Monday, August 21, 2017

Amusement easy mode

Dragon Quest Heroes II is a lot like cotton candy. There appears to be quite a bit of it, I can eat it for a long time without getting full, but I will probably get tired of it before it it gone and will undoubtedly end up with a stomach ache and sore teeth. That comparison broke down somewhere in there but, much like cotton candy and bad games, once I have started in on it I will be hard pressed to not get to the end.

Give me a break, it's Monday and I spent most of yesterday really hung over.

There have been a few improvements since the last game. Quests are fewer in number but more reasonable in requirement and more immediately beneficial beyond just monetary rewards. The game looks cleaner and shoves more enemies than reasonable on the screen at a time, a technique that works about as well now as it did in Kameo more than a decade ago - it is moderately amusing.

New weapons are on the expensive side which makes it impossible to keep your entire stable of heroes fully equipped. If I ever felt like changing this would be an issue but, with no knowledge of the main series Dragon Quest games, I am content to use the starting four. Three DPS and one healer is about as complicated as I need to get.

Most interesting, and least useful to me, is an 'ask for help' online mechanic ripped right from Dark Souls. Every story mission has the option to send out a request for assistance and, if you have the online option turned on, you can answer said requests for any level that you have already completed. The intent is indeed noble but all I can see is an opportunity for griefing so I turned it off. I will sink or swim on my own, thank you very much.

It is an inoffensive, temporarily enjoyable romp of a game. Looking back I managed to finish the first one before getting bored so odds are good this time around that I will do the same. I may take a break to sample smaller games (like Rock of Ages 2) but it is reasonable way to close out the summer.

...

DO NOT WATCH THE GAMESCOM 2017 Xbox presser. It is full of cringe and little, if any, useful news. Pre-orders have officially opened up and I have one at a brick and mortar and a back up directly from Microsoft. This feels like a new generation to me in spite of all the contrary technical information. Is it the biggest, nastiest console on the block?

Yes.

Will it be hamstrung by the requirement that all games still run on the regular Xbox One?

Definitely.

Will Crackdown 3 ever actually come out?

I no longer care.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

While I am posting about things that no one else cares about

Rock of Ages 2, bitches! It's finally coming out!

That's the stuff

I don't play Hearthstone anymore. I don't follow it anymore. I haven't thought about it in months. I wish I could embed this twitch clip. Trust me, it is worth it:

https://clips.twitch.tv/SpookyThoughtfulPuppyStoneLightning

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In which I resist the urge to be mean

I want to tear into the bad parts of Hellblade and there are many to choose from. Without spoiling anything (saving that for this week's podcast) I will say that the ending is quite confusing. It is not clear is Senua is successful, if she is even alive, or if the whole game was just an extension of her psychosis. The environmental rune puzzles never get any better, the combat never gets any deeper, and closing the game out on a fight you are supposed to lose is borderline virtual blue balling.

Mild spoilers there, I suppose.

But that little bit of vitriol and my obscene tweet to Ninja Theory are all that I am going to offer up. For now. I finished the game last night and watched their short 'making of' video and I am not going to forgive the bad parts but I may just be able to give them a pass. Points for trying, I suppose.

Ninja Theory's entire point in Hellblade is demonstrating the impossible to the average player: what is it like to hear voices and see things and not be able to distinguish what is real from what is not? Videogames are the perfect medium for this. Full disclosure, I have no idea what it is like to deal with mental illness but, at least according the people who suffer from said afflictions that were consulted on the game, Hellblade approximates it better than any other attempt.

The player is not supposed to know what is actually happening and what is in Senua's head. The stupid rune puzzles, and the voices in Senua's mind agree about how stupid they are, are Senua looking for meaning and patterns in places where there are none. The world itself breaking into pieces is Senua's perception splintering. It worked. If only the game itself were better.

There is no balance between puzzle solving and fighting. Each occur in large chunks when moving back and forth between the two would have made them slightly less boring. The last third of the game was one long gauntlet that would have benefited from a break and the middle third was Senua moving through interesting environments doing absolutely nothing.

I do not trust Ninja Theory to make a complete good game anymore. Hellblade may prove more entertaining to talk about than it was to play. That is not meant as a compliment.

If forced to pick a bright spot I would like to highlight Senua herself. Her animations both in combat and simply moving are very well done. The way she sidesteps when the camera is turned 90 degrees from the way she is moving and her flourishes when switching from dodging to attacking are very well done. They remind me of the best parts of Enslaved, DmC and Heavenly Sword. As Senua recedes further from reality she becomes more feral, growling at enemies, portraying rage just this side of Kratos smashing in Zeus' head.

The player is not supposed to like Senua, and I didn't, but the performance is convincing. She is a pict, a member of a group so savage that even the Romans didn't want to deal with them, instead building a wall to keep them the fuck out.

I am glad that I played Hellblade but I did not enjoy enough of the game to recommend it, at least not at its current price. I hope that it sparks conversation, which may have been Ninja Theory's intent all along.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday venting

Much to discuss, most of which is not good. It is a Monday, after all.

Prey, in spite of me knowing its twist, managed to stay interesting up to the point it tried to resolve anything. There are, I believe, three possible endings. Spoiler for a several month old game now, you have been warned! Also, I will take any chance possible to throw shade at Nier: Automata, so thank you Prey for having a modern, not dumb as shit save system so I could see all three endings without having to play the game three times.

Ending number one can happen several hours prior to the actual end of the game. By following a set of side quests 'Morgan' can leave the station early. He doesn't accomplish either of the two competing main quests, destroying the station or destroying just the aliens, but he does survive. After Morgan flies off into space the screen goes black and Alex, his brother, states to shut it down, that he is not the one. This only makes sense if you know that 'Morgan' is an alien running through a simulation designed to teach him empathy, something that the player should not know at that point.

Endings two and three are a simple choice: destroy the station (and shoot Morgan's brother in the chest) or destroy the aliens (and shoot the AI based on a previous version of Morgan in the chest). One would think that they would be different in some way. No, they both end up with 'Morgan' in a chair and Alex and several AIs going over his performance, trying to decide if the alien was human enough to let live. At the end of several minutes if info dump the player can decide to shake Alex's hand or kill them all.

I did both and it did not make a difference.

The point of this is unclear. There may be some deeper meaning that I did not uncover. Then again the developers may have just run out of ideas, thrown the credits up on the screen and then fucked off to the bar. Either way, between the bland combat and this nonexistent resolution, Prey was an experience that I will not remember for long.

Prey is a forgettable game about forgetting things. What as I talking about again?

...

Hellblade is awesome.

Senua is a believable, broken character. She started out hearing voices, something modern day medicine would diagnose as schizophrenia that is, in her day, grounds for being locked in a house or kicked out of a village, and it just gets worse for her from there. She finds someone who helps quiet the voices, falls in love, he is killed in a terrible, terrible way (of screen, thankfully) and she goes on a very norse quest to reclaim her lover's soul from Hel. This is Orpheus in the Underworld, viking style.

The game is divided, less equally than I would like, between puzzle solving and combat. Combat is simple, consisting of three different attacks, a block and a dodge, but gets more complicated as more enemies are added. Two at a time is tough and three is just nasty, especially when the camera stays locked on one and his friends sweep around behind. The voice's in Senua's head are not all for show, thought, as they will warn the player when it is time to dodge a swing from off screen. It is not DmC but it works.

Hellblade is shit.

The rest of the time finds Senua wandering through liner environments that are frighteningly well rendered. They don't look, they look dream like, and later nightmare like. In these environments there are about two different kinds of puzzles. The first, and the not shit one, sees Senua switching back and forth between version of the same environment. Think the light and dark worlds from Soul Reaver, only not that good.

And the second kind of puzzle? The shit ones? Doors are locked by runes and Senua must find those same shapes somewhere in the surrounding area. Hellblade does throw the player a bone by at least indicating when the player is close but even so, these are unintuitive needle in a haystack boring ass searches that take up far too much time and are never, ever fun.

These puzzles are so bad that it almost ruins the rest of the game. Each time I came across a door locked in this way I groaned audibly. Last light I swore to noone in particular that if I did not find the rune I was looking for in the next 5 minutes (after having spent 30 fruitless minutes on the task) that I would send malicious and offensive tweets to Ninja Theory.

It was only one. They did not answer.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The worst evolution

There is a little bit of Resident Evil in Prey, at least with how it handles ammunition. I discovered this too late and may very well be proper fucked.

Very little ammunition is found laying around in Prey. Yes, there is some, but not nearly enough to survive. Ammunition is crafted out of bits of detritus found in the environment, meaning that each new area is carefully combed for broken springs, fired hard drives and unused cigars before advancing. These pieces of precious junk do not respawn. Enemies do. You can see the problem here.

I believe that I am a chapter or two from the end of the game. All areas, save one, have been completely looted and I am down to a handful of shotgun shells, fewer pistols rounds, a whole lot of glue and my trusty wrench. Having not used the wrench since I found a gun I have none of the skills associated with the wrench. Melee combat, even after coating the bad guys with gloo, will not work. I just found the last weapon in the game, a glorified laser gun, but it really isn't very good.

So I may be screwed. I do not know how I am going to craft more ammo, much less health packs, and areas through which I must travel again have been restocked with bigger, meaner, more powerful monsters, not to mention the nightmare that keeps coming back from the dead.

This sense of desperation does fit the game but unless I find a huge, hidden stockpile of metal I am going to spend a lot more time running, hiding and dying than anything else. Forcing me to fight multiple enemies in the weightlessness of space did not do any favors for my reserves. If I have to that again I may just fuck off to the easy difficulty.

Or, and this is just a theory, I may carry a turret with me at all times. My repair skills are maxed out so I can both fix and fortify my little friends. Find an enemy, drop the turret, kite the enemy down to a choke point and hope for the best.

Oh no. I have turned Prey into a MOBA. A MOBA.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A game by interior decorators

Following Chance's advice (and success) I have fully upgraded my shotgun in Prey and esqued any and all alien upgrades. That on top of my repair ability means that I have loyal turrets in most areas and can kill most enemies, up to and including the nightmare, with a few well placed shots. This has rendered the already mediocre combat perfunctory. Shooting things was no fun at all in the beginning and now it is just something that I do to get to the next area. Not a ringing endorsement, by any means.

Nor am I thrilled with the zero gravity sections, specifically with how the game handles movement. I do not care that the way it feels in 'more realistic' than previous attempts, it's not fun. It is more difficult than it needs to be in area without enemies, meaning that fighting enemies who fire fast moving projectile at you in zero gravity is bullshit. I ran, well, flew anyway.

What Prey does manage to do is create a very good sense of place. The space station feels like something that could exist, save for the GUTS section (again, zero gravity) which is designed to test the player's hardiness against motion sickness. The way areas fit together makes physical sense, something that cannot always be said for first person based exploration games.

And when a good sense of physical space is the nicest thing I can come up with about a game I know that it is going to be a long few days.

...

I am rather tempted by Senua's Sacrifice now that I know that the promised perma-death is a bluff. $30 is a bit much for a game that I am not sure of, though, and I hate playing more than one game at a time. Plus, I recall making a promise that when Strafe went on sale I would play it and report on my humourous frustration. It is currently sitting at 11.99, just over what I pay for a nice lunch, so I may have to make good on what I said I would do.

Friday, August 4, 2017

And I will whisper no

Quick update!

I spent thirty minutes with Ultra Street Fighter 2 on the Switch. Much to my surprise the pro controller was almost suitable. It looked like HDR, which is good in my opinion, but there is no way that the game should be $40. This is a $10 title, at most. Screw the Nintendo tax.

...

Prey is a bit of a let down, visually, after Horizon. Nothing is as crisp or as colorful or as 'real'. The enemies are intentionally bland looking (and are not much fun to fight yet) and the space station itself is nondescript and boring. I hope it picks up as most of my first two hours was spent throwing glue at the little enemies before whacking them with a wrench and then back tracking because I did not have the correct key to complete the side quest I was working on.

Comparisons to Bioshock are not apt. Bioshock had interesting combat. Splicers had personality and big daddies has presence. So far the enemies in Prey are like furniture, before or after they are actually furniture: necessary but easily overlooked.

Knowing Prey's twist is at least not diminishing the experience. In my head I am not playing the main character, I am just observing him in the same way he was being observed in his stage of a bedroom, just one level of abstraction up.

I am watching the watchers.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The rite is (almost) complete

I have be resisting the urge to talk like 'the voice' from Pyre all day. He starting out haughty as hell, rolling his r's for no reason, and he just gets more smarmy and pissy from there.

It's amazing.

Monday, July 31, 2017

LSD is a hell of a drug

There is so much style and depth of story and image crammed into every square inch of Pyre that I can almost overlook that the game is equal parts graphic novel and uninspired NBA Jam reskin. That sounds much more harsh than I intend as I am really enjoying the graphic novel portion of the game. Every location, character, interaction and bit of lore is absolutely fascinating. Then I have to play the game and am always desperate for the more interactive portion to be over.

And no, this is not just because I do not play sports games. Imagine if basketball was three on three but only one person could move at a time. If you have the ball you have no protection and can be run the fuck over by anyone on defense at any time. Everyone has a different special abilities: some can fly, some can jump, some can sacrifice themselves in giant explosions that wipe out the opposing team. Sounds interesting so far? Too bad, it's not.

Speed based characters rule the day for both the player and the AI. Slower characters are at too large a disadvantage to be interesting and the AI could, if it were allowed, destroy the player at any time. I honestly believe that the only reason the player wins is because the AI allows them to, something like a meatbag mercy rule. It will bust on crazy tech, like beaning one of the player's characters in the head with the ball and therefore removing their 'aura' so they can be killed, at random times.

I have only lost one rite so far but that loss was terrible. I am afraid that there is more to come. But as I learned, most of the time it is not important who wins the rite, just to participate is enough.

The lore is deep here. So deep that I have stopped trying to read the 100+ page in game tome as pages are unlocked, opting to read it as a whole once the game is done. Everything in this world is based on tradition and belief, in doing things the way they have always been done. And when the Nightwings, the player's triumvirate, behind to try to new things the whole world, or at least the Downside, may come to an end.

It's heavy shit. There are choices to make that aren't easy, choices that would feel at home in (good) Telltale games. There is equipment to buy from a slug who lives on top of another, larger slug, though that equipment is less important after each member of the Nightwings is put through a trial by a 1000 year old spectre who lives in a crystal and given their own custom accessory.

Pyre is a fever dream of creativity, one that has invaded my sleeping hours, based not on what I am doing, but what I am reading and seeing.

I said on the podcast that it is sometimes necessary to indulge trusted developer's whims, that they should be allowed to take chances. I am not sure that Pyre is a worthy follow up to Bastion or Transistor but it is an experiment that I am happy to be a part of. It doesn't fit in any one genre, and I do not enjoy all it offers, but what is good is magical.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Next!

I am finally finished with Horizon Zero Dawn and I do not feel like writing much more about it. There has been plenty of 'reacting' over the past few weeks, most of it sincere, just a little bit designed to get a rise out of my podcasting partners. The ending was fine. It stopped just short of having Aloy walk on water while still making it abundantly clear that she was Jesus for the new world. I am not sure if Hades or Sylens is Satan in this representation. Hades is obviously evil but Sylens is completely self serving and would trade the rest of the world for more knowledge. He is not exactly a nice guy, either.

This is going to make some people angry. Are you ready? Horizon Zero Dawn is on the same level as The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild*. It's a good game. Almost very good. Horizon doesn't force weapon durability on the player (THANK GOODNESS) but the combat swings from too difficult to pointless very quickly. By the time Aloy has all of the tools she needs there is no reason to kill anything any longer as she has hit her level cap. I had all of the toys and all of the skills and just ran away from everything because there was no reason to do otherwise.

Horizon also crunches the entirety of its interesting story into the final five or so hours. The story is quite interesting and I would like to see it explored further, just not in this game. Give me a Bethesda style RPG set in this universe and I will play it for 100+ hours, guaranteed. I believe that I have seen almost all of what this game has to offer and a lot of it was not worth the time. I may have enjoyed it more if I was not slave to the map screen, visiting every spot, working down the list of tasks.

There are better open world games out there. I do not believe that Horizon will be spoken of in hushed tones like Red Dead Redemption is or be given the same reverence as Far Cry 3 (or 4, depending on your taste). It's not bad, it's just not the most fun I have had with a game this year.

*remember that I thought Breath of the Wild was merely good.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Picard > Kirk?

Picard - Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Kirk - Slave girl. Green. Hot.

Sisko - I can live with it. It's a fake. Hot.

Janeway - Seven of 9? Yeah. Hot.

Archer - Can't do it. Not hot.

...


Chamberlain and Chance - Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Probably more than six degress

If I have to fight one more stormbird in Horizon Zero Dawn I will, well, bitch about it and push on because I am almost done with the game. It a title full of tedious fights that one is the worst. So far I have had to defeat two for quests and it boring both times. Thunderjaws can be interesting and I fought a challenging combination of three behemoths and a few shell-walkers, but stormbirds can collectively go to hell.

Oh, and I have proof that no one at Guerilla Games has seen Tremors.

The final corrupted zone had all of two enemies: a rockbreaker and another, angrier rockbreaker. The second snuck up on me so I retreated to what I thought would be a safe place: a large set of conspicuously placed boulders. I assumed that the rockbreaker would not be able to get through, that their free movement was limited to dirt. Like this:



Nope. The rockbreaker clipped (note: did not break) through the rocks and attacked me anyway. How I can like a game whose developers clearly hate Kevin Bacon? It is not possible.

Shit, I was wrong. Ashly Burch to Kevin Bacon in fucking 2.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Legit this time

Some of my criticism of Horizon Zero Dawn has been tongue in cheek, less than serious devil advocating designed to get a rise out of Chance. Some. I really do not understand what he sees in the combat and it has taken just under thirty hours for me to figure out why: enemies are introduced before you have the appropriate tools to deal with them. Now that I have a good collection of weapons (most of which I still do not use because after your main bow and a good sharpshot they are all superfluous) the only non-trivial encounter is the stormbird.

At the start Aloy has a crappy dodge roll and weapons that do little more than tickle larger enemies. The first encounter with a sawtooth was bad news because I just could not do enough fire damage without resorting to crap shoot tactics like laying a mine and hoping he doesn't step on it until I am out of the blast radius. Now? No problem, only it is not my skills that have improved, it is the tech and Aloy's abilities. She has a better dodge roll now and my bow does a shit ton of fire damage.

Enemies did not scale down very well to introductory weapons and they do not scale up very well to more powerful ones. The thunderjaw sure looks scary but by the time I saw him I had a sharpshot bow that I could nock two arrows on, simultaneously. I have never died to a thunderjaw because of when I ran into them, not because of how good I was.

This is the danger with walling a player in with enemy difficulty instead of more natural obstacles. Once that enemy difficult is eclipsed, what is left? I can explore freely now and the only enemy types that pose a threat are corrupted ones, and even then it is just because they have more health. At the first the combat was unfair, then for a few shining moments it was just right, and now it is too easy.

How to fix this? Make the opening enemies easier and slow the weapon power curve. And prevent players from going where they shouldn't go with gameplay mechanics, not enemies that they cannot kill efficiently yet.

Horizon is still a pretty good open world game and I will play it like I play all open world games: if there is an icon on the map I will got there and collect whatever is there. It is going to take a while and I know that, when I am finished, I will not have enjoyed it as much as Watch Dogs 2.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Three points to Horizon!

Breaking news! Scientists say that the T-Rex could not have run! In fact, running would have broken its leg bones.

The most scientific link I could find. I am not giving hits to Fox News.

The thunderjaw in Horizon can run. He can run pretty damn fast. And he has rocket launchers. Thunderjaw better than t-rex, confirmed!

...why does everything take so long in Horizon? Or does it just feel like everything takes forever? It has been hours since the main plot has had any movement. Right now my Aloy is just wandering the wilderness, killing anyone and everything she comes across and picking interesting shit up off of the ground. She is a psychotic Indiana Jones, minus the cool hat, plus a cool bow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Real(ish) people doing real(ish) things

Yes, I am still playing Horizon Zero Dawn. No, I have not changed my mind. All the bad things that I said about it I meant and I doubt that it will do anything to change my mind.

However, I must give credit where credit is due. Last night I rescued several villagers from a slaving operation. Most games would present said slaves in some sort of suggestive manner, especially if they are female. Horizon instead has them all appropriately clothed and the one female among them picks up a bow as soon as she is loosed and helps fight off the next wave of attackers.

She then kills the main bad guy quickly because 'my father taught that all animals deserve a quick death.'

It was pretty bad ass and not exploitative in any way. I am not the one who takes up the banner of any cause for any reason (ask my podcasting partners) but it is nice to play a game that portrays people in a realistic manner without any pretense.

...I just wish I enjoyed the combat. I fought a thunderjaw and rockbreaker last night and both were just chores. The thunderjaw because I knocked his weapons off from such a distance that I could not find them to use myself and the rockbreaker because the game's hit detection is often times total bullshit.

...

I am seriously thinking about a radical change to how I play games. Replaying games is not an option but living by GameFly's schedule and playing AAA to AA titles of varying quality is not doing it for me anymore. There are new, interesting, little games that come out every week on both PSN and XBox Live. Would the graphics whore in me be satisfied with just those?

Is playing just about everything (eventually) making me hate everything?

Monday, July 17, 2017

EVO 2017

It was a game-less weekend save for a single match of Worms with one of the short people that live in my house and I feel refreshed, if only slightly. Nothing made me angry over the weekend, nothing raised by blood pressure, nothing forced me to check myself before controllers were hurled across the room. I hung out with family, drank a bit and watched some of EVO 2017. Less than I would I have liked, but only because what I was interested in was on at the wrong time.

Or too late and I fell asleep.

Friday night was King of Fighters XIV. I did not have a horse in the race but the game is always fun to watch. The meta seems to have shifted since last year (less Nakoruru and more Kula) but there have been at least two patches plus a visual overhaul. It looks better but still behind everything else. I did not make it to the end of top eight, a refrain that will be repeated once more with more tragic results.

Saturday during the day I caught some Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 (take that, autocorrect!) and the game is as inscrutable as ever. I recognized individual parts of what people were doing but how it fit together was a mystery. Guilty Gear is the best looking fighting game around right now and will remain so until Dragonball FighterZ comes out next year. I almost wish I still played it.

Sunday morning I managed to catch the finals of the last ever Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 major tournament. If I remember correctly the early day of MvC3 were dominated by Dark Phoenix, a character that only appears if you have Phoenix on your team and five full bars when she dies. She was OP, at least in the beginning, in spite of her quickly draining health pool. I do not remember who used her but she won a lot. People hated her.

The game evolved and solutions were found. I cannot even pretend to know enough about Marvel to go over many other popular teams, but Phoenix and was replaced. Just about everyone played Virgil. Zero showed up and was a problem. Doom became ubiquitous. There was even success with team Big Body - Hulk, Haggar and Sentinel. Last year Chris G got his win with Morri-Doom: Morrigan/Doom/Sentinel.

He was back this year in the finals but lost to RyanLV's Chun L/Morrigan/Phoenix. And the last match of course came down to Dark Phoenix showing up. Full circle.

Tekken 7's result was apparently predictable. All I saw were super-human Korean's doing things that are impossible for mere mortals. Tekken is hard, too hard for me, but watching the best in the world do anything is always enjoyable. Unlike most other tournaments that make me want to play the game once it is done watching world class Tekken has opposite effect. It is like watching tight rope walkers and saying 'Yeah, I can do that.' Np, I can't, but I will watch someone else take that risk.

This was the first EVO that saw an American player coming in as the favorite: Punk. I do not know much about Punk. He plays a very efficient Karin, is not very emotional and is a sweet, summer child at the age of 18. He came into top eight on winners side with the weight of a country's expectations on his shoulders and the following tweet dogging him:


Tokido was on losers side of top eight. Punk put him there.

Punk's first opponent in top eight was Itabashi Zangief. He thought that Zangief was a bad match up for Karin so he pulled out a pocket Nash and beat Itabashi, 3-0. Tokido snuck past Filipino Champ, someone who no one even considered for top eight other than Champ himself, in the best match I have seen in a long, long time, 3-2.

Winners finals was Punk again Kazunoko, the 2015 Capcom Cup Champion. He made it look simple, 3-0. Then he had to wait. And watch.

Tokido continued on his quest for revenge, beating Nuckle Du, last year's Capcom Cup Champ, Itabashi Zangief and finally Kazunoko. They were not close matches but I would not call Tokido's performance as dominant. It was also during his loser's final match again Kazunoko that yours truly fell asleep. I am a tired old man.

Because I have no self control I looked up the results before watching the replay. Tokido won, resetting the brackets against Punk. How could this be? The answer is simple: experience. Tokido has been playing fighting games for longer than Punk has been alive. He has been on the EVO stage before and lost. He has studied yoga in an effort to control his nerves, to calm his breathing, to be able to play his very best when it mattered most.

Tokido reset the bracket, 3-1, and Punk cracked. There was no hope and everyone in the building, from James Chen at the commentary desk to the scrubs in the back row, knew it. The reset went 3-0.

I watched the awards ceremony and was amazed at how well Punk held it together. He is 18. I was an idiot at 18. So were you. So is everyone. He was obviously upset but he stood tall, accepted and wore the medal, generally behaving like more of an adult than F Champ was just a few feet to his right. I hope that his loss does not affect him for long.

On the bright side, it was good to see Tokido win. When asked if he had anything more to say he took the mic:

'Fighting games are great.'

The audience cheered. James Chen (and Seth Killian, holed away on the ESPN broadcast) wept. And it was done for another year. I'm still retired.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Can't blog, EVO

Horizon continues to frustrate me. It's EVO weekend.

...and I am considering deserting AAA gaming and playing nothing but little, downloadable games. At least then disappointment would not last as long.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A deserved beating?

Not a physical beating but I was definitely struck about the head and neck a few times by hard words.


Chamberlain and Chance - Two on one is fair

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Heresy time

This post, unlike the last one, is entirely serious.

Horizon Zero Dawn is now old, in gaming terms, so I doubt anyone is interested in a cranky man's opinion about a game they have already played. Tough, I am going to give it anyway. And it isn't all sunshine and lollipops.

At its core Horizon is a Far Cry game, full stop. It is not just cut from the same cloth, it is stitched together from Ubisoft's leavings. This is not a bad thing. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't eagerly anticipating Far Cry 5. Everyone is anticipating Far Cry 5. The problem, and this will cause fights, is that Horizon is not as good of a Far Cry game as 3, 4 or Primal.

In Horizon you are constantly foraging, constantly looting, constantly picking shit up off of the ground (and consequently getting very tired of the animation). Picking healing herbs never stops and it slows the game down to a crawl. Far Cry is a walk in the park compared to this. It allows you to play longer without having to stop and make more arrows or traps. This was a choice that Horizon made, to emphasize the surviving part of being out in the wild amidst killer machines, and I wish it hadn't.

This would be fixed, at least partially, by giving me the option to turn off the foraging animation. Over the course of the game it would save at least an hour of watching Aloy bend down and stand up again, maybe more.

Combat in Horizon veers wildly between too easy and fuck you, this is not a Dark Souls game. Some of this is again, by design. Smaller to medium sized enemies go down in a hit or two, assuming that you have the correct weapon (which is does not always give you) but large enemies are a slog. Yes, I am hitting their blaze tanks, no, I am not attaching them to the ground first because it takes half a dozen ropes to do so and they inevitably end up covering their explosive bits when they finally fall down.

The combat is work. Fighting in Far Cry is never work. It is rarely difficult, and I am fine with that, but scouting an encampment of mercs and then attacking is more fun than laying an explosive trip wire under a Sawtooth and watching it do almost no damage or running into a Fire Bellowback before the game bothers to give you any ice weapons.

Which is hasn't yet and I have run into two of the damn things. Which brings me to the checkpoint system.

*Ahem*

There is no checkpoint system, or at least what is there is not consistent. Sometimes when you die you are moved away from where you were and any items than you used in the encounter are gone but experience gained and quests completed remain. Other times you are placed back at the most recent camp fire with items returned but experience removed. Both are unacceptable. Both are lazy on the game's part. Every other open world game on the market (not by From Software) is kind enough to quick save for you before big encounters. You died? That's fine, try again.

Get ready for a long walk when you die in Horizon. And anything you killed on the way is back again.

This all sounds pretty negative, and I do mean it, but the game is not bad. It is just not as good as other similar games. It is not even the best game that I have played this year.

Update: going over the list from this year, it may be the 'best' game I have played this year. But I had more fun with Watch Dogs 2.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Without Keanu, though

I don't enjoy games to the same level as my friend Chance. When he loves a game he loves the game. He becomes emotionally invested in it, plays nothing but it for weeks, sometimes months at a time. I am always so concerned with what game is next that every experience, even the good ones, becomes less enjoyable as it drags on. Spending more time than is absolutely necessary on any one game is unthinkable.

On top that the games that he falls in love with are almost always games that I do not enjoy, examples being Darkest Dungeon, Galak-Z and Overwatch. Two of those I own and stopped playing and the third I played for an hour or two before sending away. Dank memes and hot fan art are not enough to sustain me when I am terrible at the game and have no patience to improve.

There have been times where everything lined up, Wolfenstein The New Order and Far Cry Primal are among the best. Then there is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Chance has already declared it his game of the year. In July. I broke one of my cardinal rules and skipped over Prey to start it last night.

It's good. Very good. It is the game that validates my owning a 4K television. It plays like the best parts of Far Cry and I have not even begun to ride robotic dinosaurs. But all this agreement will not make for an interesting podcast next week.

So what am I to do?


...

I'm kidding, the game is great. He was right.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

It never gets old

The tragedy of Andromeda

I must rescind of few of my previous statements about Mass Effect Andromeda. To be specific, I called the supporting cast boring. This is not true, I just had not gotten to the loyalty missions yet. They are not all likeable, in fact two of the six would have been airlocked into deep space after their missions if that was an option, but not being likeable does not mean that they are not interesting characters.

Their interactions with one another also improved as the game went on. There was no equal to Tali's self aware snark 'I have a shotgun' from Mass Effect 2 (how could there be) but parenting advice from a 1000 year old Krogan is right up there along with Jaal and Liam standing feet apart, butt naked, learning how to insult one another. Jaal also flirted with Cora quite a bit and I got a little jealous (of Cora). My Ryder got none but if he did he would have totally gone for Jaal.

The game also mustered up a decent ending and some sensible (and sensibly short) post game content. The good guys find the Halo life generating Dyson sphere, there is a big fight in which allies made throughout the game make cameos, a pretty good boss fight and everyone lives happily ever after. Ryder talks to each of his crew one last time and, after all planets are at 100%, he has a planet named after him.

It was the planet his father died on, but don't think about that too hard.

There was also blatant hints at either DLC or a sequel. A message from the Quarian ark arrives staying to stay away, the Archon's second in command escapes and Cerberus (and the Illusive Man) were clearly involved in the initiative's funding. Cerberus scientists actually show up in a missions doing terrible things to non-humans.

It is most unfortunate that there will be no pay off for any of this. This is part of the tragedy of Mass Effect Andromeda. It is a good game. Barely. With a better developer, or better oversight by the publisher, or a more constrained scope at its outset, or a different game engine, or any other of the million things that went wrong with it during its sordid path of development going right it could have been great.

For every flash of excellence here, like Jaal dodging a bullet or Vetra beating the pathfinder at rock climbing or Liam having his internal combustion car sent to his new home at sub-light speed, there is a janky animation or piece of abhorrent voice acting or game breaking crash in a cut scene. The way it ties to the original trilogy, that the entire initiative is a desperate attempt to save the Milky Way species from the Reaper invasion most likely funded by Cerberus, is wasted. The game makes this reveal about thirty hours too late and then never comes back to it.

I want to know about the politics behind the initiative and if the benefactor really is the illusive man. I also want a better enemy as the kett, let's be honest, the borg, have no depth beyond assimilate, er, exterminate, sorry, exaltation. They are evil because the game required an evil race and are easily the weakest part of it.

By the smallest of margins, Mass Effect Andromeda is good. It being merely good killed it and may kill the studio that made it. With Bioware moving on to more Destiny like environs this may be the last true Bioware game we see for a long, long time which makes Andromeda's happy ending a little less happy.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Good thought for the day




Yeah, this makes me happy.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Push button enjoy result

Just about 48 hours into Mass Effect Andromeda and I still have not gotten bored. It is a testament to game play being king, that the act of controlling your avatar in virtual space being fun trumps just about all other problems. It is not as good as the first three, how could it be, but it is not as bad as I had been led to believe.

If I am reduced to viewing games via a numeric value then Mass Effect Andromeda is not that far off from Final Fantasy XV: 76 versus 83 on Metacritic (for the Xbox One). On a scale of 0 to 100 that's pretty close. Given time, however, I will look back on Mass Effect much more favorably. It doesn't look as good or sound as good but it played much better.

For the record, both have lackluster protagonists. Noct and Ryder would probably get along quite well while complaining about no one listening to them.

I do not know how much I have left but I am not dreading the endgame. The ending itself will probably be a disappointment and it has been revealed that there will be no single player DLC and a sequel is impossible with Anthem coming out eventually. This is how the Mass Effect franchise will die. Not with a bang or a thud but with a shrug of the shoulders.

...

In Star Trek terms, Shepherd was Kirk and Ryder is Archer. And yes, that is a sick ass burn.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wrong player character

Every time I turn around in Mass Effect Andromeda I am opening up new side quests. Not quite to an Elder Scrolls level, but damn, let me catch up. For the past two night I have been intent on cleaning up the list and each trip to a planet just opens up something. Sometimes they are bullshit fetch quests that send you to a section of the galaxy that you have already visited to scan something that you have already scanned. Other times, usually the loyalty quests, they are the best the game has had to offer.

My favorite character, so far, is Jaal, the Angaran at first assigned to Ryder as a guide who later choose to stay on the Tempest. Angarans as a species do not hide their emotions at all. Tragedies are tragedies and moments of triumph are celebrated in ways that humans find almost embarrassing. He is earnest in a way that no other character's can match and his loyalty quest reflects that.

Mass Effect Andromeda spoilers!

The immigrants from the Milky Way were preceded by the Kett who are basically the Borg but with slightly better fashion designers. They hunted and killed planets worth of Angarans who developed a healthy fear of other species. Humans walk up and try to be cool and while their are accepted by the powers that be, namely the powers that want to defeat the Kett, there is an underground group that sabotages every attempt at diplomacy and cooperation.

They of course have a charismatic leader who swells his ranks by recruiting young, idealist Angarans to his cause. Jaal receives a message that two of his brother and one of his sisters (they have really big families) have run off to join the guerillas and it is his job to bring them back. Jaal brings Ryder along because they are buddies now and he wants to show the guerillas that all aliens are not bad.

There are battles, Jaal's sister shoots one of his brothers for talking too much, all leading to a confrontation with the leader. Jaal explicitly tells Ryder to stand down, to not fire his weapon no matter what happens. Then Jaal has a gun shoved in his face...

Mass Effect Andromeda uses quick time events quite sparingly. To be precise, I had seen one before this. They are not used to gloss over action sequences that the engine does not support but to force the player to make a snap decision. As Jaal stares down the barrel of a gun I was given the option to fire. No words beyond 'kill him' and a musical queue.

I didn't do it even though I really wanted to. The leader fires and in slow motion I watch the bolt of energy approach Jaal.

Oh shit.

Jaal leans an inch to one side and it grazes his cheek. He is cemented as the best character in the game and I wish I was playing him instead of Charlie 'Ryder' Brown.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Oh my

We all knew that the SNES classic edition was going to be a thing. A thing that many people want and that no one can find, just like the classic NES. I resolved to purchase a classic NES if I ever happend to see one in the wild. I never did and was in no way disappointed. The SNES, though, look at this fucking list of game:

• Contra III: The Alien Wars
• Donkey Kong Country
• EarthBound
• Final Fantasy III
• F-Zero
• Kirby Super Star
• Kirby’s Dream Course
• The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
• Mega Man X
• Secret of Mana
• Star Fox
• Star Fox 2
• Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
• Super Castlevania IV
• Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts
• Super Mario Kart
• Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
• Super Mario World
• Super Metroid
• Super Punch-Out!!
• Yoshi’s Island

Holy shit, I would love to play most of those. Time to turn up my search mode from 'meh' to 'maybe I will drive around and make a few calls'. This will only lead to disappointment because I know that I will never find one for list price.

...Super Castlevania IV, Contra III and Super Ghouls 'n Ghost would be enough. But Super Metroid and Super Mario World? It's not fair.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Voice opinions

It took several days but I have figured out exactly why Ryder is such an insufferable douche bag. It's not just the writing, which is bad, or his mannequin like face, which is also bad. The real culprit is his voice. Tom Taylorson, a name I know only because I just looked it up and whose credits include Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and Octodad, is doing a very poor Nathan Drake impersonation. Everything he says is laced with unfitting glibness. He is a fucking pathfinder, tasked with finding planets to be colonized, perhaps he should treat the office with the respect it deserves.

Maybe it's not his fault. Perhaps in the cluster fuck that was this game's development cycle the direction he received was to 'sound like Nolan North, but not too much like Nolan North' before being left in a poorly ventilated recording booth with a script written on bourbon stained cocktail napkins.

I should have played female Ryder. She is voiced by Fryda Wolff, a woman with more than a few games' worth of practice and who looks like a puck Sandra Bullock.

...punk Sandra Bullock. I may be in love.

...

Holy shit! She was the voice of Mira in Killer Instinct! And she dressed the part!


*swoon*

Thursday, June 22, 2017

It hurts so good

Darkest Dungeon sounds like a good idea until I remember that I did try to play it a few times and then I get dizzy and need to lay down.


Chamberlain and Chance - Bountiful flagellants

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One innovation

Since I have admitted that I am enjoying Mass Effect Andromeda I might as well say something nice about. Something specific. Let me think about that for a bit.

...time passes...

There are a lot of side quests in Andromeda. Some of them good, many of them boring and not all of them can be completed at any given time. Instead of forcing the player to guess which quests can either be completed or advanced the list labels some quests as 'on hold,' meaning that there is nothing to do with them at the moment. I assume that they will open up as the main plot progresses.

This is genius and I hope everyone steals it. Overfull quest lists can be intimidating. Letting the player know what can and can't be done at the moment keeps it more manageable and, more importantly, respects the player's time. There is nothing wrong with a game helping the player play efficiently.

Not breaking its own rules *cough*Nier Automata*cough* or being needlessly difficult *cough*From Software*cough*.

...

I think that the podcast needs a wager. If I lose then I will put serious time into the next Dark Souls or Bloodborne game. If I win Chance has to go back and play Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I just need to come up with an appropriate bet,

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ok, I admit it

I like Mass Effect Andromeda.

I do not like many of the characters but I like the game.

Happy now? I certainly feel better.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Making excuses

Andromeda is not good. It's not. All animations are laughable. Voice acting is spotty at best with male Ryder being a unconfident douchebag. He's such a loser that I am going to make good on my threat of not attempting any of the romance options. Ryder gets none.

The menus are bad, the load times are bad, the lion's share of planets have nothing on them. But it is all I played over the weekend. I 100% the first two planets and have stopped the main plot dead to 100% the next one. The actual act of playing, bringing up the map and choosing a quest, driving there and then killing whatever is in the way, is still fun. In fact it may be the most fun a Mass Effect game has ever been. The shooting is a little fidgety but failure has consequence. No cover plus a dozen bad guys equals death.

It really is a shame. Mass Effect Andromeda has good bones. Aside from the shit menus everything works the way it is supposed to. Everything on top of that, everything that assholes like me who buy expensive mid-generation console updates care about, is bad.

I feel like I need to make excuses for planing on finishing it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mass contradictions

Mass Effect Andromeda is offensive. All animations, not just facial animations, are at least a generation old, put to shame by modern budget titles. The menu and crafting systems are terrible as it is near impossible to see how much better or worse an item is than what you already have equipped. Buying an items does not allow you to actually equip said item as that can only be done at specific locations. Yes, this means that when you stumble across a weapon in the field you can't actually use it until you find a forward post.

Characters are one note caricatures. The pathfinder himself is boring and his dialogue choices are very similar and often have nothing to do with what he actually says. If this game came out before the first Mass Effect then maybe, maybe it would be acceptable.

But I played it for more than three hours yesterday and the day before. I will play it tonight and I will play it every night until it is done. Because it is fun. Somehow, in spite of all its ugliness and poor design choices, it is fun. Exploring a solar system via a menu is fun (somehow). Exploring the one or two planets in each system is fun (somehow). The combat is not fun, it is serviceable, but at least it doesn't kick me in the nuts like Nier Automata did.

It's, I don't know, romantic. You are 650 years from home, everyone you knew is dead and you have to survive. Everything that could go wrong has and yet the desire to explore is still there. Strip out the annoying characters and this is what No Man's Sky should have been. You know, interesting.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A window into their dark world

Deep in the godless bowels of Ubisoft...

Developer: 'We have been working on an edgy adventure game starring anthropomorphic animals who swear all the time for no particular reason. It's basically GTA but in space* and we need a name.'

Marketing demon: 'Let's call Michel Ancel. He isn't doing anything at the moment.'

*a phone made of human bones rings*

Ancel: 'Speak quickly, a minute of my thoughts is worth more than a thousand of your lifetimes.'

Developer: 'I need a name for a GTA clone starring an edgy monkey with no respect for the lives of others.'

Ancel: 'Is there a pig in it?'

Developer: 'No...'

Ancel: 'Put a pig in it and call it Beyond Good and Evil 2. Just make sure someone has green eyes. People haven't stopped asking for that game since I made a joke trailer for it nine years ago that included the characters people actually liked. We'll call it a prequel and the public will eat it up.'

Marketing demon: 'Excellent idea, oh dark one. By the way, your shipment of artists' pinky toes is on the way.'

Ancel: 'Just make sure that the game is delayed several times and not actually any good. I am completely against giving the public what it actually wants. And call Peter Molyneux, he will get a kick out of this.'

*actual quote from PC Gamer.

...

Fuck this game and fuck Ubisoft. I refuse to play it. If it ever actually comes out.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Warm takes

I am going to save most of my E3 hot takes for the podcast on Wednesday. Of the three I have watched so far (EA, Microsoft and Bethesda) each had at least one surprise.

EA - the new Need for Speed games looks like something I will enjoy. I have not played a Need for Speed game in years but this one will be given a shot.

Microsoft - new Metro game? I know that it is not exclusive but I am pleased that it exists. No, I am not surprised by the XxX (that is what I am calling it) price but I am disappointed by the release date.

Bethesda - The Evil Within 2? No one say this coming.

...

After weeks of putting it off I played the final chapter of The Walking Dead: Season 3. Small spoilers, I suppose:

It had an almost happy, uplifting ending. It also states there Clem is coming back for more. I am not sure how I feel about this. That character has seen some serious shit and needs to be given a break.

...

Mass Effect Andromeda has serious, serious visual problems. It's not just the faces, and they are terrible, but the entire UI and menu systems are ugly as sin. It's no wonder that there is no talk of expansions or sequels.

Friday, June 9, 2017

It shambles well, it does

I believe that Red Barrels is a developer to watch. Not because they make perfect games, or even great games, but because they have shown steady improvement with each of their titles. From Outlast to Whistleblower to Outlast 2 more has worked each time. There are problems with Outlast 2, and I will get to them, but for now I will say that it is as unnerving of a game as I have played since Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Most of the problems stem from the studio's insistence on a combat free experience. The main character is not a fighter, I get that, but to not even be able to push an enemy down after sneaking behind him goes against the grain of decades of baked in game reflexes. There are a few sections in Outlast 2 that boil down to aimless wandering or to trial and error. Twice you end up in cornfields with enemies searching for you, their flashlights casting terrifying shadows as they mumble bible verses that sound a little too good to not be true. Both times the terror is quickly replaced by annoyance as it is impossible to tell where to go.

Faster paced chase sequences fair better as visual hints are given on which way to turn or which door to enter. A single lit light or cracked door is usually enough to keep the player from being stabbed in the back (and then in the front and then in the face) but these, too, can be reduced to repetition when the next move is not obvious.

Outlast 2 is a very linear game and it falters when it tries to do more than that. There is a reason that haunted houses shuttle you between rooms in a specific order: they are making sure that you see what you paid to see and are scared by it. The game is at its best when it sticks to this formula, allows the player to linger in areas, teases a jump scare and then delays that scare by about a beat and a half. I could still see most of them coming but the good ones arrived about half a second before or after I expected.

The dual world gimmick provides the biggest scares. Seeing a woman broken on a rack or flayed bodies used as wallpaper is certainly uncomfortable but being dropped into a mostly normal school and then stalked by a monster with too many arms and a sharp, prehensile tongue is scary. One example:

This monster had shown up a few times and I knew that my only recourse was to turn the other way and run. One of his final appearances had him chase me into a bathroom with no apparent exit. He killed me several times and on the verge of frustration I paused the retries and thought about it logically: if I was a middle school kid and something big and ugly chased me into the bathroom, what would I do?

So I hid in a stall. That worked for a while, at least until he pounded on the door and killed me again. On the next attempt I waited for the pounding then crawled on the ground between the stalls and snuck out three or four doors down.

I avoided death by thinking like a kid. This section worked and I wish there were more like it.

Like most horror games Outlast 2 did not know quite how to end. It crescendoed right up its own ass and concluded with the end of the fucking world. All in, I suppose. Given the choice between the whole game being in the protagonist's head, caused by microwave transmissions designed to control people's thoughts (this is majority of online explanations) and most of it being 'real' I prefer the end of the world being cannon.

The thought that the evil cult leader was right, that the unborn child the player was trying to save did need to be killed to save the world and that by doing good the player has doomed everyone, is much more frightening than it being an Umbrella level evil science experiment gone wrong.

Outlast 2 was a troubling step in the right direction. I look forward to what Red Barrels does next.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Getting closer

It rained blood in Outlast 2 last night.

A torrential downpour. It looked thick like blood as it hit the ground and buildings.

Yeah, that was freaky as shit. Outlast 2 has more going for it, scares wise, than the first two games. Jump scares, sure, but every time I wake up in the middle school I get more nervous because every time it gets a little worse.

Before it rained blood in the real world? I came across a shower that was spraying blood. Then something knocked from inside a stall and I, because I am gullible, opened it. No one there...

...then a geyser of the red stuff.

But is it the real world? I am beginning to suspect that the whole game is in the main character's head, that he is either in a coma or slowly dying after the opening plane crash. This would fit with the 'not quite Silent Hill 2' theme.

Taking a break tonight, both to record and to play some Tekken. And because I need a break.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Icky

Hooray, horror game!

Well, uncomfortable game. Jump scare game? Religiously offensive game? Hmm.

First the good: Outlast 2 knows what to steal from. The first three or so hours have had numerous nods to Silent Hill 2. The protagonist is being (mentally) tortured by regret over something that has not been explained yet, there is a limited dual world thing going on where he is spontaneously teleported back to his catholic middle school and there is a pyramid head. Not literally, but the character Marta serves the exact same purpose and does it better.

Her design is dialed a few notches back from pyramid head, down from impossibly crazy to how is she so tall and strong, she is allowed to wander around is some areas and hunt the player the same way the nemesis from Resident Evil 3 or the alien from Alien: Isolation. Plus she talks. And what she says is creepy. You first encounter with her is just the raspy whisper

'God, do you want him?'

She says that again later after appearing out of nowhere and if you don't run, well, she starts by castrating you. Outlast 2 maintains the hatred for genitalia that started in Whistleblower and I am just about done with reflexively crossing my legs. It's not scary, it just there for the ick factor. A lot of the game is just there for shock value, things like the implied rape of a fifteen year old girl, off screen vivisections of pregnant mothers, neither of which were shown, yet, but this is an Outlast game. They are not shy.

It is also not shy with potentially offensive religious imagery. I do not bring up my personal beliefs often. They are not relevant to what I talk about here but they have come up a time or two on the podcast. It is enough to say that I am a man of faith in the judeo-christian tradition. Outlast 2 is deeply troubling to me. Not in a devil with pointy horns and hooves way as those are secular constructs that have the same weight as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny (SPOILERS!). It is troubling because it takes existing beliefs and twists them, misreads them, and the main bad guy uses these customized interpretations to manipulate his followers and justified horrendous actions.

Papa Knoth, said bad guy, is forcibly fathering children, saying they are his as all children are God's, then killing them because they might be the antichrist. There is a scene a classroom with 'there is no pain in heaven' written on the board and it is implied that the children were all murdered. Knoth is putting himself in God's place and passing judgement on his followers with Marta as his angel of death.

Outlast's entire point is to make the player uncomfortable, tense, to soften them up for the jump scare. Years of experience have rendered me immune to the jump scare but outright heresy certainly does make my skin crawl a bit. Everything just feels wrong, but not wrong in a fanciful way. It is certainly exaggerated but none the less plausible.

Now I know how Far Cry 5 will make right wing religious conservatives feel.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Approximations

After the Nier: Automata unpleasantness I played nothing but Tekken 7. I still remember some Nina but what I remember is outdated and unsafe so I need to retrain my hands if I am to see any success. Tekken 7 has launched somewhere between Street Fighter V and Injustice 2, content wise. There is a story mode and you can fight online sometimes - random player matches do not work at the moment but setting up a lobby does. It does not have the missions that Injustice 2 has but it does have what amounts to an infinite arcade mode, something that Street Fighter V still has not added.

This mode is called treasure mode and it pits the player against random opponents of the same approximate skill as the player. As the player improves and moves up in rank the opponents improve with the occasional ringer thrown in to keep anyone from getting to full of themselves. Giving the fighters names and randomish customizations creates a satisfying illusion of playing online without actually playing online.

For the Virtua Fighter fan(s) out there, it is Kumite mode.

I have no desire to play dress up with Nina but I did get her out of the ridiculous wedding dress outfit as soon as I could. The only thing I have added since are little round sunglasses.

...

I am still mad about Nier. Maybe Outlast 2 will scar me enough to forget about it.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Fuck Yoko Taro

Nier: Automata was moving along just fine. It had warned me on several occasions that there was no auto-save and that death meant having to retrieve your corpse. I took it seriously, saved often, approached combat carefully, basically everything that it wanted me to do.

While cleaning up some non-combat related side missions I went a little longer than usual between saves, somewhere around thirty to forty five minutes. One of the quests was to eat a fish that had been caught just to see what it would do. It killed me.

No big deal, I knew where I died, it was a safe area, I would just walk back and get my stuff. Nope, this was one of the game 27 'endings,' fuck you, go back to your last save.

*breath*

I do not repeat myself. I do not play games a second time, I do not play new game plus, I do not indulge in post ending content. I will not be forced to waste my time replaying sections of a game because some pretentious ass thought it would amusing to fuck the player.

Yoko Taro, if by some miracle you stumble across this, fuck you. This is a good game and your self important douchbaggery is going to keep me from playing any more of it. You broke the very rules that you so emphatically set and I will not tolerate that. I will not have my time wasted. I will not be punished for doing what I was told to do.

I have not been this angry and disappointed in some time.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Crisis

Something very strange happened last night.

I found out that Ed, the new SFV character that no one asked for, came out a few days ago. It was both amusing and sad that I did not take notice of his arrival. He was already paid for so I figured what the hell, might as well take him for a test drive. Ed looks terrible. His character design is without redeeming feature. How how plays, though, is very interesting. The only traditional special move he has is his super. All other specials are either piano inputs (mash) or simultaneous button inputs.

His combos, at least the ones in the trials, were dead easy and looked good. Ed was actually fun to use. While working on, and actually completing, his trials I noticed that all previous characters had new sets of trials to correspond with Season 2 changes. The joystick was plugged in, so why not, I did a few.

For three hours. There were stupid difficult. The closest I came to completion was nine out of ten of Bison's. I never took the game online, never played against the computer. It was just me reading button inputs and failing over and over.

This morning I felt guilty. How dare I have wasted three hours that could have been put into Nier Automata for the last chapter of Walked Dead Season 3. I don't have time for such frivolities. That's it, I am not buying Tekken 7. All day I thought this. As my lunch approached I grew more and more anxious, struggling between finishing games that I want to play and admitting that sitting in trials for three hours was not a waste of time, that it might be a sign that I am ready to play a fighting game seriously again.

On the way to lunch I drove right past my Gamestop. That was it, the die was cast, I was skipping Tekken 7. No dusting off my Nina or Steve and getting beaten to a pulp online. No grinding in the practice room looking for wall carries and optimal juggles. I have to much else to do. The list is too long.

But I had just played Street Fighter V, a game that everyone is getting tired of, for three hours. The five matches of Injustice 2 that I played online were enjoyable. Why am I fighting this?

On the way back from lunch I bought Tekken 7. This was my reward:


I am never going to get caught up.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The good Platinum

I think it may have been a mistake for Nier: Automata to have such an outstanding beginning sequence that was also released as a demo prior to its launch. Following three hours of play that opening sequence was easily the best the game had to offer but I had already played it. The hook was used up and instead of being excited I was a little bored.

That being said, there is still a lot to like about Automata. The good Platinum showed up this time so the combat is smooth and responsive. Enemy variety is low, but again, I have not played for that long. Skill customization is a deep, dark hole that I have already fallen into, weighing the benefits of being able to see my own hit points versus doing slightly more damage. It is brilliant and insidious.

The game is also not shy regarding where it pulls some of its mechanics: there is some Souls in here. From the moment you press start the game warns you that there is no auto-save. There is an in game FAQ that explains that dying means losing all of your physical items, that they need to be retrieved on your next life, and that dying on the way to your old corpse equals fuck you, thank you for playing.

I did not drop it like it was hot because, while dying is a very bad thing, I have not felt in danger of doing so yet. Recovery items are cheap enough and the combat itself is forgiving enough that the bullshit Souls death penalty the cost of failure is more of a threat than a real consequence.

Nier was bizarre and obtuse, at least least on the first play through when you could not understand what enemies were saying. Automata plays its hand early, with robots that scream in fear as you approach and beg you to stop killing them. 2B is slightly disturbed but not enough so to stop carving a swath of oily destruction though hundreds of them. That will come back to bite her, I assume.

It's good. It's really good. Now if only Tekken 7 didn't come out on Friday. I care more about that game than Injustice 2, a title that I have already forgotten about.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hard pass

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 was a Far Cry game minus all of its character. Pagan Min was replaced by unreasonable difficulty and a terrible checkpoint system. No thank you. At least it only took about an hour and a half for me to figure out that the game and I were just not going to get along.

Friday, May 26, 2017

It still hurts my thumbs

As a general rule I do not enjoy retro games. I played games that looked that bad, and yes they look bad, it is not a stylistic choice, when I was young so why should I play more games that look bad now? Shovel Knight does not look exactly bad but it certainly looks simple: limited colors, limited animations, etc. But god damn if it was not a tight, focused, strangely touching experience that lasted exactly as long as it needed to.

Let's not mince words: Shovel Knight is made in homage of Mega Man. If it wasn't good I would call it a rip off but it is good so I will give it the creative benefit of the doubt. Instead of gaining powers by killing other knights the Shovel Knight must purchase them but the effect is the same: he has a slowly expanding stable of abilities that increase the complexity of the combat and keep the game interesting.

I hesitate to call it difficult as I am not sure if my failures were due to not having played a game like this in quite a while or the fact that the left joy con on a Switch doesn't have a fucking d-pad. Regardless, deaths were plentiful in some areas but t never felt cheap. The game goes out of its way to educate the player, introducing a concept in a room where death is impossible before pulling the rug out.

For example: Shovel Knight comes across a large pit of lava that there is no way across. There is a strange green blob at the edge and, because it is the only option, he hits it, knocking into the lava. The lava is turned (temporarily) into a trampoline, allowing him to cross. Next room has two pits, third room has multiple green blobs. It builds on itself in complexity without being frustrating. Some modern games could learn a thing or two from this process.

The 8-bit-ness of the graphics and music did not wear on me as I expected. Would it be nice if it was hand drawn, high res sprites like Dragon's Crown? Of course, but this was a Kickstarted game so I will take what I can get.

Shovel Knight was started on a flight from Detroit to Austin. It was played on and off in my hotel room, then on a flight from Austin to Dallas and finally, thanks to an on tarmac delay in Dallas, finished as I landed in my home town. Every moment of it, including a surprisingly heart felt ending, was worth it. So this is what a hand held system is for.

Podcast - minus me

The boys soldiered on in my absence and turned in an exceptional performance:


Chamberlain and Chance - Everything is perfect

Monday, May 22, 2017

Limited updates this week

I am going to be out of town on 'business' for a few days which will give me an opportunity to the Switch for more than a underpowered console. Previous attempts have caused physical pain but I hope that Shovel Knight's 8bit-ness will forgo the right analog stick in favor of the buttons.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Solo heroes

In order for me to invest time and effort into a fighting game there has to be at least one character that I really enjoy playing. Sometimes this character is a holdover from a past game and other times I find him or her by chance but if this personal investment is missing my interest in the game falls off quickly.

Just because I like making lists: Street Fighter IV - Blanka, Mortal Kombat 9 and X - Kitana, Killer Instinct - Thunder, Guilty Gear - May, Injustice - Green Arrow, Tekken - Nina. Notice that Street Fighter V, King of Fighters and Marvel vs Capcom 3 have no favorite character. I landed on Necalli in SFV by default but I don't really like him, King of Fighter requires picking three characters and I don't like anyone other than King. The same is true for Marvel.

Green Arrow was found by chance in the original Injustice. I wanted to try out Scarecrow this time around but he is, for lack of a better term, really weird to use, so I have have returned to old habits. The story mode is incredible, the game looks very good and the voice acting is of mostly high quality (Harley is a little cringy) but I do not see myself playing it much online, if at all.

I do not think I have, or rather, can make enough time to not be terrible at Injustice 2. NRS games have a very specific, juggle heavy, staccato feel that I have a hard time adjusting to. Kitana in MK works for me only because I have been using Kitana on and off since MKII. Injustice is further complicated by being the one NRS game without a block button and a control layout that favors a controller over a stick.

These are not (just) excuses and it is a shame because, if nothing else, the game is interesting to look at. Character faces actually look like people, levels are alive with movement and damage, even the trademark terrible NRS animation is a little better here than usual. I just don't feel the urge to play it online, against people. I want to get back to my mediocre viking Diablo clone.

It has finally happened - my hermit-like ways have migrated to my online persona. I don't even leave the basement virtually anymore.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It's not the same

Yesterday was in interesting day. Phantom Dust dropped with little warning, for free, and Injustice 2 came out. I was at a bit of a loss on which to play so I decided to let the consoles decide. Phantom Dust was a 9 gig download. Injustice 2 had a 950 meg day one patch. Both machines are on the same network, plugged into the same switch, and were downloading at the same time.

I cannot wait to be done with PSN. Phantom Dust was downloaded in about an hour and a half and the Injustice 2 patch took significantly longer. Take me home, Scorpio, take me home.

So I played Phantom Dust, a game whose pending arrival I have talked about several times on the podcast in glowing, slightly creepy terms. It is exactly as I remember it, to a fault. It really is an oXbox game resurrected to run at modern resolutions, a not insignificant task undertaken by a small team with a passion for a very niche game. I should be thrilled. But I am not.

It is not that I did not enjoy myself, I did, but my memories of playing Phantom Dust are tied to who I was playing it with. Being a semi-professional asshole I assumed that this was secondary to what I was playing and that throwing glowing balls of energy at randoms would have the same effect. It did not. It was honestly a bit hollow.

Getting into multiplayer games was on the difficult side and the total lack of voice chat outside of the party app is a significant loss but the rest of the game remained intact. From the outset you can download a free starter pack of skills. This allowed me to skip the single player portion entirely, a good thing, as it has not aged well at all. I made it through about a cutscene and a half before turning it off.

For the impatient there are all sorts of micro-transactions, ranging from in game currency to unlocking one copy of all 300 skills. It was so tempting but I did not do it. Instead I parlayed my winnings into junk packs, collections of five random skills. Cheap loot boxes purchased via in game funds. I am nobody's whale.

I will play Phantom Dust again but it is not return of a long lost love that I predicted. She's back, still looks good, still quirky and flexible, but I have changed, and I am not sure I have time for her anymore.

...

The last house I lived in before getting married was a double wide trailer inhabited by four guys, all of whom were eager to not live at home or at school and be able to drink as much possible at any time. It was a good six months, the end of which saw me move back home for six more while student teaching.

During a break from school I went back to that double wide trailer and tried to return to the old ways. A great deal of vodka was consumed, I blacked out, and the next hazy image was of me on my side and a good friend sitting in a chair next to my bed, making sure that I did not choke to death on my own vomit. Satisfied that I was out of danger, he rose and headed back to his room.

'You never can go back, can you,' I said.

He stopped, turned half way back towards me and shook his head.

'No.'

I learned then a lesson that I keep learning, that living in or for nostalgia is cowardly and disappointing. There is always more that will be than has been. Time to play something new(ish).

Monday, May 15, 2017

It worked for me and that is what matters

I promised to talk about Sniper Elite 4 and now I finished it and I don't want to say about it. It has been years (YEARS!) since I attempting to write up honest reviews. One site folding and another just kicking me to the curb tends to dampen one's enthusiasm. In defense of the second site, I went back and read some of what I wrote for them and it was all shit. I deserved to get kicked to the curb. Due to either lack of skill or discipline I am not much for long form, in depth, 'informative' reviews. I am more of a hot take kind of guy (lazy) and have much more fun picking on bad games than extolling good ones (asshole).

This means that when I come across an OK game, a serviceable one that passes the time without raising my blood pressure, I don't know what to say about it. Sniper Elite 4, more so than its predecessors, is exactly that kind of game. The previous games managed to wear out their welcome before ending and this one did not. It was precisely the correct mix of sneaking and shooting, at least on the Normal difficulty, and was entertaining all the way to the end. That's good, right?

Okay, I am at work with nothing to do so I will force myself to dig deeper. Why did I enjoy Sniper Elite 4, an admittedly average game, and so quickly gave up on Hitman, an excellent one? Because Sniper Elite 4 let me play the way that I wanted to and when I fucked up, which was often, forced me to deal with the fallout and gave me the tools and leeway to do so. Hitman wanted me to play it like Hitman and when I was not good enough to play it as Hitman it killed me. No leeway, only death.

Hitman let me fail all over the place. It encouraged it. It even mocked me by extending a helping hand in the form of opportunities. The difference is that, when I made a mistake, the game ended. 47 cannot, be design, hold his own in a firefight. It is not that kind of game and will tolerate absolutely no foolishness on the part of the player. Learn by dying, noob.

Sniper Elite 4 had the same kind of hand holding in the form of targets on the map, only when I made a mistake, which was often, and all of the nazis in a quarter mile radius were alerted to my position, I was able to change genres, from sniping to third person cover based shooter, and deal with the mess that I had made. The game wanted me to play one way but allowed success in another just by making the shooting work (let's me honest, the actual shooting in Hitman is not very good) and by making the hero a little more robust.

This is a video game after all, not an assassin training simulator.

Hitman is a very good game if you want to play Hitman. If you don't want to play Hitman, or if you are not very good at playing Hitman, it could not care less. Sniper Elite 4 is a good enough game that will meet the player half way.

...

Viking is also good enough in that I have not played a Diablo-clone in a while. All mediocre games, all the time!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Lists are fun

Moviebob put out a list (in his Game Overthinker persona) of the top 10 home game consoles of all time. I was ready to disagree vehemently but it is a list that pretty much writes itself. I may take issue with the order, specifically the Wii should be 10th or an honorable mention, but the console hits and misses are not difficult to deduce. Strike that, fuck the Wii and replace it with the Gamecube.

So what is there to talk about? Why, how many of each did I own?

10 - XBox 360

  • Number owned - 3
  • Personal favorite games - Culdcept Saga, Gears series, Lost Odyssey, Forza series, a ton more that I am missing. For hours used this system is only surpassed by the PS2. 
9 - PSX
  • Number owned - 3 (I think)
  • Personal favorite games - Final Fantasy series (yes, even Final Fantasy Tactics), Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken 3, Castlevania Symphony of the Night. I bought my first PSX on a whim while in college. The first game I played on it was a bad Street Fighter Alpha port. I also got a little too deep into game piracy on this system, something that I am not proud of, but this was before GameFly existed and I was fucking poor.
8 - Wii
  • Number owned - 0
  • At one point in time I trusted Nintendo. The Gamecube (which should be on this list) gave us Rogue Squadron and a new look for Zelda and Ikaruga and the best version of Resident Evil 4. The Wii gave use wonky motion controls and shovel ware by the boatload. For good or ill, gaming will never be the same.
7 - Sega Genesis
  • Number owned - 0
  • My friends and I were all Nintendo diehards. It was an era when you picked a team and defended it, irrationally, violently. This meant that I never got to play Contra Hard Corps or a good Sonic game.


6 - Nintendo 64

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal Favorites games - Goldeneye, Doom 64, Conker's Bad Fur Day. I waited in line for an N64 (college again, what else did I have to do, go to class?) and bought neither of the launch titles. Doom 64 was the first, and for a long time only, game I owned for the system. It is a lost classic that needs to be remastered. Oh, and Goldeneye was a phenomenal drinking game, but you already knew that.
5 - Dreamcast

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal favorite games - Skies of Arcadia, Grandia 2, Soul Calibur, Phantasy Star Online. My first console purchased as a grown up, released on my birthday. Also my first real introduction to online play. I actually had the SegaNet ISP. And two phone lines. For PSO. Don't judge.
4 - Atari 2600

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal favorite games - Pitfall, Adventure, Combat, Starmaster, Kaboom. I did not get an Atari until the great crash was in full swing. Being a little kid, this just meant that there were a ton of cheap games in bargain bins. Yes, even E.T.
3 - SNES

  • Number owned - .5
  • Personal favorite games - Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Super Castlevania 4, Contra 4. I say .5 because this system was shared by my family and when I went away to college I left it to my brother and purchased a 3DO. One of us got the much better deal. My parents purchased the system without telling us just so they could get to Super Mario World first.
2 - NES

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal favorite games - Tetris, Castlevania, all the standard games that everyone played. I remember more of the NES than the Atari 2600, everything from blowing in games to get them to work to breaking a window with a thrown controller because Jaws was just so bad. And password saves. Fuck password saves.
1 - PS2

  • Number owned - 1 (that's right, I had a launch PS2 that never stopped working)
  • Personal favorite games - Final Fantasy series (yes, even X-2), Silent Hill 2, Fatal Frame 2, Guitar Hero 2, God of  War, more than I can possible remember. The PS2 years were probably the happiest I have ever been as a person who plays video games. There was always something new and different to play. I was running an EB Games at the time so I was surrounded by games and fellow enthusiasts. More so than even the SNES, it was my golden era of gaming.
Remove the Wii because that system was a blight and replace it with the Gamecube and it would be a pretty good list.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Truth, hot and heavy

The internet landed in our laps without creating a curriculum that empowers you to know when someone online is full of shit.

    - Neil deGrasse Tyson


No reference point

I really should listen to other podcasts. I think we are good. Then again, I very much enjoy the sound of my own voice. And Chance's? Swoon.


Chamberlain and Chance - The price of admission

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I must be strong

Look at this shit:



Yeah. Yeah. I want to play that. At least I think that I want to play that. Let's do a little research...

'...I'd get stuck in no win situations...' - IGN

'Strafe is basically Spelunky in first person.' - Destructoid

Well then, that's a no, at least at full price. It was also called unfair in several reviews and mouse and keyboard controls were deemed required. I like the idea of Strafe, just not enough to pay $20 for it and push the backlog back further.

Here is the plan: when the game hits $10 I will buy it and stream the results. I should have documented my attempts at No Man's Sky, Bloodborne and Nioh in the same manner. 'Chamberlain swears at games he is bad at' could be a new feature. That means that I need to buy a mic for my PS4, but still, it could be amusing.

...

Sniper Elite 4 is the game that I wanted the new Hitman to be: easy and tolerant of foolish mistakes. More in a day or two but I can say at the moment that it brings nothing new to its niche genre and I am fine with that.