Monday, June 29, 2015

You mean Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum aren't the same person?

I put off starting LEGO Jurassic World until after I saw the movie for fear of the dreaded spoiler. After seeing Jurassic World it became apparent that this was very silly: Jurassic World is a greatest hits collection of everything anyone who liked dinosaurs as a child wanted to see. There might as well not be any characters, all of the people are either plot devices or monster food.

This is not a complaint. I knew going in that it was a movie about dinosaurs eating people, and indeed, people were eaten.

Back on topic, I always make a habit of running through LEGO games once and then setting them aside. The amount of garbage to collect and unlock in each game is far more than is worth doing while the game themselves remain a pleasant distraction. The last few have lost a bit of their charm and I think I can trace it back to their addition of voice acting.

In the beginning there was no voice acting, only LEGO mini-figures mugging at the camera in familiar, if absurdly realized, scenes. It worked because everyone knew the story that was being told so well, I am talking about early Star Wars games, that spoken dialogue wouldn't have added anything. On top of that it forced Travelers Tales to tell everything by showing which made for some hilarious scenes.

Starting with one of the LEGO Batman games all of the characters have been fully voiced. The games are still good but have begun to feel more and more like generic kid friendly collect-a-thons instead of LEGO based retelling of well worn stories. Still good, just not quite as good as before.

Side note: apparently I have not seen Jurassic Park 3. All of the scenes in my memory that I attributed to the third movie were from the second one. Or my mind is going. Could be both.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ready for another 4 year wait?

As mentioned, thpoilerth!



The Witcher came out in 2007. I played some of it, got hung up on a broken quest, then quit. This was long past my ouster from the PC master race so I felt there was no good reason to put up with a buggy ass game. Take careful note of this hypocrisy for it is delicious.

The Witcher 2 came out in 2011, was buggy even on a console, and I played it and loved it anyway. I had forgotten everything there was to know about the first game so it served as a reintroduction to Garelt, Triss, and the rest of the cast. Fun was had, I sided with the elves and let the king slayer live, and I patiently waited for the next game.

The Witcher 3 came out this year after another four year gap. I do not have a four year memory, especially when the last game was as large and potentially varied as Witcher 2 was. Add to that a console generation changeover, meaning no imported saves, and I was lost. I tried my best to answer Garelt's initial questioning the right way to duplicate what I thought I did, but who knows.

This means that for the first half of the game I felt like I was catching up. I have no idea if Ciri is a returning character that I missed from the last game or if she is just there because the new plot requires it. Likewise, when Garelt and Yen talk about previous adventures, are these things that actually happened or just part of their background being presented to give them depth? It was disconcerting for a while, then I gave up on understanding everything and just paid attention to what was happening right now.

There was still a hell of a lot happening right now. Garelt never knew everything which means the player never knew everything. I stumbled through the game making the best decisions that I could, stumbling into what I assume is the good ending: Ciri lives as a witcher, Geralt retires with Yen and the the war that was the background noise to the whole game is reasonable resolved. It was strange to get a honest happy ending to a game this grim but it difficult to say that Garelt didn't deserve it.

I do have a few specific technical complaints that may or may not limited to the console version. During the siege of Kaer Morhen the action jumped back and forth between Garelt and Ciri. Had this been via quick cuts, think of the three concurrent battles in Return of the Jedi, it would have been astounding. Instead I was treated to lengthy load times each time the focus switched, killing the momentum.

That was not the only pacing problem. In the final act Garelt finds himself jumping between planes, following an elven sage who may or may not be a bad guy. Two of the planes were nothing more that bad platforming puzzles where mistakes equaled death. There looked good but were stupid. It was as after so many hours of letting the player dictate the pace it was time for the game to start rolling downhill to its finale and it didn't now how to do it.

And the card game was dumb. But I am probably wrong about that, so don't listen to me.

No more Witching to be done

I wrapped up The Witcher 3 two days ago and let the ending simmer in my head for forty eight hours.

Hindsight reveals questions and complaints, both of which will be levied later on today. This is your spoiler warning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why I will play The Witcher 3 to the end and be sad when it is done

I will never, never tell someone that their opinion is wrong. This is not an altruistic act but one of self defense as I often hold the dissenting view and very much enjoy hiding behind the banner of 'well, that's just your opinion, man.' Perhaps while holding a white russian.


That guy, you know that guy, got out of his box last week and vented about E3. He wasn't as happy about the big announcements as everyone else and needed to let anyone within ear shot know how he felt. I thought I put him back but it looks like he slunk over to The Games of Chance and talked about The Witcher 3 for a while. I need to talk to that guy about his effort level, though, as his rant here was full of typos and questionable grammar and over there, hmph, pristine.

The statement is simple: for all The Witcher 3 has to offer it is not fun to play, therefore why should he play it at all. It is beautiful to look at and listen to but as soon as any interaction takes place, from walking around in it to killing things, it falls apart. 

I think this is insane but it is not wrong, the difference being the ability to cordon off the good from the bad. Is the combat bad? Not as bad as Chance says, but it does boil down to dodge - dodge - stab for monsters and parry - parry - stab for humans. This is a man who would marry Bloodborne if it were allowed so being turned off by simple, disconnected combat is not a surprise. For me, it's not why I'm there, it's not why I came to this party, so I will get through it as efficiently as possible and move on the good stuff, the morally grey decisions in which no one wins and Garelt scowls.

On higher difficulty levels combat becomes more desperate and reliant on preparation, the right oils and potions making all the difference. I played the game on normal because I am bad at games and I suspect Chance did as well so the meat the of the system was never revealed, much less required. What he experienced was not a good time, full stop.

Some games are for looking at and some games are for playing. It is the rare gem that manages to do both. If this sounds cynical, good, and shame on you for hoping otherwise. The Witcher 3, just like the second game (and what little I played of the first) is definitely for looking at and listening to. The world building is tremendously detailed; I can almost smell the slums of Novigrad and feel the chill in air of Skellige. Walking through the environment is a pleasure it itself when Garelt is not getting hung up on level geometry or Roche is clipping though the hillside after being called or any of the other collection of problems/bugs, some of which I have cataloged in this very space.

The game does break down, often, but my mind skips right over the problems in anticipation of the next bit of story or dialogue or chance to be mentally abused by Yennifer. This was a conscious choice: I overlooked the bad because it wasn't that bad and because what was good was so good. The game is for looking at and I was going to look at everything it would show me.

...and it was, shall we say, eager to show it all as long I could get past its blemishes.

Time to retreat from that line of thought as it is getting creepy. My Garelt was almost celibate. Almost.

So why the 91 on Metacritic? I was going to say that most reviewers came to it the same why I did and could accept that the good far outweighs the bad, but then again Bloodborne, a game that I hated for the whole hour and a half I managed to play it, clocks in at a 92. They are not as dissimilar as it would appear: both games are dark, inscrutable fantasies, the difference being that The Witcher 3 wants the player to see the game and Bloodborne wants to beat the player's ass for peaking at its inadvertently exposed ankle.

Different targets, same result. Some people love them and others hate them with very few people landing in the middle. It just so happens that I fall in with the rank and file regarding The Witcher 3, having played it to almost the very end and dreading its eventual completion. So is Chance wrong? No, but he isn't right, either. It's just his opinion, man. I believe The Witcher 3 to be a flawed masterpiece, one that requires some sacrifice on the player's part to get the full experience. In other words, deal with the clunky combat, it is less than 10% of the game and the rest is more than worth it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lies!

http://www.vg247.com/2015/06/22/phantom-dust-not-cancelled-but-not-in-active-development-says-microsoft/


Not canceled but not in active development? In other words, exactly what Konami is doing with Silent Hills? Fuckers.


Monday, June 22, 2015

False ending? Sure, I'll play more.

Urge to spoil rising. Must resist.

For about half an hour last night I thought that I was on the cusp of wrapping up The Witcher 3. Garelt had done a lap around the known world, collecting allies for a last stand against the big bad. Preparations where made, there was a big battle, a unnamed number of people die, and I waited for the credits.

Nope, not only was this a false ending but there is another whole act to go. I have been playing this game nightly since a month ago today. At around three hours a night that comes out to ninety hours, minus a day or two for wrestling pay per views and fighting games. It doesn't feel like I have put that much time into it. It has yet to feel like work and I have put more effort than usual into crafting and scrounging for monsters parts to build into swanky new duds.

Ideally the game will wrap up some time this week. The list behind it is now two games deep plus the most recent chapter of Telltale's Game of Thrones. When it is finally done I predict that it will leave the same hole that Skyrim did. This is a world that I have lived in for a significant amount of time. And then I will turn it off for the last time and leave it until the next game comes out.

In the intervening years I will forget just about everything about it. As good as the game is the time required to experience it prevents it from being consumed in the same way as a movie. Films I can watch over and over, committing them to memory so that apropos quotes are always within reach. But RPGs of exceptional length are only experienced once. There are not enough hours in the day to do otherwise.

It's a little melancholy, isn't it? The Witcher 3 has built a universe that I have enjoyed being a part of but will soon forget. It will blend together with all of the other 'big games' I play, save for a gem or two that will be more easily stashed away for recovery later.

Garelt and Ciri throwing snowballs at one another, trying for just a moment to be family again in the midst of world changing events, is one such gem.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Minus the ignominious death

Several days ago I changes how I was playing The Witcher 3. Up to that point Garelt had been a completionist. He has to see all of the question marks, do all of the quest, kill all of the monsters, etc. Then I got to Skellige, the third major area, and most of the question marks were at sea and required deep diving to find. Garelt quickly morphed into Cain from Kung Fu: he walked the earth, doing good deeds, and if something interesting happened to be in his path he took care of it.

I don't know if it is going to save me any time but it does keep me from getting stressed out of all these question marks that I have not investigated. And is I miss a few, so be it, I am already so over leveled that story missions are giving me all of 5 xp.

This xp truncation causes problems. For example, I have blueprints for items with a level requirement in the forties. I am around level twenty four. How the hell will I ever get that powerful when story missions start getting stingy?

Also, my decision to ignore the card game make finally be coming back to haunt me. I have around six or seven quests that revolve are gwent that I cannot do. One of them is literally impossible to complete because the person I was supposed to win a card from has left the continent.

This time sink is only going to be acceptable for a few more days as there is a new Batman game coming out that demands attention. It may actually be a good summer for games.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wishes

Having wrested my keyboard back from that guy I will admit that I like him. He has his charms, they are just charms that I would sooner appreciate from a great distance and when armed with disinfectant wipes.

...

He does have a point about the unfettered excitement over the Final Fantasy VII remake. I do not share it. I do not understand it. Yet I will still play it, because I play almost everything eventually.

Are there any games whose announcement would send me into fits? Sure.

A remake of Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen or a proper final chapter.

Skies of Arcadia 2.

Rez 2.

The HD remake of Mortal Kombat 2 that was announced and then swept under a rug.

Capcom vs SNK 3.

A console sequel to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

None of these going to happen. Not one. Maybe I am jealous of the Final Fantasy loyal. They got what they wanted, why can't I see the end of Kain's story? No, what I got instead was some stupid team based action game that I will never in a million years play.

Jerks.




Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The hero the game industry deserves

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to indulge in one of my favorite pass times. One that I save for only the most special occasions. It is time to be

THAT GUY.

You know that guy. The guy who doesn't like the thing that everyone else likes. The guy who sits back in the safety of his cheetos encrusted chair, strokes his patchy beard, then dryly states 'Worst. Announcement. Ever.'

That guy is here to tell you that the Sony press conference was a gigantic bait and switch. They had nothing, and he means nothing, first party exclusive with a release date in the next twelve months so they filled their show with timed exclusives and PS4 specific content to multi-platform games. Keep in mind that this is the exact same thing that Microsoft has done in the past: pass around the money hats and hope no one notices. And no one did notice. Why?

Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenue 3. Oh, and The Last Guardian, a game now slightly out of the vapor ware category. Slightly. It is right next to No Mans Sky and that ridiculous VR Minecraft nonsense from the Microsoft press conference. If that works like it was shown that guy will eat his hat and the hats of several other skeptics. They are big hats. It will be a hat buffet.

That guy would like to kindly remind you that, in retrospect and without the rose colored glasses, Final Fantasy VII has not aged well, and that is being kind. To be fair, and that guy is always fair, most PS1 era games are difficult to look at now. This is not going to be a remake. Resident Evil Remake for the GameCube was a remake. Final Fantasy VII is going to be a total re-imagining. It is going to have very little in common with the original but no one will care because it will have Cloud and his comically over sized sword.

Final Fantasy VII holds a special place in peoples' hearts because it is the first JRPG that a lot of them played. It was JRPG for the masses. That guy is happy to share the genre with such philistines but there are other, better games that could have been chosen. Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, or Final Fantasy IV. Nope, Square Enix chose the quick and easy path, the one that leads to the dark side, the side in which there are no new games, just re-releases of old one.

On mobile platforms. With copious micro-transactions.

And Shenmue 3? Really? In case no one remembers, and apparently no one does, parts of Shenmue 2 were boring as shit:


This is what you people want? Bad voice acting and in game work? That guy does not understand. There are new stories to be told in new games and everyone is frothing mad over remakes and sequels to games that weren't actually that good. Sony had much more interesting games to show, Horizon in particular looked very good, but the internet talking heads are all busy reliving their stunted childhoods because there isn't space in their heads for new content.

Microsoft stuck with the tried and true to headline their show, Halo 5 and Forza 6, more sequels, but at least they are sequels that I believe exist and are coming out this year. They also managed to not mention television or other multimedia capabilities of their system that no one uses, a trap they avoided that Sony is happy to jump into.

To be fair, and remember, that guy is always fair, Microsoft did their own dredging up of the past and squeezed the last few bloody dollars out of the stone that used to be Rare with their thirty games for thirty dollars collection. A good value? Perhaps, but who has time to replay these old games when there are a hundred more hours of The Witcher 3 to go.

These remakes and collections should not be encouraged. Are we to believe that the AAA games industry is already so creatively bankrupt that the best it can do is dump old games on to new systems and rewrite inexplicably and undeservedly popular old intellectual property all while minimizing what little new they have to offer?

Maybe. Or maybe not. Both Sony and Microsoft were quick to tout their support for indy game developers. Cuphead stole the show. Seriously. And it did it by looking like a new, small game, not by rehashing a graphical style that was rightly left behind in the 16 bit era. No more pixel are, people, make new games new.

That guy is here to remind you that if everyone else is playing it the game probably isn't very good and that, no matter what, he cannot be pleased and is always right. And any apparent inconsistencies in his views are just your imagination.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Higher and higher

Less then twelve hours after my second set of cheap shots at the PS4 Ultra Street Fighter 4 port a second patch was releases that fixed most, and I stress most, of the issues. Input latency feels more in line with the other versions. Menu now move at normal speed. Online play, when you can find a match, feels better. The ping bars are still broken which makes ranked almost unplayable. It feels like less of a waste of money now. One more patch to fix the remaining sound bugs and find matches in ranked and it will be worth what I paid for it.

I do not blame Capcom sponsored tournaments for running from this port as fast as they could upon its release. There was no guarantee that it was going to be fixed quickly, if at all. It is my belief that it is receiving such prompt attention to avoid it casting a cloud over the Street Fighter V news. If that is what it takes for Capcom to step in and get shit done, so be it.

...

The Witcher 3 feels like it is never going to end. Up until the 1.04 patch I would have been okay with this but 1.04 has rendered the game last stable over all. As I mentioned yesterday the UI fixes are wonderful but I have crashed once a night since the patch was installed. I also seem to be running into a lot of floating NPCs...


He looks awfully pleased with himself.

Tomorrow I will post of video proving that Novigrad has its own Ministry of Silly Walks.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The hype reserve

Pre-E3 hype is slowly building...

And I am not going to even attempt to keep track of any of it until the event is finished and the important announcements have been conveniently collated and categorized. There is far too much news for me to get my head around and I am something of an enthusiast. People who don't play everything must be even more overwhelmed, then again people who don't play everything don't really pay much attention to E3, either.

Capcom has gotten out ahead of the game and revealed more details regarding the release date-less Street Fighter V. New engine mechanics are cool and all but the most important possible feature has yet to be talked about: how will the damn game play online. MKX has proven that a game working as intended online is not a guarantee on the new hardware. Hell, the Ultra Street Fighter 4 port is proof that the game may not work at all.

Sony is in bed with Capcom on this one which puts it squarely up against Killer Instinct. I predict the same kind of seasonal release with new characters sold individually or as a set. This is a good thing as the lower cost of entry should get more people involved. But is what they are playing going to at all resemble the way the game is intended to be played?

MKX online is a different game than MKX offline. They have very little in common. On the flip side, KI is very close to the same. KI just works. To a slightly lesser extent Street Fighter just worked on Xbox 360. I had never played offline before going to my first tournament and the adjustment was not insurmountable.

Capcom is free to announce all the bells and whistles that they can come up with but I will reserve my hype until A, the make promises regarding the net code that they can actually keep and B, Blanka is announced. Then...



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What a difference a patch makes

The Witcher 3 hit version 1.04 on console last night bring it to parity (I think) with its PC big brother. There is quite a bit of information in the patch notes but only one thing that I care about: the font size has been increased throughout. Words cannot express how happy this makes me.

Being an old man with terrible eyes, I had a difficult time reading any of the text so I skipped most of it, instead judging which weapons and armor were better but how much read or green was displayed next to their stats. Now I can actually see what I am doing. It may be my imagination but the game as a whole looks cleaner, brighter.

See this, Ubisoft? This is how you support a game. The Witcher 3 was nowhere near the mess Assassin's Creed Unity was at launch and they still have made changes more quickly. Not just bug fixes, either, game play tweaks like the bovine defense initiative:



...which doesn't quite do what they meant it to do. Still, bug fixes, right? This is guy is floating in the air he is so excited.


10 points for trying, minus 1 for not quite thinking things through.

Monday, June 8, 2015

But I won't do that

Soooo, I am still paying Witcher 3, will be for the foreseeable future, and there is nothing else to talk about regarding it. The game is not changing as I play, it is not evolving in any way apart from the number that float above monster I kill going up and my armor occasionally changing. Honestly, I don't care about the combat anymore. It servers as filler between deliciously grey moral decisions.

I don't remember if I mentioned this here or in correspondence with Chance but I think part of why some people don't get as invested in The Witcher as in, say, Dragon Age or Mass Effect is that there is no character creator. Garelt is Garelt. True, the player has some input on what he does but the character is already fully formed.

After playing more I need to retract that statement. Just because I cannot make Garelt look how I want him to look does not make him unique to me. How a character looks is of little interest to me: I am the guy who played vanilla male Shepherd for three games straight. What the character does, however, what his or her motivations are, that is interesting. That is compelling.

For example, it is well documented in previous games that Garelt loves the ladies and is quite willing to take advantage of both his sterility and his resistance to most diseases. My Garelt, at least in this third installment, is trying to get past that. There was a slip up earlier in the game with a blonde sorceress but when the opportunity to plant a wet one on a drunk Triss, with whom he has had 'a history', he didn't.

He didn't because he still cared for her. In spite of the memory loss sub-plot from the last game that I barely remembered and still don't quite understand, he cared too much for her to take advantage of the situation. That's my Garelt. Morally ambiguous but with limits.

This is going to be a long ride.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The wrong kind of padding

I think that I mat be wrapping up the second area in Wild Hunt. There are still a few guarded treasure chests and monster hives that I am too weak to take care of but the main and side quests are pointing me north to the next zone. The first hour or so in the last area was overwhelming, to saw the least, so I am going to dip my toes in first and see if I am ready. A quest here, a quest there, then run back to the relative safety of the Bloody Barons keep.

More wrinkles are beginning to show and I peer deeper into what Wild Hunt has to offer. They aren't any different that problems I had with the last game so at least it is consistent. I have little love for crafting in games and The Witcher has gone out of its way to make it appear important. I say appear because, more often than not, I find a weapon better than the best one I can craft right after I crafted it. Not a little better, either. Significant enough that I have started putting off crafting for as long as possible.

I went on an extended scavenger hunt to find all of the pieces of a set of witcher gear. The armor was fine but both swords were worse than what I already had. Crafting serves as little more than time padding and Wild Hunt does not need it. There is already more than enough to do without having to traipse back and forth across its world searching for schematics to armor worse than what I can but at the corner shop.

It must appeal to someone, probably the same people who put points into alchemy instead of combat, and to the games credit it does not punish the player harshly for not crafting, at least at the normal difficulty. Perhaps the hardest level requires the player to search for every little advantage or die horrible to random encounters.

That sounds like work to me. I would sooner get involved in the personal drama between a baron and his family. My Garelt is more Jerry Springer than Conan.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A lesson in courtesy

Last night, in what was plainly an act of procrastination, I played MKX instead of Wild Hunt. Don't get me wrong, I really like Wild Hunt, it is just that parts of feel a lot like work and I wasn't in a working mood last night. I was in the mood to throw fans at people.

Honestly, I was in the mood to throw fans at Chance but he ducked me again. :)

I am not good enough at MKX to play ranked so I hang out in rooms and play sets against random people, sets being the operative term. Playing a match or two against someone will never teach you anything. Best of three at the bare minimum, the more the better. This is especially true with MKX online because a lot of stupid shit works online that would not work offline and it may take a match or two to figure out what nonsense the other guys is going to throw out there.

It is not unusual for me to get crushed the first match and then come back in the second. The same is true in the other direction. Either way, it is dependent on both players having the courtesy to give the other player a proper run back. This means coming back for a second game, no matter how the first one went, and keeping the same character,

MKX rooms are populated by god damn heathens.

Over and over a person would win once and leave or, even worse, win and then change characters. It was infuriating. Sometimes I would get my revenge and win the second game but that didn't help much, I wanted to fight this philistines main, not their bull shit back up character.

At least I got someone to quit in the middle of the match. This guy had no combos but his spacing and reaction were impeccable. He was very good at other fighting games and was playing it safe and simple. I have no problem with this, it is a excellent strategy. I adapted, that is to say I threw fans at him from across the screen, and he had no idea what to do.

And then he quit and his head exploded. I win.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Coming next time in The Witcher 3

I want to talk about The Witcher 3 but I am keenly aware that I am playing it at the same time as the rest of the world and it is difficult to react to it without spoiling things. For as large as the world is, nothing is random. Nothing just happens. This does mean that every little quest is voice acted and feels important but it does make the game feel more secure than it should. Nothing is going to jump me in the middle of nowhere and kill me. That is reserved for story locations or the wonderfully tempting question marks scattered about the landscape.

Wild Hunt is not really an open world RPG. It is a series of connected episodes that the player walks between. This is not a bad thing but it should not be confused with the likes of Skyrim or Fallout 3 where the environment itself can provide the adventure. I would describe these two games as much more organic. There are story missions, and there are side missions, and then they are the crazy random things than just happen.

Not having the random sense of danger does mean that Wild Hunt is much better paced than actual open world games. The player is free to jump between several concurrently running plot lines, level permitting, and it even makes subtle suggestions when to do so by where objectives are placed on the map. It is possible to take one and run with it to its conclusipn but if you look at the map and tackle things like a man riding a horse would, in logical, physical order, the game becomes a high budget HBO mini-series.

This is a good thing because competing with the Elder Scrolls games on their own turf is a fools errand. Wild Hunt has a story or two to tell, and it will do a good job telling them if you can get around the average combat and terrible inventory screens. For example, how many games can use drunken spousal abuse and a miscarriage as a major plot point and do it in a sensitive, respective manner? There was no spectacle, just tragedy and regret. It was all sad and it all made sense, assuming that you can accept the terrible monster that is 'the botchling.'


If you are looking for usual pithy caption, it's not coming. Miscarriages are not funny and the game never tries to make it anything more than a tragedy. Even Garelt, bad ass witcher, expresses sympathy.

Well done.