully in command of my Nintendo Switch right now. It was a really good opportunity for the Ace Attorney team to basically strip down some of the creeped features of the mainline series, bringing it back to basics before adding in a few new twists. In this one, it is namely the addition of deduction during investigation phases and the inclusion of a jury.

    Perhaps most interesting to me is the exploration of 1800’s Japan in its early days of interacting with Victorian era England/British Empire following the lengthy period of isolation, the internal conflict Japan faced in having to “catch up” with the rest of the world, the threat of losing much of Japan’s tradition and history to imitation of foreign powers, and effectively being sycophants to foreign powers that treated the nation as a backwater. Despite blatantly exploring the combination of racism and classism of such colonialist attitudes, it does not do so with the same harsh judgment of many soap box products that try to address the same issues without nuance or turning everyone into cartoon villains. It has nuance even when it’s blatant. I guess the best I can say is that the attitude is wrong, even if the person is well meaning, which is honestly pretty accurate to how these sorts of issues manifest in reality. That said, I can’t help but wonder if the game was also created due to a lot of Western corporations becoming more and more involved in Japanese business, and particularly the game and manga industries, over the past several years.

    And that’s already too political than I ought to be getting in these comments. Nonetheless, I find it fascinating and am on the final case of the first game.

    Speaking of Japanese investigation games, I’m also playing through Lost Judgment, the latest Yakuza series spin-off and potentially last of the short-lived spin-off series (TL;DR: SEGA wants to release their games on PC, but the super powerful talent agency behind the actor playing the protagonist and whose likeness is being used has very strict rules and restrictions that ultimately result in a “no PC port” policy (I’m guessing due to ease of ripping the assets and using the likeness in amateur/unofficial products by fans that could “damage” the brand/image of the actor and therefore agency)). This one has the least involvement of the Yakuza proper, which has allowed the story to take a more unique and interesting shape compared to the mainline franchise. It also has protagonist Takayuki Yagami going undercover at a high school as an “outside counselor” to some of the clubs, which not only results in some self-aware wink-nudge hilarity that the series is known for, but offer a sort of “Bully, but in Yakuza instead of GTA” story opportunities. It actually has me hoping for another spin-off that completely takes place involving the high school students you get to know.

    Moreso, however, the story manages to crossover the topics of both bullying and corruptions/flaws of the Japanese justice system in ways that are just… rational and yet top notch. It’s this sort of cultural observation and commentary that I think really helps push the Yakuza series above other games, and it’s often handled in such a mature yet sometimes fearless manner. It actually has some things in common with the Ace Attorney franchise that way, but the subjects Yakuza tackles are far more varied and far more in-depth.

    The game also seems to have done a better job of reducing combat on the street, especially with the addition of a skateboard with which to get around. Combat was a bit rough, but only due to the difference between Yagami and Kiryu in terms of fighting style. Whereas Kazuma is like a brick house that can just bash people into submission, Yagami is far more defense and evasion oriented. As a result, it’s better to watch your enemy’s movements, dodge or block, and then take advantage of openings. Bosses can still be quite a pain, but it’s easier once you get the hang of being a more defensive fighter.

    Those are basically the games I’ve been playing.

    1. Henson says:

      I finished Hollow Knight not too long ago, which also had a lot of connection between areas, and yet was very easy to get lost in during early exploration. I appreciate the openness of the map, even if it’s often daunting to not know which way to go.

      I think the thing I would most look for in a Metroid game is a good sense of atmosphere, since that was what was so good about Super Metroid.

      1. Fizban says:

        Heh. The atmosphere is one of the major reasons I never played Super Metroid when I was a kid. You get locked in a room where a bunch of enemies appear right at the beginning of the game and it just spook-noped me right out. I had Metroid 2 on gameboy but it was just boring: endless rooms that all looked the same that you apparently had to map (unless there was an in-game map?), though a friend loved it and borrowed it for quite a while.

        Later I recall trying and getting to a point in Super where I’d fallen into some fire zone and couldn’t go forward or back- it might not have been an actual soft-lock, but it made me drop the game entirely.

        By now I can handle the spook of course, but I’m just not interested. I never found the movement and jumping in the 2d Metroids fun (too. . . cumbersome?), and then I got Prime: Echoes (which also noped me out for a while with its atmosphere), and finally the Prime Trilogy, and yeah.

        It’s kinda weird to me when I listen to people going on about Fusion and I’m like “What, that old GBA one? Yeah it was probably good?” ’cause I’m only interested in seeing a new Prime. It’s a game which started as 2d and stayed that way for several games, generating the diehard fanbase and helping found a genre, yet I’m only interested in what often only qualifies to them as a spinoff. A 3-game spinoff, but still.

        1. RamblePak64 says:

          If you got stuck in a hot fire zone then you didn’t turn around like you were supposed to. But, that’s neither here nor there, and the games certainly feel more smooth in the later iterations than how Super Metroid feels.

          Regardless, the Prime entries are still really solid, and lore-wise are more interesting than the entries headed up by Yoshio Sakamoto (basically all 2D games plus Other M). I don’t know if they’re considered “spin-offs” by fans, but I do get the feeling they’re now their own timeline. We’ll have to see what happens with Prime 4 since Dread is supposed to be the end of “this story” or whatever.

    2. Christopher says:

      I was pleasantly surprised with how much the Japan/England stuff mattered in TGAA. The outright racist stuff is pretty mild in terms of the words they use, I don’t think anyone mentions skin color once as an example and I’m not sure if “nipponese” is something anyone has said until this game, but you still get a very clear sense of how the characters feel about it. And it all forms a pretty unique backdrop for a setting that’s otherwise been used a lot already. Sherlock Holmes is old hat. But approaching it from the perspective of Japanese characters traveling to England, and doing it with that Ace Attorney style, that made it feel pretty fresh for me.

      It’s definitely the Ace Attorney games I’ve enjoyed the most since that original trilogy, and while they have a lot in common, there are many things that make them stand apart from each other even besides the setting. Even if I’m not sure every change is an improvement(pressing multiple witnesses at once until one of them gets an exclamation point over his head is, I feel, not as exciting or satisfying as refuting statements with evidence) it’s good to see it carve out its own identity. Just good to see it come out here at all, finally, really.

      1. Syal says:

        I don’t think anyone mentions skin color once as an example

        According to Wikipedia, that was a localization decision.

        The localization did tone back on the racism included in the dialogue, and removed all outright Asian slurs. Notable examples include insults about Ryunosuke being “yellow” being altered to him being insulted on account of his black university uniform, and all usages of “oriental” were removed and replaced with either “Nipponese” or “Far Eastern”.

    3. Marvin says:

      That’s a fine selection of 2D platformers! Have you ever played SMT: synchronicity prologue? It’s a free game intended as a promotion for Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Yourney, by team Ladybug (of Touhou: Luna Nights and Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth). The game is no longer available officially, but there’s a torrent of a translated version lying around. I can highly recommend trying it. It’s a pretty short game, but also features the elemental switching mechanic as seen in Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth.

  23. Drathnoxis says:

    I just finished Driver: San Francisco, and I have to say it was really, really good! Just such a great unique take on a driving game. Being able to possess random drivers on the road and crash them into pursuers or race opponents was fun, and being able to charge up a ram attack made take down missions much more bearable than in other games. The real star was the writing, though. The characters were all a lot of fun with great banter, I would find other driving games more fun if the races had fun banter about which pedal was the brake and whether or not it’s appropriate to drive on the sidewalk (I didn’t play any of the boring blue mission that don’t have banter and the game didn’t force me to). The main plot pulled off something I actually didn’t think was possible: to make the “it was all a dream” twist actually work! That sounds like a spoiler, but it really isn’t because it’s established within the first half hour, and that’s what makes it work. Where as other games will spring that on us in the last 5 minutes to try and shock us with their genius plot twist and retroactively make all the drama and suspense up until that point feel completely meaningless, Driver: San Francisco tells us up front so that we can just relax and enjoy ramming civilian cars into drug dealers. And despite most of the game being a dream it actually has a satisfying conclusion that wraps things up perfectly.

    I’m really shocked I don’t hear more people talking about this game. I’ve only ever heard Yahtzee talk about it, but it really deserves to be played by anybody who enjoyed driving games, buddy cop fiction, or just unique gameplay and story.

    1. Redrock says:

      Well, one of the reasons you don’t hear people talk about this one is that it hasn’t been available for purchase online since 20-frigging-16. Which is downright criminal, because not only more people should experience D:SF, more game developers should draw inspiration from it. What’s really cool about it is the amount of effort on display – they didn’t really have to write so many funny little random conversations for every possession, and yet they did, and the game is so much better for it. I guess you can see bits and pieces of that mentality in Watch Dogs, what with the hackable phone conversations and messages, but there it’s buried under tonnes of bloat, whereas in Driver it’s all part of a lean, mean package. Though I do remember the actual driving feeling a tad floatier than I would like. Still perfectly enjoyable, though.

  24. Echo Tango says:

    I’ve basically been playing Project Zomboid for the last two months, with a few replays of older games like The Binding Of Isaac: Whatever The Most Recent Expansion Is and Slay The Spire mixed in. It’s a really involving game, where you spend your days looting food, weapons, and slowly build up the things you need for longer-term survival like generators, cars, and gas, or axes, hammers, and nails to build a hideout. It’s got a lot of skills and systems, some of which are more fun than others. All the ones that are just waiting for bars to fill up like Tailoring are a chore, but Cooking feels better since you already need to eat and the skill just gives you some bonuses to food. The devs are planning (fingers crossed) to re-do some systems and make them more engaging, like having Scavenging actually spawn random items in the forest that your character can pick up, instead of just waiting for a bar to fill. :)

    All of the pre-built difficulty options are too hard, and have some really obnoxious mechanics like a helicopter that just punishes you no matter which way you address it, and then never returns ever again, or the tendency for zombies to spread out like an ideal gas (or whatever), and for zombies to respawn. There have beensome films where these types of behavior would be justified, or where if you squint hard enough the systems are approximating the situations you’d see in those films, but there’s far more films (and more canonical in my opinion) where these systems are working against what you’d expect from those films. Either respawns or spreading out zombies could help it feel like there were a few zombies you missed in a “cleared” area, and they crawled out later like in some films, but using both together feels cheap to me, and pulls me out of the world. So I just run a custom difficulty that changes all the stuff that’s annoying, and still end up dying after a few days. :)

  25. Christopher says:

    Last month I finally started playing some games again after a long break.

    I’ve played Hades for about 12 hours. It’s a pretty fun game, but I would enjoy it a lot more if it wasn’t a roguelike. I find myself constantly questioning the balance, I don’t think there’s anything interesting about playing in the same handful of rooms over and over again doing this pretty cool but simple combat with different modifiers.

    The story has a lot of dialogue that’s more functional than entertaining. There’s not a lot of either good jokes or good drama, so while it’s not annoying or anything, I’m not super invested. I’d have preferred if they did another game Bastion-style, but let you swap weapons on the fly and things like that. A deeper action game with a more involved story rather than this approach, you know.

    Zagreus is really cool. I don’t think his personality is half as edgy as his design, I wish he’d banter more instead of “yes sir”ing these gods, but he’s a stylish protagonist. The only guy he does banter with is Hades, and I enjoy their relationship. It’s fun to see them bicker. I was promised the characters in this game were gonna be super hot but I guess there’s no accounting for taste, lol. Have the Hades enthusiasts ever seen 2B?

    When I grew tired of Hades I beat Specter of Torment, a DLC campaign for Shovel Knight. I guess they’ve been adding these to the game since 2014, and I think people who bought the game back then got them all for free. At least I’ve ended up with them. I skipped Plague Knight ’cause that guy’s super annoying and I heard he had the same levels as Shovel Knight. Meanwhile Specter Knight has all new levels and operates with a lot of prince of persia and sonic mechanics, lots of slidin and glidin and wallrunning, and a homing attack that sends you up or down depending on whether you’re above or below the target.

    You have to chain together those moves for a lot of interesting platforming, but the automatic nature of them can make it feel like you’re getting screwed over sometimes. When the button is constantly changing what it does depending on your position it can be tricky to keep it straight in your head.

    Fun campaign, tho. Took 5 or 6 hours, felt complete, was a good time. Felt like a full new Shovel Knight sequel, besides the reuse of of assets and designs from the main game. I’m gonna play the King Knight’s campaign at some point, but I hope they make a sequel. If they moved up to 16 bit fidelity and made like a Super Shovel Knight, that would really be something I could dig.

    After Shovel Knight I played Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. If you’re unfamiliar, some of the Castlevania devs left Konami and kickstarted Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a Castlevania Symphony of the Night-like. The game I played is the classic NES action platformer Castlevania-like that came out as a tie-in game. I’m not really familiar with NES Castlevania, but if this is accurate to them, it’s not my thing at all lol.

    The platforming is very stiff and restrictive, with fixed jump arcs, and the movement is pretty limited and slow. Shovel Knight already can be a bit like, _digital_ compared to the analogue movement of platformers like Mario, Sonic or Donkey Kong, and this here is way beyond even that. I can respect someone enjoying that style, but it’s in no way my thing.

    Besides that, this game was made by Inti Creates(Mega Man Zero/ZX, Blaster Master Zero, Gunvolt, Mighty no 9) and shares a character designer with many of those games. The result is that the enemies in this game all look less gothic and more like that monster from Under Night In-Birth. It’s very generic anime. I appreciate that the stock Castlevania monsters are a bit played out, but most of these bosses and enemies just look uncool. The exception is Bloodless, a vampire that’s taking literal blood baths. She would fit in well in a Castlevania game.

    I remember the DS Castlevania games taking some flak for changing from cool gothic portraits to milquetoast anime character portraits, but the actual in-game designs in those games were a lot better than anything in Curse of the Moon.

    Besides all that, I’ve been watching the Gaming Brit go through a marathon of the mainline Sonic games on his Twitch channel. Most of those games seemed real bad, either featuring a ton of jank, a heavy focus on a poor, poorly told story, or some misguided design choices like making half the game a bad 3d brawler that ran at like 10 fps. But one game that did look good to me is Sonic Generations, which has a rep for a reduced emphasis on story, a lot of fun stages and a general lack of jank. And that stuff’s all true!

    It’s an actual good Sonic game. One of the problems with 3D sonic is making that 3D movement both feel fast and controllable, so wisely a lot of the game is a 2,5D platformer. The 3D segments give you the ability to boost straight forward along a path pretty often, changing “lanes” with the bumpers, which also means you don’t gotta actually move around in 3d much. And finally there’s a big emphasis on the homing attack, which automatically targets various enemies and objects to move you over there. It’s not rocket science, they just found smart workarounds for their core problem.

    Then they added some beautiful visuals and largely great music on top of it. I was sat there smiling a lot during the more impressive setpieces, and some areas like the Sky sanctuary area just look stunning. And while characters show up from all of Sonic’s history, their role is limited to contextualizing new gameplay in mostly optional challenge segments(which, mostly, are also pretty solid). It’s good shit. My only real issue during it was a trouble with conveyance during the boss fights. The final boss in particular I struggled with figuring out how exactly worked. But for the most part, a game that’s super easy to recommend.

    Sonic Generations also came with the original Sonic the Hedgehog, which I beat all of for the first time. That game is a death march man, it’s so hard. There’s a reason people remember Green Hill Zone fondly and then peace out before the underwater labyrinth. It’s a lot of restrictive, difficult platforming that doesn’t really play into the appeal of going fast as Sonic. I was tense ever since Labyrinth Zone, so at least I wasn’t bored, but I don’t think it’s one I will revisit much.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Yeah, that’s pretty much what the NES Castlevania games were. You really need to have some nostalgia for them to appreciate Curse of the Moon, because the gameplay is purposely restrictive to fit the style of those old games rather than adding a few more modern sensibilities.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        I feel like nostalgia is the only thing the Bloodstained games have going for them.

        At least, that’s the only reason I can provide why I found the more modern, “better” game to be unplayably boring (having played a lot of 8-bit games but mostly skipped over the Metroidvanias)

    2. evilmrhenry says:

      Yeah, the Specter Knight campaign is, I feel, the best of the three DLC campaigns.

      1. Rho says:

        It might be better than the base game. Spectre Knight handles amazingly well, his abilities are fun, he turns himself and a joke character into serious storytelling, and it is exactly the right length.

  26. Syal says:

    Hoo boy, what have I played since last time.

    Griftlands is a deck-builder roguelike in the style of Slay the Spire, but it’s also got plot and character relationships. It’s also got two separate decks; one for combat, and another for negotiation. I especially like Rook’s storyline; he’s a spy hired by a company to deal with a worker uprising, but then you find out he was also hired by the worker uprising to deal with the company, and then you find out he was hired by a third party for reasons unknown, so you’re playing as a triple agent.

    Main problem with Griftlands is the length of it. Slay the Spire takes about 45 minutes to finish casually, while Griftlands takes about two and a half hours. That’s too long for a roguelike but too short for an RPG. Still, I’m oddly compelled toward Griftlands now, I’ve been playing it instead of Slay the Spire. I guess I like RPGs that much.

    The Last Remnant has lost my interest. It’s a SaGa-style game; you level up by using abilities, and using a class of abilities can randomly unlock more abilities in that class. It’s also a pseudo-tactics game; you have squads of characters, and engaging enemies with multiple squads gives bonuses for the squad battle and the field in general. It’s also a SaGa-style game in that you’ll get lost a whole lot. Battles have been obnoxiously hard due to… well I don’t know if it’s the squads being set up wrong or if I’m supposed to have better equipment, or if I’ve grinded too much and the autoleveling has made the fight much meaner (apparently that’s patched out of the Steam version, but I can’t tell). Anyway, with the completion of FFX-2 my desire to push forward here is slain.

    Disgaea 4 has lost my interest. Narratively I’d say it’s the best Disgaea; it’s got the silliness of 1 while still having forward momentum at all points. It’s also got Axel from 2, which is probably a detriment to most, but it treats him like a literal plague so I’m happy. But, 5 has more mechanical pleasantries; the series has allowed diagonal throwing since 1, through a pseudo-glitch where you throw before the cursor rearranges, but 5 got rid of that and just let you throw diagonally like a sane person. I think that’s what stopped me playing 4; I enjoy it, it’s arguably the best in the series, but I’ve just played so much of the series now I don’t need to finish this one.

    Briefly started up Fell Seal again, a job-system tactics game. Quickly lost interest, but I think that was mostly because I started up two separate runs at the same time. Then I committed to one, and managed to injure my only black mage right before the first fight where he’s mandatory. Turns out I’d rather stop there than fix my mage.

    Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, a job-system tactics game, has lost my interest. There’s a restriction on learning job abilities; you have to equip certain pieces of gear in order to learn them. I like games with the gear system, incentivising you to stick with outdated equipment to gain a permanent bonus. And I like the job system, allowing good versatility without pure omnipotence. But putting them both together is overly restrictive. It turns every job class into the Blue Mage system of needing to find the right material to allow power gain. I don’t play Blue Mages because I find that mechanic really annoying. And on top of that, there’s the Law system, which restricts your ability to use abilities. Some of them are real problems; I continually got the “no Fight command” Law in the early game, where 90% of my troops could only do damage with the Fight command. I had to change half my squad to black mages just for that one Law. That’s not what a Job system is supposed to be. (It’s still a fun game, it’s not as detrimental as I’m making it sound. But thinking about it makes me not want to proceed.) Anyway, with the completion of FFX-2 my desire to finish this game is slain.

    I’m still amazed at the tonal whiplash between FFT and FFTA. From “you murdered my friend’s sister for your political ambitions” to “this is a dream world where everything is the way you want it”. I have a lot more respect for Fell Seal as a result; yes it’s an indie game fifteen years after the fact, but Fell Seal is actually a perfect intermediate tone between the two. High stakes, straightforward plot and characters.

    Got COVID for a bit in August, so spent the isolation clearing old games from my list.

    Finally finished Phantom Brave. The final boss was some bullshit, ended up just cheesing the thing by combining all my weapons into a single, absurdly strong weapon, giving it to my strongest character, and caving the boss’s head in. Destroyed a unique weapon to do it, so not happy, but I finally hit the ending so that’s that.

    Finished South Park: The Stick of Truth. Of course it’s pretty old now, so the references all feel dated, but I also recognized them all because it came out before I stopped watching South Park. It’s fun, not too hard, not too complex, you have to like South Park to like the humor.

    Bought and finished Cat Quest 2. Same silly nonsense and cat puns, now with more dogs and dog puns! Fun while it lasted, but probably won’t be back.

    Finished FFX-2. That one gets its own post.

    Made an attempt to replay FF8, but lack of audio options, game crashes, and the inexplicable desicion to hardwire running away to L3/R3 means I didn’t get far (the Playstation didn’t even have those buttons, what the hell Squeen.) Won’t stop me from talking about it though.

    I’ve taken to calling FF8 “the exploded shrapnel of a truly grand idea.” That may not be strictly true, (a lot of nonsense can be explained by “well it worked in 7, we should do it here”, the infamous memory scene being one of them,) but the sheer potential of this story is what makes me think of it so fondly. If someone could take all the elements in this game, and bind them together into a cohesive whole, what a fascinating story you could have! So I’ll always love this game, even now when I can’t bring myself to play it.

    Started up Torchlight 2 again. Now I remember why I liked this game so much. I also remember why I stopped playing it; all the major bosses have unlimited minions, often dozens of them. I’m a clear-the-room guy; when you can’t clear the room it’s really aggravating. I’m halfway through world 2 of 4, not sure I’ll continue, but that’s mostly due to playing…

    The Outer Worlds. Didn’t really register how much I like first-person combat talkers until I started actually playing this. It’s colorful, it’s fun, the dialogue feels natural enough so far. You can kill everyone, you can kick party members off your team, it’s good. On the third world now, no major complaints. I do have minor complaints, of course. Weapon degradation is an annoyance, but I’m swimming in repair parts and ammo so it’s not actually a problem. The “old people” is just a young person’s face with extra lines on it. Hardly anyone actually looks old, especially since their age doesn’t affect their vibrant, full heads of hair.

    The Great Ace Attorney 2. Watched TieTuesday play through 1, so skipped to 2 myself. It’s a fun time, the cases are intriguing, the characters are fun, it’s a good time. Although I’ve gotten stuck in every single investigation phase so far, and trials often require specific evidence that I don’t think is the best option; you have to show someone fell through the middle of a stage, but you can’t show the picture of the hole in the stage, you have to show the diagram of the stage’s height. And then the character proceeds to show both the diagram and the picture of the hole, and it’s like “come on, game, that’s what I was saying.” But Sherlock Holmes Herlock Sholmes is a hoot, and this is definitely getting finished (though probably not before The Outer Worlds).

    Just recently (like, last night) started replaying Kingdom Hearts 2. Been watching Slowbeef play it, fondly remembering my one playthrough, and now I’ve just got a really strong itch to level up drive forms. (Drive Form leveling, by the way, is one of my least-favorite job systems; you get a superpowerful form that has a very short duration, and can only be leveled up while active, meaning you’ve got like thirty seconds every couple of minutes to make any progress on this thing. It’s bad. And addictive. Addictively bad.) Of course, I haven’t even broken back out of the prologue, so no Drive Forms yet. But it’ll happen.

    Chess. Hit a hot streak and got the highest online rating I’ve ever had, then hit a slump and dropped 200 points, well below where I’d been before the hot streak. Good times.

    1. bobbert says:

      In 8, am I the only one who like the joke of “AP & spell charges make you stronger; XP makes you weaker.”?

      1. Syal says:

        I’m okay with it since the Card ability means you can mostly avoid XP. But I’m not a fan of it. Plus some GFs need XP to unlock their best skills; Squall’s 28-hit limit break is locked behind Ifrit Level 10. My super-exploitation playthroughs would put all my GFs on temporary party member Seifer in Dollet, and xp them up to gamebreak level there.

        1. bobbert says:

          That’s Genius!

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        What’s the worst level scaling system of all time? Oblivion is probably worse than this game, but not by much.

        1. Syal says:

          Never played Sacred, but I heard the magic was real bad in that one; leveling up spells increased their cooldowns, so it ended up better to not level them up.

    2. Syal says:

      FFX-2 is a game that’s been banging around in the back of my mind ever since I heard of it, back when it first came out. Not in a good way, just in a “that exists and I should probably experience it” way. A mental bugbear, roaming about, terrorizing the mental townsfolk. I played a bit of it when the FFX/X-2 combo hit Steam, but didn’t get far before stopping, confused and lost. But I got Covid in August, and decided now was the time, to push through, to finish the thing, to put the bugbear down.

      I’ve described FF8 as “the exploded shrapnel of a truly grand idea”. It’s a game I can love despite being badly broken, because I can imagine a better version where it all came together and all these grand ideas were realized. A JRPG with the surreal vastness of Disco Elysium. A dream game.

      FFX-2 has no grand ideas. It’s an asset reuse game with the most basic, lighthearted story you can tell. And it failed. It failed, as far as I can tell, because it was rushed. Every aspect of the game, plot, mechanics, everything feels like it needed time it didn’t get.

      I’ll start with the good; the dress sphere system in FFX-2 is the best job system I’ve ever played. You can only have one active at a time, but you can switch your job in the middle of combat. You get grids to place jobs on, and changing jobs along certain grid lines gives you powerups for the rest of the battle. Changing through every job on a grid lets you change into a super job, so there’s actually a reason to take small grids with very few job options. It’s wonderfully versatile. Job skills level up like GF skills in FF8: you can manually assign them, you gain points for killing monsters, and if you finish one it’ll automatically move to the next one, which you can manually reassign. Unlike 8, X-2 also gives you points for using class-specific abilities; you can spam attack and kill 300 monsters to level up an ability, or you can spam Berserk 300 times in a single battle and level it up that way. I’m always happy to see a bit of FF2’s level-by-use show up.

      The only downside to it is there’s no permanent benefits. Most job systems let you carry your passive bonuses from one job to the next, or give stat bonuses for mastering a job, or have a class that powers up based on mastering the others, or all of the above. FFX-2 doesn’t have any of that; passives are only for that job, so if you master it and change out, you get nothing. That seems easily fixed; especially with the grid system, you could just equip a mastered job and have it give bonuses like the lines. Maybe you have to switch through it to get them. That would be cool. And I bet someone would have done that, if they’d had more time.

      The combat system works fine on its own; it’s an ATB system with stagger mechanics, meaning if you get the rhythm down, it’s possible to actually stunlock an enemy, by hitting them in the middle of their animation and staggering them, making them start over. The big thing is, this is the opposite of FFX’s fully turn-based combat. And I don’t think it helps the job system; I spent a lot of the game just spamming attack because the ATB was moving fast enough to stop me thinking. I’d rather have a slow, thoughtful job system than the fighting game angle.

      It took me a while to realize, but the bosses don’t have any real gimmicks. Gimmicks are the most memorable thing about Final Fantasy bosses; FFX had bosses that regenerated, bosses that could only be hit by long-distance attacks, bosses that shut down your magic, bosses with minions that siphoned health from the boss. But the closest thing I remember to a gimmick in X-2 is Garuk having minions that hit for 100% of your MP. (Don’t make enemies attack MP when it doesn’t regenerate. Super dick move.) Most of the enemies in X-2 are asset reuses, but the only gimmicks are “this guy hits for all of your MP”, or “this guy hits for all of your HP”.

      The plot isn’t bad, per se. It’s a treasure hunt that turns into a weapon hunt. The scale is appropriately small compared to FFX; you’ve already saved the world, now you’re saving the cities. The weapon is explained well enough, but the main villain NegaTidus contradicts the setting as we know it; he’s a possessing spirit from 1000 years ago, in a world where the dead can just walk around and have never possessed anyone. If you open the secret dungeon, he also shows up in two places at once, which not only contradicts FFX but also renders X-2’s ending inconclusive. (I was hoping that dungeon would explain things; instead it made things make less sense.)

      The real problem is with the main characters. Yuna is not the Yuna from FFX; there is no way the quiet girl willing to kill herself for peace becomes a J pop star who steals things because she can. If you spent the entire first chapter building up this transition, it might have made some sense, but it still wouldn’t work, because it’s not the same character.

      Paine, the new character, doesn’t get any character development. She’s just a body so you have a three-man team, because Eternal Calm ruled out Lulu. The worst part is the story presents her as being at the center of the conflict; she’s an old friend of every major player, but they barely acknowledge her, and the revelation is the last time Paine does anything in the story. This needed so little change to make her work, but it didn’t get it, so Paine is a nobody.

      Brother is creepy and awful. He spends the opening of the game uncouthly hitting on Yuna. Not only is Yuna his first cousin, she’s specifically on a mission to track down her missing boyfriend. When’s he not hitting on Yuna, he’s just doing “look at me” stuff; overloud speech, wild gesticulations, stopping the plot to give himself screentime. Lots of demands to remember he’s the leader of the troop. He’s Roche, except less fun because you get to punch Roche.

      There’s a profoundly easy fix to this; replace Brother with Paine. Drop the creepy sex angle and turn Paine into Faris, the pirate captain running the ship. Everyone treats Yuna like the captain because she’s world-famous, Paine butts in to say “actually I’m in charge here,” Rikku’s got one foot in both worlds and mediates between them. Character dynamics! Still doesn’t fix Yuna not being Yuna, but it does a lot of good.

      Fortunately most of those issues are front-loaded; once you get out of Act 1 it calms down. Unfortunately, that means your first contact with the game is going to be all the worst aspects of it all at once.

      The quest system is unintuitive. Every non-plot location starts with a giant “No Missions” sign on it. You would think that means there are no missions in that location. Wrong. There are missions in nearly every location in every act, and the main quest is scaled around having done them. They also have plot context in them. It seriously took me three runs to figure that out. (My first time through, I jumped down to a non-plot location, the Mi’ihen Highroad, just to explore and see what was there. There was nothing there, so I decided the non-plot locations had nothing in them. Now, guess what’s the only location in the entirety of Act 1 to not have any quests in it.)

      The minigames suck. The only one I liked was Sphere Break, a math game about flipping coins to hit multiples of a random number that pops up at the start of the round. You get bonuses for hitting the same number of coins, and you only get points for using the temporary coins that don’t get replaced for three rounds. But the thing is egregiously undercooked; you can get multiples of 1, and you’re required to use a zero-point coin first, which means the game will just randomly, unavoidably end your streak and cost you a round. This is the purest symbol of the game getting rushed; you catch this instantly if you’re double-checking.

      All the other ones are on par with FFX’s minigames, AKA the worst minigames in Final Fantasy. They’re also obnoxiously based on timing. Between the stagger mechanics and the quicktime, someone obviously wanted to make a fighting game.

      The game is an asset reuse game. Young me probably would have found that offensive, but old me appreciates asset reuse more. And you can make good things out of it. I didn’t much like Trails in the Sky 2, but the asset reuse was a big positive, seeing all the locations again as the plot moved forward. And Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is my favorite game in the series (granted, it’s also the last one I’ve played, but still.)

      The asset reuse here is not good. Enemy sprites have been redistributed across the world. Fish are swimming in the air. The hard counter system of the first game, still reproducible with this game’s job system, is mostly just gone. No more water levels, but now the fish are swimming through the air. Aeons, famously dead after FFX’s ending, are back again with no explanation. (With an unanswered “What’s going on” from Yuna, in fact.) It’s less TITS2 and more TITS3. The messy one.

      The puzzles are bad. There’s a mandatory boss fight at one point in Chapter 2, but there’s a puzzle in that area that involves fighting that boss 4 times, and then fighting another boss. It’s the kind of thing child me would have thought was a good idea, and adult me recognizes as trash. But it’s in the game.

      There’s a lot of puzzles that involve the camera as your enemy. The first one, at the end of Act 1, is so egregiously that it’s actually fun; you’re walking up a flight of stairs, you have to answer a question based on how many guards there are, and the camera starts doing quick cuts from all different angles, only showing you part of the guards at a time. Meanwhile your character is staring at the full complement, presumably unable to do basic math.

      That’s the fun one. As the game goes on, they start adding more crap. The fonts of numbers are stylized to the point of not being able to read the numbers; I couldn’t solve a puzzle despite having found all the numbers, because the 8 looked like a 6, and the 1 looked like a 7. The final puzzle, a horrible Simon Says jumping puzzle, is a long shot with fake VHS damage lines running down the screen and a giant twitching robot in the corner, just to make it harder to see what the hell the puzzle wants from you. Even with a guide that thing took an hour.

      The further I pushed into the game, the more disappointed I became. This is a low-aiming game that nevertheless failed to clear the bar. The story grew worse. The cutscenes grew longer, and worse. The character dynamics disappeared. I skipped every sidequest in Act 5, just to get the game over sooner. I had a walkthrough open on a different tab to deal with the slightest inconveniences. (And boy howdy did it not help at all on the last puzzle. What a dogawful mess.) And when it was over, I sat back, and stared at the wall for nearly a day, exhausted and depressed.

      In a way, it was a good thing. This game killed my desire to push through any other mediocre games. The itch to finish FF13 is gone now, the desire to see The Last Remnant through is dead. FFTA returns to the void. The bugbear is slain; its blood is a cleansing spring.

      …but for some reason I started playing it again a couple days later. Presumably to try to poke the twitching corpse until something good came out of it, or at least until the twitching stopped. It’s better when you ignore all the plot and immerse yourself exclusively in the combat and job system. Nowhere near good enough to recommend, but there’s the potential for fun in there.

      The second playthrough stopped at the secret cave, with its secret plot contradiction. That’s when I fully stopped; there’s no promise of redemption anymore, the game is sick in the marrow.

      1. bobbert says:

        Not only is Yuna his first cousin,

        You look at Besaid Village again and tell me cousin marriage isn’t common and excepted. :)

        I like idiot dirt-bag Brother. He certainly had more personality than Pain did.

        I agree that the worst part of the game was that Yuna was in it. Riku and friends pirate adventures would have been a lot better on tone.

        Also, on a scale of 1 to very, how uncomfortable would the sexy in the game make you, if your mom was in the next room?

        1. Syal says:

          Also, on a scale of 1 to very, how uncomfortable would the sexy in the game make you, if your mom was in the next room?

          …hmm, hard to say. To be honest, the most uncomfortable part for me is from the first game; it’s the Al Bhed women with their crotchless parachute pants. Other than that, as long as we’re not giving LeBlanc a massage it’d probably be fine.

          I’m sure the number would have been higher before I’d played FF7 Remake. That game’s level of aggressive sexuality almost put me off buying it.

          1. bobbert says:

            re: LeBlanc

            I still refer to that one as the masterbation mini-game. Yeah, give me any other part of the game but that.

            I wonder if you could hack the PC version to play freakazoid relax-o-vision clips instead.

    3. John says:

      It’s also got Axel from 2, which is probably a detriment to most, but it treats him like a literal plague.

      Well, he does make me sick . . .

      Then I committed to one [run of Fell Seal], and managed to injure my only black mage right before the first fight where he’s mandatory. Turns out I’d rather stop there than fix my mage.

      I’m trying to guess which mission you’re talking about and failing. No class is ever mandatory in Fell Seal (although there is some side content that you can’t get access to without using a certain Ranger ability). Certainly Wizards, the Fell Seal equivalent of Black Mages, are useful against monsters and especially pektites, but there are always alternatives.

      I continually got the “no Fight command” Law in the early game, where 90% of my troops could only do damage with the Fight command. I had to change half my squad to black mages just for that one Law.

      I find that the laws in FFTA are not quite as bad as people often make them out to be. It helps to remember three things. First, the laws change every time you move from one map mode to the next. Second, you can check what the laws will be before you move. Third, most missions don’t have deadlines and those that do usually have very generous deadlines. If you don’t like the laws that will be active when you move to the next node, you can almost always go for a little walk and come back to a different set of laws. If you stick with the game long enough, you’ll get Law Cards that let you nullify laws you don’t like and impose laws that you do.

      1. Syal says:

        I’m trying to guess which mission you’re talking about and failing.

        It’s the first mission with the elemental jellyfish, in the tall grass. They’re heavily resistant to physical damage and heal themselves with their magic. I tried a few times without the mage and couldn’t hurt them fast enough to kill them.

        I figured out the law trick later (after reading an FFTA 2 LP, actually). Made it past the second reality pillar, of… four, I think? But the stopping point came when there was a law against Blades, and I coudn’t tell what counted as a Blade. Was thinking it would specifically be Ninja blades, and then my Fighter swung his sword and got penalized. It’s just not fun to check the Laws constantly.

        1. John says:

          It’s the first mission with the elemental jellyfish, in the tall grass.

          Ah, that one. The “elemental jellyfish” are the pektites I mentioned. Pektites are indeed tough if you can’t do elemental magical damage. Your next best bet is to hit them with a damage-over-time effect like Bleed or Poison and to reduce the damage they do with another status effect like Blind or Sleep. Although this mission is relatively early in the game, you should have a Scoundrel (specifically, Reiner) capable of inflicting Blind and Bleed even if you don’t have a more advanced class like a Plague Doctor or a Fellblade.

          One thing to remember about Fell Seal is that your party members can learn abilities from classes other than their primary class through a sort of osmosis. Your healer–all your characters, actually–gains Wizard AP every time you take your Wizard into battle. If you set her secondary class to Wizard, you should find that she has a fair number of Wizard abilities.

    4. Chad+Miller says:

      re: Griftlands

      I like it but I agree with your main criticism of it; that being that it’s a bit too long for a game based on repetitive runs when the spirelike* genre seems to have collectively settled on roughly one hour for the correct length of a run, and that turns out to be for good reason.

      I also have mixed feelings about the negotiation deck mechanic; I’m not sure the addition of an entire separate deck with its own mechanics actually serves the genre, and combined with the “cards individually gain XP by being used in games” mechanic you end up with some awful feedback loops where all your combat cards suck because you’re negotiating with everyone because your combat cards suck, until you hit a mandatory fight and just die.

      If you haven’t tried it already I would highly recommend taking a look at Monster Train. The best elevator pitch I can give it is that it’s one of the few entries that isn’t a dungeon crawler or RPG, behaving more like a Tower Defense game instead, and in terms of overall quality I think it’s the only one I overall like better than Slay the Spire itself.

      * I don’t call them “roguelike deckbuilders” because if I’m going to call them after a game I’d rather use the game they’re actually spun off of, because their long term progression actually makes them less like roguelikes than “non-roguelike” deckbuilders, and because as deckbuilders they owe more to Dominion than Rogue anyway. I know a guy who calls them “spire slayers” for similar reasons.

      1. Syal says:

        I also highly recommend Monster Train, and also think I like it a bit more than Slay the Spire. Definitely sometimes, anyway. Apparently haven’t played it since April, though, and Griftlands is not taking after Monster Train.

  27. Joshua says:

    I’m actually still playing LOTRO, but on one of the new Legendary Servers. Kind of like Vanilla WoW in concept, but rather just level-gated current content, so you can only play areas that were available before the first expansion and level cap raise but you still have access to the newer classes, races, and skills.

    Not quite the same thing, but reasonably close to playing the game like when it first came out. Especially with the new added difficulty options that allow you to make the fights harder to have a similar early game experience because the updates over the past 15 years severely made the PCs overpowered.

  28. Steve C says:

    I’ve been playing Dyson Sphere Program. Paul mentioning it on the Diecast put it onto my radar. I like it. I’ve put a lot of hours into it. I think my time with it is coming to a close though. I’ve ‘completed’ the game which doesn’t mean much. More importantly the novelty is over. I still like and enjoy the game. Certain aspects are becoming more and more akin to chores though. Which makes me not want to start it up.

  29. Hal says:

    Things I’ve been playing:

    Enter the Gungeon. Though I have to say my play on this has really slowed down as I’ve approached completion. I have just a few things left to do to get Platinum and the Finished Gun, but . . . dang, that stupid Resourceful Rat.

    If you don’t know, there’s a character in the game called the Resourceful Rat. If you leave an item sitting on the floor, then leave a room, he’ll swoop in and steal it. There is a secret level in the game, his lair, where you can go in and fight him. It’s a pretty tough fight, but more frustratingly, the third phase of the fight is different from anything else in the game: You fight him in Punch-Out! style fisticuffs.

    It’s just annoying because there’s no practice mode to get good at it, just getting to that fight is neither short nor easy, and failure in that fight can happen very quickly.

    Bah.

    Besides that, I’m also playing the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I’m enjoying it well enough, though the original game was never the major milestone of gaming for me that it was for other people. That said, I do feel like it’s really dragging on; I’ve put in at least a dozen hours to the game, and I’m not even halfway through. (And the game itself is barely a fraction of the original game’s content.) I have to wonder whether it’s a feasible undertaking for Squeenix to make, what, a 7 part remake?

    I’ve also been playing Ghost of Tsushima. My friends were really into the multiplayer part of the game, which I’d been putting off buying because . . . I generally just play the monthly free games. But a friend bought it for me, so here I am. And it’s fun! But it’s definitely one of those games where it’s easy to learn but difficult to master. I kind of wonder how long I’ll be playing it with them. It’s an old story that by the time I join into a game with them, they’re mostly done with it. Oh well, at least I didn’t spend any money on it.

    Oh, and the other game I’ve been playing is Zombie Army 4. It’s a 3rd person WW2 shooter, made by the team that does the Sniper Elite games, except the premise is that Hitler, on the losing side of WW2, becomes a necromancer and uses zombies to supplant his war effort. I guess in the previous games, Hitler gets killed and sent to Hell, but now he’s back as an undead necromancer. So Lich Hitler (Lichler?) is “hell-bent” on destroying all life on Earth, and you get to go to Hell to stop him.

    It’s extremely pulpy and campy, and I dig it. Lots of fun.

    1. GoStu says:

      I’ve been playing Gungeon on and off a bit lately… I have Feelings about the Rat. Overall the game is fun, and I enjoy the odd playthrough… But.

      I got a bit annoyed with the game, because there’s only two things that can reliably challenge me in the game now: the Rat, and the Advanced Dragun (which requires beating the Rat). I think the frustration sets in because you really need to play a rather specific way to actually access the Rat: you more-or-less can’t spend money on the first couple floors, because you need to buy the key in the shop on level 2. Then, you can’t reliably use Blanks on level 3 because you need them to open the door. THEN you’ve got a short gauntlet of tough rooms and THEN you’ve got the most reliably nasty fight in the entire game…. at the end of floor (approximately) 3. Because you’re saving money you probably have fewer keys, which means fewer items, which means less fun with wacky guns.

      If you win, you’re almost certainly in such a commanding position that you’ll breeze through floors 4 and 5 and (probably) even Bullet Hell. If you lose, chalk another one up to the Rat I guess and try again.

      The one saving grace to that final phase of the Rat fight is that you don’t have to win it, I guess. How well you do at Punch-Out just determines how much bonus loot you’ll get out of Mr. Rat. If you get to where you can reliably knock him out and get 3-4 keys, then beating him will have given you so many items that the rest of the game

      1. Hal says:

        It’s one of those things where the RNG becomes a primary factor again. Like, if I’m just trying to get to the end of the Forge, I can do that on almost any run now. But if I want to take down the Rat? I’ve gotta get very good drops in the first few levels. Getting to go to the Oubliette/Abbey really helps, too.

        1. GoStu says:

          Yeah, you need to really set a run up for Rat, and you really do hope for some good items. If at all possible it’s going to involve a trip through the Oubliette and Abbey just for more opportunities to Get Stuff that might help!

          For a while I was obsessively trying to get there on every run, and now I just generally go if the first floor or two drops me something interesting.

  30. evilmrhenry says:

    Beat Ittle Dew 2. (Zelda-esque game.)

    Didn’t 100% this, but got all achievements. Probably could 100% this with a walkthrough video and the item I picked up in the last dungeon, but I don’t care that much.

    This is similar to the first, but bigger, better, and also harder, especially in the optional dungeons. Honestly, the difficulty is the worst bit of it; while you do get the ability to bypass puzzles, and there is an easy combat option, there were still a few puzzles that I simply couldn’t figure out, and the final optional boss is nasty; as in I turned easy mode on and still died a dozen times before barely winning. A lot of these bosses are built around the ability to Dark Souls Roll your way through damage, but I never could get that to consistently work, even after getting the relevant upgrades. The boss would attack, I’d roll, and I’d still get hit. There’s just not enough invincibility time on that move. Also, you don’t get much of an grace timer either. This means that a boss can have a three-part attack, you can roll through all three parts, and get hit all three times anyway. In the end, my strategy for most bosses was to stay far away from them, and use the force wand to plink their health down from across the screen. This works, but a lot of these bosses jump around like an excited grasshopper, while filling the screen with huge attacks, and I just feel the game would be better if it toned that shit down.

    There are some nasty puzzles here as well. Balancing puzzles is a tricky art, because there’s no ability to complete a puzzle, but only barely, the same way there is for combat, but I would still have preferred some toning down here as well. A lot of them rely on item interactions that aren’t really explained anywhere, so I’ll walk into a puzzle room, realize that it’s impossible using the tools I know about, then have to spend some time playing around to figure out what I’m missing before I can even start. Figuring this sort of thing out is actually pretty sweet, but that only works if you can figure it out.

    In the end, the standard dungeons are reasonable, and the real nasty stuff is all optional, but I’m not playing a game like this to ignore the optional content.

    On a technical note, gamepads are supported, but I was having some control issues, where my character would sometimes keep moving for a second after letting go of the stick. After a few lava baths, I moved back to the keyboard, which honestly works fine even with the default bindings.

    Something I do appreciate is that the dungeons can be completed in any order, and there’s usually some tricks you can pull if you bring an item from a later dungeon with you. Unfortunately, this means that you don’t get a good sense of item interactions outside of the (rather difficult) optional dungeons. Speedrunners must love this, though.

    Beat Restrict Skyblock, a Minecraft skyblock modpack. This has some issues, but overall I had fun with it, and it being a lesser-known modpack meant that I couldn’t just research via Google any issues I was having; I had to actually think.

    The biggest issue is the singularities I needed to make were super-grindy, especially the diamond/emerald ones. The modpack suggests using the Pedestal mod, but I couldn’t get that to work, so I was stuck with hopping botany pots, which were a bit of a lag monster. (Protip: you’ll want to stick to Supremium farmland if you go this route, even for the other stuff.)

    Beat Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. This game is extremely inspired by Zelda LTTP, and that’s a good thing. Just about the only issue I have with it is that it has 3 main “buttons”. One is assigned to the sword, and you can switch two between various items. However, once I got dash, that was always kept at the ready, which meant I only really had one item slot available, which meant a bit too much menu usage. A third item slot would have been nice to have. (That, and the vibration was a bit too heavy. You can turn it off, but what I wanted was to have it at, like, half power.)

    Beat the Spyro Reignited Trilogy:

    Spyro: I know I played and beat this back in the day, but other than the first area, I remember none of this. This is because I bought it for zoning out following my wisdom teeth extraction, so I was basically hopped up on painkillers. Anyway, aside from some technical issues (framerate problems, massive pop-in in a couple levels, and the hardest level in the game being harder because of technical issues) it’s a good ride.

    Spyro 2: I don’t have much to say about it specifically; it’s a Spyro game. However, after two whole games of playing “where’s the last gem in this level hiding”, I found out that you can click in the left thumbstick to get a pointer to the nearest gem. Would have been nice to know that 19.4 hours ago….

    Part of the remaster was in adding polygonal grass where appropriate. The original had flat textures for the ground. This means that it’s possible for gems to hide in the grass in a way that isn’t really possible in the original.

    In the original, when you left a level, the gems you collected would fly into your total collection. In the remake, they just have a number count up.

    Spyro 3 has…problems, specifically in the Reignited trilogy, specifically in the skateboard racing segments. I’d try to do a trick, only to end up at a weird angle, even when using the Dpad. If I touched an edge of a platform at all, something bad is likely to happen. There’s a jump where if I hit the edge of the launch platform, I just crash. There are two races, and both are only required for 100%ing the game, but the game is a collectathon.

    (The trick with these is to get in first place ASAP, then play the rest of the race safe. I think once the other racers leave rendering distance something weird happens, so you’ll either end the race in last place or first. Do a big trick off the first big jump, then boost. If you screw up, restart the race.)

    Other than that, my biggest issue is with how much it hides gems. I’m lucky I finally figured out that clicking the left stick in will point at the nearest gem in the last game, because there’s no way I would have found some of these otherwise. While this isn’t a large flaw, I’d prefer a setup where the gem radar was available, but the game wasn’t balanced around needing it.

    In the end, the PS1 Spyro game trilogy is a good game series, it’s just a shame that the skateboard race segments are so buggy, when the first two games are fine.

    Beat The Spectrum Retreat. A bit of an odd game, and I’m not quite sure it actually works, but at least it was interesting. This is a FPS puzzle game, where you pick up colors which let you pass through colored gates/bridges, with a couple twists along the way.

    Gameplay-wise, the biggest problem is how easy it is to soft-lock yourself. There were a few too many times where I’d do something while exploring, then realize that there’s no way to undo what I did. While you can easily reset a puzzle, some of these puzzles are quite large, and you can’t exactly explore the entire puzzle before starting. The last puzzle is essentially two and a half puzzles in the same area, and there’s no checkpoints. The game is also a bit overeager to hand out hints during the story segments. (I’m busy looking at the environment, because it looks nice, I haven’t even started on the puzzle.)

    The environments basically jump between an art deco hotel (the story bits) and a sterile industrial look (the puzzle bits). I feel like there could have been more variation here. The last level, which resembles a subway station, stands out for the use of a different decoration setup. I feel the puzzles would have been much more visually interesting with some art deco hotel thrown in, and all those assets already exist.

    As for the story, the concept is interesting, but the execution is a bit muddled. It doesn’t help that a lot of the story is told via letters found scattered around the levels, and some of those are literally unreadable thanks to the lighting. The voice acting is mostly that of someone trying to help us from “outside”, but they don’t give much info on the backstory, so it’s difficult to get invested in something that you’re trying to piece together from barely-readable letters.

    Beat Dungeon Warfare 2. There’s something between a New Game+ and a Diablo-esque difficulty thing, but I didn’t do much with it.

    Really, it’s like the first one, only more so; it’s a tower defense game with physics and leveling. The downside is that after a certain point, all levels boil down to “find a chokepoint, add the traps you’ve leveled up to it, then sit back”. There’s no real reason to change up your strategy between levels once you have something that works, and there’s a few more levels than the gameplay supports. Still, it’s nice to open it up and run a map when I’m bored, and there’s no real need to pay attention once everything’s set up. (Except if you’re using the bugged black hole upgrade that can break adjacent traps. I don’t want to use it, but it’s also really good, so…)

  31. Philadelphus says:

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying Filament, Shamus!

    People warned me that the game is “really hard”, but I actually find the difficulty to be confusingly uneven.

    Don’t worry, that was my experience too. You know how puzzles come in sets of five once you get into the main ship area? It’d be completely normal for me to breeze through #1, 2, 3, and 5 in a few minutes (sometimes literally on my first try) while getting stuck on #4 for three days. Or maybe #1. Or #2. From some limited watching other people playing I’ve seen similar things, but with different puzzles. I don’t think it’s because the puzzles are badly spaced in terms of difficulty, I think it’s just that everyone has their own random selection of puzzles where they just don’t get what needs to happen, even if they’ve been blazing through puzzles of the same type before and after. I did find that, on average, certain classes of puzzles (there’s [I think] seven main spins on the puzzle mechanics in the main ship, with a bunch of puzzles for each type) were easier for me than others.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t find Juniper “negging” me that much, although maybe that’s because I’m not really familiar with the term. She gently teases you once or twice early on, but it’s clear from the rest of the game that she’s been stuck on her own eating nutrient paste (which only comes in TWO FLAVORS!) for weeks, after everyone else on the crew mysteriously went missing, and is really grateful for the rescue. Though I, too, am expecting some sort of twist (I’ve made it to the end game area, but haven’t finished the game yet, so I still don’t know how it ends).

    Personally, I mostly haven’t been playing game for a few weeks, since in the last three weeks I’ve moved internationally, submitted my thesis (two days ago) and started a new job (yesterday). My gaming desktop is on a boat that has yet to leave the harbor I’ve just been advised, so I’m limited to what the underpowered MacBook from my university can play. I’m taking the chance to try to get back into Invisible, Inc., which I played soon after release but never really got into; hopefully some years down the line I can appreciate its “roguelike cyperpunk infiltration without output randomness” formula a little better.

  32. BlueHorus says:

    Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    It’s….good. It reminds me of playing the Neverwinter Nights games. The best bit is the Pathfinder ruleset; delving into a faithful implementation of a tabletop RPG, trying out different classes & builds.
    Meanwhile, the story is…fine. Okay. There’s some good bits, some bad bits, some minor railroading / cutscene incompetence*, but not that much stands out. Generally pretty good. I think my story standards have been raised over the years.

    Anyway, it’s good enough that I’m already looking forward to a second playthrough, making all the Evil choices. I appreciate that the game always gives me the chance to just attack pretty much every NPC I meet immediately, or as soon as I’m done with them.
    Thank you, game, next time, I will will immediately order my guards to hang that random adventurer who’s trying to give me a quest…I see you truly grok what it means to be ‘Chaotic Evil’.

    Webbed
    I also bought something after Steam recommended it to me. And it went well!
    So Webbed is a fun little 2D puzzle-platformer about being a spider. You can build webs, throw them, swing from them – and you shoot lasers from your eyes. This is less gimmicky than you might think, because you often want to sever your webs.
    There’s a simple story, some basic puzzles, a lot of charm, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Doesn’t last very long, either, but that’s kind of a point in its favor…the gameplay keeps throwing you new challenges, new ways to explore your web-slinging powers, then the game wraps up when they run out of ideas.

    *Boo, hiss!

    1. Henson says:

      Glad you enjoyed Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Given the length of that game, I can’t imagine replaying it immediately for an evil path. But, even though I almost never do evil playthroughs, I think this game may well be a good chance to try it out.

  33. bobbert says:

    I have been playing Patrician 4, the game where you manage supply chains.

    I have finally gotten far enough in the game that pirates start attacking, and I am rapidly discovering why most people mod combat out of the game.

  34. pseudonym says:

    I have been playing Metro: Exodus since I got it for my birthday in June. I do not have lots of time for gaming so I tend to play in 1-2 hour sessions. I finished the game this weekend and I really liked it. Good shooter mechanics, great atmosphere, good writing. The game does present (limited) choices in the story, but these matter. It is a good sequel to the first two metro games and it is better than its predecessors.

    I also played with Duplo, since my one-year old daughter happens to like it. I played a lot with Lego in my childhood, so this is a fatherhood dream come true!

    1. Sabrdance says:

      I want to like this game – I really do. But the load times for the XBONE are so long, and the open worlds so dangerous that I just find it frustrating. I really loved the first two games, and I like the idea of trying to find a new world on the surface outside Moscow. But I just don’t have time for a game this fiddly.

    2. Zekiel says:

      I’m currently played Exodus, and thoroughly enjoying it after a shaky start (it spends far too long with interchangable guys with dodgy voice acting spouting boring dialogue at you). Once you actually get to the open world bit it’s pretty good though. I’m on base PS4 and the load times are pretty bad… solution is to have something to read for the initial load (which is hilariously long) and then loading from within world isn’t that bad.

  35. The Rocketeer says:

    Had been playing OpenOffice but ran through the season’s content, glad to be done with it by the end. It’s one of those games that makes you think, “Hey, I haven’t picked this up in a while, I had fun with this!” and then a week later you’re burnt out.

    Also playing Red Dead Redemption 2 again. Once I’m finally, FINALLY at the point where I have all the open world activities unlocked, I’ll leave the gang camp behind and just disappear into the wilderness. The game is very much an immersive outdoorsman sim for me: hunting, fishing, exploring, catching and taming horses, hunting treasure, reacting to random encounters, growing my beard out… Normally I use open world games to busy my hands while I listen to music or catch up on podcasts, but to Rockstar’s considerable credit I find RDR2 so beautiful and engrossing I just get lost in it.

    But most of all, I’m now playing a game I’ve been curious about since 2008: Corpse Party! From the irreverent title, you might expect, as I did, that the game is a dark comedy. There is some humor, but not much, and not of that sort. Corpse Party is vile. It is sick and depraved, a lurid nightmare, remorseless in its exhaustively inventive cruelty. The game takes a lascivious, sadistic pleasure in wanton, gratuitous transgression of taboo and its effortless talent for racing well over the line before you even have time to doubt its resolve is nauseating— fitting for a game featuring frequent vomit and voiding of bowels by characters living and dead. It’s a stark demonstration of the game’s priorities how many unique and detailed art assets it invents for every conceivable manner of anguished demise. Corpse Party is an infamy. It’s grotesque, it’s demoralizing, it’s filth, it’s a delight, it was on sale, I bought the entire series, and I will probably start playing the sequel as soon as I finish the game tonight.

    1. bobbert says:

      I used to use openoffice, but I switched to libreoffice and liked it a lot better.

      1. TheRocketeer says:

        You reminded me it actually is LibreOffice. Or as some call it, OpenOffice: Scholar of the First Sin.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I tried one of those on the Vita. I stopped playing it, mostly because the character was much more afraid of things than I was which really, really bugged me. But that was in the middle of the series, not from the beginning.

  36. Lanthanide says:

    So now we have to pay money to have less variety and less individual expression.

    Haven’t read any of the replies so there’s a chance this has already been suggested. But there’s an easy fix for this: keep the LOTR system, but require a $5-10 microtransaction to unlock it first, and have that same purchase also unlock dyes as well. Boom! Now people who care about cosmetics but don’t want to shell out for the different shop ones can just unlock that feature. And people who want to buy the ‘special’ cosmetics can still buy them too, but if they want to dye them different colours, they have to buy that inventory + dye unlock as well.

    On first blush it might seem that having an unlock like that might reduce the number of sales of the custom store costumes as well, but the unlock may actually be the ‘low barrier’ way to get people interested in the cosmetics, pushing them to buy some from the store when they otherwise might not. You could also experiment with different price points – maybe a custom cosmetic costs $3 for a full set of gear, but the LOTR unlock system with dyes might cost $9.

  37. Grimwear says:

    I’ve only been playing 2 things really this month:

    Guild Wars 1: I’ve been doing an Ultimate Hardcore Ironman Run. Ironman: You play through the games in release order and must complete each mission and bonus. Hardcore: If I die I restart. Ultimate: Here’s the interesting part. I can sell to merchants but cannot buy (there are exceptions like for armor which you can only buy from them). But pretty much if I want runes to upgrade armor or to craft a new set of armor I need to find and salvage them out in the game world. I cannot buy the materials from merchants. Really makes the early game a challenge where you’re always broke since you’re spending money on identification kits and salvage kits to get materials for the late game and therefore can’t sell everything you pick up to a merchant and then use that money to buy mats when you want to craft something. Unfortunately at time of writing I just died to a dungeon boss because of a bug I was not aware of which led to me being instakilled on his death. 136 hours down the drain.

    Total Warhammer 1: With Total Warhammer 3 on the horizon I decided to go back and play an Empire campaign on Total Warhammer 1 and instantly remembered why I only play TW2. Their desire to stay true to lore makes the game much worse where the amount of cities you can occupy is restricted meaning your only option is to sack and raze them and move on while leaving them open for someone from that faction to wander in and recolonize it. In TW2 they gave the Empire a fealty system which is a fun diplomacy mechanic for confederating all the offshoot Empire factions at the start. That does not exist here. Also the build slots for provinces are really small. I cannot make defenses in my capital for reasons.

    So pretty much in a week or 2 once my heart has healed and my will power regained I’ll delete my GW1 character and try again.

    1. Fizban says:

      How does that Guild Wars run even work? I know there’s at least one mission in Factions that requires you to defend a hill with two entrances that just doesn’t work if you can’t split the party, which you can’t without Heroes from later games. Unless you’re using some sort of god-build that really can just kick that much ass and/or just running past tons of stuff ’cause you know exactly where to go?

      (That was part of my experience back in the day, friend “running” me through, as in past, a bunch of content to catch up with them. And then having no internet, by the time I could play again they’d be somewhere else. Hence why I always wanted to go back and actually play the game, but as mentioned in a previous post, my Prophecies run stalled out).

      1. Grimwear says:

        Yes Eternal Grove is extremely annoying. They made it so that you can flag each hero individually 1-7 (used to be only 1-3) but you can still only flag henchmen as a group). The proper way to do it is to do the mission with another ironman character. And that’s what I did with my non hardcore ironman but that takes a lot of time looking for another person. I’m sure there’s a way to do it by doing some weird pathing thing or what have you but ultimately I just left it. I went Luxon so only had to do the Gyala Hatchery mission, then once I got access to heroes in Nightfall I came back and did it. Does that ruin the run? To some maybe. But I’m doing this for my own enjoyment and I just didn’t care.

        1. Fizban says:

          Hmm. Now I’m trying to remember why I did the Kurzick mission when I prefer Luxon (giant turtles and the ocean turned into an impossible desert, how is that not miles cooler!?)- I think I wanted to check out the other areas maybe? Probably hunting a rare skill or specific weapon that the wiki says was locked up in there.

          1. Grimwear says:

            I personally always tended towards Kurzick because I found their armor choices cooler.

            1. Fizban says:

              Oh you and everybody else- hence my outrage, because the Luxons were just obviously cooler in every other way (but hey it’s not like story or visuals matter ’cause MMO right?). But I was always uninterested in MMO grinding for gear that has the exact same stats and had no opportunity until after my friends had stopped playing, so I was never going to care about the armor really. Me and MMOs have a weird relationship, the ship I probably would have sailed on if I could have, but having missed it feels like there’s a fundamental switch that will never hit that setting. Guild Wars and stuff like this new Amazon game with the pay once and limited set of abilities with more action should good enough to jam with me, and yet it’s still not enough. The MMO-ness just takes too much away from the story in anything more connected than Dark Souls.

              And the male elementalist’s badonk-adonks in pretty much everything anyway.

  38. MelTorefas says:

    Still just playing XCOM2 WOTC and Rimworld, though mostly X2. I have actually downloaded LOTRO again and been playing a little to satisfy the MMO bug. I like the graphical overhaul and I like that I can play the monster mode without a sub now. I find it interesting that the game apparently didn’t ever go the WoW or EQ route of making leveling much faster… I played for several hours and gained a single level on my minstrel (15-16), which, given that the max level is something like 130, seems kinda daunting. On the other hand there’s a sort of charm in a game that doesn’t completely trivialize the old content. I doubt I will ever make it anywhere close to the endgame, but it is a nice way to scratch the MMO itch until I find something else.

  39. GoStu says:

    I’ve played BPM: Bullets Per Minute. I don’t think there’s *that* much to be said about it – it’s a fun little first-person shooter mashed up with a rhythm game. To paraphrase Yahtzee Crowshaw: it’s about 95% core gameplay loop. Enter the room, shoot the things, keep up with rhythm, repeat. Very fun for a few go-rounds, then take a break so you stop hearing the same songs in order.

    If it were to get an expansion I’d hope for some alternate routes and things, but otherwise it’s very solid for what you get. There are challenge modes and characters, but for whatever reason I prefer harder monsters with the same power I usually have, instead of challenges like “if you get hit once you die”.

    Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries was an initial letdown for me. While I don’t mind piloting a giant brick on legs, the game’s enemy-spawning system was a bottomless well of frustration during my first go-round. Missions were endlessly frustrating as I’d take on a demolition job to blow up a base… I’d walk up, plow my way through the defenders, and after the battle unload all the fury of my guns into the base and do like 2% damage. Then another batch of defenders spawns from nowhere and chews off more of my armor. I dispatch them, go back to pummeling the structures, slowly chipping down another 5%. My ‘mech starts complaining that it’s overheating because I’m firing too much so I slow down. Another goddamn batch of tanks and helicopters appears from the aether, directly behind me. I should mention that a ‘mech’s rear armor is always its weak spot, and “turning fast” is not a thing they generally do, so spawning enemies where I can’t see them and where they’re in weapon range is a colossal dick move. Repeat, repeat, and finally give up. The base is only 40% dead and I’m one stiff breeze away from exploding.

    THAT said, the game did receive a large patch that accompanied a new DLC. I didn’t buy the DLC, but the patch did fix some spawning issues. No longer is the game an endless river of bullshit reinforcements right behind you. Having gone back to it , I found it was… basically just okay.

    I find it a bit grating still that I’m on the hook for armor repairs, armor damage is inevitable, and this shit takes WEEKS to fix even on a winning mission. Maybe I should stop being so bothered by pressing “advance timeline” while my lance is welded back together , but the feeling that I’ve screwed up and am being punished lingers. At least in the turn-based Battletech by Harebrained Schemes fixing your armor is free and instant – perhaps a lore deviation, but a much-appreciated gameplay concession. You take downtime to your war machines when you’ve goofed and got holes put in important bits. Armor, your techs weld on in minutes.

    1. ShasUi says:

      The budget management aspect of the battletech/Mechwarrior games is def a very tricky balance. My thought would be to remove the combat area extra cost from “simple” repairs like armor, so that you don’t feel the need to hold off; if you’re trying to gain reputation with a specific faction, most planets only have 1~2 missions, so you can use your A & B teams, then repair while you travel, but even then the timing is off; pure armor damage shouldn’t take more than a jump’s time to refresh the whole lance.
      The salvage shares are also poorly tuned compared to battletech; early game, dumping all your points into salvage, then carefully legging a mech so as to try to grab it afterwards, then finding you don’t even have half the points you would need, so all you get is a bunch of mlasers: rubbish.
      Battletech really nailed the balance for me, where I could enjoy stomping out & laying waste to the enemy, mad with power, then get back, go over the repair costs, and realize I spent more than I got payed for the mission, really need to be more careful & defensive, then immediately launching back into stomp-mode anyway, with salvage & the occasional smooth mission keeping me from actually being short on money to an unfun state. MW5 never managed that, likely because any big repair bills were caused by vaguely controllable AI teammates. Apparently the newest update will add the ability to swap to them, so at least we can get them unstuck now? Not sure if I’ll ever use that, as I’m usually driving something I don’t dare let the AI drive, aka anything that isn’t a solid block of armor.

      1. GoStu says:

        Yeah, that’s the other nagging pain in the ass: your AI teammates getting shot to pieces, in a way that feels impossible to control. Part of me wonders if 4-player co-op is part of the intended experience, meaning you can have four possibly smart teammates and start executing tactics beyond “all of you shoot this guy” or “get behind me, nose-pickers”.

        I think you’re on to something. Armor alone should fix substantially quicker if they’re going to avoid the stink of Punishment. I appreciate the need to acquire and maintain a secondary (or tertiary!) lance so that I can do multiple missions on the same planet with little downtime, but the fact that I can end up waiting well beyond my planet-to-planet commute for simple armor repairs stinks.

        I haven’t used the swap-to mechanic much. It feels a bit disorienting to suddenly be in a different mech, and then you’ve just placed an idiot in charge of something else important. It doesn’t feel like a real step up.

        Part of me wants to try building an LRM machine and ordering one of my lackeys to pilot it and stand ~1km away from where I’m doing the close-range fighting, but I just know that’ll end badly. Probably a few SRM carriers spawning between us, and turning to go annihilate the Catapult or whatever they’re piloting with few close-range defenses.

  40. houser2112 says:

    “But I do wonder how far can you could reasonably get without picking a side.”

    Not very. Pretty early on in the main quest, you are forced to pick a faction.

  41. Fizban says:

    Oof, always late to the party on these. Well I’ll read after I post then:

    I’ve been pulling a bit of a Shamus. Spent my entire last two weeks digging further and further into Popup Dungeon. It claims to be a roguelike, but a major focus of the creators was on letting people create their own content, hoping to (and rather falsely boasting of) have a huge library of campaigns and characters and so on.

    Of course, they also have a “Steam Workshop,” which isn’t actually a Steam Workshop, because it isn’t actually accessible on Steam, or in any way other than through the internal game menu, and has no communication features whatsoever, so if you want to give any feedback you have to go seek out the creator yourself. Presumably on some sort of Discord, if they gave their handle somewhere. All of which is way too many steps of disconnect to actually foster a vibrant and visible content creation community. For all I know there could be a dozen great auteurs just inches away from finishing their masterpieces on the Discord, but I don’t see them so I don’t care.

    The view from inside the game tells a different story: tons of content going up soon after release, slowing to a trickle after a few months. Hundreds of pages of characters, most of them either deliberately char-op’d to max power or unusable trash, many using stock skins, many of the nice ones still having immediately obvious issues, and of course many of the most polished are of characters from other anime/games/etc. Meanwhile there are are only a few dozen campaigns: a few are very short specific adventures, there’s a plurality of utilities and basic roguelike frames (the best of which won’t start when I run it), and one thing from quite a while ago that looks like it was the Big Community Crossover which will randomly run you through contributed adventures with some meta-framing. And there’s one siege defense game. Oh, and a bunch of adventures that are based on this or that IP which I haven’t bothered checking ’cause I’m not interested. The most ambitious projects are based on stuff that you’re Not Allowed To Make Because Copyright, but it’s user generated content so you can’t stop it (and trying to is bad for all sides, not that some companies get it). The game itself had a couple seasonal campaigns added (I’ve played the Halloween one and it was excellent), but have been completely silent since then- no news posts, no Twitter, unless there’s activity on the Discord I’m not checking, they might as well have vanished.

    And. . . that’s it. That’s the result of their mission to allow people to make things and build a base of community content with an easy content creator, after nearly a year. One crossover that was probably done during Early Access, one siege defense game (which might not even be great, it’s intimidating in the editor though), some weak roguelike frameworks, and a bunch of Oh No Copyright stuff, most of which says to be updated and hasn’t updated in six months. And this is not surprising at all, because that’s what you get: a trickle of finished small projects and tons of abandoned ones, exactly the same as the homebrew DnD forums on GitP or any site, but with a drastically smaller userbase.

    And the comparison is perfect, absolutely perfect. Because what is the vast majority of that content? Char-op. Characters bending the “automagically balanced” system as far as they can without breaking their theme- and one character whose only them is to immediately one-round anything from nothing, and absolutely does so (blowing through orders of magnitude in stat difference). It’s the perfect “RAW is God” DM, who will let you do and refuses to stop anything that is within the rules- you can’t read all the rules, but you can experiment and quickly figure out how to break them. It’s literally DnD 3.5, where you can force almost anything and break the game from day 1.

    And that’s fine. Just like DnD it can support multiple power levels, and the DM or rather campaign creator can set difficulty based on what they want to support (even locking the game to pre-gen characters), and the user can then take that campaign and modify and edit it however they want in spite of that. It’s all good.

    But what is this type of game most popular with? The hardcore 3.5 player type. Someone who makes character after character optimized to be the best at this or that (even things that are objectively less powerful), and generally wants to play rather than DM, but with that skill comes the fact that most DMs can’t keep up with them. Story creation is not their primary drive. They iterate rather than invent from whole cloth. And that means your community is not full of Creative Projects, but rather a pile of characters at completely different power levels (busted up or down), often based on other properties, and no new stories. Most of the users want to play, not write (and their level generation, based on “roguelike” generation, in end gives you little more recourse than to optimize the monsters and crank up the difficulty multiplier). They suggest “oh you could whip up a game in a half our every week for your friends,” but then what do you do on game night? Even the group passes the controller around, you still know what you made and have a DMPC in the party.

    No, instead you have a handful of people who braved the campaign editor to try and make better random games that they could play, with that RAW is God computer DM that doesn’t actually exist in TTRPGs. Unlike a TTRPG where the GM does their GMing at the game, this is not an engine that suggests one person of a group of friends should be making adventures every week- at best if you had a group that were all into it, you could trade off, until enough people passed that it was down to one. It is a game that is most suited to people who like breaking games, and yet this means that they will quickly smash all existing content and grow bored while creating little. And if they try to create their own, they’ll find an editor that won’t let them build tactical challenges, merely crank numbers up or down and apply effects, all of which they will know because they wrote it.

    So, after all of that preamble, what have I been doing? (orr “playing”?)

    Well I’ve been char-op’ing characters based on other franchises, and then diving into the editor to try and make procgen stuff of course!

    I picked the game back up after dropping it back in January. Back then, I’d at first held off on making a custom character because I wanted to get the expected experience. Except the stock characters had glaring holes and kinda sucked. So I made my character and continued iterating on them as I progressed. This created a massively lopsided difficulty curve where when I first started playing the game was really hard, then it became easier, then it became ridiculously easy, and I stopped right before the end of the main Wizard’s Tower campaign.

    Returning, I’ve barely played the game at all. Instead I finally got mad and actually tried photoshoping the character skin I needed for the alt version of my character, which it turned out I did in fact have enough material and skill for. Then I ran through a bunch of iterative improvements on my main and alt version, and created a new character who’s been iterated up to like 4 total alt versions, and along the way made my own much better basic testing room because the one I was using was *too* basic.

    And having been in the editor making a testing room, with a random fight in there, I could easily see how I could turn that into an endless dungeon. Indeed, the same way a number of things on the “workshop” are. But I know perfectly well that wouldn’t be a game, that would just be an endless string of random fights, which the testing room can already do.

    No, to make a randomized game, I would need events. Events with actual options that can be fulfilled by any party in different ways. Bosses and rivals and friends. Items found and kept and used and lost. And this. . . . this I could see that I could do. So I began.

    And *checks steam* 100 hours later I’ve almost managed to bash the square peg into the round hole with my face. See, I want an *endless* procgen dungeon generator. Oh sure, the creator easily supports random picking from a list, even picking something no more than once, but it can’t reset: you eventually have to exit the run and reset your base character gains. And it can’t be just any random layout, no, I apparently must have *layouts that make sense*, as in, where you stand in a room and see the doors to the adjacent rooms, which are self-consistent. The random pickers and easy-use node based design do not like this *at all*. So I’ve built an array of sub-assemblies which will hopefully let me get around little things like the inability to directly call a search for a thing. Essentially fighting against the engine itself.

    Because this is not a game that attracts people who want to make an play simple stories that they already wrote. And it does not have a huge array of satisfying games already made, or a satisfying procgen dungeon. It attracts people who want to iterate and transcribe characters.

    I haven’t actually tested my framework yet. All it really does is order some rooms and move through a map, assuming it works, but if the basic stuff holds together it should be able to also “place” obstacles and anything else, and place them in randomized ways that the intended engine use couldn’t manage, at least not in any sort of reset-able capacity. Which I would then have to build. And then I could finally get to the creative part that this editor is normally supposed to have you doing immediately. The experience of essentially setting myself a “game about coding” challenge has been enjoyable in its own way, but I could use a rest and if it doesn’t work I’ll be rather upset. I suppose I’m nervous.

  42. Henson says:

    This post must have the longest average comment length I’ve ever seen on this site.

    Not that that’s a bad thing!

  43. Dev Null says:

    I tried New World, but as I’m not really into PvP I quickly dropped it. The single-player play seems to be almost exclusively repetitive randomly-generated fetch quests.

  44. RFS-81 says:

    Metroid Dread, of course! The Nav Rooms where you talk to your ship’s computer remind me of Fusion, but it’s much less hand-holdy when it comes to exploration, which is good! I like it a lot, so I’m going to complain about it, as is tradition here. I’m not too fond of the melee counter move. I didn’t like it either in the Metroid 2 remake. For too many enemies the best way to fight them is to wait until you see a spark, counter, shoot. Except for some enemies, I have to hit counter during the windup, before I see the spark. I don’t know if my reflexes are too bad, or if the game is fucking with me.

    Streets of Rage 4 got some DLCs which adds some of the bosses as playable characters, a sort of roguelike mode, and an expanded practice mode that explains all about move cancelling, combos etc.

    Magic. Still hooked on drafting. “Adventures in the Forgotten Realms” was bla, the new set “Midnight Hunt” is pretty good.

    I’m playing in a Journeys in Middle-Earth campaign. It’s a co-op dungeoncrawler board game (except not literally dungeons, but forests, mostly). There’s an app that tells you how enemies move, and it also dispenses the story. It feels kind of silly to make it a board game, to be honest, but I’m having fun. Not something I would want to play on my own though.

    1. Christopher says:

      I forgot in that stupid long post I wrote, but I also played some Streets of Rage 4 when my kid cousins came over for a weekend. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to play that game multiplayer, and it was a lot of fun. The youngest could hardly do anything, but on easy it was entirely reasonable for me and her sister to make our way through while dragging her along. Surprisingly, that was more doable than multiplayer in the Mario games.

      I spent a lot of time as Shiva. I like that character, he’s really quick.

  45. Ramsus says:

    I’ve been playing Final Fantasy IV recently.
    Not sure there’s much to say here. Mainly started playing it because with the steam version’s quick save feature I can play it in chunks as little as a few minutes. Which is great since I’ve been pretty busy recently and it scratches that itch of “I want to play something, but not something I need to think too hard about or spend too much time on”.

    1. bobbert says:

      Final Fantasy 2 is a lot of fun, though the party-shuffling schenanagins get a little silly after a while.

      1. Ramsus says:

        I was thinking of giving 1 & 2 a pass, but maybe I’ll give them a try. Or is it just 2 that’s fun out of those two?
        Though after I finish 4 I’m probably going to do 3 since I got half way through that one like a decade ago on a DS and I’ve always felt a bit sad I didn’t finish it since I love the class changing games.

        1. Syal says:

          1 is one of the hardest games in the series, mostly because it has a number of RNG fights; lots of instant death, (this is before Phoenix Downs existed) lots of hard hitters. You’re expected to run from things (but you can’t run from bosses, even when they become regular enemies) and you’re expected to game over from things. If you’re up for that it can still be fun.

          (3 is probably the hardest, just because of the length of the endgame dungeon. If you’re not save-stating that thing is a horrible death march.)

        2. bobbert says:

          Oh, you are talking about FF2j. That one is a lot of fun too (more below), but was talking about the one with Cecil et al. and its “Well, the party needs changing up. Time for a heroic sacrifice.”

          As to whether you should play FF2j, if you like learn-by-doing systems, then definitely yes, else no. It has a reputation for being hard as nails, but it is not that bad and a lot of fun. As long as you avoid the two big got-ya’s

          *Heavy armor is a trap. You gain AGI (important) at a rate proportional to your evade%. Heavy armor zeros it.
          *The game UI doesn’t tell you what equipment has spell failure. You need a look up table. I like this one.

          You don’t need to grind in the game – just follow the story and you will get stronger. Sadly, the system spooks a lot of people “Oh no! I am not gaining HP any more.” “Well, you are not gaining HP anymore because the enemies are no longer strong enough to hurt you.” Also play the NES version. from what I hear, the various remakes introduced a lot of unfun bugs.

          As for FFI, it is definitely more of a classic dungeon crawler – where you say to yourself, “Jee, I am really taking a beating. I am going to grab that one treasure chest over there, then head back to town, heal up, resupply, and maybe buy something with the money this last run gave.” Your party choice can also make things dramatically harder. The best starter party is probably Fighter x2 Red Mage x2. (well 3&1 is even easier, but playing with spells is fun) Also a great number of the spells are bugged and don’t work.

          I would recommend playing FF3j last as it is basically FF5’s prototype (read: same but worse). The other two are much more unique.

          1. Syal says:

            Also a great number of the spells are bugged and don’t work.

            The re-releases fixed those, I’m pretty sure.

            Yeah, 2j isn’t hard so much as unintuitive; the Agility stat is the difference between a cakewalk and a cliffside, and if you go in blind you’re near guaranteed to get the cliffside. Also enemy statuses are uneven; level 2 Esuna will cover everything the enemy throws at you, until they suddenly start throwing stuff that needs level 6. Hope you leveled it anyway!

            1. bobbert says:

              Yeah, I think there is a patch for the ROM of FFI floating around somewhere.

              I agree that esuna 3,4,&5 aren’t really useful, but e6 is great. I know way too much about 2j. I hacked it to do a solo-Mingwu game. (no fight command or shields) So, you don’t NEED evade% or AGI to win.

  46. TFrengler says:

    Prey – Due to Shamus’ retrospective and being between non-open world/open ended I decided to replay this for the first time since 2018. Man, I love this game so much and it just instantly reminded me why I love games like it (guess I need to go replay System Shock 2 next… it’s been 6 years).

    Playing on hard difficulty this time which is very tense and rewarding, especially when I managed to save a lot of ammo by ambushing early Phantoms and luring them into exploding cannister traps. This lasted until I finally the first Typhon powers (my first playthrough was 100% Typhon-free)… boy, some of those really make most encounters easy but just like Shamus already mentioned in his retrospective I enjoy the feeling of going from super frail to very powerful.

    Songs of Syx – Only just dipped my toes in this. A city builder with a crazy ambitious scope where you can eventually expand and make multiple citities (more of an empire builder I s’pose). Had good fun with it so far, though I wonder if it’ll eventually drown in complexity going by the roadmap of things the dev still wants to implement.

    Portal 2 – Fantastic game in terms of world building, presentation and gameplay. A lot less challenging than I remember but I guess there’s always community maps. I’ve heard about *Portal Reloaded*, a super well made (and well received by the looks of it) mod that adds a third portal and is supposedly super hard. Maybe some day when I feel up to the challenge.

    Webbed – A bit of a cheat entry as I haven’t actually played it yet. Someone mentioned it on a forum/comment thread somewhere recently and it just looks so lovely! Going to buy that next.

  47. Moridin says:

    Let’s see…

    Total War: Warhammer 2
    The new DLC looked neat so I gave it another spin. Then I ended up playing Skryre again anyway. I haven’t played very much because to play it I have to close everything else… I really should get another 8GB of RAM.

    Hearts of Iron 4
    I spent a lot of time playing (mostly old world blues, but I’ve also tried a couple other mods – vanilla doesn’t really interest me), but I finally managed to stop (largely because I kept getting annoyed at how it fails some really basic things like peace conferences). I expect I’ll pick it up again once the new DLC and mod updates for said DLC drop. OWB 4.0 and the promised Brotherhood of Steel changes sound quite interesting.

    Crusader Kings 2
    I stumbled upon a mod called Crusader Finns, which is set in post-apocalyptic Finland (quite similar to another mod called After the End). I found it brilliant and absolutely hilarious, though I expect a lot of the jokes will go over your head unless you’re actually Finnish. For instance, there’s a decision to go on a Viinaralli (a… tradition of going to Estonia to buy cheap booze – we actually have quite a few cruise ships wandering between Helsinki and Tallinn) and it’s treated similarly to a pilgrimage in vanilla CK2. Sadly my latest playthrough was cut short (because of a bug with a different mod).

    Red Alert 2 & Yuri’s revenge
    Not much to say about this one. It’s an old Command and Conquer game, and you can build battle-blimps. I got the itch to play it again after finding a youtube channel called tgsacred that has all sorts of videos testing different units.

    Death and Taxes
    You play as a newly created death and your job is to decide who gets to live and who dies. It’s a short game, but you’re meant to play it multiple times to get all the different endings, and you get some new dialogue options in new game+ mode. I found it quite nice and relaxing.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      I swear to God I thought you were gonna say “I got the itch to play Yuri’s Revenge again after finding a YouTube channel called Scorched Earth.

    2. bobbert says:

      Yeah, the HoI4 peace treaties are legendarily stupid. Darkest Hour does much better. All-be-it by mostly fallowing the principle of Uti possidetis.. It also allows you to release a client, but keep territory that you both claim. You can even edit your claims on the fly to make pretty borders. :)

  48. Higher Peanut says:

    I’ve been really burned out after work and have just ended up watching chill streams on Twitch.

    What I have played recently is pinball. I bought an old electromechanical table a few months ago and have been fixing it up on the weekends. It’s now up and going so when I can get to it (its at my family’s since there’s no room at my place) I’ve been enjoying the loud dinging and clunks as it runs. Kind of temperamental on the boot sequence for reset, but the game works completely.

  49. Josh says:

    I’m a WoW refugee, so I tried FFXIV, but it’s nothing at all like WoW. So I’ve gone back to playing Guild Wars 2. For all its faults, GW2 has endless stamp collecting potential. The collections and achievements in that game are simply stupendous.

  50. PPX14 says:

    I had the same sort of experience with Baba Is You. Some are straightforward, and some are just somehow absolutely impossible to me. As if they are fundamentally impossible.

    1. Syal says:

      There’s a puzzle on world 5 I’ve never cleared, even after clearing world 6 and quite a bit of world 7.

  51. kikito says:

    In my eyes, any game which offers you to pay in order to skip parts of it is a bad game.

    1. PPX14 says:

      Personally I don’t want to see any sort of option to buy things in real life, or indeed any reference to the real world at all, once I’m past the initial launcher, preferably once I launch the game at all. All auxiliary purchase platforms to remain within the shop front from which I bought the game. The Cerberus Network being on the ME2 main menu was yucky. Similar to not wanting external platform achievements and pop-ups for those achievements during the game.

      1. GoStu says:

        To me it’s like going to a bar where there’s Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs, a sort of gambling machine).

        There’s a bar in my neighborhood. Well-reviewed, convenient and close by, and I’ve never set one foot in the place because they’ve got the gambling machines set up right near the door.

        I get that any bar is being run to make money off me, they’re not running the place out of pure love, they’re doing it to earn a living… but there’s something about the naked transparency of the money grab that’s really off-putting. ‘Yikes’, I think. Those things usually attract a very sad-looking sort of person and the goal is just to feed your paycheck straight in while not appreciating the terrible odds.

        That’s what these naked microtransactions look like to me. Just a nasty cash-grab that’s right there in front of me, demanding money under a paper-thin veneer of shiny bells and whistles. They’re not even pretending to offer much of a good time beyond the spin of the wheels and the flashing lights. I steer well clear of that kind of game, just like I avoid that bar.

        Hell, even serious dickhead Jon Taffer of the show “Yelling at Idiot Bar Owners” advised owners to get rid of those VLTs despite them making money, because they drive away a lot of customers and you can do better by offering a more enjoyable experience and not running your staff into the ground. That’s a bit on the nose for the gaming industry, eh?

        1. PPX14 says:

          Ah yes those silly fruit machines for sad old people and drunk young people. I think there was a quiz one in the pub near our school that we tried a few times for fun. Quite – if games are going to barefacedly include gambling and nonsense elements designed to make more money beyond the product itself by offering non-content that makes money within an otherwise interesting game, then I just won’t be using their products.

  52. Rariow says:

    It’s been 4 months or so, but I’m still playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’ve now done every route once (Crimson Flower, Verdant Wind, Azure Moon and Silver Snow), all but Crimson Flower on Hard difficulty. I intend to go back to Crimson Flower and go through it on Maddening difficulty since it’s the route I enjoyed the most (though Azure Moon is probably better written on an objective level, I find Edelgard way too interesting to not prefer her story). I’ve really grown an apprecation for how open that combat system is, my latest playthrough was Silver Snow but using mostly the faculty and the DLC characters with intentionally janky builds (War Cleric Manuela was one of my favorites). It changes the way the game plays, but it doesn’t feel like you’re punished for doing wacky things.

    I played through what I assume is three-quarters of The Talos Principle (100%ed areas A B and C, so unless there’s surprises I only have the tower left). Decent enough puzzler, but it runs out of new tricks pretty early on and basically just makes you do them in different orders for the rest of the game, so I lost interest. The storytelling is very frustrating because it’s so scattershot. The game wants to be philosophical, but it mostly does this through just like… Putting disjointed philosophical ramblings in text files. The one through line in the game is your communication with an entity which interrogates you on your personal philosophy, but it does the really frustrating thing of not providing the answer I want to give and then calling me stupid for choosing one of the four answers that they put in so they would be able to call me stupid for choosing them. It’s like discussing philosophy with someone who intentionally misinterprets what you’re saying into something vaguely similar but way stupider, except they have the magic power to make you actually say their strawman.

    I’m also playing through Tales of Berseria. I don’t get it. It’s a JRPG where you walk through linear areas fighting the ocasional enemy (in IMO an awfully unsatisfying action-combat system). This is pretty much Final Fantasy XIII, but that game got absolutely blasted to bits and this one’s beloved. The writing is a bit better here, I guess, but it also looks like a PS2 game despite being recent, while FFXIII still looks good, so I don’t get what the hubub is. I’ve been getting way into JRPGs in recent years, so I thought I should finally give the venerable Tales of… series a try, but if this is one of the best-liked in the series then I guess it’s just not for me. I’ll probably finish it out of inertia, but I can’t imagine thinking positively of it by the end.

    Also, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. It’s Xenoblade Chronicles, but better. It looks massively better and has a tone of quality of life improvements. I’m still not super fond of the quest design (mostly just “kill X wolves” or “collect Y wolf butts”) and I’ve never 100% clicked with the combat system, but it’s such a massive, gorgeous and inventive world to explore I just don’t care. Maybe on this third playthrough I’ll actually get past the bossfight at Valak Mountain, I’ve always got stuck there and been discouraged from trying too many times by the massively long run back.

    Mini Metro is a game I picked up on a whim, and I love it. It’s this minimalist run-based… Puzzle game? Managment sim? Where you’re building a metro system. Stations are specific shapes, passengers that want to get to a station of a specific shape pop up randomly at each station, and you’ve got to build train lines that prevent any one station from being overcrowded or you lise the game. It’s one of those “easy to pick up, hard to master” types, and also a phenomenal “do something with your hands while listening to a podcast” type of game.

    1. Fizban says:

      I’d have recommended Tales of Symphonia (I know some of us commenters here have done so multiple times so you’ve probably heard it by now and just went with the newer one), though the Steam version had some minor and yet unforgivable bugs when I played it. There’ve been so many Tales games now that I can’t say I’ve actually played a significant number, but Symphonia kicks you out into a world map and leaves you to figure out where you’re going enough times that I spend a good amount of time wondering where to go next when I fist played it (in high school)- it has a built in journal which is amusing ’cause its entires aren’t quite in the “standard” route or “backwards” route in the first half of the game, so you’ll do something and an entry will pop up between things you already did.

      Though Symphonia will of course look like a Gamecube/PS2 game, and it doesn’t look like Berseria’s done much to the combat system so if you don’t like it you probably still won’t like it. I found ToS brutal when I first played it, and getting the basics learned so I could actually get through the tutorial without dying on future playthroughs and just generally keeping to a “try not to ever die because those revives are expensive” is enough for me. But then, newer games might have better AI/control so there’s less screwups, and if you’re accustomed to fast-paced action games then the slow and simple rhythm of Tales combat will never be very gripping.

      One of these days I need to play FF13 and see what all the fuss was about. Whining about “boo hoo linear games,” when all games are linear in the end and linear does not mean bad, I’m like -wha? FF10 is a straight line for at least the entire first half- but of course before I go playing other FFs I need to actually properly finish 10 for once.

      1. Thomas says:

        FF13 is much worse at making the corridors feel like real spaces, at giving the players destinations they’re working towards and making it feel like a journey. It also lacks the variety and breaks to the pacing that FFX has.

        Luca, Kilikia, the Calm Lands, Thunder Plains, Miihen Highroad I can all name an picture instantly. When I think of FfXIII there’s only one location I can remember at all. There’s only one ‘city’ and even that is just a corridor in XIII

        When you don’t have a sense of space or achieving a purpose you end up just going down corridors because that’s the only direction you can go. At which point it feels like a railroad. In FFX the game persuaded you that you wanted to go in the direction that happened to be the only direction you could go in

      2. Rariow says:

        I’ve somehow missed the comments on this site talking about Tales – hearing that Symphonia’s the one that’s recommended on here is news to me. I googled around when I was chosing a Tales game to try out (this was previous to Arise coming out) and the consensus on Reddit seemed to be “Just go with whichever”. It does sound like I might enjoy Symphonia more, since I do really value exploration. I do wonder how much Berseria’s combat system has iterated on Symphonia, because one of my main problems with it is that so far it’s really easy. I just set a different attack to each face button and have gone through the game pretty brainlessly mashing, and the only difficulty I’ve encountered was with an extra-hard monster that drops good loot which I’m pretty sure the game expects you to come back later for.

        The thing that makes FF13 not work for me (and I gave it a shot, I really did, according to Steam I got almost 22 hours into that game and I hated most of it) isn’t just that it’s linear, but that it’s completely linear. FF10 is also very much a straight line, but there’s usually little side paths containing a chest or something. Unless I’m misremembering (and I did play this game back in early 2017, so it’s conceivable) in FF13 you can pretty much just hold forward on the control stick and not miss anything. It’s to the point where the overworld sections could just be turned into long cutscenes and the game wouldn’t be any worse of for it. I might have stuck with it even through that, because the combat is legitimately quite fun and the game is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but the other thing that’s well documented about the game is how awful the characters are. I remember mildly liking the guy with the afro, and everyone else being absolutely insufferable. The thing that got me to drop the game was realizing that I physically winced when a cutscene focusing on Vanille started and deciding I didn’t need to put up with that. I’m sure if I went back to the game I’d probably find it’s not as bad as all that, and the amount of vitriol it gets is almost certainly not deserved (the way some people talk about that game you could be forgiven for thinking it’s software that turns your PC into a Terminator that relentlessly hunts down their family), but it’s the game that stopped me from playing all the Final Fantasy games. I’d finished all of them up until XII (discounting XI since that’s an MMO) and was planning to do the XIII trilogy, but nope. I hear XIII-2 is quite decent, too, so that’s a shame. Maybe I’ll come back to it one day. The contrarian in me really wants to like it.

        1. Syal says:

          Reading Youtube comments on an Arise video, it seems people generally recommend Symphonia or Xillia. I don’t recommend Symphonia, on the grounds that I somehow managed to make the entire party AI controlled and couldn’t figure out how to turn them back. You think Berseria’s boring, try it without even touching the buttons.

          I maybe should have mentioned that I really like brainless mashing. Berseria’s definitely not a hard game, although the hardest difficulty (Chaos difficulty, which doesn’t get unlocked until like the 95% point) actually made group fights dangerous, and made for some heartburn bosses. It’s just higher-level enemies, so for the most part they just take a longer beating, but a cluster of range boys can murder you.

          FF13 also has the problem that your characters aren’t going anywhere in particular, and keep splitting up to not go anywhere. FF10 is a pilgrimage from B to Z, and that’s the goal the entire time; the linearity is thematically appropriate. Where I stopped in 13, we were jumping between Lightning going to… a place, and the afro guy just wandering, and Seifer getting captured by the Bolivian Army. And despite going in three separate directions, the player’s path is still completely linear.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            your characters aren’t going anywhere in particular, and keep splitting up to not go anywhere

            It’s worse than that: starting from the beginning of the game, the only reason you ever lose party members, and I mean literally the only reason ever, is because Lightning wanders off. It may not be immediately obvious because other characters usually wander off with her, but she’s 100% of the reason you fill out your party in chapter 9 rather than chapter 4.

            1. Thomas says:

              And that also means you can’t even do basic things like ‘choose your party members’ until way too late into the game.

          2. Fizban says:

            I remember that AI control problem, took me ages to figure out how to turn it off too after I’d accidentally triggered it (couldn’t tell you how, might have just reloaded a save- there’re a number things that are just mapped to some button which didn’t really need to be). On the other hand, if the AI can manage everything on normal difficulty, that is the sort of option that people are explicitly asking for these days, games that will let you enjoy them with less skill. Heck, being able to turn control of the melee “you’re expected to play this one” and just stand in the back hitting a cast spell button is also there as an in-between option.

        2. Chad Miller says:

          Re: linearity – I think there’s a somewhat insidious problem with FFXIII in that it’s not just that it’s linear, but that it’s also restrictive on top of the linearity.

          Like, let’s just say that we don’t care that the world map is mostly a tunnel. Every FF is full of random combats and maybe a conveyor belt of every combat in the game is fine. You still get to make all the party and combat decisions, right? But consider (keeping in mind the game has 13 chapters):

          This may be the only FF game ever that 100% explains the levelling system as something plot-relevant which specifically applies to the party, which on the one hand is cool but on the other hand means that the slow opening keeps said plot element from showing up until the cutscene after Chapter 2. This means it’s a couple hours before this JRPG lets you level up your characters at all, let alone customize their abilities in any way. There’s also a job system, but all characters start with at least half the jobs locked. You don’t get the full complement of job combinations until Chapter 10.

          This game actually puts more emphasis on the party leader than almost any other FF because of the way the combat works. Not only are your teammates AI-controlled, but they made the baffling decision to make it a game over if the party leader hits 0. Even though Phoenix Downs exist and you may have a medic with a Raise spell (this is especially grating after FFXII made enemies take out your entire six-person party) You end up finally getting the ability to rerrange your party at the end of Chapter 9. Before that, not only can you not choose your party, you can’t even choose which of the people already in the party is the party leader. Even if you’re travelling with more than three people.

          Every character can now summon one Eidolon, after they acquire it for plot reasons, but they slowroll it so bad it feels like trolling at times. Snow gets the first one, Shiva, after splitting up with the party in Chapter 3. Then he’s spirited away and the player never sees him again until Chapter 7. He doesn’t even summon Shiva once. Then in Chapter 4 Lightning gets Odin, and we get one tutorial battle with him. Then the narrative cuts away for a terrible Sazh/Vanille sequence (for bonus points this is one of the most impotent party configurations in the entire game) before cutting back to Hope/Lightning; at which point Hope asks to be party leader and Lightning says yes. Which I know is supposed to be Hope’s big “I’m ready to stand up to the bad guys” moment, but it also means that the game designers cut you off from an entire game mechanic by forcing you to put the squishy mage on point.

          Sidequests? Chapter 11. Ultimate attacks? Chapter 12. Gear customization? The entire game, but it’s comically bad, to the point where if you’re not doing the post game it’s perfectly reasonable to just ignore it.

          Compared to FFX…setting aside that there is more and more varied sidequesting in that game, I’d say you generally have the combat mechanics by the time you set sail away from Besaid. You have all party members but Rikku (and you did get to play Rikku for a bit, which is probably just enough to have planted the idea to send Kimahri down her branch of the sphere grid if you want). You have overdrives, character swapping, the sphere grid, and all of your characters have their primary gimmick including your summoner who can already summon things.

          This is less than two hours in. This is less than the amount of FFXIII you have to play through before you can even level up.

          In conclusion, if you quit FFXIII 22 hours in then you didn’t finish the tutorial and I absolutely don’t blame you for that.

          1. Fizban says:

            And thus, why I need to get around to trying it sometime: it is really so massively train-wreck bad? Would it turn out that I’m resistant or the foreknowledge would make it tolerable? Would I find it worth playing just to see all the terrible decisions? Or would I rage out as fast or faster than everyone else? I gotta see.

            Sometime. Eventually.

            1. Chad Miller says:

              A lot of it is fresh in mind because I recently replayed it in order to prepare for the trilogy showing up on Game Pass, so I get this impulse.

            2. Syal says:

              I didn’t actually think it was too bad, but the breaking point was absolutely the Odin Eidolon fight. Tromping through the battles, you suddenly get a boss who:

              Hits hard
              Hits fast
              Hits with an AOE
              Can only be defeated with specific actions
              Is timed

              Turns out the fight is decided in the first two seconds; if you don’t use the lunge attack (which is not one of the actions that hurts him) while Odin is still far away, the AOE will constantly hit both of you and you’re dead.

              That’s the first real Eidolon fight. I can only imagine how much worse they get.

              1. Chad Miller says:

                I honestly liked the Eidolon fights; the key with Odin is having Hope throw up his synergist buffs ASAP and being prepared to do a lot of healing during his attack chains. You don’t need to reduce him to 0 so failing to deal damage for extended periods is fine.

                Honestly if there were more trick fights like that I may like the game more; but really, it’s mostly split into “stuff you can straightforwardly chain and wear down” and “stuff that requires an interminable amount of grinding CP before you can chain and grind them down”

          2. Rariow says:

            I completely forgot about the whole restriction on party rearrangement! As soon as I read that bit of your comment the frustration of having to play as Hope right after the big Odin moment came right back to me. I just assumed the game wouldn’t ever unlock the ability to choose your leader, and it just wanted you to play whoever you were handed to make for more cinematic storytelling or whatever. The fact that it actually unlocks that at some point makes the early game even stranger.

            The game’s also bizarre in that it choses the worst of both worlds. The fact that your party is constantly getting split up makes for a frustrating gameplay experience, because you never get to play as who you want. I’d understand this if the split was done for story purposes, but that also feels aimless and weird. It’s like the story and the gameplay are both kneecapping themselves for the sake of improving the other, not realizing that the other one is already sacrificing itself, so you get all sacrifice, no benefit.

            I have to second Fizban’s sentiment – this conversation has made me want to give FFXIII a chance again. Surely it can’t actually be that bad? Surely I must be remembering it as worse than it is, right?

        3. Fizban says:

          They went and turned the Tales games into a button masher? That was literally the thing that was screwing me when I first played Symphonia- expecting mashing attacks to work when the game wants you to block between combos, so I was just eating it full in the face constantly.

        4. Thomas says:

          This is exactly the issue with FfXIIi (and I completed it twice).

          The area people say is great is essentially a calm lands sized level midway through the game. It’s still linear – it’s got one entrance and one exit. But it’s big enough that you can choose to go left and right as well as forwards and back, you can go looking for chests, choose to fight some monsters you don’t need to fight and even do some simple side quests.

          I sound like I’m describing basic features of a videogame level, but It’s the only area in the game that does that.

    2. Redrock says:

      Berseria was actually my first Tales of game, and it kinda made me fall in love with the series. The combat system is, eh, it’s fine. It’s actually pretty versatile, but it’s that weird type of Japanese action-RPG where it feels worse than an actual action game but also not as strategic as an RPG. It’s action on depressants. Fighting as Velvet is pretty fun, though, especially once you find moves that feel right, and the whole demon arm thing just feels vicious in all the right ways. That said, for me it’s the characters that did it. Like, they’re all so unapologetically anti-heroes, and Velvet is so unapologetically cynical throughout that it’s hard not to admire. Most JRPGs would sometimes introduce one or two edgier heroes, but they would almost always be fully reformed halfway through. Not in Berseria. No, these guys are assholes, and they remain assholes even in the face of apocalypse. Like, your primary motivation for almost the whole game is bloody murderous revenge. It’s kinda The Last of Us Part 2 of JRPGs in that regard, but, you know, in a way that’s actually fun.

      Also, Vesperia is pretty good, but everyone knows that.

      1. Fizban says:

        See, I love the Tales combat. It’s just actiony enough that it never feels like I’m just staring at a bunch of people standing there while I perfect my ability to press down exactly enough to hit the spell I want without missing (with no thought because I’ve long since solved all tactical responses), but also low-key enough that it can be repeated over and over (or not, since 3d Tales let you avoid encounters), through hours of random battles and dungeons and JRPG stuff. Where a more actiony game will eventually grind my fingers down and wear out my focus until I can’t progress even if I want to.

      2. Rariow says:

        I’m not opposed to action-JRPG systems. I really adore the combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, for instance, because it does ride that line between just feeling good in easy encounters and being very tactical in harder ones – in fact, it might be my favorite combat in any JRPG I’ve played. It’s all about managing cooldowns, timing buffs and debuffs, and comboing different effects properly. There’s a tonne to track in real time, and it can get very hectic, so the challenge is often trying to keep a cool head and still be smart about what you do, because if you’re not playing smart enemies will simply outlast you.

        The thing with Berseria is that it barely qualifies as an RPG combat system. It’s just a bad-feeling action combat system with a couple vaguely RPGish bells and whistles on the side. The most it does is assign elemental effects to your different attacks and give enemies elemental weaknesses. For a system that simple to work you need it to be able to play like an actual good action game. The comparison might be unfair since the two games are working at very different levels in both scope and budget, but Persona 5 Strikers has a combat system only slightly more RPGish than Berseria, but it works because it’s got really great gamefeel. Every character has very satisfying animations, and a different gimmick (Ryuji can charge up attacks, Haru can do big AoE spins, Yusuke can parry on block, Ann can set her weapon on fire etc), and while you’re fundamentally doing the same thing as Berseria’s combat (mashing attack buttons and occasionally thinking about elemental weaknesses) it just feels better. Berseria lands in this bland middle ground where it’s not tactical the way Xenoblade 2 is, but it’s also not fun on its own merit like Persona 5 Strikers is.

        100% agree on your assessment of the characters, though. I fully expected them to be portrayed as edgy but then actually be overall good people, but that’s very much not the case. Velvet is the edgiest-presenting, but backs it up by regularly doing legitimately horrific stuff so far I’ve seen her incite a prison riot that gets most people in it killed, burn down a port town because one person in it pissed her off, and aid pirates in storming a military base. Rokurou and Magilou are nice, friendly people who cheerfully go along with all the awful stuff Velvet does, and Magilou is very happy to rat Velvet out at the drop of a hat – none of this anime “power of friendship” stuff there. I’ve not seen enough of Eizen or Laphicet to know whether they’re the same way, but at least Eizen has the background to also be very OK with doing awful stuff. They’re fun characters, and just how unusual they are for a JRPG party in their almost complete amorality is the main thing that makes me want to keep giving Berseria chances. Like, in FFXIII Lightning is meant to be an edgy amoral hero, but the worst thing she does is constantly be rude at her friends. Berseria feels like a proper band of villains.

        1. Redrock says:

          I gotta say, Rokurou isn’t nearly as nice as you might think now. Dude’s got issues. I suspect that my memories of Berseria grow fonder as time passes, because the characters are what really sticks in my mind, while the less than stellar gamefeel is more easily forgotten.

          As for the XC2 battle system, I have very mixed feelings about that one. On the one hand, it’s good enough that I stuck with the game throughout. On the other, well, I find myself becoming overall less and less tolerant of various hybrid systems. I remember the Final Fantasy ATB system and the Infinity Engine real-time-with-pause being tolerable when I was younger, but these days I usually just wish for either real turn-based or pure action, with a few exceptions. XC2 is a bit too close to real-time-with-pause mentality for me, or maybe MMO-style combat. I really hate those random auto-attack animations that have very little heft or impact. It betrays just how much of a facade the whole thing is – it pretty much comes out and tells you “Well, I’m running some numbers based on your stats, here are some largely unrelated movements, colors and shapes to distract your monkey brain in the meantime”. There’re a few attacks that feel impactful and meaningful – like the ones that drop health vials and the break-topple-launch combos, but those don’t happen nearly often enough, and even when they do, you’re often at the mercy of your party members’ AI when it comes to actually following through.

          That said, I think the system they used in the Golden Country DLC is way, way better and fixes most of my gripes. You have way more control over combos, making elemental orbs and starting chain attacks is easier, which ultimately means more instances when pressing a button feels like it’s actually doing something. Generally, I think Golden Country is a much better designed game than XC2, to be honest.

          1. Rariow says:

            Oh, I’m under no illusion that Rokurou is a nice person, he’s just nice in the sense that he’s got a generally pleasant demeanour and he doesn’t spend his time growling at people or insulting them the way Velvet does. I’m sure as the story goes on he’ll also do some bad stuff.

            The moment XC2’s combat really clicked with me was when I started thinking of the objective of combat as setting up combos and chain attacks. While the auto-attack animations aren’t that good if you always have Pouch Items that give you arts recharge equipped (these are available from before Nia even joins the party, if I’m not mistaken – on replays I always buy Narcipear Jelly from the sweets shop in Argentum as soon as I possibly can and almost never don’t have it equipped for the rest of the game) you can pretty much spend your entire time using Arts, which are much more fun than sitting there auto-attacking. From there it’s about finding a Blade setup that’s fun to play – which is not necessarily the strongest setup – and going for Fusion Combos (where you finish a Blade Combo while a Driver Combo is going on, with the power increasing the further down the Driver Combo you are – I believe this mechanic is never explained in game) as much as humanly possible. Fusion Combos aren’t just the most enjoyable part of the combat to me, they’re also the most powerful (since they do a massive amount of damage on top of setting up for Chain Attacks), which I think is a fantastic decision. I usually use Blades that increase in power as you do something specific in combat, like Crosette who powers up as you collect health potions, Sheba who powers up as you collect money in combat, or T-elos, who powers up with kills. These aren’t the best Blades (Crosette aside), but I personally find having a small sub-objective in combat like that to be fun. Between this and worrying about status effects and switching to healers and all that I wind up with a lot to juggle and do, which I find very enjoyable.

            Torna is one of my favorite case-studies in games, because I think it’s a fascinating way to iterate on XC2. It’s essentially the same game but with everything scaled down to make sense over a 30 hour timescale rather than a 200 hour one. The way that winds up working out – where they don’t just make numbers smaller, they actually radically change how some of the systems work in order to give you the same experience – is really interesting to me, and I think a really good showcase of game design. I think I overall prefer the base game. The main draw of the series for me is the exploration and Torna has considerably less of that (including just re-using a barely changed Gormott as one of its four areas, probably the lamest thing in the expansion), plus as I mentioned, I adore the base game’s combat and I think Torna’s is basically the same thing but with considerably less customization (and thus freedom of playstyle) and the Vanguard Switch system, which is visually super cool but not functionally that different from just changing Blades in the base game – so a slight downgrade overall. The freedom to do any elemental combo is… net neutral, to me. Sure, there’s more freedom, but it also means the strategic element of planning out your combo routes is gone. I do think Torna is a fantastic expansion, though.

  53. PPX14 says:

    Man, someday I want to play a game that looks as awesome as its own concept art.

    Now that’s an interesting thought. Which would I rate as having succeeded in that regard. In fact which films manage that?? One thing at a time – for games, perhaps:

    – Prince of Persia 2008
    – Mirror’s Edge

    And then a lot of great looking 2D platformers through the ages with more screenshots than concept art (Rayman, Hollow Knight etc).

    I don’t think any of the 70s/80s films that I’ve seen with amazing posters manage to look as good as the posters. Maybe Star Wars. I’m thinking of Big Trouble in Little China or They Live etc.

  54. Smith says:

    RE that New World screenhot: Marauders, of course, are well known for being honorable and glorious.

  55. Redrock says:

    So I started playing Deathloop, and it’s the sort of game I’m supposed to love. Hell, I just recently wrote a column about how immersive sims are the pinnacle of game design and the demise of the subgenre is a testament to how stupid this industry is. But the truth is, Deathloop just doesn’t pull me in. I might boot it up, and then, yes, I might play it for several hours straight. Because it is good and fun and decently put together. But deciding to boot it up again somehow always requires an exercise in willpower. I kinda don’t want to start playing it. I’m fine once I actually get into it, but before I start the game I think that it would be a chore, if that makes any sense at all.

    Now, for a game that I have been playing obsessively for the last two weeks and one that I have already beaten once, which is a rare occurrence for me lately. Surprise-surprise, it’s Tales of Arise. I love this game. Even though I probably shouldn’t. All the usual criticism against JRPGs applies. The plot and the writing, while fine in its broad strokes, is very anime moment-to-moment, with all the occasional cringe that entails. The dialogue can be painfully overwrought. The tonal whiplash is inescapable, the sidequests are simplistic, the plotholes – glaring. And yet I just can’t help but adore it. Because unlike so many games Tales of Arise feels like an adventure. It’s like reading a Terry Brooks novel (NOT to be confused with Terry Goodkind) as a teen. It’s fun, it’s vibrant, the cast is infinitely likeable, the combat is punchy, the grinding kept to a minimum, even though it’s one of the few games where I wouldn’t even mind grinding. Because every battle is this explosion of sound and colour, with insane combos, special moves and every character shouting out the name of their attacks every single frickin time. Also, it just runs amazingly on my laptop, and has really great mouse and keyboard controls, which for a Japanese port is nothing short of miraculous.

    There’s just something deeply enjoyable about a well-made JRPG. An immersive sim or a good Western-style cRPG I’d probably consider to be better games, more important to the betterment of the medium, bla-bla-bla. But those games rarely make me feel like a kid again, and Tales of Arise managed to do just that. So there it is. Guess I’ll take another crack at Scarlet Nexus now and see if I’ve been converted into a goddamn weeb in my old age.

    1. Steve C says:

      But deciding to boot it up again somehow always requires an exercise in willpower. I kinda don’t want to start playing it. I’m fine once I actually get into it, but before I start the game I think that it would be a chore, if that makes any sense at all.

      It makes a lot of sense. The same thing happens to me all the time. It took me a long time to figure out the reason why though. The reason is that I like the game as a whole. But there is a fiddly bit that I view more as a chore. That turns me off and creates a hump to get over.

      It was replaying Baldur’s Gate 1 that made me realize. I enjoy the game and story and everything else. I tried playing multiple times and quit always at the same place. Always right after the mines. The reason is the inventory management is a brutal chore. That’s the part of the game where inventory really comes to a head. After that point you are always full on stuff and managing inventory. I hated it. Sucked all the fun out of the game.

      Recently it was Wildermyth. I enjoyed the game. Except the end of level equipment crafting system was a chore. I knew I needed to take that seriously or I was shooting myself in the foot long term. I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore once it reached a certain level of complexity. So I quit the game entirely.

      That was the key- Knowing there is a part of the game that I have to take seriously. That if I don’t, it will come back to bite me in the ass later. That creates this giant hump of willpower to launch a game. It also applies to other sources of friction too. Like I have download a few Gigs and upgrade the game first? Well let’s see what is on youtube instead.

  56. Sabrdance says:

    Since our last one, I’ve mostly been playing Star Wars: Empire at War: Thrawn’s Revenge. The game has ridiculous load and save times, but once you get used to it, the game plays pretty well. I’ve gotten into the latter parts of the game where the entirely new starships are researched, and I like the New Republic’s later era ships. They start feeling like a real fleet rather than being cobbled together from what they can get (which is appropriate for a legitimate government’s first real fleet).

    I also upgraded to a PS5, and got Final Fantasy VII Remake. I never got more than 20 hours into the original. I liked it, but the game just required so much time investment, and was so large that -even with a guide -it always fell off my list. And then a computer crash wiped out my save and I had to do it all again and it just never happened. So the remake offered a chance to play the game again, in a more modern UI and storytelling techniques. Once I got used to it, I liked the new combat system. I appreciate a lot of the storytelling changes, but do worry that they are leaning too hard into people already knowing the plot. I believe our host plans to talk about this game at some point, so I’ll leave off further comment until then.

    Having finished all of FFVIIR, including the new DLC, I then picked up Horizon: Zero Dawn. This is a game I want to like far more than I do. I love the concept of the world, but if I wasn’t already aware of where the story was going I would probably have stopped playing by now, and I haven’t even got out of the home territory.

    The basic game loop just isn’t that appealing to me. Stalking and hunting is fun, but it’s 20 minutes of boredom followed by seconds of sheer stark terror. And because the game uses set save point, if you botch a hunt and die, you get to do it again from the start. At least for story events they do give you frequent autosaves.

    The open world is huge, which is probably fine if I’m just faffing about, but when I actually need to get somewhere, running (or riding) 5 kilometers all the distance to cross and all the obstacles to fight through along the way -by the time I get to the mission start I am ready to turn the game off.

    And then the story itself is full of uninteresting characters who repeat themselves all the time (don’t give me a dialogue wheel if you are just going to repeat all the information in the default answer -just play the cutscene) and have the emotional range of a 2×4. At first I thought this was just characterization as stoicism, but in retrospect I think the VAs for Rost and Erend are just better at this.

    Despite all of this -the idea of discovering the details of the Faro Plague is interesting enough to keep me slugging through until the game “gets good,” but I have to say that I’ve found it a disappointment to play (almost as much as Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which I’m still officially playing, but have advanced like all of a week in the gameplay).

    1. Syal says:

      when I actually need to get somewhere, running (or riding) 5 kilometers all the distance to cross and all the obstacles to fight through along the way -by the time I get to the mission start I am ready to turn the game off.

      There’s a fast travel consumable in the game. It took me way too long to realize it.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Yes, a very cheap consumable, too. There’s also an infinite-use version you get later, but I forget how.

        1. Sabrdance says:

          I have 2 of them right now. I think it will be useful when I need to backtrack -but it only works to reach campfires you’re already unlocked, and right now I’m trying to reach the Carja border and it’s just one herd of animals after another, and the watchers and the bellowbacks… I wish they’d make like the roads “safe” and the machines stay away from them so that, so long as you stick to the roads, you can travel unmolested.

  57. Sven says:

    I’ve been playing F1 2021, which I guess isn’t your cup of tea. ;)

    It does have a story mode, new for this year’s game, called “Braking Point.” I haven’t played it yet (I’m doing the regular My Team career mode instead), but I’ve heard the writing is pretty bad. This isn’t the first time racing games have attempted story modes; various titles in things like the Need for Speed series have done it too, usually with bad results.

    Ever thought of taking a look into stories in traditionally non-narrative games?

  58. Ronan says:

    I’ve started a new game of Stellaris, as it was a few years since last time and I’ve bought a few extensions since.

    I chose a mechanical civilization, it feels like a cheat mode ^^. two resources less to worry about, immortal administrators/scientists/etc… Very good choice for a game I was no longer familiar with.
    A lot of mechanisms have changed since I last played it, most of them for the better.

  59. Zekiel says:

    I’m playing Metro Exodus, which is fun once I got into it, and Banner Saga 2, which my tablet game of the moment. It’s a nice blend of turn based strategy and visual novel, and I love the world. Less frustrating than I remember the first one being. Although on iPad you can’t manually save, and for some fricking reason it occasionally gives you 2 or more battles back to back… and doesn’t save in between them. This is absolutely maddening and I have no idea why it’s done this way!

  60. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Right, lemme check my notes as it’s been a while… Some of the highlights since the previous post:

    I’ve played the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game for the first time! Which from here on I’m going to simply call Stalker because that is a pain to type. To be clear I’ve played it with one of those “recommended for first playthroughs” mods, though now I don’t remember the name of it, so it wasn’t a 100% vanilla experience but I’m told that one was pretty close to it. Anyway, it was overall a fine experience: was pretty into the story, combat felt pleasantly lethal, perhaps my one mechanical gripe was that the carry weight limit was a bit much. But I was actually quite surprised with how well it captured the open world feel, I always felt like there was more I could have explored, that a decision to not go towards that building, or not check behind that hill was a risk vs reward calculation. It made me realise how many of the survival oriented mods for the more recent open world games, like Fallouts or Skyrim, are trying to recapture that more deadly and less empowering exploration. To be fair it probably helped that I was doing it on stream and had a couple of people stop by who apparently delight in watching people tackle the game for the first time and giving some tips who immensely helped me not fall into some mechanical traps (for example: initially it seemed like stealth was much more functional than it actually is).

    I’m also constantly in this weird burnout-obssession cycle with Stellaris where I can’t quite mod the game to be perfectly to my liking and I end up feeling the game is feeling “sameish” and drop it halfway through a playthrough. But then I’ll get the hankering to play it again, get an idea for a roleplay/gimmick playthrough and sink into it for the next couple of days.

    Speaking of hankerings, I felt like playing some good ol’ Ubisoft “icon cleaning” game but felt it to early for another AC (I finished Unity earlier this year so Syndicate will be next) but it just so happens I own a game in their other major franchise of this sort! It’s Far Cry uh… it’s… crap, it’s 3. And like, I heard it’s… not a good one, but you know, I own it already (probably from a bundle? or it came added to something?) so might as well, right? My experience with the game was… complicated. Even ignoring the very racist elements (and, you know, you shouldn’t) literally almost every single time anything related to the story happened it was stupid, tepid or both. The protagonist starts and remains an insufferable git. Vaas is apparently this beloved antagonist and I’ve seen the internet bemoan that he is not the main villain of the game but to me he just felt like an incompetent moron spouting things bordering on word salad to make him seem profound. Same applies to whoever did the overall narration. Putting in classic literature, in this case “Alice”, quotes does not give your stupid story depth! But at the same time every single time I wasn’t doing something story related I loved the gameplay. The sneaking, the sniping, the bow, even the driving which I’m usually not a fan of. I played it on the hardest difficulty and for most of the game I had to play the game somewhat tactically or I could get over my head even with good gear (in the very latest part combat got a touch easy but, eh, I’ll take it). So on the one hand I hated it, but on the other hand, having heard that 4 is “basically the same thing but not as stupid and not as racist” I’m actually looking forward to it (oh and I’m told that Blood Dragon is a load of silliness that I’ll definitely enjoy).

    Prey:Mooncrash So for the longest time I had this vague understanding that Mooncrash was “Prey but sorta roguelike” and that was something I did NOT want. Then it came up in several places and I heard that there was a decent story component to unlock so it seemed more and more appealing. I suppose the retrospective might have been the final drop that made me go into it (and on that note a lot of the comments came at just the right time to remind me how to deal with many of the enemies for which I’m very grateful). The thing is… I didn’t like it very much. I don’t want to say that it’s “bad” in some objective way but it definitely didn’t give me what I wanted when I thought I’d like to play “more Prey” and I’d go so far as to say that the Mooncrash formula is in some ways actively running counter to the things I’ve found appealing about the base game. No making your own build because you’re locked into one with every character. No taking a “slow and steady” approach stealthing around enemies, waiting for opportunities or setting up ambushes because you’re on a timer. No interesting twists, much less themes, in the story contents because it’s just little vignettes, even the “satellite” story felt like a complete afterthought. The thing is I really enjoyed the first run or two, when the timer wasn’t that harsh and I was still learning the areas (exploration was one of my favourite parts of the original game) but that ran out fairly quickly and it became more about mastering the relatively small map. Overall I would much prefer having a sequel set up in the moonbase with one of the characters turned into a full fledged story.

    Also also, playing Borderlands 3 with a friend in co-op. I don’t know if they rebalanced the game or if it scales differently for more than one player but we’re not experiencing the bulletsponge aspect that Shamus mentioned way back in the day at all. In fact I feel like combatwise this is my favourite. Heck, I even kinda enjoy the constant gun rotation because, while many of orange tier weapons are gimmicky, most of the time it’s not that hard to find something that feels satisfying and/or entertaining. Writingwise… yeah well, the twins have nothing on Handsome Jack but I’ll live. Then again I’m like one of the ten people on the planet who actively enjoy claptrap as a character so…

    And finally Impostor Factory. I’ll be brief here because it’s a game that’s hard to talk about without spoilers. Finding Paradise is still my favourite in the series. I feel like IF’s initial twist on the story formula doesn’t quite deliver, it jumps too quickly into pulling at heartstrings and most of its emotional impact came from cashing in on the leftover coupons from Finding Paradise. Having said that it still gave me the feels that it was trying to and, perhaps because of my very strong preference for FP over To The Moon*, I do not regret getting it on release. Bear in mind though that I feel this is going to be a very serious case of varying mileage and generally I would not recommend the game (or, in fact, the series) to people who are not into walking sim style games.

    *As a complete side note, this is entirely anecdata but my cursory conversations with people on the internet lead me to believe that while most people who were brought to tears by To The Moon didn’t like Finding Paradise that much introverts and/or people on the autism spectrum seem to respond to the second game much more strongly.

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      Far Cry 3, I think, is the quintessential Far Cry: beautiful environments, excellent gunplay, incoherent villain, douchebag protagonist.

      I played it back in ’13, I think. 100% playthrough, 66 hours, one session. I think I must have been going through some issues at the time, because that isn’t natural, even for somebody in their early 20’s. As a result I don’t really remember the second half of the game, but from what I’m told I didn’t miss much.

    2. Laxativus says:

      Re:Farcries
      That’s pretty much my experience with the franchise. (By franchise I mean FC3 onward, not including BD.) Love the exploring, hunting, taking over outposts – basicly anything where I decide how I wanna do stuff. Story missions I almost always dislike because 1, the writing is awful and it didn’t get any better with subsequent entries, and 2, I’m forced to do stuff I usually don’t enjoy in a way I usually don’t enjoy. Like defending a location from waves of enemies or being forced to interact with insufferable characters. (BTW Hurk and the CIA guy were annoying and stupid as heck the first time you met them. Who thought it would be fun to include them in later games?) This is why FC5 was incredible infuriating when during times you were exploring and doing your stuff, out of nowhere the game forced story missions on you.
      But I usually play them, because of the outpost clearing is fun. But boy, do I have to tape my eyeballs into my skull so they won’t fall out from all the eyerolling they do because of the writing.
      Blood Dragon is the exception. It is stupid. More stupid than the rest, probably. But it is consistent and possibly well written. It’s a romp. And it’s just the perfect length. It is the only Far Cry I can honestly recommend.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        This is both @you and Mr. Wolf. Honestly I don’t even want a great story for these. I mean, it would be nice but I enjoyed the gameplay so much that I’ll take “inoffensive” (which is a bar FC3 failed to clear). Generally I’ve been told 3 is a low point in that respect, I’ve seen a bit of Blood Dragon and yes, it’s kinda stupid but definitely on purpose tongue-in-cheek kind of way and I will admit that the “hidden ending” for 4 that Spoiler Warning showed back in the day actually made me respect the devs for it.

        1. Laxativus says:

          I’d be okay without a great story, as well. Even with just a good one. Serviceable writing would be fine with me. I mean gaming in general rarely has great writing. (If we were to look at percentages.) And we usually don’t make a big deal out of it. Unless it’s BAD bad, like in the farcries, usually. And in the farcries the tone is all over the place, the humour is infantile, the pacing is non-existent, characters are grating, protagonists unlikable, and even villains, though entertaining thanks to the performances, can hardly be called fascinating or nuanced. And I think FC5 is a low point far below FC3. (FC5’s ending is nothing short of atrocious.) Except for the protagonist. Jason Brody is…. ugh.

  61. baud says:

    One of my favorite features was the way you could equip one item for stats and another for cosmetics.

    I kinda like the system for SWTOR. Or at least I spent a lot of time and in-game credits playing dress up with my characters. In that game, the cosmetics work by outfits, where you add pieces of equipment to it, so you can add the same pieces to different outfits and still use them for stats. And you can have multiple outfits with different looks (like a mercenary look and different uniforms for my agent).

    Currently I’m playing Inquisitor:Martyr, that I bought in the latest sale. It’s 40k flavored ARGP; for the adaptation, I think it got rather well the feel of the setting, though sometime it gots the lore wrong in rather obvious ways, like calling a ship used by the Inquisition a fortress-monastery, which is in the lore used to designate the fortress that serves as home base of a space marine. Also having an inquisitor spending all the time fighting, whereas in the lore they spend most of their time searching, investigating, interogating… Even then the story (so far) revolves around solving a mystery.r Though that’s mostly an expected tension between playing a ARGP and the player character being an inquisitor; but the inquisitor is kinda the only function that can justify the ARPG gameplay, at least for playing a human that’s loyal to the Imperium.
    For the gameplay, it reminds me a little of Path Of Exile, in that it got the same pile-up of additional systems added across a bunch of updates and arriving there as a new player is slightly overwhelming. The UI is not perfect (information is missing on some pages, or hidden behind multiple clicks) and it runs like hot garbage on my aging laptop, but when it get going it’s really fun to purge packs of deamon with a flamethrower and melt down chaos space marines.

    I did play a little of King’s Bounty: Crossworld. It’s interesting, kinda like a RPG, but with most of the gameplay copied from Heroes of Might and Magic. There’s a certain charm with the setting and art direction (perhaps naïveté?), rather far from current fantasy stories that try their hardest to be very serious and very grim, because that’s how a mature story for a mature audience is told; here KB just try to conjure some escapism, a princess fighting evil across islands, digging up treasures and saving the world.

    Also finished a second playthrough of Strangeland, a point-&-click, with the dev commentary (I talked about it in the previous “this week I player” :) ); I think it’s interesting to see the intent behind the writing and design choices and how much of themselves the creators have put into it.

    Filament looks interesting, I went to add it on my wishlist and it was already there :D.

    1. baud says:

      Previously I also played Serious Sam 3, it was really fun and even with its presentation of brain-dead shooter, there’s still some prioritization to do, between which weapon (because the ammunition is limited) to use on which enemy (different enemy type offer different threats) on which order, while moving in which direction (different enemy have different engagement range)… Though a bit too often it’s just a big wave of identical enemies and the game devolves in just a shooting contest with way less subtilities. And maybe moving backward is a little too easy sometime.

      And also Lord of the Ring adventure card game, which seems to hew really close to the feel of the books, but I’m bad at it so it’s not really fun to play.

  62. Ektenia says:

    I’ve played PULSAR: Lost Colony with a group of friends. We haven’t played very far, but so far it’s been really good. You’re basically playing as a StarTrek crew dealing with StarTreky kinds of things (ship fights, away team missions).

    Before, we played Don’t Starve Together. Maybe, having figured out how not to starve into spring, we’ve gotten what we’re going to get out of it. It is frustrating how the game randomly punishes imperfect play (A deerclops, or a rain of frogs, appears and just destroys everything you’ve built).

    Our group has a mix of OSes (2 on Mac, 1 on PC, me with both), so finding common games to play has been… interesting. When we’ve got only the Mac players, we’ve been playing Borderlands 2 (which has no PC and Mac crossplay anymore). It’s been neat introducing it to friends who never played it.

    On my own I’m mostly playing the same old Bethesda games. I recommend Tale of Two Wastelands as a way to play Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas together (it’s impressive what the automatic installer takes care of automatically in order to make this happen) and I recommend OpenMW as the way to play improved Morrowind without having to noodle around with mod managers. If you’ve played Morrowind but are looking for more of it, I recommend adding Tamriel Rebuilt, which takes maybe 5 or 10 minutes of fiddling to add but basically doubles the size of the game (adding a mainland, so it doesn’t mess with the original game) with IMHO well written new locations and quests. Finally, Fallout 4 VR and Skyrim VR: if you think ports like this that aren’t “designed for VR” are missing the point, I disagree: the VR visuals give a great sense of place while still providing the original game’s interesting gameplay.

    Oh, and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, with patch. I don’t think I’ll get further into it (e.g. playing as every clan), but I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

  63. Dalisclock says:

    Finished UnMetal a few days ago. It was a pretty fun homage to the early Metal Gear games(notably the MSX/NES 2d ones). It doesn’t attempt the Kojima digressions on life, culture and politics but instead has satisfying, varied gameplay, some silly bosses and a fair it of humor to drive home this isn’t meant to be taken too seriously(which is good because the plot is serviceable and little more). Some Trial and Error gameplay but the game has enough checkpoints not to be a big problem, and some interesting gameplay curveballs.

    Currently playing Blasphemous which is simply gorgeously sublime and perhaps one of the most fascinating takes on religion in a video game that’s not an RPG(even if it’s basically really Dark Fantasy Catholicism). Quite difficult though so it’s gonna take a while to get through.

  64. Mico Selva says:

    I paused my (first-ever) playthrough of New Vegas for The Surge, a sci-fi souls-like.
    I started playing this game a couple of years ago, using some subscription service (Origin Access, probably?), and resumed it recently after buying at a really good price. Soon after resuming, I hit a brick wall of difficulty and decided to watch the rest on YouTube instead. However, YouTuber’s (Cohh Carnage) positive attitude encouraged me to give the game another go and I am doing much better now – just passed the halfway point, I believe.

  65. Dragmire says:

    Was playing Metroid Dread. It’s okay but I really hate constantly redoing insta-kill sections.
    Started Saga Frontier remastered but haven’t gotten far.

    Everything’s on hold for a few days while I recover from some wisdom teeth removal.

    Also have to deal with a web host who seems to have let go all of their staff. Their phone gives a, “no one on call due to Covid, contact us by live chat” while the live chat has no operators and says to send a ticket and email has only given auto responses. It’s frustrating and I’m kinda stuck because I can’t even migrate the site somewhere else without being able to contact this host.

    Last few days have not been fun…

  66. Marvin says:

    It’s seems I’m a bit late to the party, but oh well.

    The legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I finally bought a Nintendo Switch. Now this game is what peak open world looks like. I’ve played Nier:Automata and thought that was the best open world game I ever played. Then I played Horizon: Zero Dawn, and noticed it was so much better! You see, the whole “hunting reptilian beasts and scavenge your gear” gameplay is really well-suited to the open-world genre. But then I played Breath of the Wild. This game is on a whole other level. This game does so many things absolutely right, that I’m seeing flaws in Horizon:ZD that I didn’t even notice earlier. So, allow me to briefly (EDIT: haha, of course I wouldn’t be brief) list the things the game does right.

    -The game never holds your hand:
    even in the tutorial area, you’re free to do whatever, while the game slowly explains the mechanics to you. Of course, not going into the areas the game suggest can lead to the game killing you in ways you didn’t even imagine, but the game won’t stop you from running towards your doom. What I especially like is that the tutorial area is like a miniature version of the full game, which is good, because you can also learn how to navigate and explore on your own. I never noticed before how silly it is that some games which are all about exploration don’t let you get of the pavement during the tutorial.

    -There are no plot-driven doors:
    While you mostly can go wherever you want, there are some “soft” and “hard” barriers that limit access to certain areas. With “soft”, I mean that it is very difficult to enter an area if you’re at a low level. For example, the tower at the Akkala region is heavily guarded, and requires quite some stamina (and stamina restore items) in order to climb around the guards. Since you can only get maps of a region at the tower, this is a soft barrier for the entire region. With “hard” barriers, I mean that there is no way to avoid them, other than getting a certain item or power. While plot-driven doors are hard barriers, a good hard barrier makes sense in terms of game mechanics and or the setting/plot. For example, you are forced to enter Zora’s domain by a lengthy land path, because the rampaging divine beast in the region causes continuous rainfall, which means climbing the mountains that surround the domain is not possible, as climbing in the rain is impossible, due to slippery rocks. Also, you’re prevented from leaving the tutorial area early, because it is an isolated plateau you cannot jump off before you have the glider.

    -The gameplay is the plot:
    This is almost for free, given the degree of player agency. But this game handles it just right. First of all, while there are some cut-scenes, most of them either are about events in the past, or take a birds-eye view on some situation. So, cut-scenes are only used to display something that is not possible in the established gameplay! Second, the game allows you to visit important characters in different orders, and adapts their responses depending on who you have visited.

    -Freedom to solve problems in the way you like:
    Not only is there a lot of freedom to choose the order in which to do the quests, shrines, towers, and such, many quests have multiple ways to complete them. Take the Lynel with the shock arrows, for example. The goal of the quests is to obtain 20 shock arrows from the Lynel on a mountain near Zora’s domain. The most obvious way is to defeat the Lynel and claim his arrows, but… this Lynel is a beast with 2000 HP (powerful elemental swords do <40 damage per hit), has no elemental weaknesses, is a master of melee combat, wielding a 2-hander sword with a single hand, master of magic, a master of the bow, and is a centaur that moves way faster than you. Now, I liked this challenge, so I chose to face this monster. (a lot of healing via food, two lightning swords, several stun-locking arrow headshots, and a lot of patience did the trick. The best moment to shoot at the Lynel is when he retreats to prepare a charge) But perhaps it would have been easier to sneak around and collect the various shock arrows stuck in trees and such, simply buy the arrows somewhere else.

    -Make many small puzzle/challenge areas, rather than a few big ones:
    The shrines are pretty fun! Earlier Zelda games usually put a large number of puzzles in the so-called temples, which can be fun, but also pretty exhausting. This approach also doesn't fit with the freedom the open world genre should provide. So, just putting these little puzzles all over the place is quite clever, as it both gives you immediate reward upon finding them (as they become fast-travel points upon activation), as well as another reward for clearing them.

    -The tower-map scheme:
    The (big!) play area is divided into several areas, with each of them having a single tower inside it. On the top of each tower, there is a map of the area. Horizon:ZD did somewhat similar with the Tallnecks. Breath of the Wild does it better simply by making more towers ;). Most towers are easy to find from afar, so the first goal of exploring a new area is to climb its tower. However, the towers in later areas tend to be pretty well defended, and/or require some puzzling to actually climb it. This thing is so fun, It could be a game on its own! (In fact, this is on my list of future projects… It's a shame I never have the time to actually do these things. Ah well, maybe I'll get to it in this decade. I'm still young.)

    I can go on, but I think I've already said way to much. I'd rather go play more of this game. I'm also pretty hyped for the second BotW and Gamefreak's open world pokemon game.

    Actraiser Renaissance: I liked the concept and setting: An almost forgotten god of light (basically an Apollo/Zeus hybrid) plans to reclaim the land plagued by the dark god. He does this by defeating the evil monster generals in side-view 2D platforming castlevania-like sword and magic combat, and managing his people in a topdown 2D strategy/tower defense game. He is supported by a smug little boy angel (any Zeus-analogue needs a Ganymede), and recruits a colourful cast of heroes.

    The problem is that the game gets boring real fast. The 2D platforming sections look cool, but are too short and too easy. The city-expansion strategy is simple, and consists mostly of waiting on your resources to be produced. The tower defense mini-game is only hard in a “do it again, stupid” way, since the spawn points of enemies are fixed, but not known in advance. So, you fail a battle, and then you know how to place your defenses optimally.

    So yeah, this was a bit of a disappointment.

    Hollow Knight: I’ve picked this one up again, after seeing someone playing it in a stream. I recall that I didn’t manage to defeat the light-moth boss last time, so I have a goal this time.

    Chaos Galaxy: This game is a real treat. It’s basically a grand strategy game where the individual battles are naval battles in the style of Advance Wars, except, IN SPAAAAACE. Also, with mechas. I think I’ve had 100 hours in this game within a month. I also like the setting: it’s basically a China-centred view of the Asia. In the centre, there’s the Imperial Court. To the North-east, we have the Mongols. In the east, we have the Pirate remnants of the Japanese shogunate. In the south-east, we have (Singaporean?) traders and the Dutch East India Company. In the North-West, we have the Greeks, with one faction led by Alexander the Great, and the other by Leonidas. In the Middle-East, we have assassins, as well as the “Black Khalif” on his “Black Jihad”. So, basically Dune. The entire setting is pretty heavily Dune-inspired, but that is an explicit callback. In the south-west, we have high-tech faction trying to manage their (AI) slave rebellion.

    I haven’t had this much fun since I played Final Theory. Speaking of which, I still should get the final few achievements of that game.

    1. Dragmire says:

      With “hard” barriers, I mean that there is no way to avoid them, other than getting a certain item or power. While plot-driven doors are hard barriers, a good hard barrier makes sense in terms of game mechanics and or the setting/plot. For example, you are forced to enter Zora’s domain by a lengthy land path, because the rampaging divine beast in the region causes continuous rainfall, which means climbing the mountains that surround the domain is not possible, as climbing in the rain is impossible, due to slippery rocks.

      Love this game but after my first playthrough, I never go through the long path. You can also get to Zora’s Domain by going around that region and come in from the back.

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