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.