Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Virtual catching up

In the post Christmas lull I have found myself adjacent to my keyboard with a few moments to spare. I am not going to rehash my top ten games of the year, that was best presented in the season finale episode of our podcast (which you really should listen to, it was a great episode). Instead I will give you a brief reaction to my most recent silly purchase: the PSVR.

It was not until very recently that the PSVR had any appeal for me. Consoles are simply a conveyance for games and there were no games on the PSVR that I wanted to play.  It only takes one game, my Switch is evidence enough of that, and when that game arrived my wallet audibly groaned. Then the whole package went on sale right before Christmas and it was unavoidable: I would own Beat Saber. And I suppose I should try a few other games, too.

Many, many years ago I stopped going to amusement parks and riding roller coasters. I remember the last time and it was terrible, just a nausea that started in the pit of my stomach and radiated outwards. It rose and rose but never quite sent me running to the bathroom. Vomiting would have almost been a relief. This is exactly how Rez HD and Rush of Blood made me feel.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The PSVR helmet itself takes some getting used to. There are more dials to adjust the fit that I expected but once it is dialed in it just works. Connecting the PSVR to the PS4 creates a small rat's nest of cords and the adapter box itself requires its own power outlet. The remotes don't come with their own charging cables.

In other words, the assembly portion of the first evening was not idea. But then I started up Beat Saber.

It's a simple game: block float towards you in sync to the music. You slash them in a specific direction. Repeat, look foolish, knock picture off the of walls, etc. On the first night I played until the controllers batteries died and finished most of the songs on hard. I have since completed almost all of of them on expert and while it is not an especially difficult game that needs more (and better) music it is so much fun that it very nearly validates the purchased.

Nearly. Almost. It worked because the 'VR' nature of the game is less important than the camera and controllers tracking your movement in a 3D space. When I tried other more traditional VR games I was left feeling quite ill after around thirty minutes. Rush of Blood is a literal roller coaster. There are other games that will probably work for me, games like Moss and Astro Bot Rescue Mission, which are more interested in placing the player in a 3D space than sending them rocketing through it.

I will try Borderlands 2 VR. Eventually. Because Assassin's Creed Odyssey is going to end eventually. Probably.




Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Hi there

Hello internet.

I live, so to speak.

That is all I have the energy to say.

Well, that, and 45 hours into Assassin's Creed Odyssey and no one (in the past at least) has said the words 'assassin' or 'templar.'

And I am completely okay with that.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

Game versus not game

Time to get reacquainted with my keyboard.

In the week plus since my last entry I have finished Red Dead Redemption 2, finished Spider-Man and started Assassin's Creed Odyssey. That is a lot of open world in a row and I will admit that it was with some trepidation that I installed and started Odyssey. I did not feel ready to commit to another big game. I almost started Mega Man 11 instead - a nice, linear, short experience.

But I was wooed by the opening battle in Odyssey, a sideways take on the battle of the hot gates. This was barely an Assassin's Creed game. It was a open world, combat heavy RPG, closer to Dragon Age or Mass Effect but prettier and more poorly written than either. It was, in every way, a game. Not a painstaking simulation that was at it best when being observed and not touched, no, a smooth experience that sacrificed realism for convenience.

A very small example: picking something up off of the ground in Red Dead Redemption 2 accomplished via an excruciatingly long and accurate animation, every single time. Picking something up off of the ground in Odyssey just happens at the press of a button. No animation, no attempt at simulation, it is part of the game that no one needs to see. Is it realistic? No, of course not. Neither is a horse appears from thin air when whistled for, but it allows the game to stay out of its own way.

But I am getting ahead of myself. There is the matter of Spider-Man to attend to.

Spider-Man is this close to being perfect.

Anyone who listens to the podcast will have heard all of the nice things that Chance has had to say about Spider-Man (and if you don't listen, you should be) and I agree with most of them. He is more forgiving of the forced stealth sections than I am, because they are way out of place and terrible, but they are spread out enough and short enough that they did not hamstring the experience.

Aside from those, I do have other complaints, most of which are firmly in spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that most of the boss battles are, at best, so so. They feel very repetitive, have one of two solutions, and are in no way satisfying. Fighting a large group of convicts is more difficult, more fun, and requires a firmer grasp of what a spider can do than fighting any of the big bads.

Second, the third act feels very rushed. That scene from the raft from E3? That happens about six hours from the end of the game. Only two of the six main enemies is more than paper thin (part of this is the weak nature of Spider-Man's rogues gallery, he's no Batman) and they are dispatched as quickly as they appear. And the ending is little more than an ad for Spider-Man 2.

Despite all of that I cannot wait for Spider-Man 2. Everything else the game has to offer, from it perfect controls to the way it makes incredible use of a relatively small space, is perfect. It embraces the fact that it is a game, a silly game about a man with spider powers in a a tight suit, and runs with it as fast as it can, hurling itself off of buildings with reckless abandon.

Spider-Man was almost always fun. A perfect antidote for Red Dead Redemption 2, which was almost never fun. Is Peter Parker as well written, realized or acted as Arthur Morgan? Of course not. Spider-Man was a game and Red Dead 2 was a wild west simulation.

...

I knew thirty minutes into Odyssey that I was in trouble. Such a big map. So many question marks. Odyssey skips the normal linear opening of an open world game and lets you wander as soon as you gain control of your chosen character. 'Go here,' the game suggests with a quest marker, but you can also go here, here or here and find cool things. The only limitation is the level of enemies in an area. A one level difference is death, so it really is no different than an invisible wall, but at least the game tries to hide how to directs the player.

It is not fair to compare Odyssey to Red Dead 2. They might as well be different genres. Given the choice to spend sixty more hours on a horse that can only be tied to hitching posts and realistically shits after long rides and one that disappears and reappears at the press of a button, fuck it, give me the magic horse. Give me a game.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The wild west of spoilers

I may not have time to write about video games but I still have time to talk about them, at least once a week.


Chamberlain and Chance - An untamed wilderness of spoilers

Friday, November 16, 2018

You have no idea how hard this was

I have finished Red Dead Redemption 2 and my partners have not. Not talking about something is not something I am very good at.


Chamberlain and Chance - Red Dead Reactions (minimal spoilers)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

*cough* Shore *cough*

In an odd turn of events I have time two days in a row to right and I am at a loss as to what to put down. This often happens when playing a longer game. At almost 40 hours into Red Dead Redemption 2 it is approaching JRPG length territory. I know that I am in the last chapter but I also know that there is a ton of post game content - real missions, not the janky hunting nonsense, so it looks like I will be on this game for at least another week.

My initial displeasure with the combat has tempered from burning hatred to a smoldering disdain. It is always there, waiting for a combat heavy mission to heat it up, and heat up it does every single time I need to shoot someone from horseback.

My opinion of Morgan has softened as well. I cannot say why, not yet, but his change of nature does feel genuine, even if it was forced upon him. He was a bad man, he knows he was a bad man and accepts it, but in the time he has left he is trying to do what is right within the confines of a ever more homicidal gang led by a man whose sanity left him two states ago. He is almost a tragic hero. Almost.

If he could say 'no' to Dutch just once it would tip the scales more firmly in his favor. Just once, Morgan, stand your ground just once.

I predict that this will happen and that it will not go well. This is not a spoiler, this is a well informed guess. Rather, it is what I would do if I was writing the story.

...

On a non-gaming note, a few months ago I was forced to change jobs. I landed a new one quickly at the same rate of pay but am, to be polite, not entirely thrilled with it. Working from home means that I never leave work. My workload is not currently that high but it could be at any moment. I spend a great deal of time waiting for other people to do their jobs, and even more time just worrying. It is impossible to mentally punch out at the end of the day.

The same thing happened to me about seven or eight years ago when I did by brief time as a systems administrator. That job kept my up at night, this one does not, yet, but I have been keeping less beer in the house because I find myself really wanting a fucking beer, sometimes before the day is done.

I should not complain. I live something of a charmed existence, both personally and financially. Do I need a job? Yes. Would I have lost my house if I did not have a job? No. I need a job to keep me and my family  in the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. Saying it that way makes me sound, and feel, like a gigantic asshole.

There seems to be very little of 'me' left in a day. Jobs that provide that are either few and far between or imaginary, I am not sure which. But I have to do something. So I applied for a job at my climbing gym yesterday and just laid it all out the line. I am looking for full time hours doing just about anything - teach me to set routes, run classes for kids, do orientations, anything. I put in the comment section that I am tired of working a desk job and want to be involved with something I care about.

They have not replied, nor do I expect them to, but the act of submitting that application felt good. It felt like a small act of rebellion. Just a little bit of me in the nine hours of not me.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Fine, I accept some of it

Oh my, that got depressing quickly.

I am speaking of Red Dead Redemption 2 and of plot points that I cannot currently spoil. I want to spill the beans all over the place but it is too soon. This is what I get for playing a game at the same time as everyone else: I can't actually talk about it.

There is something that I must admit: the combat is still bad but I have come to terms with it. Snapping to an enemy and nudging the cross hairs up from center mass to head shot has become second nature but it is still not enjoyable. It is just so clunky when compared to other AAA games that it makes me mad. This is the best they could do with all that GTAV money?

Well, bad combat, and a whole tone of drugs, probably. Voice actors don't work for free. Or for money. They require other compensation.

Nah, that's not true, I just want that job instead of the one I have.

Friday, November 9, 2018

If only Spider-Man rode a horse

Shoutengine is being a bit bitchy, so I hope this works.

If not, then I know the podcast is up on Google Play and iTune.


Chamberlain and Chance - Fancy hats and dirty chaps

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

No truce, only war!

It has been difficult to find time to string words together into vitriolic sentences for the past several weeks. As much as I would like to make my lunch hour(ish) sacrosanct, it just doesn't work that way. My schedule it my own to make, except when it isn't, which is all the time.

This is not a place to complain about work, though, it is a place to complain about videogames!

Yes, I am still playing Red Dead Redemption 2. No, I have not forgiven it for its shortcomings nor have I come to any sort of truce with it. In fact I have almost put the game down a few times on account of shootouts that are just not any fun or horse chases that seem impossible. I will not let these thing go yes I cannot stop playing.

Under normal circumstances I will pick apart an open world game, find everything there is to find on the map, do every quest, unlock every item. Last year's Assassin's Creed Origins claimed a ridiculous number of hours, more than half of which were spent faffing about in the desert. Red Dead Redemption 2 is not getting that treatment. I am just doing the quests as they appear, be they main quest line or optional. No hunting, no crafting, no striking out in a random direction and hoping for the best.

I am playing the game as if it were a linear experience and it is still taking fucking forever to get anything done. This is due to a very limited fast travel system and the world just being too big for its own good. Want to chase down that bounty? Fine, it will take at least five minutes to ride there, a few minutes to capture the bounty (assuming the first attempt is successful) and then five more minutes to ride back, not to mention being ambushed on the return trip.

A simple capture mission can take twenty minutes. I am not a man who moseys, I want to get shit done and I want to get it done now. Is the world immersive and impressively detailed? Yes, but so is real life and I am not a big fan of that right now, either.

...

Arthur Morgan is a dickhead, by the way. I assume that he is going to die by the time the game ends. It will be refreshing to see him receive his comeuppance.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

It could drive a man to drink

I have been looking forward to Red Dead Redemption 2 for well over a year. The name was all I needed - no screen shots, no videos, no promises, just the name was enough to excite me. It's out now, I have played it for a few days, and I would like to condense my entire reaction down to three letters. There will be an explanation. This explanation will also be succinct as my blogging time is almost nonexistent. Here we go. Are you ready? I don't think you are ready. This is the sequel to the only open world game I have ever played that held my interest after the game was over. Prepare yourself.

*exhale*

*inhale*

Meh.

...

There are a few companies that get an unwarranted pass on issues that would bring companies of lesser renown to their knees. Nintendo gets away with putting out first party titles at a snail's pace because their first party titles are the quintessential 'Nintendo' games that the loyal crave more than air or food. They even get a review bonus of at least 10% for just being Nintendo. Blizzard gets away with selling loot boxes because 'they are just cosmetic' and because playing pretty princess dress up is just as important as defending the point. And Rockstar continues to get away with being Rockstar: making incredibly deep, detailed experiences that play like absolute shit.

Remember Grand Theft Auto 5? Think back to how the driving felt, the driving in a game with 'auto' in the title. It wasn't good. It was honestly pretty bad. So was the shooting. So were a lot of things related to how the player actually interacted with the virtual world. Yet GTAV is the highest grossing piece of media of any kind because it is Grand Theft Auto. And because it is Rockstar.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is rife with dizzying detail. I am not even talking about shrinking horse balls, I am talking about a living, breathing world full of totally pointless activities. Hunting, fishing, combing your horse, feeding your horse, maintaining your character's weight by eating just enough but not too much, shaving, getting a bath, playing five finger fillet, playing poker, cutting the skin off of animal carcasses, throwing said carcass on the back of your freshly combed, thoughtfully named horse and schlepping it back to camp, and a ton of other things that have nothing to do with what I am looking for in a game.

I wanted a cowboy game. A western game. I got a cowboy simulator. This is not the same thing.

And when the cowboy stuff actually happens? When the shooting breaks out? The game feels old. It feels inadequate. The controls are an unintuitive mess, the shooting outside of dead eye mode has been done better by a hundred other titles. Third person over the shoulder action is not new. It has been almost perfected by Gears of War and Uncharted. But here? It's clumsy. It barely functions. It's Rockstar.

And when the combat is done I need to clean my gun. If it is damaged I can take it to a gunsmith to get it repaired, to buy parts for it, to spend in game money on frivolous things like engraved handles. I can make that gun my very own, an extension of my hand that is unlike anyone else's. And then when I go to shoot a guy with it I will draw the bow for no reason and die.

I cannot overlook simple problems like fiddly controls just because the sunsets are gorgeous and the snow deforms realistically when a horse jumps into it. Good writing does not automatically forgive having to walk back and forth in front of my tent to get the correct button prompt to trigger so I can go to sleep.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a gorgeous mess of a world. It is accurate to the finest detail when you are looking at it but as soon as you touch it the illusion vanishes. It is probably the most 'Rockstar' Rockstar game ever. I paid cash money for this game so I am going to play it. And then I will play something else and the memory of Red Dead Redemption 2 will be overwritten in my head by good controls, intuitive combat and the striking absence of horse genitalia.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

I'm not actually playing Read Dead Redemption 2 yet. But I want to be.


Chamberlain and Chance - Not as scary as you remember

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Just a packed schedule

I did not start Spider-Man on Wednesday after the podcast was recorded. Nor did I start it on Thursday (I honestly don't remember what I played on Thursday night). The assumed quality of Spider-Man on top of the proximity to the release of a certain western game led to a paralysis of choice. Spider-Man would not be finished in time, so it should not be started, but then what else am I going to do? With over a week of evenings to fill I was terrified.

On Friday I got a last minute text to go to a friend's house for good beer and Magic: The Gathering. I had not been out of the house all week so I jumped at the chance.

On Saturday I watched Rampage at the request of a member of its target audience: 12 year old boys. It was stupid fun, no more, no less.

After the movie I took a look around the Xbox game store and almost bought Soul Calibur 6. This didn't happen because I am firmly retired from fighting games and it would have been put aside just like anything else in about a week. Instead of that I cashed in my free two weeks of game pass, browsed its offerings and picked a few things to waste time. It did not go very well.

First, since it is October, I tried one more time to play Agony. The sound bugs and screen tearing have been fixed but it is still a terrible game. The stealth is pointlessly difficult, the puzzles are somehow worse than the puzzles in Hellblade, it's ugly, the voice acting is bad, you name it, the game is bad at it. I may have spent money on it but no, NO, I am not so desperate as to bull my way though this bad of a game. I uninstalled it.

Next, I gave Sinner a try. Sinner is a Dark Souls style boss rush without the interesting monster and level design. It's hook is that before each boss the player has to give up some power. The first boss lowered both my health and stamina. There was no second boss. the game was ass. I uninstalled it.

Sky Force Reloaded is just as grindy as Sky Force Anniversary. I don't why I tolerated it as long as I did the first time. I uninstalled it.

Samurai Shodown 2 had the AI stuck at 'fuck you, puny mortal' and there was no way to change it. I uninstalled it.

So, um, all that was left was Super Lucky's Tale, a child friendly platformer that no one actually played. It was fine. There were some issues with the side scrolling levels. namely that the physics of a 3D platformer do not translate directly to a 2D platformer. Lucky had a few two many frames of 'stopping' animation and not nearly enough coyote time so he would skid right off of smaller platforms. It was annoying but could be adapted to.

Like I said, the game was fine.

Tonight I will play through the Spring timed events in Forza Horizon 4. Tomorrow I will record a podcast episode with Change and Alex. Thursday, hmmm. Thursday I will have a few drinks and watch Tombstone.

And the rest of the year is set. Red Dead Redemption 2, Spider-Man, Assassin's Creed Odyssey. There will be time for nothing else. And that's okay.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

It's better when she's bad

Shadow of the Tomb Raider has made attempts at humanizing Lara after her absolute asshole introduction. A few almost work, her hesitation at telling a young prince that his mother was just killed was almost poignant, but for the most part they come off as contrived and fake. Lara isn't really a character, she a caricature of herself, a figure so well worn that when she says something really stupid the player usually shrugs his or her shoulders with an exasperated 'oh Lara, you cad.'

What works this time is what worked in the last two games: every once in a while Lara becomes a monster. A stone cold killer with no feelings or hesitation. Think Terminator 2 but Linda Hamilton was the terminator.

(side note: how awesome would that have been)

SPOILERS!

Lara and Jonah are returning to their base of operations after coming up empty in the lost city. They are attacked by a Trinity helicopter and separated. Lara ends up at an oil refinery that is in the process of fucking exploding when one of the main enemies pipes up on her radio.

"Jonah is dead. Come fine me if you want his body."

Oh shit.

There is a chase scene between Lara and said helicopter that ends with her plummeting off of a burning storage tank into water that is also on fire. The camera focuses on her closed eyes as she sinks. Important words from important characters are remembered. Her eyes open and it is on.

The view changes to a nearby shore and a wounded Trinity soldier. He looks at the water and figure in silhouette. It's monster Lara. It's her but it's not her. He freaks out. Lara wades to shore, slowing walks up to the soldier as he tries to pull himself to a nearby gun, steps on his hand and them cuts his throat.

Other soldiers see this, panic, and run the fuck away.

This works because she never talks. No bad writing can get in the way. She just kills several dozen people before collapsing into in heap.

(and Jonah isn't actually dead. yet.)


Monday, October 15, 2018

Out of the shadow

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is making good use of a relatively small area. I supposed it could be called open world but it is downright tiny when compares to an Elder Scroll or Assassin's Creed game. The difference is in density and how things are locked off. It is possible to wander around an area, very slowly, and find ever little thing. It is much more efficient to find maps that detail the item's locations and then use that. These maps never reveal everything but they do reveal just enough to keep the play moving.

It also features very standard Metroid-vania locktease - a door that cannot be open without a shotgun or a reinforced knife. It manages to keep smaller areas fresh with content organically, though I am not sure why a door that required a reinforced knife could not just as easily be opened with a shotgun.

Lara is also less odious than she was in the opening hours. She has been searching for the hidden city for the entire game assuming that it was ancient ruins. When it turns out that it is living city that has been hidden from the rest of the world for centuries she decided to help protect them (from the pending Armageddon that she caused). It is not clear why some of them speak English, but that is not a complaint hill that I am going to die on.

In other words, the game is getting better. It isn't the best looking or the best written but it is still a Tomb Raider game that fits in nicely with the reboot and its sequel. If I weren't convinced that the game was going to kill Jonah to teach Lara a lesson I would be quite pleased.

There is the fact that a white person is showing up in a very not white country just to save the day... Would you look at that, I have something else that I need to do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

So much for the old English charm

In the first hour of the game Lara (probably) triggers the apocalypse. She picks up an ancient dagger without thinking about the consequences and a tsunami immediately destroys the nearest town. The game pulls no punches on the devastation, either, as Lara is forced to swim through water filled with the recently deceased and watch in horror as a child falls to his death.

After all of that, after indirectly killing hundreds of people, she finds the long suffering Jonah. Jonah knows that she caused this and has decided to stay and help as best as he can. And he has to convince Lara that now is not the best time to run off on the next part of the quest. She literally wants to pick up and leave at that very moment.

Yeah, Lara is not very likable. She's is incredibly self centered and does not see the chaos that she creates. Perhaps that is the point but right now I would sooner be controlling Jonah. Seriously, the first thing Lara does after a plane crash is find him and then ditch him again to go raid some tombs.

The game? Same as the last time around but the combat feels very inaccurate. Unless I missed it there is no way to stick to a wall for cover. For everything this series has stolen from Uncharted leaving that out is a mystery.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Even the Mona Lisa gets old eventually

800 miles into Forza Horizon 4 and I have settled on what is missing, or rather, what has been added that I do not care about: multiplayer content that is integrated into the single player content. At about five minutes to every hours there is a pop up inviting you to a live event. 'Press X to set route!' it chides. I do not do so because I am loath to play with other people but the question remains: what exactly am I missing?

Forza Horizon 4 has a great deal in common with Destiny. There is single player content, and much of it is very good, but it all serves as the preamble to the multiplayer focused end game. This is how many games are now and as much as I enjoy tilting at windmills I am going to waste no further effort fighting against it. I will play what is for me and leave the rest to others.

That being said, I did come across a very sneaky bit of DLC bait and switch in the game. Alongside the standard events there are seasonal ones that are available for around a week. It is fall right now and there are four or five races that will be around until Winter hits in a few days. I am just about done with the basic races so I tried to give one of them a shot. It was a race around Edinburgh, which is cool, but it required a specific car. No problem, I have the credits.

That car is only available as paid DLC, in a pack, that costs $10.

Remember the NPC that advertised a DLC quest in Dragon Age? Yeah, that shit again. Bad form.

Hermit like complaints aside Forza Horizon 4 is a technical masterpiece. It is, without exaggeration, the best looking racing game I have ever played. The frame rate almost never drops and when it does I am willing to chalk it up to network issues. The always online nature has not bothered me near as much as I thought. True, there are almost always other drivers floating around your map but it is impossible to interact with them without inviting them to a race. Once a race begins you are left alone. This does not mean that I am going to change my mind about the pending troll fest of Fallout 76, mind you, but my panic of a few months ago was ill advised.

Forza Horizon 4 is the best that this kind of game has ever been. This kind of game may be a bit long in the tooth for me but if this is the first open world racing game a person has every played it is going to blow their fucking mind. I wish I could be that innocent again. Instead I have a masterpiece in may hands, know that it is a masterpiece, but cannot be as excited as I hoped because I played its little brother two years ago and this game is just a refinement.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Yes, I'm fickle

I saw some not entirely positive things about Forza Horizon 4 in this episode. Really.


Chamberlain and Chance - Little boy blue and the man on the moon

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Almost got me

I think that I have played all of Dragon Quest XI that I am going to play. This was a lot, but not all of it. 65+ hours was not all of it. Games that have stolen than many hours from me do not come along often - The Witcher 3. Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Skyrim. Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2. Most Tales games and Final Fantasies cap their main quests around 40 hours. Dragon Quest XI go to the first ending in around 55.

Generous, yes, but I have some issue with the post-game, so....

SPOILERS!

At the end of the main quest Mordegan (the big bad who you see twice) is dead at the hands of the luminary. The world is saved but at a terrible price. Once of the main party is dead along with thousand of others who were either killed when the world tree fell or later eaten by monsters. It's a bittersweet ending, one that I was fine with.

And then...

Right out of the gate the post game gives the player a new main quest, to investigate an old ruin that they skimmed over the first time. Some hoops are jumped through and it is revealed that the luminary can go back in time and try to defeat Mordegan before he destroyed the world tree, thus saving the party member along with everyone else. This is literally bringing Aeris back to life (if Aeris were a red mage and in the body of a child).

Time travel is right up there with quick time events on my list of things that I don't like in games. It is almost never done well. That being said, DQXI comes close. The luminary goes back, kills Mordegon earlier, saves the world sooner than expected only to find out that Mordegon had, in the process of conquering the world, prevented something worse than himself from coming back. This was actually foreshadowed earlier in the game when Mordegon destroyed a giant glowing ball in the sky for no apparent reason. That giant glowing ball was the real monster.

The lesson here is to not fuck with the timeline. Take your happy-ish ending and run with it.

Up to this point the post game had all been original content - new areas and no real enemies to fight. When the new boss is revealed the post-game comes clean as to what it really is: the normal JRPG post-game that sends the player back through powered up areas, palette swapped enemies,  ending with a comically over powered monster to fight.

I tried, really I did. I gave it around five more hours after the credits rolled. If it were not October, if there were not other games coming out and other games literally sitting on the a shelf waiting for their turn, I might give it a little bit longer.

Dragon Quest XI is a finely tuned if a bit simple JRPG. No game exists in a vacuum. When compared to others in its genre the silent protagonist becomes a serious problem. Translation - the story in Tales of Berseria, as weird as it was, was better, because the protagonist had personality. She had it in excess. The luminary is the Gordon Freeman of JRPGs.

So that's it. Fall is upon is and the list grows longer. First I will race cars, then I will be a cowboy. Somewhere in there I will raid tombs and do was a spider can, not to mention assassinate some creeds and call someone named 'cthulu.'

Friday, September 28, 2018

You! Yes you! Stand still laddy!

'Chamberlain, don't you have something to say to the class?'

Chamberlain was slouched at his desk, his head barely visible over the top. He groaned and rose, pulled to his feet by invisible marionette strings. Eyes followed him to the front of the class. There were snickers. Not subtle ones. Chamberlain took down names on a mental revenge list.

'Well?'

He sighed, loudly, and rolled his eyes, loudly, like only a disinterested middle schooler could.

'...Chance was right.'

...

There is a lot of Ninja Gaiden in The Messenger, so much so that it admits as much during the description of the first obtained power: being able to climb vertical walls. I would call it an homage and nothing more if I did not know that there was a twist coming, an opening of the linear gameplay and a generational leap in the presentation.

It's good. It's very good. If only the cursed joycons did not cause me so much physical pain to use. Why is there is not an actual d-pad on the left joycon? Why? I can play for an hour, maybe, before I am treated to a preview of what regular rock climbing is going to someday to do my joints.

Moderation, I guess, at least for this game. I do need to get some work done throughout the course of the day.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

He we go, podcast time

I know the singing was out of sync. It is not a problem with the recording, I am just that bad at singing.


Chamberlain and Chance - Put a ring on it

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Don't look, it's too good

I made the mistake of watching some Digital Foundry information on Forza Horizon 4. Digital Foundry is wonderfully nerdy, the hard core nerd stuff that troubles itself with pixel counts and individual dropped frames. That know what the hell they are talking about and what they had to say about the game made my mouth water.

Soon. Soon.

...

Forty three hours into Dragon Quest XI and I think can see the end. It is still in the distance, almost illusory, but at least I know that it is out there. Only two party members are still missing (the two best magic users, of course) and I have a pretty good idea of what will happen after. Bosses have not been an issue but I am constantly broke. New towns bring up new equipment, only some of which I can afford. I don't want to grind for money, as that is even more boring than grinding for experience, but I am nervous that my second rate armor and weapons will not stand up against the ultimate bad guy's assault.

This specific fear, that of not always having the best equipment available, actually led to me purchasing in game funds with real world money for one of the Tales games. It was not one of my proudest moments.

...

Podcast will post tomorrow! Everyone but me was either too sick or too busy.

Monday, September 24, 2018

We're getting the band back together

It is not uncommon for JRPGs to either end the world midway through or unleash some earth shattering event that the player needs to undo when they were supposed to have prevented it in the first place. Near Armageddon is a well worn plot device. Dragon Quest XI does it, it does it very well, in a way that develops characters, explains what happened in the first half of the game and (finally) generates a main bad guy.

A scary main bad guy, one who actually posses the power to make good on his threats.

I am in the process of reassembling the team after have spent a few months as a fish (no, really) and am pleased to find the world changed. Revisiting towns is less of a chore when the road there looks different and is filled with different enemies. I hope it doesn't take too long to get my main team back, though, as my dedicated healer is currently missing and that is a difficult hole to fill.

At any other time of year I would be happy for there to be another 40 hours of game to roll around in. Instead I feel rushed, like I absolutely need to get this game done and gone in six more days, and the game deserves better than that.

...

TellTale is gone, which is very unfortunate, especially for the 200+ people who are suddenly out of a job. I have heard the Ubisoft is sniffing around the ashes, looking for good people, so there is hope for some of them.

As a final fuck you to poor management I would appreciate the script for the last the episodes of the final season of The Walking Dead finding their way out into the public eye (assuming they exist). I really need to know what happens to Clem.

Friday, September 21, 2018

It's going to be close

I arrived at what I thought was the beginning of the end of Dragon Quest 11 last night, having collected the lat macguffin that unlocks a path to the world tree. No, Alex laments, you have at least twenty hours left.

Under normal circumstances this would not be a terrible thing. I am not having a bad time with DQII (except for the music) so there being more if it to go is not a bad thing. It is going to run up against the sequel to my game of the year two years ago, Forza Horizon 4, a game that I have actually purchased and I am pretty sure has already pre-loaded.

The demo has been skipped to temper my excitement. Should the two game meet, should I be forced to choose between murdering the 1000th cute monster and driving across the UK in an obnoxiously over powered machine with my hair on fire, I know what will happen, and it does not look good for DQII.

The nameless character just got moderately more amusing - I unlocked dual wielding. Yes, I take more damage and can no longer block at all, but it looks cool and hits even harder. The faster I can make random encounters, the better. There are a lot of them and I cannot start avoiding them lest I be unprepared for bosses.

Not grinding, no. Just killing what is in my way.

Monday, September 17, 2018

A boring pattern

A full weekend into Dragon Quest 11 and it feels like I am not getting anywhere. I only just met the last two party member (who have yet to actually join the team) and hit an emotionally poignant reveal but I still have no idea who or what the actual bad guy is.

Two weeks ago when Alex was in his pro-DQXI faze I asked if party members not in the battle line up gain experience at the same rate as the ones that are doing the fighting. He said yes and I got excited because that is what I thought I wanted. It turns out that my complaining for years about games not doing this has been all wrong.

Allowing characters not in the party to gain experience means that I will never actually shuffle the party. I have two teams right now that differ by one person: the healer. I do not need a dedicated healer for random encounters because enemies never do enough damage to kill so she is swapped out in favor of, currently, the jester character. For bosses the healer is in. That's it.

Granted, once I get a higher damage character the jester will be removed (because he really isn't that good) but that is the end of part variety. I suspect, or at least hope, that the game will through a curve at me later but right now combat might as well be automatic. Which is not exciting. Easy, but not exciting.

Twenty more hours? Something better change soon.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday?!

What's this? I am caught up and there is nothing I can work on? It must be Friday!

Seriously, I almost bought The Messenger just so I would have something to so while looking like I am doing something productive. Instead I fired up Slay the Spire after having quit the game a half a dozen times because I can walk away from it at a moment's notice. That moment never came, so guess what I did all morning.

Dragon Quest XI is progressing slowly. I should be able to wrap it up before 10/1, then again Shadow of the Tomb Raider just shipped and I would very much like to see how it looks.

There is a lottery ticket stuck on the fridge that could fix all of these problems, plus a whole pile more, and for a whole bunch of people. It won't happen but it is fun to pretend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fuck it, I am taking my lunch break

As of this morning I had not had Taco Bell in almost two weeks. This travesty could go on no longer so I managed to peel myself away from my desk, hop on my bike, and be out of the house and away from my computer long enough to get a crunch warp supreme, taco and large Mt. Dew. Things felt normal again.

This personal upheaval is why I needed a game like Dragon Quest XI. Dragon Quest XI is not interested in challenging me, at least not yet. It is content to walk me through moderately interesting, occasionally cute scenarios in which I murder scores of equally cute monsters. It is the right game at the right time.

It is also a long game, one that will most certainly be put on hiatus if it overlaps with Forza Horizon 4.

Anyway, podcast time!


Chamberlain and Chance - Swing swing swing

Friday, September 7, 2018

Not a wise investment

I have played all of We Happy Few that I can stand, what I believe to be around one third of it, and I need to collect my thoughts. The final few hours were significantly less annoying that the first few. All of the worst mechanics, not being able to run in towns or be out after dark chief among them, had been circumvented by skills, allowing me to fast travel from place to place and take care of side quests in an efficient manner. There were even a few very linear story missions that were almost interesting. Then Arthur's section was complete - he escaped from Wellington Wells. remember what a giant asshole he was as a child, and didn't know quite what to do next.

On to Act 2...

Act 2 strips away all of the purchased skills and hand the player a new character: Sally, the chemist who has been selling illegal blackberry joy to make ends meet. Not only does she not have any of the skills that Arthur ended with (she can't run in town, she can't be out at night) she also has no fast travel, cannot wield most weapons and has a tiny health pool. She can mix up chemicals to subdue enemies, which sounds good, only the game doesn't bother to give you any of the ingredients.

Taking that many steps backwards was almost untenable and that was before Sally's baby was introduced. She has to go back home fairly often to feed this child lest her guilt become too great and it lower her stamina. You read that right, keeping a baby alive (with no fast travel) is a gameplay mechanic.

That was the last straw. I turned it off, just like everyone else. According to the Xbox achievements less than 2% of players who started the game finished Arthur's act. Less than 1% finished Sally's and less than one half of one percent finished the third.

And Microsoft paid cash money for this studio.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Home but not free

Once again I am forced to explain an lapse in posting. I have started a new job that allows me to work from home 100% of the time but that also require my full attention. I have fallen terribly behind on my YouTube list, I have not posted over at PA or trolled Reddit in days and I have not written anything here. This may clear up after I am done learning how to do things and actually doing things.

But do know what I did do? Record an episode of my favorite podcast!

I am also still playing We Happy Few, which is not my favorite thing. At all.


Chamberlain and Chance - Metroidvania Mania

Thursday, August 30, 2018

At least part of me is safe

I started We Happy Few last night expecting it to be aggressively terrible, a kick in the fellas in video game form. This may or may not make your day, but We Happy Few is, after a big ass patch, not nearly as bad as any of us have heard. It is a functional game that has more in the negative column than the positive column. In the three hours I have played so far it did not crash, there were no broken quests and it did not do me any bodily harm.

It's still a bad game but I can use the word 'game' and mean it. This is a sad tragedy, not an angry one, because the premise of a town that did something so terrible that it mandated drugging all residents to forget the past is a good one, it just needs a better home.

There is at least one thing that I can call honestly good: the way crafting materials are handled. Some small portion of We Happy Few still tries to be a survival game (even though skipping out on eating, drinking and sleeping will never actually kill the player, only make it more difficult) which means that picking up and hoarding everything not nailed down is to be expected. There is a limit on how much can be carried, most of which is taken up by weapons and food. Here is where it gets better: each fast travel location has a storage box. These boxes are all connected and crafting materials placed in the box can be used to craft things even when away from the fast travel area.

Need a lockpick and don't have any bobby pins? No problem, the hundred bobby pins in the storage box count. Also, if you try to pick a lock and don't have a pick a pick is automatically crafted, assuming that the materials are available. It is a fine quality of life concession that makes part of a game that I often find boring more or less acceptable.

On the other hand...

In every other open world game fucking ever icons on the map disappear when the task is completed. In We Happy Few there are dig points scattered around. It was on the map so I had to go there and clear the icon, only the icon does no go away when the dig point is empty. The same is true for quest markers. The map only updates on death. This is profoundly stupid.

Death is not near as bad as one would expect from a survival (not really) based game. Death is not bad at all. In fact the total lack of death penalty is right on par with BioShock in that enemies that were dead and items that were collection prior to death remain dead and collected.

We Happy Few is confused. It does not know what it is. It kind of knows where it started, a darkly humorous rogue like with a bit or survival thrown in, but almost all of that is gone. What is left is bloated and janky, a jumble of almost interesting environments filled with refugees from bad Morrowind mods. It has a stiff upper lip but is limp just about everywhere else.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Monday, August 27, 2018

An honest endorsement

Holy shit, my contributions to this digital space have been sparse this month. I could make excuses but the truth is I was feeling creatively tapped out. I have been updated this blog almost every other day for over seven years. The blogosphere has come and gone in importance and my custom URL and stolen header image remain, a testament to stubborn laziness.

The same can be said for the podcast. Audio podcasts about video games are less than a dime a dozen, and while I like to think that Chance, Alex and I bring a little something different the truth is we don't. You can get gaming news anywhere and our opinions mean more to each other than to anyone else. So I took a few weeks off.

Then I came back, freed from my delusions of grandeur, because I wanted to talk about video games with friends, record it, and then maybe listen to it again later. I know full well that to gain any real traction I would need to edit the shit out of the episodes, add video and then throw them up on YouTube but I do not have that kind of time.

Scratch that. I do not have that kind of time to give away. Putting together a product of any quality would see me spending more time editing than playing video games and that is not going to happen. Selfish? Of course, but I am old and I need to get all of the play time I can before either my hands or my eyes give out. Or both.

...

Guacamelee 2 was an absolute delight to play. I have finished the main game, found the five magic macguffins and opened the giant, important door of ludicrously difficult optional content. I am talking Super Meat Boy, pixel perfect bull shit. Not the controller throwing, actually salty bull shit, just the 'you expect me to do that while controlling a chicken?' kind of almost humorous, finger torture bull shit. So it gets a few more attempts.

It brings nothing new to the table that the first game did not do, in fact I am not sure if there were even any new moves, and I didn't care. The combat was still free form and impactful, hitting the sweet sport between too easy and too hard every time. The required platforming is precise but not impossible and the optional bits put Celeste to shame.

And the humor lands each and every time. Guacamelee 2 is an honestly funny game with riffs of Street Fighter, Jet Li's 'The One' (a terrible movie) and an entire dimension dedicated to making fun of itself. Chickens fast travel through oversized plumbing. Dozens of donkey men fight over teaching Juan new moves. Another entire dimension dedicated to upgrades that serve no purpose. Everything works.

Go buy Guacamelee 2. Lucha!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Lucha!

Forgot to post my own podcast. For shame.

Chamberlain and Chance - Unwanted changes

Guacamelee 2 is very, very good. The platforming and combat are just as tight if not better than they were the first time around. There are a few balls hard sections that I have come across, worse than anything in the first game, but I never played the DLC, so maybe I missed something. Speaking of the DLC, I feel as though I am missing several important plot points and not much is being explained.

Not that it matters. Knocking a skeleton into the air, hitting him a few time then grabbing and pile driving him into his buddies will never get old. I am looking forward to playing this game than anything I have played for months. It was not difficult to put Octopath Traveler aside for this and it may be difficult to go back.

Monday, August 20, 2018

I am the anti-hype man

I hate Dead Cells.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been here for more than a few days or who has taken the time out to listen to the podcast (and if you haven't, you should, Chance has a damn sexy voice and Alex knows more about movies and voice actors than is healthy. And I am there too. Sometimes.) My personal vendetta against From Software and the contemptible miasma of 'Souls-likes' is as honest as it is hopeless.

Dead Cells hurts a little more because, with just a few tweaks, I could have loved this game. I will put this out there as plain as I can: Dead Cells is not as good as Rogue Legacy. The few concessions that Rogue Legacy made, and they were slight, took it from an exercise in frustration to a fun few days.

First, when a boss has been defeated it should stay dead. Rogue Legacy was divided up into four sections and when a section was completed it need not be revisited. This kept each 'run' shorter, wasting much less time. Dead Cells covers quite a bit more ground, which is fine, but resetting everything, including bosses, means a run can be twenty or thirty minutes instead of five or ten.

Second, and even more damning, is how items and abilities are handed out. The player's success is more dependant on RNGesus being kind than on skill. On my very first run in Dead Cells I made it to the first boss. The game teased me with weapons good enough to get there but not good enough to actually kill him. The next two runs gave me absolute shit. On the fourth run I was blessed with God's own crossbow and wiped out the boss in under a minute.

It was in no way satisfying because I had nothing to do with the success. Dead Cells is no better than a slot machine.

So how do you fix it? When a zone is complete there is a checkpoint and unlocked weapons are available for purchase from the start of a run, not assigned randomly. Oh, and lower the price of unlocks by about 90%, the cell grind is insane. That's it. Is Dead Cells hard? Yes, but only because it refuses to consistently give the player the tools required to succeed. I could have loved this game. Instead it is added to the growing pile of titles that I will never touch again.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Where are my rose colored glasses?

I am still up in the air about Octopath Traveler. The combat is simple but satisfying but the characters are thin and not at all engaging. I did not know that the character I started with is stuck in the party until his quest is complete. At least I picked the warrior who hits like a truck. Other characters are getting cycled in and out, because I am trying to keep everyone else's levels somewhere similar, but there is only one mage (so far) and only one healer (so far). Living without the mage works, barely, but not having the healer in the party would eat through my funds faster than I could replenish them.

Money is always at a premium. There is a character that help earn more but she is currently on the bench. It really feels that the 'correct' party is fighter - black mage - white mage - merchant, very traditional, save for the merchant. At the moment it is fighter - white mage - thief (who is not bad) - another warrior who doesn't hit as hard as the first one but that can summon a few monsters. Not ideal.

There is no hook in Octopath Traveler. Tales of Berseria had the player guessing if the party was the good guys or the bad guys. The last Ys game had a wonderful sense of exploration and adventure. Hell, even Shining Resonance Refrain, a below average JRPG, had dragons and the main character constantly fighting for control of his own body. The only real hook in Octopath Traveler is its sense of nostalgia and that is not enough to sustain be through a long ass game.

At least I am in no rush to start the next game on the pile: We Happy Few. That game needs a patch or three to even be playable. I may sample and summarily discard Dead Cells this weekend and then Guacamelee 2 comes out next week, a game that demands to be played as soon as it is available.

...

The Walking Dead: The Final Season is good. Not season one good but better than anything since. It looks good, it runs well, and Clementine is once again the focus, along with AJ, the baby from Season Two. I will not spoil anything, suffice it to say that being born into a world filled with walkers is a great way to end up as a really, really fucked up kid.

AJ makes Clem look normal.

...

Last week I mentioned losing my cushy job. That did happen, or will happen, at the end of the month. I have managed to secure another job that will allow me to work entirely from home. This is both a good and a bad thing. No driving is good. Eating lunch at home should save money. I may forget how to deal with people face to face.

Monday, August 13, 2018

How old school?

How old school is Octopath Traveler?

It looks like a Super Nintendo game on steroids, or they lashed together several dozen of the old machines and forced them to act as one Super-Duper Nintendo. The characters are paper thin extensions of their classes and while they can be obtained in any order they definitely all need to be in the party before continuing.

NPCs have a '...' over their heads and only say one thing. Each player character has an ability that can be used on the NPCs but they are all different and you can only switch up your party at the bar. Enemies hit hard and save points do not replenish hit points or magic points.

Still not old school enough?

There are near constant unavoidable random battles.

Boom.

But is it actually any good? I am not sure yet. I have only put it about two hours so the combat has not gotten stale yet. It may not because, even though new characters always start at level one, the combat around them scales to the other characters in the party. I am digging the pixelated, strangely out of focus look more on my TV than in handheld mode, but that, too, may not last forever. It is better than Shining Resonance Refrain but that isn't saying much.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Tired hands

New games have not yet arrived and recent events dictate that money not be spent as freely as normal (thank goodness Red Dead Redemption 2 is already paid for) so I dove back into my long list of games that were purchased and never actually played. I started and ended the evening with Enter the Gungeon. This is as surprising to me as it is to you.

It had been several weeks since my last run and for some reason for the first hour I was godlike. I still did not make it past the third area but the first two went down easy. I was dodging shit like you wouldn't believe and landing shots with the starting pea shooter that had to be seen to be believed. I even finally opened up the level skip to start in the second level. Then something happened and I am not sure what.

In hour three I could not do anything right. I was walking into bullets that an hour earlier I was running circles around and looking good doing it. I couldn't get past the first area and it made me so mad. Enter the Gungeon is good but it cannot be played for any significant length of time. Be in physical or mental there is a fatigue that sets in and makes it unplayable.

I have no idea what I am going to play tonight and it is making me uncomfortable.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Piling on, aye?

Finally finished with Shining Resonance Refrain. It stopped being fun about ten hours ago but I was too stubborn, and the pile of unplayed games was too small, to actually stop playing. If nothing else it took an established bad guy from the beginning of the game right up to the end without any last minute swerves or double switches. Fighting the final boss meant something because I knew who he was and what he was trying to do.

Difficulty was an issue, or more specifically balance. I dropped it down to Casual from Normal and have no regrets, however the difficulty of random encounters and the difficulty of bosses still had nothing to do with each other. One of the final areas split the team in half and one group had no healers. It then threw them at enemies that could kill them in a few hits. I made it through at the expense of most of my inventory only to have the rest of the team pitted up against more of the same enemies with no break.

No shop, no place to save. It was bad. On top of that the difference between my levels and the enemies levels did not square with the amount of experience I was getting. On would assume that killing enemies ten to fifteen levels higher than the highest character would help them level up. Nope.

This was not a very good JRPG and I hope that Octopath Traveler washes memories of it away quickly.

...

Also, guess who loses his cushy job at the end of the month. Looking for work sucks. Writing a resume sucks. Interviewing is not bad but I enjoy talking about myself.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Closer

I spent the weekend in a reasonably nice cabin without an internet connection of cell signal. The original plan was to binge on Slay the Spire while the rest of the people there slept. Slay the Spire doesn't work offline. The Switch also made the trip but there was nothing that I really wanted to play on that, unless...

It was with great trepidation that I booted up Hollow Knight again. I deleted my old save, attempting to start fresh and remember what I learned and had been told. More progress was made this time, in fact I saved up enough money to buy the buy and pencil, surpassing my old record, and managed to acquire the first special power before calling it a night. I returned to it the next night, started the next area, poked around for a bit, and then shut it off.

Why can I not get invested in this game? I stand by my original complaint about forcing the player to purchase what is normally a given in a metroidvania: the fucking map. If I had died even once before buying it on the most recent attempt I would have never played the game again. No, it is the game's directionless nature and its portable venue that are now keeping me from playing.

I really need a direction when I am playing a game. I need a goal, or a plot, or some reason to keep doing what I am doing. Think about the game's ancestors: in Symphony of the Night you are trying to kill Dracula. In Super Metroid you are trying to kill Mother Brain. In Guacamelee you are, um, something to do with hell and chickens, and lucha libre? Honestly, I don't remember, but I know there was some thread of plot pulling my forward.

Hollow Knight, at its outset, has no goal. No story. It has absolutely nothing outside of exploration and exploration along does not hold my interest. Why? Because how am I supposed to know when exploration is done? I know when a story is done or a boss has been killed or a task has been completed but how can I possible know when I am done exploring? Two hours in and Hollow Knight still had not offered up any narrative and it was getting hard to keep going.

Secondly, it is a rare game indeed that I can play on the Switch in handheld mode for any length of time. There has been one, Shovel Knight, and that was more out of necessity than desire. I just can't stare at the screen for any length of time.

Will I go back to Hollow Knight? Doubtful. It's window of interest has come and gone. Trying a third time would be almost as bad as replaying a game and that never happens.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

But I won't do that

Still paying Shining Resonance Refrain.

Meh.

I enjoy RPGs that, when side quests are completed, do not require grinding. Dumping massive amounts of time into optional content should alleviate the need to kill several hundred mobs for the simple sake of killing mobs. I have no problem killing everything in a zone as long as I occasionally change zones and run into new enemies. Shining Resonance Refrain has a limited number of areas and even more limited menagerie of monsters and it expects that the player to kill lots and lots of them to level up.

The grind is so built into the game that there is a mechanic for it: the grimoire. There is a character the town (and there is only one town) that can teleport you to instances filled with monsters. Monsters in the real world drop tokens that can be used in the grimoire, basically allowing the player to customize their own area in which to grind for XP.

It's still boring as hell. There are tons of side quests but they are all simple fetch quests, many of which are repeated, and they rarely have rewards of consequence. So yeah, I am ready for the game to be done. It also threw and insane difficulty spike at me last night. I had used up most of my inventory on one fight and it decided that I needed to fight a big fucking dragon without a save or a chance to refill my inventory.

So I died. Badly. But the game has one conceit that saved it: dying to a boss does not automatically send the player back to a save point. Instead it returns the pause menu right before the fight. From there you cannot change characters but you can use items, change spells and, most importantly, change the difficulty.

I beat the big fucking dragon by dropping down to Casual from Normal and I have no regrets.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Shining what?

JRPGs are my guilty pleasure, well one of them anyway, and they devour hours of time and destroy my creative process in equal measure. Shining Resonance Refrain, a remaster of a game that I did not know existed, is serviceable and little more. On top of being an OK action-RPG it has a thin layer of dating sim that I have avoided for the most part. Just like Mass Effect Andromeda I will not being pursuing any romance options because I don't like any of the options, regardless of gender.

Also, may heart belongs to Tali and I still feel bad about siding with the geth, breaking her heart, and then watching her throw herself off of a cliff.

Er, strike all of that. Please.

The problem is that there is nothing to talk about. Tales of Berseria at least had an interesting protagonist and some bizarre insentual undertones to wring my hands over. Ys VIII was more fun to the moment to moment gameplay than it had any right to be. Final Fantasy XV was aggressively terrible in its closing hours so I had something to complain about. Shining Resonance Refrain is the Sprite of video games. It's fine, and I can drink it for a while, but couldn't live on it when there are Coke's (and beers) out there waiting to be consumed.

...

Slay the Spire may have reached the end of its time. It appears that the only way to get past the second boss is to stoke up on defense cards and play very, very defensively. This is not a good time. Back when I played Magic (poorly) I played black, almost exclusively. Black is not, or at least was not, known for defense. I played cards that would hurt me just as much as they would hurt the opponent, cards like Pestilence and The Lord of the Pit. I want to play Slay the Spire aggressively and that just doesn't work.

You almost had me, game. Almost.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It's a small step

There is a tab on the inventory screen in Shining Resonance Refrain for key items. I opened it up looking for a quest item that I picked up and was shocked to find at least six different swimsuit costumes for each character. This is a level a skeeze that I have not seen since Nights of Azure 2.

No, I did not try any of them on. I closed the inventory screen and just assumed that the quest item I needed was there.

It should also be noted that I fell asleep on the couch last night with the controller in my hands. The game's combat is not turn based. This does not bode well.

...

I tried to Slay the Spire (at work) yesterday. It is slowly working its magic my allowing some level of success but I know that the hammer is coming. It also allowed me to save mid run, which is appreciated, but we will see how long my interest lasts after I die and lose all my cards.

There is a reason that I never played Magic for ante: I like my cards. That fallen angel with the bent corner had saved me on many occasions and I did not want to lose it. Even digital cards create that kind of relationship and to see them all go away because I got screwed by RNG is going to be difficult.

Wow, between Slay the Spire and Enter the Gungeon it is almost like I am trying to expand my tastes. Just a bit. A tiny bit. I still won't go back to Hollow Knight. And I still hate From Software and everything they stand for, so don't push your luck.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Preemptive denial

Vampyr was good, or at least as good as it could be, right up to then end when it decided that the hero needed to get the girl and have a mostly happy ending. The story started simply enough: a doctor is turned into a vampire but does not know who his maker is. While looking for his maker he gets mixed up with the vampire elite in London, a cult of vampire hunters and an exceptionally old female vampire who he ends up falling for. There is a lot of killing and, at least in my paythrough, he manages to screw up several sections of the city, causing a lot of people to die.

Then it goes too far: his maker is not actually a normal vampire, just some ancient powerful being made of blood whose only purpose is to raise champions to fend of his maker, the queen of all undead who wakes up just long enough every few hundred years to fuck with humanity. There is something about the spanish flu not being the spanish flu but a disease creating skal, the vampire that the hero fell in love with was created by the first vampire who is still alive, or dead, but not really, and I stopped caring but the game was not worth that much of a mental investment.

I stand by saying that it is not a bad game. I also stand by saying that it is not a good game and should not be purchased at full price.

...

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was the antithesis of fun. It was a dark vacuum that drew the air out of the room while I was playing.

...

I regret to inform you, the internet, that I am playing another JRPG with dating mechanics. There is nothing you can do to stop me but I will still deny this fact if confronted in any way with how terrible/cheesy/inappropriate the game and its females' attire is. The difference this time is that Shining Resonance Refrain has bosses of the 'fuck you' difficulty and I do not have the patience for grinding. Looks like I should have chosen the Casual difficulty.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Just because he's dead doesn't mean he's slow

I have already admitted that Vampyr is rife with little problems that, while valid, do not detract from the overall experience. When I am in the right mood I can overlook quite a bit. On the flip side, I can dismiss stone cold classics for the tiniest offense and not think twice about it.

Remember what I didn't like about The Crew 2? It was missing concessions to the player that had become almost standard it its genre: a racing line and a rewind function. That (on top of some very poor race design) was enough for me to bring it up on video game court charges, a case I would have won if it ever went to trial. Vampyr does the same thing, though it absence was not as grievous in the early game. Only now, in the final chapters with most of the map unlocked, is becoming a real problem.

There is no fast travel.

The map is not overly large but Dr. Reid, the player character, does not move particularly fast, especially for a creature of the night. Roads between town centers are also filled with enemies that are difficult to avoid which forces the player to touch the worst part of the game, the combat. The total lack of fast travel exposes the player to more of the game's weaknesses than necessary. Allow me to hop between safe houses, like just about every other RPG/action RPG out there, and I won't be constantly reminded of how not fun it is to fight things.

The intrigue and coming confrontation between Dr. Reid and the Ascalon Club, a London based shadow government with immortals at its head, is keeping me interested. They are probably not going to get along, as two bosses ago I killed one of their enforcers, and I have no doubt that it will be entertaining. Reid is being set up as some sort of vampire saviour, created by the night itself to save London from something, which is a bit much. Just stick with the Ekons (high vampires) versus the Skal (low vampires) with Reid in the middle and I will be happy.

This is as close to Interview with the Vampire, the game, as we are ever going to get. I'll deal with the problems.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

David Cage is a vampire?!

I don't have much more to say about Detroit: Become Human. While I would not consider myself a David Cage apologist his games do not offend me in the same way as the do others. There was no corpse fucking in this one (Indigo Prophecy) and there were no super uncomfortable, totally unnecessary shower scenes (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls) so it is at least a small step in the right direction. People, or androids in this case, still do not behave the way people actually behave. It's as if one alien told another alien about how humans are and that second alien wrote a story about it.

This odd detachment is frustrating because there are two very good characters: Connor, the immortal line of androids tasked with ferreting out the cause of android deviancy, and his reluctant human partner, Detective Anderson. Anderson hates androids and you actions as Connor can either reinforce that prejudice or change Anderson's mind. The choice for Connor is obvious: either he will remain loyal to the humans or become a deviant himself. I decided early on that Connor was more terminator than touchy feely robot and played him as such.

Anderson did not like this and, in standard David Cage heavy handedness, killed himself. Connor got the win because the leader of the deviants died. By allowing me to make this story altering choice Quantic Dreams one upped Tell Tale Studios, whose choices are often false and always lead back to a standard ending.

Detroit absolutely forces the player to deal with his or her choices. I decided to not play along during the 'big angry daddy abuses little kid to get you to shoot' him sequence. I thought there was no way the game would kill a child. Nope, not only did it kill the child but it then killed that android and I was locked out of that third of the story.

Is it going to change anyone's mind about David Cage? No. Is it the worst thing he has ever done? No.

...

Vampyr is the most intriguing mediocre game that I have played in a long, long time.

The combat is just as janky as you have heard. Character models, facial animations and environments are decidedly last gen. The skill tree is limited and full of useless choices. And I can't wait to get back to it tonight.

DontNod settled on a single idea for the game and stuck to it: what if there were a limited number of NPCs in the world for the player character, a vampire, to feed on. Each one is a fleshed out character and his or her removal from the game has a real impact, either on the health of the city or losing access to side quests. What will the player do?

It is not quite as open as it sounds as killing NPCs is locked behind the player's mesmerism level, preventing the game from being broken too early. Still, killing NPCs nets far more experience than killing mobs, so the temptation is always there to nibble on one or two to unlock the next skill or to gain a few hitpoints.

Sounds good? It almost works. Completing quests, killing basic enemies and learning about NPCs earns the player just enough XP to keep from dying all the time. The temptation to kill an innocent to make it easier is always there but it is never a requirement. I have been playing for just under ten hours and have yet to get my fangs wet. With a little better balancing the players could have been forced to make more difficult choices. Instead it is a matter or resisting temptation.

There is much more going on in Vampyr than is obvious at the outset. There are tiers of vampires, a cabal of elite undead who run London, vampire hunting guilds and, because why not, a werewolf or two. Those fuckers hit hard. I will fight the jank and continue on my no kill run until it becomes too difficult. When it does get there I know exactly who is on the menu.

Friday, July 13, 2018

An imaginary conversation

(This is a fictitious conversation. There are no No Men at Quantic Dream.)

David Cage - Let's make a police procedural starring a drunken lieutenant and a super android! They are investigating deviant androids who show signs of self awareness and the lieutenant hates all androids!

Qauntic sycophants - Yes!

Designated No Man - That's actually not bad, assuming you do it better than Penny Arcade's Automata or Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Cage - We'll debut the game with the super android investigator rescuing a child being held hostage.

Sycophants - Yes!

No Man - Again, not bad, but not very original.

Cage - Then we will change viewpoints to a female housekeeper android who is forced to choose between cleaning the sheets and rescuing a child from a sickeningly abusing drug addict father!

No Man - David, no, that is not a good idea.

Cage - And if the player calls our bluff we will kill the child and the android and lock off one third of the game.

No Man - David, are you listening? No.

Cage - I am just getting started! The rest of the game will be the struggle of other androids for equal rights!

No Man - How on the nose and disrespectful is this going to be the actual people who made actual sacrifices during the actual civil rights movement?

Cage - Androids can be parked outside in stalls while owners shop!

No Man - Meh.

Cage - Androids can only ride in the very back of buses in standing only android sections!

No Man - David, no. No David.

Cage - There will be a long segment in an android brothel that climaxes in a hand to hand fight against two female androids in their underwear! Who doesn't want that?

No Man - David, you pay me to do this: No.

Cage - Depending on how the relationship between the investigator android and the police lieutenant goes the android can either join the deviants or stay a machine and hunt down the deviant leader!

No Man - Okay.

Cage - The police lieutenant either grows to love androids or kills himself!

No Man - No. Just no. David, you aren't listening. NO.

Cage - Here's the best part: the deviant leader can free other androids with a touch. Later he gets more powerful and he just has to look at androids on the street and they will follow him!

No Man - You realize that by making the androids' free will dependant on the leader's touch, the leader's invitation, that it isn't free will at all? The androids are just trading their human masters for an android master. You are portraying free will as a disease that can be passed from machine to machine and the leader is getting so Christ like that I am worried you are going to put him on a cross.

Cage - No. No crosses.

No Man - Okay.

Cage - He immolates himself in front of the media out of protest! Then the army shoots the rest of the androids! It will be great!

No Man - I, um. *sigh* Go to hell David, you have several to choose from.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Blame Ubisoft

Ubisoft's corporate goons are everywhere. I swear they cut off my track of the podcast last night, right in the middle of my closing statements in the landmark case of gaming decency versus The Crew 2.

In other words, there is no podcast this week. In other other words, I am taking a break. Yes, I am fine, no, I do not know when I am coming back. No, I also do not know what Chance' and Alex's plans are. I hope they continue in my absence, either with this very podcast or one of their own.

Enthusiasm has been in short supply for the last month or two. I have been more negative than necessary, even for me, and I have had very little new or interesting to say. This specific space was long ago surrendered to complaint based monotony but the podcast deserves better and I cannot provide that at the moment.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Looking for a kangaroo court

I need to save my pent up anger about The Crew 2 for tonight's podcast. It will be fresher, more raw, if I do not chronicle in here prior to yelling into a microphone. I will say this: The Crew 2 went from depressingly generic to a full on war crime last night.

No driving line + no rewind function + rubber band AI + races that take over 40 real time minutes to complete + me coming in fourth when I needed to come in third = me looking for shifty lawyers so I can sue Ubisoft for some sort of wanton abuse.

It's like they saw Forza Horizon 3 and said 'Yeah, we could do that, but why bother putting any effort into it?'

Friday, July 6, 2018

Fooled by the cuteness

The final boss of Assault Android Cactus brought the pain.

It was a mini boss rush of the hardest part of four of the five previous bosses interspersed with its own bullet hell section, culminating in an absolute visual clusterfuck of area of effect attacks, giant tentacles sprouting from the ground and nigh unavoidable attacks. It was glorious and frustrating.

After my hands recovered it took the seven androids who weren't Cactus for a spin and didn't like how any of them played so my time with the game is just about done. For the price of zero dollars I had a fine time and if there is a sequel I will jump on bored without hesitation.

...

Why do the Forza Horizon games work so well? Simple: the journey to and from events is just as much fun as the events themselves. There are things to see and do on almost every road plus the standard Forza concessions of a generous rewind function and color coded drive line are still there. It is a blast taking a monster of a vehicle and just bombing across the landscape, crashing, then rewinding a few seconds and trying again.

If you remove almost all of that, leaving just a empty, open world filled with very similar events, you have The Crew 2. There is no joy in the journey and the game knows it. Why else would it allow fast travel to and from all events, circumventing the need to interact with its barren wilderness of roads and poorly animated pedestrians?

The game is an empty shell that reminds me of how good Playground Games is as what they do.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ugh, too old.

Concert last night. Def Leppard and Journey. I am tired and deaf. Here, have the podcast:


Chamberlain and Chance - The coming drought

Monday, July 2, 2018

Better late than never

Chance first mentioned Assault Android Cactus back in March of 2016. He assured me that it was excellent, and more than a little cute, and I proceeded to forget about it for over two years. It popped up on my radar again a few month ago when it finally got an Xbox release and then again slipped past. It a startling turn of events Games with Gold this month includes a good title that I didn't already own so I finally played it.

I don't care that it is cute, nor do I care that there are around eight different unlockable androids as I will never actually use them. What does matter is that this the best twin stick shooter that I have played in some time, easily better than Lovecraft vs Tesla, though the latter still has a better name.

At its core Assault Android Cactus is just a twin stick shooter with an excellent slow build of level design. The first several are simple circular arenas. From there it slowly goes crazy, jumping from areas that see the player falling through multiple areas to rooms where the floor rises to meet the player and the disappears. The arenas themselves makes up for below average enemy variety. Better yet, the arena is sometime the enemy, and it is never not fun to deal with.

What sets it apart is how Assault Android Cactus deals with death: there are no lives. Dying removes a level or two from the main weapon which is bad but can be recovered from. Success depends on managing a continually draining battery that can be refilled by battery powered dropped by enemies. Not dying is not the point, killing enemies quickly to force them to drop a battery is. On more than once occasion I have killed the last mob or murdered a boss with mere seconds of battery time left. It's a simple hook but it works.

I am hoping to finish up the game tonight. The last time I played it was on Friday and my thumbs have just about recovered.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

I wish I had super strength

Steamworld Dig came and went with little fanfare. I played it months after its release, it did not offend me, and that's that. I do not remember much about it beyond the mining and it not being Spelunky, a game I hated. It was a Metroidvania with a lot of digging, and that was fine.

Steamworld Dig 2 is more of the same, with more being the operative term. The map is larger, there are more powers to unlock and upgrade, there are many more secrets hidden all over the place. It is also more difficult in places - for example:



This guy makes it look easy. When I did it I did not have the jet pack. It took about a half an hour and the reward was not worth it. Still, the challenge is there is you want it. Every cave has one obvious thing to collect and at least one hidden item. The game does you the service of marking a cave as complete when everything has been found which can really save time. There are two so far that I have not emptied out. It is killing me but I there is a big difference knowing what to do and that thing be very hard and having no idea what to do. One of those is kind of fun and the other is absolutely not.

No, I am not going to make another unfavorable comparison to Hollow Knight. I have let that one go. I have let than one go. I have let that one go.

...

Incredibles 2 was good. Not great, like the first movie, just good. It was the same movie as the first one, just gender reversed, which is fine, and with a terrible villain, which is not fine.



I've been there, Bob. I've been there.


Monday, June 25, 2018

No sir

I didn't do it. I did not take up Chance's challenge to dive back into Hollow Knight for one more try. Even the potential reward for making him play Agony, a game so terrible that even I have not gone back to it, was not enough. The thought of playing more Hollow Knight is just too off putting. My gorge rises at it.

Once again I must state that I am not in any way saying the the game is bad, only that it is bad for me. Think Southern Comfort. I am sure there are many people who enjoy it. I am not one of them, at least not since a very unfortunate evening followed by an even more unfortunate day after at the hands of a bottle of the stuff and the boundless ennui of a college freshman.

Of course it was about a girl, shut up.

My game time should be as stress free as possible, hence spending four days on Lego Incredibles. It was a good Lego game. I am aware that this does not actually mean much as Lego games are extruded on the reg and are almost indistinguishable beyond the license tie in of the moment. There have been bad Lego games, The Lego Move: The Lego Game is an especially atrocious example, and Lego Incredibles is not one of those.

It was fine. It was fine and I did not lose sleep over it nor were any electronic devices in danger of being thrown. An inoffensive, cloying good time is still a good time, right?

Who exactly am I trying to convince?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Whoops

I have managed to play through Lego Incredibles 2 before seeing the movie. The dreaded self spoil!

The game itself is fine. Lego games are consistently acceptable experiences. This one is no different, though it does look a little better than the last few. I assume that there are Pixar easter eggs strewn about, though unlocking Dory as a playable character is the only one I have found. I have no interest in the open world sections. They are filled with the same kind of open world busy work as any other game, the difference being that running around a world as Bayek doing cool things is cool. Running around doing less cool things as Mr. Incredible is not as cool.

Maybe if I was running around as Frozone it would be cool.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why I hate From Software

My deep seeded disdain for From Software and the games that they are famous for is no secret. I hate that Souls-like is a genre. It has stolen many experiences from me, most recently Hollow Knight. All they would have to do is include difficulty options and I would be happy. Do not change the base game at all and dumb down for me and my ilk who cannot git gud. The most loyal fans of the games would still complain but screw them, they already have what they want. Opening up an experience to others does not diminish the original experience.

Hidetaka Miyazaki, the president of From Software, recently went on record with Gamespot as to why they do no include an accessibility options:

"We don't want to include a difficulty selection because we want to bring everyone to the same level of discussion and the same level of enjoyment," Miyazaki said. "So we want everyone … to first face that challenge and to overcome it in some way that suits them as a player."

The creator continued: "We want everyone to feel that sense of accomplishment. We want everyone to feel elated and to join that discussion on the same level. We feel if there's different difficulties, that's going to segment and fragment the user base. People will have different experiences based on that [differing difficulty level]. This is something we take to heart when we design games. It's been the same way for previous titles and it's very much the same with Sekiro."

...give me a moment.

Fuck that guy right in the ear.

You know what that is? That's called gatekeeping. "We want everyone to feel elated and to join than discussion on the same level" but only if you are good enough or stubborn enough to overcome our draconian penalties for failure. He might as well have echoed the git gud refrain of the obnoxious Souls disciples.

It's tragic. They have made darkly beautiful games that they are intent on not allowing some people to see based on how good they are with a controller and their arrogance has flowed down through the games into the players themselves. What they have created is not inclusion. They have fostered an abusive split in their potential player base between those who can (and do not want to share) and those would like to but can't. While other developers work on opening up the experiences to more people, think easier execution in fighting game or more granular control over difficulty, they are running in the opposite direction, fueled by hubris or ineptness, possibly both.

From Software will never see another dollar from my wallet or minute of my time. Games that follow in their footsteps will receive the same treatment, regardless of potential quality.

Fucking Agony, an objectively terrible game, had more difficulty options than Bloodborne, a metacritic darling. Madmind Studio can't even get their game to run in a non-embarrassing way and they are still better at player accomodation than From Software.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Game dump

Been a few days and there is much to discuss.

OnRush. On paper this game makes some sense. Take a racing game, make it team based, change the goal from finishing first to out scoring the opponents by either destroying them or accomplishing other objective and finally make it vaguely hero based by giving different cars different special attacks and ultimate abilities.

The chaos was amusing for about two races. The technical proficiency kept me around for a little longer - the cars controlled well and the frame rate was solid, though the game is not what I would call 'a looker.' Then I got bored. Really bored. Races all played out the same way in spite of differing objectives. Ending up in front of the pack, what you want in normal racing games, was a great way to fall behind in the points, but taking your foot off the gas to let opponents pass is a great way to get crushed from behind.

This games was directed by the same person who directed Driveclub, which I didn't like, and produced by the purchased leftovers of Evolution Studios. Evolution Studios was responsible for the Motorstorm games, which I also did not like. At least everyone involved is being consistent.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was a stretch goal for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. I forgot I had this coming so it did not bother me when the XBox One version was inexplicably delated by a few weeks. Now that it is out I can say that it was an appropriate bonus and am glad that I did not actually pay for it.

Both Curse of the Moon and Ritual of the Night are both spins on the Castlevania motif, Ritual taking it forward with fancy new graphics and Curse takes it backward. Curse of the Moon has much in common with Castlevania III, the awkward middle child of the early Castlevania years - not as terrible and II and not nearly as good as IV. It did have multiple playable characters and Curse of the Moon does it one better by allowing the player to switch between then characters at any time.

This freedom leads to levels with branching paths, sections that are much more easily completed with one of the characters and a few bosses that are almost impossible when one of them is dead. The four characters share a single life - when one dies you start from the most recent checkpoint with another and you don't get any of them back until all of them are dead. I always ended up with the alchemist at the end, because he is only good for very specific tasks, meaning that I more often than not threw him off a cliff when he had to go for it alone.

Visually, Curse of the Moon sticks close to its 8-bit great, great, great grandfather, just minus any slowdown or flicker. The chip tunes are good, just not as good as the originals, and the second quest removes one of the characters and jacks up the difficulty. I started the second quest. Started is the operative term. I did not finish it.

Speaking of difficulty.

Celeste hides some serious FUCK YOU difficulty under its retro pleasant aesthetic. I wouldn't call it Super Meat Boy hard, because I never finished that, but my death count did pass that of Cuphead before I made it to the top of the mountain.

The game is not subtle about its theme: Madeline decides to climb a mountain. On the way the mountain itself splits her in two (metaphorically, not physically) and she is forced to deal with her depression as if it were another person. They fight, depression wins for a while, then they make up and work together, earning a triple jump in the process.

I am not being flippant, this is just not something that I identify with. The meaning of the game is lost behind its pixel perfect platforming and levels that go on just a screen or two too long. From the outset I decided that collecting the strawberries and other nonsense was just not going to happen. What was there was difficult enough without adding more. The d-pad on the Xbox One controller also didn't do me any favors.

But it was fun when I wasn't furious with it so I toughed it out to the end. Based on the percentage of people who also finished it the game isn't that hard, I am just that bad at videogames. That ties in nicely with the game I am not talking about, Hollow Knight.

:P