What game are you playing?

Fair enough: although, given that Elohim encourages you to go do Stars to show you’re one of his especially talented creations - and that we’ve seen that “especially talented” AI seem to end up saved on an island in a crypt until another AI turns up to ask them for help, since that’s what Messengers are, I am pretty sure an all-stars ending isn’t Golden by the perspective of most people.

(also, technical comment: I am 90% certain that the MLA just gives the same responses whatever option you pick for the “thorny philosophical” questions. After all, “hmm, I don’t know, but it sounds like you picked the least bad option and we’ll never know” works for almost any response to that kind of question, if you just want to sound cleverer than you are. And since the game actually tells you about the related effect in things like astrology…)

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So Sable is great. Very few games do exploration well, at least in my opinion, despite it being one of the things games can uniquely be great at compared to other media and Sable does an awesome job. Art style is great, the music is great, and even the general sound design is quite well done. The game does have shortcomings, like controls being too loose and the bike really not handling well at all, but most of my other quibbles with it are me wanting more of what its already doing, especially in the world building department. Spoiler: Masks obviously feature strongly throughout the game, but it wasn’t until towards the end of my play through that you get a brief snippet of dialogue from one of the spaceship recordings talking about how the crashed crew will be living on the planet for hundreds of years before they can walk on the surface without helmets, due to the radiation and toxicity of the environment. It was such a wonderful aha moment, where the culture of the people in the game and their practices could be tied to a material event in their past. I suppose its kind of obvious once you hear it, but I’ve very rarely if ever come across a game that does this with its aesthetic choices or the culture its trying to portray. Its often simply treated as window dressing, or you get some goofy story about how “long ago a great warrior wore this clothing item” kind of crap. Either way it was an amazing bit of storytelling, and unfortunately it was really the only one I came across. Maybe there were more connections, but I really wanted a lot more of that kind of world building.

I also appreciate how many of the locations you visit are totally unique, or if not totally unique, provide enough unique flavor and story moments to make exploring everything really worthwhile. No cut and paste “outposts” or “dungeons” here. More of this please!

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I wanted to close out October on something spooky, so I played Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly for the first time. What a game! These days there isn’t much horror media that really gets to me. I don’t know if I’d call myself desensitized, but I just watch and play so much horror stuff that it doesn’t affect me much at this point. The big exception is media that put you in the headspace of a kid walking through the school hallways at night, or exploring a long abandoned building. The feeling of “I’m in a bad place, and I REALLY shouldn’t be here” is the flavor of horror that can still really scare me. Fatal Frame II takes you there, and keeps you there for like 5 straight hours. It’s AWFUL. I love it!

The vibes this game has are truly nightmarish! The whole thing starts off like a dream, with the inciting incident vague and half-remembered, and only the visceral feeling of dread being concrete. Soon you’re exploring drab, monochromatic areas, with the only real color in the mix being bright red. It makes it hard to really tell what you’re looking at in any given area, like your eyes haven’t adjusted to being in the dark yet. Every new area feels deeply haunted as you slowly poke your way through. Ghosts appear, not as jump scares, but as almost indifferent presences, to just as quickly disappear, leaving you in silence. When the do attack I admit that it can get pretty rote, but the sluggishness of the mechanics and often cramped battle arenas keep the tension high for the other scares the game has to offer.

By the end the game loses most of its deeply cursed atmosphere to repetition, as you backtrack through basically the whole game, but even that can’t dampen the impact of the expert first two thirds of the game. What a great experience!

The same day I beat Fatal Frame II a copy of Dark Souls on PS3 I bought on ebay came (aside: none of the Game Stops in my area carry PS3 games anymore, and it’s depressing). I meant to just check if the disk still worked, but I ended up getting sucked in. I just got to Blight Town, and the slowdown there might be worse than I remember. It’s great! There’s something nostalgic about poorly optimized console games at this point. I’m going for a sorcery build for the first time, and it’s a blast! I’ll probably beat it in the next week or so.

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On Slay the Spire: I’m glad to hear of your Watcher success. I have beaten the Heart on every other character, and still can’t beat act 3 with the Watcher. The wrath mechanic means you get punished so hard for a bad draw. It means your deck is always on a bit of a knife edge- you need to be able to burst in wrath sufficient to kill, or get the heck out of wrath so you don’t die, on any given turn, so your deck better have the right proportion of damge and utility at all points in your run.

Speaking of card game, I’m a sucker for trying all of them, even though I don’t always get on with them. See Griftlands- I love the story stuff and the way it builds characters and consequences into gameplay, but I don’t get on with the combat side of the game at all.

Roguebook, I’m pleased to say, I do get on with. It has lovely presentation- I like Slay the Spire’s aesthetic quite a bit, but it’s nice to have some beautifully drawn and animated characters. you can’t ever remove cards to trim your deck, so you are encouraged to make big, messy decks. You even unlock passive bonuses for your characters based on the size of your deck, just to give you that extra push to keep grabbing toys. Speaking of characters, you pick 2 to form your party, and your deck is a mix of each of their individual decks. They have plenty of personality to their play-styles, and a nice mechanic where the lead character takes the damage, and there are loads of cards that swap their positions. It adds a pleasing layer to your turns without ever being fussy.

Plugging away at Death’s Door. I have the hookshot now, so I’m wandering around looking for secrets rather than progressing. There’s a lot to like about the game, but it doesn’t quite hit the heights I’d like. It’s very skillfully put together, without ever really sparking. I do really like the setting, the art, and the music, and I do want to see it through.

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Re: Watcher, a good build I’ve found is to avoid wrath entirely. Turtling up while calm and building up mantra until you go divine is a much less risky method of play. I’m sure there are good wrath focused builds, but divinity is almost always better.

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The Watcher is definitely a hard character to play let alone play well enough to make it through the spire. I think I got super lucky with getting the upgrade card at the beginning. I also got a bunch of halt (I think that’s what it is called) where I would get extra block if in Wrath. I also had the power that gave me a smite every turn and another that brought down the cost of any retained card. So essentially I’d wait to go into Wrath until the time was right and just go ham on the poor unsuspecting enemy. I think it was more a perfect storm than repeatable strategy. After doing it though I do feel like it’s actually possible which felt like it wasn’t the case before.

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Been playing that hot new game Cyberpunk 2077, not sure if anyone has heard of it. Anyway figured a year’s worth of patches must have improved performance. Though to be honest, I updated my PC mid 2020 and I never really had any problems with the game. I only had a few glitches where my penis clipped outside trousers (it’s not even that big) and one glitch where a heavy enemy refused to walk out of a lift. Nothing too serious.

I do like the atmosphere of this game, walking around the city - it does feel like a real place. I find myself walking everywhere to be honest just to drink in all the visuals. I just did the mission which involved sneaking into a derelict shopping mall for the Voodoo boys. You have to walk through a market to get there which feels like a hive of activity, meanwhile some police gunship is wantonly blasting into an apartment of a nearby skyrise. Sort of reminded me of Heart of Darkness where Joseph Conrad describes this gunship pointlessly shelling the jungle from the sea - just a needless display of power. To get to the actual mission I walked under a bridge which was a makeshift shelter for homeless people that is watched over by a closed down roller-coaster.

I’ve been getting further into the story which is starting to get much better. I’m not sure if I’m into the bits where you play as Johnny Silverhand - they’re basically very stripped down linear segments where the combat is much easier thanks to Johnny’s super pistol. It basically lacks any of the nuance of the RPG systems and the open world. I don’t like Silverhand as a character much - I think that’s the point, your burdened by him living inside your head. The game did slow down a bit following a specific mission in which Johnny grandstands and gives a big speech about the war against the corporations - the war on entropy itself. It was kind of cool.

I did a random side quest in which you have to check in with your neighbour who is depressed after the death of a friend. It’s a really small mission, no combat or loot, just a lot of talking and a nice little story. This is the kind of thing I want from the people who made The Witcher 3. Moments of humanity within an inhumane world.

Speaking of inhumanity! Also went back to Doom Eternal to finish the Ancient Gods DLC. I love Doom Eternal - it took a bit of time to get there, but I think it’s up there with Sekiro as one of the hardest action games that is constantly asking you to be aggressive. I’ve gone back to it many times since it was released to blast through on higher difficulties and the master levels. The Ancient Gods continues the upward difficulty trajectory with a few more new enemies and ways of ‘buffing’ enemies. I blasted through the DLC on the 2nd hardest difficulty. Still quite difficult but I was still having fun. Not quite sure what was happening lore wise, but the last boss basically felt like an easier version of marauder.

They’ve also added a horde mode (for free). Only played a little bit, but effectively breaks down the game into arenas, limits your weapons - you start with the shotgun and have to unlock other weapons through challenges. It’s a cool mode - it goes all in on the arcade aspirations of the main game.

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Unpacking was my most anticipated game of this year. I just finished it and I think it is an absolute masterpiece.

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Halo games sure can be short when cruising through having fun on normal difficulty, huh? I’ve now finished Halo 4. Next up: my old nemesis, Halo 5.

Recently, I was surprised to find Halo 4 is somewhat controversial? I thought it had been better received. While I don’t think every decision 343 made in terms of continuing the story, adding new gameplay elements, and shifting away from Bungie’s design ethos was perfect, I really think they largely stuck the landing. Perhaps the funniest thing is how it’s the first mainline Halo game that actually picks up exactly where the previous game left off, finding Master Chief adrift in the Forward Unto Dawn approaching the Forerunner shield world that was teased in the legendary ending of Halo 3.

Gameplay-wise I think the new Forerunner designs are hit and miss; a few of the weapons hew too closely to the same archetypes as the existing human/Covenant weapons and don’t really distinguish themselves, and of the enemies, the Knights are just a pain to fight. Absolute bullet sponges. Playing on normal took the edge off but I still feel like they create too much friction, and not in the fun way that tossing a couple of Hunters into a fight does.

In hindsight maybe they played it a bit too safe. Despite all the new stuff, the level design can make it feel like a bit of an homage to Bungie’s Halo games. On the other hand, it works!

I have to get this off my chest though: I hate 343’s armour designs. Pretty much across the board. The Chief himself doesn’t look too bad, though I really don’t like the revamped design of his breastplate, and it bugs me in a very nerdy way that it’s not meant to be a new design but a retcon of his Halo 3-era look (or even further back, with flashbacks in the opening sequence depicting all Spartan IIs wearing that design). The multiplayer armour is much worse. It’s all weirdly organic, way too busy, and impossible to parse, like Michael Bay’s Transformer designs.

As a point of comparison I’ve been unlocking armour for Reach while I play through the campaigns, and I still think that was a high point for Halo customisation. Part of it is that the designs make a certain kind of sense. Take the EOD helmet. In the real world, as in the Halo universe, that’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal. The bomb squad. It’s a heavily armoured helmet with a tiny visor slit, which makes sense for the job it’s purported to do. There are EVA and flight helmets with huge wraparound visors for increased visibility. Chest armour with attached magazine pouches or strips of shotgun shells. None of this actually matters for gameplay - it’s all aesthetic, but it lets the armour tell a story, and the Mjolnir armour is so important to the aesthetic and story of Halo. In Halo 4 (and 5) it’s just a semi-organic mess.

I’m very curious what armour customisation is going to look like in Halo Infinite. I think the tech preview hinted at more of a throwback to ‘Bungie era’ designs, so much so that I had totally forgotten what armour looked like in Halo 4 and 5 until starting this replay.

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I think the ending of Halo 3 and how it rolls into Halo 4 hits different if you play Reach in between. Playing the numbered games in sequence makes the transition from Bungie to 343 a lot smoother than if you play Bungie’s coda(s) to the Halo saga first.

It surprised me to learn that even Reach is extremely controversial within the Halo community as well. Halo 4’s art design and trend-chasing multiplayer design is almost universally reviled within the community, but even Reach doesn’t escape the Sauron-like eye of Halo discourse. A lot of people really dislike the grounded, military veneer Bungie put on the old Halo 3 aesthetic, and the multiplayer was stacked with experimental balance choices that ended up breaking the sandbox a bit.

I’m with you on the armour designs in 4 and 5. Aying through them again has impressed on me what 343 did really well with Halo and what they still struggle with. They are incredible at the industrial design of the UNSC ships and weapons, and I think their Forerunner architecture is really nice to look at. They just can’t seem to hit the right balance of military sci-fi and ethereal, 70s science fantasy though. I’m not a Destiny fan, but Bungie flipped the balance of military and science-fantasy aesthetics in their subsequent series and it still nails the same vibe.

I think 343 really needed a big ass ring to set a Halo game on to pull everything together. Everything I’ve seen from Infinite feels like they understand that. I’m not expecting it to be perfect, I think Halo games are fundamentally of a certain time and place that we’re never going back to, but it certainly looks more promising than Halo 5 and it’s extremely smooth plastic Spartans.

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Agreed on 343’s industrial design sensibilities. The interior of the UNSC Infinity, the research station late in Halo 4, and some early stuff in Halo 5 - along with the human weapons and vehicles - all hit great. It kind of makes the Spartan armour designs even weirder - it doesn’t fit the same design language at all!

More broadly than just the aesthetics I’m tentatively hopeful about Halo Infinite. The tech preview at least suggests it feels and in many ways looks like Halo, but I hope the drubbing they took over Halo 5 doesn’t make them go so far back to basics they lose some of their better ideas - I’m sure I’ll write more on 5 once I finish it again, but my super quick take is kinda “these are all interesting choices but the execution is way off”. Then again, maybe all I want is Halo: CE Redux, Now with Open World :tm:

I will also add that I hope 343 gets more imaginative with their ship names though: ‘UNSC Infinity’ is no ‘In Amber Clad’ or ‘Pillar of Autumn’. At least ‘Argent Moon’ is going in the right direction.

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So I played through Metroids 1-5. Ok, I didn’t do exactly that, I substituted 1 and 2 for Zero Mission and AM2R respectively. Look, if you want a thorough analysis and smart discussion of the series, go read diglett’s thread. I just need to get my thoughts out there to justify spending all of October playing these dang games.

  1. Metroid: Zero Mission: What a banger to start with. The only 2D Metroid I played fully prior to this was Fusion, which allowed me to feel right at home here. I cannot stress how much the ledge grab improves platforming as a whole (as we will see when I get to Super). While I never beat OG Metroid, I have played it enough times over the years to understand its structure, and that let me appreciate how Zero Mission pays homage and subverts its progenitor. Even the added chapter after Mother Brain’s defeat feels essential to the mythology the series is trying to build, and I thought that it paid off quite well in Dread, now that I knew more about Samus’s Chozo heritage. I even liked the stealth conceit, although I can see why that is controversial.
  2. Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R): As nice as it would have been to play Mercury Steam’s take on Metroid II, do you have any idea what 2DS/3DS systems are going for these days?? Anyway, AM2R is incredible. I tried playing about 30 minutes of the original Metroid II, enough to get the genocide vibes, and can honestly say that AM2R nails it so well while still putting way more interesting meat on the bones. The art, level design, and general feel are all top notch, and if the Metroid fights weren’t so repetitive I would consider this my favorite of the series. Instead, it’s a very, very good Metroid game that is hampered by the structure imposed on it by the original.
  3. Super Metroid: I must have started this game at least a half dozen times over the years, especially in my younger years when I so desperately wanted to know the canon of the gaming literati. But inevitably I’d get lost (or scared) and move on. But not this time, I had Dread waiting for me in plastic wrap and I’d be damned if I didn’t eat my vegetables before desert. And now that I’ve beaten it, I still think it’s aged poorly. The controls are bad, and I can’t believe a company that just released Super Mario World could think to release software with such poor feeling platforming. The signposting is poor, and often I would just rub up against every possible wall, floor, and ceiling with every combination of powers I have acquired just to progress forward. Or rather, I’d do that for 15 minutes and then pull up a walkthrough. In any case, thank god for the Switch’s rewind feature for getting me through some of the worst boss fights in the series (Ridley, I’m looking at you). Bottom tier Metroid, don’t @ me.
  4. Metroid Fusion: My first ever Metroidvania, and boy does it hold up. We’re back to ledge-hang city and I could not be happier. The lack of X and Y buttons on the Game Boy Advance proved to be a godsend in streamlining the controls. No more dedicated dash button, Samus just runs. And no more hitting select a million times to get to the beam or missile you need. If it just did that, it’d be a huge improvement over Super (seriously, someone do a Zero Mission style remake for that game), but Fusion has also got Vibes. The color palette is just delightful, adding in neon pinks and yellows to Samus’s suit, the different biomes all feel distinct and lush in various ways, and the bosses are some of the coolest I’ve seen in the series (shoutout to Nightmare). Of course, there’s also the SA-X’s, which were terrifying on a tiny GBA screen back in the day, and are now completely off-the-charts horrifying playing on a 50-inch screen. Sure, this second time through I can see the strings of the scripted encounters, but the game manages to make them so engaging and dangerous that I think this game can be rightfully considered survival horror. This may no longer be my favorite Metroid, but damn if it isn’t the best looking and sounding one. Also, I don’t mind that it’s overly linear, but that’s just me.
  5. Metroid Dread: I’ll get it out of the way, this is now my favorite Metroid, and my current game of the year (although we’ll see what Deathloop, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo Infinite have to say about that). The game is an immaculate culmination of all previous 2D Metroids while still feeling like its own thing. I miss the pixelized graphics (especially Fusion’s) but what is gained here, namely some epic camera angles, badass cutscenes, and incredibly detailed 3D environments make it worth the tradeoff. The story is also a high point, folding in just about everything we know of the series mythos to create a wonderfully compelling dilemma for our protagonist and a worthy adversary that culminates to a Isshin, Sword Saint-level of incredible final battle. The controls are so silky smooth that I didn’t even mind playing a 2D game with a control stick, although I still felt the LB aiming was a little too fiddly, especially when taking down E.M.M.I bosses. Speaking of which, if there’s one place the game falters, it’s the E.M.M.I rooms. These invincible machines are clear successors to the previous game’s SA-X’s, and on paper they sound neat. Unscripted, more dynamic stealth sequences are great in theory, but often they were pace killers, having me sit in place for minutes on end trying to suss out a patrol route. It got even worse when they gained x-ray vision and everything became a mad dash. But that’s only a small part of the game, and certainly not enough to taint the incredible world design and combat that had me glued to my Switch all weekend.

Gotta say, Metroid is damn good. Can’t wait to restart this quixotic quest with the Prime series whenever 4 comes out.

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343 can’t match Bungie in cool ass sounding names:

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So, I got the “A” and “B” endings for The Talos Principle A being the “follow Elohim’s path and end up with your code saved and used as the seed for successor evolutions of the AI project, as you were merely “smart”, not “smart and independent” which is what the designers want in a successor to humanity”, and B being the “ascend the Tower, showing you are both smart and capable of being independent, and are thus a successful AI for incorporation into a physical body”.

I have to say, the plot and philosophy grew on me once it became increasingly clear that at least some of the strawmanning of philosophical concepts is intentional. (Milton isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, and you’re finally allowed to call it out on this quite late on in the game) That said, there’s still a bit of a tendency to cite “the usual” and so on.

Puzzle-wise, I think it was actually mostly fun (although I only did 4 or so of the Stars, which are the really hard ones, because it quickly seemed that a bunch of them would be involved scavenger hunts across the various maps for distributed bits and pieces to assemble into a solution - the ones I did were mostly “advanced solutions” for actual puzzles). The hardest, Red, puzzles did have a few which were definitely tedious (in the "I know what to do, but if I just mess one bit up at the end slightly, then I need to redo the entire puzzle sense mostly), and I am not a super big fan of “cooperate with a recording of yourself” puzzles in general (but mostly these were okay here).
I’ve noticed that I’m a bit clumsy when it comes to navigating 3d spaces, and that was annoying for a few puzzles (including the last one for ending B, where I did fall off ledges and have to restart the entire thing 3 times…)… and I also managed to make a few red puzzles harder than they were intending by just not noticing a component that I was supposed to be using until I’d exhausted all the clever edge cases I could think of with the tools I had found…

In general, though, I think I liked The Talos Principle a lot more than I disliked it. (although, whilst it’s a lot more substantial than Sayonara Wild Hearts, it’s not a GOTY contender for me like it is. Maybe if I had played it when it was released, I would have different expectations for it…)

Also, I decided to try out Year Walk, a previously acclaimed (and v different, tonally) game from Simogo…

…and I am honestly not sure what I think. The aesthetic - all paper-cutout art and slightly creepy nordic rustic - is great. The actual game, I’m still thinking about (there’s a music/“pick the right notes” puzzle that I’m currently stuck on because I apparently just can’t tell when notes aren’t perfectly in tune which is marring the experience a bit for me at the moment, and I don’t really want to resort to the admittedly v friendly hints system just yet).

Voice of Cards, finished twice: saved the dragon and the “save everyone with the power of cards” ending. It’s a light rpg that has only three elements: cards, dice and the narrators voice. Story has gets silly and also fairly dark in the last third of the game. Took about 12 hours, took my time and explored the map.
The random encounters got on my nerves sometimes but you have the ability to jump anywhere on the map you’ve already explored, which negated any annoying backtracking. They also made getting the “secret” ending much less of a time sink than previous Yoko Taro games.
The card designs were a big draw for me, liked them a lot.


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A quick heads up if, like me, you have been/are planning to play a lot of Halo in the run up to Halo Infinite: they’re adding a bunch of 20th anniversary content to the Master Chief Collection starting with a suit of armour for Halo 2 based on the 1999 (!) reveal trailer - which is way back when I think Halo was still a Mac exclusive (!?). YMMV on how valuable you find this stuff, but I’ll note they added ‘campaign customisation’ options which I think let’s you wear your goofy multiplayer skins in campaign missions for future replays, even if I imagine a lot of the multiplayer community might move on to Halo Infinite post-launch.

So: even though I’d finished Halo 4 and had exited the MCC to replay Halo 5, they’ve pulled me back in (side bar - it would be kinda nice if they could integrate Halo 5 into the Master Chief Collection and have all the now ‘classic’ Halo stuff in one place)

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After hearing so much about Inscryption I’ve decided to jump in and really liking the vibe so far. The diegetic mechanics of the game really add to the whole. Im not that far because I am an extremely slow player (meaning I dont have much time for games sadly) but I think this one is gonna stick.

Been liking the puzzles of Hardspace: Shipbreaker, feels like the style of the game is made just for me (big love for industrial styled scifi stuff)

And when my wife wants to play, we have been playing Anno 1800. Its fun and relaxing (and its a welcomed change from Don’t Starve Together, which she absolutely love and w have been playing it since it came out :slight_smile: )

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I gamefly’d Deathloop and I’ve gotten everything I want out of it just after a few days. I’m just not feeling it, which is supremely disappointing because I thought Prey was super fantastic. Anyone else feel this way too? All the reviews raved about it but the game just feels so… middling. I guess I’m just not big on these run-based games. I don’t think the shooting is all that great and I don’t get much out of the game by running through these mostly samey levels scouring them for leads and other info so there’s nothing to keep me going through the drudgery.

Probably doesn’t help much that I don’t care for Colt and Julianna’s bickering. It also doesn’t help that each run starts with that nonsense.

The game’s just not for me.

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So, I decided to (before starting Heaven’s Vault, which seems like a bigger game) decided to try and catch up with a few shorter games I missed in the last few years with “hidden reveals”. The kind of games that mostly got a bunch of press covered in “don’t read this because it’s hard not to spoil things in any discussion” warnings.

So, since it’s free / pay what you want, I started with Doki Doki Literature Club… which I have to say I have super conflicted feelings about.
Part of this is just that as far as I can tell from the little I know about the genre, all romantic visual novel protagonists seem to start as self-absorbed jerks, and for all of the attempts of DDLC to tell you [or at least, have characters tell you] that you’re super attentive and kind… the protagonist is still basically an asshole. He might be that way because he’s also an 18 year old who’s not good at dealing with his own feelings of vulnerability, but still. He’s clueless at best, and a jerk at his worst points.
[This is why I’ve basically only played some of the Ace Attorney games and Analogue+HatePlus]

CW warnings for some of the below: suicide, self-harm, mental illness

Now, as far as the plot itself goes, (all the rest in spoiler tags in case someone else is like me and missed on playing this until now). Getting the easy complaint out of the way first: glitch “scares” and silly attempts at shock jump scares are childish and were old-hat at the time DDLC was first made. And they detract significantly from what good there is in the actual game itself. I avoid “horror” games, but I’d not even really consider this to be in that genre - it’s depressing and arguably nihilistic, but there’s nothing I really found scary about the game, and the gore elements are fairly limited and don’t hit on my specific triggers for that kind of thing.

The game’s treatment of mental illness is weird. Sayori’s depression is actually fairly sensitively handled, until her suicide, which is played for shock value a bit too much (although the protagonist does react realistically, this is also when all the glitch aesthetic starts happening too, which is an issue). Whilst the game does later justify it (as Monika deliberately messing with Yuri’s mental state), Yuri’s psychological issues in Act 2 are much less well handled, and used for horror fodder (if you wrote poetry for her in Act 1, like I did, because you have to pick the girl who likes books and is an introvert, obviously, then she is better handled, to be fair. Her second poem is super on the nose about saying she self-harms, though - although I dunno if that’s just coming from someone who self-harmed at a similar age.).

A lot of the plot is super telegraphed, even the fourth-wall breaking stuff. Which is possibly intentional, but still…

… it’s not even that original. “Person becomes aware of fourth-wall / sentient and how controlled everyone else is… and then does horrible things to try to break out of it” is something that’s been done before DDLC was written, and better. I don’t think there’s anything much of interest which DDLC is trying to do which wasn’t done before it. (and even Doctor Who had an episode touching on the same elements for horror (Extremis, episode 6 of series 10), which actually came out a few months before DDLC did…)

Also, it’s super depressing in its general theme. Even the Golden Ending is sad, because you still know that the President of the club is self-aware, and experiences actual pain and disorientation whenever the game isn’t running… and who knows what state the vestige of Monika is in

Positives: There is some nice stuff with fourth-wall breaking text files in the game directory, and whilst not perfect (in a linux system, I can manipulate directory permissions in a fine-grained enough way to break some of the automated beats in a way the game can’t deal with), there’s a surprising degree of reactivity to player interaction in a meta level.

and Monika is a more complex character than she could have been - she’s done horrible things, but only to entities she regards as not really being sentient (Of course, you could justify doing horrible things to animals in the same way…) and because she’s clearly under some significant distress herself. But, still….

I’m really not sure how Dan Salvato can think his game is in any way a love letter to Visual Novels, though, it really feels like the opposite…

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