Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Chessasaur's July 2017 Gaming Log

July 2017 Gaming - Day by Day

7/01 - Tonight was a V.G.O.N.S which sounds like an alien from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but actually stands for Video Game One Night Stand. A V.G.O.N.S. involves taking a new (to me) game out for a few hours of fun...then never playing it again. In this case, it was the remake of LucasArts classic, Full Throttle. While I appreciated a number of improvements to the old systems of point-and-click adventure games (like the ability to highlight key objects in the environment), games like this are tedious to play when you get stuck on the puzzles. I left it at the point where I had to lure a junkyard dog away from some bike parts I needed. The worst part was getting chased away over and over and over again, having to watch the same animation for it every time. I could (and probably should) play this kind of game with a guide, but it sort of defeats the object of playing a puzzle game.

7/03 - For awhile, I'd been thinking about loading The Beatles Rock Band onto my gaming station Xbox 360 so I could chill some nights and just play Beatles songs. So that's what I did. Of course, loading the original game was not a problem, nor was getting a guitar controller synced to the system. The problem came when I wanted to load the additional song DLC I bought many years ago. Since music licensing exists only to make life more difficult for everyone, the in-game Music Store was closed down because the "license" to sell the DLC had expired. The only way to re-download the songs now is to go through your entire Download History and find them! Not a fast process. Worse, if you didn't buy them back then, you can't now. This is probably the saddest loss from the Great Rhythm Game Collapse. The Beatles Rock Band game was the high watermark of the genre; a marvel of content and execution. In a different world, a better world, there would have been games like this celebrating all the great rock and roll bands. I've actually played very little of this RB title, mostly because I've always seen it more of a single player experience - you can't create or modify a character, and even the ability to alter the music (with the whammy bar) is removed - and I just didn't get around to it when the 360 was in the living room. Playing Beatles songs is like a massage for your soul. I finished the night with one of my favorites:

7/04 - Not much gaming today, but I did get a chance to try Dragon's Lair HD on the PS3 and a new game, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard. Dragon's Lair was sort of a disappointment; while the cartoon animations brought back waves of happy nostalgia, the mechanic for selecting which direction to move is now a D-pad graphic in the lower left corner. The original game used lighted areas that you had to move toward and they overlaid the animations. This kept you looking at the action, instead of now where you have to concentrate on the corner of a widescreen picture. Ah well, at least there's an option to just watch the whole "story". Vikings, which I only played a tiny bit of, is very Diablo III-ish. I'll have to try a bit more to see if it's worth my time as, so far, I don't feel it's substantially more entertaining than D3. Interestingly, Vikings is one of these new $30 titles - feels like an attempt to fill in the gap left in the market when the mid-range publishers went out of business.

7/05 - Vikings. This is turning into an enjoyable little diversion. The game is very much a Diablo clone, but a) that's not a bad thing, and b) they've added an Exposure element to the formula. Since this is Norway (presumably), it gets very cold there; ergo, you need to watch out how cold you get. Staying out in the snow too long fills your Exposure bar and if it fills up, you take damage. Campfires will warm you up, so you have to watch the map to see where the next one is. Combat is pretty simple - just press the X button to fight - and you have two different weapon sets to switch between. I can deal with simple. What is hard to take is the dialog! Bad writing is hard enough to suffer through, but WHY do they have Vikings with Cockney accents?

7/06 - Vikings. Well, it was fun while it lasted. The second area to explore was basically like the last one, but without snow (and the Exposure mechanic). Lots of X button mashing, no really interesting loots, and rehashed enemies from the last zone. The only real difference was the boss at the end and that fight was very simple - beat two guards and the chieftain. Time to move onto something better.

7/07 - In the interest of showing that I actual play the games I buy, I felt that it was time to justify my $40 expenditure for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Crash wasn't a series I did much with until the PS2 generation and even then I remember having to get rid of Wrath of Cortex because the loading times were so bad. So now I'm playing the remastered PS1 games and they remind me that my reflexes aren't what they used to be. However, once in a while, I do get it right:

This came after numerous (and ignominious) deaths by falling off things I clearly should have seen. If Sarah were playing these, it would be art. Me, it's a high definition train wreck!

7/08 - Crash Bandicoot. It's nice that there are 3 games here since I'm stuck on the first one. I've gone over to the next one to see how I get on with it. So far, it's been easier, but I'm also at the very beginning of the game, which is always easier. The hardest thing (other than missing jumps, of course) is trying to figure out  the right "mechanic" to deal with the various creatures I'm trying to avoid. I don't know if they included these hints in the manuals (something old games always had), but I'm guessing they left it to the gamer to figure it out. These were the early days of consoles; more had to be discovered on one's own.

7/09 - Crash Bandicoot. Well, after getting stuck on some of the levels on #2, I switched to the third one, Warped. More interesting environments and a bit more variety of courses, but these games still fall into the "memorize or die" mold. I remember having to do this sort of thing back in the SNES platforming days and it was lots of fun...20 years ago. I might have to see if I can get Sarah interested in them. I'd love to see how she would handle them. It might also be a way to get her playing on the PS4; something that will let her play Kingdom Hearts 3 when it (eventually) releases.

7/10 - Crash Bandicoot. Didn't have too much time to play tonight, so I kept with Crash and I think I'm going to put it aside for now. The trilogy, as a whole, is a good deal - lots of nostalgia, pretty graphics, mostly good controls - but I think I want more depth to my game time. Also, I was a little disappointed that in the 3rd game, Warped, the 8th was basically a rehash of the 3rd (or 4th) stage. Up to that point, all of the levels had been fairly unique. Oh well, it was still fun to play and I figure I can always drop back into it for a quick bit of fun. CLICK HERE to see my highlight of the night - winning a race by the narrowest of margins. Oddly, this gameplay clip isn't what you usually do in Crash Bandicoot games - most of it is platforming.

7/11 - Time for a change of pace; from the cartoony world of Crash Bandicoot to the post-something-really-bad-happened world of Metro 2033 Redux. I played a tiny bit of this before it was remastered, so I had a little idea what to expect - in other words, I wasn't surprised to "die" right at the beginning. I've read a rough translation of Glukhovsky's book and I am impressed how closely the game is following the story. So far I've just had to fight off some, uh, mutant werewolves, I guess? I'm still trying to deal with not using inverted Y-axis and I'm, unfortunately, wasting a lot of ammo. Oh, and there was that other "experience" I had...CLICK HERE to see what happened. Also, I've gotten back into a little Twitch streaming (which is why these are Highlights) and I thought I was doing pretty good. I had one viewer for almost the whole show and as many as 3 at one point (but no one chatted). I was thrilled to have the one viewer...until I realized it was MY computer sitting on MY channel. Oh well, on the good side, it made it look like I did have a viewer and maybe that helps. I guess I might have a couple of my devices "watch" my stream just so it doesn't "look" empty.

7/12 - Rough work day, homework, pre-bedtime discovery of massive cat barf incident - these are the things that lead to late nights and the need for a game that fits your brain like a comfortable pair of underwear. In this case, it was some more of Inside, a game that demands little expertise and complements an already dower mood.

7/13 - Inside. Just some comfortable filler while the bod recovers from the rigors of the past week and girds itself for the coming madness of the Khan!

7/16 - As I'm trying to build up some sleep reserves before SDCC, I only played a little of a new game I got recently, Golf With Your Friends. Nice and simple miniature golf game which may work for our little group. It reminds me of the one I used to have on the Atari ST. Ah, the simpler old days.

7/19 - Due to SDCC 2017, gaming is at a minimum. I did get a chance to play a little of No Man's Sky on the PS4 Pro...and it looks like an entirely different game!

7/24 - Done with SDCC for another year, it's time to get back to a some gaming. I've been interested to at least restart Alan Wake after all this time, partly because it was the subject of some news lately. The game was being pulled from digital sales markets due to a music license that had expired. Remedy, the studio behind the game, stated that it wasn't possible to replace the song (or songs, for all we know) because of the way they were used in the game. After a few minutes in the game, I could see why - there is music playing in nearly every scene! I also forgot how not-exactly-great the controls were. A single press of the left bumper button does a "dodge", but holding it down puts Alan in "sprint" mode. So every time you want to run, you end up sort of ducking and it looks pretty silly. Another thing I had forgotten was that the very beginning of the game foreshadows the somewhat confusing ending. As the game starts, Alan quotes Stephen King, saying (in paraphrase), "Horror isn't supposed to make sense. If it did, it wouldn't be scary." Hearing that alone made replaying the first part worth the effort. I also forgot how well the proximity interaction feature worked - to talk to an NPC, you just stand next to them. A very seamless and natural way to handle conversations.

7/26 - Another One-Night Stand - this time, Dungeon Siege III. Don't get me wrong. I was actually pretty impressed with the game and was enjoying it. It plays a lot like Diablo 3, but with much better voice acting. Back in the day, our little gaming trio (me, my wife and my brother) played the first two DS games on networked PC's. (I'm actually not entirely sure we finished the second one.) The games were fun to play and at least the first one had a mechanic I haven't seen in another game since. In it, you could "follow" another player and then the game would run your character like a companion NPC, fighting along side whoever you were "protecting". I'm not ashamed to admit that there were times back then that I would link to my brother's character...and nap in my chair for 10 to 15 minutes. Hey, you have to get rest in when you can and we had a toddler back then. That aside, DS3 is a sold game, the RPG guts having been handled by Obsidian. What hasn't held up as well over the years is the character models (they look like people painted by amateur artists), the fact that NPC interactions are always posed the same way, and the gameplay, which got very repetitive, even after just a couple of hours. (Click HERE to see what most of it is like.) Basically, you walk along a path and enemies rush at you in groups. You fight them off, walk a little farther, and...well, you get the idea. I really liked that there was a button to press to show you which way to go to complete your quest (it was really easy to get turned around), and the story dialog in the game was tailored to fit the background of one of four different characters you picked to be at the beginning. It was a nice touch. I may have to boot up the PS3 version just to see if the graphics are better - I like to think I'm not that hung up on graphical quality, but if you compare this to something like Dead Space, which was from the same generation of consoles, it comes up pretty short.

7/27 - Dungeon Siege III. I wasn't really planning on going on another "date" with DS3, but she was available and I only had a little while to play. Plus, she does show a gamer a good time, if not a fancy one. I did try out the PS3 version and a) the graphics aren't any better, and b) I tried running a strictly melee character and didn't like the combat - guns are definitely the way to go. I might have to break it off with DS3 after this, but ya never know if I might have to give her a booty call again. I mean, take a look at this "art":

7/28 - Feeling a little out of sorts, I decided to pull out the Vita and do some sofa gaming. The game I picked was Three-Fourths Home and I don't know if I really understand what it exactly is. You are holding a conversation with your family while driving, which consists of keeping a finger on the back touch panel, advancing the story with the right bumper, selecting responses with the left thumbstick, and confirming with the X button. If that sounds uncomfortable, that's because it is! This is more interactive fiction than game and I'm not sure at this point if the ending will be worth the finger contortions required to finish.

7/29 - Except for a little bit of #1 (or #2, can't remember), I've never played any of the Saint's Row games. So, for whatever reason, I thought I'd give Saint's Row III: Gat Out Of Hell a try...the last expansion to all the SR games. Go figure. Basically, it was a brief experience a little reminiscent of the GTA games, but with worse graphics and demons all over the place. I will admit that the flying aspect (with dark angel wings) was sort of cool, but I had a lot of trouble with the controls. I'll put this in the "well, I gave it a try" category.

7/30 - No real gaming session today. Did a quick PUBG run and made it to the top 10 without getting shot or shooting anyone else - the barrier got me. Played a tiny bit of Mighty Number 9. Tried a little bit of Ziggurat which turned out to be a super hard FPS with a horrible POV - about 3 inches off the floor.

Miscellaneous Musings

Thought it might be time to change the format a little, so I'm embedding vids and screenshots in the text instead of just dumping them in all at the end. I'm also highlighting (ie, bold effect) the names of the games in each entry. I was going to put the boxart pics back in like I used to, but it's too much work to download the image, save it, then insert it.

Has anyone ever made a game where your character is a blow-up doll?

Doldrums - I don't know if it was Comic Con interference or just my mood in general, but I'm having trouble picking a game to really get into. I'd like to dig into something that I feel like I can realistically finish and will be rewarding. Looking over this month's entries, I've been all over the place. Dungeon Siege III is something I know I could get through, but I just don't feel like it's worth that much time - too old, and too much of the same thing over and over. Big open world games are great, but I just don't have the hours it would take to make a meaningful dent in one. I don't know how I made it 100+ hours in Fallout 4, but I doubt I can do that again on my current schedule.