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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
 Or maybe it’s like, I dunno, a filament or something? Who can say?
 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.
 I made up the name, but I promise I’m not overselling how ridiculous and overdesigned the paid armors are.
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