What game are you playing?

That’s fair, and I think impartial was a bad choice of words on my part. I think I wanted the outcomes to be less… binary, maybe? Hence the quotes on “innocent.” Or to be systematized into the game in the way that everything else about the game is. I probably wouldn’t have felt this way if the game actually did require me to do more to piece everything together, but I felt like the dialogue system and the ability to converse was missing a payoff that could have fit so well into the structure the trials ended up having. @aoanla mentioned the Day Breaks and the sort of staticness between them and Love Dies — it never felt right to me that there was no way to talk them into trusting her with their secret and maybe even planning a false alibi in the game itself, and it didn’t feel true to the relationships they seem to already have either. Even if you can effectively choose to spare them by withholding evidence.

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Returned to Elden Ring after a long hiatus to give Malenia another go. Between cries of “git gud” and more recently “these games aren’t actually difficult, they’re demanding” it feels gauche to complain about her, but … I truly don’t like the fight. From three attacks that 1HK’s my character, health steal even when shielding and NPC summons being a liability she demands a mastery of systems seen nowhere else in the game. I can see why many like that, but I don’t enjoy ER’s core melee combat enough to care. I’ll take any endgame duel in Sekiro over her.

Plus, the arena visuals are uncharacteristically drab for a climactic FromSoft fight, at least for the first phase. A lot of the fight will be in the shadowed areas where everything becomes murky and her moves more difficult to read. Makes the second phase stand out more, but you’ll barely have time to parse that due to everything that’s going on.

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Well, I got a PS5. I’ve been casually following UK stock checkers and happened to spot a restock, and managed to get one without an egregious bundle (just Horizon Forbidden West, which I would have got sooner rather than later anyway)

The first thing I played on it was… Thomas Was Alone. Been meaning to try it for a while and I spotted it in my library when looking through what I could install. The irony of using a new next gen console to play a game about rectangles made in Unity in ~2012 is not lost on me.

Followed that with Horizon Zero Dawn. I almost never replay open world games; in fact, the only one I think I ever have is Breath of the Wild, and only because I’d played 90% of it on Wii U without actually finishing it and started over fresh years later when I got a Switch. Horizon is a favourite though. I’m not exaggerating when I say the backstory - not so much the stuff with Aloy in the ‘present’, but the story that led to the world being the way it is - is one of my favourite sci-fi stories. Not just in games, but period. An amazing existential techno-horror. I’m looking forward to revisiting it with foreknowledge of how it all shakes out and seeing how that changes my understanding of some of the lore you uncover.

I also grabbed Deathloop (…it was on sale). Only really had time to explore the lengthy tutorial, but it’s more of an Arkane game than I thought. I’ve long held suspicions that Deathloop and (the just delayed) Redfall were greenlit as multiplayer takes on Arkane’s singleplayer immersive sim formula, after the lack of success Prey and, to a lesser extent, Dishonored 2 found. So, I’ve been pleased how it still feels like it’s in that Dishonored legacy, at least in the opening.

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I’ve had my Series X for 6 months and the vast majority of my games played have been 360 games. The original Assassin’s Creed just got a 4K/60fps bump which is not only pleasant from a ease of use standpoint, but completely aesthetically coherent with those early animus games.

Turns out the Series X’s extra oomph has smoothed out the performance issues and resolution scaling of Max Payne 3, preserving the slightly fuzzy look of 720p that I associate with that game (yes PC and a mouse are the most efficient ways to play MP3 but I never liked how the game looks and feels at higher resolutions and framerate).

Basically this generation has its value in being a waystation for the games of the HD era, more so than boxes to play the new things on.

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I just finished my second run of Triangle Strategy, to complete the “golden route”. Have to say I quite enjoyed the difficulty scaling of the New Game Plus mode - it continued to be a real challenge throughout much of my second run.

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Cantata came out in early access and I just played through the first chapter. They’ve definitely improved the core mechanics since I played the demo. It’s a turn based strategy game with an incredibly vibrant, almost psychedelic art style reminiscent of something like Chris Foss’ art for Jodorowsky’s Dune. This is paired with some delicious world building and proper nouns: the first chapter places you in command of an excursionary force of a far flung empire chasing down a rogue machine intelligence, and your CO is a nasty person called “the Shotar of Mars.”

What distinguishes it mechanically is an economic system with a heavy focus on production chains. In order to build anything but the lowest level infantry you need to convert your basic resource into various forms like alloys, fuel, engines, weapons, etc and send them down production chains linked by supply lines. You also have to manage your global pool of supply which is draining every turn to produce the refined products, and can be increased only through expansion. The combat is deterministic and rewards careful planning to avoid enemy attacks and uses action points which refill each turn and get spent on bonus moves and attacks, but also is needed for building new stuff. The result is either a rich layer of crunchy systems or a fiddly mess and I can’t tell which.

I think there’s a huge amount of potential in these core mechanics if they can figure out how to balance them against fiddliness and difficulty and pacing. The demo was a real slog to get through because your units move so slowly. They’ve improved this with fast travel via roads but the first chapter still felt like a grind, and the opposing factions didn’t put up much of a fight.

Still, the feeling the art and style gives is an incredibly strange and alien universe, so I’m hopeful if nothing else the story delivers on the vibes.

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I am about… a little less than halfway? through my replay of Dark Souls 3. This was the game that Elden Ring really got me hankering to try out again. The first time I played these games, I played them all in one straight shot, and DS3 was pretty easily my least favorite. But because of the 180 I did on Bloodborne after replaying it, I’ve been curious for a while whether that opinion would hold.

TL;DR: I think the art style and first third are deeply drab and boring

As it stands, I think it will remain my least favorite. It’s not a bad game — it would still probably crack a top 25 or 30 list were I to make it, but I don’t love it the way I do all of the others. With the benefit of both hindsight and distance, I think that comes down to a few things.

  1. the art style is — and it’s wild to say this for a Fromsoft game — extremely boring. it feels like there’s a grey filter over everything. every area before Irithyll draws from the same palates of brown and grey and a few muddy reds and greens. its biggest setpiece moments are by-and-large callbacks to previous games in the series, like the goblin boys that fly you down to the undead settlement. areas like the settlement and the road of sacrifices and farron keep are barely distinguishable from each other by the standards of DS1 and 2. I understand that this is supposed to be a drained, lifeless world awash with the dregs of countless cycles, but I feel like they’ve done several of those in more visually interesting ways.
  1. subverting how these games usually develop, its opening is messy and bad and its second half is… still a little messy but much more interesting. like imo its first few levels are some of the worst parts of the trilogy. the high wall of lothric is small and drab and boring — it has none of the magic of something like central yharnam or even the undead burg. the undead settlement is even worse: a sprawling, muddled mess of a level with enemies that seem just yanked in from bloodborne (they even have the “big group standing around a fire” spot). i know it will get better (more on that later), but man, everything from the start up through the abyss watchers left me wildly unimpressed. (the Cathedral of the Deep being the lone exception — its aesthetic is still quite boring, but I didn’t remember just how expansive and interlocking it was — though it still doesn’t quite make “sense” in the way that fromsoft’s best levels do.)

That said, in replaying these games, my favorite thing has been taking advantage of all their intentional sequence breaks — and I decided to see what options I had here. As it turns out, there’s a very, very early one you can do by killing an NPC at the end of the High Wall, which triggers the Dancer of the Boreal Valley (a boss that’s only supposed to appear after essentially the rest of the game has been cleared). Beating the Dancer unlocks Lothric Castle — a late-game area with lots of upgrade materials and some really neat gear. So I decided to do that.

And man — that was one of my favorite Souls moments. Dancer is an excellent boss (and also goes to show how bad most of the game’s early bosses are). I think she’s a bit a bit on the easier side in her normal appearance, but fighting her at level 28 or so was exhilarating. I ended up looking up some strategies and running Yoel’s quest to get the Dark Hand, a very cool weapon that’s scaled like a midgame weapon from the jump. From that point, it took me three or so hours to really get into the fight. I got a bit of that kind of exquisite rage that these games haven’t given me in a while, of getting one hit away three or four times before I finally got her. For a little while, it made me love Dark Souls 3.

Lothric Castle is also a very good level, and I loved running through it, learning what enemies I could take on and which I needed to avoid, in order to hoover up a bunch of upgrade materials and get the irithyll rapier, which I’d been making my build for. (It also emphasizes just how bad the early levels of the game are, because even deeply underleveled, running through it was wildly fun in a way none of those were.) Having the freedom to run through the Consumed King’s Garden and maybe even get to the Untended Graves before even finding a single Lord of Cinder is really giving this playthrough some life, because whenever I got bored on the Road of Sacrifices I could just warp back here and go in a different direction. And now I have a +8 Fire Uchigatana and a +3 Irithyll Rapier so I can frost/burn to my heart’s content (since, apparently, fire resets the frost counter). Calling this the Freezerburn build. It’s overkill for regular enemies but it seems great against bosses.

I will also say, to give the early game some credit, I think this version of Firelink is an extremely good hub. It’s melancholic and morose but for whatever reason, never feels utterly hopeless. Its music is really good, quite affecting, and it’s got some secrets and additional areas that none of the other hubs in these games really pull off.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the post-Farron areas, especially Irithyll and the late-game places. Lothric Castle is such a step-up in level design from the game’s opening that I don’t think my memory is fooling me here. I think this will probably still be my least favorite Souls once I’m done with it — but I do have some appreciation for it, mainly from that early-game sequence break that really opens it up.

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I stand by everything I said previously about LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and just want to point out how weird some of their pacing is. Sometimes the game very explicitly wants you to push forward and not stop and collect things, which, okay, but then it gets to a climactic point of the story (in this case, the lead-up to Palpatine’s arrest) and says “Okay, no rush, go nuts” and lets you do all of the character-switching and planet-hopping you want. And I’m a little more forgiving of how huge it is given the recent game delay announcements, although my heart goes out to all of the TT employees who were probably crunching for a year to get all this in.

I do have to say, though, the combo system really is satisfying and the game is endlessly charming. They find some funny ways to clean up some of the darker Star Wars moments and the prequel trilogy is voiced by the cast of The Clone Wars, so you know you’re in good hands.

Tales of Arise is neat. The set-up of the two main protagonists is not subtle in a way I am completely here for. He’s a mysterious masked amnesiac who feels no pain. She’s a mysterious rebel who causes agony to anyone who touches her. He doesn’t know his past, and she won’t talk about her goals, but she empowers the Burning Blade and only he can wield it. So off they go to overthrown the oppressors for reasons that I’m sure will never create emotionally wrenching conflict.

The combat system wants to be a spectacle brawler, but is too visually chaotic, and lacking in feedback when you get hit. Doesn’t mean it isn’t kind of fun, though. It has some wonderfully overwrought special attacks, and every character shouts the name of every attack they use, so the aural backdrop to combat is four people yelling over each other, in a way that manages to charm more than annoy.

It’s very beautiful, and the writing is pretty solid so far. It’s telling a story of freeing a people centuries oppressed, and it isn’t shying away from some of the difficulties that creates. How do you organize? How do you rebuild social trust? Can you forgive collaborators, when failure to collaborate was to be imprisoned or killed?

The voice acting is good, but my standards for fantasy voice acting has been set too high by Final Fantasy XIV. That game has shockingly good performances throughout.

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I finished Citizen Sleeper, and it was excellent. In my previous post in this thread I said that Jump Over the Age’s previous game, In Other Waters, was the ideal kind of indie game. It sets a specific scope, and then thoroughly explores it, leaving you satisfied without overstaying its welcome. JOtA is batting 1,000 in that department! I got caught up in the “one more cycle” compulsion like everyone else, though real life meant I couldn’t finish it in one sitting. The way that all of the mechanical side of the game is laid bare to you gives every action a little bit of tension, and allows you to plan out your next move. The successes and failures felt really well tuned to me. On one end getting on a roll with good dice never gets you too far ahead, because your constantly deteriorating body needs upkeep. On the other, failures can give you some pretty difficult obstacles to overcome, but they rarely put your long term goals completely out of reach. By the time you’ve got a good foothold on the ring all the plot threads are getting tied off, and the game ends before you’re just going through the motions. It’s an elegantly structured system that really pays off.

Did I mention the writing and art in this game are superb? Every character is written with humanity and depth. I think it’s a feat that even in a world as bleak as this one, every narrative thread makes room for real joy. It creates a cast of characters that you want to spend time with, no matter how much darkness and pain their story-lines contain. Their character portraits work really well with the characterization as well. They are detailed without being busy, and characterful without calling to much attention to themselves. They’re consistent with the subtle tone of the game, and beautiful to boot. Another game giving Elden Ring a run for its money in goty season. What a year!

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I would really love to play Wildermyth but I’m really not great at those types of games and would like to play it for the story. Anyone of you know if there’s a Mod / Cheat or a very easy “Story Mode” difficulty or something like that?

Just for reference: Tried Battletech and did not even get through the first mission. X-COM never finished the campaign. I know this is not the same, but maybe you get what I mean.

Same (big) hat honestly. I’m in the same exact spot right now and while I love the exploration in this game the bosses are such a slog. I’ve summoned the NPC for most of them but getting Solaire for this fight is frustrating on its own since the summon sign is next to three enemies, twice I’ve used precious humanity to get him for the fight and died before I could even get through the fog door.

Have you managed to push though? I’m having a hard time letting go of the game cause I enjoy everything outside of the bosses so much and have taken to just wandering around other areas for fun. I’m kinda hoping at some point I’ll have leveled up enough that I can go back to O&S and just be overpowered for the fight but we’ll see.

PS: any and all cheese strats welcome from the forum