This Week I Played… (January 2022)

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 18, 2022

Filed under: TWIP 166 comments

Before we talk about the games I’m playing, let’s talk about what I’m going to be playing: Last week Chris and I wrapped up our series on Batman: Arkham Origins. In that final entry, I put up a poll asking people what we should cover next. Here are the results:

Resident Evil 5 (2009) – 331 (Winner)
A Way Out (2018) – 351
Halo 2 (2004) – 389
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (2006) – 436

How it worked: Everyone was able to give a score to each game, from 1 to 4. 1 indicates high interest, 4 indicates lack of interest. So lower numbers are better. Each score was independent of the others, so you were free to vote however you like. You could rank the four games, or you could bomb a game you hated by giving everything else a 1. Or you could give 1 to the game you cared about and give everything else a 4. It’s fine.

This was interesting because it was basically a race between A Way Out and Resident Evil 5. Those games pulled away from the others very early in the process, but were always within 2 points of each other when I checked the scores on the first day.

Then sometime in day 2, RE5 began to pull ahead. I don’t know why, but there you go.

My only worry here is that I’m sort of infamously incompatible with Capcom’s particular style of B movie-horror-comedy-action-spy-thriller-farce-adventure-shooter. The Batman series was already pretty negative, and I don’t want these streams to be defined by unrelenting negativity. I’m going to try to go in with an upbeat attitude and make sure we have a good time. If it doesn’t work, I’ll blame all of you for voting for it.

I love democracy.

Anyway, I think we’re going to launch the series next week on January 25th. Keep an eye on Chris’ Twitch channel for more.

Now here’s what I’ve been playing…

The Crew 2

I first heard about The Crew 2 during the Ubisoft presentation at E3 2018. Like I said at the time:

[The first Crew game] has about the most ludicrous pitch for an Online Game I’ve ever heard: It’s a linear story-based online game. You play as Alex Taylor. So does everyone else. All the other players you race against are also playing through the non-branching, cutcene-driven “Alex Taylor gets revenge on the bad guys” story.

This is it. This is the worst possible blend of single-player and multiplayer. It has the disadvantages of both and the advantages of neither. A relentlessly generic protagonist with a cliche plot told entirely through cutscenes that you must be online to experience, in a shared world where you have no means of self-expression. And just to make it as intolerable as possible, the linear story is atrocious.

I realize I spend a lot of time complaining about stories on this site, and so maybe it seems like this is another case of a game being too schlock-y for my tastes. But the original Crew wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill videogame story. It was weapons-grade cringe.

This was completely baffling, since the game very obviously didn’t need a story. The hook with The Crew games is that they offer you this massive open world where you can drive around a scaled-down version of the USA. You can visit approximations of major cities like NY, Miami, LA, and Chicago, and you can explore the hundreds of square miles of open roads and small towns between them. You can switch freely between street racing, circuit racing, drifting, off-roading, and a bunch of other types of motorized travel.

That’s a great pitch for a game! That’s everything you need to have fun. The Gran Turismo series turns 25 this year, and that series remains a venerable system-seller. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that the game would be improved by adding a story mode. But that’s what The Crew is like. It’s this wonderfully complete racing game, inexplicably attached to a Uwe Boll-level “movie”.

The sound design is atrocious. The "characters" always sound like they're reading the script to you on National Public Radio. This is really disorienting in scenes where they're supposedly talking to you over the radio or at the starting line of a race where everyone is revving their engines.
The sound design is atrocious. The "characters" always sound like they're reading the script to you on National Public Radio. This is really disorienting in scenes where they're supposedly talking to you over the radio or at the starting line of a race where everyone is revving their engines.

The Crew 2 mercifully dials back on the story and is therefore a far more appealing package. In fact, this game has a lot to offer fans of motorized mayhem. This time around they’ve added boats, planes, motorcycles, and hovercraft, so you have even more ways to explore this enormous map. You can also choose your avatar this time around. While the selection isn’t great, it does save you from playing the same dudebro douchelord that boomer gaming executives think we all like. You can now fiddle with your gender and race a little bit. It’s nice, just don’t go in expecting some Saints Row style custom protagonist.

Me? I got through it by styling myself into a knockoff of The Stig.

Ubisoft is doing everything they can to make this hobby a miserable chore.
Ubisoft is doing everything they can to make this hobby a miserable chore.

The bad parts of the game are all things it inherits as an Ubisoft title. The UPlay-driven always-online nonsense. Some sort of “Season Pass” bullshit where they try to sell you the rest of the game in eternally recurring payments. Downright embarrassing attempts at being hip and connecting with “the youths” by casting your protagonist as some sort of view-chasing “influencer”, like you’re Dominic Toretto by way of Logan Paul. A lot of completely needless talking and stilted introductions with people who don’t matter and have nothing to offer the experience.

Despite my complaining, I actually had fun with this one. I even landed a couple of “best” scores on some air racing circuits.Best in what domain? My Steam friends list? All PC players? All NA players? Global players? The game doesn’t say. I love this huge map and the large variety of gameplay styles. But I spent most of my time with the game fantasizing about the even better game this could have been without some dimwit Ubisoft septuagenarian poisoning the design with Ubisoft’s special brand of “magic”.

Deep Rock Galactic

Link (YouTube)

I’m usually a pretty hard-core single-player kinda guy, but I’ve been making an effort to play more co-op lately. I’m going to be playing Resident Evil 5 with Chris pretty soon, and I’ve been playing Deep Rock Galactic for the last couple of weeks. I’m not actually playing as often as I like, but I really appreciate the time I’ve been able to spend with the game.

(Shoutout to Paul, Rocko, and all my other fellow miners.)

In DRG, you play as a space-dwarf. You and (up to) three friends travel to an asteroid, dig for rare minerals, fight off waves of space-bugs, and try to make it back to your drop pod with the goods. Some jobs have you defending a single position, others have you going in and crawling back out, others have you trying to reach a specific destination, and others feature a sort of stop-and-go pacing that flips between offense and defense.

When the job is over, you appear back at base where you’re free to check on your meta-progression, buy upgrades, and peruse the list of possible missions to see what you’d like to do next. Or you can leave that stuff to the serious players and just fiddle with the social features of the game: Drinking, dancing, and collecting cosmetic items.

(I’d post my own screenshots of the game, but I keep forgetting to gather footage. Which is why I’m just embedding the trailers here.)

Link (YouTube)

I really like how the gameplay loop is paced. Games like Left 4 Dead dump you back out at the lobby when a campaign ends, and you have to re-form the group if you want to keep playing. Round-based games like Team Fortress 2 offer endless chaos that can be exhausting after a little while. But in DRG the short breaks between missions give you a chance to catch your breath without needing to dissolve the entire group in the process.

There are four classes: Gunner, Engineer, Scout, and Digger. Every class has a main weapon, a backup weapon, a traversal ability,Like the ability to place ziplines, or build platforms. and a tool or ability unique to the class. (I’ve spent 95% of my time as an engineer. I’ll get around to trying the other classes eventually.)

Guardians of the Galaxy

These versions of the characters are more like the comics, and aren't trying to copy the movies.
These versions of the characters are more like the comics, and aren't trying to copy the movies.

I don’t actually have a lot to say about this one. I played through it. It was really solid. I didn’t quite fall in love the way everyone else did, but it was nice to see Marvel put out a game that’s not a live service nightmare.

This was a very talkative game. You know how stuff like Tomb Raider will eventually stop feeding you the plot and leave you alone with the mechanics for a few hours? This game never seemed to do that. There was never a point where the game dumped you on a map covered in waypoints and told you to go clear half of them to get the next bit of story. The plot was constantly moving, twisting, changing direction, and spinning up new character arcs. By the end of the game I found the constant chatter exhausting.

I’m not saying its bad. In fact, I think this story density was one of the reasons so many people loved it. For them it never felt like “filler”. It never felt like you were exploring a re-skinned version of an earlier dungeon, fighting yet another palette-swap of of a now-familiar monster. Every area felt unique and vibrant, every location had its own selection of foes, and everyone on the team had lots to say about all of it.

I don’t know. I guess you can have too much of a good thing. I was certainly in the mood for some quiet time by the end.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. What are you playing these days?



[1] Best in what domain? My Steam friends list? All PC players? All NA players? Global players? The game doesn’t say.

[2] Like the ability to place ziplines, or build platforms.

From The Archives:

166 thoughts on “This Week I Played… (January 2022)

  1. Dreadjaws says:

    My only worry here is that I’m sort of infamously incompatible with Capcom’s particular style of B movie-horror-comedy-action-spy-thriller-farce-adventure-shooter. The Batman series was already pretty negative, and I don’t want these streams to be defined by unrelenting negativity. I’m going to try to go in with an upbeat attitude and make sure we have a good time. If it doesn’t work, I’ll blame all of you for voting for it.

    LOL. As if we all weren’t voting it precisely because we wanted the negativity.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      This, it’ll be a good time hearing Shamus’ commentary on all the batshit insane stuff that happens in the game.

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Exactly! I voted for RE5 because it wouldn’t be dull like Halo but there would be enough stupid for Shamus to go after. It’s hilarious that in 2022 he still thinks that we come here *despite* his griping.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        Oddly enough, my mentality wasn’t all that different from Shamus’ when we were looking at the games. Our primary concern was whether we’d have enough interesting things to discuss and analyze while playing, and Resident Evil 5 was one of my nominations in part due to being a guilty pleasure, and in part because of his Stolen Pixels comics having some amusing observations.

        Nonetheless, one of the things that plagued our Arkham Origins discussion was the fact that we were comparing it to the other games in the franchise. I’m far more familiar with the Resident Evil franchise than I am the Arkham games, and I’ve played RE4 enough to have a decent idea of why it works so well for me. However, though I’ve played RE5 several times as well, I’ve never really thought about why it makes for such a guilty pleasure. So while I certainly intend to dig into what I think the game does wrong, I’m also hoping to take the opportunity to see what the game does right as well.

        We’ll see how well that actually turns out, since being in-the-moment you can find yourself losing track of all that big brained talky stuff, but I’m actually feeling a bit excited to try and see what Shamus and I can find in regards to good and bad qualities.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          Oh, I am on the same both. I think the story of the game is hilariously preposterous, but I still find the game fun to play.

    3. John says:

      I didn’t vote for RE5 because I’d rather that Shamus were, y’know, happy. I don’t want him to suffer, not even for my amusement.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        Hey now, if Shamus’ happiness weren’t a part of our consideration then I’d have said Resident Evil 6 instead!

        Now that is a game you play if you want to hear two people gradually lose all love for life.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Hopefully not stepping on any toes by advertising other creators but LRR’s Ben and Adam did a playthrough of basically the entire series not too long ago if you want to see two loudboys tackle it.

    4. RFS-81 says:

      RE4 is the only RE I’ve played. I thought it was decent, and the schlockiness was funny. I think the thing bugging Shamus (or one of the many things) was that it never came out as a parody. I think it’s fine to just be silly without parodying anything. I don’t know if I’m laughing with it or about it, but I don’t care.

      Similarly, Commando is the best Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy.

    5. Christopher says:

      It’s a selfish choice, but I figured a co-op title might be fun and I didn’t wanna get spoiled on It Takes Two. Gears and Halo 2 may or may not be good, RE5 is the only one I personally know.

      And unlike 4, I don’t think 5 has the same charm to its story, so I’m more easily down with a bit of piss-taking when Shamus inevitable becomes annoyed.

  2. Shamus says:

    Okay, I originally posted the whole thing to the front page. Again.


    This time I fixed it before anyone said anything. That means it doesn’t count.

    So there.

    1. Freddo says:

      Unless you jinx it by mentioning it. Then we get to point and laugh (using that hyena laugh that is so popular in skateboarders-falling-on-their-face videos if we aren’t entirely sure why we are pointing and laughing). Or quietly whisper in the back “what did I miss”.

    2. kincajou says:


      That’s cheating!

      Throw out the whole rulebook, why don’t you?

  3. Parkhorse says:

    This week I’ve been playing Stella Glow. It’s a Tactical RPG for the 3DS with a very light Social Sim elements. I couldn’t remember why I dropped it the first time I tried playing. Little ways in, I figured “oh, it’s the incredible amounts of talking between gameplay sections,” but hey, I’ve played a couple Personas between my first attempt and this one. Well… I’m into chapter 6 (of 10 or 11), and my real frustration is the structure of the main story missions. I can hold fast forward when the talking is boring, but there’s no fast forward for combat.

    See, most TRPGs, like Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea, give you a certain amount of freedom in what team composition you bring, in that you can field hirelings, and change jobs as needed. Not Stella Glow. I’m half-ish way through the game, and I just now have eleven, named characters I can use, all of which have set classes, all of which gain one new ability every half dozen levels (mostly consisting of “hit one thing adjacent to me slightly harder”). So far I have no way to make the slow characters walk faster, which means the guy that can move three squares is basically useless (never being able to get to enemies unless I hold back everyone else), and the people who walk four squares but have low jump are almost as bad. So theoretically you can select any six of your people for each fight, but in reality it’s mostly the same people every time. On top of that, this is the school of encounter design that includes teleporting in new waves of enemy reinforcements every so often, *and* usually lets the bosses you’ve been thrashing just win in the cutscene after the battle, or at worst teleport away unharmed.

    So, too much talking, lack of the usual freedom of party composition common to TRPGs, and the worst of Saturday morning cartoon recurring villain structure. Overall, not thrilled.

    1. Syal says:

      most TRPGs

      Don’t know if that’s true. I’m pretty sure Fire Emblem has the fixed party style, and a lot of these games take after Fire Emblem. (Especially if it’s got social sim elements.)

      1. Parkhorse says:

        Ah, true, I forgot about Fire Emblem. I played one or two of the older ones, and it just didn’t click for me, so I don’t think about them much. Shining Force might be in that category, too., and Mario + Rabbids. I guess, most of the TRPGs I’ve played? The Disgaea series and related games (like Makai Kingdom), Final Fantasy Tactics (and Advance and A2), Spectral Souls, Tactics Ogre, technically XCOM…

        Well, I can at least say that I prefer the style of TRPG that allows freedom of party composition.

        1. bobbert says:

          Ah Tactics Ogre, the game where naked archers were they most over-powered units.

          1. John says:

            This confounds and amuses me because archers are crap in Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis. Bows are by far the worst weapons in the game.

            1. bobbert says:

              It shouldn’t surprise you. Everything in KoL that is bad (bows, status magic, &c … ) is bad as penance for how good it was in Cling. It is sort of like FF2(j)’s blood sword.

        2. Fizban says:

          Fire Emblem can have problems with unit speeds, but in most of the games there will also be ways to change that- either 1-2 upgrade items that will give one unit increased move speed (almost always used on your favorite slow tank), or with class-change systems. But Fire Emblem also, especially on the higher difficulties, usually wants you to get in position to let the enemies crash like waves upon the cliff of your units (high ranks require you to kill enemies far faster than you can on your turn, by killing them in counterattacks when they swarm your on their turn). So slow tanks very much have their uses despite the movement issue.

      2. Khazidhea says:

        RPGs are my jam, but there haven’t been too many notable entries (on my radar, that match my tastes at least) from the past few years (or decade really), so I’ve dipped my toes back into the JRPG pool and have really enjoyed Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

        JRPGs are hard for me to quantify, I’ve had several I’ve really enjoyed even if they’re a completely different beast to what I’m generally looking for. But I’ve also bounced off some titles hard when looking for other entries to try out. Any others to recommend that don’t ‘waste my time’ (needs 10-50 hours before it ‘gets good’)? On looking with FE:TH as a point of comparison I’ve heard Trails of Cold Steel (or start way back with Sky?), Valkyria Chronicles, or Persona might be good options. Can’t really help you with what I’m looking for though. Tactics/school/life-management-sim elements aren’t draws in and of themselves, but I like how they’ve come together in FE, and the way the core gameplay loop works.

        1. Syal says:

          If you don’t want to waste time don’t play Trails of Cold Steel; it’s extremely generic until about the halfway point, at which point it starts picking up (and then ends on the worst cliffhanger I’ve ever seen, god that ending sucked).

          Sky 1 might work; I liked Estelle as a character, so if you’re up for a kid-friendly slow burn it’s charming.

          1. Syal says:

            But I recommend Persona 4 or 5. They’re really wordy, but they’ve got the exaggerated personalities to make it all fun to read.

            1. Syal says:

              And Valkyria Chronicles is the most Strategy of those three (the other two are turn-based RPGs gameside; Trails has a grid and some movement, Persona’s got the standard JRPG fighting line). The story’s okay; it’s Anime World War 2. The maps last a lot longer than the cutscenes do, especially the later ones, so you’re there for the gameplay on that one.

              Game’s got some balance issues; Scouts, the starting class, are hands down the best class in the game, while Snipers are hot garbage (they can’t even aim). But the unique mix of turn-based combat with real-time movement during turns (and real-time reaction fire), the squad-level turns that can be doubled and tripled up on one troop, and the literal Capture the Flag mechanics, definitely gives it its own feel. It’s a fun game.

              1. Thomas says:

                I hope the franchise continues. They fixed a lot of the issues with unit balance in 4 only to make the enemy AI even more brain dead than before. 5 might be the Holy Grail of balance.

                They are some of my favourite games and have stood the test of time in my affection, but they’re odd games to have achieved that!

              2. Khazidhea says:

                Thanks for the advice! I can see different parts about each game that I might be interested in. I’m only part way through one route in FE:TH, so I’ve got a bit of time to decide what to play next. Possibly Persona 5, but if a good special pops up for any I’ll likely add it to my collection.

              3. Also Tom says:

                Yeah, the gameplay is solid, but…I’ll be honest, the story in VC1 really didn’t do it for me. It reads like a collaboration between a newbie romance writer and a particularly earnest peace studies major, complete with cringeworthy dialogue, cartoonish villains, ridiculous gameplay and story segregation for the sake of drama, a primary romance that violates multiple command principles, and some rather large plot holes.

                VC4 is a lot better in this regard.

        2. Fizban says:

          Trails in the Sky (and other games in the franchise) apparently aim for around 50% “gameplay” and 50% talky stuff, or so I read, and I’d say that checks out. Sky has you essentially playing a pair of teens who’ve just joined the adventurer’s guild and the first chapter is indeed fairly “slow” in the sense that it’s small local tasks while introducing the two leads. As your jobs take you further out it quickly starts dropping in stuff that’s obviously connected to bigger mysteries, I’m pretty sure well under the 10 hour mark. If you want a bit more crunch in your between-dungeon talky bits though. Trails doesn’t have much if any of it- just a fairly standard sidequest board and fairly tight cashflow for gear upgrades.

      3. Storm says:

        I don’t think that’s quite the case here, Fire Emblem has fixed characters, but many of the games offer some ways to change or alter the classes said characters use, most of the games at least offer some choice of upgrade path for the characters to take, and all of the games offer enough characters that you have more people than there are open spots in a mission. So even in the games with a minimal amount of character customization, you’re still making choices on what party compositions to bring and have a lot of room to make choices there.

        If I understand right, the issue with Stella Glow is that not only are the characters not given customization options, but there’s not enough of them to make choices when it comes to fielding them. And for TRPGs that don’t have the customization of something like FFT, giving you enough characters to make meaningful choices on who to field is still pretty standard practice.

  4. Daimbert says:

    I put everything that I was talking about in the last one aside and put together a new plan for my long Christmas vacation and into the New Year.

    So the big one that I played over my vacation was 92 hours of Persona 5 Royal, which I’d been trying to play since July 2020. I did like some of the new additions — I particularly liked the darts game — but that only added to the game being full of things that you don’t really have the time to do. And since it took me 92 hours even though I wouldn’t mind replaying it I really don’t have the time to do so unless I get another long vacation. As for the new arcs, I found Yoshizawa to be portrayed as being a bit too impressive, and feel they ruined her link at the end, and thought Maruki was good but that his arc ended up with the standard ME2+ debates where you can’t say anything reasonable but are forced to argue with him anyway. Still, overall all of it was still enjoyable.

    I also started a new character in The Old Republic, playing an Imperial Agent as Dori Doreau from Sledge Hammer!, as someone who will eventually come to believe that the Sith are really terrorists and a threat to the Empire as such. When I switch back to Republic side I plan on playing Sledge Hammer himself as a Gunslinger and someone who is forced to work with those he considers scum. The underlying premise is that the two of them were kicked out of law enforcement and had to find other jobs.

    I was putting a push on testing out some MMOs, and the one that worked out the best was my return to Dark Age of Camelot. It’s definitely still an old school MMO, with mechanics that fit in well with those, but I eventually found that when I filled my quest log and could just keep running around doing quests it was a lot of fun. I started with an Albion paladin like my first character so long ago, and will run around with her until I get bored and then will try another character in another Realm. Still, that character is around level 23 by now which I think is a higher level than I’ve ever gotten in that game (I tended to create a lot of alts and you used to have to grind a lot to gain levels). The biggest issue is that some of the quests don’t tell you where to go, especially early on, meaning that I had to resort to a FAQ to figure them out. I put this on my schedule to play pretty much every week.

    The other MMO that I tried out was Star Trek Online. I think that this one is a fairly poor MMO, since it isn’t clear when you need to upgrade or where quests are or if you are underleveled and, well, pretty much anything that you need to know to really do well in an MMO. However, with four companion characters, the Starfleet battles space components, and a real attempt to link at least the early quests to the lore, it’s a pretty good Star Trek game. I ran the TOS timeline and there are references to the Tholian Web and the Galileo Seven, and a host of others. Every quest is a reference and pretty much every quest has a space battle portion and a ground mission portion, and the space battles are pretty fun. However, I hit one of those that I couldn’t beat and either need to get more levels or upgrade my ship, although I don’t really know what impact the former has on anything and don’t know how to do the latter. I put it aside for a while and haven’t been back yet, although I probably will at some point (thankfully, it’s FTP so I don’t have to pay for it).

    And after a lot of pondering I decided to kinda pull a Shamus and do an exploration of a genre that I’m not good at to see how it works out, working my way through various runs of the various “Hearts of Iron” games to see how far history can be bent by the game and how it works as a historical simulation. I’ve started a game from 1936 as Australia and, well, Australia doesn’t have much to do in that timeframe, so it’s a bit slow. I wanted to do this to get a feel for the game first before taking on bigger players or players that I care and know more about (like Canada). I’m leaving it on the default speed because I don’t know if I’ll have to react quickly to things, and the way you speed things up and slow them down seems more difficult than it was in Star Wars Rebellion. So things move at a decent but not overly quick pace, but that’s not that much of a problem because after a long day of work sitting there watching the game progress can actually be kinda relaxing [grin].

    So, that’s what I’ve been playing since October.

    1. John says:

      If Hearts of Iron is anything like other Paradox games, then you can run the game at full speed and just hit pause when you need to stop and make a decision. There should also be a menu somewhere that lets you specify the kinds of events that the game will auto-pause for. Of course, if Hearts of Iron is anything like other Paradox games, then that menu will be hidden in some obscure location deep within the labyrinth-like interface and when you finally do find it the options in the menu will be unhelpfully unclear.

      1. Daimbert says:

        The one issue that I can see with that so far is that there are a lot of pop ups talking about what diplomatic influence happened in the past day. It’s not important enough to pause for, but I could end up with a ton of them if the top end speed is really quick.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        The better people get at playing Paradox games, the more they tend to play it like a turn-based strategy with variable-length turns. Max speed…—pause, issue some commands—max speed….—pause, issue more commands, check something, etc. I have over 1400 hours in EU IV, and I’m still in awe watching true masters play.

        1. bobbert says:

          Yeah, they would be a lot easier if they had an ‘unpause for X days’ button.

    2. Ektenia says:

      One thing I remember positively in my dalliance with Star Trek: Online was a feature similar to the “Architect Edition” of City of Heroes, where you can play through community-submitted scenarios. I tried a few high-rated ones as a Klingon and they were great.

      I had to stop playing when suddenly at level 30 all the enemies were too difficult. Perhaps I was speccing too “jack of all trades”. Perhaps I messed up by picking an Engineering (tank) ship as a Science (controller/healer) character. Perhaps I should have become non-free-to-play in order to afford respecs or ships in order to try to fix this.

      1. Daimbert says:

        That’s the exact point I’m at now, and I’m asking pretty much the exact same questions. The one advantage I have with the game is that if I get stuck on one era I can always hop over to another one and play through the beginning again, but that will get old a lot faster than it does in The Old Republic.

  5. John says:

    So many games . . .


    Freespace, originally marketed as Descent: Freespace, is a space-combat sim from 1998. It’s a lot like Wing Commander or Tie Fighter and not a lot like Descent, to which, despite the name, it is not even slightly related. Freespace 2 is often held up as the pinnacle of the genre, but the original Freespace strikes me as a fairly by-the-numbers space-combat sim. To be fair, I was only able to play about a third of the game. I encountered some kind of mission-scripting glitch in the last mission of Act I, in which there’s an enemy ship that I’m supposed to disable. I’ve disabled it twice now, but it keeps shooting at me anyway and none of the friendly ships that are supposed to jump in and capture it ever show up. It’s possible that Freespace gets really good in Act II or Act III, but I couldn’t say.

    I don’t think that Freespace is as good as Tie Fighter, but that’s a high bar to clear. I’d say it’s better than any of the Wing Commander games as far as mechanics and mission design go, but worse than the Wing Commander games in terms of narrative design and presentation. (Some of the CG cutscenes are frankly a little terrifying, and not in an intentional way.) While I don’t know when I’ll finally get around to playing it, I am looking forward to Freespace 2, which has had extensive fan patches and an impressive number of mods over the years. I’m told one of those mods recreates the Freespace campaign in the superior Freespace 2 engine and I might try that before proceeding to the Freespace 2 campaign itself.

    SteamWorld Dig 2

    I like SteamWorld Dig 2 a lot. It’s just so charming. The game is approximately Metroid crossed with Dig-Dug. There is some combat, but the game’s real focus is on movement. Whereas Metroid gives you new guns and new missiles, Steamworld Dig 2 gives you new traversal options, including a grappling hook and a jetpack. There’s a surprising amount of physics simulation going on for a game which in most respects is a 2D block-based platformer. (The game uses the Box2D physics library, which is not important but which is notable to me personally because I’ve dabbled a little in Box2D myself.) Overall, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a fairly short, fairly gentle game. I completed in in about six hours in my first run and eight in my second, where I spent considerably more time looking for secrets and treasures. There are some genuinely difficult platforming challenges in SteamWorld Dig 2 but they’re optional, so the only aspect of the game that I really struggled with was the boss fights. Most enemies are avoidable. The bosses, obviously, are not. They also shoot at you, which, with one exception, is not something that normal enemies do. The final boss actually verges on bullet hell in some phases. Fortunately there are only three bosses and they are straightforward enough that I did not particularly struggle with them on my second playthrough.

    Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

    I am not a shooter enthusiast. Prior to Gunslinger, the most recent shooter I played was the original Half Life and the shooter I played most recently was LucasArts’ Outlaws. So far as my very limited experience goes, shooters have: fast movement, lots of guns, health packs, circle-strafing, etc. Gunslinger isn’t like that. It’s got slow movement–unless you’re sprinting, in which case it’s pretty fast–two guns at a time, regenerating health, and a sort of a bullet-time mechanic. I may have to turn in my Old Man Club ceremonial “Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” sash because I think I may like the new style more than the old one, at least for a Western game.

    The very best best thing about Gunslinger is the way it frames the action. Gunslinger casts the events of the game as the suspect recollections of an old man telling tall tales in a saloon in order to score free drinks. It’s brilliant. The typical shooter has a body count that dwarfs that of even the bloodiest Spaghetti Western or Peckinpah film and Gunslinger is no exception. And yet the implausibly large number of bullet-ridden corpses in the game does not chafe against my willing suspension of disbelief because most of them probably never existed. The framing also accounts for the unlikely ability of the protagonist and various bosses to survive with extraordinary amounts of lead in their guts. Finally, it allows the developers to have fun with the narrative, changing the number and type of enemies the player faces and even the level geometry on the fly as the narrator remembers additional details or responds to audience questions or criticism. The story and the level design both suffer a little toward the end of the game, but the concept is so solid that I can easily overlook that.

    Unfortunately, I am bad at first person shooters. I do okay when I’m allowed to take things slowly, popping in and out of cover and killing enemies at long range. Fortunately, that’s a playstyle that Gunslinger supports most of the time. There’s even a whole skill tree devoted to that kind of thing. But there are also segments where the game decides to attack you from all sides and I struggle with those. I am just not any good at maneuvering through three dimensional space in first person games without the benefit of peripheral vision. I keep running into obstacles I can’t see. Nor am I any good at moving and shooting at the same time. I played the game on the easiest difficulty level and still feel that I only muddled my way through because of the generous checkpointing. I liked the game enough that I will probably play it again, but I don’t know that I’ll play it again any time soon.

    Batman: Arkham Asylum

    And so, approximately eleven years late, I have finally played Arkham Asylum. I can see why people dig it. I kinda dig it myself. I like the combat, which is no surprise given that I liked the combat in Arkham Origins and Shadow of Mordor. I like that the game has some genuine traversal puzzles and that, unlike Origins, I can’t always just turn on detecto-vision in order to see which Bat-gadget the game expects me to use next. I like that the game stays focused on its main plot and doesn’t try to interrupt its primary emergency with a bunch of lesser semi-emergencies. I like the way the game establishes a mood and builds tension over time. I even like the backtracking. It can be fun to have to traverse a familiar space in a new way in the aftermath of an explosion or a giant plant incursion.

    That said, I have some reservations. To begin with, Asylum is in many ways an ugly game. While I’m sure that the ugliness is deliberate to at least some extent, deliberately ugly is still ugly. My single biggest gripe is that too many of the character models resemble hideous meat-creatures more than they do people and that most of the rest look like crude puppets. Less hyperbolically, the non-Batman models frequently suffer from from uncanny valley issues, weird proportions, and dreadful textures. If you’ve never looked closely at the face of one of the helmeted security guards or police officers, then don’t. That way lies madness. Learn from my example and save yourselves. I also struggle with the controls sometimes, though that was also true for Origins and Shadow of Mordor, so it may be an issue inherent to the genre rather than to this specific game. Unfortunately, that’s scant consolation when I’m, say, trying to climb up a ledge to get away whatever is killing me at the moment and the game decides that I must have wanted to do a dodge roll instead because my facing wasn’t exactly right or I was mashing a button too rapidly in my haste to escape.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      Steamworld Dig 2 is a good one. I actually contemplated starting another playthrough the other day since it’s been a while. I should certainly give it another go some time.

      In regards to the look of Arkham Asylum, I think part of that is a weird quirk of the Unreal Engine. I always had this weird impression that is hard to describe other than “everyone looks like they’re made out of clay”. When you take the somewhat stylized appearance of characters in Asylum, where parts of their designs are exaggerated just slightly despite some characters not looking exaggerated at all, it can come off even more strangely. For me, I’m fine with its appearance and even kind of like it, but I can also totally understand not being into it. It’s not an aesthetic intended to be pretty. Granted, I don’t think it’s intended to be ugly, either, but I really don’t know how I’d describe it.

      1. John says:

        I admit that ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, I am not kidding about those face-textures. I genuinely think that those are ugly, and not in a deliberate, stylistic, contributing-to-the-atmosphere kind of way. They’re just crude. It works well enough for the various thugs, who are supposed to be repellent. I don’t think that it works at all for the various doctors and orderlies, who aren’t. Perhaps a nicer way to describe Arkham Asylum would be to say that some parts of the graphical presentation–the textures, the animation in the in-engine cutscenes, etc.–have not aged very well.

    2. baud says:

      > Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

      I really had a great time with that game a few years ago (played through 3 times total, I think), really fun blasting with six-shooters and the locals were usually gorgeous to traverse. Though I had a really bad time with the duels.

      1. John says:

        There’s an achievement for shooting a chicken in a duel before you shoot your target. I scraped through most duels by the skin of my teeth, so I have no idea how anyone manages to get it.

      2. Zekiel says:

        I loved Gunslinger too. Still remember it extremely fondly.

        And the duels are really tough!

  6. SidheKnight says:

    I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve been playing Stardew Valley. The game can be pretty addictive, but I think I’ve reached the point where I can put it down and play something else. I wanted to try this game because I heard it can be relaxing, but unfortunately I spoiled myself and found out that after year 2 your dead grandpa’s ghost returns to give you an evaluation of how much you accomplished in the game. So I min-maxed and powerleveled the first 2 years, and by the end of it I felt completely fed up with the game. I feel like there’s no point to keep playing after that. Congratulations, me! I ruined the game for myself.

    On an unrelated note, I’ve finally built a new PC so now I can play Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Cyberpunk 2077 at a good framerate without sacrificing visual quality.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I know it’s too late by now but just as an FYI the evaluation is not particularly crucial. Not only are there a number of “spare” points for getting the max rank you can get re-evaluated any time by putting a diamond on the shrine. Sorry to hear you messed up your enjoyment of the game, I think perhaps it would be better if it didn’t trigger automatically on a given date but rather had to be activated manually.

      1. SidheKnight says:

        Thank you :)

        Yeah, I knew that, but for some reason it feels like “cheating” for me to do that. Like only the first one counts. I don’t know why.
        I agree that it would be better if it didn’t trigger automatically and you could just do it when you feel you’re ready, but oh well.

  7. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I’ve dug up good old Dawn of War! I tried the original campaign and rage quit instantly, I can’t believe I ever finished it. But I then skipped to Dark Crusade/Soulstorm where the engine was mostly fixed, and I’ve been having a blast again doing the campaigns with all the races. I think Dawn of War was the best W40K game ever made. If it was remade today with better graphics (although it really holds up for an early 3D game) and much more importantly a fixed pathfinding, it would be AMAZING. The atmosphere and units /powers diversity are still unmatched to this day.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Dawn of War is the only RTS game I’ve consistently liked, and I have a feeling that it’s due to things that I’ve seen other people complain about: the way most units are arranged into squads, that you can reinforce in the field.
      It makes them much more durable and flexible than your average RTS unit, that quite often will die and have to be replaced from base even when you’re using them properly.
      Other people call it ‘blob combat’, but I’ll take that over ‘Goddamit, my tanks are all destroyed AGAIN…back to base to make some more!’

      Ironically, like most games I’ve really enjoyed, I tried it with mods…only to uninstall them, because they intefere with the game’s balance in a way that makes it less fun.

  8. tmtvl says:

    Recently replayed Shadowgate Classic. Took a few minutes before I remembered how to deal with the Hellhound, but apart from that it all went quite smoothly.

  9. Thomas says:

    I played Guardians of the Galaxy and loved it.

    One thing that stuck out was that it had a significantly better story than the Witcher Season 2. I was doing both at the same time, and it made me like TW2 even less because the TV was doing the same story but worse than a game.

    I’m not surprised our opinions differ because I’m not very mechanically focused. I was a bit frustrated that there was so much dialogue it was easy to miss by accidentally triggering new dialogue. The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 did this better, the old conversation would resume after the interruption stopped.

    I did like the combat, even though it’s not really built around it. I’m not sure how I feel about the Telltale choices, they seemed to both have more impact and less impact than I expected. At least they knew to have the endgame reflect your choices unlike some actual RPGs.

    It really is the worst marketing job of recent times though. Normally blaming the marketing is a bit of a cheap defence against realising the things you like aren’t very popular (Firefly was never going to gain mass appeal!). But I was actively paying attention, actively excited for the game and aware that it wasn’t at all like The Avengers and I _still_ misunderstood the game from its marketing.

    I thought it was Mass Effect but it turned out to be Uncharted.

    I’ve started playing Pokémon Sword when my last Pokémon game was 22 years ago (Gold).

    They’ve made very subtle changes to the design that have unbalanced me. I’m used to trying to catch all the obvious Pokémon in an area before moving onto the next. In Sword this left me ridiculously overlevelled very quickly before I even reached the first gym.

    I’m surprised how much effort they’ve taken to make the game feel British too. Not only have they got a strong industrial / rural bliss divide, but travelling between places is relatively safe and nature free. You have to go to reserved spots to find Pokémon.

    They’ve also added a sports element (again Britain), gym battles now take place in stadiums, trainers get sponsors, there’s leagues and everyone wears hideous sports uniforms. The stadium aspect really works for Pokémon.

    There’s even sheep herding! For a game that’s so static in its formula it feels hand tailored to represent the country it’s set in.

    In other ways the game is still stuck in its formula and feels very very similar to 20 years ago. Having lips move in ‘cutscenes’ but no voice acting makes it look like the sound is broken.

    Also, possibly controversial opinion, but the music is hideous. This was fine on Gameboy speakers. It’s not acceptable on a proper TV.


    Finally, I tried a new Crusader Kings 2 campaign to okay as India because I thought it was a good way to brush up on some Indian history. I was impressed with some of the social and national dynamics they managed to stick on (a hugely vassal based system, some of the religious elements), but I quickly felt myself getting addicted, and felt like the experience of playing it was surprisingly similar to paying a free-to-play mobile game (a lot of waiting around for numbers to tick up) and stopped before I got sucked in again.

    1. Fizban says:

      They’ve made very subtle changes to the design that have unbalanced me. I’m used to trying to catch all the obvious Pokémon in an area before moving onto the next. In Sword this left me ridiculously overlevelled very quickly before I even reached the first gym.

      Said changes have been creeping along for years, and it’s a bit Controversial. Some people love it, some people can see why it could be a problem but just brush it off, and some people consider it to be ruining the games- and considering that the easy-mode xp systems were optional until recently and have zero reason they can’t continue to be optional. . . yeah.

      I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say ruined, but I was looking forward to the Diamond/Pearl remakes, and part of the reason I’m not planning on getting them is forcing the new xp system.

      1. Thomas says:

        In isolation I don’t know how I feel about the XP system. On the one hand I like to keep my party roughly the same level, but I also used to rotate the first Pokémon in the lineup and the new system doesn’t encourage that. It also means low level Pokémon take ages to truly equalise with the rest of your team.

        But even aside from that, I’m surprised they seem to balance the new XP system as if it wasn’t there. Or as if you’re running through an area as quickly as possible and won’t spend a lot of the time in the grass searching for Pokémon.

        If it’s deliberate, I can’t work out if that’s so kids can quickly overcome any difficult bumps, or if it’s because half the Pokémon are reused and won’t be exciting to seasoned players so they’re assuming most people are going to ignore those Pokémon etc.

        1. Fizban says:

          I’m not convinced they’re doing much of any xp pacing in the last couple games. In Sun/Moon yes- I was playing it recently, and I’m pretty sure it expects the xp-all setting on (as it is by default), because even fighting most mons I see and catching a good number, I can very quickly find one of my mons has fallen behind from being benched for a route. This is mostly because the soft-capping is very aggressive.

          Sword/Shield barely has any trainers and is clearly meant to fall back on the Wild Area where you make your own pace fighting whatever mons at whatever levels you want. You can’t turn of the xp-all mechanic (and can even pull pokemon from boxes anywhere in the field, fully healed), so there’s no way to tell how the xp balancing, if any, is meant to work.

          Reports I’ve heard that leveling is too easy in the Diamond/Pearl remakes suggest to me what I expected has happened: the remakes jammed in the newer xp mechanics without actually re-doing the old trainer levels. There’s a whole game’s worth of trainers that did set a certain pace for xp before, but now your pokemon get more total xp (because the xp-all mechanic doesn’t divide, it just gives the bench some for free). So with nearly 3x normal xp you’ll constantly be ramming the soft-cap. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the reason the soft-cap was invented in the first place was because they were transitioning to a free-xp-all expectation. But when you shove in new mechanics with no respect for the game which was made without them. . .

  10. Geebs says:

    Guardians of the Galaxy: it’s like Final Fantasy 13 and Uncharted had an oddly janky baby. The combat’s adequate but it’s just so overwritten, only 5% of the jokes land, it’s much longer than it needs to be and the pacing is all over the place. I got bored almost immediately and then about 5 hours later I gave up.

    Praey For the Gods, which finally came out of Early Access. It’s an incredible achievement considering it’s three people trying to make Shadow of the Colossus, but that last 10% of polish it’s missing does rather stand out. Still, I really enjoyed it.

    R-Type. I refuse to believe anybody ever finished that game without using save states.

    Cyberpunk: it’s still janky but it’s as close to a new Deus Ex game as I’m going to get any time soon. I’m at the point of no return and Keanu’s acting is still distractingly bad.

    Brütal Legend: it’s not a good game, at all, and the celebrity cameos all sound like they’re reading their lines off the back of a napkin. Which is a bit sad.

    Monster Hunter Stories 2: hatching dinosaurs out of eggs is crack to small kids.

  11. RamblePak64 says:

    I actually haven’t been doing too much gaming myself. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on and wrapping up my own 2021 in Review on my blog, which is the most writing I’ve done on a deadline in a while. I have one last entry to post that would have gone up yesterday or today, but the weekend did not allow for me to draft it and I want to give it more time since it’s also sort of my analysis of my favorite game as a whole. So I might need to do some serious rewriting for portions of it. The other project is not really going to be seeing many eyes, which is funny since it’s taking more time and energy than anything else. Still, it was a good start to the new year, finally being confident enough in myself and where I am with things to just work on things regularly again.

    When I did squeeze in game time, one of my major hits was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. While this was not my first time playing, it was my first time completing it. I’d always bounced off every prior attempt since I felt like I was wandering aimlessly. I was always used to the more guided (early on at least) method of the Metroid franchise. But, after playing a few games clearly inspired by Symphony of the Night and being nagged by my friends to give it another try (and after playing and beating Circle of the Moon as part of the Advance Collection), I decided to give Symphony of the Night another honest try. And I’m glad I did! I actually had quite a good time, got the 200.6% completion, and even went back in to complete Richter mode. It’s interesting exploring beyond the Metroid half of Metroidvania, and to get a better understanding of the separate philosophies and why I’ve not always gelled with the opinions of other Metroidvania fans. For example, when I first played Hollow Knight, I loved its mechanics but I disliked how I eventually felt uncertain which way to go next. It was only thanks to Bloodborne that I better understood some of its inspiration, but now that I completed Symphony of the Night, I also see that the ability to choose which part of the world to explore at your own discretion was baked into the genre at that point.

    Now I’m kind of craving a replay of Hollow Knight, though that game is so big I dunno if I’d bother finishing it again.

    I’ve also been playing Smelter on stream, which is a curious sort of Mega Man X/Zero meets ActRaiser style game. I like it, but don’t love it. It’s kind of hard to describe my feelings, especially since playing it on stream means the “length” of the game is a bit more padded out. I’d have been done it by now playing on my own time. In the end, I think what plagues it is the same thing that plagues a lot of indie action-platformers: it needs just a bit more polish in regards to responsive controls. This was an issue with Flynn: Son of Crimson as well, and it’s why games like Hollow Knight, Iconoclasts, and Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth work so well for me. They’re responsive, they feel smooth, and there’s never a point you forget that the controller is held in your hands rather than being a part of your hands. Smelter is one of those games with a lot of good ideas, but it’s a bit frustrating at times because the controls aren’t even as smooth and polished as Mega Man X was back on the SNES. Which, sure, that wasn’t an indie effort at the time, but it was still a small team with more primitive tools than what’s available now.

    Still, pretty neat game.

    I started a file in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox but haven’t really had the opportunity to sit down and get into it. I’m looking forward to giving it more time soon. I also ended up starting a new Hard Mode run through Metroid Dread because I wanted video footage for screenshots, and ended up getting sucked in yet again. I was hoping to join in on the FFXII playthrough, but I don’t think I’ll be able to. I want to run through Guardians of the Galaxy again before I write about it, and there’s only so much time in the day. And, yes, it is talkative. It’s my one real complaint with the game, but it wasn’t enough to hinder the rest of the game’s quality for me.

    That should just about cover what I’ve been playing or aim to play. The next big game coming is Pokemon Legends Arceus, which I plan to stream and I hope puts a spin on the franchise that I’ve sorely been craving.

  12. beleester says:

    I posted a comment reviewing Phantom Doctrine, then edited it immediately after to add some formatting tags, and then when I saved the edit I got informed that it had been marked as spam. Help?

  13. Biggus Rickus says:

    I’ve been playing Dark Souls 3 again, probably because I am only really looking forward to Elden Ring right now, and I haven’t seen anything else I want to buy on Steam. I’ve tried some builds I’ve never really tried before: glass cannon mage (more fun than I expected), Sellsword Twinblades (amazingly easy by this game’s standards), all-around hybrids (kind of fun late game, but meh until then). I even tried a whip build, and anyone who’s actually beaten the game with one is far more patient than I am. I’ve thought about diving into PvP finally, but I hate it in Souls games so probably won’t.

  14. Rho says:

    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Or, basically, what the creator of Castlevania wanted to do but couldn’t at corporate. Unlike Mighty Number 9 this is a really excellent game, but it’s a great Metroidvania on top. There’s a bit of an issue with grinding depending on what you’re trying to do though.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      Technically Koji Igarashi isn’t the creator of Castlevania, though he was largely involved in Symphony of the Night’s direction and therefore is sort of perceived as the creator as that was sort of where a ton of people got into the franchise and made it what it is today.

      But, yes, it’s basically what he’d have made if Konami were interested in making more 2-D Castlevania games.

      1. Rho says:

        Now that I double-checked, you are correct. Hilariously (to me anyway), he started his career writing a dating sim and then jumped over to Castlevania.

        1. Fred Starks says:

          I find the fact that Hideo Kojima and Iga were involved in Tokimeki Memorial eternally funny. But it does make sense for Iga, it’s not an easy game by any means.

  15. Henson says:

    Currently playing Thronebreaker. It’s pretty good! I liked the Gwent side game in Witcher 3 well enough, but I had some reservations about an entire game with Gwent battles. Overall, it works well, although I think there are certainly sections that feel very long with the same combat loop. The developers have tried to vary things by changing the rules a bit in certain sections, including puzzle battles, but I still think there’s not quite enough variety to justify its length. Needed a bit of tweaking, methinks.

    I’m really digging the story elements, though, even if some of them get rather drawn out too long. It’s nice to see the world of the Witcher from a completely different perspective, and Queen Meve is pretty compelling character. Just solid writing all around: I really want my characters to succeed, and I really want to smack the bad guys. It’s too bad this game didn’t do terribly well in sales, because I think the storybook-style presentation has a lot of potential.

    Also been playing a lot of Grim Dawn. A solid Diablo clone. I can’t say I care about the storytelling or the atmosphere at all, but the gameplay loop satisfies.

    1. Khazidhea says:

      I really enjoyed Grim Dawn. ARPGs aren’t my usual go to, but I do like them occasionally. Don’t think I’ve been this into one since the Diablo 2/Titanquest/Dungeon Siege era. Eventually had to give myself an end goal (finish campaign for third time, on the hardest difficulty), after which I’d put the game down and step away, otherwise I might still be playing.

      Afraid I’ve already forgotten the terminology, but had a laser beam of death based character.

      1. Henson says:

        I played the smashy-smashy. Two-handed area of effect for the win.

    2. Zekiel says:

      I don’t understand why, but I tapped on Thronebreaker. I got quite a long way through too, but I just didn’t care about the story enough (in spite of liking Meve) and I got bored of either playing the same deck all the time, or the faff of choosing different cards from the hundreds now available.

      I’m glad others enjoy it, it’s clearly had a lot of effort out into it.

  16. Jabrwock says:

    Spiritfarer when I need some chill time, because I can just pick it up and mess around, and there’s not detriment to just wandering around (companions may get a bit sad but then you just give them a hug and a good meal and they’ll perk right back up.

    Happy’s Humble Burger Farm. Saw a let’s play on LRR “Let’s Nope” (their horror channel), and thought it looked fun. Retro graphics, menial labour (you work in a burger joint on the night shift), and creepy stuff starts happening as you get the feeling all is not as it seems. I like that each day they give you another aspect of the job to worry about, but also open up the map so you can explore another area. Frequent checkpoints means death is a setback but not a frustrating one.

    Good Job. Co-worker recommended this to me when we were talking about team-building games, after I convinced her to check out Untitled Goose Game. We were going to try to convince corporate to let us do Friday “beer o’clock”. They used to have foozeball and a pool table in the office, but since the pandemic has most of us working from home we’ve suggested Steam gifts of TableTopSimulator, Human Fall Flat, Gang Beasts, etc. Things that are quick to play, multiplayer, and accessible.

  17. MarkAyen says:

    Final Fantasy XIV. I don’t have a particular love of MMOs (except for Champions Online, which I keep going back to every couple of years), but this is what most of my friends are playing, so now I’m playing it too. And I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. About 90% of the game is solo content, which suits me. The remining 10% are dungeons which need to be completed by a balanced crew of characters – usually one tank, one healer and two DPS. Most players I’ve encountered are helpful and nice; a few are simply quiet; and I’ve only run into a couple of jerks after hundreds of hours of play, which is refreshing after my very brief dips into other MMOs.

    There are some very difficult (“extreme”) dungeons and raids, but I tend to steer clear of that content unless I’m with friends who will put up with my old-man reflexes. None of it is required to progress through the main story, so it’s completely optional. There’s a nice variety of things to do, from crafting to home design to games of chance. My chief complaint is that there’s so much content that it can get overwhelming at times.

  18. Will says:

    I need to finish my hard mode Horizon: Zero Dawn playthrough, then knock out a few more achievements in FF7:R.

    Then I was thinking of digging out Unreal 2. Don’t know why that game came to mind recently. It certainly wasn’t a commercial success. But weirdly, what I remember of it makes me think of a FPS Mass Effect prototype, and I need to refresh my memory.

  19. Chad+Miller says:

    Wordle: Yeah, that word game that just went super viral recently. I’d probably already be bored with it except I’ve been studying the game more than playing it. After seeing qntm’s evil variant I’m tempted to go all the way and write a fully automated solver for it.

    Interesting result from my tinkering that has ruined the mystique for a couple of people: my current solver is randomly guessing words that fit all the clues against the actively cheating version and tends to win in about 7 guesses, while other people’s work shows that optimal play can’t win in more than 4 against the same version. So intentionally or not I think the original Wordle’s choice of allowing 6 guesses precisely hits “just enough attempts that you should usually get it without feeling like you had a huge buffer”

    Legends of Runeterra: Surprisingly interesting attempt to capture Hearthstone’s improvements over MtG while avoiding many of HS’s drawbacks. The Path of Champions mode is really cool, to the point where I haven’t tried any pvp despite that normally being the point of this type of game.

    Mass Effect: Legendary Edition: Currently on ME1, having beat Feros and Therum. I don’t know if they made the game easier or if I’m better at it than I remember but most of the difficult parts I ran into on my playthrough of the original were surprisingly easy (didn’t die once on Therum instead of getting stuck on both bosses). Looking at achievement completion rates, there are ME2 achievements more popular than “complete Virmire” or “finish 5 missions with Ashley” so clearly there are people skipping the first even when they buy all 3 games at once.

    Skyrim: Anniversary Edition: While I understand the backlash to the Creation Club it’s actually a legit improvement to the game. The best of the mods is probably the Survival Mode (which a lot of people rightfully say “so it’s Frostfall but first party”), but I’m also enjoying the expanded spell list as a mage. They also made most of the added content have actual quest triggers instead of dumping it all in the quest log so that the extra content feels more organic. It’s fair to deride as low effort but I’m still enjoying it.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Wordle: Yeah, that word game that just went super viral recently. I’d probably already be bored with it except I’ve been studying the game more than playing it. After seeing qntm’s evil variant I’m tempted to go all the way and write a fully automated solver for it.

      I saw this on a news report that I was idly listening to while working, and immediately thought “It’s not just letters, it’s Lingo!” [grin].

    2. Thomas says:

      I used to like the boardgame ‘Mastermind’ which was Wordle with coloured pegs rather than letters.

      It seems like a fairly repetitive strategy will get you there most days. Pick 2-3 words that have unique letters, all of which are common (Currently ‘Beats’, ‘Pound’ and ‘Grimy’ for me, but I could improve the latter two), and then you’ll have enough clues to probably do it in two.

      The version where you have to use your clues in the words is a little more interesting.

    3. SidheKnight says:

      I don’t know if they made the game easier or if I’m better at it than I remember

      Yes and no.

      They didn’t make the enemies weaker or dumber or fewer. But they changed some of the most janky old systems and that might make the game easier. They overhauled the shooting, removed the XP penalty for killing enemies with the Mako instead of on foot, and now you can use all weapons regardless of class. Meaning, you can now aim weapon types your class is not trained in. Weapon abilities are still class specific though.

    4. Addie says:

      Now, there’s an interesting thought. Wrote a quick Python script to sort out which letters are most popular in each position for all five letter words in English, which gives the following. The most common letters in English are E, T, A, I and O; but the popularity varies based on the position in the word and that’s not true for any individual position:

      1. scbptfdmagrlwhenvojkiuyqzx
      2. aoieurlhntpwcmydsbvkxgfqzj
      3. aiornelutsmdcpgvbwkfyxzhjq
      4. etnlariskocdpmgufbwvhzyjxq
      5. seydtrlnhkaopgmfciwbxzu

      (No five-letter English words end in J, Q or V, so the last place list is shorter.) Am assuming the best algorithm is going to be similar to Knuth’s algorithm for winning at Mastermind – at each step, work out the list of everything that’s still possible, and then go with a choice that best divides that list in two, to get more details. I’m going to guess that the best starting word will either be something like COATS (no dupes, most left-hand side word I can see in the above) or maybe something like CRATE, which narrows down which common letters are present, but taking advantage of the fact that C is a quite likely initial letter.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        The solution you described is pretty much the inverse of what qntm’s evil version of the game does: take a guess from the player, then figure out what hint will leave the fewest number of answers technically possible given previous hints, then return that hint. Repeat until the player successfully backs it into committing to a single answer.

        I am somewhat curious what a true min-maxed version would look like (as no one has disproven the possibility that a hint with fewer final answers could still force more guesses) and if I go any further than the coding I’ve already done that’s probably what I’ll go with. I probably would have already done it by now but I’m currently between computers (there’s a broken motherboard sitting right next to the one I bought to replace it not 3 feet away from me as I type this)

        1. Addie says:

          The evil version seems a bit too keen to give you a response where there’s ‘no entries’, which does allow you to back it into a corner – if your first two guesses contain all the most common letters (CHAOS followed by INERT, say) then you force it to select a word where the only vowel is U and which only contains unusual consonants. That leaves far fewer choices than the second choice responding with ‘you’ve an E in the wrong place’.

          If run time wasn’t an issue, you could compare every five-letter word with each of the possibilities remaining, and weight them depending on how much information you’d gain with that guess if it was that answer – ten points for each letter in the correct position, two points for each letter that’s present but in the wrong place, a weighted number of points for excluding a common letter, some extra points for including letters which split the remaining options in half. Whichever word gets the highest total weight, play that. That would be O(n^2), ie. not very efficient, but there’s fewer than 7k five-letter words in English so it would still complete in a reasonable amount of time.

    5. Ofermod says:

      The worst part about Legends of Runeterra is when the other player ruins your fun by outplaying you. So I just play against the AI.

  20. ydant says:

    So much Deep Rock Galactic (DRG). Still love this game. It’s seriously one of the best co-op shooters I’ve played. Just the right balance of quick loops, fun gameplay, sliding challenge, and each member of the team is uniquely valuable to the progression, no matter what class they choose. It’s really well balanced. Rock and Stone!

    Far Cry 6 – it’s ridiculously stupid story, as usual. It’s a massive collect-a-thon, but it’s also just a low-stakes multiplayer game with some story to keep me quasi-entertained while I play with my wife. Sometimes we can play serious, sometimes we goof off, and the game lets you do both without really caring much if you fail. It’s mostly sandbox shooter. So far the story is less offensive than Far Cry 5, and about on-par with New Dawn. Gameplay hasn’t really changed much. The scenery is pretty.

    1. ydant says:

      Oh, and I finished Deathloop. Kind of surprised Shamus didn’t like it more. It basically hit all the core gameplay loop elements I liked in Dishonored, but for once the story actually supported obsessively replaying the same levels over and over to optimize. Which I did. Obsessively. Obsessing.

      Still didn’t find all the secrets or solve all of the puzzles. Once I hit the final solution, I implemented it and then never felt compelled to come back to the game.

      I had invasions turned off the entire time, because I didn’t want the extra stress of having someone ruin my loop, but I can see why a lot of people enjoyed the invasions. They seem pretty well implemented. I did try invading some, but I hit so many laggy games that it stopped being fun very quickly.

      The voice acting in this game is incredibly good. Cole/Julliana play off each other really well. I enjoyed the voice acting a lot, even though I usually prefer silent protagonists.

  21. fumble says:

    All the talk about Final Fantasy XII here has actually got me playing through that again for the first time in years. I don’t really care one way or the other about the story, I just love the gameplay of this. I’m a sucker for grinding for some reason, and this game really satisfies that itch.

    I don’t have a clue where my PS2 ever ended up, it could be in a landfill for all I know. I didn’t really feel like forking over 50 bucks, but then someone commented on here how it was on Xbox Gamepass, so now I’m about 8 hours in, grinding to my hearts content! I’ve never played the version with the job system before, so that’s a little interesting. I’m not far enough along to really know how it affects things. I will say the fast forward feature is the best thing ever. Speed grinding!

    I’m always playing a little Rocket League every week, along with plenty of iRacing. (I sometimes wonder if I’m the only person interested in sim racing that frequents this blog.)

  22. The Rocketeer says:

    For what it’s worth, take it from someone that loved Resident Evil 4’s gameplay and respected its bizarre, goofy tone: Resident Evil 5 is one of the biggest pieces of garbage I’ve ever played, a pathetic and desperate failed attempt to blindly recapitulate its predecessor that stumbles at every step and possesses no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I can’t even imagine what RE6 must be like for people to have generally liked it even less. But just like every turd of a game with optional co-op, people claim it’s fun to play with a friend, so I hope you and Chris have fun, or that your immiseration is fun to watch.

    1. GoStu says:

      I like the word “Immiseration”.

      I can only imagine the popularity of RE5 is because voters thought it’d be more fun to watch the playthrough of something baaaaaaaaad than to watch something that’s *generally* thought of as pretty good.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        This. I’m honestly not sure the game is well suited to the kind of analysis that Shamus does. I’m looking forward to watching the vods but just in case it ends up not working I hope they’ll give another game a go because I missed Shamus in a live commentary format.

    2. RamblePak64 says:

      Resident Evil 5 is one of the biggest pieces of garbage I’ve ever played, a pathetic and desperate failed attempt to blindly recapitulate its predecessor that stumbles at every step and possesses no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I can’t even imagine what RE6 must be like for people to have generally liked it even less.

      No joke, I think Resident Evil 6 is one of the reasons people have warmed up to Resident Evil 5. That said, if you played it single-player, then you certainly played the worst version of RE5. I basically perceive it as a co-op game at this point and would never play it single-player anymore.

      1. bobbert says:

        That’s right! You two could play it coop.

  23. Steve C says:

    I’ll say what I’m not playing- Warframe.
    A big story quest/update was released ~5 weeks ago. I hated it. Truly truly loathed it. It took away everything that was fun about the game. I spent 3-4hrs trying to get over the hump of that miserable experience and I could not do it. I have been playing since the game was released and have an account with pretty much everything. I’m still willing to kiss those thousands of hours goodbye if it means being forced to play hours more of that crap.

    I even put in a ticket begging to be let out of it. Nope. Denied. Consent (with no context) was given. Consent cannot be withdrawn. Just like real life toxic relationships.

    1. Sabrdance says:

      I finally just got a walkthrough so that I could get the New War over with.

      After Scarlet Spear and Orphix Venom I was greatly disappointed -and I don’t really like the new Venus look, either. I miss the the frozen over wasteland.

      It has the problem Warframe has had for its story quests from the get go: the stories are a lot more interesting to *read* than to *play.* And also, DE has a really hard time getting their story on the page.

    2. SidheKnight says:

      I haven’t played Warframe in a long while.
      Could you tell what they did that was so bad to make you quit? I’m curious.

      1. Steve C says:

        Took away all the Warframes. Then fundamentally changed the gameplay for the duration of a ~6hr quest.
        In other words, you are forced to play a completely different game for the duration of a video game before being allowed back to play the game you signed up for. None of which impacts the core game.

        Now in its defense, this quest has been well received by others. Just not by me. I personally can’t figure out why others like it. It is everything I hate about AAA games in general. Emphasizing the very reasons I don’t buy or play those games.

        Pick a game you hate. Any game. You are now forced to complete it before being allowed to log into your account for a separate game. I don’t get why anyone (players, devs, whoever) thinks this is acceptable.

    3. Mye says:

      Warframe is such a strange game, it feel like the dev have no idea what to do so they just try random stuff, most of which seems to make the game worse (I played a awhile ago and I absolutely hated whenever the game would force me to do space mission). I’ve never seen someone praise warframe for something outside the basic mission/combat, but the dev don’t seem to be very inclined in developing that aspect outside of new frame/weapon.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        From what I’ve seen they tend to release features in a very rough and basic state and then either polish or abandon them perhaps depending on the community feedback? I’ve stopped playing not long after railjacks were released and then came back to the game for a while last year and they were massively improved (YMMV whether you like them or not of course). However every time I’ve seen the devs (on stage or on stream) they had a very infectious enthusiasm for the game. I honestly kinda wish I’d gotten into it earlier in its history because I have a “gotta catch’em all” instinct and by the time I started playing it catching up on that was simply too much of an undertaking and ate all of my time eventually causing me to drop the game.

      2. Steve C says:

        “Content islands” is the buzzword they officially use. The devs acknowledge it is a bad thing. The devs acknowledge they do it. The devs still continue to do it. You’re right. It’s baffling.

  24. Dreadjaws says:

    In other news, Microsoft just acquired Activision Blizzard. I don’t know what the hell possessed them to pay money for such a hot potato, but well, perhaps they intend to use this as a positive PR move by firing Kotick.

    1. Geebs says:

      You mean, giving Kotick a golden parachute after enriching him to the tune of more than 3 billion dollars for his share of the company.

      1. Shamus says:

        As I understand it, Kotick is part owner, not just CEO-for-hire. So there’s no way to buy the company without a lot of the money ending up in his pockets.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Sure, but, you know, someone has to at least make a show of doing something.

    2. Thomas says:

      They’ve confirmed he’s staying until at least 2023. This is going to absolutely crush Sony.

      It’s a scary level of consolidation. Gamepass is going to be fantastic for a while, and then Microsoft will start to turn the screws on pricing.

      I don’t even know if anyone is in a position to produce a Gamepass rival. It’s probably require EA or Tencent to team up with Sony or something.

      If Gamepass begins to cut into initial sales for games the whole industry could look different in ten years.

    3. Shamus says:



      *checks headlines*

      And it’s an ALL CASH deal? A decade ago this would have been unthinkable, even for mighty Microsoft.

      On one hand, I really hate that the industry is consolidating EVEN MORE. We already have too few people with too much power.

      On the other hand, ActiBliz was already ruined. Short of hunting the employees for sport, there’s not much that MS could do to make things worse.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        I’m still sitting here trying to process how I feel about this move. It’s so sudden and almost incomprehensible that I’m not sure I can have a rational thought regarding it. I know Microsoft has been trying to get people onto the Game Pass platform more than buying their consoles, and by extension XCloud as well, but this is absolutely bonkers. What happens with World of Warcraft when it’s owned by Microsoft, for example? Was this done to help “save” Activision or would this have been in the works regardless of the PR nightmare they’ve been swimming in for what… two years now? Because while things got worse in 2021, it was already starting in 2020… well, actually, I feel like it really started with “Don’t you guys have phones?”, but… I dunno.

        That consolidation thing also had me wondering if Microsoft’s adversary is not perceived as Sony or Nintendo anymore, but companies like Embracer Group that have just been swallowing hordes of AA studios, or Tencent and the number of studios or truck-fulls of shares they’ve been acquiring.

        Or, perhaps, Microsoft knows that they have something with Game Pass, especially with the cost of new AAA games going up to $70 in a lot of corners, and that more subscription services are an inevitability (see: Ubisoft’s U-Play Plus), and they’re looking to really corner that market by being the biggest there before anyone else has even had a chance to get started.

        I dunno, it’s just… it’s so much and now I’m just kind of flabbergasted as to what to think of it.

        The myopic consumer brain in my head, however, is thinking “Oh neat, I was hoping CoD campaigns would make their way to Game Pass, and now I know they will!” The other myopic consumer brain is thinking “Oooh, what if the next Spyro game were made by Rare!” So… uh, I dunno. I just know this is too big to be good or bad, but big enough to be good and bad.

        1. Thomas says:

          I think Microsoft’s goal is almost a total monopoly. Imagine Netflix if cinema tickets cost $70 and it was almost impossible to put together a blockbuster film when starting from scratch, and there were only a tiny handful of companies in the world in a position to start a rival streaming service with much smaller coverage.

          Conceivably Gamepass could become the only place people play games (or at least certain types of game).

          Plus they’ve got dreams of then expanding the gaming market by lowering the barriers to entry.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          At this point I have to say the main* reason why I’m not on gamepass (for PC) is that it massively overlaps with my backlog but I would be a liar if I said I’m not tempted. Honestly been waiting for a while for the other shoe to drop and Microsoft (or some competitor) to really start pushing for some kind of subscription service with heavy exclusivity and such, On the one hand I hate the idea of a balkanization of the game market between several subscriptions. On the other hand the necessity to fill the service with smaller titles between the blockbusters may actually be the way for small and AA development to thrive…

          *Additional reasons include things like lack of DLC or multiplayer functionality for many gamepass games and the fact games can get removed from it which would “force” me to play them when the pass tells me rather than when I want to.

        3. Luka says:

          This level of consolidation makes me feel incredibly uneasy, paving the way for even greater exploitation and anti-consumer practice than we already see in the games industry. I like the idea of a service like game pass, offering a convenient way to play games without buying them, which theoretically exposes people to titles they might not have played otherwise. Kind of like how streaming services complements people buying movies/series on Blu-Ray. But I do NOT think a service like that should be run by a company that is both a video game publisher and hardware manufacturer. That is imply too much control to turn out well for the medium at all in the long run. Similarly, while I’m encouraged by Microsoft’s hands-off approach to the studios they’ve acquired, like Obsidian, for example, I am seriously concerned about how long that will last.

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        Latest report is WSJ saying that Kotick will step down when the deal closes.

      3. Kyle Haight says:

        I dunno; Kotick is an employee and hunting him for sport would probably make the world a better place. Microsoft could stream it online and sell tickets, sort of like The Running Man.

    4. GoStu says:

      Their games and IP make a hell of a lot of money. Not just the big-name stuff either under the Blizzard brand – King Games (their mobile side) earns heaps of cash.

      I’d seen a lot of retail-level investors discussing the stock as “beat to shit over the terrible culture, but man they own and make too many things not to be worth more”. I’m wondering if Microsoft thought the same thing but at 100,000,000x the scale. For that price they just bought themselves:

      – The ever-profitable money makers that are both incarnations of World of Warcraft
      – All the profitable IPs of Blizzard like Overwatch
      – Every useful IP that Blizzard has let languish over time
      – South Korea’s national sport (Starcraft)
      – A money-making engine in King Games (source of Candy Crush and so on)
      – Each and every tentpole shooter IP like Call of Duty from Activision
      – Approximately one hundred squillion old IPs left to languish.

      Old daddy Microsoft had ~70,000,000,000 dollars to burn and said “sure, we could buy that”.

    5. Redrock says:

      I still have no idea how to feel about Microsoft nabbing new studios because we still can’t really tell what being owned by Microsoft actually means for the studio. Most of the studios they picked up in recent years are still working on project that were conceived before the acquisition. If Ninja Theory is any indication, Microsoft is happy to let most studios keep doing their own thing without EA-style corporate interference, at least for the time being. Doubt that it’s gonna last, though. Really interested in seeing what inXile and Obsidian will manage to build under Microsoft’s wing.

  25. Sabrdance says:

    Since October I have finished Horizon: Zero Dawn, which I liked a lot more once I was in the Carja Sundom. Also, having unlocked enough campfires that I could fast travel at will -I really liked the game. Also, once I had mastered the weapons more, random encounters with the big creatures -like Bellowbacks -became less annoying and more a fun diversion. Early Game experience needs work -but I’m looking forward to Forbidden West.

    My next game was Spider Man which I am still playing the DLC for. I liked it. That’s pretty much the review. I liked it. I liked it a lot more than Arkham Asylum, but I noped out of that game pretty early on.

    I am also playing Warframe still -though I was deeply underwhelmed by the New War quest.

    Star Wars: Empire at War: Thrawn’s Revenge died on me before I finished the map. All things considered, the game isn’t really stable enough for an epic game and if I keep playing it, will probably limit myself to smaller maps. I tried out the Fall of the Republic mod and it crashed almost immediately.

    I’ve been trying to get back into Kerbal Space Program but there just hasn’t been the time. Same for Ghost of Tsushima. Just not enough hours in the day what with actually having a job and stuff (even being on break from the University!).

  26. Glide says:

    (Marvel’s) Spider-Man – My first console exclusive of the year. I’m madly in love with it even if it clearly copied its homework from recent Batman games. It’s just so fun to be in the world. The web-swinging makes just getting around as fun as actually doing the content. The combat is brilliant with so many different ways to play it, and all the gadgets in the gadget wheel are actually things I want to use in a fight which I never found to be true in the Arkham series. I love the Arkham games’ combat; I will unapologetically say that this is a strictly superior version of the Arkham combat. I’m very appreciative of it skipping the lure of the origin story (at least for Peter himself) and going straight to an adult Spider-Man with established history with most of the villains, it lets it tread some fresher ground. The performances, both the animation and the voice acting, are fantastic and expressive. In particular I adore this portrayal of Doc Ock – you really go along for the ride with him despite his side character status, and the cinematographer and actor are good at capturing microexpressions and subtle tone shifts that indicate the growing desperation that drives him to evil. The one thing that drives me insane is the ludicrous number of disasters that “just happen” to occur right when you are in position to stop them, best exemplified by the timed science station missions but also present in some other sidequests. Okay, I get that we want to be an active participant in everything and not just Emergency Responder-Man, but it absolutely takes me out of the game that REPEATEDLY Peter just happens to stumble upon (say) the Water Monitoring Station for the first time exactly 90 seconds before Poseidon apparently scheduled the complete destruction of the city’s water system. I shouldn’t end on the negative with a game this good though. Ludicrous amounts of fun, I’m thinking about it even when I’m not playing it. Strong contender for my 2022 Patient Game of the Year.

    Beyond: Two Souls – I’m sympathetic to the broad genre of “David Cage games” but I haven’t specifically played many of Cage’s works because they stayed as console exclusives until the exact moment in time I decided to finally get a console after a decade on PC. (And also, because the one and only one I previously played was Fahrenheit, which is the stupidest story I’ve ever encountered in gaming). I played the PC version of BTS. I enjoyed the story even if it’s a bit overwrought. The gameplay was awful, absolutely nothing except an unending assault of fairly difficult QTEs. I’ll still remember it relatively fondly, though. It made me feel things.

    Return of the Obra Dinn – Fantastic game, I probably prefer it to Papers, Please due to its sheer complexity. The whole game is an interlocking deduction puzzle that I almost pulled off with no help (had to unstick myself with the wiki one single time when a wrong assumption I had irrationally high confidence in mucked up four separate investigations). The jingle that indicates correct answers is the single most satisfying noise I will hear in 2022, guaranteed.

    We Were Here \ We Were Here Together – Two separate puzzle games in a series of co-op adventures where you must solve puzzles that rely on info shared over an in-game walkie-talkie with a co-op partner. The first one was short, boring, and easy, but free. The latter was actually shockingly good, the difficulty was well-calibrated and the puzzles varied.

    Age of Wonders: Planetfall – this Civ-esque strategy game basically chewed up all my November and December, a period that would usually see me get through 4-6 normal games. Its campaign is just ludicrously huge – dense with content, but also dense with content-free sequences where it takes you 15 minutes to move an army into position for your next offensive because you have to move stacks one by one and the game painstakingly simulates every offscreen army movement the opponents are making in between. I loved this game at the start, and it just wore me out with how *much* it is. I’m irrationally mad at it for having more game in it than I want to play, because I usually have a massive attention span and the willpower to finish out even the worst trash. I relegated it to something I play a half hour of every weekend, and I’ll finish it in tiny chunks by the spring.

  27. bobbert says:

    I had DOOM and DOOM2 on steam. It used to just be the real game in a dosbox wrapper, but apparently steam updated behind my back. Now I have a weird Bathesda version and I can’t figure out how to get back.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I have no idea about restoring the Dosbox wrapper, but you could copy the WAD file (the archive that contains all the levels and assets) out of the Steam directory and run it in ZDoom. Well, at least that used to be possible.

      1. bobbert says:

        Poking around in the files for the wads, it looks like the real game is still there in a backup folder. That’s surprisingly kind. I doubt I can get the steam-pointer on the right one, but I should be able to just move everything out of the steam ecosystem.

        Steam is not your friend. Don’t trust her.

  28. MelTorefas says:

    I’ve mostly been playing…. Final Fantasy freaking XIV. >.<

    After hating on this game for a wide variety of very valid reasons for YEARS, I finally caved and decided to try it again out of sheer desperation for a quality MMO to play1 (helped by the fact that almost all my friends play and rave about it). I fully expected to hate it again, as I have every time I have previously tried it. But to my shock, not only did I not hate it, I ended up *loving* it.

    The slow, janky combat system feels worlds better now with overhauls to many classes and some of the basic cooldown mechanics. I always found the story a mix of cringe inducing and literally triggering2, but from the end of Stormblood going into Shadowbringers (the previous two xpacs with the current being Endwalker) the story quality seems to have improved dramatically (YMMV in either direction here, of course). And the music… well, the music was ALWAYS good, because Final Fantasy, but in Shadowbringers it is on a whole 'nother level. The boss fight with the Faerie King (yes, King) Titania had amazing music that perfectly fit both the theme and mechanics of the fight in a way I've never experienced before, and was without question my favorite MMO gaming experience of all time (coming as the end of the zone Il Mheg, which was my favorite video game zone of all time).

    In short, I am *loving* the game, enough to overlook its trigger-related issues (with help from my friends who play, warning me about stuff and rushing me through certain problematic content). Which is… something I would NEVER have expected to happen, ever.

    And then of course, I have been playing XCOM2 War of the Chosen (arguably my favorite game of all time) and ARK, my go-to staples for single player content these days. And some Deep Rock Galactic, actually! I love that game, and would be interested if you were ever up for doing some co-op with 20sided folks!


    1. I quit World of Warcraft about a month into the current Shadowlands expansion and have not been back since, making the longest I have ever quit that game. No idea when or if I will be back this time; I have not missed the game at all.

    2. I have trigger issues related to sexual violence and FFXIV is REALLY bad about this at points, with no content warnings whatsoever. It's honestly pretty gross and remains my biggest turn-off related to the game.

    1. Mark Ayen says:

      Thanks for the warnings about FFXIV. I just wrapped up Heavensward, and the sexual violence hasn’t been particularly noticeable (to me) up to this point.

  29. Hal says:

    Finally finished my platinum trophy in Enter the Gungeon. Worth it.

    Still playing Ghost of Tsushima. Haven’t had a chance to finish the fight against Iyo, but I’ve started into the single player campaign (finally.) Apparently the campaign has fall damage. Well, that was a fun realization.

    My friends and I also started into Back 4 Blood. The difficulty really has a lot of spikes to it; not sure what the story is there, but it can be frustrating to walk through one mission then get crushed by special infected that spawn one after the other.

    In any case, B4B has a home base/hub like Shamus was describing for DRG. It’s not bad. There are NPCs there who give you access to various menus (which you can also get to by . . . opening the menu.) There’s a training range to practice with various weapons, or to practice playing as the infected specials. Otherwise, though, the hub seems really sterile to me, like a big missed opportunity. Valve was always the master at environmental storytelling. This hub has some of that, but it mostly feels like a wax museum. There’s a bunch of NPCs who basically stand there; you can’t interact with them and they don’t say anything. The place feels static and boring. It’s not like I want to have 1000 other online players tromping about the place. It’d just be nice if it changed a bit depending on the missions you’ve done. Maybe the NPCs chatter about recent happenings and events. I realize games like this are there primarily for the zombie shooting, and the story elements are all secondary, or even afterthoughts. Still, I kind of want something more than just the bare bones hub they made.

  30. RFS-81 says:

    I bought a Wii U to play Metroid Prime. In 2021! Crazy, I know! I had an itch for more Metroid after Dread, and I never really played any of the FPS Metroids, and despite persistent rumors, the Metroid Prime Trilogy just isn’t coming to the Switch. I’m having fun with it! It seems like a faithful attempt to port Metroid gameplay into the first person. I don’t know if it’s an “immersive sim”, but it kind of is. You can read all these little notes about the history of the planet, and the space pirates’ plans when you scan things. I love the little details like water running down your visor.

    The controls take a little getting used to. I’ve already used gyro aiming on PC (thanks to Nerrel), and the Wii remote supposedly trivialized RE4, so I was curious how it performs. The aiming works well, but two things are bugging me. One is that there’s just not enough buttons in easy reach, which makes switching visors more annoying that it should be.

    The other thing is how aiming is entangled with turning. In a normal FPS, your reticle is always in the center of the screen. That doesn’t work here, because the Wii U can only see you when pointing at the screen. So instead, the reticle is wherever you point at the screen and you also turn in the direction you’re pointing; slowly if you’re near the center, faster at the edge. (You can also hold a button to lock the view in place or lock on to an enemy.) I think it’s better to have two sticks + gyro than one stick + remote.

    On a whim*, I looked for fighting games that are easy to play and found Fantasy Strike. The gameplay is fun, but the characters are mostly on a spectrum from bland to annoying. So far, I haven’t really played online because I was mostly playing it on vacation and had bad WiFi. I can reliably beat most characters on hard with Captain MacBoringface Grave and with DeGrey. DeGrey is probably my favorite. He looks like an older Miles Edgeworth and he yells Objection! when he counters a throw. I seem to remember that there were others here playing it. Maybe we’ll see each other online!

    * The whim in question is: I bought the Street Fighter anniversary collection a while ago, because I like the art style, but I just completely fail at it, and I want to be able to play it!

    Skull Girls 2nd Encore is another fighting game which is not particularly easy, but has an extensive tutorial. I’m stuck at the lesson about aerial combos, but I also finished the story mode on the lowest difficulty.

    Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All is a mediocre beat-em-up with great art. Well, they can’t all be Streets of Rage 4, I guess. Obelix is a normal beat-em-up character and Asterix is like “I have a throw that also knocks down everyone around me the instant I grab on, I don’t get why people worry about getting surrounded”. Also, the game is blatantly recycling levels.

    Spirit of the North said it was a puzzle game but it really is more like a walking simulator. You play as a fox and you can bark at ghosts.

    1. Far Ted says:

      If you are not adverse to H-games, Tifa-tan-X is one of the best beat’em ups in recent memory.

      1. Christopher says:

        I googled this and I dunno if 2004 is so recent lol

        1. Far Ted says:

          Don’t make too much fun of it. It controls REALLY well.

    2. John says:

      On a whim, I looked for fighting games that are easy to play and found Fantasy Strike . . . I seem to remember that there were others here playing it. Maybe we’ll see each other online!

      That’d probably be me and Nimrandir. I haven’t played much for the last couple of months and I think Nimrandir moved on some time ago. When I do play it’s usually on a weeknight somewhere between 6:00 and 7:30 pm Central time. I go by “juan h”. Send me a friend request if you like.

      I’ve played just about every character in Fantasy Strike at least a little bit, with the exception of Midori. The characters I’ve spent the most time with are the ones whose move sets are the easiest to remember. I never quite got on with DeGrey because I could never remember which button does what after he dashes back. I had a similar problem with remembering the follow-ups to Onimaru’s big horizontal attack, but I liked the rest of his moves enough to stick with him until they gradually sunk in. Come to think of it, the reason I’ve avoided Midori might well be because I don’t want to have to learn a second set of moves for his dragon transformation.

      I agree that the characters in Fantasy Strike aren’t all that distinctive, with Argagarg being a possible exception. It could be worse though. In, ugh, Melty Blood, all of the characters are either Japanese schoolchildren–in their school uniforms!–or maids for some reason. If wild character designs are your thing, you might want to check out Guilty Gear. The one caveat there is that Guilty Gear is, if anything, even more complicated than Street Fighter. If you’re interested in fighting games with (relatively) simple inputs, a couple to keep an eye on are DNF Duel and the League of Legends fighting game. DNF Duel had an open beta recently and should be out soon-ish. The League of Legends game is still a couple of years off.

      Should you ever return to the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, I recommend Street Fighter Alpha. The Alpha series has my favorite art of all the Street Fighter games, and the first Street Fighter Alpha in particular is about as mechanically simple as a Street Fighter game gets. Alpha 2 is also pretty good. It has a Custom Combo mechanic which allows for some crazy stuff, but that shouldn’t matter much in Arcade mode. Alpha 3 adds “-Isms”, which, again, shouldn’t matter too much in Arcade mode, but are a nevertheless an extra layer of complexity. For the most part, the skills that’ll get you through one Street Fighter game in Arcade mode should get you through just about all of them. They each have their unique quirks, but those quirks are mostly for high-level play against other people. The only Street Fighter game to avoid is the original, which is old and bad and notoriously picky about special move inputs.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        In, ugh, Melty Blood, all of the characters are either Japanese schoolchildren–in their school uniforms!–or maids for some reason.

        Haha, I think I know the reason! (Also, what kind of title is Melty Blood?)

        I think the Fantasy Strike fighters are distinct enough from each other, some are just a bit boring. On reflection, I think I perceive so many of the non-boring ones as annoying only because of the voice actors and the repetitive lines. In case of Setsuki and Lum, also the gameplay.

        Also thanks for the hints about SF!

        1. John says:

          Setsuki is deeply annoying to fight but a lot of fun to play. I’m not good enough with her to make her part of my ranked team, but she’s great for low-stakes casual matches. Ninja teleport is a blast. I used to think Lum was a pushover, but having seen what skilled players can do with him I now consider him a monster.

    3. Christopher says:

      Metroid Prime is a cool game. I’m partial to the platformers and I haven’t played the sequels, but Prime 1 has a good atmosphere. They did a worthwhile take on Metroid with that one.

  31. unit3000-21 says:

    I’m playing Hedon Bloodrite, seems like I cant’ get enough of these retro shooters (or rather can’t be bothered with playing anything else).
    Also some Risk of Rain 2.

  32. Retsam says:

    I have picked up FFXII to try to keep up with the blogposts – we’ll see if I manage to keep on pace. The “fast-forward button” will probably be a godsend here.

    Also been playing Halo Infinite, after not playing any Halo since Reach – campaign is good. I think the “open worldish” bits are pretty superfluous, but on the other hand, I don’t know how I lived without a grappling hook.

    Even been playing some multiplayer – I forgot how much fun Big Team Battle is – usually I don’t get into shooter multiplayer because I’m just not good enough at it and don’t stick with it enough to get better. … but Big Team Battle is just a lot of chaos: it has vehicles, turrets, and easier to find big weapons on a large map. It’s less “competitive” and leads to more entertaining moments, like finding an invisibility power, highjacking a warthog then driving it off a cliff with the enemy gunner still on the turret, but failing to get out in time making it a murder-suicide.

    Played Dyson Sphere Program and like it quite a bit. It’s got some nice QoL stuff compared to Factorio – a bit more forgiving on belt placement thanks to being 3D (which is good because given it’s my first game, it was belt spaghetti), a nice balance between “belts and bots”, the ability to stack labs, etc. (I’d also consider “no combat” to be something of a QoL change, though I know some people would miss it more than I did)

    I like the multi-planet system – there’s a natural progression from only one planet to one main planet, with a few mining operations to setting up full production lines on other planets, to eventually having your main planet needing almost everything imported. It’s like playing a “rail world” in Factorio, except that the “rail stations” are completely isolated and need their own power supplies.

    And it does do more interesting things with power, (including the eponymous dyson sphere), whereas Factorio it’s basically “slap a few steam turbines down and forget about it until you either spam solar, or go nuclear because it’s more interesting”. Managing power was basically a constant aspect throughout the game. Including your own mech’s power (though by about halfway through that basically stops mattering)

    Weirdly bad English translation, though. It’s a very polished game, except that there’s a ton of grammatical errors, including in voiced lines. Not a big deal (and maybe even “charming” in a weird way), but a weird miss on such an otherwise high production values game.

    I’ve technically finished the game quite awhile ago – got to the end of the tech tree which pops the “you win” message, but I’m going to play until I finish my main Dyson Sphere because it’s “Dyson Sphere Program” not “Finish A Tech Tree Program”, damnit.

    Relatedly, I’m back on Oxygen Not Included. I’m really enjoying the game, but I can never get terribly far into it without things going sideways. It’s like how in Factorio my first base was a disaster and I basically had to try again, except this game is more complicated so it’s been my first several bases.

    Part of the issue is that a lot of things that seem simple and straightforward actually turn out to be quite inefficient. It seems like I’ve been spending way too much time on cooking in the early game (as opposed to just eating the raw farmed goods), and there’s ways to filter gas that are 20-40x more power efficient than the “gas filter” component the game gives you. (This one feels like it could use a balance patch…)

    But mostly it’s just a case of getting better at the game – my base design is a lot better this time – left more space so I should have less issues with stuff getting cramped as I expand, and have done better with things like power management.

    1. Nixorbo says:

      I forgot how much fun Big Team Battle is

      When it works.

  33. Christopher says:

    I’ve been so busy with work lately I haven’t been in the mood to try much, but the other day Persona 5 Strikers was one of the PS free games, so I’ve now played 12 hours of that.

    It’s very impressive how closely they’ve adhered to Persona 5 for this game. Visually it’s very similar(which hey, Persona 5 is a ps3 game really, so it’s a good match for the Dynasty Warriors devs). In terms of presentation and writing, it’s pretty much one to one as far as I can tell. It’s got hot new tracks from what sounds like the same musicians. And many mechanics have been faithfully translated as best they could to Warriors style game, giving it a pretty fun action rpg bent. It’s a lot more challenging than other Warriors games I’ve played like Pirate Warriors 3 or Senran Kagura Estival versus, at least on hard mode, asking you to keep weaknesses in mind and dodge well or you’ll get smoked. It’s not a super-good action system I think but it’s fun enough so far.

    I’m skeptical about the pacing. Strikers has the same calendar framework as Persona 5, but you aren’t managing actual time anymore. You don’t do any social linking out in the world, and you can leave and enter the Metaverse as often as you like to refill your SP. But while in P5 that action passed the day, here you can do it as often as you like, so it feels like busywork. I wish you just regained SP from checkpoints in dungeons for example. It’s also easy to waste a lot of SP very quickly in a fight, leaving you without any easy access moves to attack weaknesses, and just hammering on a foe for a long time with no other options. Some enemies, like the Angel miniboss, was a tough nut to crack even when I turned the difficulty down to normal. This tedious stuff I’m not so fond of.

    Dungeons were already really long in persona 5, in the context of an rpg. I’m a slower player than most, but it took me 12 hours to beat the first arc in Strikers, and about the same to beat the first arc in Persona 5 I think. That’s a long, long time to be in the same level in an action game, especially when you’re just going to a couple spots on the map to turn off some searchlights, story wise. And so far, there has been nothing to change it up with outside of the Metaverse. I’m afraid I might get tired of this way before the game is over.

    It has been largely a good time though. I’m happy to have gotten what feels like a Persona 5 Part 2, with only a few contrivances at the start to get the Phantom Thieves back at it again. This is what I wanted for Persona 4 back in the day. After spendign a hundred hours with a group of pals you start to feel attached to them and want to see their adventures continue one day. I wasn’t as attached to the Phantom Thieves as I was to the Investigation Team, but I’ll happily take it.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Don’t mind me, just gonna keep pretending Persona 5 Strikers is a soccer spinoff.

      1. Thomas says:

        I was so sad when I learned it wasn’t
        I’m curious about trying it, but Persona without the time management system sounds like Persona without the best bits.

        1. Christopher says:

          To be fair I’m early on. Considering you don’t do any time management I don’t think there will be any confidants exactly, but there’s still been a lot of cutscenes and conversations with the gang, including taking a couple of them out to dinner. I dunno what it’ll be like now I’m out of the first dungeon but it’s safe to say there’s still a focus on character interactions – just maybe not so much to break up the individual dungeons unfortunately.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I picked up Strikers but didn’t have the time to play it, so your thoughts on it are interesting. I tend to blast through a dungeon in about four hours, though, so I suspect that the action-oriented dungeons will take me longer.

      For Persona 4, did you ever pick up the Arena games? Because if you are willing to delve into other genres, them and the Dance games kinda allow you to continue their stories in that way.

      1. Christopher says:

        I did play the fighting games, but I wasn’t really blown away. The stories for the characters I played felt a bit silly and the characters a bit flanderized, with Chie leaving the game to chase after a delicious steak or beef bowl as a Bad End and Kanji being too stupid to realize he was in a dream. And I don’t think it was engaging enough as a visual novel to offset the downgrade in presentation.

        I’ve heard some people say the dancing game actually has the better story, but iirc it was only out on the Vita or as a bonus if you also bought the 3 and 5 dancing games on console, and I don’t think either of those options are gonna happen. I’m not opposed to the idea if they make it easily available though. But Strikers feels like a better idea for a continuation of the story of these games since the presentation is so close to actual Persona 5.

        I liked playing Golden and seeing new scenes with the characters in that at least.

        1. Christopher says:

          *To realize he _wasn’t_ in a dream, rather.

        2. Daimbert says:

          Yeah, some of the character arcs are deliberately goofy (those are the two ones that were designed for that). I don’t know how far you got in it, but once you get into the main story the story gets really good.

          As for the dance game, yeah, that is how it worked. I both had the Vita version and the DLC version and the story is really good in it, and the dancing is really manageable with the difficulty levels and options you can turn on or off to make things harder or easier.

  34. baud says:

    So since to last time, I finished Inquisitor: Martyr & its extension Prophecy (well, the main story, I don’t bother grinding for post-end-game content in ARPGs). The story of the extension isn’t as well done as the base game, various plot threads seems loosely related. Gameplay-wise the end boss folded like a wet tissue, even on the hardest difficulty, so I think I got a good build and good equipment. Having the end boss be a clone Fabius Bile is cool, so that we get to meet a important character of the setting and to kill him, even if it doesn’t have an impact on the rest of it. I finished at levels 60~70 out of 100, but I realized that I wasn’t really looking for level ups at this point, because each level ups didn’t bring much as power increase (just a skill point), but increased the level of all enemies (since it’s level-scaled) and made my equipment less powerful in comparison to the enemy I was facing (so I either have to find new level-appropriate equipment or spend loads of cash to improve what I have).

    Played and finished Apotheon, which is 2d brawler (? I think, not used to that style of games) made to look like those painted classical Greek Black/Red-figure pottery. Looks way better than it plays (finding combat too clunky), but had some cool idea when facing the gods to get their powers (like with Artemis you alternate the role of hunter and hunted, Dionysus challenge you to a drinking contest, with Aphrodite you have to avoid Eros’s arrow, Demeter sends you to see Persephone, Ares sends you in a butcher room/arena…). You unlock a lot of various tools and weapons, but I found them hard to use because of the difficulties I had with the combat. Also too bad the story’s just a lame ‘the gods have abandoned mankind, go and take their powers/kill them’. (though Hera just wanting to get revenge on Zeus for his infidelities is quite appropriate)

    Finished Guile and Glory, an hybrid puzzle game/tactical RPG, closer to the puzzle side of thing, than TRPG, though that kind of axis is blurry. Quite nice, you rely on pushing/pulling enemies (and friendly fire) to kill enemies (hence why I say it’s a puzzle game), but you get xp points to improve your characters. Story’s in the first half is closer to sword and sorcery, so it’s a nice change of pace from the usual High Fantasy tropes, though later on it just fall back on those.

    Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands. After a few issues with Ubisoft and Uplay (I ended up downloading a crack), I finished the last of the Ubisoft PoP game and I think this one has the hardest platforming, with loads of reflex-based sequences where you have to switch on and of your new powers (freeze water, repair ancient structure, jump on enemies). Combat has devolved horribly (limited style, only one weapon, no more environmental attacks, no combos…) and is just relying on waves of trash mobs and copied-pasted boss. Adding xp point and a skill tree is pointless. Could have used some more puzzles.

    Tried to play some of Filament and I’m getting stumped on 4 puzzles out of 5, though it was at the time I was going through covid (only omnicron, wasn’t too bad), so I’m going to blame that instead.

    Played some Sinking Island, an older point-&-click, though after playing strangeland I have a hard time accepting games that forces you to watch. a. slow. animation. to. go. from. one. screen. to. the. next. And rely a bit too much on pixel hunting. Though the backgrounds look nice at least.

    Played some of Portal reloaded, but I also have a hard time with it and even if it’s still good, I’m finding a bit too hard compared to the vanilla portal 1&2, or maybe not as intuitive.

    Aer: memories of old. Got it for cheap in the Daedalic sale on Gog. Your character can transform into a bird and you can fly from small island to small of island. You can look for old memories to try to piece out what happened (a bit like a walking sim?), but that’s not mandatory. Quite short, even if I haven’t finished it yet. It’s somewhat inspired by Zelda, maybe most by Skyward Sword (you fly around, go in these 3 dungeons and grab those 3 macguffin, you need one key for each dungeon, there’s decayed remnants of a now-dead advanced civilization, there’s a few talking animals…), but there’s no combat and just a lamp in your inventory: at time I’m finding the gameplay too limited and wished there’d be more tools, but it’s still fun. And the most fun is flying around anyway.

    1. baud says:

      Also played some more of Blood Knights, even if it should have gone on the previous post. Bad action-adventure, combat is too floaty, story is bad (you can feel the Mass Effect influence in how the dev included choice between going full vampire or attempting to stay human, but that force the main story to muddle through with mediocrity). Camera is bad and the game decides to have platforming section (though maybe with a pad it’d have worked better?). Ended being carried by the assets of the second protagonist.

  35. evilmrhenry says:

    Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise.

    This is a puzzle-focused adventure game, with a bit of a room escape feel to the puzzles. The puzzles tend to be interesting without being too difficult, (I had a couple issues early on, but worked things out without a walkthrough) though there is no hint system, so you might end up stuck at a point or two. One nice bit is that the cel-shaded polygonal look means you can usually see what you can interact with; no looking up a walkthrough and discovering that you needed to click in the darkened corner of the room to get the blurry nearly invisible item.

    The visuals and music give a nice 60’s-era spy vibe to the game, as well. The only real flaw of the game is that the travel times between locations is a bit high. If you know you need to exit the cove, up the elevator, up the stairs, then to the cliff, that’s a bunch of annoying clicking with a few seconds between each movement. Also, it’s only 3 hours long. (It’s a complete story, it just moves fast.)

    Blue Fire.

    Didn’t 100% the game, but I beat all the Void challenges, and am currently finishing up the free DLC.

    This is sort of a 3D Zelda game, but with difficult platforming instead of puzzles. I played with a controller, and I didn’t even think about switching to mouse and keyboard. For the most part, it works well, and I’d recommend it if you have a controller, and want some 3D platforming that’s more difficult than Mario. (Also, it shows up in bundles, so you might already have it.)

    The good:
    * A good 3D platforming game for PC comes out once every few years. This is one of them.
    * The control is very precise; the game might ask you to jump between very small crumbling platforms in midair, but this works a lot better than you might think.
    * Some of these levels are extremely large, which I appreciate.
    * There’s some nice Hollow Knight inspirations in the aesthetics.

    The bad:
    * There’s a few instances where you’ll activate a lever, then have X seconds to get through a platforming challenge. This works fine; the issue is that if you mess up and want to restart early, it works like “Hit lever, cutscene showing door at the end closing plays. Hit lever again, cutscene showing door at the end opening plays.” Those cutscenes are a bit too long, and get old by the second or third time you see them.
    * The game is overly linear. It opens up a bit at the end, where you get a choice of two whole areas you can go through in any order, but that’s about it. Otherwise, it’s going to the new area that just opened up, beating it, and getting a key to the next area.
    * There’s no map, which gets a bit weird since a few characters might refer to something being to the North, for example.

    The difficulty:
    There are a few different pieces of the game, and I’ll talk about each one in turn:
    * The combat was a bit annoying to get the hang of; even after completing the game, I still felt like I was just brute-forcing my way through the combat instead of gaining any sort of mastery. (And it feels like the combat could be mastered.) On the other hand, healing items are easy to acquire, and spending a few thousand coins on extra healing slots will sort you out for the entire game. So I got hit a lot in combat, but then just healed that right back again.
    * The bosses are, honestly, fine. Again, you have access to a good stock of healing, so I got through most of them on my first try, albeit with substantial healing; there’s no expectation that you’ll take a few tries to figure out the boss first. The bosses I died on were more due to trying to leave the healing to the last minute than anything else. Even the final boss went down first try, and I had trouble figuring out a couple attacks.
    * The platforming in the main game is more difficult than in most platforming games, but it’s not *that* bad.
    * The platforming in the void challenges gets significantly more difficult than in the main game; you’ll be going through areas that resemble a 3D Meat Boy level, and there’s never quite enough checkpoints. However, these are optional. They do give you an extra heart each, but the only reward for completing all of them is cosmetic. If you skip over the hardest 4-5, you’ll still be in fine shape combat-wise, while cutting out some of the hardest platforming the game has on offer. (Though even the void challenges aren’t as bad as they look, and you’re not out anything other than time if you attempt them and fail a few dozen times.)

    Blue Fire: Void of Sorrows

    This is the free DLC for Blue Fire. Did you like the void challenges from the main game? Then good news! You get more. Did you not like them? Then good news! You don’t have to play this. But seriously, the expansion is about void challenges. Hard void challenges.

    After beating a few, I stacked the deck in my favor. You can socket various soul abilities, and a few of these are for platforming and not combat. Increased wall-run length, double dash and so on. (Probably should have grabbed those for the hard void challenges in the main game as well.) Anyway, this…helps. These challenges are still harder than I would prefer, and I can’t recommend you just skip the harder ones because there’s no other content here. At this point, I just have one void challenge left, and then whatever’s in the big cube, so it’s not impossible, but it is difficult enough that I would have preferred it to be easier.

    GemCraft: Frostborn Wrath.

    This is something I’ve been playing off and on since Christmas. I’ve completed the final level in journey mode, but if I wanted to keep playing (which I do) there’s quite a substantial endgame.

    This is a tower defense game, where you can move defenders around as needed, with skill levels and other meta-progression.

    So, how is it? It’s like the other GemCraft games. It’s a very specific formula, and this is, indeed, another one in the series. It’s rather grindy, but it’s good at “number go up”, and optimizing a build. I wouldn’t recommend it to newcomers, mostly because there’s not enough new here over the previous (cheaper) entry on Steam, or the older Flash games (on Flashpoint for free), but I already played those.

  36. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Uhhh, I need to start making notes for these or something… I’ll probably forget something and might revisit this post later. So since last time, in no particular order:

    Finished my replaythrough of Dragon Age:Origins, replayed Dragon Age 2 and am in the latter half of Dragon Age:Inquisition. I’ll try (and fail) to be brief. DAO remains solid, it was my attempt to replay the series on nightmare difficulty and I managed to get through it, and its expansion, I was in the middle of that playthrough last time and my opinion hasn’t changed much since them. While it is an unpopular opinion DA2 remains my favourite game in the series. Yes, it’s a mess of reused assets with some occasionally broken scripting. Yes, the third act springs kinda out of nowhere and shows sight of aborted development. But I love it for what it tried to do: Rather than have a worldsaving hero have a more personal story woven into the larger story of the city. Having several personalities for the protagonist is a lot of fun. The timelapses are actually an amazing idea allowing characters to evolve rather than all of them having a lifechanging epiphany on the same day. Combat, repeatable though it is, feels just that bit more dynamic than DAO but retains things like the more detailed companion scripting that DAI lacks. In comparison DAI is absolutely not a bad game it’s just that someone looked at the bad rep of DA2 and took all the wrong lessons from it. Let’s have huge maps, filled with Ubistyle busywork! Let’s start with the worldthreathening rift, and have it closed in the first chapter, but then have another threat! Dragon fights were cool, let’s have dragons on every map! As a result, particularly if you’re a compulsive gamer like me who can’t leave an icon unturned, the game has good content, it’s just horribly diluted by all the bloat. Also, putting essential story chapters in DLC is criminal.

    Haven’t uninstalled it yet but I think I milked Hades for all it’s worth for me. There are a few more things I could grind for but I got all the main story plus a bunch of extra fluff. An outstanding game, not only is the gameplay solid, not only is the art beautiful but there are so many nice little touches. While I usually don’t like it when something singular is turned into a franchise if they did a “Zagreus visits the Norse/Egyptian/whatever pantheon” spinoff I’d buy it day 1 full price and might even be convinced to throw in something extra if it had a digital artbook or something. Supergiant just continues to deliver.

    As a bit of diversion I’ve played the first Halo game and its prequel. It’s… a nice shooter I guess? Maybe not having access to it before the current release I have no comparison to other titles of its generation but I don’t exactly see what all the unconditional love is about. Again, it’s fine and there were some nice twists in the story but it doesn’t feel like something that I’d write lore rich fanfiction about.

    Squeezed in a Final Fantasy (Pixel Remaster) playthrough between other stuff. I was expecting it would be a bit of a disappointment considering the game is very… basic by today’s standards. Borderline symbolic story. No fancy mechanics (one partywide class upgrade). Minimal gimmicks in the dungeons (a couple collapsing or burning floor tiles). But I dunno, maybe it’s nostalgia (I have played the original on an emulator waaaay back in the day) but I just really liked it and ended up playing it several evenings in a row to get to the end.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      I played the original 2 FF games on the Gameboy Advance remaster, and I think what made that work, along with the Pixel Remaster work is that they don’t waste your time. Sure you might need to do some grinding, but it’s not like you take 10 steps, screen freezes then blurs, cuts to a battle arena, camera spins around while a jaunty tune plays, you select attack four times, watch for a few seconds while each character attacks, then the victory tune and animation play, the screen blurs, you end up back on the main map. Instead, you immediately cut to the battle arena, you hit attack 4 times, hit A a couple times, and you’re back on the map. This is exactly the issue that made me give up on the DS FF3 remake; it wanted to be fancy with the presentation, but ended up just wasting my time.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Huh, I think there’s something to this. On the one hand I kinda want some anime spectacle on the other it becomes rather tedious when it happens over and over again and every fight takes 10 minutes because the camera first needs to make love to every character and enemy model.

    2. John says:

      I need to start making notes for these or something…

      I’ve been doing exactly that for the last year or so. Every time I finish a game (or give up on one) I dump my thoughts into a text file for later.

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Oh poo, I completely forgot Psychonauts 2 which was great (I think I mentioned it in the comments here previously which is what confused me). I was so stoked for this I basically got it on release and I don’t regret it. Going to say I still like the level design of the first game more because I feel the levels are more “out there” and in the sequel they are more structured to serve the main plot but basically I loved pretty much everything about the game.

    4. Hal says:

      The original FF was always my favorite. Probably out of nostalgia, but I like the simplicity as well. It reminds me of a D&D campaign, y’know?

  37. Philadelphus says:

    I’ve just marked four months since I packed up my gaming rig to move internationally*, so I’ve been stuck gaming on the nearly-full, four-year-old MacBook Pro my university gave me for doing my PhD on. As a result I have about 7 extremely small games that both fit in the remaining space and work on this version of Mac without sending the fan into conniptions (I’m deathly afraid of upgrading the OS because it has all my PhD work on it, and I keep telling myself it’ll be just a little longer…just a little longer…). Anyway, I’ve thus been mostly playing:

    Terraforming Mars: A friend of mine at uni had the board game and all the expansions, and I liked it enough to get the digital version. I don’t know what’s going on with the development team: every few months they’ll drop a small patch that fixes some bugs/adds some QoL improvements but inevitably adds several new, immediately obvious, bugs. The (digital) game’s been out since I think 2018, but has so far only gotten a single expansion (Prelude, the most important one, but still). Despite that I still have something like 90 hours in it because TM is Just. So. Fun. I just wish they’d hurry up and start releasing more expansions.

    Invisible, Inc.: I kinda bounced off Klei’s sneak-’em-up back when it released, but decided to give it another go after playing Into The Breach, which it somewhat resembles with its turn-based non-random approach. Then I discovered there are mods now, and have been having a lot more fun with it. My favorite adds a starting program for Incogita which disables the auto-incrementing alarm, but also takes up your passive PWR generation slot, making the early game before you find other means of generating PWR rather different and interesting. It also removes the daunting pressure of the timer ticking down every turn, which was a big reason I didn’t enjoy it before. (As a side note, Invisible, Inc. might have the most fine-grained and modular difficulty settings I’ve seen in game, and you actually can disable the auto-incrementing alarm, but it always felt a bit too powerful for me; disable passive PWR generation as well makes it feel more balanced.) Also I can now get Carmen Sandiago and the Goose from Untitled Goose Game as agents (of chaos) on my team, so there’s that.

    Wildermyth: I finally caved to the critical acclaim and figured I’d try it out after watching a few gameplay videos and laughing at the language. At first glance, I rather like it: it’s kinda reminiscent of XCOM, with a strategic map where you can perform actions and tactical maps where you fight battles. Mages (“mystics”) are handled in a very interesting way, where they have to first “interfuse” with available scenery objects, which they can then use to cast specific spells from them (so a plant lets you grab and pin an enemy with vines, a fire lets you burn them, a wooden object lets you shred armor with a splinterblast, etc.). It strikes a decent balance between having stories that are all written by humans, and randomly remixing those stories with randomly generated characters (though you can also manually modify any character at any time). It’s also very obviously set up for multiplayer from the get-go, and I had a blast playing through the introductory campaign with my two brothers and seeing what hijinx our characters got up to. With the stories told in comic form, they can do some visual jokes that are actually pretty funny like beat panels with characters’ reactions to things. At second glance, I’m not quite so sure about the combat system; while mystics are fairly interesting, warriors and hunters seem to have a bit less to do. Hunters at least get unique access to stealth, which can mix things up a bit, but warriors seems to be pretty much “hit (single) things hard, and maybe some slight tanking or crowd control if you roll those abilities during level up”. I dunno. The combat’s hardly bad, it just feels like it could maybe use some expansion in future.

    *Though if the ETA I got was correct it should’ve arrived in my city yesterday, so fingers crossed!

  38. Syal says:

    I mentioned pretty much everything in the Best Of 2021 list, but I’ve made some progress in FF12 and Bravely Default 2 since then.

    I’m going to talk about FF12 as the series progresses, but the main takeaway is that it’s a fun game with a lot of little annoyances, that get worse toward the end. I was enjoying the Hunts, until they start requiring guides (if you’re going to make the player stay on the same screen for five minutes, you need to tell them EXACTLY which screen it is.) The nightmare of level design that is Giruvegan, combined with two Hunts in a row that gave me a specific Hunt location that was wrong, finally made me give up sidequesting and just finish the game.

    Bravely Default 2 is a cute game, which might be coloring my perspective on the narrative; it still feels like a throwaway story, even though I’m fighting people under control of demons pretending to be their dead child. There’s also a clear twist coming, in that a Crystal started telling us our destiny and the character cut it off with what boiled down to “don’t tell the player that, jeez”.

    This game is really hard. Bosses have loads and loads of health, and can two-shot any of your guys, which is really bad when the system is all about being able to take several turns at once; four turns for the player shaves off 10% of their health, but four turns from the boss kills at least two party members. The final Chapter 1 boss pasted my team until I brought in a mutli-buffing Bard to tone down their damage, and the first boss in Chapter 2 is making me realize the Bard class is probably going to be mandatory for a long time.

    Also kind of annoying; the game has enemies on the field, but uses a lot of narrow corridors that make it really hard to get around them. As far as I’m concerned the point of having enemies on the field is so you can get around them if you want, so this kind of design really frustrates me. But, I do generally like the random battles, those enemies have low enough health the turn-stack system works in the player’s favor.

    Tales of Arise hasn’t been played since the last post, but I wanted to mention it again because I may have undersold the combat last time. I want to compare it to FF7 Remake, Dark Souls, and Tales of Berseria at once; it’s like, a high-speed action game that punishes mashing, and is heavy on special attacks.

    The story is generic; so far it’s Meet Cute combined with “we have to beat the Evil Empire”. I’ve never liked Meet Cutes (my favorite romance song is One Of My Turns*), so this really isn’t catching my interest. I’ll come back to this, but I’m still in the middle of Tales of Symphonia, which is taking a long time because the problem is reversed; I like the characters but the mechanics are a drag.

    I’ve started playing the Japanese version of Final Fantasy 4 in a half-assed attempt to learn Japanese; it’s old enough they couldn’t fit Kanji on the cartridge so everything is in easy-to-pronounce Hiragana or Katakana. The in-game timer says I have ten hours on it so far, which is really depressing because I’ve only fought the second boss. Reading a language you don’t understand is very slow.

    I also stumbled across this series comparing the various translations of Final Fantasy 4. I’m not sure if I’ll keep playing or just read through that.

    Lastly there’s one other game I’m playing**, that’s like a prototype of a 4X Ogrebattle, that really makes me want to play a more in-depth version of it. So if anybody knows of a

    Turn-based combat 4X
    With Small squads (this one has a max of six troops per side per fight, three in front and three in back)
    In Timed, Turn-based battles (this one has five round conflicts, or one round conflicts for purely automated fights)
    Preferably With Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanics
    Preferably without permadeath (it’s fun to throw troops into fights they can’t possibly win, just to let them gain some XP.)
    Preferably with the overly colorful artstyle of the Ogrebattle games

    I’d love to know about it.

    *(“Walk to the bedroom, in the suitcase on the left, you’ll find my fav-o-rite axe.”)
    (…I don’t like romance, is what I’m saying.)

    **(I’m not naming it for… reasons.)

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      re: FFXII – if you’re playing the Zodiac Age version, it actually marks Hunt locations on the map. This is really handy for the ones where the descriptions and hints given are misleading bullshit (though amazingly a few are almost impossible to get without a guide even then)

    2. Redrock says:

      Tales of Arise’s combat is really something – I’d say the, apologies, kinesthetics of the system are some of the best in the action-JRPG segment outside of anything co-developed by Platinum. It’s certainly more responsive than Final Fantasy VII Remake, but what always impresses me most about the Tales games is how you can play through the whole game by only ever controlling one character and still have a lot of fun, even while each and every character has a wholly distinct playstyle.

    3. Syal says:

      Might as well add the games I just dabbled in.

      Played Dishonored long enough to remember I don’t like stealth games. I’m immediately struck not just by how uninspired the Outsider looks (it’s like he decided to dress like a goth but then gave up instantly), but how SUPERFLUOUS he feels.
      It would have been so easy to make him relevant; just move the power acquisition forward to the prison, and use the warp power to escape your cell, and suddenly the guy matters. Instead someone gives you a key, you bust out of prison as a completely normal person, and then the Outsider shows up afterward and gives you powers you don’t need to use, for no obvious reason. The plot was already set, this guy – this GOD – has added nothing to it. Sheesh.

      Have barely started Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars. It’s a card-styled RPG by Yoko Taro, featuring still pictures with narration. Sadly, the Narrator isn’t very good; he’s got a very lullaby voice, it’s putting me at ease and making me want to take a nap. You want a Darkest Dungeon voice for this setting, not a Mister Rogers. Whenever I get back to this I think I’ll have to mute it.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Hilariously the first trailer for Dishonored had exactly this happening – the Outsider gives Corvo the Mark while he’s in the prison and that’s how he escapes. It’s weird that they didn’t do that in the finished game, although I suppose they changed it to introduce the Loyalist Conspiracy earlier and give you some level of loyality to them.

    4. Hal says:

      I love FF4. I’m given to understand that localization really made the US version less understandable than the Japanese. How are you finding that so far?

      1. Syal says:

        I’m relying on the translation series for that, I’m still in the “hey, I think I recognize one of these words” phase of reading. Trying to pronounce things is helping me read the characters faster but I’m relying on my English playthroughs to know what people are talking about. (I probably should just spend more time learning words, but games are fun.)

        According to the translation series, most of the changes are censorship rather than mistranslation, so Cecil and Rosa are less romantic, no one talks about death, and Cecil’s equipment is colors instead of Hades and Devil. There’s various emotions getting dropped for space; Cid’s crew makes it clear they’re being overworked, Cecil has trouble talking about Mist town, a few people saying “I want to go to X but Y is in the way” became a straight “Y is blocking X”. The Light of the Desert became SandRuby, Gilbert became Edward for character limit reasons, and apparently his class is “Royal” while the English keeps calling him “Bard”.

        And “you spoony bard” apparently is a completely English invention; the original is apparently “how is it not what I think?” which doesn’t translate into anything close to “you spoony bard”. Someone either really didn’t know what they were doing, or really did.

        1. Syal says:

          Reading farther into the translation series (up to Returning to Baron now); the big difference is the mind control. The English has Kain and Yang be very quiet and unnatural, while the Japanese has them seething with anger at Cecil and swearing loyalty to Baron. (It also doesn’t reveal Kain’s being controlled until the Valvalis fight.) I think that helps the setting quite a bit; you can wonder how many of Golbez’s other most fanatical supporters are actually mind controlled, it sets up the reveal for Golbez himself also being controlled, and it ties into fighting a literal incarnation of hatred at the end of the game.

          1. Hal says:

            I’ll have to read translation series myself. I was always curious if the part about Cecil being Lunarian (and sibling to Golbez) was as much of a reveal out of nowhere in Japan as it was in America.

  39. Nixorbo says:

    I’ve been playing Forza Horizon 5 a lot – it’s a low-stress mindless arcade racer with nice graphics and a good way to unwind after work. Most of the bugs have been squashed at this point. Like The Crew, I wonder at the need for a story in my arcade racer, it can be tiring listening to voice actors bring 11 out of 10 energy.

    Halo Infinity‘s campaign is way better than it had any right to be, it’s probably my favorite Halo campaign since ODST. The open world is relatively superfluous but Spider-Manning my way across the map with the grapple hook is one of life’s greatest joys. Multiplayer is Halo multiplayer – I’m not the worst but I’m far from the best.

    Also been dabbling in Generation Zero. Definitely not a AAA game, but it’s an interesting enough mystery – late 80s/early 90s Sweden gets invaded by robots. Kinda scratches that same early-game Fallout explore-and-scavenge-all-the-things itch.

    Played a couple sessions of The Anacrusis early access on Gamepass. It’s not good. Left 4 Dead in space with a 60s aesthetic and awful controls, janky physics, suspect AI, bland level and encounter design and weightless and punchless weaponry.

    Been watching my wife pay Great Ace Attorney. It’s an Ace Attorney game, but in Late Victorian London. If you like Ace Attorney games, you know what you’re in for and it is very good. If you don’t like Ace Attorney games, this probably won’t change your mind.

  40. The Rocketeer says:

    I’ve had boats on the brain! Or botes, if you prefer. Botes and submarines. Back in October, I went back to Subnautica after having played the game previously and burning out on it. Even having only played through about half the game, Subnautica stood out as the only survival-type game that I’ve actually enjoyed enough to play longer than an hour or so, and my second time through the game I managed to finish it, thoroughly enjoying it. I even managed to get one of this nice emergent stories that people play these kinds of game to get, after setting out on an expedition to the depths that threatened to become a one-way trip from the very start, and from which I was only able to return after barely scraping together a chain of emergency contingencies on the spot.

    Subnautica: Below Zero, the sequel/standalone expansion was… not as good as Original Homestyle, unfortunately, but nonetheless a very good game and a strong, unique experience. There are a wealth of quality-of-life enhancements over the first game and the living ecosystem, one of the strongest points of the first game, is even stronger in S:BZ. But you might not be shocked to learn that the extensive overland sections of a game about being a submarine aren’t very good, and the addition of a temperature mechanic is both one of the only things that sets the new polar setting apart from its predecessor mechanically, and also annoying and pointless. A few design changes like the smaller, literally shallower map and its far more cramped spelunking (as Below Zero no longer has to provide broad openings for the hulking Cyclops) are a drag on the experience, and the Seatruck vehicle is an interesting idea that’s nonetheless a lateral move at best from the old vehicle progression.

    While half the writing direction in Below Zero is as bafflingly off-key as it was in the original, the core of the story in the newer game is your voiced character and her relationship with AL-AN, the alien intelligence that burrows into your character’s brain just after the prologue. This dynamic had the potential to be incredibly irritating and cringe-inducing, but despite my early wariness AL-AN never wears out his welcome and the repartee is actually pretty charming.

    But it wasn’t enough to satisfy my craving for MORE BOTES! I’ve been watching archived streams of SovietWomble playing World of Warships and Silent Hunter 3 for countless hours over the past few weeks, and I’ve even considered picking up both games myself, along with a game called Moonglow Bay. But Silent Hunter 3 is an older game that I hear is difficult to get running on modern systems, I’m the kind of stupid asshole that would actually spend money on lootboxes in WoW, and Moonglow Bay is flooded with poor reviews wanting to like the game but being put off by boatloads of bugs.

    I’m thinking of starting Chernobylite, too. But why did they make yet another game about exploring irradiated Chernobyl? Isn’t there an alternate universe where Chernobyl was flooded? I’ve been playing Bitburner, but here’s a question: why not Boatburner? My Time at Portia? Why not My Time at Port? Deep Rock Galactic? Why not Deep Rock Atlantic? Barotrauma? Why not— ooh, Barotrauma! Oh, it’s early access, pass.

    I think this is all just a sign I’m suffering an ongoing stroke and I’m not long for this world, but I guess it could also be my mid-life crisis kicking in. *sigh* I’ll be in the pool in Chernobyl in my scuba suit.

  41. Ektenia says:

    My friends and I just finished the Borderlands 2 main questline. So now I can finally introduce them to Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep and Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty.

    Looking for other games to play with friends online when that runs out, I’ve gotten into 7 Days to Die. I discovered it only by seeing it was popular on steam’s “Stats” page. As multiplayer zombie sandbox survival games go, this seems to be my pick over Project: Zomboid (P:Z seems good but I like how 7DTD is less simulationist and more “video gamey”: levels, quests, respawns, first person combat, self-adjusting difficulty by biome) and over State of Decay 2 (haven’t tried it, but the Microsoft login is a turn-off and the multiplayer progression issues seem fatal). The only issue is that 7DTD installs Epic’s “Easy Anti-Cheat”; even though you can disable it, that should be a fatal issue for this set of freinds; I’ll hope to play it with another friend where we both have dedicated gaming machines.

    And if Borderlands 2 and Project Zomboid run out, I also investigated Avorion: build your starship out of components/blocks and then go mining/trading/fighting, with some optional empire-building layered on top. I think it may have come up before on the Diecast as something to be considered for procedural generation and physics simulation (but found wanting from that strict vantage).

    Thank you, Philadelphus, for linking this Tyranny Let’s Play in the X-mas Diecast. I agree that it’s amazing, and I was so impressed that I bought the company^W^W^Wbought a copy of Tyranny. However, maybe that was a mistake: I think the Let’s Play covers the story and backstory so well, and actively enacting honest to goodness evil is not very enjoyable (as the Diecast discussed), and the combat in this game isn’t great. Oh well, at least the soundtrack is good :).

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Hey, you’re welcome! Glad to hear someone else enjoyed it as well. The author’s made a few more Let’s Plays on other games if you liked the style. :)

  42. Lino says:


    I’ve ben making an effort to play more co-op lately

    Should be “been”.

  43. Redrock says:

    The biggest problem with Guardians of the Galaxy chatter, for me, wasn’t the sheer volume of it, but rather the fact that it wasn’t properly synced to your progression through the level. Too often a discussion would randomly cut off because something triggered another dialogue. And seemingly every step you take can trigger a new round of chatter from the team, so the only way to ensure that you actually get to listen to the end of whatever dialogue is currently going on is to stand perfectly still and wait for everyone to stop talking. Many big-budget talky games have figured this out by now by either spacing out comment triggers to accommodate some average rate of player progression through the level or by incorporating some sort of “anyway, back to what I was saying” feature, like Spider-Man PS4 does.

    As for me, just yesterday I’ve installed Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. The character creation screen almost made me cry. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love CRPGs, but the insanely obtuse DnD bullshit always gets me down and the Pathfinder games are some of the worst offenders since the Infinity Engine era. Pillars of Eternity and Dragon Age don’t get enough credit for introducing DnD-esque systems that are actually way easier to parse for someone with no tabletop experience.

    Blasted through Spider-Man: Miles Morales in just a few days after getting it on sale for the PS4 Pro. A next-gen title it is not, despite what some have claimed, but it’s more of Spider-Man PS4, and that can only be a good thing. I don’t like Miles’s power set as much as Peter’s – explosive electric AOE punches isn’t something I associate with Spider-Man, and nothing in Miles’s arsenal feels as good as sending an enemy flying with Pete’s impact webs. But overall it’s a fun game, and I mostly like Miles as a character – I’ve always enjoyed the idea of a young Spider-Man following in the footsteps of an older one, makes for a different dynamic than your average superhero origin story. The villains, however, a much inferior to those of Spider-Man PS4, all themes and topicality over actual characterization.

    I’ve also been playing Lacuna – it’s a pixel art indie cyberpunk noir investigation game. Stylish as all hell, and pretty smart to boot. It actually has you fill out these multiple choice test sheets from time where you need to correctly deduce the answer from the info you’ve found, and it also has plenty of dialogue options and choices. What I liked most is that while it doesn’t really have voice acting, you main character, a grizzled divorced chain-smoking detective, because of course he is, does bits of narration occasionally, and those are tonally perfect.

    Then there’s the Ace Attorney Trilogy on the Switch. Not much to say about those, they’re fun enough if you can tolerate the zaniness of it all, but the controls and the UI annoy me to no end, especially the movement system. You choose where you want to go from a list, but the list changes in every location to imitate you physically being there and having to make your way through adjacent rooms, which makes exactly zero sense in a game like this. It’s not like I’m playing a text-based dungeon crawler, where navigation is a actually relevant to the gameplay.

    1. Gethsemani says:

      Just wait until you realize that PF:WotR is all about obtuse DnD bullshit. I managed 50 hours into the game (not enough to finish the campaign) and it was just so terrible for someone who hasn’t been invested in DnD since 3rd ed was new. The difficulty is tooled for players who know how to twink and create munchkin characters and the subreddit around release was a lot of new players wondering what they did wrong since even basic mook fights kept handing them their asses and veteran munchkins breaking the difficulty in half with insane builds.

      My main problem with it is that it retains all the bad aspects of DnD rules (stuff like the “feat tax” that forces any viable build of a class to take specific feats before it becomes viable) and then cranks it into overdrive by piling on pretty much every option available in the tabletop rpg. The end result is that you can easily make an absolutely worthless character because you don’t understand that some feats and traits are simply trap choices and it will absolutely drag the fun of the game down because you’ll be struggling every step of the way. This becomes especially true once you reach the later acts of the campaign, in which you better have specced all your casters for spell penetration or they’ll end up worthless, and have made sure your frontliners have AC in the high-40’s or they’ll be minced every single combat encounter. To achieve either requires some very deliberate and specific character building.

      WotR is a good game that could have been great had the developers not been too caught up in recreating the tabletop experience but streamlining it for digital gaming.

      1. Redrock says:

        The way I see it, needless adherence to certain tabletop approaches is easily the biggest problem for some retro-CRPG developers. The difference between Wasteland 2 and 3 is a striking example. Wasteland 2 had those endless and slow dice roll skill checks, where you could critically fumble picking a simple lock even with a high skill, only leading to save scummimg and time wasting. Wasteland 3 went for hard skill requirements, you either have the necessary skill or you don’t. Simple, clean, and a much better fit for a video game with no DM to stop you from save scumming and no pizza, drinks and good-natured ribbing to distract you from just how long every dice roll takes.

        A lot of people lauded Divinity Original Sin 2 as “the closest thing to a true tabletop experience in a video game”, but in reality it’s kinda the opposite – it’s the best adaptation of the broad idea of the tabletop pen-and-paper experience to the realities of video game design.

        That said, I’ll probably stick with WotR and see where it takes me. I’m not too proud to tinker with the difficulty if need be. Real-time-with-pause games I play for the worldbuilding and the story, not to prove myself as best number cruncher around.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Is the problem worse than in Kingmaker? Because I was mostly okay with Kingmaker except for the very endgame (which essentially relied on being laserfocused on willsaves or having some kind of mind effect protection) and some optional content and I’d like to know if I should be prepared for more or less same thing or some completely min-maxy BS.

  44. TFrengler says:

    Since finishing my second playthrough of Prey late last year I haven’t really played much outside of being an employee, a husband and a father. It was nice to play a game with a story that was finite and could be finished for a change. Now a days I mostly stare at my permanent installs of Valheim, 7D2D, Killing Floor 2 and Risk of Rain 2 and kinda go, meh.

    Been plunking away at some programming in my evenings though it never goes beyond sandboxing/prototyping really, and keep looking at my drumset trying to will myself to get started again. I did buy Outer Wilds at the start of the new year and put in 20 hours across one weekend because it completely sucked me in. It’s an incredible game, and I am so impressed how you progress merely by gaining knowledge and nothing else. No stat increases, gear, gadgets, items or what have you.

    But for some reason after binging it for 2 days straight I never picked it up again, and I don’t feel like playing it either. Maybe some day in the future.

  45. evileeyore says:

    Me? I got through it by styling myself into a knockoff of The Stig.

    But were Black Stig or White Stig… or were you a different flavor of Power Ranger altogether?

    The plot was constantly moving, twisting, changing direction, and spinning up new character arcs. By the end of the game I found the constant chatter exhausting.

    I’m with you. This is why my favoritest of games all pretty much single player strategy style games (Dwarf Fortress, MoM, MoO, X-COM, Civ, etc) where I don’t have to ever hear other people talking (or texting) at me, or single player stealth focused (Thief or highly stealth optional titles like Deus Ex and Dishonoured), or multiplayer large map styles (Minecraft, Valheim) or MMOs (WoW, Everquest 1 & 2, DDO) where I can go off and be alone for vast tracks of time and not have to have people constantly bothering me.

    My MMO guilds tend to ‘tolerate’ me because I become a very dedicated resource gatherer, just ‘farking off’ into odd or hard to reach areas, usually way above my level, to resource gather, fish, etc, and just enjoy the scenery and have quiet time… despite the fact that I’m a complete nonce at Raiding (I’m also insanely patient with lowbees and would always happily pitch in to help power level someone to the middle levels – I never made it past middle levels in any MMO, I I dick around too much).

    In EQ2 an awful lot of people on my server loved me and my buddy because we made the “Pouch and Crate Wars” competitively priced for the starting Players (high-end containers were always stupidly highly priced, but we found we could steadily and slowly drive the market prices down to more tolerable levels – we did this because when we started pouches and crates were insanely expensive to buy and as crafters you need all the storage space you can get and then some, so we went Leather and Wood, and once we hit got high enough in crafting we decided to make it so more newbs could afford high end containers).

  46. Zekiel says:

    I have finally got into Total War Warhammer, a new genre for me but set in a setting I have an embarrassing amount of nostalgia for. It is amazing and I am alarmingly addicted to it. Had fun with an Empire campaign, now playing the bad guys as the Lichemaster and laying waste to fantasy France.

  47. Galad_t says:

    Rock and Stone, to the Bone, Shamus! I’d love to mine some with your crew, even if I am mostly done with that game, and the timezone difference would be a bother. I really suggest you try the scout soonish enough, I love spidermaning my way around with the grappling hook :)

  48. MelfinatheBlue says:

    I’ve been playing break your collarbone in RL, wouldn’t recommend. I do have a few games in the lineup for when I’m either physically whole or mentally need to game so much I ignore the ow. Lobotomy Corporation is a SCP management sim sort of thing, it seems like you might enjoy it, Shamus. I’m reading the let’s play, and the art’s great, music seems good, and I like the idea. I just don’t have the brainspace to learn a new game atm, I’ve just started a new job in a completely new to me field.

    I picked up Disco Elysium over the XMas sales, I’m still dabbling in ESO, and I’m having loads of fun with the Witcher: Monster Hunter, it’s a Pokemon Go style mobile game with a bit more to strategy than PGo has, plus more entertaining combat (bombs, different types of swings, various potions).

  49. Luak Dreyer says:

    I’ve been playing a lot of slower-paced, cerebral games lately (like the “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” series and “Prey” alongside Shamus’s retrospective) and felt like a no-nonsense shooter for a change. So, eight years late to the party, I installed “Wolfenstein: The Order” and concluded, like everyone and their dog, that this game is pretty great, walking a tonal tightrope between absurd violence and emotional weight like I’ve never seen in an action game.

    Otherwise, I’ve finally delved into Yahtzee’s 2020 game of the year “Spiritfarer” and have found it to be both a relaxing and emotionally absorbing way to wind down an evening before reading and going to bed. Could not recommend it highly enough.

    Back on the cerebral end of the spectrum, I picked up “Disco Elysium” during the GOG holiday sale as the next meaty role-playing experience. It also cannot be a coincidence that both Shamus and my tabletop role-playing group are both recommending “Deep Rock Galactic”, so Game Pass, here I come to check it out.

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