Category Archives: Lists

What I’m Playing This Week

I’ve played a lot of games over the past week or so (surprise). There was a Steam sale on and though I should be saving for Christmas, I gave myself a small budget to knock a few things off my wishlist.

Here’s what I’ve been playing…

Fallout 4

It’s finally over. It started out well, but eventually turned into a real slog. That happens with all the open world games, really. I may write up a real review of this one soon.

Dead in Bermuda

I started playing this game on a Friday night and basically didn’t stop playing until Saturday night, aside from a few hours of sleep. This game has a “just one more turn” factor, like Civ.  You play as a group of 8 people who have crashed on a desert island. While doing the normal resource management stuff – finding food, crafting, gathering materials – you also explore the island and run into some mysterious beings who mention a prophecy that you can fulfill which will grant you the power to escape the island. The goal is to find out more and fulfill the prophecy before you all die from starvation, injury, sickness, or from throwing yourselves off a cliff. The encounters while you explore the island are quite amusing, and each day ends with a discussion among the characters which may have implications on their physical and mental state.

Dead in Bermuda

The game is really attractive with a nice, clean interface. It’s not overly complex once you get the hang of it, and it does save your progress each day do you don’t necessarily have to start over if everyone dies. A big part of the game is leveling up the characters. There are 16 different skills that all impact some element of the game in some way – people with high gathering skills find more materials, people with high constitution get less fatigued.

There’s not a ton of incentive for replay, as it seems very little of the game is randomized aside from exactly where things are located and a few character interactions. Hawever, I had a lot of fun with it. I recommend it to those of you who are looking for a good survival/resource management game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Jade Empire

After all the Bioware talk last month, I felt the need to play the one game from them I’d never tried – Jade Empire. It’s from the same era at Knights of the Old Republic, and it feels very similar. Rather than a user of the Force, you play as a Spirit Monk. Your village gets attacked at the start of the game, your teacher (who seems to be more than he appeared) disappears and you have to go find him to find out the truth about who you are and why you have strange powers.

As expected, the story and interactions with companions are the highlight of the game and there are a lot of interesting sidequests. The combat in the game is quite different than any of Bioware’s other games though. It’s mainly melee combat and each fight is a balance of weak and strong attacks, blocking and dodging. There are multiple different fighting styles and you can switch between them freely. I’m really enjoying this and it’s making me want to replay KOTOR.

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock

I’m a sucker for an adventure game (or any game) set in space, so picked this one up not too long ago. It’s an okay point and click adventure. Your aim in the game is to repair your ship which has crash landed on a mysterious planet. The story is decent, as are the controls. It does run into the adventure game problem of having a bit too much inventory to deal with – it seems like it could have been reduced for clarity (i.e. do we need both a steel pipe and a steel rod to solve problems?) This resulted in some mindless attempts at combining objects to get past certain puzzles. Also, the voice acting of the main character wasn’t great. Overall it wasn’t bad, but I don’t really recommend this one.

Banished

Banished is a city building strategy game. While I generally like strategy games, this one made me realize how little patience I have for learning complex new games. There are so many features and things to build, it was overwhelming. After spending 20 minutes doing one tutorial and realizing there were 4 or 5 more to go, I decided this probably wasn’t the game for me.

BRoken Sword: Shadow of the Templars

It doesn’t really feel like it, but this point and click adventure game is 20 years old. It follows George, an American lawyer, and Nico, a French journalist as they solve a mystery that involves intrigue, murder, and Templars. I surprised I hadn’t played any of the Broken Sword games earlier, as I love adventure games and I was playing a lot of them when this first game out.

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the TemplarsThe game has it’s good and bad points. The writing is clever and well done, though occasionally too verbose.The puzzles are hit and miss. I had actually started this earlier in the year but quit after the first series of puzzles, which were particularly bad. It started with a sliding block puzzle – not a bad puzzle, sliding blocks are just my personal kryptonite – followed by a ridiculous inventory puzzle that involved using a bullet casing for pretty much everything and a lot of back and forth in order to get into a secret room.

I’m glad I came back to it, as the rest has been pretty good and there have been different puzzle types, like ciphers, which I’m particularly fond of. I think I bought the whole series at one point, and I’ll likely continue on with them when I’ve finished this.

What have you been playing?

What I’m Playing This Week

Between the long weekend and being off sick from work one day last week, I’ve had a chance to play a lot of games over the past little while. Here’s what I’ve been playing.

Gravity Ghost

Gravity Ghost

I picked this one up a while ago and just tried it out this past week. What a thoroughly charming game. It has a great art style that looks like pastels on dark construction paper and very relaxing gameplay. It’s about a little ghost girl who is searching the cosmos for her lost fox friend and it manages to be both sad and uplifting. Each level has you collecting stars, or sometimes reuniting animal spirits with their bodies. The game plays with gravity, with different types of celestial bodies causing different reactions and pulls on your character. While there’s a bit of a puzzle solving element in reaching your goals, its also feasible to just float around until you find your way there. Like a happy accident.

Undertale

I heard this was a great RPG and I was interested to try it out, but not in any rush. When I heard the gameplay used bullet hell mechanics my need to play became more pressing. Undertale is quite charming. It’s full of wit and humour and put a smile on my face at times. However, I’m not overly fond of the gameplay. During combat, you can attack opponents or interact with them in some other way. When you get attacked is where the bullet hell mechanics come in and they really aren’t great. It’s basically a tiny box in the middle of your screen with your character represented by a heart and you need to move around to avoid objects that start moving through the box. I guess that’s technically what a bullet hell (minus the quite important ‘shooter’ bit) is, but it’s not fun or flashy and you have to move around with your keyboard. Ew.

Undertale’s big draw is that it subverts normal RPG tropes. The biggest one being that you don’t have to kill monsters – you can talk to them or interact with them in some way to make them surrender. However, without killing things you gain no XP so the no-kill route is the harder path. I’ve heard people complain when things get too tough that they don’t want to ruin their no-kill playthrough. There’s something very unnatural feeling about this – choosing how you’ll play a game beforehand. Placing these kinds of restrictions on yourself, and having gameplay that totally supports and even encourages this, feels  strange. Inorganic. My favourite parts of many RPGs are being able to use your character’s particular set of skills to complete an objective without combat. Often pumping skill points into things like Intellect or Charisma means you’re not as good of a fighter when combat is unavoidable. Undertale takes this to a whole other level by completely removing any measure of character progression, a very important part of an RPG, and replacing it with… feeling good about yourself for not killing monsters? It does raise questions about how much punishment you’re willing to take to do the “good” thing, but I’m still in the camp that thinks gameplay should be enjoyable. Maybe I’ll write some more about this when I’m further in.

The Beginner’s Guide

The Beginner's Guide

The Beginner’s Guide is… a game. It’s from one of the co-creators of The Stanley Parable, which I loved. This game, on the other hand, I didn’t love as much. It tells the story of a developer named Coda. A narrator walks the player through games created by Coda, giving us his interpretation of what they say about their creator. I think The Beginner’s Guide has some very apt things to say about player entitlement and not respecting the boundaries, of projecting ones own needs and interpretations onto games and their creators. The problem is that it’s just not very fun or interesting to play. The games we’re introduced to are all quite dull, and the narration becomes very disturbing by the end. So, while I appreciate some of the messages, the game itself was repellent to me. What I do like though, is all of the great discussion it has spawned. See Cameron Kunzelman’s review at Paste, or Laura Hudson’s article at Offworld, or Spidey J’s post on Medium.

Silent Hill

PS1 and PS2 survival horror games hold a special place in my heart, but I’ve never beaten Silent Hill. I played it as a teenager, for a very brief amount of time. The sound the radio made when monsters were near creeped me the fuck out and I quit. I maybe played for 30 minutes.

Now I’m older, wiser, and hopefully braver, so I’ve started playing again. I’ve made it to the school, so I’m already doing better. While the graphics of the PS1 don’t hold up particularly well the game still manages to be unnerving. The fixed camera angles are effective and the sound effects are chilling. I’m not thrilled with the tank controls but I want to know what happens enough to continue on.

Out There

Out There

Out There is a mobile game. I’ve very selective about which mobile games I play, but an article by Kaitlin Tremblay on Playboy.com got me interested in this one. It’s a roguelike, a genre I’m generally not interested in, but I liked the concept. You play an astronaut, lost somewhere, in some galaxy, trying to find your way home. You jump from planet to planet, searching for resources that will keep you going, technologies that will help you, and even meet aliens. The events you encounter are mysterious, often deadly, and always deftly written. The resource management aspect of the game is very difficult and you will die a lot. I’d love to reach the end of the game but I’m pretty much done with it now. I enjoyed the couple hours I spent with it though.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong

The Shadowrun series keeps getting better. This isometric, cyberpunk, RPG sends you to China, where your foster father has been killed. Soon you find yourself wanted by the police and need to become a shadowrunner to find out what’s going on. The game sends you on all kinds of interesting missions where you can solve problems with force, magic, wits, or technology.

Shadowrun’s gameplay keeps getting smoother and more refined, and the stories and missions more interesting. Dragonfall was good, but ran a little bit long, around 30 hours. Hong Kong clocks in around 15-18 hours which I thought was a perfect length. I’m even replaying this one to see some things I missed, which is quite an endorsement as I almost never replay games immediately. Also, this game is full of lady characters! So many of the major players are women which is always nice to see.

Best 100 Games of All Time

This week Edge magazine put out a list of the best 100 games of all time. The list has caused some stir. Partially because most of the games are really recent. Partially because as far as I can see, the list is completely without context or explanation. And partially because “best” is a totally subjective term and the whole idea of the list is stupid.

However… who doesn’t love stupid lists? So, I’m making my own. I dunno if there even are 100 games I can apply the word best to, but let’s try!

1 Planescape: Torment
2 XCOM: Enemy Unknown
3 Portal
4 Shadow of the Colossus
5 Mass Effect (series)
6 Star Ocean Second Story
7 Shadow Hearts Covenant
8 Knights of the Old Republic
9 Saint’s Row 4
10 Civilization (series)
11 Beyond Good and Evil
12 Bastion
13 The Witcher (series)
14 Dragon Age 2
15 Super Mario Brothers (series)
16 Quest for Glory (series)
17 Mario Party (series)
18 Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines
19 Final Fantasy X-2
20 Wolfenstein: The New Order
21 The Guardian Legend
22 The Swapper
23 The Pandora Directive
24 Tomb Raider
25 The Walking Dead s1
26 Batman Arkham Asylum
27 Spec Ops: The Line
28 Gun Nac
29 Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
30 Final Fantasy 7
31 Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
32 Monkey Island (series)
33 Under a Killing Moon
34 The Fall
35 The Cat Lady
36 Parasite Eve
37 Valiant Hearts
38 Final Fantasy 10
39 Snatcher
40 Alan Wake
41 Felix the Cat
42 Divinity: Original Sin
43 The Longest Journey
44 The Blackwell series
45 Ori and the Blind Forest
46 Dead Space
47 Shadowrun: Dragonfall
48 Fatal Frame 2
49 Legend of Dragoon
50 Metro 2033
51 Dead Rising (series)
52 Dragon Age: Origins
53 The Dig
54 ESPN NFL Football
55 TMNT: Turtles in Time
56 Limbo
57 Rayman Legends
58 Fallout (1&2)
59 Theme Hospital
60 The Last of Us
61 Baldur’s Gate (series)
62 Wasteland 2
63 Her Story
64 The Stanley Parable
65 Braid
66 King’s Quest (series)
67 This War of Mine
68 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
69 Tetris
70 Pillars of Eternity
71 Star Tropics
72 Gone Home
73 Remember Me
74 Planet of the Eyes
75 Dragon Age: Inquisition
76 Alice: Madness Returns
77 Gran Turismo (series)
78 Mario Kart (series)
79 Bioshock (series)
80 Deadly Premonition
81 The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
82 Afterlife
83 Resident Evil 4
84 Loom
85 Zuma
86 God of War
87 The Last Door
88 Fallout 3+
89 Lost Odyssey
90 Heavy Rain
91 Child of Light
92 D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
93 Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
94 Sunset Overdrive
95 Spyro the Dragon
96 Until Dawn
97 Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
98 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
99 Murdered: Soul Suspect
100 CS:GO

Well, what do you know – I got to 100. Honestly, after the top 30 or so the order doesn’t mean a whole lot. And after 60 or 70 I’m just listing games I liked a fair bit.

What do you think? Any omissions (that are likely omitted because I haven’t played them). Any surprises?

Gaming to-do list: Updates

This is for day 27 of Blaugust.

Blaugust is close to coming to an end. I’ve gotta say, these last few days are going to be hard. I’m so sick of blogging. I don’t want to read or write anything online.

Today I’m going to revisit my gaming to do list I made near the start of the month to see how I’ve done

  1. Post at least 1 video a week. hmmm, sort of. Though I haven’t posted 1 video every 7 days, I have posted 4 videos in August so that’s kind of like one a week. I will likely have a 5th out in a couple days.
  2. Get back to my “Doing it Right” series. Not really. I’ve started a script for an episode on XCOM but I still have lots of work to do gathering resources and screenshots. Hopefully in September.
  3. Play some PC games. I did this! This month I played through Lifeless Planet, Sunset, Planet of the Eyes, and finished Invisible, Inc.
  4. Finish The Witcher 3. I did it! I just finished. It took me 4 and a half months. SmartGlass tells me I played for 95 hours, I’m not sure how accurate that is. It feels like twice that. It was a great game, but I have to say, I could have done with it being much shorter.
  5. Get to rank 18 in HotS. Pssh. I went the opposite direction. I ended last season at rank 30 (a quick plummet from rank 22). This season just started I’ve only gotten up to 39 so far.
  6. Find an assassin hero I like in HotS. Sort of. I found that I’m better at Nova than I thought I’d be, but I don’t play her a lot.
  7. Find a tank I like in HotS. I like Anub’arak, but I’ve still never played him in ranked.
  8. Figure out how to capture game footage from retro consoles. Yes! My boyfriend got me an AV to HDMI upscaler, allowing me to connect the retro consoles to the capture device with HDMI. It also makes the games look nicer, yay!
  9. Finish my unfinished games. Invisible Inc. and Witcher are the only things I finished.
  10. Play Journey. Nope, not yet.

Good Stealth, Bad Stealth

This is day 19 of Blaugust.

This post was inspired by an article over at Midnight Resistance (this was going to be a comment, but there are no comments!) In the post, Andi complains about stealth sections in non-stealth games and asks readers to tell about their least favourite stealth sections.

I am usually not a fan of stealth in games. I’m too impatient to wait for enemy patrols to pass by or throw rocks as distractions. Here are some games that feature stealthy parts that I really didn’t enjoy.

The Last of Us

TLoU

I’m sure I’ve complained about this one before. I found the stealth sections, particularly in the first half of the game, extremely frustrating. Ammo and supplies were low, Joel only had a access to a couple different weapons. There were many areas with a good half dozen infected standing around and you had to stealth around, taking them out one by one. Usually one or two could be taken out fairly easily, but the others required you to throw bottles and things to distract them. I don’t mind stealth so much when sneaking by enemies allows me to avoid combat altogether, but in most of these sections combat was inevitable.

My biggest issue? I have a shotgun! I want to use it. Technically I could use it, but it alerts all the enemies in the area and taking on more than a couple at a time generally resulted in a horrible death. So I was forced to stealth around, stabbing zombies in the neck until there were only one or two left. These sections slowed the gameplay to a crawl and were the main reason I wasn’t overly impressed by my first few hours with the game.

Arkham… Anything

The first time you hang upside down from a gargoyle to make a surprise snare of an enemy and leave them dangling by their ankles it’s quite a rush. Same thing with dive bombing out of the shadows to take down a henchman with a gun. But the sixth? The tenth? The twentieth? It gets kinda old.

All of the Arkham games (at least the first 3, I haven’t played Knight yet) are filled with gargoyle rooms. Here the enemies are numerous and usually armed so you need to sneak around to take them out, lest Batman get overwhelmed. Honestly it gets old after a while, especially in the rooms that have a dozen enemies or more. Get to the face punching, Bats.

Dishonored

Maybe it’s unfair to put this in here since Dishonored is a stealth game. Or an action-adventure game. It’s up to the player. Sort of. You can choose to go around killing everything, or you can ostensibly get through the game without killing anyone (or at least very few people). How many people you kill can impact the ending of the game.

I tried to go the no-kill route when I played. That lasted about 12 minutes. Since the no-kill experience was ruined I had no choice but to turn into the most murderous bastard alive. The problem? The combat sucks. It’s clunky and not fun at all. So while the stealthy route is presented as a choice, it’s not much of one. You either go the mechanically solid but very slow stealth route, or you go through the game being subjected to the shitty shooting mechanics. In this case, the best choice to me was to quit.

But wait…

There is one game that, surprisingly, had stealth sections that I found very enjoyable.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein the New Order stealth

Wolfenstein is one of the best games I’ve played this year. It has a good story, really solid shooting mechanics, and all the weapons feel unique. It also has stealth. What is it that makes stealth in Wolfenstein feel so rewarding, while most games make it feel like a chore?

I can’t totally put my finger on it, but I have a few ideas. The first person perspective makes things more interesting. Whereas in The Last of Us I was watching Joel stab a zombie in the neck, in Wolfenstein I felt like I was stabbing things in the neck. Hmm… that sounds a bit psychotic now that I’ve typed it out. Anyway, the first person perspective was certainly more immersive.

Wolfenstein also made great use of sound to let you know when you were safe or not. From dogs softly snoring to Nazis in mech suits stomping around, you didn’t necessarily have to see your enemies to know they were there. I find relying on sound much more interesting than the magical ability to see through walls.

The biggest reason, I think, is that failing at stealth in Wolfenstein had a much different result than failing in other games. If you got spotted in The Last of Us, the ensuing scramble would likely bring every enemy running. And then you’d die. If you got spotted in Batman when you hadn’t taken out enough armed enemies, everyone would start shooting. And then you’d die. When you get spotted in Dishonored you have to take part in unenjoyable combat. Or die. In Wolfenstein, what happens after you’re discovered is still enjoyable. It might make things a bit harder, but it’s not a death sentence most of the time. Plus, the ensuing firefight is always a heck of a lot of fun.

What are your thoughts on stealth? Any particular examples stand out as good or bad uses of it in games?

The Most Annoying Game Mechanics

This is day 16 of Blaugust.

Today I was complaining about a couple of my least favourite game mechanics on Twitter and I thought hey, why not make a blog post out of it. It is past the mid-point of Blaugust now and my topic ideas are growing thin.

It’s the Fall that’s gonna kill you

What a pain in the butt fall damage is. You’re in a raid in WoW, mis-time walking onto an elevator and boom, you’re dead. You’re playing The Witcher 3, Geralt stumbles down 3 steps and boom, he’s dead. There are some places where death by falling makes sense. If you fall off a path and there’s no way to get back up then, yes, the fall should kill you. But otherwise, do we really need to take falling damage? Does it add to the experience in any way? You could make the realism argument, but few other mechanics are very realistic. I’d rather not be punished for taking a shortcut down a hill.

Durability Loss

Here’s another one that I don’t get at all. Why do weapons and armor need to degrade with use? In most games – WoW, Diablo, The Witcher 3, Fallout 3 – keeping your gear in repair is just a gold sink. Generally when your armor breaks in combat there’s not much you can do but hope you survive it, then go find a blacksmith. Sometimes they’re close by, sometimes they’re not. Some games have portable repair kits, but those cost money too. Degrading gear durability adds nothing but hassle to games.

Losing your weapons

I hadn’t noticed this until recently, then I couldn’t stop noticing it. Protagonists in survival horror or action games have a tendency to lose their weapons. In Deadlight, I’d often gather weapons and ammo only to have them gone when I started a new chapter. One minute they’re there, the next they’re gone, and with no explanation. In Alan Wake, I’d collect a veritable arsenal – revolvers, rifles, shotguns, maybe an axe or two – then I’d get into a car and next thing I knew, all my guns were gone! Alan, what are you doing with your weapons? Just tossing them in the back seat and forgetting about them? Throwing them out the window! You need them? There are monsters! Get yourself some holsters.

Bad Cameras

Sometimes game cameras do terrible things. One terrible thing is making you run towards the camera, which generally flips the controls around and is super annoying. Another annoying thing is when fixed cameras make awkward transitions between scenes, like when you exit a room on the right of the screen (so you’re pushing right on the stick/d-pad) and somehow the camera flips in the next room so pushing right makes you go right back out the door you came in. It drives me nuts and happens in a ton of games – FF7, Deadly Premonition, Rule of Rose, just to name a few.

Are there any game mechanics you aren’t a fan of?

Video Game Crushes

This is day 13 of Blaugust.

Today I saw two posts, from And Then She Games and Mrluvvaluvva about video game crushes. I like this topic and game crushes was one of my favourite questions from the gamer questionnaire I made a while back, though some people scoffed at it. PS, if you’re looking for a Blaugust topic and haven’t done this yet…

So, here are some of my crushes from video games.

Cullen

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Cullen - Dragon Age Inquisition

/swoon

Cullen has supplanted Alistair as my main Dragon Age man. Sorry Alistair. He’s sweet, handsome, has a nice solid desk, and wears a feathered ruff that David Bowie would envy.

Katrina

Quest for Glory 4

Katrina - Quest for Glory 4

When I run into her outside of The Dark One’s cave at the beginning of Quest for Glory 4, I know this woman is clearly bad news. But I don’t care. She’s dark, mysterious, powerful, and always leaves you wanting more (at least until she reveals her true nature and tries to plunge the world into darkness). Also, she’s voiced by Jennifer Hale.

Sephiroth

Final Fantasy 7

Sephiroth

Yeah, I know. I’m the worst. Shut up.

Jeanette Voerman

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Jeanette Voerman - Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

As a fellow Malkavian, Jeanette was constantly hitting on me when I visited her at her club, the Asylum. Aaand, it worked. Her mad musings are kind of poetic, and we get along just like fire hoses.

Gabriel Knight

Gabriel Knight

He’s kind of a jackass, but he has really nice hair and is full of smart ass comments. He also happens to be a Schattenjäger, hunter of shadows. Plus in the second game, The Beast Within, there’s this kinda hot FMV scene with him and Baron von Glower.

 The Boss

Saints Row series

Saints Row 4

Since you make your own character in Saints Row, The Boss is basically just me, as a gang leader, with purple hair and Laura Bailey’s voice. So putting her on my crush list is kinda masturbatory and narcissistic, but fuck it, I love her.

Who are your video game crushes?