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.