What game are you playing?

I finished Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (the first one) last night. It was fun, but it’s definitely the game that left me with the least to think about after finishing in recent memory. The game’s over! Everything’s wrapped up.

There were a couple spoiler-y choices I really liked, though. The Nazi ship section towards the end really elevated the last few hours of the game in my opinion. I liked the addition of a new enemy that doesn’t respect the system you’ve been working with (cover). But it’s also kind of a shame that the game’s controls don’t handle running and shooting zombies super great. Really good idea that the game wasn’t totally built to support. Still liked that section, though. Felt very different from the rest of the game.

I also enjoyed the fake-out villain twist at the end. Didn’t see the twist coming that Navarro was the one really pulling the strings. Liked that. Liked his boss fight less.

I’ve been told the series gets much stronger starting with the second game, so I’m excited to check that out after a little break. Uncharted games are about action, I get that, but I’d still like a bit more to chew on than the first one left me with.

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I just finished up Pixel Puzzle Makeout League and I absolutely adored it. Everything about the game is absolutely wonderful. If you like visual novels or picross, I strongly recommend it because it’s great at both of them. I want to shout about some of the cool things that happen in the ending but it’s all super spoilery so just know that it does some really wild things. I love this game so much, wowowow.

I’m also knee-deep in Pathfinder: Kingmaker and am mostly enjoying it! I’m not big on the Pathfinder/D&D parts of it but knocking the difficulty down a bit helped alleviate that. And besides that, the characters and plot have been a lot of fun so far! I don’t know that I’m terribly far in (~15 hours in, howlongtobeat says it’s 80+) so I’ve got a long way ahead of me but for now I’m totally okay with that.

And finally I started up Yakuza: Like A Dragon! I got through the first chapter which was almost entirely cutscene and, while I’m not as high on it as I was hoping to be, I am generally enjoying it. Ichiban hasn’t been as immediately endearing and likable as Kiryu was but he seems like a good boy. The story has started to take some turns that have me interested to play more and really dig in to the main portion of the game.

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Othercide is fairly hard, and fairly slow. I like it, but I wanted a more chill game, so I gave into the hype around AC, and started playing AC:Syndicate.

I like this iteration of AC quite a bit. I don’t really care about English history that much, so the ridiculousness of the way AC tends to use history is bouncing right off me. OTOH, the Industrial age City of London is as impressive as the way AC plays off orphan child workers as adorable scoundrels (while mechanically reinforcing that these children don’t have any choice but to work in dangerous conditions) is chilling. This came out around the same time as Watch Dogs 2, and there’s something going on in the way the B plots push against the “apolitical” conceit of the A plots of both of these Ubisoft games that is incredibly interesting. I feel like there’s a micro creative rebellion embedded in these games, and I want to hear more about it. It’s a game that can’t avoid the context of labour issues, even as it asks you to spend cash at the Ubisoft store to level faster and unlock cosmetics, and I’m here for that contrast. That and the absolutely lavish technical art budget that was spent on this game. After spending a fair bit of time in indie games this last few years, there’s something almost obscene about attention to visual detail here.

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I’ve just started AC Odyssey. Origins was my game of the year one year and I spent a silly amount of hours completing every location because I’m broken. However, I was also impressed massively by the character work in Origins.

I’m only a couple hours into Odyssey and i’m about to get a ship by the looks of things so the game will no doubt open up into that horrifically big map. But I feel i need that checklist game right now.

One weird issue i’m having is the control scheme seems off? I think it is mostly the parry being both bumpers, it just seem finicky. I don’t remember what I used for Origins but I played Syndicate this year too so maybe thats it. I might mess in the options and see if theres a more old school AC configuration.

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Continued some Star Renegades last night. It’s good, but I do think that runs might take a bit too long, and as mentioned in 3MA, can be ruined if you don’t get a synergistic party member when recruiting at the end of each planet.

All said, I made it to the final boss last night and died tragically close to killing them. It was a very fun run and I learned a lot about what to expect and how I can make better teams in the future. Now my big concern is how to keep up with the leveling curve cause I feel like I’m usually behind by the third planet

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After reading this post about Drone Swarm, I decided to try getting back into a different space RTS that also has ludicrous numbers of ships: AI War 2. A lot of what was great about the first one still applies but it’s fascinating what an improvement the sequel is.

I remember feeling a bit ho-hum about screenshots of it during early access because it looked like they had just slapped 3D models on the same design. And that’s not wrong, the core gameplay is still very similar; you’re still an insurgency fighting against an overwhelming opposition having to pick and choose your battles, and there’s still not very much story or character development because fundamentally it’s way closer to a wargame than a Paradox grand strategy or an Amplitude/Endless 4X game.

But there’s sooo many little changes, some of which seem like “quality of life” things but are really much more interesting. Here’s just two examples:

They’ve completely abstracted away scouting. The galaxy is automatically explored, so as you capture territory, neighboring areas get revealed. You never have to build scout ships and order them individually to explore. Rather than having to worry about the minutiae and micro of scouting, you get to focus on the more interesting stuff like making strategic decisions about which enemy planets to capture and which to leap frog.

Another big change is that you don’t build units like a traditional RTS. Instead all your units are organized into fleets, which consist of a carrier/construction ship and a complement of strike craft. To get more units you have to capture more of these carrier ships that are littered throughout the map. The carriers are invincible as far as I can tell, in that they can be crippled but can’t die. If the strike craft are eliminated and the carrier is in supply, it will just automatically rebuild them. This also adds an interesting layer of seeking out specific fleets to capture because their complement of strike craft are useful to you at that moment, for instance include cloaked stealth ships or siege bombers.

My first reaction was that both of these were too much oversimplification, making the game less detailed, but after playing for several hours I realized what bold design moves they are. The detail IS more coarse and less fine-grained, but that’s exactly the point. It really reminds me of tabletop wargames, which often purposefully abstract things away that are below the level of the simulation, especially if they are zoomed out to a “strategic” (whole theater) view of a conflict. The result is that you spend more time looking at the map of the whole galaxy, stroking your chin and plotting your next moves than you do fiddling around.

I genuinely can’t think of another sequel that simultaneously stays so faithful to the original while making these kind of real, non-graphics improvements at the same time. Also, the soundtrack still absolutely rules.

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I have a copy from the Kickstarter, but I’ve never got around to trying it out. I guess I need to bump it up my priority list!

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Played about half of Ape Out. It bangs pretty hard. The music being generated with your kills feels extremely kinetic, which I’m sure just about every reviewer said but it’s TRUE! Art and the record menus and scratches are also great. Was funny loading it up and seeing “Art by Bennett Foddy” now that he’s kind of notorious. Anyways, real fun and looks real good. Would recommend.

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Recently I’ve been playing games I got for free from Epic. Had a decent go at GTA V, Civ 6, Torchlight, Shadowrun Returns and Remnant from the Ashes. Nothing has piqued my interest yet, on to Hitman or Abzu next…

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Just started playing some Spider-Man: Miles Morales on ye olde PS4 and it’s great! A couple of hitches during cutscenes, but otherwise it plays well on last gen. Still the same charming tone, still an uncomfortable closeness with the prison-industrial complex, but it web slings real good. But yea, the intro so far was a great action packed romp. I’m a spider-mark so this is exactly my shit, can’t wait to play more.

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whoa you just reminded me I have an extra Steam key… gonna try to find a good home for it!

After hemming and hawing over it for a while, I picked up Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

I was immediately interested it since they announced that it would have turn-based combat because the combat, and even the simple act of moving around, in Yakuza 0 (the only other game in the series I’ve played) was just so dreadful. I was hoping to get far enough to see some of the wacky side stories or involved side activities but I hard quit after the first boss because I could not envision putting up with that game long enough to get to that stuff. I truly hated playing it… but I did keep it installed for a while just so I could play a nice digital version of Mahjong.

I took a chance on Like a Dragon in the hopes that I would vibe with it more and folks… I am loving it!

I got to the point in Chapter 5 where you get access to a full 4-person party and so many additional systems; the job change system, the business management sim, the kart racing game, the gig work superhero side quest system, and I’ve just been so taken by almost every part of this game.

I love that there are so many different ways the game lets you interact with the city and makes your party a part of the world. I love how ridiculous the premise of the combat becomes over time as you get more tools to play with inside of it like the summons, skills and jobs. I wasn’t expecting to, but I’m surprised how affecting some of the story beats have been so far? There’re some things that are a bit questionable (most of which have been mentioned on a recent Waypoint Radio) but there have been lots of heartwarming character moments in the story that really just got to me.

I rarely bother with AAA games these days especially on or near launch (because games really do be costing money) but I’m really glad I took a chance on this game because it’s truly something else. It already looks like it’ll be way too long, especially if I decide to engage with most of every system or side activity in the game, but I am at the very least committed to seeing the story through to the end.

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So I have been hitting a lot of duds lately. I didn’t like Spiritfarer, it was just a lot of busywork. I also didn’t like Ghostrunner, for being impossibly difficult on a controller. So that was $60 wasted. Also, $40 for The Pathless seems crazy steep, I can’t justify that to myself. I tried it on Apple Arcade and its unplayable and awful.

Anyway, thank god for Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory. It’s a whole game built on recycled assets with barely even a story justification for any of it. Just Sora, Donald, and Goofy (in that order) vibing on some rhythm game tracks. The whole thing is a minigame that costs $65.

And fuck, I’m loving it so far. That is so much fun, it is ridiculous.

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Pikmin 3. It’s good!

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I’ve been playing Ikenfell. I did not expect to like this game this much. I adore Gilda.

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I’m playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and it’s really good!! Basically all of my personal gripes with the past two games have been addressed, meaning there’s a lot less tedium to wade through on the way to the fun! The combat is harder, but it takes fewer hits to kill enemies, making it more engaging and less tedious. It’s a huge relief to be navigating a large land mass again. They quietly re-added fall damage, which is nice! Some mechanics and mini games from older games in the series are back, including the floating pieces of paper you have to chase over rooftops from AC4.

It seems like the ascendant opinion online is that Eivor isn’t a great protagonist, but I like her a lot! (Side note: female Eivor seems to be the cannon protagonist. I have the setting on where it changes for you, and apart from one scene I have been female the whole time.) I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, but I think she is the intentional version of the character people project onto Geralt. She’s gruff and violent, but there’s a lot of kindness and empathy under the surface. There’s subtlety and complexity in both the writing and performance.

Anyways, I’m only 10 or so hours in, but I’m really enjoying myself so far!

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As a result of some decisions, I ended up playing both Dragon Quest XI and Yakuza: Like a Dragon this week.

I don’t have much to say about DQ11. I like it quite a bit, it plays a lot like DQ8 which is the only other Dragon Quest game I’ve played. The story is standard fare shounen fantasy JRPG, and it does it reasonably well. I’m having a good time with it.

As for Yakuza: it’s fun, I’m enjoying playing it, I like the characters, and I really like the incorporation of JRPG mechanics. The thing is, it’s really making me want to get back to playing Yakuza 3. Most of the reasons for this are expressed in Dia’s review for Paste (it’s very good, go read it), but the kicker for me is how the change in combat style feels in the context of Yakuza. Defeating a boss is less viscerally exciting when you’re actually four people beating up on a dude, vs when you’re one absolute monster who got to this point by plowing through grunts with nothing but your fists. That said, I’m glad RGG Studio got to change it up for this one, and it’s still working for me enough that I’m going to continue playing.

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I have 180’d on male Eivor and am enjoying him a ton. I know what you mean about the Geralt comparison with female Eivor as well though that’s the exact impression I had. I’m always a bit dismissive of a lot of AC’s (and Ubisoft in general) writing but more often than not I think they really nail their main characters and make them very enjoyable to play as. If Eivor is being viewed in a less positive light than others then I would argue that’s mainly because they’ve had some belters in recent memory. I am big on the Eivors personally though.

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I’ve been trying to place how I felt about Eivor and why I really like her (also been playing on the ‘default’ mode), and you nailed it - she reminds me of Geralt a lot, which really goes to show how much this series has just gone full Witcher 3.

She’s got a good heart, she’s equal parts violent warrior and poet, and there’s a real salt-of-the-earth quality to her that I really like. I’m about 15 hours in, and I imagine that I’ll easily surpass the 60+ hour mark to see all there is to see.

I think the main change that I really like compared to the last two games is the way they changed loot. It was honestly annoying to constantly swap out my weapons for pretty similar other weapons with bigger numbers attached to them. The Valhalla system of continually upgrading gear sets and weapons has me in the menu less, and making more intentional choices about how I want to engage with the combat, and that’s a really great change in my book.

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Destiny 2: Beyond Light - I’m back on my Destiny bullshit again. I’ve finished the main campaign which was quite brief, but then the whole thing with Destiny campaigns is that you complete them to get back to the new grind. Europa feels like a mishmash of all the planets they just cut from the game, but I appreciate the more wide open spaces and it can be quite harrowing when a storm rolls in and you lose visibility during a firefight. Jury is still out on the return of the Cosmodrome, as there doesn’t seem to be much happening with it at the moment but it’s weird how much nostalgia it creates.

I also played Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War. I mean look… the series hasn’t changed, it’s still that American militarty jingoism as you commit war crimes with Reagan and the game seems to want you to love Frank Woods and the Robert Redford/Brad Pitt dude with the sunglasses as the sexy poster boys for 80s war crimes. The campaign looks very nice, and most of the levels actually feel very short and confined - which I was kind of into as it was less of a slog to get through. I was suprised that there are additional mechanics outside the shooting that made some of the spy stuff feel more interesting - however I kind of wish they would just remake Goldeneye or Perfect Dark as a Call of Duty game, a spy game with actual spy shit and stakes in which you could easily fail the mission.

There’s also a lot of that Black Ops 2 multi branching campaign stuff, which was quite welcome. You pick up evidence in the field which gives you clues for side missions which represent these nice little puzzles. One level has no shooting whatsoever as you figure out how to get your heavily armed bad boys into the Kremlin. It all goes a bit weird at the end as expected, the story was always going to go into Manchurian Candidate terriory - there is a sequence that has elements of Stanley Parable and PT even, but it’s more like the stuff they pulled in Black Ops 3 in which the war becomes a metaphor for internal mind hellspaces. Almost as if the developers are screaming out to not make any more Call of Duty games anymore. There are multiple endings of the game. I think I got the “bad” ending. But I was quite happy with the resolution to be honest.

It does feel buggy for a Call of Duty campaign, all the cinematics were screwed up like a still buffering youtube video and none of the audio synched up.

I also picked up Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but I’ve only played a little bit of it and to be honest, I might wait until I get a PS5 so I can get the free updgrade for it and play it in glorious 60fps. Early impressions seem solid, the combat feels nicer compared to Odyssey which felt a bit spongey. I took a nice stroll up a mountain but it did made me think about how in vogue Norse (and by extension Greek) mythology is with games at the moment. Having played through God of War, it feels weird to experience yet another take on Norse mythology. As your sailing your long boat, you can play music or get one of your crew members to tell a story that feels like a decision that was made after Ubisoft played God of War and liked what the head of Mimir brought to the overall game. I’m here for it! Ubisoft games have always been derivative like that, but at least they are responding to the right bits of other games.

Also, the opening landscape makes me pine to return to Ard Skellige in Witcher 3 more than anything else.