What game are you playing?

I’ve been continuing a recent spate of playing RTSes and so this past week dusted off They Are Billions. I played a bunch of this about a year ago but never got good enough to survive a map, but this time looked up some tips and was able to successfully survive the final wave on an easy difficulty (42%)

It has pretty good core RTS mechanics and it’s very moreish, but I have some real qualms about it. First of all survival mode is really poorly balanced. There is a series of about half a dozen waves but the last one is an enormous spike in difficulty, so after mastering the basics the real challenge is surviving that final wave. Fundamentally this requires a strong enough economy to build up defenses, but since you can easily survive the earlier waves with a weak economy, you can get yourself into a situation where you’ve already lost the game but don’t know it yet because you aren’t going to see the final wave for another hour of play time.

The other thing is that actually understanding how to build that economy sort of requires deeply embracing the colonialist themes at a mechanical level. What I had been doing wrong before was playing much too defensively, building walls and expanding slowly, so as not to risk the colony falling prey to the zombies. But in fact the better way to survive is the flip that on its head and go on the offensive. This means aggressive expansion that feels like domination, along with a systematic purging of the zombies that are just chilling on the map (not part of waves attacking you). Nothing about the game makes me feel like it’s interrogating this at all, there’s a kind of immature feeling to the unit barks and so on that does not make the game feel well thought out.

It’s kind of too bad because it’s an RTS that really embraces real-time-with-pause and that makes it in some ways more accessible than some other RTS games that stubbornly refuse to implement active pause (like Northgard)

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I have similar problems approaching 4x games these days. Ironically, one of the few strategy games where just focusing on developing and defending your own territory is not just viable but actually fun is the one with the word “crusade” in the fucking title.

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I’m playing the Pikmin 3 demo. The player characters speak in a language that’s like all made up. But I SWEAR it is the same kinda noises/language Professor E Gadd from Luigi’s Mansion used. Is he one of em???

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I played some Stronghold Legends because I really liked that game when it came out and I’m not sure it really holds up but building a castle and making soldiers patrol the walls is still fun. Also the multiplayer VO insults which are 80% movie quotes in ye old english are still funny to me as all ye old english insults are.

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I’ve been playing Destiny 2: Beyond Light and finding it unspeakably frustrating compared to previous years. Previous iterations of Destiny 2 have been very good about getting returning players back onboard the loot treadmill, but this game assumes you’ve been playing more or less all along. I know the “Go do bounties for this person” quests from previous expansions have amounted to busywork for more enfranchised players, but they give Destiny Catholics (i.e. I show up once a year on Destiny Christmas) like me a chance to collect some new gear and get up to par for their new content. But I was 18 points beyond this boss and died 15 times, which was more than enough to convince me to go get on the loot treadmill. Except they lock most of the good loot-earning opportunities behind finishing the campaign. It’s a strangely off-putting loop in a game that I usually find to be much better-attuned.

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After a bit of a hiatus for a bunch of reasons, and a brief jaunt with Astro’s Playroom (which, in and of itself, is a genuinely great 3D platformer), I finally started Miles Morales today. Having played Spider-Man earlier this year, the previous game was pretty fresh in my mind — and in a lot of ways, for better and worse, this feels like a good extension of it. The annoying copaganda is still there, and the first mission really just lays it on thick, but it feels so good to be swinging around this version of NYC again. It’s still a supremely strange time and year for this game to come out, but goddamn if it isn’t still one of the best-feeling things I’ve ever played.

I’m also playing this on a PS5, so I got to try out the Fidelity vs. Performance mode that’s been the focus of some podcast and forum discussions around here… and I feel like I’m falling on the slightly less popular side of preferring Fidelity/cinematic/30fps? Which is odd to me, since I’m very used to my PC with its 1080 and its uncapped framerates — but for some reason the much, much bigger screen and longer distance to my TV made 60fps feel almost too smooth for me. Moreover, I missed a lot of the detail that seemed to disappear when I jumped up to performance. I tried it out for a mission, but ended up going back down to cinematic mode, and that just felt a lot more comfortable, so that was where I’ve stayed.

(All that said, new Peter Parker is very weird and I do not like him.)

I am way late to be replying to this comment, but I did have a small thought — if castles and armor and fantasy lore are what’s drawing you to Dark Souls, you might not find exactly what you’re looking for there. Dark Souls 2, on the other hand, might really deliver on that. The lore is a little more forefronted, and oriented around royals, knights, kingdoms, and the decay of a once-vast empire. There are lots more characters and plotlines that revolve around those themes (plus the DLC too). The combat is also a bit faster and more fluid than DS1, which honestly I found much easier to pick up when I played, while it’s still not as frenetic and aggression-oriented as Bloodborne. It’s honestly my favorite of the three Souls games by far, largely because of its world design and narrative elements, which I genuinely think you’d appreciate. A lot of its themes surround loss, decay, memory, and the process of becoming forgotten, which I just found really affecting.

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Thanks for the feedback! Unfortunately (or, honestly, fortunately as it limits the number of games I can amass in a backlog) I only have a Switch so, until an inevitable (??!) port, I don’t have a way to play Dark Souls 2. I also don’t have a way to play DS1 at the moment either as I bought my copy used online and wooooo boy has the postal service really slowed down in the last two weeks with, I assume, the holiday ramp up.

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I seem to be one of the few Godfall defenders. I’m playing it on PC and that game is not nearly as bad as everyone seems to say. It feels like Monster Hunter with Diablo/Borderlands loot. The endgame is a roguelike (random encounters, you get a random buff after each) and I think the builds are pretty interesting.

I really like monster hunting games like Monster Hunter World, Dauntless, and God Eater, so I’m having a good time.

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I haven’t played XCOM Enemy Within in a long time so giving that another go. I forgot how much QoL happened between the two games! I’m so used to in XCOM 2 being able to quick tab between all units and execute moves before others finish animating.

I also think this game is a lot harder then the new one. There’s a lot more choice in 2 for how to approach things early on. The complete lack of gun customization is mind blowing to go back to. Repeaters are genuinely broken in 2 and not having them is a shake up.

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Gears Tactics is on the Xbox Game Pass now so I’ve been playing that.

Found it to be a messy and easier introduction to the Xcom style of games which is good as I’ve really wanted to get into them for ages but worried that I would suck at it and the story wouldn’t draw me in enough to keep me interested in learning the genre. I’m a sucker for the Gears games so this is a great intro.

It’s as meaty as all the cover shooter titles in the series and just as satisfying to score a kill with an added edge of satisfaction in executing a perfect tactical manoeuvre. Every time I forget that I can overwatch a target, trigger the enemy’s overwatch with another character, have that enemy’s move interrupted and wipe them out is great. I’ve done it three times this week and forgot I could do it every time!

Feel like a lot of the upgrades and side characters are superfluous to the game and it’s overreliant on the Heroes but I am trying to rotate as much as possible and not rely overly on the same three characters. It’s working out pretty good. The customisation is fun as well on the side characters.

Looking forward to playing more and moving on to Xcom finally.

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I kind of preferred not having as much kit to fuck around with, to be completely honest.

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Ah well — 1 is still very good! I imagine there may be a port eventually but… I really have no idea. 2 is probably doable for them. 3 might be a little too intensive for the Switch. In any case, good luck when it finally comes! I think I’ve said this before, but I the first time I tried it I played maybe 3-ish hours and bounced off pretty hard, then came back a few months later and fell in love so hard that I played through all five Fromsoft games in about three months. Dark Souls is weird like that.

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I think from a game flow perspective you’re right. In 2 you spend a lot more time changing kits around then you do in EW. However I think the customizing of weapons and giving them bonuses is a good change for the game that just needs a better UI.

For example robojumpers squad select mod is a massive UI upgrade. There’s another I am having trouble recalling the name for off hand that does a good job of making the weapon loadout system a lot easier to navigate around.

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I thought after my review, I would be done with this game. But holy shit, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory cannot be put down. I spend many hours this weekend playing the hardest stages on Proud. And once I beat the most impossible stage, I had to go back to play another.

I think I’m truly done now since Dark Domination cannot be done by human fingers. :rage: But Wave of Darkness 1 and One-Winged Angel are some brutal shit man.

I also grabbed 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on sale at Gamestop yesterday. (Half price!!) And this game rules so far. I’m shocked nobody on the podcast has played this game yet, considering how serious Austin Walker-shit this is. You’re teenagers in giant robots fighting kaijus, with time travel and some kind of weird SSSS.Gridman mindbending stuff going on.

It’s a visual novel interrupted by some turn-based city defense strategy. With mechs. How can Waypoint miss a game like this?

Both are easily making my Top 10 for this year.

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I’m getting more consistent at beating Meg in Hades, though I can still only manage to do it reliably with ranged weapons or the shield. At one point, I got as far as Elysium before dying, which is cool. I just unlocked the second Death Defiance, so I feel like there’s a good chance I might get my first full clear… eventually.

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I am about an hour into Dark Souls Remastered on the Switch. Some background maybe first. This is my first time attempting a Dark Souls game in earnest after an utterly frustrating experience with Bloodborne four years ago in which I do not think I ever made it past the very first bridge and appearance of two hellish dogs. I probably spent 2-3 hours on the first 15-20 minutes of the first level. Since 2016 I have become a stronger gamer–said in jest but also I guess I do play more games now–and successfully completed Hollow Knight and everything spare the last boss of Ashen, two games that I understand are Souls-like and require a similar sort mindset or what have you. The way 2020 has unfolded globally, socially, personally, etc. has put me in a mindset where I think Dark Souls is now a game I can appreciate. I have found myself in the evenings too fried from work to read or do anything terribly demanding with words but wanting something methodical. There is also something of a cultural or broader appeal to the game. I really like the way people talk about the FromSoft games, more so, the way people feel compelled to talk about the Souls series and am hoping that attempting Dark Souls will somehow lift me from a general mental rut I have fallen into. I mean, I am writing this big meandering post on a forum (that I love) because I am trying to use a game as an excuse to get myself writing more again. On a lighter note, the fantasy/horror aesthetics are also extremely my thing in general.

Okay, onto my actual experience. I am playing this game relatively blind. I did a little googling to make sure that I do not have to know too much about stat builds or care too much about stats generally. I have, over the course of my life also watched PvP footage from these games and I guess am aware of some aspects because of being online, etc. but, on a whole, I am trying to go in relatively blind. In my first blind hour I have made it out of the tutorial area and done some very light poking around what appears to be my base camp. Poking around involved running from a swarm of skeletons and some pretty tense skirmishes with some soldiers. I have enjoyed how the plot has set itself up and the cynical man in chrome by the basecamp who explained something about bells but was also dismissive of the hero’s quest.

In terms of gameplay, the controls are very… odd? I cannot tell if this is due to coming from dinking around in Breath of the Wild but the default layout just doesn’t feel very natural. Is that meant to add an artificial level of difficulty or am I unique in how many times I accidentally tried to drink my flask instead of jumping or swinging a sword?

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You’re certainly not the only one to have that experience — it’s a weird scheme, and definitely one of the reasons the games have the reputation they have. As for where it comes from, I think Dark Souls as a game is just not interested in convention, and part of that is that its controls are fairly unique and intentional? Navigating the menus was what I remember struggling most with, since they’re controlled by the D-pad and don’t pause you, meaning you can still do basically every in-game action while in them. But I remember learning it all pretty decently after a few hours, and after that it’s like riding a bike.

(There’s also an added layer of weirdness on the Switch with Dark Souls Remastered, where the mapping of confirm/cancel to the A/B buttons match the PlayStation/Xbox layout and not the traditional Nintendo one. That always took a bit of adjusting for me, because I was used to a particular format on that console specifically.)

It’s also funny that you mention Breath of the Wild, because iirc Dark Souls’ controls are fairly reminiscent of older 3D Zelda games, back when Link jumping was entirely contextual. Which makes sense, considering how Zelda-influenced the entire series is.

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Doing a Survival Mode slow play of vanilla Skyrim. Never in nine years have I gone through the College of Winterhold, so a-wizarding we will go. Immediately got frostbite walking through a blinding snowstorm from the College to the entrance of Saarthal.

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This is currently driving me mad!

The other thing driving me mad…

Very cool to have taken this photo and then discovered the demon can jump.

Probably not the first to make this comparison but this game is proving to be a pretty good simulation of how I felt when stoned. I know exactly what I want to do but my reaction time is just off and my character kind of floats in this unnatural way. Fighting this demon a few times now and I have gotten a sense of how it moves (not really) but what is gumming me up is not being sure how I move. I roll too slowly after I push the button, sometimes drinking a flask takes a lifetime, I go for two swings of the axe when I wanted one, etc.

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This is the story of my last several Skyrim playthroughs. “I should try Survival Mode.” “Oh, I never really did a Mage playthrough, I should try that.” And then I freeze to death.

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