Friday, May 29, 2015

No more cards, thanks

I do not plays games as large as The Witcher 3 very often, My time is limited and there is almost always something else that I could (or even should) be playing. The game is so flush with content that I needed to decide early on what I was and wasn't going to do. The question marks on the map are so tempting that I cannot help but explore, though that does often lead to me running away because they are populated by things that I can not yet kill. The quests are all interesting to the point that I will make an effort to complete all of the ones that I find but I am not going to kill myself trying to find them all.

What will be skipped, and I have no idea how much time this will save and how much content I will miss, is the card game. I don't like it. At all. I am not averse to card games hiding in larger games. They can be a nice in universe distraction from searching for that last bit of silver to make a sword that I can't actually use for ten levels (yes, I did this). But gwent is dumb. The card game itself is no fun so I have no motivation to find all the cards and challenge everyone I see to a round.

To be clear, I don't like the rules and how the game is played. Not having a defined 'round' in the way the game flows is so alien that I don't know what to do with it. I like Magic, am one of the only people who actually played Eye of Judgement on the PS3 without cheating and will eventually return to the abuse that Hand of Fate doles out just because I like playing with pretend cards.

But gwent? Ugh. Maybe if I was playing with another person who bluffs would work against. The game seems to be structured around anticipating when the round will be done and just beating the opponent. No fun again an AI who will just keep throwing down cards until there are no more to throw, forcing you to play along and hope that the luck of the draw was enough.

It's like playing war, the card game. No fun unless alcohol is involved.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

They took the up out of up port

I was really excited about Ultra Street Fighter 4 on the PS4. All the characters, all the costumes, one less reason to hold on to my Xbox 360. When it came out on Tuesday for the quite reasonable price of 24.99 I purchased it without thought. There is not much good to say.

There is one good thing: my Xbox 360/PS3 Qanaba stick works just fine. That's it.

The Xbox 360 is the definitive version of Ultra Street Fighter 4 followed quite closely by the PC version. If you machine is up to snuff, and mine is decidedly not, the PC version may very well be the better of the two but it does have a significantly smaller player base. I had heard tales of the PS3 version suffering from more input delay than any other version, input delay being the amount of time between when a button is pressed and the action is seen, but I had never seen this quantified.

Behold:


Courtesy the wizards at displaylag.com, the only place to look for your new gaming television.

First and foremost it is nice to know that I was not imagining how much ass Killer Instinct kicked. Yes, this is just display lag, not lag from playing online, but it does help explain why paying KI online is a better approximation of offline play than any other fighting game. Right behind it is the Xbox 360 version of Street Fighter. Significantly further down the list is the PS3 version, thereby proving that everyone who complained about Evo running Street Fighter on PS3s was correct.

And second from the bottom is PS4 Street Fighter. What the hell. (Side note: MKX for the XboxOne comes out 2ms ahead of the PS4 version. Imperceptible, but still, come on.)

Capcom did not do the USF4 port in house. It was farmed out to a third party that either did not know how fighting games worked or that the PS4 was supposedly a beast of a machine. If this were the only problem it would be terrible, but there are copious sound bugs, display errors and the menus themselves run at half the speed of other version.

This is a bad port. MKX PC port bad. Bad enough that Capcom will not be running this version for the Capcom Cup Events and Evo has pulled it as well. It may be fixed but the damage is done.

Because I am stubborn I played this for about three hours on Tuesday night. Long enough to crack into the top ten Blankas (which is not saying much because the game had been out for about six hours) and more than long enough to want to play a better version on a much older system.

...

I continue to Witch, getting very little done in any one play session. The Witcher does not bother to tell the player that he or she has wandered a bit too far off of the beaten path chasing question marks on the map. Instead it kills them with monsters ten levels higher than what has been previously seen. Then it reminds the player that it auto-saves approximately never.

Yes, of course this happened to me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Card based distractions

Long holiday weekend so there are a few things to catch up on. First Redd's Apple Ale goes quite well with sausage, mushroom and jalapeno pizza from Papa Murphy's. I just thought you should know.

I was so ready to play The Witcher: Wild Hunt on Thursday that when it did not show up I bought Hand of Fate out of frustration, then instantly regretted it. Not because the game as bad, on the contrary, it is tailor made to appeal to my specific weak points. It's card based and an action RPG. There is no hope.

The first half of the game is rather easy and I ran through it about three hours. The following night Wild Hunt did show up but after I installed the game I found that I really didn't want to play it. Gigantic RPG with around 100 hours of game play? Fuck that, I have cards to unlock! Each encounter begins with a boss card that has its own lackeys and curses. It's the curses that make the game much more difficult as they tip the scales more and more against the player. Starving to death is never good, and I did, on several occasions.

Hand of Fate has not yet been finished. The final boss encounter is difficult to the point of it being more luck that anything else that will determine when I get to win. Normally I would be against this but it fits with what the game is: card based. Either the payer or the dealer could get screwed. There are issues, specifically the combat falls apart when there are encounters move from fix or six enemies to twelve plus a boss returning from a previous level, but that is not enough to keep me from making further attempts.

This is a game that could have benefited from reasonably priced DLC. More cards? Yes please.

...

The Witcher: Wild Hunt is far from perfect. Geralt controls poorly on his on and much worse when on his horse. Combat lacks the depth and finesse that games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect have set the standard for. The menus are a total disaster, both in size thanks to the games PC roots and because it takes three clicks to get anywhere and do anything. Crafting is much too important to my tastes, made all the more annoying by the aforementioned terrible menus.

But I will play the game until there is nothing left to see and do because everything, from the smallest quest to the biggest set piece, is worth seeing. There are almost no generic fetch quests. Each has its own story, its own little tragedy or triumph. Characters that the player interacts with once and then never again are given personality, history, a reason for doing what they are doing. More so than Dragon Age, this is a living world, one that I want to be a part of and do some good in.

Geralt's ethics are, more or less, up to the player. He is always an acerbic ass hole but he can ether do good while being an ass (see Dr. House) or just be an ass for his own amusement. The choices are more limited than I would like, but then again, I have put all of six hours in and have just now started the second area.

I am in for the long hall. There will be bitching about how mushy the combat is, and I will mean it, but that does not mean that I am not having a good time.

...

Wait, there is a card game in The Witcher? I'm fucked.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Just surface mad

No Witcher 3 yet and the wait is painful. I want to witch, I want to witch so bad.

...

If the internet is to be believed (HA!) it is not possible to discuss Mad Max: Fury Road without delving into how pro-feminist it is or isn't. I find it quite confusing. You have hard core anti-feminist nutbags boycotting the film (or perhaps just saying things to generate web traffic) and you have very vocal women gate keeping what true feminism is (or perhaps just saying things to generate web traffic). In the middle are people who think that they approve of what the movie is trying to say, or at least they approve of what they believe the move is trying to say, but it is the internet so they say what they believe to be true as loudly and as often as possible.

I have nothing to say about any of that. Not a thing. Does the movie feature a strong female protagonist? Yes it does. Is the movie more about her than it is about the eponymous Max? Yes it is. But do you know what else the move is about? This fucking guy:


That's the doof warrior. He is more metal than anything you have ever seen. 

Perhaps it is my simplistic, borderline naive worldview talking, but when I watched Mad Max: Fury Road I paid little attention to what the movie had to say about women and their role in a broken society. I was too busy trying to take in some of the most brutal action I have ever seen. It seemed odd to me that the audience did not spontaneously erupt into applause on several occasions, but in truth they couldn't. That would require breathing, something that no one had time to do.

Miller does have deeper things to say here, most of which I have missed. For now I want to enjoy it as spectacle, as a demonstration that practical effects and a good director can do more than a Lucas and a billion dollars of make believe ever could.

For God's sake, go and see this movie. If it beaten at the box office by Pitch Perfect 2 then I quit the world, there is no hope for it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie!

Everyone should see Mad Max: Fury Road.

That is all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Odds and ends

Not much going on. Still being bad at MKX while waiting for Witcher 3 to arrive.

Right after Jason came out I played an extended set against a fellow PA forum denizen. He is generally better than I am at fighting games but I was frustrated by how easy Jason seemed. Each touch led to a brain dead 40% combo. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that there was no way it could be that easy, and threw fans at him until he got bored and let me win.

Last night I played as Jason in one of the living towers. Nope, he is that easy. All previously given props are officially rescinded. Un-propped. I should have expected nothing less from a Super Skrull/whack bot Marvel player.

I kid, Blackbeard, in case you see this. It's your Cody that I truly hate. :)

...

Here is the Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China screen shot that spoke of last week:



It's my back ground now.

...

Going to see Mad Max tonight. Just me and an over sized tub of nachos. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

One and done

A balance patch hit for MKX last night so of course I had to dust off my Kitana and see what was changed. She actually got a new move, a low that can cancel into specials, which she really did need. I barely got a chance to use it, though, because in the week I took off everyone got really good. I went approximately 1 and 25, the one win against someone who complained about how much I threw him.

You can guess what I did as soon as he started to complain.

I do not know if the online play was improved or if the bar rating on people was made more accurate. Either way the game I played felt smoother than last time. If I could remember how to play that would have made a difference, instead I just lost more quickly.

...

One day later...

Project Cars was played for all of ten minutes. It was so far to the simulation side of racing games that it just wasn't fun. Getting to a race required navigating at least three menus. When the race began I was in the dirt more than I was on the track (and this was with go karts) and there was not rewind function. The only way to learn was to either lose or restart the race from the beginning.

I am sure that there is a market for the hard core sim racing game but I am not it. I don't have the patience for that any more. The problem is that we are at the beginnings of the summer doldrums and Project Cars was supposed to fill the time between now and The Witcher 3.

Now what? I have spent too much on random digital titles as of late. Maybe I will desert MKX for the moment and return to Killer Instinct.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Better for what it's not

It's hard to come up with much to say about Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China mostly because there is not much to complain about. It is not a buggy mess and I played it only a few weeks after it came out. It is divorced from the tangled mess of a back story that weighs down most main stream Assassin's Creed games granting it a welcome, almost plotless levity. The only tie in at all is a brief mention of Ezio and a magic box he left but all connections to the universe are then dropped.

The game stands alone as a bite sized, six or so hour side scrolling stealth/action game with some very nice visuals. This is where my screen shot would go if I had remember that taking a screen shot does not make it available offline until it is uploaded to One Drive. Why this does not happen automatically, I do not know.

If anything Chronicles: China is an argument for new IP versus side stories to known universes. Removing the Assassin's Creed mantle from Chronicles: China would do it no harm. It would still be the same game, once that prioritized player action over scripted story telling, and that works without all the baggage of an existing, worn out license.

On other hand, why did I purchase it in the first place?

I did not buy it because it was the game I described. I bought it because Assassin's Creed was in the title. Yes, this makes me part of 'the problem.' I am part of many, that is nothing new. If the game was not tied to an existing franchise it would not sell. While there is less risk in a small downloadable titles versus a AAA monstrosity no company is fond of losing money. If there is a gravy train going past then you ride it until it stops.

Business. Just business. The fact that we ever get good games, regardless of size and budget, is a wonder indeed.

Super short review: For $10 you get a very good 2D stealth game that supports multiple play styles over multiple play throughs. You do not need to be heavily invested in the game's fore bearers to enjoy it and the game is better for its independence.

...


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hush now, I do what I want

I am well aware that playing Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China is a massive self contradiction when I dismissed Mark of the Ninja after have just played the demo. What's worse is that I am playing it due to some still active affection for the Assassin's Creed name. Unity wasn't that bad, was it?

It wasn't when I finally played it, months after release.

Chronicles: China is actually a free add on for people who purchased the Unity season pass that Ubisoft has graciously decided to allow anyone to purchase. Because, you know, they like money. And I am happy that they do because Chronicles: China is, so far at least, a very nice diversion. 2D stealth is not something that I am familiar with so I am learning as I go. The game is quite insistent the sneaky way is the best way but it does allow for one to go crazy and just start killing guys.

It doesn't work, partly because the combat is one step removed from the original Prince of Persia and partly because there are a lot of dudes and they all have very good hearing. There is middle ground, one in which I shank dudes and stuff the bodies into dark corners, that has allowed me to make progress with little frustration.

Whether or not this game actually fits into the larger lore of Assassin's Creed is yet to be seen. The lore has become so convoluted and expansive that it certainly could but I would prefer it remained a stand alone adventure. Right now it is simple: the templars killed all of the assassins in China, save one, and she is back and pissed off. No save the world scenarios, no jumping back to modern days, just one woman who has had quite enough of their bull shit.

Who am I kidding, this is still Ubisoft. The whole game is probably an advertisement for another game, only unlike PT I paid for it.

Speaking of PT, I really hope that it sitting on my hard drive does not brick my PS4.

Monday, May 11, 2015

This is it. This is the sign.

Boring weekend. Played nothing by MKX and sampled the free PSN offerings for the month, only one of which is worth any more time. Ether One was turned off in about two minutes because it did not let me invert my look controls. Hohokum was dumb. Only Race the Sun was played more than once. Not an impressive month when the best game is one that was designed in an hour for a contest.

...

I have never Kickstarted a game before. No game has ever so compelled me that I felt the need to drop money on it before it was completed. But this:



Holy shit.

Take my money. Take it all.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

New targets

Battlefield: Hardline started out by at least trying to be original. The player character is the good guy. He is a good cop bent on bringing down corrupt cops. He tries to arrest people before shooting them and he even does right by his partner when it means letting a few of the bad guys go. He is a good guy and it was nice to be the good guy for a while.

Then he was framed for stealing drug money, spent three years in jail (during which time his mother died) and finally busted out by one of the cops who framed him and a high end drug lord. By the end of the second half of the game he is just as bad the criminals and dirty cops he spent the first half of the game trying to put away.

It isn't even subtle (spoilers begin here).

At the end of the last level our 'hero' is invited to the island hideout of the police chief who sent him to jail in the first place. He moved from end of the compound to the other, killing everyone, and corners the unarmed chief in his office. There is a speech made by the 'bad' guy about how what he was doing wasn't really all that bad, just making things easier for everyone else, cop and criminal alike. He then accuses the 'good' guy of being more criminal than cop.

I thought that this was when the hero would redeem himself, cuff the bad guy, and ride off into the sunset. Nope, he shoots the bad guy in the chest at point blank range and helps himself to the ill gotten money.

Holy shit, it was depressing. No point on being good, everyone is bad in the end, right? Might as well get something for your effort. (spoilers end)

That was not the only spin on what is normal for AAA shooters. Call of Battlefield shooter usually pit Americans against an enemy of different heritage. To be a bit more crude, the white guys shoot the not white guys. White male power fantasy, blah blah, such discussions are far, far above my pay grade. Three of the four main characters in Hardline are not white: the main character is Cuban, his partner is of Asian decent and the hacker/comic relief guy is black. Only the smarmy cocaine king pin is white.

There is a level near the end of the game in which the ex-cop and hacker are captured by a bunch of racist doomsday preppers. If ever there were people other than Nazis who it was okay to shoot, it was these guys. One even said, referring the bounty he was going to collect:

'$250,000 for a Mexican? When did they get so expensive?'

Scum. Scum. And a refreshing change of pace of whom I was pretending to shoot. All in all, not a bad shooter, just one of many that will be dropped into the collective shooter memory vat and melded into one, long corridor of high definition murder.

The internet giveth


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It's too late

I just learned that UFGT, the Chicago tournament that I sneaked away to the past two years (and was bodied for for my trouble), has morphed into Combo Breaker and is going down in two weeks. Early registration is already over, the mystery game tournament is already full, and they have specifically banned the Chronus Max adapter that allows by Qanba stick to work on the Xbox One.

This means that I would not be able to enter KI. I could play MKX, which I am terrible at, and I could play Ultra SF4, which I have not actually practiced in many months. Realistically I was never going to be competitive but not being able to play KI at all really makes me not want to go.

Those are my excuses and I am sticking to them. If they had an excuse giving tournament I would take that shit in a heartbeat,

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

No minstrels here

Oh boy, another Battlefield game.


/sarcasm

...

At the very least there was some small amount of work put into making the single player different than the standard roller coaster of manly one liners and over sized weapons usually featured in Call of Battlefield games. The player character is a cop, one that actively tried to not be corrupt and follows the rules. To that end the game rewards the player for behaving in a reasonable (ish) manner and arresting people instead of shooting them.

This lasts until the player is seen at which time every enemy in the level turns into a hyper aware bullet sponge. The guy I could have cornered and hand cuffed ten seconds ago now takes several head shots to bring down. Cocaine is a hell of a drug, but come on. Now I know how the guys trying to kill Scarface felt.

There is some token police work involved via a scanner that magically knows where the applicable clues are, and then it is right back to sneaky sneaky, oh shit, shooty shooty runny runny.

At least it will be short.

Monday, May 4, 2015

This is where super villians come from


Using one move to beat someone, online, regardless of age, is acceptable. It's online in a game whose netcode is terrible.

But inviting him to another game later? Justin, you may have just created a baby Chris G. 

So cute even I can't find fault

Ori and the Blind Forest has met with significant critical acclaim. I think that this is strange because it really doesn't fit into its own genre very well. Ori is a beautiful side scrolling exploration based game with bare bones combat that clocks in around eight hours on the first play through. I have no problem with this, in fact I could play games like it all the time, I am just surprised that a rather cute looking game that is also balls hard in places could be almost universally loved.

Since I am a bastard, and since I do so enjoy being contrary, I will ignore the fact that this game was a breath of fresh air and find something to pick on. No need to repeat what better writers have said, suffice to say that if you have the means you should play this game.

Combat is almost always an afterthought in Ori. His (I was mistaken about Ori's gender last week, apologies) basic attack never really improves, has limited range, and is quickly replaced by a ground smash and vaulting off of enemies and their attacks to move around the level. This vaulting is very important to how the game works, so much so that killing enemies is usually not the right thing to do. Ori needs them to reach a platform or cross a pit.

Why then are the majority of the collectibles focused on abilities that make the combat easier or, worse yet, give Ori more health? Most environmental hazards are one hit deaths so more health doesn't help. Saving does require energy but refilling it is not difficult. It feels like Ori has most of the collectibles because other games of its type did so it felt compelled to include them even if the benefits made no sense. Exploration is the crux of this type of game but the reward needs to be worth the effort.

That's it. That's the best complaint that I can muster. Ori and the Blind Forest is an excellent game. I suppose it does chicken on, plot wise, towards the end, but the same can be said for most family friendly entertainment. There were no bad guys here. The whole game was a big misunderstanding. It could have benefited from a touch of tragedy. Think Brothers or the way Wall-E should have ended.

You know, Wall-E dying.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Little forgiveness

It my haste to play the big, AAA games I missed several download only titles that were more deserving of my attention. Time and money were the hangup. There is still not enough of either but there is also nothing big coming out until The Witcher 3 in a little more than two weeks. Plenty of time for the little ones.

Ori and the Blind Forest looks very similar to Ubisoft titles like Rayman Legends and Child of Light. This is heady company for a 2D game by a developer with no other games under their belt. They did have Microsoft's help, hence the exclusivity, but still, after a few hours I can tell it is a good freshmen effort.

But a freshmen effort it is, because bugs and an odd save system.

To be honest, it'a bug, but it is stilling someone that should have been caught. Pushing a block is performed by holding RT and then walking towards it. Both Ori and the block must be on level ground; if one or the other does not line up then Ori wont actually grab the block. I very nearly gave up on the game an hour in because I could not get a block over a tiny bump in its path. This was made especially frustrating by the fact that I had done it successfully ten minutes earlier, prior to dying and losing a ton of progress, More on that in a bit.

I saved, loaded, restarted the game, everything that accumulated decades of gaming experience told me should fix it. If there was a disc I would have taken it out and blown on it. Just as I was about to surrender and play something else it suddenly worked for no reason.

Breath deep and let it go but I really hope there aren't any more  like it.

This would never have happened if I realized that there are no checkpoints. The player is responsible for creating his or her own save points, and while this can be done anywhere it does require energy that can only be picked up from specific plants. It's an odd combination of the typewriters from the old Resident Evils and the Souls games' nonsense.

One reset was enough so I paid closer attention to the energy plants and spawned a save point every time I ran across one. An easy fix but again, not something that should have made it out into the world. This one is intentional, I just don't agree with it.

That being said, the game is a beautiful take on Metroid-vania, different enough from the last one I played (Apotheon) to keep me interested. Apotheon focused on combat while Ori focuses on movement, a good choice given how the game looks and how cute Ori is.


She couldn't be intimidating if she tried. The first boss is beaten by being nice to it.