What game are you playing?

Yeah, I am very much a pre-feudal non-Christian culture, which work v differently in CK3 [and are allegedly v raiding centric… but since I’m surrounded by everyone else also being raiding-centric…]

Well, I finally got a PS5 to go along with my Series X last week, so I’ve been messing around with stuff on that. Astro’s Playroom is a pure delight, and while I don’t think every implementation of the Dualsense works (blowing on the controller is still something I have no interest in seeing in games), it really does do a lot of cool stuff. Haven’t collected everything yet, but seems like a manageable Platinum that I’ll probably pursue.

Beyond that, I picked up Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Spider-Man: Remastered. I never finished Spider-Man on the PS4, so Remastered was a good opportunity to rectify that. The swinging in that game is a ton of fun, especially at 60FPS, and the combat is enjoyable enough. I thought the story was…fine. It had some really great moments, but I kinda hated how thee third act did the whole “now the city is under lockdown and there are snipers trying to shoot you every place you go and we’re just gonna make traversal more annoying now” that the Arkham games did, and I think don’t think that’s a fun way for the gameplay to evolve in a game like this.

Played the intro to Miles Morales, and seems like that will also be fun. I’ll probably take a Spidey-break and come back to it a little later, though. Looking forward to one of those that isn’t quite as bloated with a million little side activities that just feels like it’s there to pad the game length.

I played a little bit of Gears Tactics as well, and I really enjoy how they adapted the crunchy-feeling combat of the Gears games to the XCOM tactics formula. It does feel like it’s missing something with no base/strategic layer between missions, but the game has been enjoyable enough on its’ own for now.

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New Pokemon Snap is fun! I’m enjoying it, and yet… I feel like I prefer the original for reasons I haven’t quite worked out. It’s not nostalgia; although I played the original as a child, I never owned it. I bought a used copy at a record store 6 years ago (for like $10) and 100% beat it during a time when the only games I played were Pokemon. I’m sure I’ll figure out the reasons soon, but for now it serves its purpose as a good game loop that I can hop into when I don’t want to spend 2 hours playing Persona 5 Strikers

Which I’m still enjoying! P5Strikers is a game that really benefits from longer play sessions (as did Persona 5). I’m on the 2nd jail, which is similar in design to the first. Aesthetically it’s boring, which has been true of both of the jails. The dungeons in the metaverse were much more aesthetically and mechanically interesting than the jails in P5S.

That being said, I’m actually enjoying the individual stories. It’s almost felt like a Dragon Quest game. Solve a problem, move to the next city and solve another separate problem. Additionally, I’ve liked the themes of both stories so far. They have both basically been “create fomo to get people to buy bad products.” It’s just capitalism. I love it.

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Another thing I still dislike is how weirdly unsatisfyingly micro CK3’s battles are - especially when trying to coordinate with allies [and really especially when you’re coming in as an ally, and have no idea what the main army you’re trying to help is doing as it keeps changing direction every few minutes].
Plus, I see the whole “comparative military strength” meter is still way off - I just got into a battle [as an ally] where it looked like we’d have a slight advantage, and then a massive army, twice the size of our entire forces, turned up!

K, so I finished Drakengard 3, and I really enjoyed it! I need to be clear here though, because I don’t want this to come off as a recommendation without caveats. This game is VERY PS2. You play through shortish levels, sometimes repeating the same exact map with different enemies and collectable placement. The combat is mostly just positioning and button mashing, with very little in the way of things to manage. Also the frame-rate is bad, ranging from playable to miserable. It’s a rough experience.

BUT, if you can get past all of that, there’s some really cool stuff in this game! It starts out as a tropey, reverse-harem anime with a lot of absurdly graphic violence and explicit language. (Quick Aside, cw: sexuality The game is horny in a way that can be kind of cringe. I don’t think it crosses any lines, but ymmv. Surprisingly, there’s only one real scene of mild fan service, and it’s way after most of that stuff had fallen by the wayside. Weird! As the game goes on, the layers start to peel back, and the themes and characters take center stage. MAJOR SPOILERS: What starts as a sort of revenge story ends up being an alegory about the evils of military power, or at least that’s how I read it. Each of the main antagonists is an intoner, or a superweapon/head of state created to end war between the various factions. While a few of the intoners try use their immense power to help the poor, or pursue science, all must be destroyed for the world to survive. There’s an interesting narrative tension there, as the inherently satisfying revenge story slips away for something darker, but morally more black and white takes over. Even though Zero is doing the right thing, the violence only gets more horrifying as the game goes on. As soon as you near the end of this killing spree, it becomes clear that Zero too will need to die. It’s dour, and unsatisfying, but the game knows this. The narrator suddenly becomes a character in the story, an omnicient being that can see all futures, and is looking for one that ties everything up with a bow. It’s as if Yoko Taro wrote his creative proccess into the game, as he tried to do his themes justice, while also writing a good story. In the end, he can’t find another way to end it. Zero kills her sisters, and then is devoured by her dragon. After spending hours with both of them, this moment hits hard. It’s dour, and hopeless, but made meaningful by how willing the creators were to show you their thought process.

So yeah, it’s a good game! I don’t think it’s as good as either of the Nier games, but that’s a high bar! The ending sequence is just gorgeous on so many different levels (Even though I eventually had to watch it on YouTube because it randomly became a rhythm game, and I’m bad at those.)! I’m glad I finally got around to playing it.

@syz Regarding the critical reception when the game came out: I read some reviews from the time that were just like “this game was bad, why would I play it again for a different ending,” which is hilarious given the discourse around Nier Automata. There was also a weird dismissal of Japanese games that was still around back then. I remember back then someone wrote into Idle Thumbs asking why they didn’t cover more Japanese games, and one of them responded that Western games were just doing more interesting stuff. That’s doubly hilarious today, both because there were plenty of Japanese games pushing boundaries at the time, but also * gestures at the state of Western AAA in 2021 *.

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Returnal’s first boss is giving me fits. I’m pretty sure that absent that melee attack I could do it, but even after hitting the mother lode of health upgrades, I still died on the third phase. I can feel myself improving marginally, but that boss feels like the first real “git gud” moment in a way that I’m not sure I find appealing.

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Well, funnily enough even Automata had at least one review like that get published, so it wasn’t completely gone yet.

One of my favorite things during that whole little era of western coverage was how even otherwise extremely informed media people would have earnest conversations about how there were “no more B games” and that games had become either AAA blockbusters or indie since the death of, I dunno, Midway or whatever. It’s like yo guys they put out a new Atelier game every year! There are “B games”, you just don’t play them! Though generally I always kinda thought that it all boiled down to the same thing a lot of games media’s problems do: all the prominent voices in the industry were basically the same Type of Guy.

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Playing that hot new game Returnal. So far, I love the way it looks, sounds and feels through the PS5 controller. It runs so blisteringly fast and once you get into the rhythm it’s like watching a trance like light show. I’m impressed how they apply the 2D bullet hell into a 3D environment. Things explode real nice. I am hitting a bit of a difficulty wall with the first boss. I’m come close but whilst I’m able to evade his ranged attacks it’s when he stops all that to hit you across the face that I lose all my health. I don’t know what it is, but whenever the enemies charge at you, the dodging feels a little off. They have a clear windup and then they’re just on you. 9 out of 10 times that’s what’s killing me.

It seems interesting as a roguelike, I’m just hitting that wall, where I’m not really gaining any new skills or insight, just throwing myself at the boss.

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The fire fades, and so does Dark Souls III. Some thoughts:

  1. Just when I thought that Bloodborne would make Souls combat feel obsolete, From brilliantly ports back the lessons learned in Yharnam to refine the tried-and-true sword and sorcery into the best it’s ever been. I went with a strength build that was buffed with pyromancy, but ended up two-handing the butcher’s knife through most of the game. I became quite proficient at dodge rolling and striking at the right moments, and honestly I’m now itching to ditch the shield in older games just to see how it spices things up.
  2. The game’s story remains as incoherent as the previous Dark Souls games, but it’s got vibes for daaaays. The fatigue brought upon by too many cycles of linking the flame is felt in every corner of this world. As the journey grew more treacherous the game seemed to ask when it would be enough, when would the fire be sated? As the growing weight of nihilism crept on me in the game’s closing hours, I did have to ask myself if I was actually enjoying going through all this, which was the first time I had to confront that question since the learning curve opening hours of Demon’s Souls. But like those early hours in the Boletarian Palace, the game would entice me with the possibility of what lies around the corner, which rarely disappointed.
  3. The level design in this game is so good! The headroom of going next-gen only (current gen? last gen?) this time around allowed for expansive and intricate levels that seemed to stretch out forever. Additionally, bonfires and shortcuts are spread liberally throughout the game that the size of the levels rarely was an impediment. Special shoutouts to From to for finally cracking the right amount of run ups to the boss door. They still gave you some of that so-called “reflection time” without putting you through a gauntlet of enemies, especially with the despawn mechanic no longer included. Reading some reviews at the time of release, I see that the game was dinged for not having the first game’s interconnected world, but honestly I will take these self-contained and well laid out levels over the occasional surprise elevator that takes me back to Firelink.
  4. While the tweaks to the multiplayer aspect in Dark Souls III seem minor at first glance, they turned out to be massive in practice. This was easily the most active multiplayer I have seen in a souls game to date. Not with Dark Souls Remastered, the most recent release of the games I’ve played. And not even with Bloodborne, which I played during the Return to Yharnam event. Basically every boss in the game I beat multiple times as I helped shepherd other players through, and I even engaged in large scale PVP battles in Farron Keep. Perhaps the nihilism vibes of the game would have pushed me away with a sparser player population, but having a summon sign available seemingly everywhere made me feel like we were all in this together as a community. It reached a wonderful zenith, as the final bonfire before the last boss of the DLC had summon signs plastered everywhere with folks who wanted to help.
  5. The flip side to all the summon help is that it was crucially necessary, especially in the second DLC. I get it, Dark Souls is hard, but From really cranked it up here. Regular enemies basically one-shotting me, bosses with vast health pools and infinite stamina, and absolutely brutal level gauntlets made the endgame feel particular made for jolly cooperation. It worked out for me now, but I can’t help but wonder if the game would really be completable by anyone except for the most dedicated if and when the server populations drop.

But yeah, what an incredible game, what an incredible series. I’m still not ready to put it down, as even when I type this I have my summon sign down for the Demon Prince. I’ll eventually get to Sekiro (although finding that game on sale has been a chore), but this feels like a good pause point for the time being. Cheers Dark Souls, it’s been a wild ride.

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Ghost of Spartan may be the second best God of War game? I’m not wholly sure yet but the game has a menace that God of War 3 sometimes has when you’re not vivisecting innocent bystanders, but hanging like a pall over the entire game. Does this game do 300’s opening scenes better than 300? Probably. Ready at Dawn really have a better handle on the material than Jaffe’s team did with the original. I’m really excited to play God of War 2 after this to gauge how Ghost compares as the smartest and most arch game in the series.

I also bought and downloaded Ascension. It’s happening. I’m the guy who thinks Gears of War: Judgment is the best Gears so I’m completely ready for it to surprise me. I’m debating whether to play Dad or War again as I don’t consider to be a) good or; b) actually part of the series. It’s the Year in the Life of the God of War series (yes I’m in the midst of a Gilmore Girls rewatch) You don’t get to prestigify a “Where are they now?” story and expect me not to make fun of it.

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Currently replaying the original System Shock (EE) in anticipation of the remake. The archaic controls always make this game a bit of an adjustment, but even the second time I am amazed by just how compelling this game is. Dated tho it may be, it really does scratch that immersive sim part of my brain just as good as more recent attempts at the formula. Remake and System Shock 2: EE are going to be a blast

Edit: just an added FYI, I didn’t realize until yesterday that pre-ordering the System Shock Remake (on Steam, at least) also gets you a free copy of the also upcoming SS2: EE. As a general rule I don’t pre-order anything, but Nightdive’s work keeping classic games relevant is worth supporting, and the ambition of remaking SS1 from the ground up worth rewarding, imo.

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Finally getting my boogie on with some Disco Elysium. On the second day and this game rules so far. Frequently swinging from discomfort to legitimate laughing out loud.

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That new 3v3 mode in Apex is pretty fun!

I think it’s a lot of fun but does make some champions less then ideal to use. It also will need some balance changes I think, taking wingman on round 1 if you are decent shot seems like the go to move IMO.

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I can almost feel Returnal trying to help me along. More health upgrades! More powerful guns! Weird health regeneration artifacts! Still can’t quite crack the first boss. Meg, by comparison, took me 2-3 tries to get through.

Finally getting around to playing/reading Higurashi. I’ve only finished the first chapter, but plan to get through the rest eventually (got them all from the Golden Week Steam sale). So far I really like it! It pushes all the right buttons for what I hope to get out of these type of games, and it was cool to see that I can still plow through a VN after all these years. Obviously it’s still in the setup stages, so a lot of my final opinion will be based on the ending’s quality, but even Chapter 1 had a good arc to it.

I do regret not getting to this when I was younger (although now that I think about it, maybe 07th mod wasn’t complete back then, which would have put a damper on things). Still, it seems right up the alley of the Ushikoshi games that got me into medium in the first place.

And the best part is, even after I finish Higurashi there’s Umineko, which based on the premise sounds even more interesting to me. Still, that’s a lot of play time! Oh to go back to the days where I had so much more free time.

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Finally getting into and playing loads of Splatoon 2. I don’t know if this is controversial, but I liked the stages and music a lot better in the first one.

The new ranked mode (clam toss?) is cool and less focused in one location than the other ranked modes. Lets you get more creative about using the whole stage, which is cool. Pretty neutral on having a different rank for every mode. On one hand I’m definitely worse at Splat Zones than Tower Control if my rank is to be believed. On the other hand now it takes forever to get ranked up in modes I play infrequently. Fun game. Good break from slower stuff I’ve been playing recently.

I have indeed now finished System Shock (EE) for the second time! Just like the first, about a year ago, I am amazed at how well this game holds up in some respects. Ok, yes, the interface and controls are a bit of a nightmare, but it’s because they pack so many details and systems in! I think of it like learning a PDA-style device built right into your HUD. And yes, the graphics and audio are dated, but the atmosphere it all creates is still stellar and Shodan is an all-time great villain! The movement is floaty, but carefully leaning around corners makes for tense combat encounters! The cyberspace hacking is kinda ass, but it’s still conceptually cool how the different systems fit together: flipping a switch in cyberspace will open up doors just like the more refined hacking mini-games of your favourite modern im-sims!

Really, it’s just amazing to me how much ambition is in this game. There are systems on systems to the point that it’s probably to the game’s detriment. You have total control to set the power level of your energy weapons along a spectrum, for example, changing how much damage it deals, heat it produces and energy it consumes. But there’s too much fine control in that spectrum to know the difference–i.e., how does 50% compare to 35% or 65%, I have no idea. I just set it to roughly the middle and forget about it. A high-med-low toggle switch with more identifiable trade-offs at each level would probably have a more noticeable and interesting gameplay effect. You can also fine-tune the timer on some explosives. And you have energy skates, rocket boots and a rear view mirror-style camera (big lol at this one) that are mostly entirely forgettable.

There’s a laser rapier (need I say more?), and it took me four tries to find the correct severed head to open a retinal scanner. Blurred because spoiler of a hidden achievement, but this really illustrates what kind of game we’re talking about here. It’s totally optional, but was so awesome to figure out. (Edit: the laser rapier and blurred spoiler thing are totally unrelated lol. Realised that it could very much sound like one leads to the other)

If you like the idea that you’ll actually have to piece together clues as to how to proceed, listening carefully, perhaps even more than once, to clues in audio logs, and without the game putting an objective marker or shinny pick-me-up effect on quest items, this game woooooorks. The game does not hold you hand, and will let you hold a severed hand in your inventory if you don’t realize what you’re doing, but that’s the joy of it. It’s so interesting that Bioshock streamlined the SS/SS2 design in 2007, before Prey then brought back some of the complexity, albeit more accessibly, a decade after that.

Anyhow, I’m again super pumped for the Remake supposedly coming this year from Nightdive. It’ll be very interesting to see how they modernize much of it. Being a team that specializes in retro games, I have faith they’ll try their best to preserve the spirit of what the game was trying to do.

And now onto Neon Struct, which Austin recommended to immersive sim fans a while back. Seems like it’s Thief with Neon. I’m excited.

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I’ve been playing Warframe recently. I’m a sucker for looter-shooters and gave Outriders a fair shot (still think it has a lot of good) until the recent patching nightmare made endgame unfun.

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Another shoutout, this time to Dandy Dungeon, which is on sale for a bit in the switch eshop. Also on mobile. Loving it so far. Simple create a path in a dungeon gameplat that gets more and more complex, also quite funny.

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I got Remnant: From the Ashes for free on Epic ages ago, played a couple of hours, then got sidetracked with other games. Figured I would come back to it, and this time it really got its teeth in me. That’s a good ass game. I feel like the “soulslike with guns” label really did it a disservice, though. It’s got “bonfires” and a dark setting, but beyond that it’s way more of a like an ARPG with the procgen maps and enemy level scaling and such.

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