Wednesday, January 31, 2018

No Iconoclasts spoilers (yet)

I cannot fully discuss my feelings on Iconoclasts without spoiling the shit out of it and the game has not been out long enough for that. I may be an amatuer internet asshole but even I have limits. Generally speaking, the turns and twists of the plot never iron themselves out into a cohesive, satisfying conclusion but there are a number of incredible moments, some involving characters, a boss fight and a surprisingly sickening image, that will not soon be forgotten.

A generally bright colored homage to 16-bit graphics should not be able turn one's stomach, but it happened. It worked because the game teased something, alluded to it in discussions and notes, so when Robin descends a ladder and finds, well, that, the player is both saddened and repulsed. And this isn't even the best/worst one. There is a decision involving a door, an unconscious character and a swiftly descending timer that is certainly something.

Iconoclasts does a lot with limited graphical prowess. Robin is a silent protagonist but her mood is always clear. Elro's labored shuffle indicates more than just his recent injury. And Agent Black constantly rubbing her temples... Again, I cannot elaborate. Agent Black is an excellent tragic villain. Her confrontation is up there with the end of Contra IV, a comparison that I do not make lightly. Not in difficulty, mind you. Iconoclast's difficulty only rises above middling once. It was an epic fight, one that generated empathy for the enemy.



Unfortunately for Iconoclasts it lives next door to Guacamelee and Ori and the Blind Forest, games whose mechanics evolved for their entire run times. Robin never gets more then her wrench and a few guns, none of which are very exciting. Equipping tweaks would be more interesting if they did more than make her run a little faster or spin her wrench longer. What you do and how you do it never changes.

Dust: An Elysian Tale, another one man game, lives one block over, proving that a small (or singular) dev team is no excuse for boring combat. I don't want to be too harsh on Iconoclasts but what I was seeing was almost always more interesting than what I was doing. Not a good look for a videogame. Yes, the control was tight enough and the tools that were there were useful, but the game needed more game to bring everything else into balance.

Iconoclasts is a head trip wrapped up in a cute package. You hands will be bored but your mind will not, assuming you play long enough to get to the good stuff. Spoilers in a week or two. :P

Monday, January 29, 2018

It should come with a warning label

I am not going to rehash my opinions on Shadow of War as they has been recording for posterity in last week's episode of the podcast. I am also not going to spend any time talking about LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. It was another LEGO game, slightly buggier than usual, but not a terrible way to kill a few days while waiting to calm down from the utter nonsense that was Shadow of War's fourth chapter.

What I am going to do is warn you about Chance's boundless, contagious enthusiasm.

Chance loves video games. I also love video games but my affection is a more broad based need for visual, electronic stimulation. Chance fall in love with certain games. When he loves a game he loves that game and nothing anyone says will change that. The pleasure he derives from and the enthusiasm of his evangelizing for these rare gems is almost impossible to resist. Case in point: I own Overwatch, a game that I play once every few months to remind myself of why I do not play it more often. I also own Salt and Sanctuary, a game he so enjoyed that he bought it for me and that I have a tinge of guilt about regarding my total lack of reciprocal enjoyment.

Darkest Dungeon. Galak-Z. Horizon Zero Dawn. Gravity Rush 2 (*gag*). And now Iconoclasts. If you listened to him last week and did not start throwing money at PSN you are a stronger individual than I. So I bought Iconoclasts and jumped it ahead of Assassin's Creed Origins and The Evil Within 2, games left over from last year that need to be played.

It's, well, it's okay. It's no Guacamelee or Ori or Shadow Complex. It doesn't control as well or make as good of use of the 16 bit aesthetic as Shovel Knight. It is a serviceable Metroid-vania that takes too long to add on new abilities and when they are added the new abilities are not all that exciting. Its innocent look hides a really fucking dark narrative about religion controlling everything and the potential hedonism of those who oppose it. This would more interesting if the game stopped adding more the unexplained back story and just let it sit and fester for a while. The addition of constant complications does not make it more interesting, it makes it more confusing which is especially frustrating because there is a great story to tell here that the game never gotten around to telling.

I really hope this turns around before the game is done. Iconoclasts is certainly fun, if a bit antiquated feeling, to play. The writer(s) may simply have written checks that their skills could not cash.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Close the internet, we're done here

Big numbers

Google Play is being difficult and not adding the new episode. iTunes did, so I know it is not a problem with the RSS. I sent an email to Google but that is like yelling at the clouds to stop raining or the sun to stop shining.


Chamberlain and Chance - 57 and 2

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

So much salt, so little time

I have quite a bit to say about how terrible act 4 of Shadow of War was and have had no time to crystallize my ire into words. Play the first 3/4 of the game, shut it off, and see the rest on YouTube. You will be happier for it.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Everything is temporary

When I was young, and by that I mean actually young, not just younger than I am now, I did not have my own music. My tastes were defined by what my parents exposed me to. There was some good stuff in there: Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, John Denver on the 8 track player in the car. From there it got a little less timeless, ZZ Top and The Pointer Sisters and Journey come to mind, but it was all that I knew so that is what I liked.

Fast forward to college.

Minimal supervision, a small amount of money flowing in, constant exposure to new, different, weird and sometimes terrible media. College is when I found myself, and not surprisingly found my music. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years kept me entirely away from home. I jetted off to Norway, Sweden and Estonia before working as a camp counselor until school began again. My oversized boom box came along as did a small selection of music, most of it still shackled to my childhood tastes: Meatloaf, AC/DC, Black Crowes, Aerosmith etc. Good stuff but still not my stuff.

Someone handed me Cranberries' Everybody Else is Doing It, Why Can't We. I laid on the floor with my head nestled between the speakers and listen to the entire album, start to finish. This was certainly new. Moreover, I liked it, and it was mine. From there I fell full on into grunge with Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden. As college went on I got more esoteric and/or just weird. No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom is a fucking classic and I will fight people over that fact. Music that was initially frightening, like Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson, became staples when the mood was right. Dave Matthews got his claws into me and I still have not recovered and I am to this day waiting for Poe to release a third album.

It was not all good. Nirvana is permanently banned from my radio and if I ever meet Thom Yorke of Radiohead I will kick him in the shins as a delayed reaction to over exposure to OK Computer. And good Lord, Red Hot Chile Peppers need to go away and Eddie Vedder needs to lighten the fuck up.

Did you notice anything those first three bands hand in common? Cranberries, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden. Dolores O'Riorden, Scott Weiland and Chris Cornell. Dead at 46 of currently undisclosed cause. Dead at 48 of a cocaine overdose. Dead at 52 via suicide. The voices that helped me figure out who I was (and am, for that matter) are dying off. To make matters worse, they aren't that much older than I am.

Every generation goes through this. I am sure that my parents know where they were when they found out that John Lennon had been killed. That doesn't make it any easier. And finding new music? All new music sucks. Again, every generation goes through this. Returning to my old catalog no longer brings solace, it is just a reminder of how temporary things are, be they personal identity or a tiny irish woman with a gigantic voice.

Yes, the music is forever, but the people behind it are not. A few of them I have seen in person. I have shared the air, at a tremendous distance, with O'Riorden and Cornell, and treasure that completely impersonal and altogether fabricated connection.

Moral of the story: go to more concerts. Because everyone dies eventually.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

We may be a cooking show now

I like cheese curds but not with french fries or gravy.

I like french fries but not with gravy or cheese curds.

I like gravy but not with cheese curds or french fries.

Poutine is a goddamn mystery.


Chamberlain and Chance - Undocumented nerfs

Monday, January 15, 2018

Impass

I am at a stalemate with Shadow of War. The game is still being played but it has admitted that there are parts of the game, namely the siege missions, that are not very good. Terrible even. The combat has not evolved in any way from the first game, which was not appreciably changed from the Arkham Knight games, and breaks down to an orgy or flailing weapons and orc parts when there are too many enemies on the screen. At least the frame rate doesn't dig much, meaning that you can see full well all that you cannot see. The hopelessness is presented in full detail.

This was partly due to attempting the first siege the wrong way. I did not go into the fort ahead of time and clean out all of the captains. It made little sense to me for one man to walk into a fort that I was about to send hundreds of brain washed orcs into but not doing so made the contest unwinnable. It is getting more tedious: I am on the third siege mission, there are five captains and each has several body guards, all of whom should be turned or killed prior to anything else being attempted.

Shadow of War really things that it is a good game. It really thinks that the combat is good enough (it isn't) and the story is good enough (so far, nah) to justify some serious grinding. Wait, you don't want to grind? Buy some orcs!

No. Must resist. The game doesn't suck yet. It's close. And when it does begin to suck? I have better things to do.

Friday, January 12, 2018

I have made a mistake

Just watched the end of The Return of the King again. For 'research purposes.'

Aragorn's reunion with Arwen.

'My friends. You bow to no one.'

...get these fucking onions out of my office.

(The Hobbit movies really were bad, weren't they?)

Nerding out intensifies

I keep trying to put Shadow of War into the Lord of the Rings timeline and it just is not working. Shelob is alive which means that Sam hasn't killed her yet but Sam and Frodo have to be in Mordor because Gollum keeps showing up but how does Gollum have the time to move back and forth between Frodo and Shelob? The witch king is still alive, meaning that this is before the Battle of the Pelannor Fields, but if it is before the Battle of the Pelannor Fields then why did Minas Tirith refuse Minas Ithil's request for aid?

Wait, Minas Ithil had become Minas Morgul before the Battle of the Pelannor Fields. Frodo and Sam sneaked around (or through) Minas Morgul on their way to Mordor. Sauron gives Minas Morgul to the witch king as a reward for retrieving a palantir. Depending on who holds Osgiliath I would place Shadow of War between The Two Towers and The Return of the King. When does Gollum meet up with Frodo and Sam again?

It must be noted that I am a bad, bad nerd and that all of my knowledge comes from the Peter Jackson movies, not the books. I have never read any of the Lord of the Rings book, to say nothing of the Silmarillion. I never even finished The Hobbit when tried to read it as a child. Like most I got to the Battle of the Five Armies and was like 'Fuck, this is still going? I could be playing The Legend of Zelda.'

I have a feeling that the further I get into Shadow of War the least neatly it will fit in with the fiction it is drawn from. Talion creating an army of orcs to fight Sauron does not at all mesh with the actual events of the book, especially since everyone knows how the story ends.



Just drop him, Sam.

Act 2 has just begun and I have a feeling that my interest in Shadow of War is about to wane. The Street Fight 5 AE update hits next week, right after the open Dragonball FighterZ beta, so it is not like I will have any shortage of games to play that make me angry.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Orcish bedfellows

There is something sinister lurking just out of sight in Shadow of War. No, it is not the hamfisted mirco-transaction based economy. I have not run into that yet and have it on good authority that a careful and meticulous playthrough negates its importance. It is not Gollum, who shows up for some reason and whose voice I swore was Andy Serkis until I looked it up. Nor is it my incredulousness at Shelob being transformed from giant spider to shoeless brunette bombshell. That feeling is right out there in the open because no amount of explanation can make me believe that it is not a really stupid idea.

What's hiding is how important the nemesis system is, how much I may dislike it, and how parts of the first game that I completely ignored have been brought to the forefront. I never compelled any orcs to join my army in the first game, never watched them rise through the ranks, never called them to my aid in a moment of crisis. Talion needs no help, he is immortal and he has something against orcs' heads remaining attached to their necks. Without that part of the game Shadow or Mordor was still a pretty good open world action romp. It cribbed liberally from the Arkham games for its combat and played very fast and loose with the lore.

I am reminded of Brutal Legend, a game in which the good parts kept me going through the bad. The metal and the mayhem buoyed me through the terrible RTS sections. And Jack Black, because fuck Jack Black.

Shadow of War has not dropped the 'build an army by tracking down captains and brainwashing them' hammer yet but I know it is coming. Why else would you be able to purchase orcs on the open market? I would sooner drop the game to easy than spend money on random loot boxes, an option which was highlighted by the game itself. This is going to be a Chamberlain does not want to play the game as intended fight, one that I may not be able to win.

The captains themselves feel much more aggressive this time around, often abushing you while you are already fighting another one. On several occasions I found myself up against three captains, a fight that I was just not going to win. Whichever captain gets in the last hit levels up, mocks you, and then is still floating around when you come back, ready to kick your ass again. One captain did this to me three times, albeit because I failed the quick time event required to land the killing blow each time, not because he beat me.

Fuck quick times events. And fuck Jack Black again, just for good measure.


I will not take it easy, Jack! Brutal Legend was about 50% awesome, 10% tolerable and 40% shit. You were most of that 40%. At least 110% of that 40%. Fucking Ozzy and Lemmy and Rob Halford and god damn Tim Curry were in that game. How did you get in there, hm? What credentials do you have other being the approximate shape of a roady?! Does Tim Schafer live for soul patch blow jobs?!


Yeah, you heard me.

Shadow of War will be played like Assassin's Creed: Middle Earth until it becomes untenable. Then, well, I am not sure what I am going to do, but buying orcs via the loot box slave trade is not on the table.


Monday, January 8, 2018

How can a death star miss?

I will hear no complaints about the length of the single player campaign in Star Wars Battlefront 2. It is no shorter than the average Call of Duty campaign and it accomplishes the same purpose: it gives people who eschew multiplayer a way to see the pretties and maybe get a little dose of story. Of course in Battlefront 2 is also doles out just enough credits to unlock a hero or two, but that is a discussion for later. Truth be told my experience was in no way hampered by the loot box heavy nature of unlocks, but I never took the game online, so take my opinion on the 10% I did play with a big grain of salt.

I will however be accepting complaints on the story content of the single player portion of the game. We were promised in the trailer a new view of the conflict: that of a commander in the empire. It does deliver - for about two chapters. Iden Versio is an ass kicking, name taking special ops commander who delights is snuffing out rebel scum. Her story begins at the end of Return of the Jedi when she witnesses the destruction of the second death star and the panicked reaction of the empire. It is interesting to see the empire morph from evil to super evil as it becomes the New Order but Iden immediately defects and the story becomes the same as every other Star Wars side story.

It gets worse when the campaign diverges further from her into cameos by Luke and Kylo Ren. The lightsaber combat is not a good time. At least other cameos by Leia, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are more fun to play through but they still pull the story away from the interesting new character. It is certainly a missed opportunity.

Vehicular combat, specifically the x-wings and tie fighters, were the highlight for me. It takes me back to the halcion days of Rogue Squadron on the Gamecube or Jedi Starfighter of the PS2 and I would gladly play an entire game of it. Sure, it would require more varied environments and more ships to choose from, but come on, why has it been several generations since the last one.

The shooting feels a bit floaty when compared to other AAA shooters, specifically Wolfenstein II since that is the last one that I played. Wolfenstein was certainly more difficult but the difficulty was never in putting the bullets where I wanted. Headshots are a must in Battlefront II and the targeting reticle always feels just slightly behind where you want it. This was not terrible in the campaign as enemies were content to leave themselves just exposed enough for just long enough that I could get them but in arcade mode it was not so easy.

Arcade mode takes the player through light side and dark side combat scenarios ripped from the movies. There are no objectives beyond 'kill 50 of the other guys' or 'kill 20 of the other guys before time expires.' That when combined with repeated areas meant I did not play it for long.

As a single player game Battlefront II is certainly beautiful but it does not have the same roller coaster effect of the (better) Call of Duties or Battlefields. It missed out on fleshing out a new character in a new way in favor of sending a new character on the same journey as dozens before (Iden is Finn minus the cowardice) and the spectacle was not spectacular enough. And I never touched the multiplayer. If I wanted to be bad at an online game I would play Overwatch.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Outrageously forgettable

On this week's podcast I described South Park The Fractured but Whole as feeling thin, like butter scraped over too much bread (Lord of the Rings quote). The combat was interesting but seldom used to it fullest potential. The humor was just slightly past my personal borders but in no way memorable. Even the 'your Dad fucked your Mom' joke got old by the fourth (and fifth, and sixth) time.

And then Cartman's hand started talking, was elected mayor, the new kid farted everyone forward in time, tore his buttwhole trying to fart them back, there was one good, one mediocre and one boring fight, and the game ended. The credits felt like a jump cut, like the game was worked on until the coffers ran dry and *bam* that was it.

It wasn't a good ending. Resorting to time travel is almost never a good idea, and while it set up the super kids versus the medieval kids from the first game fight, was neither well explained or funny. The mutated, four assed sixth graders were funny, if nothing else.

Not a bad game, just not as good as the first one. It feels strange to say that I will forget a game that contained patricide via laser beheading, anal guinea pig play, feeding crooked white cops to an ancient evil and pimp slapping a pimp but I will. It was all outrageous, just not always funny.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Sorry to dissappoint

The Last Jedi has problems, some of them serious. I still despise Finn and his character arc in this movie does him no favors. He starts by trying to run away, gets shot (in an top notch moment of realization and badassery by Rose) and then runs around a casino world before dropping a stupid one liner on a wasted character and trying to kill himself on a wasted suicide run. Through all of this Rose somehow falls in love with him.

Finn, and most of the casino planet sequence, could be excised from the movie and not missed. Correction, Benecio del Toro would be missed, but del Toro is almost always missed when not present.


So much smarm in one place. Delicious.

I am also tired of the BB-8 comic relief designed to sell merchandise. He looks like he belongs in a Mattel commercial, but I am old and I prefer my droids shiny and wordy or cylindrical and foul mouthed. Finally, I understand that it is uncouth to speak ill of the dead, but Leia floating through space looked really, really stupid. 

That is the extent of my ill will. This was a good movie. Far better that The Force Awakens. Almost as good as Rogue One.

Contrary to the loud mouthed whiny man babies of the internet I found Luke's portrayal just about perfect. He was a broken man who rightly blamed himself for the return of the dark side. He was frightened of Rey because he knew that he could neither train her nor control her power. At the end of Return of the Jedi Luke believed his own legend, and it cost him, and he paid for it by isolating himself from the force and the rest of the galaxy.

The momentary (and illusionary) return of badass Luke was the best he could do to make up for his sins. And it was enough. Don't kid yourself, he will be back in ghost form. If Yoda could come back just fuck with Luke then Luke can come back just to fuck with Kylo Ren. I am looking forward to that.

Speaking of Kylo Ren, I have described him in the past as timid baby Vader and Snoke agreed before being cut in half. Kylo still doesn't know what to do with all of his power, be that the force or the entire First Order. He is still a lost, angry toddler wielding machine guns, reaching out for anyone who can identify with him, be that person friend or enemy. And it works. I buy it. He will not survive the third movie but he will at least get a redemptive ending.

And Rey? It's still awfully convenient that she can do everything she does with no training, that she is, if not immune, beyond falling to the dark side. Perhaps that is the point. She has no progeny, no long line of force using ancestors. The force chose her, much like how the force chose Anakin, and maybe it chose a little better this time around.

Poe is a badass. Full stop. He spent the entire movie getting slapped around, literally, and he is still awesome. Unlike some characters (Finn) where he started and where he ended made sense. And the light speed attack is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

For those who assumed there would bitching, I apologize. The Last Jedi was a good movie. Better than the prequels, not as good as the originals, and destined to be the Empire Strikes Back of Disney's Star Wars effort.

Now we're getting fancy

I have held back on my The Last Jedi impressions to make sure that I had something to talk about this week. No longer! Opinion to come later, as time permits!


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Fresh start

Ah, the top of the year blog refresh. This year gets smaller, all the old games are shuffled off to a new page and the eponymous backlog remains the same.

As was hinted at in the photo below I spent eight days in Hawaii over Christmas. This was not by choice but I would be a lying is I said that I did not enjoy it. I mean, look at this shit:



However, as simply being in Hawaii costs exorbitant amounts of money I do not foresee returning any time soon. Memories of 80 degree days and 65 degree nights will have to get me through highs below 0 (0 fahrenheit, motherfuckers.) It is a wonder that I did not expire upon exiting the plane.

...

There was not much time to play anything while I was away. The Switch made the trip, as did a fresh copy of Super Mario Odyssey, and I have few complaints. It is not a game that I can play for extended periods of time, both due to the joy cons not be compatible with my hands and how much backtracking is required for extra moons, but at home on a normal controller it is excellent for about an hour or so. Having not playing a 3D Mario since Mario 64 it is almost all new to me, which is good, but the control is not as precise as I would like. Nothing close to Cuphead, and I know that is an unfair comparison as there are different animals entirely, but it was my game of the year last year so why not use it as an unfair bar of quality.

I did not purchase nor play Steamworld Dig 2 which I feel guilty for. This will be remedied. Eventually.

My familiarity with South Park ends well over a decade ago. I am vaguely aware of who Timmy and Jimmy are, I know Butters from the first game, and have no clue who Craig is. Also Cartman's voice is wrong and I don't remember him being this much of an asshole. It is not fair to hold my not watching television against the game, so I won't, but much of the humor this time around veers just past humorous if offensive lampooning to just being kind of gross, especially when dealing with police racism and literally slapping hoes to change the allegiance.

Writing down 'I was slapping hoes last night' does not work in any context, game or not. In my opinion The Fractured but Whole does indeed take much of its more charged humor about one or two steps too far. And I thought dodging your father's balls and spelunking into Mr. Slave's cavernous colon in the first game were hilarious. There are definite high points: Timmy as Professor X is genius and punching people for micro-aggressions make me laugh almost every time. They are just outweighed but what are, to my eyes and ears, attempts at satire that were just trying too hard.

Combat is new and improved with a basic grid movement system dropped on top of its turn based combat. I am playing it on Normal and have yet to be challenged, which is a disappointment, but I believe that the game will allow me to change difficulty at any time. It will let me change gender and race, why not have complete control over my experience?