What game are you playing?

Speaking of the branching choices, the game does have a New Game Plus. IIRC, you keep your dictionary but the puzzle phrases get longer, or something like that. At any rate, it’s a way to experience the alternate paths while not making the translation game completely trivial.

Oh, yeah, and the game’s writer wrote a two-volume novelization of the game: Parts 1 & 2 – inklestudios

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Started Shin Megami Tensei V. From the perspective of someone who’s played a lot of SMT games I immediately appreciate the quality of life additions (like fast travel). A lot rough edges have been filed down -which might not appeal to some but it’s a very welcome change for me.

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A badge and change into Pokemon Shining Pearl and can confirm that it is, in fact, a Pokemon game. Feels a little less difficult than the original. The XP Share is big and it feels a lot less grindy. Started with Chimchar, which forced me to balance out my team, given that the first Gym is Rock. Still not sure what team I want to build yet - too accustomed to Sun/Moon and Sw/Sh where you can build your team super early and super easily.

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Tangent: I can’t believe they don’t let you turn off the EXP share anymore. It had been an option in almost all the games prior to Sword and Shield. Personally I’ve had to change how I play Pokémon now to keep it interesting (I use a wayyyyy bigger team).

Angry online Pokémon fans have done very little to curry favor, but this is one I’d take their side on.

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I am baffled that they don’t let you turn it off. Pokemon is definitely a game that appeals to all kinds of people (kids right up to the Nuzlocke folks) and should ideally be customizable within that range.

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Same, it’s such a weird design choice and made me essentially run two full teams in SwSh because I didn’t want to be ridiculously overleveled for every fight. The version from Sun and Moon where you could turn it on and off was fine! They didn’t need to change it!

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Too much Inscryption. Up way too late, great twist

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to reply to myself: in particular, as I play more of Heaven’s Vault, I increasingly agree with Pip Warr’s critique of the translation system - you can easily infer grammatical rules for word construction (just like once you know that the Japanese particle 何 means roughly “what”, you can easily guess that if you see it by 方, used as a polite word for “person”, the combination 何方 probably means “who?” - and conversely, if you’ve seen 何方 (who), 何の (which) and 何処 (where), you can infer backwards that “何” modifies the second symbol to become a question “what person”, “what (thing)”, “what place”, and thus that it would mean “what” by itself), but there’s no way to for Aliya, in game, to record this kind of discovery. Instead, you have to fumble through with words you already know - even if you know the particle for “possessive” and the words for “place” and “holy”, you can’t form the hypothetical word “temple’s” if you’ve never seen it before. This is frustrating in the sequences where you get a long sequence to try to match - as in this case, you have to try the separate words “possessive marker” “place” “holy”, and have Aliya note that they don’t fit the segmentation before the interface will let you treat the entire sequence as a “new word”.

On a different note: I also found that there’s a weird “prompt-lag” that seems to happen when you’re exploring a new bit of the rivers - sometimes Six’s “hints” (“we should turn left here”, “if you turn right, we’ll move outside the search area” etc) start lagging massively behind your actual location, especially if you keep tabbing out to check on the map yourself during a sailing sequence. I’ve had it happen that Six unloads about 4 turnings’ worth of advice suddenly all in one go just as we arrive at our destination - and also that he’ll give advice about a previous turning, and then suddenly contradict himself as he catches up to where we are now.

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Been a shooter kinda week for me. I’ve mostly been playing Call of Duty: Vanguard from gamefly. It’s double exp weekend so it peeled me away from the other shooter I’ve been playing but I really like it? It’s Call of Duty so you know if you’re going to enjoy it or not. I like WW2 shooters if only because I find most modern weaponry to be the most boring crap imaginable. Choose between several variations of the M4, a bullpup or the AK - big whoop. In WW2 most of the weapons are weird and unique, with nice wood frames and handles. Future shooters are good about this too. The last one I played was Black Ops 4 (which I got really in to) so I can’t compare how it is to the last two but I got the impression that the balance is non-existent - there are some SSS+++ tier weapons and then the rest, but you can mod just about any gun to be some broken thing - and the post-match vignettes ruin the flow between matches. But other than that it’s a decent Call of Duty with fun weapons. Check it out if you can get it second-hand or when it becomes super cheap.

The game it peels me away from is Halo Infinite a game in which I’m enjoying it immensely. I haven’t played Halo since 3 (which I didn’t care for at the time) so it’s like coming back to a whole new series. Everything about it feels really good. The only thing I don’t care for is how you only level up the pass with challenges - which are too specific for my liking - and you can’t filter out game mods. I just want to play team slayer and control point dammit! But besides that, it’s really good. I wish the grappling hook was part of the starting loadout because that’s the best part of the new game. Have it be unlimited too! I haven’t had this much fun swinging around since Titanfall 2’s multiplayer.

What’s even more baffling is it wasn’t even Gamefreak this time. I would have hoped a new development team would have recognized the obvious bad design choices that have plagued past Pokemon games and put in more QoL options.

The very good news is they used Unity. So expect to see mods coming in the near future.

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I think they made a lot of very smart design choices (The Gym Leaders are actually…maybe not challenging challenging, but they will absolutely wreck you if you don’t do your homework); I just think there’s a really big universe of Pokemon fans out there that could be appeased with a little more work.

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I’ve been playing ALOT of Halo Infinite. Even completed all the weekly challenges to unlock the tinted visor… One of the last challenges I had to kill 3 opponents whilst carrying the oddball. Actually managed to complete it within a single round. You have to hit them twice but your melee is really fast, so you essentially just hide around corners and charge the enemy. It’s a really cool game. I saw GB do an unfinished quicklook for the campaign and it looks really cool.

Also been playing Halo Reach with my friends. Reach has always been my favourite Halo campaign - it just has such a foreboding melancholy to it. The bit when your in space and see the planet getting bombarded next to the score. There are a lot of games about war but not many make you feel the weight that you are going to lose this planet like Reach does.

Then I played a bit of Halo 4 by myself. I was suprised how good the game looks for a 360 game, I don’t know whether they scaled the enviornments down to achieve that, it definitely feels more linear than the Bungie Halo games. Also it’s interesting to see all the changes they made to accentuate game feel, from Reach to Infinite. Everything just feels so damn punchy.

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Despite resolving to spend some time finishing off games I’ve left hanging, it’s apparently that time of year already - Black Friday, which means big discounts on digital storefronts where at least I’m not feeling too guilty about overworking retail or warehouse workers. This is usually when I grab something by Ubisoft once it’s finally patched-ish and the DLC is cheap. I can’t remember the last time I bought an Ubi game at launch - I’m usually at least an entry or two behind, so I’m also still playing AC Odyssey and haven’t even started the DLC yet. While acknowledging all their flaws, a decent open world game scratches a certain itch. They make for great podcast games, or like right now, when I’m healing a big tattoo and feel kinda shitty, and just want to clean up a big map.

That was a long walk to say I grabbed Watch Dogs Legion.

I didn’t really care for the original, but 2 is fantastic. Legion so far? Predictably mixed. When the procedural character stuff works it’s kinda mind-blowing, and when it’s off it can be very odd (usually from a voice that feels extremely incongruous with the rest of the randomly generated character). Playing it almost as a rogue-like, getting attached to certain characters and then losing them (from the optional permadeath) - it’s a very different spin on the series, but one that does pretty much work as promised.

No procedural character is going to live up to a fully scripted one, though, and the comparison to Watch Dogs 2 is especially painful because it was the rare open world game with truly great characters. It even feels like the development team acknowledges this shortcoming because although you as the player always inhabit a series of proc-gen operatives, there are fully scripted NPCs allied with you in the main game, and more bespoke characters added through the season pass that further move the game away from the ‘recruit anyone’ premise.

I can overlook those narrative/characterisation issues but the procedural stuff sometimes also gets in the way of the game itself. Take weapons: so far, I’ve found no way to acquire new weapons other than recruiting someone who already has it. You want an assault rifle? You need a recruit with one. You want an assault rifle and a drone? Sorry, those skills don’t - or only rarely - go together! It’s clearly meant to force you to bounce between different operatives depending on the mission, but this isn’t like GTA5, a game that came out nearly a decade ago, and there’s no similar seamless switching between characters here. You can’t run two operatives with different skills into a mission - outside of co-op, you’re flying solo, and stuck with compromises.

I missed Exo One coming out. This morning I finished Exo One. Please play Exo One, a game that dares to ask: what if Connor Sherlock’s Far Future Tourism was also Tiny Wings?

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I’m bouncing between Hades and Skyrim at the moment, with a side of Microsoft Flight Simuator. (Just append “with a side of MSFS” to every post I make in this thread after August 2020, TBH.)

Hades: Still a great game! I’m on 6 clears at the moment and progressing fairly slowly through the main plot, primarily because I’m still spending a lot of time on Prophecies rather than just dialing in an endgame build. While I could just turn on God Mode and do both, I’m honestly having fun with the slow grind of it all.

Skyrim: Still a pretty good game! Still love the vibes after all these years. I always took a light touch approach with modding, so the “modpocalypse” didn’t affect me much. There’s light at the end of the tunnel there, as well, since Address Library, Papyrus Util, and Engine Fixes have all been updated.

MSFS: Asobo’s commitment to breaking as many things as they fix every time they release an update is almost impressive. The PC-6 Porter they added is a very cool plane, though. I like to do high-latitude flying, so having a plane in the sim with both skis and decent cargo capability is catnip to me.

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So, final (if raw) thoughts on Heaven’s Vault after finishing a first playthrough [and not doing any NG+ yet]:

I stand by my critiques - that the translation system could have been more in-depth than it is (and given the grammar of the language as developed, it feels like it deserved a deeper translation system), and there’s sometimes weird lag issues in syncing the “Ink” part of the game (which I think is providing sets of viable conversations in a queue at any point in time) and the “Unity” part of the game, when things are moving continuously, most egregiously when you’re doing navigation on the rivers.

There’s also one or two slight IF hiccups, where not quite all the narrative forks are quite distinguished as much as they really should be. (This is most evident in the “Previously on” summary bits when you resume a game or leave a moon - for example, if you reawaken the First Empress Enkei in Six’s body, the summary will use “Enkei” instead of “Six” when describing who did a thing. But often, it was Six, not Enkei who did that thing, causing confusion - but not just there; I’ve had a couple of conversations which seemed to assume one or two things that just hadn’t happened in my game quite in the way the conversation required.)

Oh, and without spoiling things, the ending is a gloriously Interactive Fiction (and very Jon Ingold from his early IF days) flourish, which is also prefigured if you’re any good at actually reading Ancient, rather than just doing block manipulation to get points. I’m a bit disappointed that Aliya herself seems to cotton on very slowly - if she’s been studying Ancient as long as we’re told, you’d hope she’d be a bit better at noticing what the language implies… and it’s definitely more of a surprise to her when the context for the entire setting shifts radically than it was to me, who’d been waiting for it for the last hour or so.
[this is both a good and a bad thing, I guess]

I also stand by the good things - in general, it’s a really pretty solidly constructed piece of IF, and if the Unity bits are slightly jankier, then that’s not a huge problem most of the time, and it does feel like most of the choice framework is robust enough to allow a lot of different branching choices that feel “locally” different, even if the ending is clearly going to always funnel down to making that choice, even if the entities with you might change, and your previous actions also. I’m pretty certain that there’s entire sequences and nuances of discovery I’ve missed (I don’t know exactly what Aamir said to the robot that made it say the control word to the Catkis Gate, and I suspect that there’s more details about Enkei’s reign, and Professor Myari in general (I really strongly avoided talking to her in my playthrough, having taken an instant suspicion about everything about her) that I could uncover).

And, personally, I really did enjoy the sailing sequences, even if they seem to be a bit marmite for people in general.

I can also see why it’s one of the game Outer Wilds fans recommend - for me, I think the design works better then OW, just because I can focus more on the actual detective work without having the game trying to make me actually do mechanical things that are stressful all the time. And, like OW, the uncoverable narrative and setting does really justify the work you put into it. I spent a long time doing extra translations to build up both my corpus of words and my understanding of the setting.

I guess I should actually try Pendragon and Sourcery! now, right?

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so I binged Inscryption over the weekend, and although I enjoyed it, I suddenly understand some of what looked to be frustration expressed in chat during the Waypoint streams thus far. don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed watching Rob and Natalie play through it, but I think there’s something about where the difficulty level is aimed at, that’s a little bit uneven. I’ll hide the rest of this, but I won’t spoil anything specific about the plot or twists, this is just some very vague musing about how the difficulty level changes over the course of the game

The first third kind of tricks you into thinking that it’s a game like Slay the Spire, where tactical decision making and deck building choices often needs to be be very sharp, because StS is strategically unforgiving. But it’s much easier to completely break Inscryption than it is StS. Without going into details I’ll just say that at one point I had a card which if I drew it in my opening hand would win me a match immediately, and it’s not that hard to find “tutoring” cards that search your deck, so that run was hilariously easy.

That’s not to say that the card game at the heart of it isn’t fun, I enjoyed it more than many other card games. I just wish it was tuned a little bit differently, or maybe that there was more of it.

That’s in contrast to the second third, which I think was tuned much much better. The card play in the second third was really strong, I found those matches interesting and tense. The deck building choices there feel like they really matter, and the mechanical twists gave you the flexibility to understand why the choices mattered, which is really gratifying in a card game. I felt like I was being pushed to really understand the mechanics

Unfortunately that part is kind of short, or at least it felt that way. And the last third was the worst, being too long and in my opinion not tuned very well at all. I never really felt challenged, and didn’t feel like I had to engage with half the mechanics to get through most matches.

In case this all comes off as humble bragging about my superior card skills, trust me when I say I am not anywhere close to Cado and Natalie’s level of experience and intuition with card games. I’m truly dreadful at Slay the Spire and the only other card game I’ve done more than dabble in is Netrunner which I am both mediocre at and is a slightly different beast in some ways.

Maybe this is all a symptom of binging the game, but honestly I’m not sure that I would have finished it if I had done anything else. I think I would have fallen off in the last third, and that thought is making it really hard to recommend the game to my friends…

I can see why people are talking about it like game of the year, but for me it was a really mixed experience. Yeah the story and twists are fun, but I wanted a lot more mechanically.

well I ended up writing entirely too much, but I dunno… it’s still a pretty good game, and it earns the GOTY talk, I just wish it was something a little bit different

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Exo One was great. It probably took me an hour to really resonate with the mechanics/physics, but it has so much eye candy I didn’t mind some of the struggling.

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Convinced my SO to finally give Subnautica a go on Switch! She seemed to enjoy the first 30 minutes or so before we moved onto other things, but I’m excited to hear about her adventures

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Animal Crossing and Shin Megami Tensei V.
I’m surprised there isn’t more chatter about the DJ Slider event in the AC DLC, which made me very happy, actually left the party running in the background for like an hour, didn’t realize how much I missed DJ Slider.
(Spoiler for an event in the Animal Crossing DLC)
Kind of random, but chefs kiss to the demon lore being displayed in loading screens in SMT5. Have any of the SMT games thought to do this before?