What game are you playing?

So, I’ve finished Control. Well, the base game anyway. I have the ultimate edition, so technically the two expansions are available to me, but I think that I’ve had my fill at this point.

Overall opinion: I liked it! Some of it I loved. The audiovisual design is incredible, although the preponderance of flashing lights and grey corridors could make it easy to lose one’s place. The performances are all top-notch, and the central characters, on the whole, compelling.

And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the most interesting aspects of this story and world were happening off-screen. This is one of the few games in which I was generally excited to find miscellaneous notes and journal entries, as the lore found within them was often exceptional. By comparison, however, what I was playing felt a bit standard to me. I kept wanting the game to really engage with the strange, obscure corners of its setting, to give me more ways of interacting with the world beyond entering a new corridor and killing everything in sight.

Obviously, that’s not the game that Remedy set out to make, and perhaps its unfair to judge them for not creating something more specifically attuned to my tastes. Still, I feel that, as much as I enjoyed myself, there was a lot of potential left on the table here. It’s a game that I would love to see iterated on, though I still appreciate the many things that it gets right.

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My opinion on both Control and Alan Wake is that the visual design is excellent and very memorable, the sound and atmosphere are amazing, the writing is great and compelling, and the game is not fun to actually play. I hope one day Remedy will make a game in this vein that either doesn’t have combat, or has combat that I don’t hate.

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I think Control is a ton of fun to play, personally. Still my top game of the last few years since I enjoy the combat and everything else about it. Running it on the Series X now has just deepened my love of it as it is now much more solid frame-rate wise and it looks even better than it did on my One X.

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Yeah, I think the feel of it is great. It does start out feeling a bit one-dimensional when all you have is the gun and a (kind of weak TBH) dodge and maybe a Launch that you can only toss out once in a while. But as you get more abilities and upgrade your Energy pool, things open up and it feels incredible.

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I’ve been continuing to play Monster Hunter World with my immediate friend group. We’re now onto what I think is the final boss of the game. I’m suprised by how much stuff the game is still throwing at us. Like we’re going after some of the core enemies, only to be attacked by a new set of beasts that seem to be worse than anything we’ve faced off before. Again, I love the big fish, little fish dynamic of the game. I still think the matchmaking sucks when your going through the game, the ability to not join friends is so archaic and inaccessible. One of my friends who isn’t as into the game as the rest of us is bascially having to do everything himself, and it’s clear he’s not having a good time of it.

Meanwhile, my warhammer craze continues unabaited. Last time I was struggling with Total War Warhammer 2, but now I’m getting a little better at battles. My favourite thing about this game, is how it marries the strategy with the fantasy, so whilst you do get to get the overiview of the odds stacked against you, there is the aiblity to pull off troop movements that make you feel like a genius, but then, your ‘ace in the hole’ turns out to be a giant dinosaur monster hiding in the trees ready to charge into the enemy archers. I’ve been playing as the dwarves and it’s hilarious when you’ve got this proper medieval battle happen and then you move in your helicopters to napalm the ranks from the sides.

Also gone back to Dawn of War 2. I was a big fan of the first game and it’s expansions when they first come out, but I was a little disappointed when I first tried Dawn of War 2 as it disregarded the mass unit approach with more tigher control over a handful of units. Part of the appeal of Dawn of War was seeing those big 40k battles come alive. However, I don’t think I was ready for what Dawn of War 2 was offering, which is more of a tactics approach, after a few years playing xcom and a bunch of other strategies that don’t just appeal to the old C&C/Starcraft mindset of harvest, build & attack approach I am finding the game a lot more agreeable and dramatic than the last game.

I was lucky enough to secure a PS5 today, so should hopefully be playing Miles Morales and jumping into Demon’s Souls again. Absolutely cannot wait.

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Narrator: it did not.

The Duke’s Archives is by far the best level in Dark Souls post-Anor Londo. It might be one of the best levels in the game — that perfect, warren-like set of passageways and shortcuts and cutbacks that just comes together so beautifully. It being self-contained may also have something to do with it; like the Painted World, which is much more explicit about its sequesteredness. Coming back to it after playing the other Fromsoft games, the first bit also has a bit of a Hypogean Gaol feel — actually, the slimy, grabby snake-monsters that follow that part have more than a little of a Bloodborne vibe as well. Whch brings me to the best part of every Fromsoft game — the DLC.

I have very strong opinions on Fromsoft DLC — basically that, with basically no exceptions (I don’t love Crown of the Sunken King or Ashes of Ariandel, but they’re still great), they’re the best parts of each game. They have the best, most interesting bosses; the most satisfying fights; the most engaging level design; the most creative aesthetics. Artorias of the Abyss bears this out. It’s the best part of Dark Souls, and going from the mess that is New Londo and Izalith to it is what really sends this game out on a high note.

This time however, it’s also making me think about Bloodborne, because having now played BB twice and knowing that the original DS1 team made it, AotA can’t help but feel like a prototype for it.

Lengthy Dark Souls/AotA/Bloodborne-y thoughts, basically a blog post, I apologize; also lots of spoilers

This is probably most obvious in the enemy design and aesthetics. The Oolacile Residents with their bloated heads and mutated red eyes; the Oolacile Sorceresses with their thorny catalysts and purplish faces; the chained prisoner miniboss with its body almost subsumed by metal — there’s a level of body horror being experimented with here that goes beyond anything else the game does. Zombies are one thing; these are angled in that Lovecraftian direction that we know they later went into full-force.

But the world and level design bears that out too. The Royal Wood is a fairly standard wide-open level, with a carefully telegraphed path through it signaled by flowers and the bluish tendrils of the Abyss, but it uses the template of Darkroot Garden to create the kind of hub around Artorias’s arena that reminds me intensely of Bloodborne’s level layout. Even more so in Oolacile and the Chasm of the Abyss: a level that emphasizes verticality, descent, in a way that shrinks the overall sense of Dark Souls’'s world into a microcosm. It’s eerily reminiscent of the Fishing Hamlet, with its rooftops and hidden caves beneath; it just ends with a different kind of ocean.

It also resolves one of the major issues in Dark Souls’s second half — enemy placement. Specifically, enemies you can see from miles away, usually in a crowd of several identical ones, waiting patiently to be awakened by the player’s approach. For a game that tries to play down its gameyness, this is one of DS1’s few real failures — and something that is hid more and more successfully in the subsequent games. The classic example is the Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith, with a bunch of Taurus and Capra and Bounding Demons seemingly Ctrl+C-Ctrl+V’d across the map. But it bears out elsewhere, like just above Crystal Cave by the Duke’s Archive bonfire, or in the painting room of Anor Londo. AotA still has this issue somewhat, but in the Royal Wood most of the enemies are gardeners wielding farm tools — and a lot of them are actually active, moving around in their little rhythms, tending ceaselessly to trees and flowerbeds. This is Bloodborne — this is what that game does with motion, paths, enemy routines to make Yharnam feel less constructed and more organic.

And the boss fights — there’s a manticore-like creature that’s a fun beast fight; a frenetic knight in armor who has the kind of buff/second phase transition several BB bosses have; a hidden dragon in the tradition of optional encounters; and Manus, a sort of middle ground between the series’ more humanoid and more beast-ish battles.

Except unlike the beast fights in the main game — where they’re typically slow and lumbering and wield AOE as their main weapon, these beast fights are quick and precise. Artorias as well; he’s unique in DS1 because he’s the only fight in which I have trouble stopping to heal. Basically every other (single) fight in the game, and even some of the multi-boss ones, gives you fairly generous healing windows if you know where to look for them. With Artorias, it feels like you need to be frame-perfect to take even one swig of Estus. The combat speed pushes the limit of what DS1’s system can do — and feels more of a kind with Lady Maria (or Sir Alonne or the Abyss Watchers or Slave Knight Gael or any of the fast humanoid fights that come later in the series). It’s so finely tuned though that it makes for an utterly exhilarating fight. It was the first boss in the series that I beat and wanted to fight again immediately afterwards. That’s a short list — Lady Maria, Fume Knight, Slave Knight Gael, all of which feel built from his formula.

(I haven’t even brought up Manus yet, who also feels like a prototype for nimble beast bosses like Ludwig, Vicar Amelia, and the Blood-Starved Beast.)

In any case, Dark Souls is good, and its DLC is a fascinating window into what later Soulsborne games become. I just have Manus and Kalameet left to finish up (well and the Gaping Dragon, who I skipped, and Gwyndolin, and Stray Demon), then Imma go get Solaire and give Gwyn a very stern talking to. Hopefully he sees the error of his ways.

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Valheim - I don’t have much to say other than the few hours I played last night were real fun and the game’s use of low poly assets mixed with great lighting is really cool. Also the World Tree just always being a presence is really cool and gives great scale to the game.

Hitman 3 - This is preemptive, but the Hitman 2 maps are finally available in-game on PC and I’m really excited to get back to them. I’ve been saving up really diving into the three maps until I have an opportunity to dive into 2’s maps much more, so I’m diving back into the world of assassination for a bit longer I guess

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I will say that Launch is one of the best-feeling abilities I’ve used in a game since Blink in the Dishonoured series, but other than that I agree. I kept wanting to be playing an adventure game set in that world, instead of the shooter that we got.

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Dawn of War 2 is an odd duck, in that it’s basically three games with the same interface. The single player is an interesting real time squad based tactics game with nice character customization and dodgy boss fights. Then there’s a horde mode where three players take a character each for a an escalating series of scripted arena fights. Each character could be heavily customized to perform very different roles.

Then there’s the multiplayer, which is very similar to Company of Heroes multiplayer, albeit without base building. I loved it, and it’s the only multiplayer RTS I’ve ever gotten decent at. It has six very different factions, each of which has a choice of three commanders, who you would have from the beginning of the game and who could be further customized by purchasing items. You would field a small number of squads and vehicles, typically not more than 6-8, but each was detailed and interesting to use. It was not a very micro heavy game, but it was very expressive and complex in terms of tactics and how you would use each unit.

Some of the best unit design in the genre, I feel. All the way from the low tier infantry to the more spectacular nonsense you could field in the late game.

Vader Immortal, on the Oculus Quest: it’s a fairly short theme park ride of a game, but man, it does do that Jedi fantasy pretty darn well, and I felt like I was a kid again. Like, you block blaster bolts and melee strikes by actually getting your saber in the right spot. Knowing a (very) little bit of fencing actually helped. I did enjoy using the Force to grab a dropped blaster into my left hand and shooting a Stormtrooper while blocking bolts with my right felt pretty darn spiffy. Great use of directional sound cues means you quite often spin around and get your guard up just in time, so you end up blocking a bolt you never actually saw much of.

Vader got in some hits on me, because he just comes out swinging, and doesn’t have big tells, like the droids you have to parry earlier or in the fun training mode. Watch for those swings that start high but target low.

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So two nights ago, after over 120 hours and 2200 attempts, I finally beat the normal run boss in Spelunky 2!!! I don’t usually like to reveal my power level, especially when it’s so low, but damn what a journey. This game is HARD, and I am not that good at it, but I think it really speaks to the game design that 1. I kept playing for so long, and 2. that a win still felt so amazing after so many failures. I think a big part of that came from the sense of progression I got from slowly getting better with each attempt. For the longest time I rarely made it out of world 1. The pesky moles and rolling lizards were just too hard to predict. Then, the even less predictable nature of the Worlds 2 was a huge road block. About a month ago I was getting to Neo-Babylon pretty consistently. In the end, I beat the final boss on my third attempt.

I think what made the game so compelling for me was how it made me hone both the analytical and physical skills to really be successful. I had to train my brain and hands for all the specific timings of a bunch of actions, but I also had to be able to plan a run on the fly based on what items the RNG gave me. I also never felt like I needed to practice anything over and over to master it, because I would have a chance at least once a run to learn or apply any given skill. By the end I had mastered a bunch of little skills that can save a run (including the timing for whipping an arrow out of the air, which is never not thrilling), as well as the ins and outs of a bunch of different item builds. On top of that, there were some hard and fast rules that I intuited, e.g. Always prioritize Kali alters, and The Udjat Eye is always worth getting. All of that came together to feel like a real accomplishment. What a great game!

Anyways, for anyone who wants to marvel at my ineptitude, here’s my player profile from right after my first successful run:

@Glorgu I hadn’t heard that you can import Hitman 2 levels yet. That’s great news! I’m excited to dig back into those levels in the new engine. I played a bit of Paris in Hitman 3, and it was gorgeous!

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Re spelunky: Congrats! I wish I had the fortitude to push further in Spelunky 2. I was at a point where I was getting to a third area consistently but I found myself losing my patience of having to go through world 1 every time. Initially, I liked a lot of the changes they made to world 1 to increase the difficulty of it compared to 1, because it made the game feel fresh, but as I continued playing, the increased challenge floor of world 1 just made it too annoying for me to really want to push past where I was with the game. I’ll probably return to it, because like, it’s super good despite my frustration.

Did you find yourself going through the jungle or volcana most of the time? I’ve been keen on discovering the new secrets so I usually went Volcana, but it feels like health doesn’t mean a damn thing there.

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I tended towards Volcana, because there’s an item that’s a guaranteed to spawn there that’s a real game changer. Once I got a feel for the rhythm of the levels there it actually ended up being easier too. There are fewer enemies that are easier to predict, so as long as I’m hyper aware of my surroundings I can make it through most times.

I totally agree that world 1 is probably too hard tho. I get that they want a pretty consistent level of difficulty across the whole game, but in the end it means you spend a lot of time dying in the least interesting part. The shortcuts might explain that decision in theory, but I basically never used them because later levels were too hard without the items I would have gathered in world 1.

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Been playing a LOT of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury with my partner. It was one of the first games we played together when it was out on the Wii U, and I remember we loved it so much, we fully completed it. Turns out, this game is still great, and uhhhhhhh, we’re just accidentally completing it again since we somehow still remember where all the stars and stamps are in each level.

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For me, the difficulty of world 1 [compared to the world 1 in Spelunky Classic and Spelunky HD] is why Spelunky 2 is the least played of my roguelites of 2020 [I have probably twenty times as much time in Hades or Noita, each, than Spelunky 2]. It’s just not any fun to replay.

I’m 100%ing the game right now too! The stars and stamps are fine, but the thing that gets me is making sure I hit the top of the flag at the end of every level. Everything else you can retry fairly quickly, the flag, I gotta go all the way back through :weary:

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I played my first ever DnD session last night with some friends. It was awesome! We’re all a bunch of “responsible adults” in our late 30s so getting together to play is going to be tough, but I’m really excited to keep meeting up via discord and roll20 to play. 4 of the 5 of us playing have never done this before and the roll20 site is a huge help with getting familiar with the mechanics.

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So it looks like the last time I posted a Dark Souls update in this thread was at the end of December. I haven’t really played anything since then either although it is wild to realize it has been close to two months.

Dark Souls started to feel really lonely. Like, yeah, I get that that is part of the games aesthetic, world, lore, etc. but coming up on a year of quarantine and constant work, playing a game that felt so isolating began to feel unbearable. Every time I would try and return to it I would boot up my save make it a little way and then just have to stop because being in such empty spaces was really getting me bent outta shape.

So, having taken a long break, I decided last night to see if playing an opposite sort of game would help with my mood and am now an hour into the final Fire Emblem: Three Houses DLC. Now there is a game with a lot of characters and warm colors! The plot of the DLC is, uhh, pretty dumb but in an inoffensive way similar to some of the new character designs but I am now surrounded by old friends and enjoying the light challenge of the new missions.

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I have started Final Fantasy V on GBA, mostly because Exdeath’s music slaps. One of the five mainline Final Fantasy games I’ve never never played (and two of the others are MMOs, which I don’t play in general).

I’m not very far at all, so I can’t comment on how the game is beyond ‘seems like a Final Fantasy to me’, but I’m playing it on my DS and wow, I miss the DS family a lot. The Switch is much larger, and it’s really uncomfortable for me to hold for longer than a run of Hades. Fine with the Pro Controller on the TV, but playing an old handheld makes me nostalgic for these smaller, lighter consoles.

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I legitimately started doing arm curls in hopes of being able to play the switch in handheld mode for longer periods of time.

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i have been dipping into The Misadventures of Tron Bonne this weekend and y’all, more and more i believe we truly didn’t deserve the Megaman Legends series. it is such a delightful game doing so many weird things.

it is like 4 different genres of game mashed up into one, including a sort of pikmin-adjacent dungeon crawler, but it somehow works? none are particularly deep, but it switches things up often enough that it doesn’t grate much. and like the other 2 games, it looks absolutely stunning with this super chunky texture work and some really great sense of direction in the cutscenes.

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