Category Archives: Steam

What I’m Playing This Week

With the holidays last week, I had a ton of time to play games and managed to get through a few Steam titles plus play some of my Christmas presents. Here’s what I’ve been playing.

Grand Theft Auto V

Oh, GTA, where to begin? I hadn’t played a GTA game since Vice City, and while I completed the game I found the experience just okay. After all the recent discussion about GTAV, and all of the amazing reviews its gotten since being re-released for next gen (and getting it for Christmas), I figured it was time to play it myself. I’m only 5-6 hours in, but I have to ask – how the hell did this game get so many review scores of 9.5 and 10? Maybe it just hasn’t hit its stride yet (it did take me a few hours to start liking The Last of Us or DAI too), but the game is just not that fun. So far the game is 90% driving (I guess the title does kind of give that away), and I’ve never found Rockstar to be very good at driving mechanics. Hit one pole and you knock it over and keep going, hit another pole or a chain link fence and you smash to a dead stop. Lightly sideswipe another vehicle and go fishtailing down the road for 300 meters. Plus as far as I can tell, there’s no drift button. Other than driving, and occasional shooting, I’ve also played tennis, rode a bicycle, and swam. I just unlocked the ability to do triathlons which is bizarre. What the hell am I playing?

I think of GTA in much the same way that I think of Goodfellas. It looks good, it has great cinematography and acting, a script with lots of swearing, but every character is just awful, so I don’t give a shit what happens to them. I don’t need characters to be likable but I need something to make me care about them, make me want to know their story. So far GTA has given me nothing to hold my interest. As I play the game the main thought that goes through my head is – I wish I was playing Saint’s Row.

The Path

I’ve been wanting to play The Path for years (really couldn’t tell you what was stopping me) and I finally picked it up during the holidays. In a take on Red Riding Hood, six sisters are each sent to their grandmother’s house and told to stay on the path. Of course, if you stay on the path, you fail. Each girl must go into the woods to explore and find their version of The Wolf.

The Path - six girls

The Path is hard to describe. Gameplay is minimal, you explore the woods, finding objects that the girls can interact with before meeting the wolf and ending up at Grandma’s house. The narrative is not explicit, most of what happens is up to the player’s interpretation. For me, this was a story about girls venturing out into a scary world that changes them, forces them to grow up and lose their innocence. So it’s not the most cheerful game in the world, but it was worth playing.

Blackwell Epiphany

The Blackwell series are really great adventure games, and the finale is no exception. You play as Roseangela Blackwell who, with the help of her spirit guide, helps lost souls to realize they are dead and move on.

Blackwell Epiphany - Rosa and Joey in a graveyard

Besides having great adventure puzzles, the Blackwell series tell an excellent story that really progresses from game to game. It doesn’t feel like a series of episodes connected only by the characters, but like a true progression, with each game building up to this conclusion. Rosa’s character really develops through the series as her experience grows and she learns more about her abilities. I thought Epiphany was a very fitting, though sad, end to the series.

Catherine

Fuck these fucking blocks.

Tales from the Borderlands

I went ahead and gave this a look, despite tiring of Telltale and only one episode being out. I’m enjoying it. As I expected, the comedy does make a difference. I also don’t feel like this game is deceitfully dangling meaningful choices and multiple paths in front of my face. The options seem more about developing the characters’ personalities to my liking as opposed to changing the story. This game also makes me want to play more of the original Borderlands series.

One thing that is bugging me (which is true of all Telltale games on console) is that the right stick just tries to do too much. It’s used to find and select objects, it’s used for 1st and 3rd person aiming, it’s sort of used for camera. As a y-axis inverter it makes gameplay rather awkward.


I’ve also played The Fall and This War of Mine, but I think I might write up full reviews for those.

What have you been playing?

Jurassic Park: The Game (Review)

So much for going through my Steam backlog alphabetically.

Jurassic Park: The Game was developed by Telltale and released in 2011. I’ve been slowly playing my way through it over a number of months. It’s not a long game but it’s well-suited to being played in small doses.

Jurassic Park: The Game intro screen

Dinosaurs.

First, I have to say, I love the movie Jurassic Park. I saw it in theaters 3 times when I was 10, I saw it when it was re-done in 3D (despite avoiding going out to movie theaters otherwise), I re-watch it at home at least once a year. It’s one of the rare things from childhood that isn’t solely enjoyed through a lens of nostalgia-tinted glasses. It’s still an exceptional experience for me now. So I might have a better opinion of the game than others who aren’t so taken with it.

Jurassic Park: The Game takes place within the timeline of the first movie, but with completely new characters. When Nedry doesn’t make it to the boat with the dino embryos, a mercenary is sent to retrieve them. Other major characters include the park veterinarian and his daughter and some more mercenaries, sent in by InGen to rescue the people remaining in the park. You play all of these characters – a total of 6 of them – at some point during the game, and the transitions between characters are seamless. Perhaps a little too seamless, as it was sometimes hard to tell when a switch had happened.

Jurassic Park: The Game Harding, Jessie, and Nima

Though the story isn’t anything exceptional, it’s true to the spirit of the movie. People being awestruck by dinosaurs and surviving attacks is pretty much the point. The writers are able to create a good amount of tension as each of the main characters have their own, often conflicting motivations. The dialogue sounds natural and the voice acting is competent. The environments are also well done, using replicas of the scenes from the movie, along with some new areas.

While this game adheres to Telltale’s general oeuvre, it’s also quite different from the more recent releases. The story isn’t as strong, so I didn’t grow attached to any of the characters as I did in The Walking Dead. As a result, JP isn’t soul-crushing like many of the later Telltale Games. It doesn’t make you love characters over the course of a game only to kill them in front of you and make you think it’s your fault for bad decision making. There are decisions to be made, but they aren’t difficult and rarely have the same weight or consequences as a decision in TWD.

Jurassic Park: The Game - Harding being eaten by a T-Rex

You might see death scenes like this a lot.

In terms of gameplay, I found JP to be a lot more fun than TWD or A Wolf Among Us. Now, I am someone who likes quick time events, so if you don’t you can take this with a grain of salt. JP felt more game-y than the recent Telltale games. There were many more places where you could fail, and more puzzles too. The QTEs could often be quite unforgiving, requiring some very fast twitch reactions, though not every failure resulted in death. There’s a medal system for each scenario. No mistakes gave you gold, while if you made many mistakes you could end up with a bronze or no medal at all. These medals didn’t seem to impact anything other than my pride though.  If you fail a critical event, your character dies, but not permanently, you just have to redo it until you succeed.

Though the story and characters aren’t particularly memorable, I enjoyed my time in Jurassic Park. The 4 chapters in the game took a total of about 7-8 hours to complete. I do recommend using a gamepad if you’re playing this on PC, it made the QTEs (with one notable exception) much easier.

Rating: 7/10 – A fun game that captures the spirit of Jurassic Park with a lot of dinosaurs and fast-paced action sequences. Unless you don’t like quick-time events, then you should skip this one.

Analogue: A Hate Story

I used to be a gamer who was proud of having a small library of steam games that I actually played. Over the last year though, I’ve become one of those people, frivolously partaking in every sale and buying way more games than I have time to play them. As I’ve just reached 49% unplayed games in my library, I decided I needed to do something about it. Clearly the answer is to play more games. Inspired by Dahakha’s Steam Challenge, I’m going to try to work my way through the unplayed games in my library.

Steam library

I’ve also got about 30 games in a Finished category, and about a dozen in a Go Away category of games I’m not interested in. Does it drive anyone else crazy that you can’t delete DOTA from your library when you never wanted it in the first place?

Anyway, I thought I’d start at the top so the first game I played, when I could drag myself away from Dragon Age, was Analogue: A Hate Story. Analogue is a visual novel with a lot of choose-your-own-adventure aspects and a touch of dating sim, maybe. In the game, you are investigating a generation ship that disappeared 600 years ago and has just been found. You’re tasked with finding out what happened by reading through the ship’s logs. The ship has two AI which can help you with your mission, though they aren’t particularly reliable narrators.

Gameplay mainly consists of reading through the ship’s logs and asking the AI about them, who may then open up new logs for you. The main interface for accessing the logs is slick, attractive, and very easy to use. There is also a Linux console interface which you use to perform certain actions on the ship, such as enabling or disabling the AI, or downloading the log files. As someone who has never used Linux I found this interface a bit puzzling at first. It’s the first thing you see when the game starts and it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was expecting me to do.

The most exceptional part of the game is the writing. The logs, written as diary entries are enthralling. There are multiple authors and each one has a clear and distinct voice. They paint a picture of a spacefaring society that has somehow regressed into a medieval patriarchy. You don’t get access to all the entries though, and often get things out of order, so you need to piece together the story for yourself. Depending on which AI you have active, you may learn some parts of the story but not others. It’s quite well done.

Analogue: A Hate Story - conversation with Hyun-ae

As for the interaction with the AI though… ehh. One AI is a giggly, cosplay-loving schoolgirl. The other is a casually misogynist and homophobic security program.  If I had known nothing about the creator of this game, Christine Love, I likely would have written the game off as sexist drivel and quit before I got too far in. However, I assumed that there was probably going to be a bigger point or message to the game, so I continued.

Analogue made me feel a number of the same things that To the Moon did, though not as strongly. The overall story and writing is great, but the two characters that are around to comment on everything just bugged the hell out of me. I think that was part of the point, but I don’t really play games to be annoyed. Based on interests and gaming preferences, I don’t think I’m quite the target demographic for this game.

I haven’t played a ton of visual novels before, the most similar experience I’ve had to this was Long Live the Queen. An aspect of the genre I find hard to reconcile is that I want to see multiple endings, but the process of replaying and trying new things to get to those endings is exceedingly tedious. Careful use of saves can reduce the amount of repetition, but it’s hard to know exactly when the important branches take place and I find myself mindlessly clicking through things I’ve already read/seen way more than is enjoyable.

Verdict: Recommended for those who like the genre. The writing is strong and the story is compelling. While I personally don’t enjoy the repetitiveness required to experience all of the endings, I think this game will appeal to fans of visual novels.