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.