Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Horrors of Halo-ctober and other stuff

To setup a "theme" for my streaming in October, I picked the genre of Horror Games - something that virtually every other streamer has been doing. Well, at least I stuck to it through two games this time.

Layers of Fear Image Layers of Fear (PS4) - I think you could probably rename this game Gone Home With Jump Scares. You spend your time in the game walking around an ever room-shifting mansion in search of six (grisly) items you need to complete your Dorian Grey style "masterpiece". It was a sufficiently creepy experience, but nearly all the scary bits were related to something in the environment - a creepy picture, a visually warped room or hallway, odd noises. Because my character couldn't "die" (as best as I could tell) and I wasn't being chased by anyone, there wasn't any real feeling of danger and, hence, little real fear. Overall, the ending was very Vault of Horror-ish which I enjoyed but I wished I had gotten to it sooner.

SOMA Image SOMA (PS4) - If you were to make an exact copy of yourself - your memories, your experiences, your personality - and put it in a "host" shell, would there be two of you, or you and just a copy? How much of you could be duplicated and what would you want done with the previous you? Could you survive knowing that there was a second (or third or fourth) version of yourself? Or would you want to end your own life so that you (or your copy) were unique in the universe? These questions, along with a considerable amount of Dead Space style horror in a post-apocalyptic, undersea world is what makes up SOMA. I'll admit that this wasn't an easy game to get into. Frictional Games, makers of Amnesia and Penumbra, like you to interact with the game world in as tactile a manner as possible - you can pick up almost everything, swing out cabinets doors, and pull open drawers. It gets a little tedious until you begin to realize that you don't have to touch/open/inspect everything. Also, like a number of the current generation survival horror games, this one has you running or dodging danger rather than fighting it off.

I decided to take a break from streaming at this point. I might pick it up again sometime, but for now I don't feel like it's worth my limited gaming time to hassle with trying to do an interesting stream.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Image Halo (Xbox One) - Okay, I know this isn't a "horror" game, but I guess I needed a break from the scary walking simulators and just wanted to shoot things! You can only run away from monsters so long before you want to stop and take a stand. Good Lord, I've been trying to finish this game for YEARS! I started with a pretty decent attempt on the original Xbox up until (I think) just before the Library level. Then when I got the Xbox One, it came with the Master Chief Collection and I started it again there, only to stop not long after rescuing the captain (not as far as before even). And so it waited and I always felt like it was a game I should play all the way through at least once. I mean, there are people who have played it multiple times (not that I can figure out why). While this game did provide a good story, I have to wonder if it ever got criticized for shamelessly reusing levels. Well, it was early days and the game did set a standard for console FPS's.

Actual Sunlight Image Actual Sunlight (Vita) - It's hard to really call this a "game" since there wasn't anything to do except go through an hour and a half of a lonely loser's decent into inevitable suicide, all done in Yoda Stories style graphics. While I appreciate what this game was trying to do (give people an insight into what can drive someone to kill themselves and they ways in which they think and feel), as a "game" it felt like I should be able to do SOMETHING to alter the outcome.

Dishonored: Definitive Edition Image Dishonored (PS4) - In my typical tradition of "playing the original because the sequel was just released", I decided to dive into Dishonored 1. This game allows you to complete missions in a number of different ways depending on your character build and how you approach the objective. I started by trying to be as stealthy as possible and only attacked guards (the most frequent opponent you run into) when necessary. However, this ended up taking WAY TOO LONG! If you are trying to be careful and not start fights, where you are attacked as soon as someone sees you, it's a nearly continuous sequence of sneak/alarm/reload. After that, I figured I'd just go totally John Wick on everyone's asses! I killed anyone and everyone I could - regardless of whether or not I needed to! I racked up body counts to the point that I had to shoot my trusty boatman, the one that had earlier saved my life(!), because he hated me so much that he was going to alert the guards to my presence during the last mission. Yes, I got the High Chaos ending, but frankly I didn't care. Dunwall should be renamed Dung-wall - that place isn't fit for the rats and weepers that crawl it's corpse strewn streets. Good game though.

Titanfall 2 Image Titanfall 2 (Xbox One) - As of this writing, I've only played about an hour or so of this, since I needed it as a trade-in to get a cheap copy of CoD:IW. But, I'm sort of glad that I did trade it in - while this game has a much needed campaign that Titanfall 1 lacked, I'm not sure it's enough, for me, to stay with. I got burned pretty badly by the first game since I don't play multi-player games (because I suck at them) but I got it since it was "the game" to get at the time. Ah, Hype-Train. I basically played the tutorial (I think) of this one, if you can call the first mission a "training" mission. You certainly have to wait until you are done with it to get into your Titan. The shooting is well done, but I it doesn't give you a very good idea of the relative power of the weapons you find and I never did figure out how to switch between weapons I was carrying. Anyway, I think this will probably end up being a Gamestop rental in the future so I can finish the short campaign. I doubt I'd have any reason to go back to it after that.

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.