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.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Dirty enough, I suppose

There is a specific kind of panic that only a rally racing game can produce. You are hurtling down a narrow road, a sheer cliff on one side and jagged rocks on the other, just at the edge of losing control, completely focused on the road ahead and the instructions from your co-driver.

Right 6 over crest.

You turn. No problem.

Left 2, don't cut.

You break, turn left, accelerate out of the corner.

Crest, 100.

Finally, a straightaway. And then you miss the next bit of instruction. For whatever reason, your concentration slipped, your cat attacked you or you took a drink, you missed it. Since you are going up a rise you cannot see what is coming. Braking now is a possibility but that costs precious time. You waffle for an incredible two or three seconds, a growing pit in your stomach, before doing nothing and flying over the rise.

Into a hairpin turn and, of course, a very unforgiving tree.

This is Dirt 4, a slimmed down version of the previous games. Most of the style and flash is gone but the racing is still good, the experience customizable to what the player is looking for. I have it set on medium which turns off most of the driving assists but I have the AI set to easy because, well, because I am lazy. This tweaking makes the game fun and almost makes the lack of a rewind function forgivable.

The bit of missed dialogue above was not actually your fault. Your co-driver took the time to say that the engine sounds bad instead of warning you of the god damn turn and killer oaks over the hill. This has happened to me several times and is not near as amusing as it sounds. I would like to rewind a few seconds and try again, but no, you need to replay the entire stage. This will get old.

It seems that, in the shadow of both the main stream Forza series and the superior Horizon spin offs, that other racing games and been tightening their belts. Dirt was at one time an prime example of how rally racing could be gussied up to be exciting. Even the loading screens bristled with style. Now? Now it's just a racing game, more accessible (read that as easy if you must) than most, but just a racing game. It cannot hope to keep up with Turn 10, so why bother?

This makes in a hors d'oeuvres, a distraction, something to just play for a bit while I wait for the Xbox One X to come out and run Forza 7 the way it is meant to be run. Not every game needs to be epic. Dirt 4 is a reasonable time, for now, though I have found that I really do not like using the dualshock controller when playing a racing game.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

If Icarus was a game

Oh yeah, I played RiME, Tequila Works' attempt at making Ico. It goes about as one would expect. The game isn't terrible, parts of it are in fact quite moving, but it is missing that special something that made Ico, and to a lesser extent it 'sequels', unforgettable experiences.

Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian all had two things that RiME lacks: a gimmick and a definite sense of place. Perhaps gimmick is the wrong term. Maybe hook? Ico was one long escort mission (that somehow was not terrible), Shadow of the Colossus had a tiny little man against skyscraper sized monsters and The Last Guardian had Trico who was perhaps better in concept than execution. These are hooks that the player will remember forever: escorting Yorda or stabbing the first colossus in the head or desperately trying to get Trico's attention.

All three games also created a very real feeling of location. I am not talking about size, as Shadow of the Colossus dwarfs the other two, but a mental sense of where you are in the world. The architecture and locations in Ico and The Last Guardian made sense. I could tell where I was in the castles most of the time. Likewise the never ending plains in Shadow of the Colossus had a focal point: the giant altar thing that Wander returned to after each kill.

RiME has none of that. The hook, if there is one at all, is that you are playing a boy who wakes up on an island and does not know why he is there. He occasionally seeing a man like shape wearing a red cape in the distance that he tries to follow, but that is it. In Ico the puzzles served a purpose. In RiME they are simple there to impede. Puzzles for puzzles sake.

The game also switches between locations that are not apparently related. At first the keyhole tower is the focus but when you get there it branches off into more abstract areas that will not make sense until after the big twist reveal (that I will not spoil). In the moment they can be interesting but never investing because you do not know why you are where you are. Solving a riddle is not compelling when there is no reason to care about the riddle or its solution.

RiME isn't bad, it lacks focus. It is also plainly based on Ico, a game that none have matched. Four plus years in development was still not enough.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

One man's opinion

I don't follow Twitter drama much. It happens at the edges of my peripheral internet senses and is usually a whole lot of talk about very little, especially in the games/game critics industry. But this is something special. It starts here:



The player is Dean Takahasi, a man who has been playing and reviewing games for 20 odd years, eating shit over and over in the tutorial. There is also a YouTube video in which he plays for around twenty minutes and never makes it out of the first level. I am embarrassed for the guy.

The question, and what the internet has been fighting about since then, is this: should the opinion of a person who is clearly terrible at a game matter? Should we listen to anything Dean has to say about Cuphead when he doesn't know how to play it? And was that shameful display his fault or caused by poor design?

First, the design. I don't see any problems with the tutorial. There is a small block, a taller one that is too high to reach and floating instructions that state that the dash can be used in the air. Simple, right? Jump off of the small block and dash at the apex. This is shared knowledge based on years of platform games.

And that is the problem: shared knowledge. Shared by who, exactly? I know what to do based on three plus decades of video game experience. I would have known what to do without the instructions. This does not mean that everyone knows this or that it will be as natural for everyone. If it were a child playing the game or my Mother I would run with this line of thought further, but it was not. Dean has been playing and writing about videogames for 20 years, or so he says. He should know what to do. He should know how to string two moves together, something that he fails again to accomplish in the 'counter slap' section.

It should be noted that I do not think the game is the problem but that I have not played it yet. I can promise you it will go better that it did for Dean.

So does Dean's opinion on this matter? Should we listen to anything he has to say about Cuphead? Before I say no, and I will get to that, take a quick peek at this article that calls him out for giving Mass Effect a bad score. He found it difficult because he forgot to assign skill points after leveling up. Dean did admit this later, and amended his review, but come on.

That article is nine years old. He has not learned much since then.

Dean, from these two examples, does not appear to be an enthusiast. He was not a person who plays games first, he was a writer who chose to write about games, games that he appears to be terrible at. So no, we should not listen to him. It galls me that this man is paid for his opinion. Games are different from most other forms of entertainment in that they are interactive. One does not need to be a director to give opinions about movies or an athlete to talk about sports. Consuming both of these is passive and intelligent opinions on them can be built on knowledge alone.

Game require interaction, some of which is based on skill, and some of those are going to be too difficult for some people, and that's okay. I have said in this very space that Souls game are too hard and fuck From Software forever and this feeling means that no one should come to me for an opinion on Dark Souls. The games aren't for me, for whatever reason (read that as that I am terrible at them) so my thoughts on their quality are not to be valued. I accept that, bitch a bit about them as humorously as possible, and then get back to games that I do know something about.

Dean is paid for his uninformed, unreliable, borderline ignorant opinions. I don't know this man, he could be the nicest guy in the world, but he should not be compensated for writing things that he lacks the requisite skills to appreciate.

If you want to espouse indefensible opinions start a blog. Wait a minute...

Friday, September 1, 2017

The cruel march of time

It was a rough in Chamberlain's little video game world yesterday. First, Capcom announced a remake of Puzzle Fighter. That's good news! I watched the 'trailer' and was first turned off by the chibi 3D models instead of 2D sprites. If the trailer for the Secret of Mana remake has taught us anything it is that some things do not translate well into 3D. This could be forgiven as long as the game played the same.

Nope, it is a mobile game. Fuck that forever.

I have never found a mobile game that I have enjoyed for any length of time beyond ten minutes. Everything devolves into microtransaction driven bullshit. Even games that used to be good (remember Bejewelled?) have been twisted and turned into nothing more than whale trolling exercises. Once a week I download something on my tablet or my phone, think that this will be the one to justify owning these silly devices, only for it to be uninstalled with a quarter hour.

The only game that has ever stuck was Words with Friends and even that is marred with commercials and in game currency. Capcom remains on the shit list.

...

Amusing hyperbole aside, I do not lie about my thoughts one games. When I said that Breath of the Wild was 'okay' and that Horizon Zero Dawn had significant problems I meant it. I wasn't necessarily looking forward to either of those, though buying a system to play a game that I was not 'looking forward to' does seem a bit foolish, so it was easy to throw shade at them. Said shade was made all the more amusing by some rather talented and vociferous defenders.

But when a game that I was looking forward to ends up being a stinker, that's hard. I want to look for excuses instead of piling on. I want to think that I am wrong, that I was in a bad mood, that I was distracted. None of that is true about Rock of Ages 2. I just need to admit that it is inferior to the first game in every possible way.

The basic premise is the same: roll a big boulder down increasingly difficult tracks to knock down the door to your opponent's castle and squish them. On the flip side you also need to play defense, set traps and obstacles to prevent your opponent from squishing you. It was the weakest part of the first game but was bearable because it was not that important or difficult. So what does the sequel do? It doubles down on the worst part of the first game, makes it more important and much more difficult.

I have admitted in the past that I am not very good at video games. My breadth of knowledge and experience comes from sheer hours played, not skill level. I play games on Normal. Always. And I do not feel bad about dropping it down to easy. Rock of Ages 2 was dropped down to easy almost immediately and it still was too hard. The AI cheats, honestly cheats: it can put down more defences than you as it starts with more funds. It knows all of the shortcuts on the tracks and is not confused by level design several steps behind that of the first game.

Stylistic choices are one thing but making the track indistinguishable from the barriers? That's just dumb.

Playing Rock of Ages 2 is like running into a friend from college who has turned into a total asshole in the intervening years. Some of the charm may still be there but the little things that you didn't like and could look past because you were young and drunk have been magnified by the cruel march of time. It's not good and it makes me sad to say so.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Too much boulder

I am not actually playing RiME. Rock of Ages 2 came out and it is not as good as I remember the first one being or as good as I hoped it would be. But at least it as this:



Anyway, on with the show!


Chamberlain and Chance - Big changes

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ready to boulder

The second attempt took all of twenty minutes and I have no idea what was so hard the first time around. I did get some sweet shots of the final boss's first form - that I could not get off of the PS4 because I did not have a thumb drive handy. If I was playing this on the Xbox One I could share them to my One Drive and they would be available from my computer but no, not only does Sony not want to allow cross platform play they make it as difficult as possible to get data off of their system.

I am pretty sure that I could link my Twitter account to the system and then tweet the image but that would compress it and diminish its fabulousness.

When does the Xbox One X come out again? There are so many reasons why I am looking forward to it, not the least of which is to get away from the PS4 UI and draconian nature.

...

There is no time to be annoyed! It's Rock of Ages 2 time!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Tantalizing anticipation

DNS issues resolved! Sometimes it is nice have spent a few agonizing months as a network admin.

...

I was within spitting distance of the end of Dragon Quest Heroes 2 last night. Down to my last two heroes, out of resurrection and healing items, my designated healer lay in a heap on the ground while I and the reasonably deft AI danced around a six legged dragon that could one shot any character that missed a dodge. In Marvel terms he was on his magic pixel, a sliver of life just to the left of what is visible on his health bar.

My main character went in for the kill, got in a few hits, then was picked up and chewed on by the dragon, leaving me with one character (who I didn't know how to use) while he regenerated health at a frightening rate. I flailed at him with all I had, minus the super move that would have actually saved me but was not charged. The dragon regained a full quarter of his health, tossed the main character to the ground and then set off an explosion that killed what was left of his backup.

Game over.

Did I mention that this was a two part boss battle and that there was no save between fights? Yeah, I am super excited to try this again tonight. Once.

The saving grace is that Fractos (terrible name for a big bad guy) bears a passing resemblance to Dr. Frank-n-furter in both looks and mannerisms. It's probably just in my head, and I can provide no proof as Google image search provides no results - the character is kind of a secret until the final few hours of the game.

Just imagine this. As a boss. With really long ears.


There you go. Just let it happen. You'll be okay soon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

It wasn't even on a screen

I am have some bizarre DNS issues at the moment - I can get to the blogger page to add posts but I cannot get to my actual blog. I know that the blog is there, as I can get to it on my phone and tablet, but it times out on my computer. I know that it is DNS related because if I start up a VPN that using different DNS than I am using the site comes up.

The real kicker is that I am using Google DNS (8.8.8.8) and I am pretty sure that Google owns blogger. Way to go, guys.

...

Yesterday, thanks to a hefty Grupon, Mrs. Chamberlain (yes, she is real) and I tried out one of many Escape Chambers spin off franchises  that have been popping up in just about every tourist trap that we have been to. Think about it: you don't need a ton of space or any special utilities and can run it with just a few employees. Hell, I may start one.

Anyway, for the uninitiated, Escape Chamber puts you and your party, in my case just the two of us, into a room with very basic instructions. Find you way out, figure out what is going on, etc. Our room was a literal janitor's closet, complete with dim lighting and a dirty wash basin, and we had to figure out where he disappeared to and what his plans were.

The first thing that jumped out at us was an oversized rubik's cube that only turned on its horizontal axis. My video game addled brain screamed at me that this was important but we did not have the combination. My wife found a note in a book that had cryptically written instructions in the form of driving directions. Between the two of use we got it open, which gave us a key, which opened something else, and so on.

What I did not know when I signed us up was that I had chosen the most difficult room. Rooms, to be more specific, as once the janitor's closet was complete it opened up a secret door with a fucking bomb on a desk and creepy pictures of local landmarks. We almost solved it before the time ran out - the last puzzle was a combination of blacklight coordinates on a map, a chess board, and a riddle about being in front of or behind your court. It was fucking hard.

What was most interesting was the combination of thinking between my wife and I. I, in case you just got here, play a lot of video games. My puzzle solving skills are built around manipulating items in space and recognizing patterns. My wife does not play videogames but she has been a teacher for a long time and is an avid reader. She was able to pick apart the riddles in ways that I would have missed completely without her.

...to be honest, she did more of the heavy lifting. I just followed instructions and dug around in dark corners of the room for clues.

It was a lot of fun and I heartily recommend it. I would suggest keeping the group small. Any more than four and you will spend more time talking over one another than solving anything. Two worked for me but my wife is awesome and not everyone is so lucky.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Everything in this episode is true

Not that our podcasts are normally filled with falsehoods, but this episode is especially, frighteningly true.


Chamberlain and Chance - Not safe for work

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.