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.