What game are you playing?

After Watch Dogs Legion betrayed me (see above), I dusted off that stack of things I was supposed to be finishing before I grabbed Legion on sale. That meant going back to put in the final 30-60 minutes or whatever I had left of Alan Wake Remastered. I really enjoyed the main game, but I’d had this recollection of the two pieces of DLC (The Signal and The Writer) being better. They’re… fine. In fact, The Signal is pretty rough, feeling like Remedy failed to tune the difficulty properly, while The Writer is an improvement but not as great as I remembered it being.

You know what was much better? Revisiting Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Little tangential shoutout to Xbox backwards compatibility meaning I could just install this old Xbox 360-era Arcade game and get it running with auto HDR. I’d been worried that after Alan Wake Remastered it would feel bad to play a ‘vanilla’ 360 game, but if anything, I’d be tempted to say American Nightmare looked better - super vivid. The only notable graphical issue was aliasing on all the neon signs. As an Xbox Live Arcade game it’s pretty short, the whole thing only took around three hours?, so I ended up binging it in one sitting.

One thing I’ll add is that it was fascinating to see the live action cutscenes included, which I’d entirely forgotten about. Which leads me to…

Quantum Break. I only played this once, early into when I got an Xbox One, and I remember liking it a lot, but I feel like it’s Remedy’s least loved game. Maybe just because - understandably - nobody had an Xbox One. Looking forward to giving it another go before capping off this Remedy Extended Universe run with Control.

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For the past few months I’ve mostly been playing Arknights, a gacha tower defense game. First, I want to stress that as a gacha game it does employ many systems that wants you to spend too much money. For me, the most pressing is FOMO from the larger events, which make you roll for characters which can only be acquired for a few weeks. From my outside look into the fandom, these characters are hugely popular in play, fanart and commentaries: there’s a real hype here to miss out on. So again, beware for exploitative systems.

Continuing: It’s the first extended time I’ve put into a modern f2p game, or at least one which uses timers and limits on daily mission allowances to inhibit your playtime. And engaging with characters and a story over the long term – on the scale of months or years – rather than a few weeks does work! Many characters only get a few paragraphs of background in a character log, but a lot of gravitas is added to them and the world as I’ve slowly bonded with them by running and rerunning missions so many times.

The story does take a while to get going, though. The backdrop – a post-catastrophe Earth ravaged by wars, where groups of “infected” people face open discrimination spurred by city states – is interesting and very charged. But the first chapters, which have you face off against the rebel army of infected people known as “Reunion”, do little beyond establishing the world and that there are good people and monsters on both sides of the conflict.

How trite, I thought and was afraid that it’d stop at that. But now that the main players are established I’m happy to say that the second story arc so far (I’m up to ch. 7) has been very interesting. Allegiances, loyalty and beliefs have been tested and the story is shifting into a distrust of systematic power. The cynical edge that belies all the writing is working very well here and I’m into finding out where it goes next. I do have to say due to the f2p limits and sometimes necessity to level up a new operator for a new story stage, I’ve sometimes paused on a mission for several weeks before returning, which works against the story. Though you can look at all cutscenes again if you need to remind yourself.

The game is also a lot of fun to play. Your operators all come with unique skills and talents, and the huge character roster lets you build and experiment to your hearts content to beat levels. Learning team composition, skill selection, positioning and even deployment order makes for a lot of things to consider, and adds a lot of depth to a difficult game. Since operators are (mostly) acquired through the gacha/lottery system it also feels, at least for me, like your team is your own. It’s an interesting aspect of this otherwise exploitative system, and I wonder how that could work out in a game that didn’t monetize it.

Finally, I love how the game looks. The character and SD art is mostly great and there’s a large focus on fashion, leaning on the side of (but not exclusively) tech wear. There’s also a smashing soundtrack and the developers maintain a website for an in-world record label, which I wish I knew how to navigate.

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I got an Oculus Quest 2 at the weekend, been wanting to upgrade for a few years now, so I can play beat saber wirelessly and also finally play Half-Life: Alyx.

Though I’m not mad about how integrated the Quest 2 is with facebook, I am amazed by how easy it is to use. The way you can dynamically raise and lower the floor and set the confines of your play space whether your sitting or standing is really quick and easy. When you move out of the limit, it’ll show a video feed of your surroundings. Again, not sure how crazy I am for having facebook have a camera into my humble home. It may just sit in a box when I’m not using it… Not that I’m up to anything shady, but it’s about having the freedom of wanting to do something shady in my own home, I suppose.

I also got a USB C cable to link up to my PC, so I can play some of the more impressive games on steam. Apparently there’s a way to link up to your pc wirelessly via an app on the oculus quest 2 but I think it costs £20/$30. I may take the plunge at some point so I can go completely wireless. I think Beat Saber on steam allows you to play custom songs, but since playing Beat Saber from the Quest 2 directly without any wires, it’s hard to go back. When playing half-life I have found the cable getting wrapped around when I turn around.

Having played PSVR for the last few years, the Oculus Quest 2 does feel like a step up. It’s better graphically on it’s own, and looks less grainy than the PlayStation. Hook it up to a PC, and Half Life Alyx looks amazing, but boy does my computer howl when running it.

I’ve only played a bit of Half-Life: Alyx - I wanted to save it for my day off before properly plunging into it. Out of all the VR games I’ve played, it’s easily the most impressive. I spent about an hour in the starting area of the game, examining everything that was lying around, trying to throw a beer bottle at a pigeon, drawing on the window pane, correcting a bunch of wall paintings that were hanging a little askew. It’s amazing how interactive it feels. I came out of the game still thinking my hands operated in the same way as the game. I’m sure that’s not damaging on my brain…

As it was Black Friday a few games were on sale.

Beat Saber: I played a lot of beat saber on PS VR enough to where I was good enough to play Expert+ competitively on most songs. It took a bit of getting used to on Oculus Rift, because the controllers feel more like gun handles than the sword handles of the PlayStation Move. But I’m getting used to it quite quickly. Having no wires and being able to play 360 levels is great.

Vader Immortal: I thought this would be more of a theme park ride than an actual game, but I ended up enjoying my time with the first episode. It basically has you play a smuggler who along with your sassy robot accomplice are imprisoned at Vader’s castle on Mustafar where Vader basically needs your help in finding some ancient jedi archeology - that might make him become an immortal. The gameplay is quite slight, you have light puzzles that are basically finding your way around a contraption - like The Room. It’s a nice demonstration of VR controls, especially when you get the lightsaber and do a bunch of combat, it’s very simplified. You can grip the hilt with one or both hands, but I was mostly playing Obi Wan’s Episode 3 stance and saying Hello There at every juncture.

The story isn’t bad either, sort of delves into Vader behind the mask - getting vibes of the Kieron Gillen Vader comic run. However, although the game wants you to feel intimidated by Vader, at 6ft 5 I’m actually about as tall as him in the game. Looking forward to playing more of it.

Resident Evil 4: This game is probably my most revisited game, and it’s such a thrill to once again revisit it in VR. They do a really good job of transferring the core game into the VR format. Being able to aim your weapons yourself is great, and the control is really instinctive. During the first village confrontation, I pulled out my pistol in my right hand and my knife in my left hand - CQC style. The VR really plays into the game’s goofier nature, like you get to actually type on the typewriter when you save your game. You get to pick up all the treasure in the game and examine it like a pirate. The only problem with Resi 4, is that it does give me motion sickness. Most other VR games have the Alyx approach of being able to warp over to spots within a given area, rather than moving over as you would in a normal game. There may be a way to change it in the options, because I can’t make it more than 20 minutes currently.

Battle Sister: As a 40k nut, this game didn’t particularly look good, but it was on sale. And holy shit… You play as a sister of battle, and I can’t tell you how cool it is to handle a bolter and mow down chaos cultists. I was laughing like a loon. I’m quite early in, and I think the graphics are quite lower quality than other games, it definitely has a lower res, but the scale of 40k is there. Once again the controls are really responsive and I’m digging the atmosphere, the second level starts quietly as you walk around a convent. Of course it isn’t long until Chaos are back and your going ham with twin bolt pistols and beheading cultists with your power sword. Doesn’t give me motion sickness either.

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I think I have reached the end of my time with Pokemon Shining Pearl. They have like…half a post-game there, but I had quite enough of grinding out Mysterious Shards in the Grand Underground and I have zero interest in attempting to find a decent Ditto for competitive play this time around, so I guess it’s off to see what the Call of Duty game with the first writers room to reach 50% women looks like

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So wireless PCVR is native to the Quest 2- no extra purchases necessary. It’s called Air Link, I think? It requires you to have a hard connection from your PC to your router, and to be in the same room as your router (which is why I can’t use it in my house- those things are logistically tricky to arrange). I hear very good things about it, though. It would be the ideal way to play Alyx.

On Vader Immortal: I played through the whole thing and really enjoyed it. I do think of it as a theme park ride, but you get to do some cool stuff in some cool places, and there are some pretty decent story moments. I really like the lightsaber dojo, which just has you stand in place and deflect bolts from those training drones from the first movie and parry melee bots. By the third episode this mode gets pretty wild, with a bunch of different enemy types, force powers and double lightsaber. You get into a real flow. Throwing one lightsaber and pulling it back while blocking bolts behind my back is a moment I’ll remember the feeling of for a long time.

On Battle Sister: I’ve talked about it here before, I think, but I had a blast with it. It’s not the best shooter in the world, but it has a wonderful 40K sense of grandeur. I love that it made having a bolt pistol in one hand and a blade in the other a perfectly sensible way to fight. I also loved that it has Space Marines be actually 9 feet tall in their armour. Those guys are immense and it feels perfect.

You mentioned The Room, and I really recommend the VR Room game. Such good spooky atmosphere. I’m dying to geek out about a mechanic in the second main area of the game that took my breath away the first time it happened, and could only have the impact it does in VR, but I will not spoil it for anyone.

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Imo that app (Virtual Desktop I think) is worth it. I have pretty mediocre internet and it still works extremely well, and it makes turning around and movement generally (important in HL: Alyx) much smoother, since you’re not dragging a cord.

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I’m a crazy person with an Index and recently an Oculus Quest 2 (There’s just enough Quest exclusives and eventually a Facebook account will no longer be required) and I’m tempted by the Virtual Desktop app, I’m also just learning about Air Link. I haven’t had it long and the first few days was spent trying to get my fakebook account I made when I got it unbanned so I could use the damn thing so I’m off to a slow start figuring out all my options.

What would be nice is a way to get direct feed out of the Quest 2, you can cast but that’s terrible quality. An RTMP or NDI option would be amazing. People being able to record and stream Quest 2 games easily would be great for selling the Quest 2. The safe zone in the Quest 2 is great.

I dipped into the RE4 VR on the Quest and while I prefer the tracking and fidelity of the Index over the Quests and would have loved to play it on that, that is a very good version of RE4. Maybe the RE4 remake will take the VR they built for this and add it as an option in the remake for PC VR and PSVR.

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I was trying to work out how to cast last night. I think I could stream directly to the Oculus app but you’ve got to enable it on the app. I’m guessing via PC link, I could probably stream the PC overlay it onto OBS - which would allow me to stream to twitch. Even if I could grab the video so I could edit it as a video.

So wireless PCVR is native to the Quest 2- no extra purchases necessary. It’s called Air Link, I think? It requires you to have a hard connection from your PC to your router, and to be in the same room as your router (which is why I can’t use it in my house- those things are logistically tricky to arrange). I hear very good things about it, though. It would be the ideal way to play Alyx .

@Arathain This is super helpful! I’ll definitely try this!

On Battle Sister, I do love the way you can shoot the armour off the space marines.

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Craig Ferguson has an old joke about how you can do anything you want to two groups of people in your story: Nazis and Canadians. Nazis because they’re Nazis and Canadians because they’re just happy to be included.

I thought about this as I sat through the first twoish hours of Call of Duty. Make no mistake: it’s a Call of Duty game. Much like the Uncharted games, it feels less like a game and more like starring in an action movie, where the director calls “Cut!” every 30 seconds if you don’t hit your beats. Still smoking out machine guns. Still struggling to hit gray targets on gray backgrounds.

But being back in WWII means they seem much more comfortable in their storytelling. Their heroes get to be heroes because the bad guys are Nazis. They have a woman (who is basically Kainé with a sniper and an accent - hi Laura Bailey) now! The captain is black! It seems like they’re able to spread their wings a little more because they’re not constantly seeking out ripped-from-the-headlines style provocation, but I feel like they’re only able to do it because WWII is the last time the United States et. al. were actually the protagonists in a war situation.

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So, one of those “games I got really cheaply in the sales” this weekend was… The Witcher 3.
After all, it’s supposed to be one of the best of the “open world RPG” genre, so I guess I should actually try playing it at some point…

So: after apparently playing it for 2.6 hours, I have the following observations:

  • the early game is obnoxious with the number of tooltips (which you have to explicitly acknowledge and dismiss, one by one) it throws at you every time you basically do anything for the first time. It’s not even “the first time you open this pane on the inventory” - I’ve opened the world map 3 times so far, and each time I had to cycle through more new tooltops excitedly telling me about new keys I should press.
  • the actual game itself seems fine (I’m playing on the “Normal”/“Story and Sword” difficulty, because who has time for hard mode when you’re playing a narratively driven game, eh?), although TBH I am still not entirely sure I remember all of those buttons from the tooltips, and I almost got killed by a bunch of wolves. Geralt’s actor is very Geralt.
    • Gwent… seems okay, I guess. I am not really sure how people got so addicted to it when TW3 came out [I say, as someone who spent half his time in Shenzen IO playing the solitaire game…].
    • I have a horrible feeling that there’s going to be some kind of equipment durability mechanic. Which will make me sad.
    • The actual “open world” is lovely enough to look at and wander through that it’s worth just doing that. Even if you then get attacked by wolves and almost killed. Which is weird in itself, since wolves tend not to go after humans (especially with deer and sheep right near by…). Skyrim syndrome right there.
      • In closer confines, Geralt seems weirdly “bulky” though: it’s hard to not accidentally barge people just trying to walk around them, which is a little annoying.
    • Speaking of those buttons, it does seem very clunky some of the interface choices (unless I just don’t know how to quickswap magic, and there’s a “Quest pane” button I’m missing rather than having to go through inventory).

Oh, and I managed to fail a quest already because apparently I let some guy who was pretending to be a merchant flee. The transition from cutscene to action was v awkward though, and the camera change, coupled with me being awful at situating myself quickly in the environment, meant that I probably rode off in the wrong direction down the road? Not really sure. Also not really happy that it seemed to take me about 5 seconds to go from “chase him!” to “oh, no, you failed this one”…
Is this going to happen a lot, or is this quest just particularly hair-trigger?

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Me: Oh, Call of Duty is dropping an open level on us…nope, wait, it’s a labyrinth.

It’s…interesting? I guess. I don’t think it works as well as the game thinks it’s working. The WWII guns simply don’t feel as good as modern ones, but if this narrative is the new quality floor? I’ll take it.

I’m playing the Outer Wilds dlc and liking it. Maybe a little less than the main game so far, because I’m feeling the time constraint a bit more and end up resetting pretty frequently. I’m not super far into it because I think I figured out how to access the scare zone (well I can get to a place that seems like it would be by sleeping with the lantern in the burial chamber) and am wondering about the ‘less intense’ setting and the scares in general.

Are the sections like dark bramble where if you know the trick you’ll be fine or are they more single-instance jump scare-y things. I’m tempted to turn the ‘less intense’ setting on but I kinda want to know what it does more concretely then they spell it out in the menu. If anyone knows a good example or video which shows the difference that be nice. I would look it up myself, but I don’t want too much knowledge of what’s to come (but one good example would be a-okay).

Also I hope to never get the ability to translate the new language you see.

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Been having a mini “do I even like video games anymore” thing. Some of it is playing lots of classics that I’m a bit cold on, new genres, and old stuff in an effort to clear my backlog and learn some history. Probably a lot of it is general COVID bummerworld and being unemployed such that games are the closest thing I do to a job sometimes. Either way, gaming hasn’t quite been hitting for me recently.

But this week I finally got around to trying Into the Breach and, yeah, I like games. This shit rips.

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I’ve gone a bit deeper into Brilliant Diamond, though very slowly. I really can’t get over how awkward the movement is — it’s clearly a tile-based world, and the range of motion they give the main character is just full of weird snapping and locking. I never, ever, ever use the Switch D-Pad — I don’t like how it’s positioned, it doesn’t fit my fingers, the buttons aren’t deep enough, and I’m a stick person in general even with pixel platformers — but I’ve started using it here because the stick just feels so strange.

This game is kinda baffling, honestly. The most baffling part being why they didn’t just remake Platinum. Because playing it is making me realize how much my memories of Gen IV were actually memories of Platinum, despite playing Diamond to completion a bunch of times before it came out. It’s a better game. There’s so much more depth to it. Its locations are more interesting; its range of pokemon is better; the postgame content for sure is vastly improved. I’m probably just gonna go play it after I finish these, because I think I have a pretty young save file on my copy of it. But it doesn’t even seem like they did a Delta Episode-like addendum to include stuff like the Distortion World, which might be both the best setpiece Pokemon has done (N’s Castle is close but that’s all I can think of). It’s just cementing my earlier thoughts that these are really just remasters with a lot of untapped potential.

On the flipside though, I have a Jirachi on my team, and I do love it when these games give opportunities to have pokemon you’re really never supposed to have on your in-game team. Right now it’s a three-man band of Jirachi, Prinplup, and Murkrow, and the overleveling isn’t as bad as it was in SwSh as long as I make sure to always run from wild Pokemon. And the underground seems like a cool iteration on what used to be there — one of the few things that actually feels worthy of the word “remake.”

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Entirely in spoilers, labelled by topic (I am also trying to be vague) :

‘Less Scares’ mode: this turns off one sound which is scary, and makes scary things slower and more visible

Learning about the scary place: there is definitely stuff to learn about the scary place that makes it easier to deal with.

Translation: well, you know who made the Nomai translator, why not go get their opinion?

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Awesome, thanks!
Translation: I talked to that character after I first saw the writing and it seemed like the translation tool wouldn’t get working on the new language. But the base game felt (to me) like it had no loose ends, so I wasn’t sure if there was some Rosetta Stone you would find. I’m glad the writing remains untranslated, because while it was really compelling fitting everything together playing the base game, it ended up feeling very artificial/designed after I was done playing because everything fit so nicely (see also preferring Demon’s Souls level select over Dark Souls interconnected world). Also the writing seems like it just labels things, so it’s fun to give your own names.

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I’ve been playing Shining Pearl, and I totally agree. The deeper I get into it, the more I wish I was just playing Pearl (or Platinum) on the DS instead. It’s still a really good game, but this is definitely the most nothing remake in the Pokemon catalog at this point.

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Been having a bit of a rough go of it in terms of games I’ve tried out recently.

About a week and a half ago, I reinstalled Tetris Effect: Connected on Game Pass in the hopes that it would work on my machine (it would just instantly quit whenever I launched it before) and the good news is that it did! Bad news is that playing through Journey mode on Normal made me realize I am no good at Tetris! Normally a lack of proficiency in a game wouldn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of it but struggling to stay afloat and repeatedly failing levels after transitioning from one to the next was really taking me out of the otherwise incredible audio-visual experience that mode has going for it. I uninstalled it for now but am currently on the lookout for a different version of Tetris I can try out to skill up before giving it another go.

Around the same time, I finished No Straight Roads in one sitting and have been trying to figure out how to express how I feel about that game since then. I think the briefest way to put it is that it’s easily one of the coolest games I’ve played in recent memory that simultaneously does so little for me that I can’t bring myself to enjoy or care about it. Not gonna fully get into it here but outside of the visuals (which are sincerely tremendous, by the way) every other part of the game wildly oscillated from making me think “Wow, what a cool thing/neat idea!” to “This is completely fine and tolerable.” to “I’m glad I just did that because there’s no way I’m ever playing this game ever again.” I’m very curious as to how I’ll feel about it after more time’s passed because right now I’m just sorta… whatever on it.

And just yesterday, I started playing Sonic Mania because I found myself really wanting to play it for reasons I cannot really fathom. I grew up playing and occasionally loving the many 3D Sonic games that came out post the original series so I’d never seriously played a 2D Sonic game as an adult outside of the Classic Sonic stages in Sonic Generations which I remembered enjoying a fair amount. Mania, however, really called my memories of that game into question because I could not stand playing it at all!

Every time the game asks for more careful platforming as opposed to blazing through loops and whatnot I found it to be completely unbearable. Probably because so many of the enemy and obstacle placements felt like they were punishing me for not knowing the level layouts and being unable to anticipate or react to them just completely deflates all your momentum. I think that the game having so few lives really didn’t do it any favors for me because every time I got a game over it was always in the second act of a zone after I spent what felt like an eternity figuring out the gimmicks in the first act.

I normally try to tough it through games I’m not fond of but after getting two game overs back to back in the water area (Hydrocity Zone, I think?) and seeing that I wasn’t even halfway done with the game I had to tap out of Sonic Mania for my own sake. It’s left me wondering if I don’t get on 2D Sonic games in general or if it’s just Mania that isn’t for me. Either way it’s probably gonna be a while before I try and figure out the answer to that.

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IIRC, Mania is a remix game by a team that came out of the romhacker community. Which is to say, it’s a game by and for people who know the original 2D Sonic games on a deeply intimate level. The difficulty you encountered I’m pretty sure is the point, so it’s certainly possible that it’s just Mania that isn’t for you. There’s no guarantee you’ll get along with other 2D Sonics, though.

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I played Tetris Effect on Normal, and ran into the same thing. It gets very hard. Like, I’m here to play some Tetris and enjoy the cool effects and music and in fact I’m dry mouthed and sweating with the focus it’s taking to get through any level in the later half. If I go back to it I’ll turn the difficulty down, but it’s an odd that it’s so tough.

I finished Jedi: Fallen Order, just in time before Endwalker. I have finished relatively few games in my life, so add that to a rather exclusive list. I liked it from start to finish. I thought the lightsaber wielding bosses were particularly cool. They each had very distinct, very expressive combat styles. The Second Sister is quick and elusive, with lots of dashes and attacks that come in spinning and ducking. The Ninth is direct and forceful. Malicos starts off showy and precise, but becomes relentlessly aggressive when angry.

Cal is not excluded- his style develops over the course of the game into something that feels unique to him, even as you can see where many of the elements come from. There’s a great moment later in the game where an important step for Cal as a character is accompanied by learning a couple of powerful and very cool looking new moves that express that development. Great stuff.

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