Friday, December 8, 2017

The good before the terrible

First things first: the Xbox One X update has arrived for Destiny 2 and it brings all the pretties. It looked pretty good before the patch. Now? Now it looks better than Doom or Wolfenstein 2. Bethesda has some work to do.

Upon starting Destiny 2, knowing what kind of nonsense I was getting into, I resolved to play until it either forced me to play well with others or just stopped being fun. Neither has happened yet and I am pleasantly surprised. There are random co-op events that pop up in the world and you can either join in and get a share of the loot or just walk past, wishing the other guardians good luck. I have taken both paths and, while I am loath to admit it, the pick up co-op worked. All the fun of shooting bad guys together with none of the baggage. No looking for groups, no milling around afterward splitting up the drops, the event ends and everyone walks away.

Sci fi FPS one night stands.

It does get annoying when a community event pops up in front of my quest location but they resolve quickly enough that it hasn't been too much of a problem. Sometime just being in the vicinity when it resolves gets you a (small) share of the rewards.

The action has more than made up for the threadbare plot. I may not really care about the the guardians or the invading army intent on 'stealing the light' before blowing up the sun but moving through the environments and killing their inhabitants is a good time. Loot drops are regular enough that I do not get tired of my weapons. New skills unlock more slowly but I have not used anything from my first subclass anyway so that hasn't bothered me.

Destiny 2 is a good shooter that I know is going to turn on a dime when the solo portion of the game is complete. It is going to go from 'this is fun' to 'fuck this noise and the grindy horse it rode in on' so fast that the servers will wonder why there is dust cloud where why level 20 titan used to be. At least Activision threw me a few scraps to enjoy before locking the rest behind game play walls that I do not have the patience or social skills to surpass.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No, I am not hearing voices

Way, way back in the mid aughts, when I was foolishly maintaining a gaming PC on a shoestring budget and intentionally not play World of Warcraft because I cannot mentally enjoy anything that everyone else does, I picked up Guild Wars on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. It looked quite good on my meager rig, had a very low level cap, choosing to focus more on equipment and skills than grinding levels, and most importantly it functioned as a single player game. Quests that were a bit too much for one person or that required a specific skill, like a tank or a healer, were still possible for the lonely man: NPCs could be hired in most towns and they did an admirable job of filling out a party of one to a party of one plus a few nobodies.

Most quest areas were instances, pocket universes for the player and his real or artificial friends. Cities were the massive part of this psuedo MMORPG; terrible, laggy places that I avoided at all costs. It was an MMO that let me play the way I wanted to. Play I did until I got bored of it, stuck my toe into the four on four PvP arena, got killed and logged off forever. Oh, and it was free after the initial purchase with paid expansions every few months.

Take Guild Wars out of the first paragraph. I just described Destiny and Destiny 2, didn't I?

To be fair, Destiny, and to a greater extent Destiny 2, have that sweet sauce of Bungie's first person shooting. Something in the movement, the momentum, the weapons and general chaos of battle is instantly recognizable. Everything else in the game was done by NCSoft 12 years ago, up to and including by gripe of the day: not being able to pause the game.

I have no one in my party and I am in an instanced zone. Let me pause the game and grab a handful of chips, you godless motherfuckers! No, every attempted grab of generic jalapeno goodness is fraught with danger. Heaven forbid I try to get a drink of beer and get shanked from behind by the flood the hive.

Destiny 2 is a front for Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers! Bring me my tinfoil hat and deep fried cheese curds!

Update: to prove I am being consistent, a hot take from three years ago.

http://www.infinitebacklog.com/2014/09/yes-mr-burns-works-there.html

Monday, December 4, 2017

The smuttiest spoilers

In case the title was not clear, I am going to talk about the ending(s) of Nights of Azure 2. No one should play this game because it is not very good (not just because it is several buckets full of cringe) but if you happen to enjoy mediocre JRPGs and this is on your list, consider yourself warned.

There are two endings to Nights of Azure 2, one that makes sense and one that does not. It is difficult to determine which of these is the 'canon' ending, and I cannot believe that I just implied that Nights of Azure 2 has a definitive canon, but I am going to assume the that ending I got, the sad one that makes sense, is not the true ending as it was not difficult to get. I am not sure how to get the other one. Thanks to YouTube I will never have to find this out.

Aluche dies during the opening of the game. She is resurrected with Arnice's (from the first) blue blood turning her into a half-fiend (not a demi-fiend, that is a character from a much older, better game). Her heart has also been replaced with that or her creator, as it was damaged irreparably by a big ass sword going through it. This is foreshadowing, a reasonable hint as to what is going to happen later.

As Aluche gains power she begins to worry about going mad and turning into a full blown baby killing demon. She turns to one of her friends, Ruenhein, and asks her to kill her if this happens. Ruenhein tearfully agrees but doubts that she has the power to actually kill Aluche if the worst occurs. Again, decent foreshadowing.

Prior to the final battle Camilla, the doctor who created Aluche and whose heart beats in her chest, pulls Ruenhein aside and confesses to installing a failsafe when she brought Aluche back from the dead. There is a macguffin on Aluche's heart that will turn her to crystal, killing her, with the flick of a switch. She then hands Ruenhein the remote and tells her to do what must be done.

Everything make sense so far? This is pretty straightforward for a JRPG.

Aluche defeats the Moon Queen, the big bad who killed her in the first place, but ends up possessed by the Moon Queen's spirit and turns into a baby killing demon. She is about to absorb Liliana, the titular (no pun intended) Bride of the New Moon, and obtain absolute power when Ruenhein flips the switch and she turns to crystal. Big explosions, Aluche dies, bittersweet ending, Chamberlain is satisfied because it at least makes sense and he can now play something else.

But I had to know: what was the 'good' ending? Strap in.

Liliana (the Bride of the New Moon) was with Aluche when the Moon Queen killed her at the beginning of the game. Liliana regained consciousness as the world was ending. The Moon Queen had already won and was in the process of destroying the world. Liliana had a power that was briefly teased that allowed her to greatly slow time in a specific area. She used this power to lock the growing 'end of the world' wave in place and waited for Aluche to find her.

The Liliana that Aluche had been chasing, found, and then adventuring with was not real. The fight between Aluche and the Moon Queen did not happen. Everything was just a projection, Liliana's dream, and it led up to Liliana not being able to maintain the time stop any longer. Aluche joins her and the power of their love allowed them to maintain the time stop at the cost of never being seen again.

USDA Grade A certified bullshit. Very little if any foreshadowing, terrible explanation, stupid twist, might as well have been directed by M. Night Shyamalan. At least the game was short.

...

I watched a new Simpson's episode for the first time in I don't know how long as I was trapped on the couch under sleeping cat and sleeping wife. It was terrible. I need to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

Yeah, that's the stuff



Could Cuphead be on a very special upcoming list? Who knows....

Friday, December 1, 2017

A winner, I suppose

Nights of Azure 2 assumes that the player is going to run through the game several times to wring every last bit of smut from its supple recesses. The chapter time limit all but guarantees that the player will not be able to get to all of the side quests and relationship building nonsense for every character and I am not going to play this thing more than once so I had to pick one to focus on. This was done based on two criteria: combat effectives and being at least physically plausible in a lower gravity environment. There was only one choice: Veruschka.


Veruschka is a half-fiend like Aluche, only her transformation did not got as well and she is doomed to die young. She was also stolen from an orphanage at a very young age and, as she is little more than a weapon, never learned any emotion. She has both big hitting attacks for single enemies and good crowd control. And she is almost fully clothed. 

Not much is happening in the game, story wise. Nights of Azure had an honest romance subplot between the protagonists and this game plays out more like Porkies written by the comic book guy from The Simpsons. There are no actual relationships here, just winking innuendo and wacky misunderstandings. Arnice, the hero from the first game, showed up as a boss fight (she has amnesia because of course she has amnesia) and even that did little to raise my interest.

I am not sure who the target audience is, but I am not it, and I have more fun making up excuses as to not tell anyone what I am playing that I am actually playing the game.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Shame

Do I really want to continue playing a game that has me constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid that someone might sneak up behind me and see exactly what level of smut I am tolerating? Nights of Azure was dodgy in the boobs physics department. Tales of Berseria had the worst, most needlessly revealing costume ever in a game not name Dead or Alive. I say had because Alushe's outfit is worse. And she is not very interesting while Velvet was well enough envisioned that I can remember her name six months later.

I played Nights of Azure 2 last night, less than twenty four hours ago, and I had to look up Alushe's name. That is not a good sign. I did fall into the a nice rhythm last night of exploring for as long as I could, taking care of a few side quests, then returning to base to level up and sleep, but that does not necessarily excuse not being able to get the combo ender I want consistently or a terrible camera or cinematic special moves that occur too often and spend too much time at uncomfortable angles.

It is not that the game is too Japan (it totally is), it is that there is not enough game behind it to back up the too Japan-ness. And yet I will play it again tonight because what else am I going to do, play Marvel?

Monday, November 27, 2017

It was a long weekend

Catch up time! It was a long weekend and I played a little bit of a lot of things, but first, in case you come here but do not go to Chance's blog, the podcast!


Chamberlain and Chance - 2017 Hype list recap

Issue #1: Wolfenstein 2 ended very abruptly. I was hoping for a big, bad boss fight, something close to the cyber demon from Doom. Instead I got a big fight against two enemies that I hadn't seen before but it did not feel like the whiz bang finale. It was just another tough fight in a series of tough fights. The end credits caught me totally by surprise.

No spoilers, but this is very much the middle episode. Nothing is resolved, things happen for dubious reasons, and then it 'ends' on an advertisement for the next game. I hope it sold well enough for the third game to be made.

Issue #2: White Night is not a good game. It looks like a polished up PS2 game. Normally this would not be a problem as I play JRPGs and JRPGs not named Final Fantasy stopped evolving graphically about a decade ago. It also plays like a mid to late era PS2 game: fussy, inaccurate controls, archaic puzzles, boring, repetitive environments. I could tolerate of that, but not all of it.

Worst of all there is an insane janitor roaming the halls who beats children to death with a bat if he finds them in the school after hours. Think Clock Tower's scissorman but less menacing, more a sad commentary on what a boring ass job will do to a man's state of mind. I found the solution to a puzzle on the opposite side of the building and had to walk back. Running is no good, he will hear the noise every time. Walking is no good, as it takes so long that his patrol route will always intersect your path. And once he sees you there is pretty much no escape. I hid in a bathroom stall for what seemed like forever, more annoyed than scared, and he just waited for me to stick my head out before bashing it in.

No thanks, moving on.

Issue #3: Raiden V is a good shmup but the very fast scrolling made my head hurt and I could only play it through once. I am old.

Issue #4: Nights of Azure 2 may also be a bad game. The combat is both mashy and unresponsive. The camera is never where it needs to be. At its core it plays just like the first game: short missions into infested areas with servans as support. It adds a second human character to the party that is more powerful than the servans, which is good, but because the game is all about pandering you are expected to develop a relationship with said human characters.

The cheesecake here is intensely cringey. It's more than just egregious breast size and physics. There are double entendres and sideways glances everywhere. For example, the hero of the story (whose name I cannot remember at the moment) is 'killed' at the end of the tutorial, only to be resurrected with the blood of the hero of the last game. This makes the new hero a half fiend and grants her super powers. Several time she and her partner have come across a gap that is too large to cross so the hero scoops up other woman in her arms, hold her tight to he chest, and leaps across.

It's still not done.

Thought bubble from the support character: 'I've never been held this way by a woman before.'

I have no idea what my plans are for this game, other than to make sure no one sees me playing it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ok, you win

Anya in Wolfenstein 2 is as much of a bad ass as BJ and she is doing everything while carrying twins and dealing with BJ's mopiness in the first half of the game. Once BJ gets better (still not going to spoil this, but god damn, it was dumb) they end up out on a mission together. They get separated and check in over the radio.




Ok game, I can't stay mad at you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

There is no hope

Fox News is reporting that the Apollo 17 moon landing may or may not be fake. You decide I read some of the comments and my brain slid right out of my ears.

The FCC is rolling back net neutrality.

North Korea continues to trade school yard insults with the president and is objectively winning.

Syria, fucking Syria, has joined the Paris climate accord, leaving the United States as the only 'civilized' nation that opposes it.

Gun violence is out of control and the solution is more guns. Climate change is approaching the point of no return and the solution is to bolster the rightfully dying coal industry. Willful scientific ignorance is the norm. Nazis are not always bad. Security theatre, be that the removal of shoes when boarding a plane or a big ass wall that someone else is going to pay for, is applauded. Alabama voters are sticking with an accused pedofile because at least he isn't a democrat.

The sun rises. The sun sets. It's a wonder that I ever leave the house.

...

Wolfenstein 2 has decided to pad its length by sending me back through completed areas for collectibles. This game is losing points with me, fast.

Monday, November 20, 2017

At least shooting bad guys is still a good time

Wolfenstein The New Colossus has problems, one of which is not necessarily its own fault, but they have, at the halfway point, added up to a game that is not as good as The New Order. Don't get me wrong, it is a good game and the fact that it riles up fascist apologists tickles me to no end (BJ has been killing Nazis since before a good chunk of you were born, you clueless motherfuckers), but that is not enough.

It took my hands a good hour or two to finally understand that I was not playing last year's Doom. The combat in Doom was designed to keep the player moving forward, to encourage the glory kills as they were the best way of replenishing health and ammo. Playing that way in The New Colossus will get you killed, full stop. Cover is a thing in this game, as is the lean mechanic. BJ is a tough dude (eventually) but running headlong into robotic Nazis dual wielding auto-shotguns will reduce him to a fine paste. Not the necessarily the game's fault but it still tainted the first hour or so.

If taking cover is important than being able to tell from which direction you are being shot from is required information. The New Colossus offers the standard flashes of red at the edges of the screen but there is very little audio feedback when taking hits. Getting shot should be loud, it should elicit a good, bassy thump, and it does not. The visual cues feel slow and BJ is squishy enough that this tiny delay is the difference between life and death. And there is a lot of death. I died more times in the courthouse escape section than I did in all of Doom, mostly because I could not tell when flanking enemies were shooting me until it was too late. Thank goodness for save scumming.

The New Colossus is trying to one up The New Order is both comedy and seriousness. Sometimes it works, when Super Sesh exits the toilet with a flourish, interrupting a tense, tender moment between BJ and Anja, and sometimes is really doesn't. Getting BJ's tragic backstory is not necessary. He is not quite the Doom marine but he's close in that BJ is more of the player's avatar than a character in the game. The New Order injected personality, which is fine, but The New Colossus resorts to child abuse, racism and the murder of pets and it just feels very heavy handed.

And the twist that I am not going to spoil? The twist that is given away much earlier, that everyone will see coming a mile away? It was elicits little more than a groan, and that is quite a feat in a game featuring anti-gravity technology that was hidden away millenia by a super secret Jewish cabal.

It's not a bad game, it's just trying way too hard. Maybe the second half will improve. I should finish the game just in time to fight with Chance about it on Wednesday.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Something new

It has been mentioned on the podcast that I do not understand the allure of PUBG. Multiplayer only pseudo rogue like? That's just about everything I hate mixed together. But the mathematics of its popularity are astounding. It unseated League of Legends as the game with the most concurrent players and it is still in early access. The Xbox One version is floating around as well, also in early access but not free, and while my curiousity is piqued, and I do like to complain about things, there are better ways to spend my precious discretionary funds.

(Like of Wolfenstein II for $30. Fuck yeah.)

Fortnite, a game that I barely knew existed and that is also in beta, released a battle royale mode that is free. Smart move: capitalize on a popular new genre to get people excited and then charge them for in game currency when the game comes out for real. Regardless of their motivation, I can try this one out for free. So I took a break from Forza 7 last night and set one whole hour aside to step into something I had never done before.

I don't think I liked it but at least now I understand what is going on. Fornite Battle Royale is PUBG plus crafting. And you start the game fully clothed with a pick axe instead of a frying pan. 100 players are dumped onto an island where they scramble for weapons and kill one another as the they are forced closer and closer together by an approaching storm. Add to that some very basic base building (which I ignored) and a surprisingly stable online environment, getting into a game took seconds, and I almost had fun.

My first few matches did not go well. I was shot in the back while exploring a house. The next time I lost a heads up battle when my shotgun required reloading after two (misplaced) shots and the other guys pistol did not. Then I found a rifle, learned to check corners and listen, and lived a little longer, even killed a few people. The tension is the draw, not knowing what is going to happen, what you are going to find, and if the door you are about to open will lead to health or a gut full of buckshot.

During my last match I heard someone sniping from a few hills away. It took a bit but I snuck up on him, killed him and helped myself to the shower of loot that poured from his corpse. That sniper rifle? It was purple. Purple. I assume that means it was super rare. Nice, now to do something with it. As the player count dwindles apprehension grows. Everyone has better weapons. Some people have built themselves bunkers to hide in. I saw one person build such a bunker and them hide a trap in it before leaving, that dirty fucker.

I made it to the final 20 players before dying, having never fired the precious purple sniper rifle. After backing out to the menu in a huff I took stock of the situation. What had I gained? Nothing. What had I lost? Also nothing. There was no progression or regression, just passed time. Being inoffensive is not good enough so I uninstalled it and went back to Forza 7 to grind credits for pretend cars. At least with that game I will have something new to show for it at the end of the day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ugh, the irony

Hot new Xbox One X sitting under the television and what does Gamefly send me? Mediocre looking PS4 exclusives, one of which might be 40+ hours long.

...

I really do need to play Wolfenstein before the end of the year to see if it can shoot its way into my very small games of the year list. It is good that I waited, as it runs significantly better on the X than the PS4Pro. Take that.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

We didn't need the details

Dishonored 1 and 2 do not explain who or what the outsider is. He just shows up and offers the player a devil's bargain: power at a price. He is more prevalent is the second game as more characters than just Corvo have his mark, but still, there is no back story, no history. Death of the Outsider fills in the gaps but I do not think that the outsider character is any better for it or even deserved the effort.

The outsider's purpose in Dishonored was simple: give Corvo cool powers and then tempt him to use them for evil. He is literally the devil. And that worked. The devil's back story is pretty well know (rebelled against God, recruited angels and went to war, got his ass kicked and was tossed out of heaven) so the outsider didn't get any, and that was fine. He was, at best, evil-ish.

Now? Eh, I suppose I should put up a spoiler warning.


The outsider has a tragic back story. *yawn*

A long, long time ago, when he was human, he was kidnapped and murdered by a cult investigating the void. The blade they used to kill him turned him into the outsider, essentially the god of the void, and in the process he lost his name (which was important for some reason). For thousands of years he has reached out from the void, offering power to those he deemed required it, and then dragging them to the void when they die.

So not evil. Not even that bad. It was people who were the problem as they used the powers he gave them for evil. The outsider is a benevolent arms dealer, if there is such a thing. This made the character even less interesting than he was in the first place. Instead of a cliched stand in for Satan he was a cliched tragic nemesis who wasn't actually bad, just misunderstood.

Given the option I save him (by returning his name, again, I do not understand the significance) or kill I chose to save him. There was no boss fight, no final confrontation. Billie meets Doud, her mentor who died in the third chapter, and convinces him that the outsider deserves forgiveness (even though he never really did anything wrong) because he once forgave her for betraying him. It was boring.

...

Of the five levels only the third, the bank heist, felt like a good, open, Dishonored level. There were three or four different ways into the bank, valid stealth and combat approaches once inside, safes to open, clockwork soldiers to avoid, everything good about the best parts of the first two games. I drugged the entire building by dropping chemicals in the ventilation system and tried to be stealthy until I had to wake up one person to open a door. He had to die because I couldn't figure out what else to do. There was also the option to pay through the game a second time with powers from Dishonored 2. Tempting, but not worth it. Much like dealing with the outsider in the first place.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Vanilla

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is missing something. Strike that, it's missing a lot of things. From my point of view, it is missing Corvo and his sweet mask as I played him and only him in the first two games. I am open to change as long as I get something back in return. Death of the Outsider has only one playable character, Billie Lurk, and while she has a great name and a pretty good look she is just not much fun to use.

Billie has very few skills when compared to either playable character from Dishonored 2 and the ones that she does have don't level up or change as the game progresses. She doesn't have a fast movement option; it has been replaced by the ability to drop a recall point and jump back to it as long as line of site is maintained. That line of sight bit severely limits its usefulness as a way to retreat. Billie can also enter the void itself and wander around the level (for a limited amount of time) as a spirit and place said recall points. Again, line of site needs to be maintained to actually use it.

Finally she can assume the identity of a living, at worst unconscious, NPC and walk around undetected wearing a fresh, new face. For a very limited time. And if the body is discovered her cover is blown. That's it. No way to chain kills together or make corpses disappear via swarms of rats. All of the mundane weapons are still there, a gun and grenades and razor mines, but that is not why anyone actually plays a Dishonored game. I came for the supernatural movement/killing nonsense and it just is not here. Playing as Billie feels like doing a no powers run as Corvo. And I never even attempted one of those.

Because I abhor frustration.

Perhaps due to the limited skills or less creatively designed levels (or just because) Death of the Outsider is much more difficult. Billie can never just walk around the streets as her face is on wanted posters everywhere and it is difficult to miss a woman with a red terminator eye and boney arm. Not being terribly good at stealth games I end up walking through the level, stacking up corpses, then going back and attempting the side missions. These are much more difficult as well, including one that requires the player to not touch anyone in the level. You can't even knock them out. Full stealth, no violence.

Fuck that. The game isn't terribly long, I am right at the end of the third of five levels, so I will see it to its conclusion. The best the game has mustered so far was a reference to Prey. Scary tar monsters showing up next would be an improvement.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Oddly reflective

I am calm. I am collected. I am prepared to give my reactions to Forza 7.

*breaths*

But first I am going to talk about the Xbox One X. There are quite a few pieces of electronics sitting in my cold and musty basement, several of which were purchased in anticipation of its release. My 4K television did see some use from the Xbox One S (for 4K movies) and the PS4 Pro (for Horizon Zero Dawn) but it has never really been put through its paces. The same can be said for my receiver, an item chosen specifically because it supports Dolby Atmos sound.

The Xbox One X uses all of it. All at once. In the Insects demo. Don't get me wrong, the demo looks and sounds fantastic, but it isn't a game. Forza 7 is the game that I have to play right now and it only leverages some of what the hardware can do. It's a racing game, of course it looks fantastic. The Dubai track in particular has it all: detailed city scapes with sun filtering between building and clouds in a eerily realistic manner. Rocky valleys that look good enough to touch. Sand blowing across the road. It is the best looking, cleanest, sharpest racing game I have ever seen.

But it's a racing game. I was quite impressed on the first lap, even more so on the second as I had time to look around. Last night I did a 23 lap endurance race, in one sitting, and all the shiny polygons in the world are not going to make that interesting. Forza 7 is a good game but it is not Forza Horizon 3, one of my contenders for game of the year. It also has problems with its in game economy thanks to loot boxes but I will let the professional curmudgeons handle that talking point.

The Xbox One X sitting below my television makes me happy. The continued reports by Digital Foundry that multi-platform titles run better on the X than the Pro make me feel vindicated, that coming back home to my controller of preference was the right move. My gigantic coming soon list feels like less of a burden and more of an opportunity. What I'm missing, and what I am not going to get, is a new first party, exclusive, kick ass piece of software. Yes, Gears of War 4 looks amazing, but I have already played that. Microsoft needs to hurry up and buy a developer better than Rare and set them loose on a killer app.

Microsoft has the hardware buy Sony still has God of War and Days Gone and The Last of Us 2 (and JRPGs and that samurai game and a dozen other things that I am forgetting). At the very least I will be able to play the best possible version of Red Dead Redemption 2 and that is worth looking forward to.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Podcast a day early

Forza 7 was not playable at the time of recording. I will speak of it when I find my jaw. It is currently on the floor somewhere.


Chamberlain and Chance - Delayed happiness

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Xbox One X obtained

4K update to Forza 7 not obtained in advance.

Perhaps I will get to play it tomorrow.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mission partially accomplished

I was right on the money with my guess on how long it would take to finish Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It was blissfully short, something that I needed after 40+ hours of Ys VIII. It also picked up significantly after the open world section, though every plot point and every encounter had been done at least once before in the series. The game even ended on a 'race to the front of a moving train' segment ripped right out of the Among Thieves.

Was the point of the game 'the same, but shorter, and this time with female leads'? If so then I will say that it succeeded. It certainly did not add anything to the mythos. Sam shows up and is still not very likeable. Chloe and Nadine become fast friends in spite of Nadine punching Chloe right in the jaw upon Sam's arrival on the scene. There is just a little bad blood there. And everyone has a happy ending over pizza.

The Lost Legacy has precisely zero emotionally resonating moments. Say what you will about A Thief's End, it had at least two moments where Nathan and Elena stopped being videogame characters and became people living inside of you television. I am speaking of Elena kicking Nathan's ass as Crash Bandicoot and the exceptional ending. Chloe and Nadine never make it that far. Their banter is a little too contrived, a little too convenient, and their friendship at the end not exactly believable. Chloe is a thief and Nadine is an (ex) para-military mercenary. They say that they have both turned over a new leaf but there is no reason to believe them.

On a positive note, I was waiting for and dreading the moment that Sam would betray the two leading women and get his ass summarily kicked. That never happened. He complained, he smarted off, but he never forgot that Chloe and Nadine did not have to come looking for him and that he would have died several time if the ladies were not significantly tougher and smarter than he was.

...

Observer is boring. Rutger Hauer sounds drunk, or at least very tired, and disinterested. The game itself is part boring investigation with little direction and part boring trip through the cyber punk dreams of the dying. It is not frightening, at least not yet, and it quite literally put me to sleep, though the time change and my advanced age may be partly to blame.

Layers of Fear was not great but it had its moments. Good, spooky, hair on the back of your neck perks up moments. I do not see Observer getting that far and it only has one more day to try.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Just off the mark

There is something just slightly off about Uncharted Lost Legacy but I can't decide if it is a problem with the game or a problem with me. Aiming feels a little floaty, a little inaccurate, but the combat has never been the high point of the Uncharted games. Fighting enemies was just a means to the end of a dramatic, over the top set piece. There has only been one of such set pieces so far, a chase across rooftops that I swear I have done before, and it looked great but was not all that exciting.

The second level is an open world(ish) section right out of A Thief's End, just not as big. There are three ruins to explore, but they are quite small, and the area itself can be driven across in a jeep in just a few minutes. This may be the problem: Uncharted games were big games. Big encounters, big characters, over the top nonsense right out of the best parts of pulpy action movies. Lost Legacy, so far at least, does not have this.

It is a more personal adventure, which Naughty Dog can do, but these are characters that I do not know as well or care as much about as Nathan. The banter between Chloe and Nadine is well written and interesting, always entertaining, but I do not feel like I am part of the story. The closest to engagement I have come was Chloe assuring Nadine that she was no longer involved with the Drake's. Nadine appreciated this seeing as how the Drake's killed her entire band of mercenaries in the last game.

Both Chloe and Nadine have issues with their fathers, Chloe because he was never around and Nadine because she has ruined the company he left her, and I can see the payoff for both coming a mile away. I just don't like either of them as much as I liked Nathan, and I didn't like Nathan until the end of the second Uncharted. His smugness always bothered me.

I hope that there is another silly over the top moment before the game is done, the kind I expect from the series. I also hope that, unlike a Thief's End, that there is a little bit of the supernatural thrown in before the credits role. Chloe and Nadine are looking for the lost tusk of Ganesha. It would be sweet if he himself showed up and started kicking ass with all four of his arms.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Stranger things? What's that?

I 'worked' from home yesterday and still managed to not post anything. Instead I finished Ys VIII. While it never quite overstayed its welcome it certainly ran out of coherent things to say in the last hour or so. The idea that the tree of beginnings is both the creator and destroyer of life, that it occasionally releases extinction level events on the dominant species to keep things changing, is interesting. That this all occurred because the goddess of earth was asleep, tha everything that has ever happened was her dream and that by waking her up the heros in fact destroyed the world, was a little dumb. Ok, a lot dumb.

The game was still good. Minus points for being on the ugly side due to it handheld roots. Further minus points for a boring female protagonist. Velvet from Tales of Berseria may have dressed poorly but she was interesting.  Dana dresses just as poorly but might as well be made out of cardboard.

...


Chamberlain and Chance - Holding hands

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Obligatory Halloween post

It is Halloween and I managed to not play either The Evil Within 2 or Observer (thanks Ys!!) but I do want to, at the very least, bring up a very effective moment in an old, underrated game. This is not a classic moment from a dedicated horror game. Nothing like the pyramid head rape voyeur scene from Silent Hill 2, the bleeding walls in Silent Hill 3 or the ropes in Fatal Frame. It is not a modern example like most of Amnesia: The Dark Descent or the spooky crib from Layers of Fear. I would put it more in line with a frightening section from an otherwise not terribly frightening game; think the shalebride cradle in Thief or the haunted hotel in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Unexpected and effective.

Step into the way back machine with me so we can talk about Doom 64.

Doom 64 was my Nintendo 64 launch title in spite of it not coming out at launch. Neither Super Mario 64 nor Pilotwings 64 did anything for me so I bought the console and waited, patiently, for something to play. Doom 64 did not disappoint. For the uninitiated (or the young) Doom 64 was not a port of any existing Doom. It was its own monster, designed specifically for the new Nintendo system, and is viewed as something of a side story to the main Doom series. It has never been legitimately ported, remade, or in any way made legally available for purchase since its initial release. Midway, its publisher, is long gone, so there is no hope to see it again.

It was also a legitimately exceptional shooter. Concessions were made for the bizarre controller and they worked. Monsters were redesigned in a distinctly late 90's manner. Weapons were reskinned and levels took advantage of what the Nintendo 64 could do. The shooting was good, the level design expansive, but the sound, oh my.

I was in college in 1997. I did not have as much time on a daily basis to play games as I do now but was capable of incredible marathon sessions on the weekends, provided I was sober(ish). I once played Turok 2 for so long that when I closed my eyes I was still running down corridors. It was just that kind of session, hours upon hours of Doom 64, sitting unmoved, cross legged, on the floor of a darkened dorm room, when this happened:




That is how you break a man. I was sleep deprived, zoned out, bleary eyed and that starts playing? I do not recall the level but I recall my reaction: pause the game, turn and look around the room. No one here? Am I sure? Ok, maybe I'll play a little more. Just a little. Even the BFG is no match for a terrifying soundtrack.

Help, I have fallen into the Post-Modern Jukebox internet hole

It started here:




And then I ended up here:




Which brought me here:




 And finally




Send help!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Missed opportunities

I was able to catch most of the Sony Press conference at the Paris Game Show in spite of my stone age office internet connection. It was not all that exciting. Guacamelee 2 is excellent news but the total lack of release window is not. Sucker Punch teasing their next project is also good news but I doubt that it will see a release before the end of next year.

God of War looks less like God of War with each trailer. Horizon Zero Dawn's winter expansion looks exactly like the rest of the game, so meh. I did not realize that Shadow of the Colossus was getting a full blown remake, not just a remaster at a respectable frame rate. I do not think that it will get played but, you know, someone will buy it. There was also quite a bit of PSVR stuff, but really, who cares.

The Last of Us 2 had an extraordinarily violent story trailer to close out the show that featured evisceration, hanging, arms broken with hammers, arrows to the head and the claw end of said hammer being embedded into a skull. There were no recognizable characters but one of the women had arms that I would kill for.

Days Gone was surprisingly absent. Perhaps Sony did not want to put it up against Naughty Dog.

...

Ys VIII hit an interesting crossroads last night and I do not think that it handled it very well. The entire game has been about Adol and company trying to survive on an island filled with dinosaurs long enough to build a boat and escape. There are complications: Adol having visions of Dana and the end of civilization and the giant squid thing that destroyed their ship in the first place. The giant squid problem has been resolved and everyone had calamari for dinner.

The Dana issue got much more complicated when she showed up in the current time without her memory. Adol continued to have flashbacks, some of which the player gets to control, but this time both Adol and Dana are learning about what happened in the past. The last flashback saw Dana's city destroyed be a meteor strike, somehow fitting and a forehead slapper at the same time.

Present day Dana was worried that Adol would no longer help her now that their escape is possible. Adol says that no, he will continue to explore the island while the new boat is actually being built. The adventure should have then continued with her in the party heading out to the last quadrant of the island still missing from the map.

Instead she disappears. Runs away, perhaps, and I guarantee that she will need rescuing. Groan. Dana is a relatively strong character. I say relatively because this is still a JRPG and their treatment of female characters is suspect (remember the hot nun from a few days ago?). She was powerful and resourceful, somehow avoiding an extinction level event, and now she runs away from the people helping her because, well, because the plot requires it?

The combat is still fun so I will keep playing. I do not think I will finish it before Wednesday which means I will not have much to talk about. No problem, I will sit out the Stranger Things talk, which I promise there will be a lot of.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Since the universe DOES exist, might as well do a podcast

Chamberlain and Chance - The show must go on

Well that's a relief

Universe shouldn't exist, CERN physicists conclude

Click bait headline aside, this is incredibly interesting. The big bang created matter and anti-matter in equal amounts. Matter and anti-matter annihilate one another on contact, meaning that the universe should have ended as soon as it began. Obviously it didn't because here we are. This means that there should be some difference between matter and anti-matter, something to account for matter surviving. Right now no one knows what this difference is.

So the universe exists but scientists are still trying to figure out why.

...and if it was a good idea in the first place.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Finally too far

There is a nun character in Ys VII that looks like this:


Pretty normal nun, right? Crosses have been replaced by generic religious looking things. She is obviously being penitent about something. After she is rescued Sister Nia asks Adol to take her on a pilgrimage - to the top of a very tall, monster infested hill. She wants to pray while high up in the air, or something like that. Cue boring escort mission made worse by Sister Nia not being able to move faster than a slow amble.

When she finally reaches the top of the hill Sister Nia expresses frustration at how slowly she moved while tripping over small rocks. She asks Adol to turn around, there is a sound of fabric tearing, and then:


COME ON. That is not okay. She lounges around like that back at base camp after the mission is done, making sure everyone knows that the nun was smoking hot under her habit. Granted, her outfit is downright demure compared to Dana's, it still made me fill a little creepier than usual, and that is saying something coming from a 40 something guy playing JRPGs in his basement. 

If I made it through the style catastrophe that was Tales of Berseria I can make it through this.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Line and sinker

Ys VIII is an at times clumsy collection of adventure tropes. A ship is wrecked off of a deserted island by a giant squid. The hero wakes up on the beach and with the help of other survivors builds a fort to provide protection while they figure out how to get off of the island. There are dead pirates, a serial killer that happened to be on the boat and, crucially, dinosaurs, because this is not just anime Robinson Crusoe, it is anime Robinson Crusoe crossed with the Land of the Lost.

Add in a little occasional 'Oh Japan' and the game is compelling in spite of its last gen looks and mostly useless map. (Seriously, Dana's outfit gives Velvet's from Berseria a run for the bottom of the barrell.) I was not planning on dropping forty hours on this when I have better looking games to play and a new console arriving in two weeks but it appears that I no longer have a choice.

I talk a big game but just about any ARPG will hook me. Even the fishing mini-game has not been enough to drive me away.

...

Lacrimosa - (Italian) female singular of lacrimoso: teary, tear filled, wet

Do I smell a tragic ending? We can only hope.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Voting with dollars

Contrary to 'the way that I do things' I may end up purchasing Wolfenstein II, both as a final goodbye present to my soon to be ignored (not really) PS4 Pro and to support Bethesda's firm anti-nazi stance. I have been shooting video game nazis since the original Medal of Honor, I did have a PC in the Wolfenstein 3D days, and see no good reason to stop. Bethesda leaning into the bizarre thought that not all fascism is bad by posting videos of an American as apple pie BJ shooting goose steppers in the face is beautiful.

The belief that Wolfenstein II was whipped up in short order to make a political statement is so laughable I cannot believe that anyone actually subscribes to it. Then again, this is the internet in 'merica, I should know better than to expect more than the worst.

Guess what? I am looking forward to shooting white religious nuts in Far Cry 5 because it is about time someone took aim at my team. Bible belt white folk can be pretty terrible, just like any other group of people, why should they be immune to virtual cross hairs?

Yes, video games can be used to make political statements. No, that is not what Wolfenstein II is. It is just a pleasant accident.

Friday, October 20, 2017

And my eyes said 'meh'

I try to not make snap judgements about a game on looks alone. 'Try' is as honest as I can be seeing that I purchased an Xbox One S, a PS4 Pro, and 4K television and have an Xbox One X pre-ordered. I like the pretties but I 'try' to not dismiss a game just because it doesn't scrape the film off of my eyeballs with its high resolution prowess. Style and cutting edge visuals are not the same thing. As a recent example, Hotline Miami had style, Ruiner looked better, only one will I remember after more than a few weeks have passed.

Ys VIII looks, and I mean no offense to the handheld loyalists, like a Vita game. It looks like a slightly shiner PS3 game with simply textures, hard edges, characters with limited detail and a lot of repeated environments. Tales games suffer from this as well, but not to this extent. Berseria looked like a late PS3 game and Ys VIII could have been a launch title.

This is a shame because it plays quite well. Smooth would be a fine word to use: combat starts out simple but enemies hurt enough that the player must dodge instead of just eating attacks. The crafting system does not force farming as, at least for now, what is needed is gathered just by exploring the environment. Equipment is sparse but offers meaningful upgrades to stats. It plays like a well polished action RPG that happens to inhabit a series that I know nothing about.

But it looks boring. I have found the map difficult to use as environmental landmarks are few and far between. Characters do not change in appearance as new items are equipped (something else that Tales games are guilty of). Random enemies are small and lack detail. My jaded eyeballs are expecting more. They expect all of the digital power under the hood of the (soon to be eclipsed) most power console available to be used for something.

Sure, the frame rate is solid, but I would expect as much from a game that could probably be run on my discount android tablet and/or my dusty Switch. It's not fair but it is reality. Ys VIII is, so far, a good game, but sitting under it is the Uncharted stand alone expansion, an experience guaranteed to at least temporarily sate my desire for all of the polygons, all of the time.

...

My Coming Soon list is starting to stress me out. I didn't play any of the horror games I wanted to and October is almost over. At the rate it has been moving I will get to The Evil Within 2 and the new South Park some time next year and I know that when I get my Xbox One X I will end up playing nothing but Forza 7 for a week and then possibly dip back into Killer Instinct to see how it looks at 4K 60 fps.

I need to rethink this hobby of mine, all facets of it, from playing to writing this to the podcast.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Civil discourse

Of course one of us does not like Cuphead as much as the other two. How interesting would it be if we all agreed?


Chamberlain and Chance - Two out of three ain't bad

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Not exactly newbs

I finished Ruiner last night and I am still up in the air about how good it was. Upgrade points come at a premium which forces the player to choose skills carefully but respecs are free. It is expected that the player retool their skills to fight different bosses. The bosses themselves are almost never fun to fight but every encounter leading up to them, including a final battle royal that comes full circle to a spoilery plot point, are very good. Not perfect, as enemies that can teleport without warning or tell can fuck right off (especially when they are firing a minigun), but it works far more often than it doesn't work.

Aesthetically it swings from just enough weird, cyber-punk riffing on Akira and The Matrix to far too much, especially when all the nifty lighting effects get in the way of the combat. Honestly, it feels like a first attempt from a developer that has a chance of being very good. Let's check.

...time passes...

I was technically correct. Ruiner is the first game by Reikon Games but they are comprised of industry veterans who have worked on Dead Island and The Witcher games. Not exactly a first outing. More like a first attempt without training wheels. Ruiner mostly succeeds. Another pass with the digital polisher and it might have been better. Ending up in the same mind space as Hotline Miami will always bring difficult comparisons.

...

I played Marvel again last night. It did not go well. Sigma and monster hunter are a problem. I ended up in a casual match again a rank 9 player (full disclosure: I am rank 15, the bottom of the bottom) in which I might as well have not been holding a controller. If I wanted that kind of relentless abuse I would play Overwatch.

Monday, October 16, 2017

I likes what I likes

Having recently been lectured over the term 'guilty pleasure' and being told that if I enjoy something that no one else enjoys I should own it the same way that I enjoy not enjoying things that everyone else enjoys I must confess that I had fun with Knack 2 in spite of all of the characters being shit. It mustered up a sensible false ending, heart pumping climax and reasonable sequel tease, all with writing so terrible that Resident Evil 1 felt better about itself after hearing it.

The game was good. Honestly good. Everything around the game was not.

The first Knack never did enough with scale. Knack ranges in size from 2 and half feet to around 30, depending on what is going on, but the game never felt different. There was no feeling of power when he was big or vulnerability when he was small. Knack 2 turns this on its head by having mini-Knack run around a giant robot, feeling very weak and exposed, and later having 10 foot Knack do the same thing on truly gigantic mechanical spider of death and destruction before coming across a platoon of foot soldiers and massacring them with little effort. It has its cake and eats it, too.

I can see you rolling your eyes, thinking that 'Chamberlain is enjoying this ironically' and that 'this is the same guy who said that Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn were just okay.' I am not comparing them based on artistic quality or technical achievement. Knack 2 is no slouch, it looks quite good running at 4K, 30 fps, but Horizon is one of the best looking games I have ever seen and Breath of of the Wild is a remarkable achievement for a game running on a glorified tablet. What I am saying that is Knack 2 made me smile and annoyed me less than weapon degradation or wandering into giant robot dinosaurs that I shouldn't fight yet.

If I were a paid critic my analysis would be a little deeper that 'it made me feel good.' I would talk about how the combat is basically solved once Knack gets the long range grapple move and how playing through the game on Normal left a full one quarter of his skills still locked. I would complain about quick time events monopolizing several key moments (but not the ending) and I would harp on how terrible the voice acting and characters really are. But I am not a paid critic, I am just a guy who plays games, compulsively, that sometimes find it difficult to enjoy them through several decades of accumulated cynicism.

Knack 2 is a solid 7 and I expected a 5. Breath of the Wild and Horizon were 8's but I was promised a 10. There is a big difference.

...

The jury is still out on Ruiner. Game math shortcut because I am lazy:

Ruiner = Hotline Miami + Akira visuals and sound + a dash of Max Payne bullet time.

That certainly sounds good but there are problems. First, the visuals are flashy but are so busy that they can get in the way of the action. Hotline Miami worked because it was sparse and sharp. You could see what was going on at all times. Ruiner has enemies disappearing into lens flare. Second, Hotline Miami had no bosses because they would not work with it style of quick death/quick restart. The bosses in Ruiner are bullshit hard and not as much fun to deal with as waves of gun toting mooks.

Third, the control is seriously over complicated. It starts out as a twin stick shooter but then adds a dash on L1, one special move on L2 (right now a shield), a melee attack on R1, ranged attack on R2, pick up weapons on X and special moves on the remaining three. This means that to pick up a weapon or throw a grenade you have to stop aiming. Time does slow down when picking up a weapon but your motion slows down just as much. This means that you get to see what is going to kill you at one quarter speed.

The dash is also bizarre. Tapping L1 is a dash that can be chained up to three time. You can also hold L1 and set three waypoints with the left stick and R1, then release L1 and jump through the series. It looks cool but I have yet to find a use for it as there is no time for any actions between set jumps.

I will play it more but the coming soon list is seriously out of hand and this was purchased based on snazzy trailer. If it does not get finished I will not shed many tears.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Don't look, just play

There is no denying that Knack 2 is a significant upgrade from the first game. It looks better, making good use of the PS4 Pro. It plays better, giving Knack more abilities to deal with the spikes in combat difficulty that are still present and honestly expected. But is this enough to pull the game up from 'yeah, I played it because I play everything' to 'I am honestly enjoying this in a non-ironic sense'?

Almost. Almost.

When I am playing Knack, just playing it, not paying attention to the characters, story, voice acting, etc, it is almost a good game. The platforming is simple but accurate (enough). The new leveling system makes sense and rewards the player for not taking hits and keeping the shield at full strength. There are enough new moves in combat to keep it fresh and they arrive at reasonable intervals. The first was a power hit that breaks shields and just as I began to think 'this is nice but those archer bastards are always too far away to hit' the game gave Knack the ability to stretch out an arm and grab enemies, pull them in, and then pound on them until they die.

But then someone talks and when someone talks it is unbearable. All of the human characters are dick heads, either yelling at each other or treating Knack as if he were a small child. This might make sense when he is in his smallest state but patronizing a 20 foot beast does not sound like a good idea. Knack just takes it because, since his creation, it is all he has known. If I were smarter I could draw parallels between Knack's treatment and indentured servitude, how his position as property makes me vaguely uncomfortable, but I am not that smart and this is just a family friendly game with surprisingly punishing combat.

Knack is not an allegory for anything, it is just tone deaf to everything.

So is it better? Absolutely. Am I having fun with it? Yes, but this is a tepid yes. I enjoy 3D platformers and they are coming around less and less often. Thankfully this is not a collectathon (I am looking at you, Yooka Laylee), just a romp through colorful, 4K(ish) environments interrupted by punching and getting punched by robots, goblins and robot goblins. I just wish that I didn't hate all of the characters.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Force Awakens The Last Jedi From His Nap

Things we learned from the new Star Wars trailer:


  • Luke is a shitty trainer. Obi Wan levels of shitty. He lost pouty baby Vader and is going to lose Rey. Everything is his fault and he should be ashamed of himself.
  • Kylo Ren is going to kill Leia, thereby saving us from more terrifying CGI recreations of dead celebrities, ala the end of Rogue One. He is the true hero of this story.
  • Finn takes a break from shilling Battlefront 2 just long enough to get his ass kicked by shiny lady stormtrooper.
  • The ground hog from Indiana Jones 4 has mad, mad connections. Co-piloting the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca? That's some serious cred. Maybe Weinstein got to him, too.
  • Snoke was pieced together from bits of Palpatine and, somehow, Frieza.
And now, for the super awesome twist that won't happen, but should:

Rey falls to the dark side. Ren, after killing Leia, pulls a Vader 180. Rey kills Luke. This sets up a wicked double twist for the third movie with Ren being Luke, Rey is Vader and Snoke is, well, he is still Snoke. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Niceties rescinded

I can now confirm that my early tepid praise of Agents of Mayhem was misplaced. The game showed all that it had in the first five hours and that is being generous. Because it is Monday and I am feeling a bit bitchy I will now catalog its failing in excruciating detail.

The city is esthetically boring and uniform. I am not a fan of the GTA series, having started and not finished most of them thanks to shoddy driving and shooting controls, but even from that limited exposure it is obvious that the cities are laid out like cities, just in miniature. There are recognizable neighborhoods and districts. It is possible to tell where you are just by looking at the architecture. Agents of Mayhem suffers from homogenous apathy of design. The city looks like rejected Tron 2.0 storyboards and every area looks the same. It is not exciting or even interesting to explore, so I didn't.

I suppose I will admit that the driving works, but that too is boring, with different vehicles behaving more or less the same, the only variety being cosmetic skins obtained randomly from chests and side missions.

Side missions is not accurate. Side errands? Distractions? Padding? All enemy hideouts look the same and are completed the same way. Enemy bases are interesting to take over the first time but at the halfway point everything you have obtained is undone and if you bother to retake any of the bases they just revert back to enemy control a few minutes later. This is the game's idea of depth: to force the player to replay identical sections, the only reward being crafting materials and pointless skins.

Crafting is used to duplicate captured enemy abilities that are then assigned as mods to other agent skills. Not a bad idea but unlocking the enemy skills means running agents through the same hideouts over and over. These skills become more important at higher difficulty levels but the game idea of difficulty is just making enemies bullet sponges.

I got bored. Soooooo bored. The attempts at humor were not enough to keep me interested and once I leveled one team up to their cap I had no desire to switch them out. But I still need to finish the game...

There is one point that I must give Agents of Mayhem: it automatically adjusts the difficulty level as your team gains strength. These keeps you from feeling overpowered. If the game were better I would have enjoyed this. Instead it offered up a way to bull my way through to the end by setting the difficulty back down to almost default levels, allowing me to one shot most enemies.

One more night and I will move on. I am paying for so any good games in a row, now, and the next one on the list is just as bad, if not worse.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A quick note

Cast is still down so I recorded this manually via Audacity. Don't worry, I have no intention of making this a regular thing.


Chamberlain and Chance - It's lonely in here

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Satisfaction

Many apologies but there is not going to be a full podcast episode this week. The service that we use for recording, Cast, is having hosting issues. I have blamed them for things in the past but this is not on them and they have been pretty up front with what is going on. I promise that my next week I will have calmed down and there will be a little less yelling.

...

Cuphead is finished. The final boss took around two hours, probably more. Time began to melt away as the retries mounted. Several bed times came and went, from 'it's normal bed time' to 'it's late bad time' to 'oh fuck, I have to work tomorrow' bed time. I just could not let it go and I began to wonder, somewhere in the second hour, if it was honestly beyond my ability.

I guarantee that next week's podcast will contain a discussion comparing my resilience to Cuphead to my cowardice towards Bloodborne to wish I offer a pre-emptive pishaw. I am old, my remaining time on Earth is precious, therefore the amount of time a retry takes and what I lose for failing are of incredible importance.

Dying in a Souls game, which happens a lot, costs the player both physical progress, as the player is sent back to a recall point, and character progress, as accumulated experience is lost. This makes dying terrifying and costly. It is part of the game, an added stressor that I do not agree with and will not tolerate. I have passed on excellent games with no hesitation because I knew that I simply would not enjoy them.

Dying in Cuphead, which happens a lot (480 time from beginning to end, to be precise), costs the player nothing. There is no walk back to whatever did the killing, as the game is just a boss rush, and no character progress is lost as there is almost no character progress anyway. New weapons are unlocked by coins collected in the run and gun levels but the run and gun levels are short enough that having to do them over and over is no worse than one of the boss levels. Death is not a penalty, it is a quick detour.

This does not mean that it is easy, only that it is not discouraging. In the final throws of self doubt I kept returning for one more attempt. One more try. One more. And when I beat the final boss I exhaled, satisfied.

I realize that I have said nothing about Cuphead's iconic look or the fact that is the best controlling side scroll anything in many years. Those facts are secondary to these: playing Cuphead made me happy and, while it was difficult, it was never frustrating and, in the end, incredibly satisfying. Please, Studio MDHR, make another one, and soon.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Slowing progress

Day one of Cuphead saw me complete all of Island 1 and all but one boss on Island 2. That's 9 boses and 4 run and gun stages. Pretty good progress for around three hours.

Day two, also around three hours, was limited to 4 bosses and 1 run and gun stage. At this rate of decrease I will finish the game some time in 2018, if I am lucky. This is not a complaint. However, based on my rather spirited reaction to failing at Marvel vs Capcom Infinite (chronicled in last week's podcast) this is not a game that I am going to play every day. I maintained my zen shooter state for two solid days but I can feel it cracking, giving way to the same fits of juvenile rage usually reserved for button mashed auto-combos.

Cuphead is exceptional but it is not for everyone. The game does not attempt to dilute itself to the point of pleasing everyone and it is better for it. I am not making a 'GIT GUD' argument, as I myself am not capable of 'GITTING GUD'. I am only saying that, much like some games that I hate *cough*From Software*cough* it is clear that Cuphead is exactly the game it was intended to be.

No compromises.

If you fall into that niche, the niche that actually played, completed and enjoyed Super Mario Bros The Lost Levels (yes, I did this), then $20 is an absolute steal. If you do not fall into that niche then for God's sake watch a let's play. There are parts of this game that need to be seen to be believed.

Monday, October 2, 2017

So this is what happens when you get old

Your favorite people start to die.


Refreshed, not punished

Long weekend away from my gaming devices (yes, I did not take my Switch on vacation) but I do have two important things to talk about.

First, I now understand the low-ish metacritc scores for Agents of Mayhem. Following a story missions I unlocked about six character specific tasks, at the end of each that character was unlocked. Sounds good so far. Each character has their own attacks and skills that can be unlocked. So far each of their missions has been a carbon copy of something that I have already done. Clearing an enemy base, something that I have done at least six or seven times, loses its amusement when they are all almost the same. A new gun does not automatically make it fun again.

This does not mean that I am not going to finish the game but I have been distracted by a game that I never thought would see the light of day: Cuphead.

Cuphead came out on Friday but I did not get a chance to play it until Sunday afternoon, and even then I was sick and tired from traveling all day. That evening, when I should have been sleeping, I was powering through the game, rubbing my eyes and wiping my nose in an effort to stay conscious for one more boss. It's that good.

I do need to take some air out of the game's mystique: it's not that hard. Sort of. I ran through all of the first world and all but one of the bosses of the second in about two and a half hours. A full half hour of that was dedicated to one boss (fuck you Beppi the Clown) but I was never frustrated. Cuphead is not shy about killing the player. It should be assumed that each new section of a boss, of which there are three or four, will be lethal as there is no fucking way to predict what is going to happen.

This should piss me off, right? I'll tell you why it doesn't: Cuphead is almost entirely comprised of bosses. When I die, and it has happened well over a hundred time now, I am literally seconds away from trying again. No being sent back to the beginning of the level (the run and gun sections are the weakest part of the game), not losing all the experience or money or weapons gained, no penalty at all. I do not even need to walk back to the beginning of the fight from an arbitrarily placed bonfire. I push a button and try again.

Cuphead is not the Dark Souls of platformers. Cuphead is fair. Cuphead is fun.

So is the gameplay hard? Of course it's fucking hard. The clown boss I mentioned before had attacks that were so hard to avoid that it was silly. I know that things are just going to get more difficult but I am looking forward to it because the game handles death in a logical manner, not a punitive one. The gameplay is hard but playing the game is not. Playing the game is easy in that I want to keep coming back and my time is not abused. There is no progress to lose, only to gain.

It would be nice to finish the game tonight so I can get to my October project of horror games but that may or may not happen. I have doubts that my pace of progress through the final third of the game will match that of the first two thirds. And that's okay.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wasting time

I feel that I should apologize to someone for the amount of time I have stuck into the ticking time bomb that is Marvel. Last night I planned on sitting down for an hour, losing, getting salty, then moving back over to Agents of Mayhem and taking said salt out on faceless goons. It didn't work out that way.

Three and a half hours later I dragged my sorry ass to bed. Matchmaking is pretty slow so I split the hours between waiting for fights in the practice room, waiting for fights at a menu, and finally jumping into a lobby and running a longer than average set with someone whose every team was better than what I could muster. I won 4 to his 6 so it was not a blowout but it certainly was not pretty.

My major beef of the moment is that mashing light punch (the auto combo button) into tag into auto combo is surprisingly effective, at least against me. Full screen super works, but that is not much fun. Hulk's gamma charge also works, as it has several points of armor, but that doesn't lead into anything cool, at least nothing I have discovered yet. Spamming gamma charge also leads to people disconnected, which amuses me, but doesn't make for good fights.

I am not good enough to steam roll mashers but I am far to ass to fight anyone who actually knows what they are doing. This middle ground will be what drives me away from the game, well, that and the stack of games behind it, but I have had more 'fun' with this Marvel that the last one already. Now if I could just land

(Rocket) c.LK, c.HK x electric mine, HP, f.HP x tag (Hulk) LK, HK x LK gamma charge, meteor super x tag, fire mine, gatling gun super, tag, HK gamma charge

in a fucking match I would retire happy.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Side tracked by winning

I meant to start Agents of Mayhem over the weekend but a 14 gig patch that spontaneously disappeared and the game uninstalling itself prevented it. That patch is larger than the game's install. I would mind this less if PSN's download speed was in any way respectable. Instead of jumped feet first into Marvel vs Capcom Infinite's online mode and things went better than expected.

My team is still Rocket/Hulk, though I have changed my gem from Time (air dash) to Space (pull the enemies closer or put them in a big box). Rocket's land mines are great combo starters and pulling someone into one from across the screen is endlessly amusing. Amusing is all I really hoped for in Marvel. I have already played Infinite more than 3 without breaking anything.

Not only did this work but I actually won a few matches. Other bottom dwellers liked to mash light punch from across the screen, hoping to stumble into an auto-combo. Whatever shall I do? Super from across the screen works as does the aforementioned mine into space pull. Even more fun is walking up with Hulk and just punching the person through their jabs thanks to his armored moves. Deflating someone with a cool looking (but easy) air combo for 25% life sustained me.

Somewhere between losing and winning at Marvel I lamented to Chance that I was aggressively bad at the game. He suggested that I be aggressively bad at Overwatch instead and I could find no argument against it. I stuck to Bastion, we played four on four deathmatches (Alex was there as well) and we won. My Bastion was covered by shields and heals and filled many opponents with holes. It was both fun and, well, embarrassing, because I understood why I had so little fun with Overwatch the last time that we played.

This stems from a brief discussion of PuBG and how I did not understand its popularity. It was described as a witches brew of things that I hate: rogue-like progress resets and no overriding narrative.  That and being reliant on the cooperation of other people are things that just cannot abide.

I cannot create my own narrative in a game. The time in PuBG between being dropped, nearly naked, into a field and later dying and losing my scrounged collection of weapons and clothing is wasted time. There was no story told and everything that I gained was lost. It is popular because it creates shorter stories in the players' heads, one for each attempt, that are satisfying. I hate the very thing that everyone else enjoys.

The same is true for relying on others in Overwatch. The first time I played online I lost almost every game. This made the ten or so minutes of gameplay that preceded it a 'waste of time' because I did not achieve the goal and was in no way rewarded for the effort. XP towards loot boxes does nothing for me. When I was winning, in no way thanks to my own ability, I did enjoy it, but my mediocre contribution made that enjoyment embarrassing.

This is why, when I am playing well, fighting games are fun. I won. And this is why my interest in them sways wildly from playing nothing but them to cursing their existence. When I lose, I lose. No story is told, no progress gained, I lost.

...I may have just confessed to being a sociopath.

...

Marvel's true calling for me, a spectator sport, is alive and well. Watching SCR was a blast and Yipes and Tasty Steve on the mic were a delight. Once I am done playing the game I will still enjoy watching the game. I am not sure how Capcom benefits from this, as spectating does not require the purchase of a season pass, but Capcom has proved time and again that it really doesn't know what its doing, anyway.

Friday, September 22, 2017

It don't mean a thing

If it ain't got that swing.




Someone is a fan of Squirrel Nut Zippers.







That is some hot shit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I'm fine, really. I just think too much sometimes

I wound myself up into a bizarre thought experiment on the way home from work yesterday and I have not found a way out of it yet. It is not original, by any means, but it is caught up on the front burner of my brain like an ear worm or disturbing image. This ties into something that Chance and I talked about off-air yesterday: the 'American Dream'.

By anyone's measure I have a good life. I live in a safe town in a safe state (no hurricanes or earthquakes, just cold winters) in the most powerful, if dubiously governed, country. I have a cushy job that allows me to come and go almost as I please. I am even the right gender and the right color (please note this is not me expressing racism or sexism, only the fact that white men have an easier time of things than most) . I am financially stable due mostly to good fortune and the posthumous generosity of others. It feels like I have done little to deserve this, having passed on many opportunities in life to do more because more is difficult. I have always chosen the path of least resistance and have never been punished for it.

This is where the weird thought experiment kicks in.

What if all of this were indeed too good to be true? There are two possibilities: first, the entire universe of my perception may be created just for me, a private matrix that continually bends the odds in my favor. Everything comes up Chamberlain because everything exists for Chamberlain. There is no way for me to prove or disprove this as it is impossible for me to view anything from outside of my perspective. I cannot see with another man's eyes so this false universe becomes the truth.

As I said, this is not an original thought, but it is one way to explain my inordinate good luck. The second is that I am mad, that reality is real but my perception is not, that it is warped by mental disease or defect. Again, there is no way to prove or disprove this. To the mad man the sane seem crazy.

These are not pleasant thoughts. I credit them to the dreadful melancholy that accompanies the midpoint of an unremarkable life. 

There are two paths you can go by

After recording last night I spent played a bit of the story on Infinite (it's ridiculous and insane, but in a good way) before hitting the practice room again. I woke up thinking about combos, ways to go from Rocket to Hulk and back again. This is either a good thing, meaning that I am willing to put in some work with this game, or a very bad thing in that I am setting myself up for massive disappointment when I finally play against another person and none of my shit works.


Chamberlain and Chance - Don't be afraid

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Big and little

I played Marvel vs Capcom Infinite for around three hours last night without leaving the trials or the practice room. Not a single character feels comfortable yet mostly likely to me having played the third game so briefly around five years ago. Before I even think about playing against a person I need a character that feels right, whose  movement and arsenal are not a struggle to deal with. I am not there yet but I have eliminated a few people.

Dante is far too complex. He is doctorate level Marvel and I am in kindergarten.

Anyone with a down down motion. A misguided attempt at lowering the execution barrier has led to most dragon punch motions (forward - down - downforward) being replaced by down down. I find this significantly worse than a normal DP motion and impossible to do accurately or quickly. This takes out Mega Man X, Gamora, Chun Li  and Captain Marvel, among others.

Ryu - he doesn't feel like Ryu at all.

Frank - I just don't like Frank after the last Dead Rising.

The one team that I took into the practice room and some fun with was Hulk - Rocket Raccoon with the Speed gem. Here's my idea: Hulk hits hard but it slow. Rocket is fast. Start a combo with Rocket and tag in Hulk to finish it off. I think the principle is sounds. The Speed gem give Hulk an air dash, which is does not normally have, and allows Rocket up to three airborne moves (his two air dashes and the speed gem) to try to mix up into a hit.

Again, I think the principle is sound. I do not know if I have the skills or the patience to make anything happen. My one day foray into Overwatch should give you a clue on his this may end up going.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pointless trivia

The Motorhead DLC takes Victor on a brief tour of histories evils. The first is unmistakable World War II, complete with overhead bombers and a nameless 'fuhrer' yelling at Victor from the distance. The second is the old west with a nameless, evil priest as the villain and the third is middle ages based, complete with an evil queen who baths in the blood of her subjects. Final boss music, ahoy:



All three are stock standard 'evil' archetypes but the first, the nameless Nazis and the nameless Fuhrer, lead to an interesting point: Lemmy (of Motorhead) was an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia. He loved it because, in his words, 'I have always liked a good uniform.' The Motorhead expansion was announced in 2014. Lemmy died a few days after his birthday, December 28th, 2015. The expansion actually came out in June 2016.

Was the psuedo Naxi immagery added at Lemmy's behest? Did he even know that his likeness was used in the game? It was not the first time - he showed up in Brutal Legend as a healer, of all things.

...

It's hard to find things to talk about with this game. It's fun but it isn't very deep. I finished Motorhead last night, realized that the crafting system was even more useless and abstract than I first thought, and am not sure if I am going to go back for the final piece of DLC. There are beatings to be had. My beatings. And I haven't even chosen a team yet.

Monday, September 18, 2017

My hands hurt when it was done

Victor Vran's main champaign wrapped up to days ago in a pleasant enough manner. The voice in Victor's head was the big bad guy. Said bad guy had been making fun of Victor's hat for most of the game so when he got his it was quite satisfying. I mean, Victor's hat is terrible, but you don't just say that to a person who wields a shotgun that never needs to be loaded and a scythe with a six foot blade, ancient vampire or not, it just isn't going to go well.

The age of the game means that all of the DLC is included so I took by powered up Victor into the first add on: Motorhead. Yes, Lemmy makes an appearance. Yes, there is licenced music. No, there is not enough licenced music so a few tunes get recycled ad nauseum. There is also a stiff uptick in difficulty, possibly caused by the game not scaling monsters well to my higher level. This is especially bad during rock memorial events: Victor (who has no idea what is going on) finds a gave to a member of Motorhead and must defend it from waves of enemies. I spent about 45 minutes on one last night and if I hear Jailbait one more fucking time....



The game is still fun but it is not bringing anything new to the table in the DLC so I do not know if I will make it to the end of Motorhead, much less the second offering. There is a new fighting game coming out tomorrow, one that I will purchase entirely out of habit even though simply watching the game terrifies me: Marvel vs Capcom Infinite.

I have not touched Marvel vs Capcom 3 in six goddamn years. And when I did attempt it things did not go well, as documented here. I am not sure why I feel compelled to purchase it, especially when Tekken 7 and Injustice were obtained quite close together and have both fallen out of rotation. If I can make it through a few days without breaking anything I will count it as a win.

Speaking of Tekken...

There is a new arcade near my house that is slowly building up a collection of classic games. Their collection is scattershot, nowhere near the encyclopedia of cabinets offered by Galloping Ghost, but this is a twenty minute drive versus 2 hours and I don't need to go to Chicago. Since the last time I was there they obtained a Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection cabinet that was in pretty good shape. The buttons were touchy but the sticks felt nice. Tekken 5 was the Tekken that I actually practiced. The intervening years meant that I was not going to attempt Steve but Nina and Bryan still worked.

All of the games are set on free play so there is no putting a quarter up to signify that you would like to play. My brother and I ran a few rounds, and he somehow remember most of King's 10 hit string, but I was victorious in a close match. I came back later and watched someone else play long enough for him to notice me and invite me.

His Paul was junk. He knew moves and strings but his spacing was terrible. I just juggled him with Nina and then f,f -2'd him into the ground with Bryan. As soon as he lost the first round he began to complain about his stick.

Ahhhhh, arcades, where your opponent's bitching is the true balm of Gilead.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Of course I don't like Overwatch

A preface to this week's episode.

I said some rather not nice things about the Smash community and for that I feel I should apologize. Picking on the game is one thing, something that I do not apologize for, but disparaging the community as a whole is not acceptable. Are they loud, rude and insular? Yes, but so are people who play Marvel. Chance reported that they are trying to make reasonable changes in their community to become more inviting to female players and that should be applauded. They do not deserve to be thrown under a bus as a whole and for that I do apologize.

The game is still no fun to watch.


Chamberlain and Chance - It's a cult

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The good king of gamey

Diablo 3 is an exceptional game. It is the only game in recent memory that I played through twice, and that wasn't even on purpose. My intention the second time was to just play the expansion but I was unable to due to a quirk with importing a character. The old monk was pushed aside and I played the whole damn thing again with a demon hunter. Good times were had.

Diablo clones are a mixed bag. There are really good ones: Titan Quest (showing my age with that one) and Torchlight 2. There are not so good ones, like the Vikings game that I played earlier this year. Victor Vran is closer to Torchlight 2 than Vikings in that in embraces its gaminess. Victor himself is stoic, deadpan, but the nameless voice in his head breaks the fourth wall for laughs quite often. Other characters are caricatures, exaggerated to the point of amusement without being annoying. It's an impressive balancing act.

Combat likewise attempts to skirt the barrier between ARPG and just action. There are no skills to earn, special attacks are tied to weapon type, but there are passive buffs to assign and super moves to choose. There are around five weapon types, two of which you can have equipped at a time. It is worth it to keep one of each type handy as there are secondary objectives in each area that will sometimes require you to kill a certain number of beasts with a certain weapon. Again, interesting without being obtrusive.

I won't call it mindless but it does not require any of the planning that goes into a good Diablo 3 build. Victor Vran is almost jump in and play, do a level or two, then fast travel back to the hub (for free) and move on with your day. Not bad for a budget game that came out two years ago on PC.

Monday, September 11, 2017

I am weak

On Saturday I buckled to tremendous peer pressure and purchased Overwatch.

I have not put time into an online shooter since one of the PC Unreal Tournaments. Which one had vehicles and the assault maps? That one. I was never 'good' but I was not embarrassing and very little, if any, team communication was required. You assaulted a point or you defended a point, all while shooting everyone that was not the same color as you.

(insert joke about 'merica here if you like)

It worked for me because there was limited choice. There were no characters, no special skills. So it is understandable that when I first tried Overwatch last year I picked Soldier and called it a day. Easy character, reasonable DPS, self heal, everything that a fundamentally lazy man who doesn't like to talk to people needs to have a good time.

Once I pick a character in a game it is incredibly difficult to get me to change. I have played Blanka in Street Fighter since SFII and his absence is Street Fighter 5 is the source of most of my disinterest. When I do play I use Necalli, not because I like him, but because I started with him in the beta. This is true for just about every fighting game I touch (Kitana, Green Arrow, Thunder, May and Nina all say hello). Honestly SFIIHDR is the only exception as I have a reasonable Dhalsim and a scrubby Sagat. Playing a different character feels foreign, uncomfortable, and is a great way to raise my gorge at a game and send me off in a different direction.

This does not work for Overwatch because team dynamics are actually important. Since I purchased the game (again, due to relentless and wearying pressure from someone) I have played all but a few games with Soldier. To no one's surprise he is great in the new (to me) deathmatch mode. I was coming in second or third, completely cold and rusty, thanks not to my incredible shooter skills but to the fact that having self heal and reasonable DPS works out great when your entire task is shooting people.

On normal Overwatch maps, where support is important, I cannot bank on the team needing a Soldier. When it works it is joyous. I had one game, I forget which map (because I do not know the names) where I sat on the point, backed up by a Mercy and an Orisa, and racked up a ten kill streak before some dirty Tracer snuck in behind and shot me in the back. The three of us won the match. Later I played a payload match where I was lost the entire time and completely ineffectual because I didn't wait for the team and had no back up. It was not a good time.

I am treating this as an experiment. Can I enjoy a game that forces me to interact with others? As I grow older, and god damn am I getting old, my hermit like ways have been getting worse. Aside from the podcast I talk to very few people outside of my immediate family. I interact with strangers as little as possible and conduct most of my business through very politely worded emails. This is probably not healthy but there is so much momentum behind the behavior that, like playing Blanka, I do not know if it can be changed.

There is some skin in the game now, as I actually own the game and have purchased a cheap ass headset, so the sunk cost fallacy may work in my favor. Then again I just started Victor Vran, a pretty good Diablo-esque experience with a protagonist voiced by Doug Cockle, the same gentleman who brought Geralt of Rivia to life. It's fun that I can have alone, which is much easier.