Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Speechless

Rise of the Tomb Raider is so good.

It's not perfect - in the first fifteen minutes it has fallen back on the tropes of Lars constantly getting the shit kicked out of her and of the last second climbing hook save. Seriously, the hook save happens three times. But once all of the intro nonsense is done and you are finally dropped into a large hub area to explore - nirvana.

It is familiar territory, game play wise. Lara is still in a survival situation where she must scrounge for necessities. She even remarks that she wishes it all didn't feel so familiar. I disagree with her: while the situation is familiar her reason for being in it is different. Tomb Raider, if I am remembering it correctly, saw Lara trapped in a situation that was not her fault. She then went from shrinking violet to killing machine in short order, one of my only complaints. This time she puts herself in the dangerous situation on purpose. There is nothing accidental here. This maturing is welcome in such a well worn character.

The world feels much more dense this time around. In the first two and half hours I have come across three optional tombs. Literal tombs to raid full of puzzles, treasure and, even better, new skills and weapon parts. The first was an ancient ship that had broken in two, half of of which was embedded in a frozen waterfall. At the end of some perilous climbing I found a book that taught Lara how to fire arrows more quickly.

I don't care if none of that makes sense. It was cool.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is so good that I can't stop thinking about it,

Monday, December 28, 2015

Deeper than expected

It is possible that I was a little more dismissive of WRC 5's quality than I should have been. It still is missing quite of a few 'big game' pieces but what is there is very focused and enjoyable. If I was more into rally racing, and I am sure there are some people who are, I can see cranking up the difficulty and playing through season after season as a possibility. There is strategy here beyond just getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. Repairs can only be made between days and there can be multiple stages per day so you car can be wrecked at the end of a race. Only 45 minutes are allotted for repairs so they need to be prioritized. Do you leave the body damage and fix the steering, etc. It's an interesting layer on top of an otherwise plain game.

But I am done with it now, having playing through three seasons and having seen all of the tracks it has to show. There were tracks that resembled bobsled runs that I never want to expose myself to again. Miss a corner and you bounce off the snow packed border, ricocheting back and forth until both your time and your steering are shot.

Margin for error = 0.

...

Episode 2 of the podcast in the can and I think we have stumbled onto a formula for regular episodes. Recapping the weeks events allows me to be the color guy to Chance's excellent news picks and I learn something new each time. For example, I had been mispronouncing Xillia and Neir for years. This is what happens when ones output on games is strictly text. If it sounds good in my head, fuck it, it goes on the page.

If anyone out there is listening to the podcast please drop one of us a comment. Any and all feedback, regardless of cruelty or malice, are welcome. Cash money was spent on equipment for this venture so we might as well make it something that is enjoyable for people other than us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Force fears

I am afraid of the new Star Wars movie.

All of the reviews, even by gigantic nerds, have be reasonably positive. The only really terrible review I have seen was by the Vatican's paper and I am not catholic so I don't need to adhere to their sacraments.

The reason for this fear is two fold. First, the re-releases of the original trilogy and the prequels are all terrible. Full stop. They have no redeeming features and yet they have tainted my enjoyment of the real movies. Over the course of the week I have watched A New Hope and Empire on VHS. 480i, stereo pan and scan as the good Lord intended. I have seen each of the prequels only once and my limited memory of their nonsense still manages to intrude on what should be a sublime experience.

For example: C-3PO should know who Luke is or at the very least who is father is (that have the same last name!), unless he is a huge liar or had his memory erased. So should R2. It's a fucking rabbit hole of bull shit.

The re-releases of the real movies are just as bad. There is a rhythm to the movies, one ingrained in my memory from childhood. All the added scenes or lines or attempts at de-bad-assing Solo run against this rhythm and just feel wrong. Han didn't just shoot first, Greedo never shot at all! Solo killed him in cold blood and then tipped the bartender! Why would you ever change that?!

Second, I do not trust Abrams as a director. He took Star Trek from me. I made it about twenty minutes into the reboot before shutting it off and drinking heavily. I don't know what the hell that was but it wasn't Star Trek. For that reason I refused to see Into Darkness and will likewise avoid the new Fast and Furious themed third movie (though Abrams is not responsible for that one).

Lucas couldn't get it right again. Why should I believe that anyone else will?

Popular opinion has already sided against me, calling it a worthy successor. Successor to what, exactly? It cannot possible reach my expectations, expectations put into place during my formative years, when Star Wars was ingrained into my very personality and thought processes. When I watch the movies now, in the grainy glory of a fast deteriorating videocassette, I see them as the boy who first saw them, not the cranky hermit I have become. How can anything be a successor to that?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Budget does not mean bad

It has come to my attention via several 'best of' lists that not having played Undertale this year is a problem. I do not know when this will be remedied, but remedied it will be.

...

WRC 5 feels like a budget title. There is no music during the races, limited selection of vehicles, no grand production value to the menus or between race segments. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the game picked one thing to focus on: above all else, the car has to feel right. And it succeeds. This is not a racing game that I will play as long as a Forza title but it conveys the uncomfortable loss of traction when moving from tarmac to gravel better than any of it bigger brothers.

It also takes the now standard rewind function, which makes racing games much easier (not that I am complaining) and adds a little but of risk/reward to it. Each rally is divided into sections. If you screw up, say miss a corner and go flying off into a tree, you can reset from the start of that section. The catch is that you restart the section from a stand still. When winners and losers are decided by seconds that loss of momentum can be costly. I found myself using that rewind function to learn a course and then starting over one last time to run it for real.

Somehow the game is making me practice. Such a dirty word.

...

Speaking of practice, I played a solid three hours of Street Fighter V last night. My aged hands are still paying for it. It was all Necali, all the time, and I have a growing suspicion that he might not be very good. Much like Killer Instinct, ever character has their own little trait or set of 'V moves' that offer unique mechanics beyond the standard stable of special moves. Ryu has his parry from Third Strike. Chun Li has a strange upward dash. Laura has a ridiculous set of command dashes. Zangief has armored moves. Birdie throws garbage around.

Necali has a ground pound that can his at three different distances. Think Viper's seismos but with significantly more recovery and less damage. Not terribly useful. Likewise his V Mode, trigger when the V gauge is full, give him super-saiyan hair, more hits to his moves, and not much else. He does get grown ass man damage off of jump ins but everyone gets grown ass man damage off of jump ins now.

Part of my problem is that I have been conditioned to use normals as anti-air. Blank's crouching medium punch is exceptional for this. Necali's crouching heavy punch is pretty good but the start up is so slow that you need to really anticipate the jump in to get the anti-sit. The solution is FUCK IT - DP which Necali has but I need to remember that this is okay.

This is all meaningless as Combofied has stated that the release in February will be much different than this final beta. Everything I learned over the last few days will either be changed or forgotten.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Too old school

Back in my *ahem* younger days I spent a lot of time with PC RPGs. They reminded me of playing D&D with my friends from when I was even younger. It was just these reminiscences that had me looking forward Divinity: Original Sin. It looked just like what I remembered liking.

In truth, it was just like I remembered, but I don't like it anymore.

Going back to those old games, games like Baldur's Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 (and its superior expansions), I almost never finished them. In fact, the only ones I remember playing out to the very end were Neverwinter Nights 2, its much improved expansion, Mask of the Betrayer, and The Temple of Elemental Evil, a product of the dear departed Troika. The latter being my favorite because it was all combat and no wandering around trying to figure out poorly explained quests.

Divinity: Original Sin had good combat. Very good combat, and I would like to have seen more of it. After the first tutorial dungeon I didn't see any for about five hours. Instead I wandered around the first town, chasing quests with no way points and being frustrated by a very slow walk speed. At one point I tried to leave town and was warned that I was no of a high enough level.

They warning was right.

I got bored. So bored that I began looking for an excuse to stop playing. That presented itself when I dug up the wrong grave which exploded, killed my party, and cost me about 45 minutes of work.

It's not that different from the old PC RPGs that I enjoyed. I am sure this is intentional, less an homage and more of an update. Apparently I just don't like that style of RPG anymore, having been spoiled by modern, fast paced RPGs like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and my precious JRPGs.

Or maybe my memory has deteriorated to the point that I can't remember what the hell I am supposed to do without a glowing marker in the sky.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Halos are circles, get it?

A lesson in reading the instruction.

After my self pity post regarding my dying sound system I ended up at Best Buy and took advantage of their 24 no interest financing because, well, why wouldn't you. My new speakers are very nice but I have not been able to get the surround sound dialed in yet. It just didn't sound quite right. The receiver came with very limited instructions, and by that I mean it was two pages, so I discarded them immediately without a second glance. I know how to hook up speakers, right?

Two things that I completely missed. First, and this is side effect of me not using the receiver for anything more than sound, the settings are displayed on the connected television via HDMI. I never saw this and was fumbling around the truncated display trying to figure out what all these abbreviations meant. Second, there is an auto-calibration feature, which I found, that only works if you connect the included sensor, which I saw, didn't recognize, and threw back in the box.

Who knows how much I have screwed up the settings. Factory default, here I come.

...

Halo 5 serves the exact same purpose and Halo 2: an advertisement for the third game in the trilogy. The last mission in Halo 5 is called 'Finish the fight.' Ha ha, guy, I get it. Very funny.


To its credit, Halo 5 did not end with a time based vehicular chase in a warthog. No, it ripped off the microwave hallway scene from Metal Gear Solid 4 instead. The only thing missing was mashing A for five minutes. Only Kojima is that mad.

I have one significant complaint: the repeated boss battles are all terrible. There is one boss, the eternal guardian, and he can one shot any of the Spartans. He also moves much faster than you would expect and has a nasty habit of camping on the last corpse he makes. If that corpse happens to be you, well, at least there is no loading screen between you and trying again.

This boss shows up over and over, always fights you the same way, always says the same things, the only variety being that the third time there is two of him. The forth time there is three. He was bull shit the first time all my himself, imagine the words coming out of my mouth after thirty minutes of fighting a trio of bull shit. (I should have recorded it. My mic was right there.)

I only got past three of him because the game save scams for you. As soon as you kill one it auto-saves. This sounds good, right? That atuo-save is merciless. If the second boss was about to gut you when the same kicks off he will be right there, waiting, when that save is loaded. It's a miracle I made it through at all.

In two years I will forget my frustrations, play Halo 6, and record the exact same reactions.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sure, I'll buy it again.


Can't have a generation without Rez.

5th time is not the charm

Dragon Quest Heroes ended just the way it should have: with a gigantic monster that looked much more difficult to beat that he actually was. All of the stupid hard quests are saved for post game or completely optional. I am not going to run out and play all of the 'Warriors' games that I have missed but the genre is officially off of the 'ewwww' list.

Side note: did know that there was a Dynasty Warriors Tactics? I owned the game many, many moons ago. That is combination with Disgaea proved that I was and am just not smart enough to handle that many variables.

...

Halo 5 is actually the seventh main series Halo game if ODST and Reach are included (and Halo Wars and the twin stick shooters are not). This is bordering on Call of Duty redundancy and it is suffering from the same problems. Halo games have a distinct feel to them that 343 has maintained after the hand off from Bungie. It's impressive but I am not convinced that it is a good thing. Speaking strictly of the single player, having a series not change all that much beyond how pretty it is for as long as Halo has been around, fourteen years, is a recipe for boredom.

There are new weapons and new vehicles and a few new abilities like dual wielding and a dash but the way the combat feels and plays out, moving from narrow corridors to large open areas and back again, is still exactly the same. I do not know if it is possible to shake this up and still call the game 'Halo' but 343 needs to do something. Layering on a nonsensical plot is not the thing to do.

It's just interesting any more. It's an FPS so I will play it but I am certainly not going to remember anything about it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The best gimmick

Yikes, been a busy week.

Dragon Quest Heroes hit its false ending last night. It did have me fooled, based mostly on the difficulty of the what I thought was the final battle. I ended up blowing through all of my healing items instead of trying to beat it more strategically because I thought I was done. Nope, it was a trap, and there was more to do and no way to refill on items (not that I had any money) or save.

I was not pleased at all when I had to run back through the previous three areas, now refilled with monsters, and get to the entrance while a timer ticked down. I made it comfortably, which should have been a clue to the game's try intentions, only to be confronted with this guy:


(Damn, look at the character levels. I am only around level 33.)

He looked tough. I was intimidated, worried, all worked up. This is exactly how a person should feel when facing a boss. Here's the catch, or concession, that the game made: as rough as the boss looks, he's a gimmick. There is one trick to beat him and it is spelled out. I was never really in any danger but the game waited as long as possible to let me in on secret. I had already done the work, this was the exciting conclusion to the chapter.

All of the excitement without screwing the player over and sending him or her back through a half an hour game they had already played. It is easily the highlight so far and will be what I remember long after I have put this game away or gotten bored with it and moved on to something else. Unless I get stuck on the real final boss I should be able to put the game to bed over the weekend.

Punishing difficulty is not always the answer. Who knew.

...

I do not have many possessions that can be described as old. Going through several houses over the years and making regular purges keeps ones residence from becoming a museum, or warehouse, depending on the quality of the stuff that isn't thrown away. This is just as true about electronics and video games as it is for anything else. I still have a reasonable selection of Xbox 360 games, games that I hope will someday be added to the backwards compatibility list, and I even have one oXbox (Phantom Dust) and one PS2 (Culdcept) title the I keep around, just for shits. Other than that, everything goes.

My oldest possessions, aside from my childhood teddy bear that lives (possible haunts) the spidery part of my basement, are my two tower speakers that I purchased in college. There are right around twenty years old and have outlived more receivers and televisions than I care to count. The sub-woofer and surrounds are only about a year or two younger but the towers are the star of the show.

I love my speakers. About a weak ago, while playing Rock Band 4 and appropriate volume, the left speaker developed a nasty buzz in the tweeter. It has gotten progressively worse, moving from occasional to constant, from annoying to infuriating. It's going to be like putting a pet to sleep, but the speakers, and by extension the receiver, have to go.

Funding is the problem. I spent this year's fun money, almost exactly what I would need, on my sleeve. Don't get me wrong, I do not regret spending that much on tattoos for a second, but god damn do I wish the body modification bug would have bitten a year later.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Again? Again again?

Dragon Quest Heroes was this close to being put out to pasture last night. Multi-stage boss battles with no checkpoints will do that. My hand was on the way to the eject button when I stopped myself. Instead I cleaned up a few quests, continued to ignore the 'kill 200 of this monster' task, and tried again, this time treating it as an actual boss encounter instead of the button mashing kill-a-thon that all of the previous levels had been.

I also created an item that boosted the main character's attack when in a small party, and since this boss was a forced one on one battle, well...

At the end of the evening I hit the opposite kind of wall: defend something against an incredible onslaught of enemies. These defense missions make up the majority of the game and have been getting longer and longer as it progresses. It is not the first time I have failed one but it length and repetitiveness is starting to wear on me. Experience and items are kept even after a defeat, but this just gives away what the game is really trying to force me to do:

It wants me to grind and I refuse to do it.

The game is designed around revisiting old areas and killing things and that's boring, especially when most of the combat is done with two buttons. When the spectacle of how many enemies it crams on the screen at a time wears off there is not much left.

Odds on finishing the game are getting lower. I am not ready to give up yet but the game is going to be interrupted soon, either by Rock Band 4 (again) or Halo 5 and I may not ever make it back.


Monday, December 7, 2015

I've been tricked!

The cat was released from the bag with Saturday's post. There are plans. Big plans.

Really, it's just an excuse for me to talk to someone about video games. Don't tell.

...

I did not know that Dragon Quest Heroes was in the Dynasty/Samurai warrior vein when I added it to the list. I just saw 'Dragon Quest' and the JRPG part of my brain took over. Full disclosure, I have not actually played any of the main series Dragon Warrior games. The shame is overwhelming but will never be remedied. Playing Heroes does not count.

Heroes is exactly what I assume the Dynasty Warriors games are: the player, in this case the player's team, against huge armies of easily disposed of bad guys and the occasional boss monster. Add in a little MOBA style lane guarding with NPCs and an oversized, unwieldy cast and it should be a game that I quickly tire of.

But I haven't. The cast is quite large and filled with characters from other Dragon Warrior games which means nothing to me. Combat is simple but controlling the flow of enemies on the map is not, requiring much more strategy than I expected. It isn't exactly hard but I am not skating through with little effort, either.

Could this possible be a genre that makes it off of the 'Chamberlain doesn't touch these, ever' list? Let's review:

sports games
wrestling games
turn based strategy games
anything by From Software
true rogue-likes
did I mention From Software? Because fuck them.

Does the Dynasty Warriors sub-genre even have a name? It's not on my list...

Time will tell if I enjoy the game enough to keep playing it with Divinity: Original Sin and Halo 5 waiting in the wings. I can see the simplicity of the combat itself becoming too much of a drain to overcome. My attention span is limited, especially in December, and I need to keep in mind that there are big games yet to be played (Fallout 4) and Street Fighter V comes out in February,

...

I only caught the top 8 of Capcom Cup and it still contained some of the best Street Fighter I have ever been witness to. The matches were not of the screaming and yelling at the screen variety but they did contain the best in the world at the top of their game.

If I were more dramatic I would call Kazunoko's victory over Daigo a passing of the torch. In truth, that torch was passed quite some time ago, and it went to Xian first. Daigo is still on of the best there has ever been, he was just not the best yesterday,

$120,000 for first place. Makes you want to practice a bit more, doesn't it?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Cowardly assassins

Syndicate was good. It was more than a good Assassin's Creed game, it was a good open world(ish) romp with plenty of side quests and more stuff to collect than anyone has time for...

Wait a second, that describes most of Ubisoft's game as of late. Is the Far Cry/Assassin's Creed crossover in the works? They are coming from the same basic mold, one with vehicles, one without. Can an assassin hopped up on hallucinogenic mushrooms be too far off?

I refuse to apologize for that outburst as I would play the shit out of a game like that.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was about to get to Syndicate's cowardice. The game is good, but the plot is boring and wastes what could have been a very interesting twist: an assassin leaving the order for his own path. Technically, this has happened before, in Rogue, but Jacob is a more interesting character than the protagonist from Rogue whose name I have forgotten. Jacob is doing what he thinks is in the best interest of the people, he just never sticks around long enough to see if the outcome is what he was looking for.

Minor spoilers incoming.


Jacob starts out murdering a corrupt doctor who was performing lobotomies for an audience. The doctor got what was coming to him but the panic that followed shut the hospital down and many innocents suffered. Evie had to come to the rescue afterward and steal medicine to keep children from dying. The aftermath was of no on interest to Jacob.

This happens twice more, once with a prominent banker, whose murder nearly crashed the economy, and with Jacob's gang replacing the Templar gang. Evie is more or less on board with building their own private army, but only because they are no worse than what was already there. The results of Jacob's action explains why the Templars hate assassins so much and how close ideologically the groups really are. One kills those who get in the way and the other manipulates them into doing their bidding. Is one really worse than the other?

Then there is Evie, the boring assassin who only wants to find the piece of Eden because she thinks that it will solve all of their problems. Jacob and Evie have a falling out, agree on one more mission, kill the bad guy with the power of sibling friendship, and then fight to the death over the piece of Eden, right?

No, because that would be interesting. They do kill the bad guy, but then the hug and make up, Jacob admitting that he was wrong, and they live happily ever after. Boring. This is series that has had the main character assassinate the pope, and now it gets bashful about seeing conflict through to its logical, brutal conclusion?

Oh well. There is no point bitching, I will play the next one. I always do. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

0 for 3

I am going to get back to Syndicate and its cowardly ending, I promise. Right now I am freshly disappointed with three other games and I need to get the words down quickly before the ire fades.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing appears to be a budget Diablo clone. I would be okay with that. Torchlight was a budget minded Diablo clone and it was fantastic. Van Helsing is not. It is terrible for many, many reasons. For starters, it is difficult to look at, and by that I do not mean that it is ugly (it is) but that something about the way stages are lit actually made it difficult for me to look at. Combat is divided into ranged attacks, which are useless as enemies rush you in such numbers that you are surrounded before getting off more than a shot or two, and melee attacks, which offer very little feedback as to if they hit or not. Diablo, Torchlight and my personal favorite, Titan Quest, all have a satisfying 'crunch' effect when an enemy is hit or killed. Van Helsing throws numbers into the air and sometimes an enemy explodes in slow motion for no reason. Other time you die.

But wait, I haven't even gotten to the best part: a user interface that was clearly designed to be navigated with a mouse and was not adapted at all for the console release. Menus are nested within menus. Changing equipment slots is done by rotating the right stick and there is a significant lag between the movement and the selection changing. Nearly identical pieces of equipment of the same type are shown in the order in which they were obtained, not by how good they are, making finding the best equipment quite difficult. I may have spent more time in the menus than actually playing.

Still not done. Each attack has three different buffs that can be leveled up, ranging from slowing enemies when a hit lands to extra damage. These buffs can be chosen on the fly during combat, not a bad idea, but this is done by flicking the right stick in the direction of the buff. Keep in mind that your right thumb is already on either X or A using the attack. It doesn't make sense for a controller. Maybe it worked on the PC but I do not care to investigate further. There was some mention of mapping a preset combo to a shoulder button. I figured out how to edit the buff combo but not what to do with it. Then I have up.

At least I didn't pay for the game.

Game two was Ride, played just because it is a racing game and I had to fill my queue with something while waiting for Fallout 4 or CoDBlops to show up. Ride is just motorcycles and, knowing just a little bit about how it feels to ride, I was curious as to if the game would actually capture the difference between driving a car around a corner at high speed and leaning into said corner on a bike.

It does, but that is not enough to make the game any fun. Ride does not feel like a car racing game. Due to how a bike leans when cornering the racing line is of supreme importance, more so than in a car because if you miss the apex, which I often do, you do not just bounce off the grass or wall, you fucking die. That happened a lot in my first race and I saw the one crash animation over and over. That was not a typo (as are to be expected), there is one crash animation. And it sucks.

I did get the hang of cornering long enough to notice the frame rate dip as the camera struggled to keep up. That brought more unfortunate comparisons to Forza 6, which lead to me wondering why I would send time on Ride when I didn't play as much of Forza as I should have, which led me to uninstalling the game.

Two hours, two games. Might as well try Dragon Fin Soup.

That took ten minutes. Just no.

...

On a more positive note, Dragon Quest Heroes looks great, has a rock solid frame rate in spite of all the insanity, and is a lot of fun to play. I didn't think I liked the Samurai Warriors archetype.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Not different enough

I tried, really, really tried, to finish Assassin's Creed Syndicate over the long holiday weekend. I would have, too, if I had not been distracted one evening by Roger Waters The Wall. It is a mostly good concert video with some attempted heart wrenching vignettes that proves that The Wall is still awesome and that Roger Waters' voice is not at all what it used to be. There was not rental option so I bought it and watched it sober. Not by choice, mind you, I just had nothing to drink.


...

Having two main characters in Syndicate has been entirely wasted. For starters the two characters, Jacob and Evie, do not play differently enough for one another. Supposedly Jacob is more combat centered and Evie is more stealthy, which befits their personalities and there are a few token skills that are specific to each of them, but in practice they play exactly the same. All it meant for me was that I had to grind for more money after gaining a level because I had twice as much equipment to purchase.

Second, Jacob is clearly the main character. He is skilled, brash and lacks forethought, just like Ezio in his first game. Evie is much more thoughtful, spending her few missions cleaning up after Jacob and searching for a piece of Eden. She actually behaves like an assassin while Jacob is a thug with a hidden blade. This difference should have been played up much more than it was. For most of the game Evie shrugs her shoulders at Jacob's antics, antics that include murdering a member of Parliament, destabilizing the economy and a temporary alliance with the most interesting character in the game, Roth, the mob boss. Only in the final chapter does she call him out on his bullshit.

I have yet to see how it turns out but I do hope for a messy conclusion.

Plot missteps are forgivable when everything else is enjoyable. Syndicate delivers to that end quite well, not quite eclipsing Black Flag but making me forget about the banality of Unity. Every once in a while a 'traditional' screw you fail mission pops up but for the most part if the player makes a mess of things he or she is left to deal with the outcome. I have more fun fleeing from a botched assassination than playing the same mission over and over, trying to not be seen.

Of course the final chapter (?) strips both heroes of their weapons and armor, then forces Evie to sneak around in a fucking ball gown. I failed once last night and went to bed. It had been a good evening and I did not want it soured by one of those missions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Muscle for Marx

I have picked on Black Friday before. The following 'trailer' does it for me this year:

(video removed because I could not keep it from auto-playing)

Heh. Why do I not own Fury Road yet? Maybe it will be on sale later this week. On Amazon, where civilized people go for deals.

...

Aside from the magic broom I posted yesterday and another cut scene that loaded no character models (damn, those assassins are good, I can't seem them at all!) Syndicate has been a stable, enjoyable game so far. More side missions unlocked last night: pit fights for money, which is fun if a bit easy due to the further simplified combat, and carriage races, which are not easy are not fun. I will play just enough of the carriage races to farm an easy achievement and then never touch them again.

I am concerned that I am going to run out of skills and things to buy before I run out of side missions. I have been ignoring most of the gang upgrades in favor of better equipment for my two assassins. They are running around with the finest weapons and clothing money can but while the rest of the Rooks wander the streets in whatever rags they can find. This makes me no better than the previous district king pin which I should not find as amusing as I do.

Didn't we find out that the assassins were actually the bad guys a few games ago, right around the time that Desmond sacrificed himself to prevent the end of the world? The back story to the series is an impossibly tangled mess and I have given up on trying to make any sense of it. Instead I will focus on being hired muscle for Karl Marx and testing nausea inducing grenades whipped up by Bell.

...

The ease of YouTube uploads and the editing ability on the Xbox One is tempting me to jump into the realm of *shudder* videos. If nothing else it would mean less typos.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

That funny video...


Not quite as good as I remember but I did find out that uploading clips directly to YouTube works quite well.

Monday, November 23, 2015

No accounting for taste

Shoehorning historical personalities into the assassin vs templar war is one my favorite bits of silliness in the recent Assassin's Creed games. It was wonderfully absurd to be sent on questionable errands by the Marquis de Sade. Blackbeard was one of the best parts of Black Flag, which is saying something, because Black Flag was the best game in the series in a long, long time. Syndicate does not disappoint.

Alexander Graham Bell is quite happy to make weapons for the assassins. He also has a crush on Evie, something that he tries unsuccessfully to hide. Charles Dickens has me running around London debunking ghost stories. Charles Darwin is a cranky old man action hero.

History can be fun!

I was wrong about there being less to do than in previous games. There is just as much, if not more, crap to collect, it was just not all visible from the outset. For the completionsist I can see this triggering all sorts of fits as areas that were previously cleaned out are sporadically refilled with more to do. Back tracking is just not a thing that I do, once I am done with an area I rarely go back, usually satisfied at cleaning out all of the chests and taking over the 'protection fees' from the gang I kick out/murder. Certain things get skipped and that's okay. I will still be humorously over leveled for the story missions.

I shouldn't have to apologize for liking a game but I feel that throwing in with one of the big, AAA titles that receives yearly updates is just not something that any of the cool people are doing. Fuck 'em, I was never cool anyway. So far, Syndicate makes up for Unity being as mediocre as it was, it's a pretty good game and a pleasant return to form for the series.

Friday, November 20, 2015

That old familiar feeling

I don't feel like complaining any more about Game of Thrones. It is done, there was no resolution, much less any kind of happy ending. In fact just about everyone was dead by the end and I don't think it was my fault. They were destined to be run  through, stabbed in the back or beheaded. I am a fan of bittersweet or even depressing finales but there still needs to be closure, not just a tease for the next season.

For all I know this is exactly how the show and books work.

...

It's that time of year again! The holidays? I have no idea what you are talking about. It's the time of year that I play a new Assassin's Creed game! In spite of several lackluster, bug ridden entries I am still a fan of the series, always hoping it recaptures the magic of Black Flag. Truth be told, my experience with Unity was better than most because I played it months after it release when most of the issues had been fixed. I was able to ignore the parts I didn't like (the multiplayer missions) and instead wander around stabbing people in the back and collecting treasure chests.

Good times were had and I never fell through the world.

Syndicate is being played almost at launch, so it should be interesting to see what bugs I run into already, if any...

(this is where a funny clip is supposed to go but the embedding from TrueAchievements is not working)

Hm.

Syndicate offers two playable characters, a first for the series, but it does it in a fairly lazy way. Yes, the two characters have different 'end of tree' skills but up to that point they are the same. One is supposed to be more direct and the other more stealthy but it is just flavor text. Their adventures are also the same as they are always working together with whoever the player is not controlling at the time showing up at important story beats.

A step in the correct direction but little more than a costume change.

The game does feel a bit more streamlined than previous entries. This may mean that there is less to do or it may be that the game is smart enough to hide activities that cannot currently be done instead of teasing the player with hour upon hours of side missions that they don't have the correct equipment to complete. There have been a few collectibles that I have stumbled across that appear to be unreachable but I haven't fought the first boss yet so I assume he has something that I need.

It's still fun and will still devour several weeks of my time. The series just works for me and I feel no need to apologize for it. The only way Syndicate could ruin itself for me would be for Desmond to come back from the dead to whine about something.

...if that happens I will be pissed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

There's the cranky guy we all know

Tales of Graces f, my favorite of the series, has a wonderful epilogue in which the main character goes on a tour of the world after he saved it. I no longer remember the particulars, as it was a long time ago and the facts have been muddled with hundreds of other games, but I do recall it bringing everything in the game to resolution. It provided closure beyond the credits and a few still shots of what happened after.

Zestiria, my least favorite of the series, also has an epilogue of sorts. This epilogue does not feature the main character (he's busy), is centered in one overly long, overly difficult, incredibly boring dungeon and provides no closure beyond the post credits scene on the main game. Worse, it serves as a teaser for either future DLC or a sequel.

It was a unwelcome ending to what had been a middling game.

The holiday season is rife with RPGs this year. Fallout 4 and Divinity: Original Sin loom large in my queue, but both of those are of the western style. They are less linear, or more work, depending on how you look at it. Sometimes I just want to be lead through a story and not have to put much effort into getting to the end.

Yes, this is lazy, but I play a lot of games. JRPGs can be an extended break from the grind, assuming one is not obsessed with finding every little thing or maxing out the characters. Zestiria was a break, but it was plain, boring, and forgettable,

...

Gems of War, the freemium spiritual follow up to the exceptional Puzzle Quest (and not so exceptional Puzzle Quest Galactrix) is equal parts just as fun as it used to be and despicable in what it is trying to accomplish. It is still Puzzle Quest - match three game play with RPGs tropes like experience and equipment tacked on. This time around the player builds a party with card based units instead of equipping weapons. In itself this is not bad but the way these cards are obtained is where the evil sets in.

Cards are distributed randomly in chests that require a key to open, Keys can either be won (rarely) or purchased with in game gold. This same gold is used to unlock area to explore. Please keep in mind that this is all done in menus and confusing ones at that. There are also enemy souls that are used level up units. These souls can either be won in battle or purchased with a different in game currency: gems. And how does one get gems?

Credit card.

Mother fuckers.

In addition, there is an online mode whose ranking is cribbed directly from Hearthstone. You can invade other people cities but you do not actually fight the other player, just the units he has set to defend. This also means that your cities can be invaded when you are not playing. I am not sure what losing these invasions does, if anything, but the intentional obfuscation of what does what and the not so subtle offering of DLC currency is a huge turn off.

Free to download and, thankfully, free to delete.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It had big ideas

As predicted, I finished up Zestiria over the weekend. It could have happened on Saturday but when I looked at the tangled mess of a map that was the final area I simply couldn't muster the energy to make my way through it. Instead I saved it, watched a few YouTube videos and fell asleep on the couch.

There may have been other reasons for this fatigue.

*cough*Young's Double Chocolate Stout*cough*

The next evening it ended just when it should have assuming you ignore the excellent false ending boss fight that was better than anything else the game could muster. For a story about one man and his angelic friends trying to bring about the end of the age of chaos by killing the Lord of Calamity, everything felt very small. There was some political intrigue between two nations but Sorey managed to get along with both sides. He was above the nonsense.

Sorey was quite powerful, at least compared with other humans, and he was constantly struggling with how much he should use that power to help. He was actively dissuaded from being the all power errand boy, instead encouraged to let humans deal with human issues and to use his power to deal with what they can't. This meant less fetch quests and more killing evil monsters than no one else can see, which was fine with me.

Tales games have always been a bit boilerplate. Zesteria tries to fight this with additions to combat and equipment mechanics that I either didn't like or never needed to use. Instead it felt and looked just like the previous games, a definite problem as its generation (really, this was a PS3 game, save for very short load times) gets longer in the tooth.

Zestiria was a small game filled with big empty hallways. It was serviceable, at best. I will play though its DLC epilogue but only because I got it for free and I am not quite ready to dive into the new Assassin's Creed.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Just below

A few days ago Zestiria tried to be all edgy by killing off one of the party members. He was dead for all of five minutes before being replaced by an almost identical character. There was a big story moment and its result was nothing more than a costume change. If I still gave out effort points it would garner a few but I am far to old and jaded to be interested in anything more than the final result.

Following this character swap I was tasked with rounding up six or so maguffins scattered around the world. Once more I was given no direction on where to find them only this time instead of getting frustrated and complaining I looked at the map. Low and behold, big purple stars marking the general area of each item. Zestiria may not be beating the player overt the head with the next objective but figuring out what to is usually only a menu or two away.

Or you could talk to Rose, the other human in the party, as she serves as the side mission tracker. Wish I knew about that thirty hours ago.

I just might finish up the main game this weekend and start on the free side story, depending on how tired I am of the combat. Having forgotten to change the difficulty level back to normal and ran through half a dungeon on easy again, being tired of the combat soon is a distinct possibility.

...I miss only needing five hours of sleep a night. At least then I could get more done.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Butt why?

I have been waffling on if I want to talk about the Street Fighter V 'censorship' nonsense or not. On one had, I really try to stay out of issues regarding the presentation of women in video games because I do not believe that my opinion, that is, the opinion of a white, middle aged, middle class male (otherwise known as the problem) holds any weight whatsoever, regardless of who I agree with. There is nothing I am fighting for or against so I keep quiet.

On the other hand, YouTube commenters, FGC stream monsters and many other examples of terrible people on the internet are misusing a word and in turn misinterpreting what Capcom has done. That, my pedantic friends, will not stand.

Street Fighter V has not been censored. No one told Capcom to do what they did. The change was made in a brightly lit board room in the name of sales. It is neither a victory for one group nor a defeat for another, it is just Capcom tweaking their flagship property to keep it on the straight and narrow, that is, keep it paying the bills.

In case you were not aware of what was done, R Mika's super and Cammy's intro were both tweaked slightly. In both examples the camera was moved up to cover a butt slap and a rather uncomfortable looking leotard riding up where the sun don't shine.

That's it. That is what people are complaining about.

In my opinion both examples were just a bit over the line. Nothing terrible, I was not offended, others were, most people got over it. Capcom licked its finger, put it up into the winds of opinion, and decided that just a bit too far would not do and moved the camera up about a foot.

Not censorship. No outside organization told them to do this. It was their panty shot party and they shut it down. Even if this was done to avoid an M rating (which is their business) it still would not be censorship because the option was still there to just leave it as is and release it as an M game. Capcom would never do that as it would put them in the same space as MKX, a comparison that they desperately what to avoid.

But again, their choice. Capcom is doing what it can to make the most money. Sure, call them greedy, but there is no other cause, noble or ignoble, behind it.

Now can we get back to complaining that the Street Fighter V roster is missing one very important character?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Almost sorry

I just may have, okay, I did jump the gun when I started complaining about Zesteria not telling be where to go next. It did, I just missed it because the instruction came in the final five minutes of playing before going to bed when all I wanted to do was find a save point before losing consciousness. I was supposed to return to a mural that would tell me what areas to look in. Instead I wandered the map, followed a few side quests, and got to where I needed to go anyway.

That is as close to an apology from me as a game is going to get.

Many of my issues with the game have fallen away. The combat is more complex than it needs to be but the game allows the player to drop the difficulty at any time. I admit to doing this every time I come across a single character dungeon that puts me in control of a character whose moves I have never looked at. I'll do it but I am not going to put any effort into it. Last night I forgot to bump it back up to normal until half way through the next dungeon. I thought that I finally figured things out. Nope, the enemies were attacking less and not doing any damage.

The characters are all stock RPG tropes: the Christ character, his best friend, the ditsy but smart female, the sassy female, the gruff but still a nice guy older male. They could be cut out of this game and dropped into any other and no one would notice. Still, the writing is pretty good. The interaction between characters is both funny and believable. I find myself actually listening to the cut scenes instead of mashing X to get through them as fast as possible.

But there is no Teepo. Minus one million points for that.

Come at me, bro.
Being almost two years into the current generation does prevent me from forgiving at least one thing: how plain the game looks. I understand that this is just a PS3 game at the the Tales games have always had a simpler art style. But Zestiria just looks empty most of the time. Dungeons are plain hallways leading to larger plain rooms with a monster or two in them. The over world is a gigantic waste of space. If fast traveling wasn't so damn expensive I would use it all the time just to avoid walking around any more than I have to. The game is a step backwards from the two Xillia games and I do not understand why.

Twenty seven hours in. An undetermined number of hours to go.
  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Perhaps it is time to remove the gloves

The lack of Zestiria talk over the last few days does not mean that I have stopped playing it, only that there has not been much to talk about. JRPGs follow a pattern. Sorey accepted the call to be the hero, met and got his ass kicked by the main bad guy and is now in the process of building up both his power and that of his team of invisible angels (literally). The stereotype go deeper as I need to go to four elemental temples to boost each of my four elementally aligned party members.

It is never that simple; I am prepared for a double switch of bad guys and barely coherent political intrigue. What I am not prepared for is to be cast out into the world with the instructions 'go and find the other three temples' without a single clue on where to go. At least give me a direction.

Part of the point of Sorey's journey is to 'find himself' and by doing so he will figure out what it means to be the shepherd. This also means that the player gets to wander around the wilderness with no direction for hours at a time trying to find the next temple.

Why yes, I am a little annoyed. Can you tell? I was annoyed enough last night to visit GameFaqs and then even more annoyed when the only FAQ there is terrible. There is of course the strategy guide option. Prima has an online version for $10, which is not bad, but the only other game I have ever used a strategy guide for was Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne and Zestiria does not deserve to be in such lofty company.

So I will wander with only the game exceptional localization and very good voice acting to keep me company. The game has personality, lots and lots of personality, and that goes a long way.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

V

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.


I just watched V for Vendetta a few days ago. Not a great movie, per say, but one that does bring the feels in the final moments. The crowds of unarmed civilians overwhelming soldiers with guns has the same effect as the giant flag on the barricade in Les Miserables. If it doesn't make your heart swell just a little bit and create a desire to defy 'the establishment' then you aren't human.

Please note that 'the establishment' can mean just about any group you don't like and that I am well aware that Guy Fawkes was little more than a terrorist. Sometimes we rebel just to rebel.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

An odd, polite, interaction

Kind of an off topic post today.

I got a message from a total stranger over Xbox Live a few days ago asking me about my name. 'Chamberlain?' he said, 'like the basketball player?'

Normally I would ignore a random message over Xbox Live but seeing as how this one had no profanity and said nothing mean about my mother I felt it should be treasured for the rarity it was. I gave a polite, if cryptic, response

'No. Have you seen The Dark Crystal?'

and expected that to be it. A day later he responded.

'Is that a book or a movie?'

Again, no talk of placing his balls on my face and no disparaging remarks towards my nationality, race, cultural heritage or sexual orientation. How could I not respond.

'Movie'

...this may be why I don't have very many friends. A final response from Its Rugs (actual name).

'k ill watch it'

I do not understand what just happened. If nothing else the person will watch a movie that I treasure from my childhood. Polite conversations with strangers over Xbox Live do not occur on a regular basis, if ever. And yet, there it is.

So why Chamberlain?


Momentum. Tradition. It is better than any of my old names. I have used it for so long now that I would answer to it if I heard the name at a party.

...he makes a funny noise.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Something old and something old

I played more of Forza 6 than I had planned. Not because it was good, which it was, but because the game provided an arbitrary end point at which I could call it 'complete.' Forza 5 didn't really do this so I played it until I got bored. This didn't take long because there was precious little track variety. Forza 6 has much more and it also has an 'end' to career mode. Good enough for me, I have other things to play.

The main Forza series is falling behind other racing games in the parts of the game that have nothing to do with racing. The act of driving cars is still hitting the arcade side of the arcade/sim continuum, that is to say it is just as good as it has ever been, but everything around it is getting boring. Forza 6 is a car porn museum and what fun is that.

Forza Horizon, the superior off shoot, offers up both an open world and just enough narrative to keep me interested. Other racing titles like the DiRT series and WRC (which is not available to rent from GameFly for some reason) do this as well and it covers a multitude of other sins. Racing games are, by their very nature, repetitive. Adding a touch of story for progression makes running more laps on the same track a little less boring. Forza 6 has more then enough cars and tracks but that is all it is and that limits how much time I will spend with it. Racing online would extend my interest if people weren't such douchebags.

If you are going to pass me, pass me, don't spin me out in the process. Take you tea bagging to games that I don't care about. Trackmania solved this years ago by turning off collision detection when racing online allowing people who don't want to use the breaks to do so without affecting anyone else.

...

Describing a game as a linear epic JRPG will either cause someone to drop like its hot or snuggle into it like a mug of hot chocolate that never cools. There is no more subdued reaction. For me, the almost regular Tales releases have superseded any lingering affection I have had for Final Fantasy games. Square's offering are too few and far between and of unreliable quality so I just don't look forward to them the way I anticipate a Tales game. Zestiria was the sole reason I was holding on to my PS3. I happen to be playing it on the PS4, which is good, but it is still a PS3 game, which is not so good.

To be less polite, the game doesn't look bad, is just looks boring.

Tales game all have a similar active battle system, tweaked each time with some new mechanic or wrinkle. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Zestiria relies heavily on the protagonist melding with different companions to change the element of his attacks. This works until you realize that not ever meld has healing available and that the other NPCs cannot be trusted to keep you alive. I have not run into a battle in which this has been a real issue yet, but i know that I will. Dropping the difficulty down when the jump occurs is always an option.

The near miss changes do not end there. Combat takes place in the world itself, not an instance based on the current environment. This means that areas feel bigger than they need to be and the camera still struggles to keep up with the action while not getting hung up in a wall or up the main character's ass. When I can't see what is going on I start to mash which is a good way to get killed.

Equipment has skills attached it to that can be moved from item to item by fusing them. The skills themselves are laid out in to a grid that conveys bonuses when skills align or are doubled up. It is just another layer of complexity, one too many if you ask me. Which item is better is not always clear. This may be the point but if I wanted to worry that much about what to equip I would play a game that actually modified the character models when their armor was upgraded.

It's still a Tales game so I will forgive quite a bit. The game tries to not feel too old by layering on new mechanics, not all of which work. There is nothing wrong with feeling old. If a person is still playing the game after the first three hours of tutorials then they expect it to feel old. Zestiria is trying to compete with modern, western style RPGs like Dragon Age and that is the last thing it should be doing. Nostalgia is fine. I like my hot chocolate plain, thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I certainly must have made someone mad

Monday night was harrowing, hardware wise.

I have been in the Xbox preview program for several months but had put off jumping to the new dashboard due to reports of it being a buggy mess and not working with Rock Band controllers. On Monday, in the middle of a race, the system kicks me out of Forza 6 and insists on installing the update. Okay, fine, I have never had a problem before and it was a boring race anyway, I allowed it to proceed.

Instead of staring at a green progress bar I switched over to me PS4 and ran the install for Tales of Zestiria. My PS4 has had the same disc ejecting problem as many other launch systems. I have been fixing it myself as it is not that hard to tighten a screw. Installing Tales worked but the drive got louder and louder as it ran which is saying something because the PS4 is not a quiet system to start with. I got nervous and pulled out the disc, shut down the system, then switched back to my XBox.

My Xbox was stuck on the update screen. It had been stuck the whole time I was screwing around with my PS4 and remained stuck for the fifteen more minutes I stared at it, wondering who or what I had pissed off. One hard reboot later and it was stuck at the boot screen. I disconnected my external hard drive, unplugged everything, paid obeisance to the dark gods of electronics, plugged it back in, nothing.

I deal with software and its accompanying hardware for a living. Stuff breaks, sometimes for no reason, so I was not mad about this. It happens, all I could do was fix it. What I needed was a thumb drive to load up the offline update tool that Microsoft is kind enough to offer, only I didn't have one and it was too late at night to buy one. It would have to wait.

Yes, I left work early the next day to fix my Xbox,

Attempt one at booting to the thumb drive did not work because I copied the files to the root of the drive instead of just leaving them in their folder. Attempt two booted to the drive but the OS version was not recognized because I was in the preview program. All that was left was the factory reset, which worked, only when it came back online it was on the new version of the OS and it found all of my downloaded games on my external hard drive.

Except for all the Rock Band DLC which I had to download again.

Still, I defaulted the system and essentially lost nothing. But I have yet to turn my PS4 back on.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Or maybe I just need to go to bed earlier

'Racing fatigue.'

This term (that I just made up) does not mean that I am tired of racing games, it means that racing games make me tired. I do not believe it is due to repetition, running around the same track again and again and then doing it again a few races later because the game is a little short on variety. No, I believe that it makes they tire me out mentally, that the need for constant concentration is more than my little brain can bare.

Races in Forza 6 average between six and ten minutes. That is between six and ten minutes of eye balls on the screen, rarely blinking, hand on the controller, white knuckle concentration. Even with the ability to rewind mistakes I find myself completely invested in the turn by turn action that the end of each race cannot come soon enough.

No other genre does this, not even fighting games. Action games constantly ebb and flow between frantic murder and then the collection of spoils. Role playing games can go for minutes with nothing happening. Fighting games have natural breaks between round and games that give the brain time to vent the built up heat and remind the eyes to blink.

After two hours of Forza 6 I am ready for a nap.

...

The list on the right has made its yearly jump from 'what do I play next' to 'oh God, when will I play these.' There are eight more games that will be added by December 31st. Odds are all I will have played by then are the new Tales game and the new Assassin's Creed game. Just like the end of every year.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Excelsior!

Finished the final chapter of Tales from the Borderlands last night.

Oh my. I can, without reservation, say that this was the best TellTale game since the first season of The Walking Dead. Perhaps even better, because for the first time in any of their games choices made during the previous chapters had a concrete effect on at least part of the game's outcome.

To elaborate, and without major spoilers, the player is tasked with creating two teams of four for the final showdown with REDACTED. Characters' availability is based on previous player choices. One of my potential choices was dead, so he was out. Another was not interested in working with me, and just so I was not left wondering what was going on, the game explains why or why not an NPC is available.

Choice? Check. An explanation of why these choices were important? Even better. Now I highly doubt that the game would have let me play myself into a corner and not have enough people available to fill out my team. That would be early King's Quest levels of bull shit. The fact that what I did months ago actually made a difference is good enough and more than I can say for their Game of Thrones series. I am honestly dreading that game final act. But I have already paid for it, so it is going to be played.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Shenanigan-less

Forza Motorsport 6 is more of the same with new cars and a greater selection of tracks. This is not bad but I do not know how long I will play it. My usual time based love affairs with racing games have been getting shorter and shorter, to the point that I am not sure if I really enjoy them any more. Forza Horizon 2 being just about the perfect open world racing game may have also spoiled me a little bit.

I didn't even start it up last night, instead opting to put more time into the Street Fighter V beta. In the two hours that I played I had precisely zero online matches so it was nothing more than practice room and fighting the computer and steadily higher difficulties. CPU Ken is an absolute motherfucker. Crouching medium kick xx fierce uppercut my ass.

All of that time was spent learning Necalli and while he is not the shenanigan heavy character I was looking for to replace Blanka he is still fun to play. Necalli operates on the threat of things happening, not necessarily the mix ups created by him actually doing anything. Crouching medium kick xx light stomp is a good medium range poke for okay damage. Once someone start blocking that change over to his command overhead. Once that start blocking that its time for a command throw. So and and so forth until they get frustrated and Necalli lands a brain dead easy jump in combo for 40% health and 90% stun.

Those numbers are not a joke and I expect his damage output to be nerfed. Jumping HP, standing HP, medium stomp xx crouching MP xx EX berserker charge (not the real names of the moves) is a combo that I can do that does silly damage. Getting the jumping is the hard part but that comes by conditioning with other moves.

I discovered none of what you read above, I am only reaping the benefits. Necalli will most likely be my main, depending on who else is announced, but I reserve the right to have a shitty pocket Ryu. Just like everyone else who plays Street Fighter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Back with a vengeance

I am quite conflicted about Guitar Hero Live. While I did go all in on the Rock Band side of things I did always buy the Guitar Hero games. They felt less serious to me, just for fooling around and not for building a collection of DLC for. I did not mourn its passing in the same way I did Rock Band 3 so its return does not fill me with the same loyal nostalgia.

It is back but it is not the same. Rock Band 4 is exactly more of them same, only less, but with more DLC (eventually). I bought into it as a platform on the promise of most of my already purchased DLC being moved over, the point being that the songs that I owned I still owned. Guitar Hero Live has nothing of the sort - no legacy DLC support (which is not a surprise) but also no DLC at all in the traditional sense, at least nothing that be purchased and kept.

There are only forty two songs on the disc but there are two hundred or so more available via their streaming service, for free (almost) but with a big catch: you cannot choose what song you want to play when without spending in game currency, called 'plays.' This is Pandora, but Guitar Hero, and I do no think that I am a fan.

It's a shame because I really do want to get my  hands on the new controller and see how it feels. Instead I may end of canceling my pre-order and spending the money on more songs for Rock Band. I mean, I only have about 400 songs, not including the Rock Band 4 on disc songs or the Rock Bands 1, 2, 3 and Lego songs that should eventually available.

That is a difficult investment to walk away from.

...

Transfomers Devastation was quite good but also quite short. Platinum set up a fighting and weapon upgrade system that could have carried a game well past the twenty hour mark and I only had four hours to explore it, and even then saw several areas recycled. It did press a number of very pleasurable nostalgia buttons, which I do appreciate (triple changers!) but there was not enough game there to warrant the price of admission. It was a quaint diversion, at best, and not as good as some of the older High Moon Transformer games.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Anger issues

On Friday night I finished up Mad Max and followed it up with a few beers and a second viewing of Fury Road. I am now sufficiently prepared for the coming resource wars and water shortages and plan to take full advantage of my location in the great midwest, just a few miles east of a big ass source of fresh water. There will be a shop with my name on, guarded by toughs with big guns, and the prices will be exorbitant.

Now it is time to discuss the ending of Mad Max and how Fury Road is still an amazing movie that contains about thirty seconds of unforgivable bull shit. As is the new custom:


My Chumbucket betrayal prediction was right on the money but it was done in a way that didn't taint the character. Chum was never in Max's life to help Max. Max was just the best way Chum to get the parts he needed to finish the magnum opus. When the car was complete he knew that Max was leave him so Chum waited for the the perfect moment, one that he thought Max would not return from, and he stole the car.

Max survived his encounter with dozens of scavengers in a buried airport because of course he did, he's Max. Max rescued the little girl, delivered her to her mother and was all set to right off into the sunset when, surprise, no car. He steals one, finds Chumbucket and does not kill him, instead fighting off a pack of war boys who saw the car and assumed that Max was in it.

For a moment it seems that Max will forgive Chum, his recent dealings with the child having softened him up from homicidal maniac all the way down to crazy guy who will kill you for looking at him funny. Then Chum confessing to giving up the location of Faith and Hope, the mother and child who Max has helped.

Yeah, they're dead. Max arrives just in time to hold the child as she expires.

To his credit, Max still does not kill Chum. He saves that for when he has Scrotus teetering over the edge of a cliff in his war wagon. Instead of shooting it again to knock it off he rams it with the magnum opus, destroying it and crushing Chum to death.

He has anger issues.

Max in the game was never likable. Since the game started off independent of the recent film I can understand, even support the decision. He was all about survival. By the end of the game just about everyone he had come into contact with was dead. All he has left is his car, which appears in a moment of auto ex machina in the game's final encounter, a picture of his wife and child and Hope's snow globe. But he's alive.

This was a good, if a bit depressing, game. Shout outs to the thunder dome showing up. Maybe there will be a Mad Max skin in Just Cause 3.

...

You already know what moment in Fury Road I am going to complain about. In the theater I was still too numb from everything that came before it to register it as being terrible but at home, in a much calmer mood, it sticks out far too much to be let go. The final crash and Nux's sacrifice were terrible. Not Nux's actual act, per say, but why he had to do it, his final words, and the results of the explosion, all terrible.

For starters, the big dude tearing the top of the engine off looked cartoonish. The movie had managed to look at least plausible for an hour and fifty five minutes and then gigantor rips the head off of one of the engines. Nux looks up at him with the same WTF expression that I had. Nux's last words are not the problem, they were perfect, but the audience should not have heard them. They should have been mouthed, in silence, and seen from Max's perspective.

Those two are forgivable. Hell, I am probably quite wrong about them both. After the crash, when the doof warrior's guitar and Immortan Joe's emblem are thrown at the screen in a moment of 'of shit, do something in 3D so we can charge more for tickets', is a tragic moment. It's terrible. It looks amateurish, like something out of a direct to DVD release. When did Peter Jackson sneak on to the set?

/sick burn

Thursday, October 15, 2015

At least it got it out of the way so I can ignore it now

I don't really watch much television anymore. My screen time is dedicated to much nobler (don't laugh) activities and I have found more boring documentaries than I can ever watch on YouTube. That being said, this is the funniest thing I have seen in a long, long time:



Much like South Park, the new Muppets has most likely peaked in its first season. Pack it up, it all goes downhill from here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The real star of the story

This is your, or Max's, conscience in Mad Max:

Over and over Max asserts that he does for others only when it will benefit him and unlike the most recent movie it is true. Max in the game is no better then the raiders or gang members he kills. He murders others for supplies on a regular basis and thinks nothing of it. In the movie he tries to pass himself off as such but it doesn't work, or he is redeemed in much the same way as Nux, depending on how much credit you give him.

There are no good guys or bad guys in the game according to Max, just people who survive and people who don't. A convenient excuse for him to justify killing a man for his pots and pans. The Ephialtes looking gentleman above is Chumbucket, a blackfinger (mechanic) who finds Max, dubs him a saint, and dedicates his life to designing the perfect car for him. He also does he best to keep Max on task. When Max spends too long pillaging camps he gently prods him to get back to 'the angel's mission.' He never actively dissuades Max from killing but when Max decides to ignore a stronghold being destroyed by raiders and get what he needs from the leftovers Chum convinces him to help.

Max, who would not do good on his own, is convinced to risk his own life by Chum, making Chum the moral center of the game.

This is a good start, story wise. Far be it from me to hope for more plot in my open world game but I really hope that Chum sticks closely to his spartan lookalike and betrays Max at the worst possible moment. You are no saint, he should say, just look at the chaos and death you have left behind you. And Max would have no answer because it would all be true.

...

Random wasteland resident, speaking to Max: Look at the smoke on the horizon, the flames coming Scrotus' camp. Surely, this was not your work.

Chum, from the back of the Magnum Opus: It certainly was. And don't call him Shirley.

...Chumbucket needs his own game.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Occupational hazards

Yes, I am still playing Mad Max. I would like you to read that as if I was confessing to still killing puppies or still snorting crack off of expensive escorts' taught abdomens. It is not something I am proud of. Indeed, there are better things that I could, nay, should be playing. If it were not for a rather embarrassing injury that I will chronicle shortly I would at least be playing Rock Band. No, night after night I return to the wasteland and in my hunchback carrying car wander from settlement to settlement murdering people for their metal odds and ends, all in the name of some end game that I have long since forgotten.

It is not necessarily something I am ashamed of but it leaves me with very little to talk about. Enjoying mediocre offerings more than much better games is nothing new. Indeed, it is was one of the original points of this place. But Mad Max isn't bad enough to make fun of. It's pretty good. But it is not good enough to gush over, mostly because I know that Just Cause 3 is coming and it will do everything Mad Max does, only better. And it too will eat up an inordinate amount of my time.

So instead of games I will talk about how I broke half my ass playing Rock Band.

I was never a fan of the Rock Band guitars. They never felt as good as the Guitar Hero guitars so I bought, and still have, a back stock of Guitar Hero 2 instruments in the dark corners of my basement. A combination of Microsoft laziness and Madcatz wanting to sell new accessories has rendered them useless so I am forced to use the new Rock Band 4 guitar.

Surprise, it's actually very good. The strum bar still feels a bit mushy and I will never use the small buttons close to the neck for solos but after a few songs of adaptation I was quite pleased, so much so that I didn't even sync the drums up until Saturday afternoon. Since the game was on I had to play a few songs, which turned into about an hour of songs, and later that evening I played some more.

Apparently I overdid it because my right gluteous maximum hurts like you wouldn't believe. Not only did expert drums in Rock Band 4 kick my ass, it broke half of it. And I haven't even purchased the cymbals yet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Just want it needs to be

I have spoken at length in the past about my affection for plastic instrument based music games. This goes all the way back to Taiko Drum Master and Donkey Konga, though those two were played in my store and always to demo them for people. People who may or may not have been in the store at the time.

Rock Band 3's demise as a platform was supposed to be the end. Its pro-guitar experiment had further divided a niche market that was already reeling from Activision's abuse. When Harmonix announced Rock Band 4 I almost didn't believe them, but it is in my basement now, complete with a new set of plastic instruments and at least some of my old songs, and I couldn't be happier.

The way I played Rock Band was not typical: I never played online and rarely if ever played it with another human being. It was a personal fantasy for me, at least that is my excuse for being too self conscious to allow anyone to see a grown man bouncing up and down to Paramore or Hailstorm. Rock Band 4 has no online multiplayer. It is a casualty of Harmonix doing the game on their own, almost as an indy title. And I don't miss it.

Nor do I miss the avatar customization. It is still possible but the options from the beginning are quite limited and are all terrible. My guitar player looks nothing like me - there was no hair choice between bald and dreads. Further options can be unlocked but I doubt I will ever go back for them. It's just not what is important to me.

No, I play Rock Band the same way a child plays pretend in the yard with a box on his head, in his own mind fully convinced he is going to the moon. Rock Band 4 still does that. In spite of none of the exports from previous games working yet, in spite of the game clearly being made on a smaller budget, in spite of the actual track list not being as strong as previous games (or Guitar Hero Live, for that matter) it still works.

There is magic here. It comes from Harmonix loving music first and wanting to share that love of music in game form. Their intent this time around is for Rock Band 4 to really be a service, not just a game. There will be no Rock Band 5, just incremental (hopefully free) upgrades along with a regular flow on new songs.

Plastic instrument based rock and roll fantasy, from them to you. I hope it lasts.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The crush

Rationally, I know that the 'Coming Soon' list filling up is a good thing and that it happens every year at this time. More games come out all at once than it is possible to play and the subsequent backlog will keep me entertained through the long, boring months of summer. Still, my anxiety does rise when I think about how I am less than a third of the way through Mad Max, have yet to touch Forza 6, there are two JRPGs coming out in quick succession and to top it off Rock Band 4 comes out tomorrow.

So in the face of this hideous bounty, what did I do last night? I spent three hours downloading as much of the old Rock Band DLC as I could. Songs that I forgot I had, songs that I purchased and played once, if it was available and I owned it, I wanted it back. Not everything made it: nothing from Rock Band, Rock Band 2, Lego Rock Band or Rock Band Blitz can be downloaded. This leaves some glaring gaps, most notably no Bohemian Rhapsody, which is a tragedy. Also Blood Sugar Sex Magic is just gone. The entire album has been removed. I don't even like it all that much but the sting of 'wasted' money cannot be ignored.

Perhaps it will not be as easy to retire the Xbox 360 after all.

...

I have had little to say about Mad Max because I feel just a tad hypocritical for liking it as much as I do. What I like about it are some of the exact same things that I did not like about MGSV - the side missions and how many there are. Mad Max is full of side missions, to the point that I play it the same way as I would an Assassin's Creed game: discover new zone, empty it, move plot along only when necessary. It works it Mad Max because, while many of the tasks remain the same, the locations are always different. Even the most basic task, raiding an encampment for scrap, remains interesting when done for the hundredth time because the camps themselves are always different. The game does not revisit old locations ad naseum with different objectives. The preserves the all important feel of progression. It feels like I am getting something done because it is in a new place.

Is Mad Max as good of a game as MGSV? Probably not. But what I am doing as any given moment, be that attacking a caravan in my spiky car or murdering war boys for their silverware collections, is always enjoyable. That is more than I can say for MGSV.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The days blend together

Oh man, where does the time go. Mad Max and Hearthstone? Yeah, that would probably be it.

I will most likely never be 'good' at Hearthstone. The game is over a year old now and the its meta has been defined, redefined, and then honed a third time through expansion sets and extensive player use/abuse. There is certainly some skill required, just having the right cards will not win all the time, but having the rights cards certainly doesn't hurt. As of a few days ago I had one of the right cards so you can imagine how well that is going.

But it is fun because Blizzard got the free to play aspect and progression correct, especially when compared to the game's most direct competition: Magic: Origins. Both allow the purchase of packs with an in game currency that can either be earned or obtained with real world dollars. Hearthstone simply offers more way to earn this currency through its different game modes and daily quests. If I were to really grind the game I could a net a free pack every day. These packs may contain duplicates of cards that I already own but they can be ground up into dust and used to create new cards. Obtaining the correct cards still would take a lot of time but it feels less random and the grind itself is less arduous.

My favorite way to play Magic was the booster draft. Every player gets a starter and two boosters and makes the best deck he or she can. I still requires skill but removes the pay to win aspect that is a part of every CCG, physical or virtual. Magic Online had this and I spent an undisclosed amount of money on it before I swore the game off. Magic: Origins has nothing of the sort. Hearthstone has the arena: for the price of one and a half packs of cards you create a deck from a random selection or cards and are then matched against other arena players. Three loses and you are out, the parting gift being a pack of cards and a little gold. But win a few, say three games, and you come out ahead of the price of admission. Win more and the prize is better.

It is easily the most fun way for me to play. I don't have the skills or the cards to grind ranked so the slightly more even playing field of arena mode is where I spend my time at work when I should be working (or writing this, for that matter).

...

Mad Max is better than many reviews have led me to believe. It is a competent sand box game with a Mad Max overlay. More Australian voice actors would be nice, as would the game not forcing me to scale back the awesomeness of my car for story missions, but I look forward to playing it every night and will continue to look forward to it until next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday is Rock Band 4 day, or the day Chamberlain learns if he can still play the drums or not.

Monday, September 28, 2015

They keep the rear wheels from spinning

Significant Soma spoilers below the break.



The player character in Soma is Simon, or rather, several different Simons as they blink in and out of existence. Simon - prime is the only 'real' Simon, in that he is human and nothing more. Simon - prime has unexplained brain damage, possibly from a car accident, and undergoes a brain scan in an attempt to create a more successful treatment procedure. This scan is a copy of his entire mental being. It is him, just without a body and without consciousness until it is loaded into something. The player finds out later that Simon - prime dies shortly after the scan was completed, the treatment was a failure and his doctor a bit of a quack.

Simon - 1 wakes up several hundred years later in an undersea laboratory after the end of the world. From his point of view there was no gap in time between Simon - prime's scan and his awakening. As far as he can tell he is Simon - prime. In fact he has no idea that he is no longer human until he finds that he cannot drown. A helpful NPC and a mirror later and Simon - 1 realizes that he is a pressure suit filled with a headless corpse, some structure gel and a personality chip.

He takes it pretty well.

 Later Simon - 1 needs to change suits to go deeper underwater. There is no one else around with arms so just moving his personality chip into a new suit is not an option. Instead he is copied, just as he was before, and Simon - 2 is created. Simon - 2 picks up right where 1 left off, just in a new suit, but 1 still exists. 1 is still Simon and is awake just long enough for 2 to realize that he was not moved, only copied.

The game gives you the option of killing your old self before he wakes up a second time. Existential suicide, perhaps? I couldn't do it, I let Simon - 1 live and Simon - 2 continued his adventures, forgetting what he had left behind.

Of course this happens again, this time when launching an Ark filled with the brain scans of the few remaining humans into space, only after the copy the player stays with Simon - 2 while Simon - 3 literally lives out his days in virtual paradise.

He doesn't take it as well this time.

Soma is not very scary but it is terrifying to thing about (full disclosure, I did not come up with that description). Who am I and where do I begin and end? Where is the self in the mass of cells that make up a human body? If your entire body is replaced at the smallest level throughout the course of your life, are you still you?

If your mind and all its memories were copied and loaded into a computer, is that still you?

The game has problems. Specifically the monster sections are more annoying that frightening and the game should have looked better. Of course I am coming off MGSV so my graphics expectations are a but skewed at the moment. But I cannot think of a game that has made me think more than Soma. It is a game that sticks with you, making you ask uncomfortable questions.

After the downer of Simon - 2 realizing that he does not get to go to heaven and his only friend short circuiting I was ready to watch the credits roll and be depressed for a while. How many games have truly depressing endings (other than Nier and Silent Hill 2?) But wait, the game takes the coward's way out and lets the player experience an epilogue with Simon - 3 in the ark.

Booooo. Unnecessary and unwanted. It was surprising and a bit disappointing. I'll allow it only because I want Frictional to keep making games and not farm out the sequel to Soma to the same people who made A Machine for Pigs. I can only deal with that kind of disappointment once a year or so.