Thursday, September 29, 2016

Priorities

I should confess that the reason that I did not purchase Forza Horizon 3 is not that I do not have the money, more that the discretionary dollars that could have gone towards it are going somewhere else. On me. I have an appointment with my artist on Sunday. No tattoos since January and I am itching for something new.

But that enthusiasm did nothing to help pass the evening two nights ago. Sword Coast Legends lived up to is below average to bad reviews. Things move much to fast to not stop the battle every round and plan out attacks. In and of itself this is not a bad thing. Way, way back in the day I played through most of Baldurs Gate 2 and all of Neverwinter Nights and its sequel that way. The difference is that the user interface in Sword Coast Legends in as affront to all that is good and holy. Painful to look at is not a strong enough of a condemnation.

It was not so much that I was killed by a radon encounter with a few wolves, it was that I did not know why it happened. The game was not good looking nor involving enough for me to investigate. Apparently I have been crankier than normal for the last few games. Cranky and desperate.

I trolled through the new releases looking for something inexpensive to play, something that I passed on because I was busy, finally coming up with Song of the Deep, the Metroid-like developed by Insomniac and published by Gamestop, of all places. It's, well, it's not bad. It's no Ori and the Blind Forrest or Guacamelee, in fact in feels like an established developer stretching out into unfamiliar territory. The quality is there but there are occasional mistakes that give away the game's experimental nature.

Having the entire game take place underwater takes away a few of the standard road blocks in a Metroid game. Gaps are never too big when you are floating. Early obstacles are now swift moving currents and it is not always obvious if you can or cannot get past them, leading to time wasted on attempting to navigate tunnels that wold be best saved for later.

Power ups are spread too far out. Ori and Guacamelee had a well timed drip feed of new abilities. Too much time passes between them in Song of the Deep. Power ups can be purchased instead of found which makes me wonder if I could grind enemies instead of exploring.

These are small complaints. The game feels just a bit off but by no means bad. Plus, it's a Metroid-like. How often do those come around.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Forbidden subjects

Just because we won't talk about one thing doesn't mean we have nothing to talk about:


Chamberlain and Chance - Forbidden subjects

Searching

I apologize for not making good on my promise of a chronological recording of my reactions to No Man's Sky. Had I done so it would have gone something like this:

(Beer 1)

Hmm. This is kinda boring. I should at least try warping once.

(Beer 2)

CHAncE. Can I pulleese stop playing thish? Hey listen this cool song. ZZZzzzZzZzz..

Or something close to that anyway.

No Man's Sky was boring. It was shopping for groceries in an unfamiliar store: you know what you want but you don't know where it is and are therefore annoyed to your very bones. Every planet boiled down to scavenging for the materials required to warp to the next one. It did not matter that I was supposedly the first person to see the planets (which I was not, after the first two every planet already had someone else's name on it) because there was nothing to do there.

As I said about Jotun, exploration is not always its own reward. Yes, I can wander the hills or caves of a hostile planet whose every inhabitant tries to kill me (this is a thing that happened) but what fun is it when the whole purpose is just to collect one hundred of the same mineral so I can warp to the next planet and do the whole thing again?

A game with billions of procedurally generated planets had shown me all it had to offer in just under two hours. I did return to it for a second night to make sure that sober Chamberlain had the same opinion as not sober Chamberlain and he did, he just didn't send emails filled with poor grammar and misspelled words begging to be allowed to quit. He just turned it off.

...

I have managed to sink tiny amounts of time into several games since then, looking for something, good or bad, that I don't mind playing. After Carmageddon was Assetto Corsa, a racing game so on the sim side of things that I couldn't make it past the first race. I am sure there is a market for this kind of game but it is not me. I will never drive a real car that fast on that curvey of a road.

Next was Earthlock, the free RPG from September's Games with Gold. I didn't hear much about it and now I know why: it sucks. No voice acting, plain environments, simply yet overly difficult combat that assumes you are going to grind for levels from the start, it was a catalogue of RPG tropes that better games left behind years ago. My endurance for terrible games must be waning as I shut this one off after two days as well.

What is wrong with me.

Now, the real dilemma: Forza Horizon 3 comes out today, a game that I know I will enjoy, but I do not exactly have the cash for it, the discretionary having been drained by a PS4Pro pre-order and 50 feet of speaker cable (when I really needed 60, a story for another day).

I am left with Sword Coast Legends, a game I bought months ago and then forgot about. It is not great but what else am I going to do with my time,

read?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bigger is not always better

Jotun gets all sorts of points for trying. They tried, and sometimes succeeded, to impart a sense of scale rarely seen outside of Shadow of the Colossus. They tried, and came close, to bringing Vanillaware quality animation to said gigantic bosses. What they didn't do was package these things into a game that was all that enjoyable.

For starters, the gigantic worlds are mostly empty. There are interesting little animations in the background, such as a giant squirrel stopping to look at you as you ascend the world tree or blizzards that erode your life if you do not find cover, but there is not much else to do in them. Only one level has enemies to fight - dwarves that come at you in comically huge mobs - the rest are little more than boring exploration. Not that exploration itself is not its own reward, it would just be nice for there to be something to find.

I should not complain too much about the near total lack of combat apart from bosses. The main character's moveset is so limited it would not be very exciting anyway. Even the god powers unlocked by finding shrines do little to spice things up.

And then you get to a jotun and you forgive how boring the level was before it. At least the first time. Take this guy, for example:


Looks pretty good, right? He is very well animated as well, at least for the three different things that he does. Once he has jumped and swung his sword you have seen all there is to see.

Jotun suffers under its own desire for gigantic scale. They succeeded in making the bosses big but failed to give them much to do. The levels themselves are equally oversized but there is little for the player to do. I am happy to give points for trying. Those points are not worth as much as the ones I take away for poor execution.

...

I tried to play Carmageddon again and turned it off after ten minutes. It was a waste of time. I tried ti play the new Shadow Lords content in Killer Instinct but it would not let me play as the one character I knew so I got bored. I tried to play as Urien in Street Fighter V but I do not think he is for me.

That means that is is finally time to give No Man's Sky a shot. I will chronicle this attempt tonight as I did my one night's dalliance with Bloodborne. They will be alcohol involved so I make no promises regarding spelling, punctuation or grammar. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

New shiny things!

A very good breakdown of what to expect out of your PS4 Pro even if your couch is not blessed with the presence of a 4K television.



I'm excited, moreso then I was for my Xbox One S.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Coming down

As stated both here and in the podcast, Odin Sphere was an excellent game. It took me longer to complete than I expected and I was okay with it. Backgrounds and bosses were reused often, some appearing for every character, and I was okay with it. I was even okay with each chapter starting me out at level one again. The cold hard facts show that I should not have enjoyed this game. But the cold hard facts are not animated by Vanillaware, nor do they allow me to cultivate sheep from seeds, slay said sheep and then cook up spicy pork chops that recover health and level up my maximum hit points.

It is only natural that the next game after an excellent one is going to be a bit of a let down, the next game being Jotun, a digital title purchased due to its cool name and it being discounted if preordered. Sometimes this uncovers gems like Tembo the Badass Elephant, a game every bit as excellent as its name, and other time you get Jotun, a title so dedicated to its hook that everything else suffers from neglect.

The hook of Jotun, and why I really bought the game, is the the player is very, very small and that the bosses, or jotun, are very, very big. In this the game does not disappoint. The hero almost disappears in their presence, and yes, you can roll through their legs to avoid attacks. The problem is that the levels themselves are giant, not very well laid out, and your small hero has small legs and therefore takes small steps. And the game does not let you pan the camera out to get a better view.

Navigating the giant levels is not fun. Combat is, so far, limited to dodge, dodge, attack, over and over. The jotun, as good as they look, offer little variety to their attacks. It's not bad, it's just not at all exciting, and for a game that has you fighting enemies one hundred times your size to not be exciting, well, I was ready to try something else.

So last night I played chapter two of the Batman Telltale series. It was amazing in all sorts of ways that I cannot talk about and it was bad it all the same ways that Telltale games always are, namely a terrible framerate and, even worse, parts of the scene just disappearing. But none of that mattered. From the first moment, in which Bruce questions Alfred about his past, to the last when I was faced with the unanswerable question:

Save Harvey or Selina

I was hooked.

...Oh, and I played a little of Carmageddon. It was absolute shit and I may not go back to it, not when Forza Horizon 3 is just around the corner. There is no space for terrible racing games when the king's arrival is imminent.

Much to talk about, but first, here is us talking

Chamberlain and Chance - There is only Overwatch

Monday, September 19, 2016

It's about time

It is done! It took longer than I expected, being interrupted by a vacation certainly did not help, but I have finished Odin Sphere. I even got the worst possible ending, was not satisfied, and did the final level a second time (with online help) to get the correct one.

What is wrong with me.

I am not going to spoil the ending as the story in Odin Sphere, how the fates of five people intertwine as the apocalypse approaches, really is one of the highlights of the game. It would be unkind for me to share how it goes. However I will say that Oswald gets a happy ending that I do not believe he deserves.

There is a bit of analysis to finish regarding what each character loses and what they do about it. To recap, Gwendolyn lost her honor and chose love, Cornelius lost his humanity and chose courage, Mercedes lost her mother and chose to lead her people and Oswald lost his balls and did nothing about it. This leaves Velvet.

Velvet lost her innocence. She and her brother Ingway are the only two human survivors of the Valentine kingdom, the rest having been turned to pookas when the cauldron exploded. Her grandfather strangled her mother after discovering that Velvet and Ingway's father was Odin. Later he returns from the dead to finish his plans. So yeah, she has a lot going on and she doesn't always deal with it well.

The first time that her grandfather (well, his rotting corpse) appears to her she is visibly shaken. In a game full of excellent animation, the subtle way she shudders, loses confidence, and eventually bows out of fear, trumps everything. She didn't need to say anything - the way she looked and moved explained how she felt. This was her challenge, to defeat the man who had stolen her innocence.

Odin Sphere was a good game this time around. Much better than the last time I played it and I chalk that up to the combat being much more interesting and there being no slow down for any of the bosses. Amazing what just under a decade of technical advancement can do.

Friday, September 16, 2016

You might need those

I entertained taking a break from Odin Sphere to play Jotun, a game that I preordered and desperately do not want to forget, but I could not force myself to share time out to a second game, especially when just about every time I turn on my PS4 I have people bugging me to play KoF with them.

Because I am wholesale free at that game and will probably remain so.

So I moved directly to Oswald's story. He is a tortured soul full of angst and ennui, but he is also a milquetoast coward. He can do nothing without someone ordering him around. First it was his adoptive father, the same guy who sold his soul to the queen of the underworld. His father confesses on his deathbed that Oswald meant nothing and Oswald dies of depression.

Or the queen's demonic thugs drag him to hell without dying, whichever explanation you prefer. While in hell he fights his way to the queen herself and, when he finds that his uber weapon does not work on her, does what she tells him to do: fight Odin. Oswald defeats Odin, handily, but instead of killing him he does what Odin tells him to do, and continues to do so once they are out of the underworld.

Odin tells him to kill a dragon and promises his daughter as a reward. Oswald is just looking for someone else to take charge of his life. Maybe order him to sweep the floor and take out the garbage instead of slay demons, but the effect is the same.

I don't like him. He's not heroic. He's barely tragic. He is spineless and immensely powerful, two things that don't often go together. In keeping with the theme of started by the previous character it is clear that Oswald long ago lost

his balls.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Just a little further

I finally finished the fairy chapter and my opinion of how it played has not changed. It was the weakest of the three sections, easily, though the two side scrolling shooter sections were a pleasant surprise. There was no weight or power to her attacks and I felt like I was running away all of the time. I mean, she was a fairy, but her mother at least looked like she could handle herself. Mercedes was waifish to an almost silly degree.

While her gameplay was weak Mercedes' piece of the story had they same weight to it as the valkyrie and the pooka. Each so far has been about loss and what the protagonist does about it. Gwendolyn lost her position as a valkyrie, banished by her father for what she believed to be a noble act. She eventually accepted this, even finding love with the man she was promised to. Cornelius lost his humanity, cursed to live as a anthropomorphic bunny. He at first fought to regain his form, then to protect Velvet.

Mercedes lost her mother, who was killed by Odin, then nearly lost her kingdom when betrayed by her cousin. It takes quite a while for her to come around, but when she does there is a Braveheart worthy speech made to her soldiers on the eve of a final battle with Odin's army.

Now if only the four hours dedicated to her weren't such a chore.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Proof!

Or just a lazy post. Podcast will be up late tonight.




Friday, September 9, 2016

Well, that's that

I don't feel 40.

Granted, I don't know what 40 is supposed to feel like. Right now I hurt from showing off just a bit on a high ropes course. Someone else did the black diamond route, how could I not? Apart from that bit of explainable pain, nothing feels different. I still enjoy the same things that I always have. I behave in the same age obscuring way. I am currently excited for both the PS4Pro and Microsoft's answer just like I have been excited for all of my old consoles, going back to the 2600 that I had in the middle of the great crash.

But there are signs. Little, niggling, annoying signs that my ass, and the rest of me, are getting old.

For one, I purchased a nose and ear hair trimmer at Target a few weeks ago. It is surprisingly difficult to use. No one of a reasonable age grows hair in their ears, right?

I enjoy beer more now than I ever have before but I can drink much less of it at a sitting, which is to say, one if I am driving anywhere. I enjoy videogames just as much now as I ever have, can afford to get what I want when I want, yet I fall asleep on my loveseat long before I have had my fill of whatever I am playing.

It's still me in here, just a little stronger than I used to be, a little more easily fatigued, with a little more ink and a little less patience for stupid shit. And there is so, so much stupid shit.

Were politics always this stupid? Were console debates always this inane? Were fighting games always this hard and everyone else so much better than I am? Either things are getting worse or I am becoming more conscious of how bad everything already was. Both options are depressing. If there was a bar in this tiny hotel I would have a second beer.

And fall asleep.

But I am not depressed or annoyed or happy or sad on my birthday. I am safely on vacation, away from all but one who knows what day it is, and can pretend to still just be me. Today it was me hopping between suspended logs and tomorrow it will be me on a cliff, ignoring my limbs' pleas to knock that shit off already. On Sunday it will be me back in my basement, eaking out an hour of Odin Sphere before the weekend's activities finally do me in.

Yes, it's my birthday today. I am 40. But hush, it's a secret to everybody.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Oh lord, help me.

Middle of nowhere West Virginia in a hotel next to a long dead strip mall with shitty shitty WiFi and no cell signal.

There is no bar in the hotel to help sooth the pain.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Thin pickings

It's going to be a thin week here. Not including tonight, I only managed three nights of playing anything, one of which was split between Odin Sphere and KoF 14. Now that KoF works online, and it more than just works, it's exceptional, I am less willing to write it off. Movement is still a major obstacle, I understand the motion of the hop but cannot get my hands to do it, but the flow of the game is starting to make more sense.

Street Fighter 5, unlike 4, is all about pressure. If you aren't attacking you are losing and if you attack at the wrong time you are also losing, just faster. KoF is as well but there is at least one other way to play: ranged. My current team is Kukri - King - Andy, all of whom have firewall attacks. Using ranged attacks to wear down the opponent, to get them to commit to a bad jump in or roll from the wrong distance, works. Managing the field of play instead of the opponent has more effect than in Street Fighter.

I am not saying that it is the most efficient way or the most effective but at least it is an option. The next step is to maximize the openings that a good ranged game provides and that means getting my sweet ass combos out of the practice room and into the real world. It also means sucking less from the player two side but that has been a problem for my entire life and is why I picked up charge characters so many years ago.

What was that? Urien is a charge character and will be out sometime this month? Just when I think I got out Street Fighter 5 pulls me back in.

...

I am now further into Odin Sphere than I got the first time I played it. An estimate of 20 hours was given to me when I asked about the completion time. That is not even close to what this is going to take me is I see it through to the end. The final act of the second character sees me at around 14 hours and there are four more to go.

The game has not worn out its welcome yet. There have been repeated environments and bosses but they have been different enough to keep me invested. The final area of the second book is completely new and had a new boss, a blob that split in two after each health bar was depleted. On the PS4 it looked amazing and played as smooth as one would expect but I could see this encounter bringing the Vita to its knees.

What will break me is one of the characters not being fun to use. A significant amount of time is spent with each and they always start from level one. Each is in essence their own game, a game that I have played before, so if one of them is lame putting up with him or her will be extra difficult. So far the spear wielding valkyrie and sword wielding pooka have been amusing and unique. I do not know who is next but I predict the the fairie with a crossbow will be the one that will test my resolve.

She doesn't even look cool.

...

On vacation for the next few days. I may post, I may not. If I survive, there may be pictures.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Hello there...

My my, how did I miss this little nugget:



Oh shit.

...

In other good news, SNK actually fixed the netcode in KoF 14. It's more than good now, it's great. This highlights a significant problem: I do not know how to translate the sweet ass combos that I can do in the practice room into something that I can perform in a match. There is a bit of performance anxiety, of course, but the real problem is just getting into a position where I can hit the other guy with more than the tip of an desperately thrown normal.

Hit confirms are everything. You need to be able to translate that crouching light kick into grown ass man damage or you are not going to have a good day. Worse, not every character has a light attack that can be confirmed into a command normal and then into a special.

The grand Xanadu experiment is over. I need a new third, preferably someone with an invincible reversal. I have also been told that 'getting good' will also help me to lose less often but if Street Fighter V has taught me anything it is that FUCK IT DP is a viable strategy.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Trying things again

I attempted KoF 14 again last night, thing time in party mode. Instead of picking a team of three characters each player picks one and then is randomly assigned to one of two teams. For some bizarre reason the game actually functions online in this way, though one bad connection can still spoil it for everyone else.

Quickly I learned that it wasn't much fun, as I could sit for an entire match in the third slot and never get to play, and that I have no idea how to make an approach in KoF. Walking forward in Street Fighter is pretty powerful. Jumping is almost always a bad idea as jumps are always the same and almost all characters has some sort of anti-air attack, be that an invincible reversal or Necalli's magic standing jab.

KoF just doesn't work that way. Jumping, as long as you mix up what kind of jump, actually works, and many character do not have a dragon punch like move. Even when they do none of the have the same level of invincibility. So I did a lot of dancing make and forth with Kukri, knowing the combo that I wanted to do but with no idea on how to get it and actually do it. Real matches and time will fix this. I hope the game allows both.

I think I want to learn this guy:


That's Xanadu. He's weird.

...

Chance loved Odin Sphere enough to play it through in a foreign language and then buy it again. I do not like any game that much but I did play Odin Sphere when it first came out on the PS2. I remember be enthralled by the animation, annoyed by the rampant slowdown, and eventually bored but the repeating stages.

The game still looks great, though Dragon's Crown (by the same developer) definately looks better. There is no slow down which makes boss fights much more enjoyable. There are also new skills, at least I think they are new, that make said boss fights almost trivial. For example, the first big boss you fight is a dragon. He has a large attack that only goes in one direction and I have a move that drills through the boss, ignoring his hitbox, putting me behind him.

While he is stuck in his attack animation I get to harass him from behind. It's cheap and I love it.

There is the matter of repeated backgrounds that is still present, or will be when I finish the first character. The game itself is more enjoyable to play than it was the first time, which will stave off the dreaded boredom for a while, but I have my doubts that I will make it through the game with every character.