What game are you playing?

I gamefly’d Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart the other week and played through it in a few days. It’s a phenomenal game that was a real joy to play. Everything it sets out to do it does really well and it kind of put me in the mood to play the PS2 games again - it has been a long time.

The next game in my queue was Far Cry 6 and I’ve been enjoying it. It’s Far Cry and does nothing to change the formula but it’s a comfort game. It’s super dumb and with a friend we get into all kinds of mischief.

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Finished off The World Ends With You today on DS. I think it is a Good Game. Interesting and earnest story. Tons of content. Lots of stuff that is frustrating. If you’re into games that really try something then you should check it out (on DS!!!) if you can.

4 spoiler-free paragraphs mostly on the fascinating combat

This is the kind of game that I torture myself with. There are pins (which grant combat abilities, basically) hidden in different places in every chapter and each enemy has separate drops at different (changeable) difficulties. These rewards are cool. It’s not Ubisoft garbage to get a new helmet - finding new pins can meaningfully change your playstyle. It’s all good fun until you get obsessed with getting a 2% drop and beat your head against it for a while. Most of the hard-to-find stuff is actually worth getting, but the combat in the process isn’t always enjoyable.

I’ve said it prior talking about this game - the combat feels impossible because it sort of is. Unless you have a unique brain, you cannot pay attention to two individual battles happening at once (on the top and bottom screens of the DS). Ultimately, then, combat is about multitasking. I’ve got the enemy in stun on the bottom, so now I can focus to block on top. Or I need a heal, so I look up top to get a combo and absentmindedly slash the bottom screen. That’s interesting and challenging, but it can also be frustrating to be confronted with something your brain cannot do. It’s constantly stressful to switch focus back and forth.

That frustration feels worth it when you really put it all together, but doing so isn’t easy. This is one of the broadest and most customizable combat systems I have ever seen in a game. There’s so much variety in the pin usage that it actually messes with the difficulty curve. I breezed through the penultimate boss because my setup worked well, but the final boss was a complete roadblock until I (reluctantly) shifted the difficulty down to easy. I sympathize with the designers - having so many options made unique boss encounters impossible to balance, and I personally didn’t figure out anything that truly broke the game. If you’ve designed your build to wreak havoc on the top screen and then lose combat ability on the top screen for a boss gimmick… well… you’re fucked.

Combat is the thing I’ve talked about most, because it’s 90% of the game and also the most interesting design decision. In basically all other aspects the game is quite successful. The story is good and interesting. I like the characters. There is a ton of postgame stuff that I’ll probably dip into on long drives. A full minigame mode exists that’s pretty fun and ties-in to the pre-Streetpass local communication feature that you sadly really can’t use anymore. One thing that I did miss from other JRPGs I love was down time. TWEWY’s Shibuya is pretty lean. There isn’t a place to relax or sit around the campfire with your party. Consistent urgency makes sense given the plot, but I missed the “hanging out in a cozy village” stuff that bigger JRPGs allow for. There are a few kind spots that shine brightly because they are so rare, but I wish there were a few more places or ways to relax.

I’m also still playing Metroid Prime. As I play, I’ve found myself wishing the different regions had more shortcut connections. I took what ended up being a wrong turn and got pretty far into an area without any mechanical reward. (The game gave me an energy tank and then literally told me to turn around and come back later.) And thus I had to do a pretty difficult first-person platforming sequence (with nice music at least) and get back to the opposite side of the map. I’ve been taking good notes so I know a few places I might go, but traveling across the map slowly in 3D feels a lot more laborious than it did in 2D in Super.

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Finished up Bravely Default II the other day. Not gonna say too much else about but I thoroughly enjoyed it for all the… 90 hours(!) I put into it by the time I finished it. Probably gonna go back and 100% it too!

Glad I managed to finish that just in time for the release of Dungeon Encounters, another Square Enix joint. This game was announced during Square’s Tokyo Game Show presentation where I initially mistook it as a crossword dungeon crawling RPG but it is instead just a regular old dungeon crawling RPG. It’s still really cool though!

There isn’t a single thing I can point to as The Thing with this game to quickly explain why I like but for the sake of brevity I’ll say the heart of my enjoyment with the game comes from all of the simple joys found in the mechanics. The turn-based combat is incredibly straightforward, easy to learn & approach and moves by at a very brisk pace thanks to the Active Time Battle System. You’re given just enough information to know if fights are gonna be a cinch or if they’re a risk you’d like to undertake.

Exploring each floor is highly incentivized thanks to the way abilities work and even just ambling through each floor, filling in the map and eventually completing give me the same sense of satisfaction as collecting stuff in a platformer or making maps in an Etrian Odyssey game. The game divulges more than a fair amount of information to you up front but there’s just enough deliberately obfuscated information and mysterious things that have stimulated the note-taking segments of my brain to the point where I made a spreadsheet to keep track of seemingly important information I’ve come across.

There’s definitely a lot to chew on in Dungeon Encounters despite the somewhat lacking appearances of the game. As a matter of fact, I’m actually a huge fan of the overall presentation after having spent some with the game. The way the stark appearance of the map synthesizes with the lighting, shadows, particle affects and the ambient sounds of each dungeon biome is really spectacular. They really get a lot of mileage out of what appears to be so very little in pretty much every aspect of the game!

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Griftlands was definitely not ignored but feel like general games discourse has kind of passed it by, which is a shame because this game is GOOD.
They’ve managed to make this narrative heavy game (with three distinct well written stories and branching paths), include a bunch of procedurally generated beats to keep things fresh, wrap it around two very different card based game systems (while somehow keeping the whole thing balanced. I haven’t felt like leaning on negotiation or battle was a smart tactic).
Anyway hats off to Klei for this one

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Following back up on this, some of these characters in Back 4 Blood are really well written and others are so annoying that when they try to say something serious about their backstory you just don’t care. Left 4 Dead 2 had funny dialogue but it was well timed and not beaten over your head. Ellis would tell a funny story like once per campaign and he wasn’t saying cringe worthy lines such as “Ohhh as soon as I get more bullets in this gun I’m going to murder you so hard” every 5 minutes.

It also doesn’t help that they’re early on trying to do narrative via radio chatter and I just can’t take it serious when this guy will not stop cracking jokes.

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What I should really be doing is finishing Alan Wake Remastered or Yakuza Kiwami 2. What I’ve actually been doing is putting a couple of hours each into Halo Wars 2 and Far Cry 3.

Prompted by this very thread, I loaded Halo Wars 2 back up and restarted the campaign. Not much to say! It’s good! Those cutscenes are gorgeous!

Far Cry 3… OK, bit of context. Obviously Far Cry 6 came out recently and a lot of the discourse has been around it being exactly the same as the last few games in the series. I haven’t played it, so I can’t directly comment, but it seemed like fair critique. If we ignore the early games, especially the non-Ubi ones, I feel like the formula was established in Far Cry 3, perfected in Far Cry 4, and then everything afterwards has just tweaked systems and added new locations. The thing is that as much as I’m mindful of the criticism of Far Cry 6’s depiction of faux-Cuba, Latinx culture, and Giancarlo Esposito’s bad Spanish accent, I imagine it’s a lot of fun to actually play if you like the series - and I do like the series.

So naturally rather than buy a brand new game (and since I don’t have a next gen console, one compromised to run on PS4/Xbox One) I remembered I’d never played the remastered Far Cry 3 that came out with I wanna say… the Far Cry 5 season pass? I figured it would at least scratch the itch of sneak-shooting through outposts.

Oh boy. So again, just to repeat myself, I don’t think Far Cry has evolved that much along most of its axes. But: what it has done is refined how it plays. Far Cry 3 feels horrible to play. Everything from later games is there - the weapon wheel with four slots, the map full of outposts to clear, vehicles to drive, animals to hunt - but it all handles like the Xbox 360 game it once was. Slow, clunky, and mildly ugly. The worst thing is aiming weapons: I’m amazed I’ve managed to hit anyone.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any critic should be forced to play through a whole series of games whenever a new one comes out just so they can do such a granular comparison. But it did make me wonder about the feeling of games like Far Cry or Call of Duty being ‘the same’ in a way that I think glosses over the iterative nature of game design. It’s easy to point out what hasn’t changed, but unless a game comes right out the gate feeling good to play (the way I’d argue something like Destiny does) it’s harder to talk about the feel of moment to moment gameplay, and even more so how that is improved upon as a series continues.

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  1. This is interesting because I played that version of Far Cry 3 right after I finished Far Cry 5 and didn’t notice the controls being worse. I was just playing it for the story, so I didn’t do much of the optional open world stuff, but I don’t remember it feeling significantly worse?

  2. I agree that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of in-depth critique of gameplay mechanics like that (or I just don’t know where to find it). Inside of the community for a specific game, there’s a lot of stuff like that (e.g. Monster Hunter streamers comparing weapons across games), but I don’t know of anyone that does that across a wide variety of games. This is part of why I have been writing long posts on here with nitty gritty descriptions about game mechanics; I would like to see more writing like that because, like you said, it’s interesting and I don’t see enough of it.

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Can I get your opinion on Gamefly? I was thinking of getting it to catch up on a few games. I had it a long time ago. From that time I remember all the new releases being very hard to get. Is that still the case? How about for the bigger named games? I mostly want to catch up on Nintendo games for the Switch and don’t want to not be able to get any. Thanks!

I’m actually tempted to load up Far Cry 4 and/or 5 and see how they feel. I haven’t played one since New Dawn back in early 2019, so it’s possible I’m being unnecessarily harsh to Far Cry 3 or remembering later games through rose-tinted glasses. I guess it’s also possibly something weirdly specific about my set-up - that I’m playing on PS4, or my controller has seen better days, something like that.

I did also have in the back of my mind the recent articles going around about how 343 had just fixed some long-standing issues in Halo 2 within the Master Chief collection, too, which made me wonder if it was something specific about the remaster. As we’re both discussing that remaster, that’s probably not the culprit, but it’s worth noting that remasters and re-releases can introduce all kinds of weird stuff - I remember when I played the Director’s Cut release of Deus Ex Human Revolution, I thought the lighting looked way worse than I remembered. I figured it was rose-tinted glasses again. Nope! Turns out they broke the original lighting, leaving modders to restore it.

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I really like it. They have a thing where they send out your next in queue when the post office processes your return. The turn around is about 4-5 days. For 15 a month I like it a lot. I have data caps so it about evens out as much as game pass does because I’m installing the game from disc and whatever is left isn’t as much of a download.

If you like the game you can just buy it, they send you the case (with all the inserts) and ship you the next game in your queue. The only downsides to it is that down period between games and sometimes when you add a game to your queue you might not be as interested in playing it by the time you get it, so you’ll have to pay a bit more attention to that and make sure they send you one you’ll want to play.

They get a ton of stock in so unless the game is CoD or bananas popular, you’ll most likely get the game on release day. If not then just wait a week and you’ll be sure to get it.

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Started Unsighted, since I read that it was an excellent metroidvania. The game is on game pass!

It appears that it hasn´t made much of an impact, which is a shame, it reminds me of Jedi Fallen Order in the sense that it combines a lot of genres but manages to have its own identity.

This game has metroidvania, dark souls and og Zelda (it has dungeons) elements, with a twist, the main character and all the npcs in the game are literally running out of time to live in-game.

While optional, on the normal difficulty you start the game with some 300 hundred in-game hours (so they are not real time hours, for example I have played like 3.5 hours so far and 150 hours have passed, more or less) to finish the game, before the main character dies, since supposedly if you run out of time its a perma-death.

Luckily part of the loot you can find is more time, which you can use on yourself or the npcs, its a pretty interesting mechanic. So you can be in situations where you have to make the choice between saving extra time items just in case or losing permanently the npc that upgrades your weapons, its great.

The game is tense thanks to this mechanic, which I honestly found to be really stressing (in the good way) many times, it also helped to give urgency to the story, since even when doing side content I had to take into account that it actually impacted the main story of the game, because time is a resource. The souls like combat is responsive and has good game-feel too.

The game keeps growing on me, while I had some issues getting adjusted to the artstyle since at the start I would sometimes get confused on what was a platform and what wasn´t. I got used to it.

Really recommend it, one of the best metroidvanias I have ever played so far, will probably finish it this weekend, can´t stop thinking about it.

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I don’t wanna jump to conclusions too quickly… but I think that 11GB Deathloop PC patch (plus a few setting tweaks) may have brought the game to a very playable state for me. Weekend plans locked in babyyyyyyy.

Edit: Made it through the intro quest without a crash. Heck yea! Seems like this patch is real good news for anybody that was having performance or stability issues on PC!

And also noticed that the Strelak Verso pistol appeared in my inventory and apparently that’s because I did the whole Arkane Insider thing at some point. I strongly dislike when premium/dlc/pre-order bonuses (albeit for free registration in this case) break a game’s economy. Looking at you, Deadspace 2. I will not be touching it until I have found the weapon in the normal course of playing the thing.

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A buddy and I booted up Back 4 Blood last night. We used to play Left 4 Dead way back in the day. Man, it’s been a long time since I played any sort of FPS and I am bad.

Since it was just two of us, we tried to jump in with some randos, but they ended up yelling at us because we were so bad. So, we decided to play with bots, but that made the game a different kind of difficult.

It’s definitely a game that lends itself to a full party of 4 humans, which is disappointing. While I can’t speak for everyone, for me, it’s really hard to get 4 friends together for gaming at the same time. And I really don’t want to try random people again. It stresses me out, and my first time trying it did not go well.

Oh well. It was fun enough that we’ll probably try it out again. Maybe I can scrounge up a couple more people.

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I had a related experience in Back 4 Blood. Fired it up after watching the Waypoint stream from last week, which made me realise a) it was on Game Pass and b) it looked fun with a group. Used to have a blast with Left 4 Dead both solo and co-op so figured it was worth a try.

Solo: not fun. I’m in the same boat of not having a group of 4 where we can reliably get to together (though I’ll give credit to B4B for being cross-play, simplifying that a lot!). Played alone it just wasn’t a good experience. The teammate AI is terrible - was it this bad in Left 4 Dead? I remember they wouldn’t do ‘objective’ stuff like carry fuel cans but I’m surprised at how in B4B they refuse to heal themselves or pick up downed teammates. Listening to yesterday’s pod also clarified that playing solo vastly reduced the number of enemies, so the whole thing was just very dry.

As it is on Game Pass and it’s essentially ‘free’ I’ll give it more of a chance, especially if I can persuade my old L4D loving friends to try it out. But it really does feel like you need a full group, and I’m similarly sceptical of randos.

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I’ve made it through Act 2 with almost just bots at this point and a random person who never talked that just ran around with a hatchet. The bots at least seem to favor team based cards and seemingly do not run out of ammo? Also they throw grenades now which is nice compared to l4d where you kind of were like “just pick up the pipe bomb and chunk it literally anywhere that is not near us please”.

There’s some cool map mechanics and environmental design in some of these levels and I think that’s the thing that has kept me going. There’s a part with a sewer that is just alien weird gross in Act 2 that I absolutely love the art direction of that make its feel less like your normal sewer level.

Also I like the deck building. I am sucker for deck building in a game especially one that doesn’t normally have it.

I tried the PvP mode last night and I think it’s better then L4D’s. It takes horde survival and just turns that into a PvP match with a shrinking ring like a battleroyale. It also feels a lot more balanced and comeback heavy then L4D’s. Because upgrades carry over from round to round, if you have a bad round as the zombies where the cleaners survive for like 5 minutes. That’s 5 minutes worth of point upgrades your team gets to keep putting into special infected upgrades and carries over to all future rounds. So having a really bad first round could swing things heavily in your favor next time if you have fully upgraded defense and offense for the bruisers as an example. It’s the kind of gamemode where after playing it I go “Wow this would be incredibly fun if you could get 7 other people together every Friday night”.

I think I’m slowly becoming a Back 4 Blood defender.

Thinking more on this game and playing it though I can’t help but feel this would be much better off as a live service game like a Destiny where you maybe buy in at $30 and you get the first two acts and then later throughout the year more acts drops, cosmetics, new cards, etc. The team clearly cares about the story telling part of this world because they don’t really write off the zombie outbreak like they do in L4D. They talk about there being major events, they talk about how some of characters clearly interact outside of the missions and depending on party composition brings up new dialogue. The reveal through a side conversation I had not heard the first time I did a level where Mom finally asks Doc how the test results were and that it is then revealed that she is not immune to parasites like other cleaners are but it’s theorized that because she has a fatal disease they probably do not see here as a suitable host and it’s clear she’s running these missions because she has nothing left to really live for since her only son is dead and best case scenario she dies in a blaze of glory before her disease gets her was an interesting bit of story telling. Also Walker just saying he doesn’t really have a backstory because he poured his life into his military career and never had time for relationships so don’t bother asking was just the most protagonist military dude lamp shading ever and I loved it.

Following Stalktober I’ve made my way through Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. What an interesting game this is. Beating the modern style of open world games to the finish line there are a lot of systems working to bring you into this zone of unspeakable horrors. I believe that they ended up having to cut many of their ideas of emergent behavior but the AI still largely works to create random encounters between factions or wildlife. That part comes together really well in the game.

As a shooter though? Well, it truly is a mixed bag. Once you’re up and running with some good gear that shoots where you’re pointing it’s quite good. The enemy AI is pretty clever, often hiding to force you into unsafe areas, sometimes taking an alternative route to flank you. Small sized mid-to-late game encounters can be a lot of fun.

However, the last third of the campaign is really quite bad, putting you up against almost endless hordes of soldiers who deal quite a bit of damage and aim well. This turns previously tense encounters into a bland annoyance. At one point, having killed more enemies in the last hour than the rest of the game combined, I just turned on a god mode to not have to bother with them. Truly disappointing for a game that until that point had made quite an impression.

Looking forward to the podcast discussions of the game and how the story fits into the novel and movie that inspired it. There’s some interesting ideas here, although the game itself with this rushed ending didn’t do them justice. And while the last hours of the game turned me off it, I’m happy I finally played through it. The first twelve hours are an amazing mix of beauty, horror and tense shooting.

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Ok so I have to admit my first encounter with a human Julianna in Deathloop left me pretty sour. It came so soon: I didn’t know the map, I had terrible weapons and no slabs whatsoever, the Julianna knew where to put down trip mines and because I like playing with objective markers turned off, I had no idea where the antenna thing to hack would be.

I turned it around on subsequent invasions, winning three bouts in a row, and now think it’s a really cool feature. But I have to say that I can only imagine that kinda welcome to be extremely off-putting for someone that feels less confident in a shooter than I do. I feel good about my chances as I learn the game, and a lot of it is familiar already from playing a ton of Dishonored, Prey and just shooters generally. But the way I was summarily torn apart by that first Julianna–when I was effectively defenceless–is absolutely ridiculous.

I have quickly put together a decent arsenal and I relish the challenge moving forward, but I just got hit with back-to-back Juliannas on the first two zones of the same run, and that is absolutely exhausting. I don’t know what the numbers are with respect to invasions, but I’m not sure I like loading consecutive zones and having the Julianna invasion notification pop both times immediately coming out of the tunnel. I haven’t even had the chance to experiment with newly acquired slabs and upgrades. If Julianna only drops in zones with an active Visionary target, I guess I’ll spend a bit more time going through zones without them just so I can explore and have a breather.

I’m still absolutely loving the game, but sheesh sometimes I just wanna chill and mess around in the sandbox

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Finished Halo Wars 2. It continued to be great. Not much more I can say other than it’s a really smart way for the series to roll back the aesthetic and narrative direction of 343’s games to a point where they can continue with the events of Halo 5 AND make a Halo game that isn’t trying to react to current trends.

Final definitive Halo Rankings:
Reach, 2, 3, Halo Wars 2, CE, 5, Halo Wars, ODST, 4

Gonna pick up Gears Tactics now. I think when I eventually pull the trigger on a new console, it’s going to be the Series X. Microsoft just seems to have a more diverse and ambitious approach to their games than Sony. They made a gorgeous, expensive RTS with impossibly nice CGI cutscenes for console in 2017 to lead into their next big shooter. That unequivocally rules.

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Battletech




Oh, this is a good game. First time playing with the DLCs installed, should be a great time.

Game still looks ace. I just love how the light sets over these barren worlds.

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I really enjoyed Gears Tactics and that’s as someone who hasn’t yet been able to click with Xcom. It’s almost definitely much easier but it retains that crisp satisfying shooting that the core Gears games do while adding a really fun, if limited, set of mission types to blast through. Feels like a game that will be nailed in the sequel.

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