Monday, September 26, 2016

Later That Year...

I can't say I was overly surprised to see that my last posted blog entry here was from April. Honestly, I was happy to see it was from this year!

I actually finished a game this weekend (it was a quick one that I'll talk about here shortly), and it got me thinking about other games I've finished recently. I realized that I had trouble remembering them which I found a little disturbing. None were really big games, but I'm always proud of the ones I've completed (mostly because it's a rare occurrence for me) and have almost always made some sort of note here. This post will try to catch up on games I've played and/or finished. I'll start with the ones I finished first.

 Inside (Xbox One) - I got this Day One because it was the next game from the makers of Limbo, one of my all-time favorite games...even if the ending does suck. Briefly, Inside is a graphically enhanced Limbo-esque game with more intricate but overall easier puzzles. Critics have been heaping praise on this one that I don't think is entirely deserved. It's a good game, to be sure, but it's no "10". A good solid "8" or "8.5". Like Limbo (and in a way, more so) this game tells you NOTHING about the world you are in or why you are running from people. The ending, which I won't spoil, just multiplies the confusion by a factor of 1000.

 Firewatch (PC) - This was the first game of three that I played recently (and finished) that lacked one specific game mechanic - my character couldn't die. That's something you have to learn as you play a new game and it leaves you hanging until you figure it out one way or the other. I guess you'd call this game a hiking simulator/semi-interactive story experience. You play a new park ranger and have extended conversations with another ranger while trying to unravel something that may or may not be a mystery. It was an interesting thing to play (and the voice acting was great) but I think the best part was that the designers didn't push the length too long. One of the advantages of indie games is that developers aren't bound to produce something that fits the standard 10-20 hours of gameplay that most gamers feel they are owed by spending money.

 Abzu (PS4) - First a Limbo sequel, then a Journey sequel...well, sort of. (One of the Journey developers left That Game Company and made Abzu.) As much as this would like to be as moving as Journey, I'm afraid it missed the mark. Most of this game is a swimming-with-fish simulator which while "nice" - tagging along with an giant sea turtle is pretty cool - just isn't the same as the other-worldly feel Journey had. It also didn't help that the game only gave you a vague idea of what you were supposed to do. (Journey was magnificent in it's simplistic and immediate method of conveying to the player what they were there for - the first thing you see is the star on top of that mountain. Go.) As the game progressed, there was an element of purpose that seemed to imply that I was saving whatever environment I was swimming in, but overall it felt a little hollow.

 Submerged (PS4) - I don't know when this one came out as I never heard or read much about it. I got it on a sale and was intrigued by the idea of moving around a half-sunken city. You play a girl who is trying to save her brother (although at first, you aren't sure - it could be her son?) She has to motorboat around to buildings and retrieve supply drop boxes by moving around the crumbling exteriors - climbing drainpipes, shuffling and jumping along ledges, or dangling from broken ledges. The designers could have made the game much harder if there was a limited amount of time you could hang from a ledge or if you could actually fall, but they decided to focus more on the story than the challenge. I'm glad they did since it gives you more time to appreciate the scale of the city which is very impressive, especially landmarks the giant construction crane in the middle of the map. The story unfolds in little primitive drawings that, I have to admit, I didn't at first understand. When I did "get it", I was really sucked into the world and this girl's struggle. I can't say that the ending was as satisfying as the journey there, but this is a game that I'm glad I finished and even wanted to explore the map more after I had completed it.

 Bound (PS4) - Sometimes visually impressive just isn't enough. Yes, this game looks stunning with all of it's fluid, voxel environments and motion captured dance moves, but I just didn't get hooked enough to do more than a half an hour's worth.

 Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One) - I'd heard lots of good things about this one and for the most part I can see why. It's a frantic, over the top, colorful, wild, funny, shooter unlike another game. You can customize your character in any number of ways, and even the respawn animations are unique and entertaining. much as I was enjoying playing it, and as much as I wanted to dig deeper into it even though it was really testing my degraded "old man" reflexes, I couldn't handle the broken missions. Twice in the short time I was playing, the mission objectives wouldn't trigger - once it was the game not recognizing that I cleared an area, and the other was the game not recognizing that I'd caught up with the NPC I was chasing. It was a shame, but I don't need that kind of headache when trying to play a game.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Second Chances - Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Alan Wake's American Nightmare Image Well, chalk up another "Completed" for me for 2016. True, it wasn't a big game, but going back to play more of, let alone finish, Alan Wake's American Nightmare was something I never thought I'd do.

I got the copy I played by pre-ordering Quantum Break (Remedy's new game) and then playing it on a Xbox One in Xbox 360 compatibility mode. Not that any of that matters! I still had the game on Steam and could have played it again anytime I wanted to.

I still remember feeling revolted by playing AWAM right after finishing Alan Wake. I loved the first game's style and setting so much that I consider it to be one of my all time favorite gaming experiences...even if I didn't really understand the ending. (Or "endings" if you count the DLC stuff.)

Everything felt like it changed in American Nightmare - the graphic style, the weapons, the character model, the addition of the cheesy Rod Serling-esque narration. But for some reason, when I went back to it, none of that mattered. It felt oddly like I was just playing Alan Wake again, especially the light-and-gun shooting mechanic. I was just better armed now and you know, that's not a bad thing.

It was a short game (HLTB puts it around 2 hours, but I took probably twice that), but I'm really glad I finished it. It gave Alan a happy ending for a change and after all the "darkness" he's been through, he deserved it.

Now, time to dig into Quantum Break some more...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2015's Mountain of Shame

2015 was, to me anyway, one of the greatest years in videogames. All three of the home console makers, already well established after being out for over a year, were pumping out one great game after another. Being a fairly well funded consumer, I shamelessly bought them all (or close to it).

I played quite a few of them, as can be seen by my previous post that covered that glorious year, but many - too many! - are still sitting on a shelf, still wrapped in a coat of shrink wrapping.

The list you see below is (to the best of my records) all of the games I bought last year...AND HAVEN'T PLAYED!

Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Battlefield Hardline
Borderlands: The Handsome Jack Collection
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Disney Infinity 3.0
Dragon Quest Heroes
Lego Dimensions
Little Big Planet 3
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Mortal Kombat X
Onechanbara Z2 Chaos
Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Saint's Row IV: Re-elected
Shadow of Mordor GOTY Edition
Sniper Elite III
The Legend of Kay Anniversary Edition
Toy Soldiers: Toy Chest
Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection
Until Dawn

Xbox One
Batman Arkham Knight
Dead Rising 3
F1 2015
Forza 6
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rock Band 4
Ryse: Son of Rome
State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition
Sunset Overdrive

Wii U
Bayonetta 2
Huyrule Warriors
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
Mario Maker
Mario Party 10
Super Smash Bros.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Yoshi's Woolly World

Akibara's Trip
Assassin's Creed Rogue
Batman: Arkham Origins
Deception IV: Blood Ties
Falling Skies
Lost Planet 3
Risen 2
Risen 3
Star Trek
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles
Tokyo Ghost Hunters

Muramasa: The Demon Blade

Motorstorm: Arctic Edge

3/4's Home
Abyss Odyssey
Assassin's Creed Liberations
Blue Estate
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die
Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered
Final Fantasy VIII
Five Nights at Freddy's 2, 3, and 4
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father
Grow Home
Her Story
I am Bread
Pathologic Classic HD
Shadowrun: Dragonfall
Tales form the Borderlands
The Purring Quest
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

and a Playstation TV unit with a 16gb memory card.

Mind you, a lot of these were purchased used or during various sales, usually with my Best Buy Gamer Club Unlocked discount (I can't pass up a bargain), but we are still talking about a significant investment in discs, plastic cases, and 1's and 0's. The size of this list does owe itself, in part anyway, to the addition of two new consoles this year. (Come on, if I'm going to buy a console, I need games to play on it, right?)

Now it's nearly the end of January and not only have I not bought anything other than a couple toys-to-life figures, but I'm still playing a game from last year, Fallout 4.

So, here it is: I'm not buying any new games in 2016.

"Why?", I hear you cry, while Best Buy and Amazon lower their prospective sales numbers for 2016.

If something does catch my eye (and so far there isn't much I've heard is coming out that I'm interested in), I'll add it to a list and maybe have an end of the year shopping stock up for 2017. Plus, I'll still be getting games for free via PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, so it's not like I won't have any additions to my collection.

I'll be revisiting this list next January to see how many of 2015's games got played. Should make for an interesting comparison.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

That Was The Year That Was - 2015 Edition

Before 2016 turns into double digit dates, and because I haven't been keeping this blog up to date as much as I wished I had, I'm here now to do a recap of games I played in 2015. Why? I'm not sure, really.

A long time ago (ie, about 40 years), my parents made a weekly pilgrimage to my grandmother's house/trailer. Every Sunday, the "fam" would sit around the old RCA tube TV and watch first the national news at 6:00 pm, then the local news at 6:30, and finally, 60 Minutes at 7:00. (As best as I can remember, it was during one of these Sundays when, at the age of 8, I watched men first walk on the moon.) Toward the end of each 60 Minutes show, after their usual three segments of newsy features, an old curmudgeon by the name of Andy Rooney would come on and give a semi-comical old man rant about something that everyone usually took for granted but was inherently flawed - at least in his opinion. The only one of these crab-fests I remember had to do with the notion of "New Years" in the United States. His contention was that January 1st was a terrible day to declare anything as "new". Basically, nothing changes other than the calendar year. The weather is still winter, there's no astronomical changes, no religious significance, and even the sports teams don't end their seasons then.

The older I get, the more I see his reasoning. And in my gaming, the "New Year" hasn't changed much for me either.

But before I get into what will be carrying over into 2016, here's my rundown for what I did in 2015:

Notable Events:

  • Joystiq dies - One does not get over losing their favorite gaming website easily. A year later, and there's still no good alternative.
  • New consoles - Since I'm gifted with more money than sense, I felt the need to add two more consoles to my stable this year - a Wii U and an Xbox One. Did I need them? Probably not. Do I like them? Mostly yes.
  • Stopped streaming - April was around the time I stopped doing the streaming thing. No reason other than it was another hassle to deal with and used up some of my already limited play time.
  • Star Wars movie and games - An unpublished blog post of mine dealt with my excitement about the announcement of a new Star Wars movie, a new game, and my impressions of old Star Wars games I've played or was going to play. I never did enough with it to feel it was worth anyone else reading and I ended up not even seeing the movie when it came out. As of this writing, I'm planning on just getting the discs when they are released, probably around April. As for the games, I was mostly underwhelmed with how they held up or ran into numerous old-games-not-running-on-new-operating-systems issues.
  • Began a new MMO - This year saw the start of a new MMO adventure for our Neverwinter Knights - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This is one of the things that crosses year markers and will be part of 2016.
  • PS4 upgrade, P.T., and blog changes - Toward the end of 2015, I started to be less satisfied with the format my blog had taken - that of a sort-of-review of games I've played thing. I don't have the time or energy to put into a game to do anything even close to a real review. What I wanted to do was change it to be more about the experience of playing games, not the specifics of the games. Does that make sense? My best effort to steer my blog in this directions was one related to wanting to put a bigger hard drive in my PS4, the utter senselessness of Konami taking P.T. off the PlayStation store, my desire to complete the game, and how I got there. If you haven't read it, click HERE to read it now.
  • Kickstarter games - Some of the games I backed on Kickstarter delivered this year, but with decidedly mixed results. Catlateral Damage turned out to be reasonably entertaining in small doses, but Dragon Fin Soup,  Dead Synchronicity, and Neverending Nightmares have given me little but a more jaded view of crowd funded games.
  • Driving doldrums continue - Another year, another lackluster array of driving games. Need for Speed is becoming less interesting with each installment, Forza Horizons is adequate but not really exciting, and the others have all had too many issues (ie, bugs, online only designs) to consider.
  • FPE's - First person experiences, or first person walkers. I played and finished three of them this year - Everyone's Gone to the Rapture, The Beginner's Guide, and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. The last one had some gameplay elements to it, but it was still odd "playing" games that had little to do but walk around. Scenery was nice though.
  • Zombie heartbreak - One of my favorite games this year was ZombiU...until the "arena" sequence. This game was like being in an episode of Z-Nation but I got hopelessly stuck on this one section where they changed all the rules and it just sucks!
  • Destiny 2.0 - A year usually makes no difference in the way a game plays, but the designers at Bungie pulled me back in with a revamping of the feel of Destiny. I didn't even mind them changing the Dinkle-bot's voice.
  • Hard games - I seemed to run into more than my usual number of overly hard games this year. It's no secret I play my games on Easy, but even that wasn't enough to get through some of these. And these were games that I would have happily played more of as they were either very pretty (Apotheon, Ori) or funny (Bedlam).
Now for the games I played all the way through in 2015:

Dead Space 2/Dead Space 3 (PC) - Playing through these was an amazing experience!
The Order: 1886 (PS4) - The most maligned game of the year, but I really liked it.
Framed (iOS) - My only completed iPad game.
MonsterBag (Vita) - My only completed Vita game and a surprisingly heart warming tale!
Lego Jurassic World (PS4) - Had to play it, but was less than thrilled. Traded in to Gamestop.
The Unfinished Swan (PS4) - Not Brothers, but a touching adventure.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (PS4) - Something like a biblical prophecy done by aliens.
The Beginner's Guide (PC) - A clever and manipulative lesson about the creative mind.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC) - The creepiest game I played this year!
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zero (PS4) - Technically, I finished the main mission, at least.

These  are the games I tried and quit, for various reasons:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (3DS) - This game demands a bigger screen.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64 emulated) - Just can't commit the time needed.
Angry Birds Epic (iOS) - Actually played a fair amount of this. Good strategy game.
Hitman Go (iOS) - I bailed on this before Lara Croft Go. May give it another shot.
Aaru's awakening (PS4) - Too hard.
Bedlam (PS4/PC) - Too hard, even with a mouse and keyboard.
Apotheon (PS4) - Too hard and too much backtracking.
Ori and the Blind Forest (PC) - JUST TOO DAMN HARD!
Wrack (PC) - Just garbage.
Super Toy Cars (PC) - Well, it was a cheap Steam game.
Constantine (PS2) - My one retro game this year.
Dust: An Elysian Tale (PS4) - Too cutesy.
ZombiU (Wii U) - See above.
Contrast (PS4) - Interesting concept, but the game wasn't that fun.
Dragon Fin Soup (PS4) - Oh, what a mess this was.
White Night (PS4) - Really cool art style, but a so-so game.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PC) - Not bad, but not good enough to keep playing.
Neverending Nightmares (PC) - I guess I didn't really connect with this one.

And the games that I started in 2015, but will be still playing in 2016:

Halo Master Chief Collection (Xbox One) - Trying to get through Halo 1.
Gears of War Ultimate (Xbox One) - Seems like I should get farther in this one.
Destiny 2.0 (PS4) - A nice space shooter to play now.
Neko Atsume (iOS) - Still cat hunting.
The Witcher 3 (PS4) - I played just a few hours of this. In other words, zero percent!
Fallout New Vegas (PC) - With the Fallout 4 hype, I started this one.
Bioshock (PS3) - I have this on 3 platforms, but never finished.
Dying Light (PS4) - Tried a rental of this and liked it. Bought later in the year.
Lara Croft Go (iOS) - One of the few iPad games I'm proud to say I play.
Catlateral Damage (PC) - Still haven't found Livy's pic.
Star Wars Battlefront (PS4) - A fun box of Star Wars toys to play with.
Rare: Replay (Xbox One) - I've got a few old ones I want to try again.
Mad Max (PS4) - Also an early year rental that I bought later.
Dead Synchronicity (PC) - I really owe this one a bit more time.
Fallout 4 (PC/PS4) - The Big One going into 2016. The first open world game I'll finish?

So, onward to 2016 with almost as many games crossing the calendar timeline as were left behind. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dealing with Death

Okay, first off THIS IS NOT ABOUT A REAL DEATH IN MY FAMILY OR AMONG MY FRIENDS! Not that that hasn't happened in the past, but totally NOT what I'm talking about here.

No, I'm writing this prior to killing my character in Fallout 4. Or at least thinking about it.

Let me explain.

I guess you could call it a weakness, but I have a tendency to become very attached to my characters in big, open world games. One might even say, "protective". I know that they're not real, of course, but the longer I go without them coming to an untimely end, the more I think of them as characters in something like a book or movie - mediums where Death would spell the permanent end of their experiences.

Realistically, I know that if I/she gets killed, I can just load up the last save (and I still save A LOT), but I can't help the part of me that says, very quietly, "She died. It's over for her. You can't use her anymore." (I almost always run female characters in these games. More on that another time.) In the course of playing a game, the enemies you shoot (or even some of the NPC's you can kill) don't get to "come back". That lends a finality that pervades the game, even if it doesn't apply to the player.

The downside of this is that it stunts my progression through the game. I find I'm very cautious in new locations, and keep to areas where I have either cleared threats or know where they are. Raven's journey in Kingdoms of Amalur and Victoria's quest to find her father in Fallout 3 have both been held back because of this mild(?) obsession with avoiding Death.

And so far, neither of them have suffered that fate. Not once.

Mind you, this affinity is unique to open world games - I don't get the same sappy feelings about Mario or the Marine in Doom. Your character dying there is simply a way of the game telling you to do it right the next time. Those games (and I lump in linear story games like Uncharted and Dead Space here) give you little or no way to physically and emotionally customize your avatar. In open world games, ones where you can truly do ANYTHING, you have the option to be "good" or "evil", depending on your style of play. Try as I might, I always want to be good and helpful, usually because the NPC's I run into are nice people (if they don't start shooting at me first). Maybe I'm mostly a nice person and that helps to build the bond with the game's character, whose appearance I've created too.

Now I have a new mega-open world game to deal with, Fallout 4, and I think I'm falling into the same "trap". Juliet hasn't met Death in the 10 hours or so I've played so far. I'm also not very far into the game, as in just exploring the outskirts of my home neighborhood, Sanctuary Hills. There have been a couple of close calls in some gunfights, but I've also stayed fairly local and spent time scavenging for materials. (That's a nice way to say "stalling", by the way.)

So, do I purposefully send her out to die? Do I have her go for a radioactive swim in her underwear or try to take on a pack of Raiders and go down swinging? Once I see her crumple to the ground and the camera pans slowly back (assuming it does that), will I get over this phobic fear of my character's Death? But will I feel the same about this Juliet when I load up the last Quicksave, knowing it's not quite the same Juliet that walked out of Vault 111?

** Update, a few days later:  Juliet still lives! And I've found a way to not be too worried about losing her that I can't continue. Basically, it involves pausing and loading a Quicksave before she dies. I had to do this for a mission where she had to turn off some underwater valves and the I couldn't figure out where the surface was (graphics at this point were really hard to see). It's sort of like that game Life is Strange, where you can turn back time in order to do something the right way on the second (or third, or fourth) try. As long as she doesn't get one-shot'ed, it should keep her spirit least for me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


I want to tell you about my friend George.

George and I have worked at the same company for nearly three decades and we have both been serious gamers for most of that time. Back in the old days of floppy disc games, we would trade games (or copies of them...oops, hope the NSA didn't catch that one), so that gives you an idea how far back we go. I remember asking him if The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was a "good" game to get. This was, after all, the pre-Internet days so there wasn't a lot of available information. Nerds have to stick together.

While we stayed in the same corporate entity, we had different task masters and our departments moved from building corner to building corner. If we saw each other in the halls or the dreaded cafeteria (seriously, the food there can kill you!), we'd catch up on our latest game played. PlayStation, N64, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PS3, 360, Wii, PS4, and, of course, many generations of PC's. We never got around to actually playing together, in the same room or online, even though we mentioned it every so often and agreed it was a great idea.

George's favorite genre of games was always RPG's. He used to tell me it was the old Infocom games that got him hooked...and I'd tell him how I hated them after my experience with Zork. ("echo" my ass!) My background was as a table-top gamer, a wargamer, so I tended more toward the strategy games at first, then the more action oriented ones later. But George would spend hour after hour, usually late into the night, slaying dragons and saving damsels, from the days of the first D&D computer games, right up to the graphical splendor of Skyrim. I always admired his ability to stay with these marathon adventures. I was more like a hamster on crack - if a game didn't show me blood, bullets, or boobs (okay, those games are rare) in the first 15 minutes, I was looking for something new. (Honestly, car games and flight sims worked for me too.)

Lately, we've been working in the same department again and have had more opportunities to share what we've been playing. No surprise that he's gotten deeply into things like Pillars of Eternity, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and The Witcher 3 this year, while I've been bouncing between short experience like The Order: 1886, Journey (I know, again), and the inevitable comfort food feeling of Doom. What can I say, they named the Short Attention Span Theater after me!

I've tried to get George to try streaming, but even though I helped setup everything on his PC to do it, he never felt that anything he was playing was something people would want to watch. He always thought that people either wanted to watch brand new games or women showing lots of cleavage...or both. I had to admit he was probably right.

Anyway, there was this new game coming out, The Beginner's Guide, made by the same guy who did The Stanley Parable. Nobody really knew much about it since it was announced just a couple of days before it went on sale. So, I decided to buy it for him as a friendly gift and "gently" suggested he use it as an entry into the world of streaming. After all, it was a new game that a lot of gamers would want to see. I couldn't help with the cleavage part, but whatever.

Sure enough, shortly after starting his "First time, blind playthrough" of The Beginner's Guide, George had over two dozen viewers! He plugged in his microphone and was talking to the people as they chatted in the text window. I could tell he was having a really good time! He even turned on his webcam toward the end of the game, something he told me he would never even consider in the unlikely event that I could ever get him to stream! When he signed off after two full playthroughs (it's a short game), he had almost 40 followers. He was a natural - funny, engaging, and, with his Tron baseball cap, already making a trademark image for himself. I have to admit to feeling a little bit jealous that my friend was such an instant success. On the other hand, I had been the one to give him his start. I sort of felt like a talent scout that had discovered a new pop star, standing just off-stage listening to the crowd applaud.

The next morning at work, I stopped at this cubicle and congratulated him on his success. He was a little taken aback by how much he had gotten into the whole streaming thing, watching the archived footage and thinking, "Was that really me?" I told him it was indeed and reminded him of one of the cardinal rules of streaming - pick a schedule and stick to it! He agreed and said that 7 pm would be a good time for him maybe every Friday. "Only once a week? Why not more?", I said. George thought about it and decided that, yeah, he could probably do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. "Sounds good!", I said. Wouldn't want my star to fade too quickly, right?

So George started streaming, deciding to go back to his favorite RPG's...and that's when things sort of went south. The games he played were "old" by streaming standards, but not popular ones like the MOBA's or CS:GO's. His followers dropped away. When people did watch, they made comments like, "How old is this guy?", "How old is this game?", "Why don't you get a better sword than that piece of crap?". and, of course, "noob!" George wasn't used to this kind of intrusion into his otherwise private gaming world. He stopped using the webcam, then the microphone, and finally quit broadcasting altogether. When I tried to talk to him at work, he either wasn't at his desk, or said he had to go to a meeting. The last time I checked his Steam profile, it showed his last played games as Diner Dash, Pinball FX2, and a few hidden object titles. Pure casual fluff!

I hope that George reads this post and remembers how much fun he had fighting dragons and demons in those great RPG's. He needs to know that he can game without being criticized, that he shouldn't feel guilty about being what he is - an old fashioned video gamer. My biggest fear is that he'll just pickup an iPad and that will be the last I'll see of him. From Pools of Radiance to Angry Birds. The thought just sickens me.

Well, time for me to sign off here. It's nearly 7pm, I need to find my Tron cap, and get OBS up and running. I'm thinking of doing The Walking Dead pinball table tonight. Folks should dig that, right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Thumbstick Twiddles up to 9/13/15

I'm going to do a bit of quick catch up on my gaming since I haven't been doing much blogging here lately.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Image The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PC) - I've always had a problem with liking games that other folks think are horrid. I liked Batman Begins on the PS2, Duke Nukem Forver on PC, and even Super Battleship back on the SNES - all games that most gamers would consider a waste of time. I don't remember why I started The Bureau, but so far this one seems like it's in the same vein as the three I listed - and I'm enjoying it! The shooting mechanics are satisfying and the art style makes the characters look like they just walked off the covers of 50's pulp novels. I'm not sure if I'll make it all the way through since it does have some flaws even I can't ignore (the AI for your squad is beyond stupid unless I'm just not commanding them correctly and the one alien weapon I picked up so far was worthless). I'm about three hours in at this point. ***Update***: Well, I'm throwing in the towel for this one. There are better shooters out there and the game just reuses the same enemies and alien-tech for each level. Guess everyone was right about this one.

Destiny Image Destiny 2.0 (PS4) - For the one year anniversary of Destiny, Bungie released a huge expansion and a massive overhaul of the base game (an 18gb download!). I don't know if I'm still interested enough in Destiny to buy The Taken King, but I decided I wanted to start a new character and see how it plays now. I was surprised how much better the game felt (shooting, movement, leveling, NPC interactions). It's weird in a way to see how much a game can be overhauled and still be the same game. This kind of refresh only used to happen with sequels. I've got my new Guardian up to level 5. She has purple skin, magenta colored hair, and a white tattoo on her forehead. The girl of my dreams! Oh, and the new Ghost voice is...interesting? I sounds like Nolan North is trying to imitate Peter Dinklage, but with more emotion in his delivery. And I think he's saying more too. ***Update***: I actually now have The Taken King edition thanks to a gratuitous expenditure for a Destiny PS4 bundle. This one rates way up there on the Cool Console scale and Game$top was kind enough to give me $100 trade in for an old PS3. Just couldn't resist.

Lara Croft GO Image Lara Croft Go (iPad) - I hated the Hitman Go game, but I felt I should give this new one a try and I'm glad I did. While I still think tablet gaming is cultivating a new generation of gamers who only know how to swipe and tap, once in a while, like with Monument Valley and this game, it feels like a good platform. It plays more like a Tomb Raider game than Hitman Go felt like an assassin game. I'm making my way through it slowly since I want to find all the hidden treasures.

Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn Image FFXIV (PC) - I used to make notes on our (me, my wife, and our best friend)  FFXI playing back in the day (about 10 years ago!) but haven't put much here, so....We all hit level 45 over the weekend. Not bad when you consider we've only been playing about 4 or 5 months. Progression in this game is way faster than FFXI and there's no experience penalty for death - just a bit more equipment damage. I also think we spend nearly as much time crafting/gathering as fighting, but that's fine with me. It's fun to create even virtual items. We have a couple of serious dungeons to get through before we can progress in the storyline or rank up in our city's army. ***Update***: One ugly dungeon down, one to go!

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Image Metal Gear Stuff (PS2/PS3/PS4) - With the recent release of MGS V, I finally got around to learning something about the Metal Gear story and playing a few of the games. I bought the "demo"  game, Ground Zeroes, (I'll buy anything, really) over a year ago and finally played it...well, I actually played the "free" copy I got from PlayStation Plus, but that's beside the point. For me, a stealth game usually involves making a highly trained, covert operative look like a bumbling idiot who's sole purpose is stopping bullets with his body. And I spend a lot of time crouching/lying down, hoping that no one will see me. But I still like playing these games. I made it through GZ and even did a side mission. Everything in that "game" takes place on Cuba's Guantanamo Bay prison, so it gets old fast. I would have finished the main story mission sooner, but I spent a long time trying to get into the target building...only to find out I couldn't! The game wasn't designed for you to go into a building, just to move around and under them. Would have been nice to know before I tried every door!

Learning about the Metal Gear timeline, I decided to try the game that starts it off: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. (No wonder people find this series confusing!) I have both Snake Eater and Subsistence (an upgraded version of Snake Eater), and I played both, finding that the camera controls in Subsistence were much better. Then I tried the HD version and it (no surprise) looked way better than the PS2 version (except for the flashback video during the opening, for some odd reason). The PS3 graphics made seeing things in the jungle much easier, but I have to admit that I don't think I can handle the degree of controller options they piled into the game. Kojima made considerable use of the analog nature of the DualShock 3 face buttons, so that you have to be mindful of how far you press the buttons and how fast. It's a hardcore game, and even on Very Easy, I don't think I can do much with it.