What game are you playing?

I totally get if it doesn’t work for you but I do think this is a game worth getting over some hurdles to experience. You can get through about 90% of the zero g space stuff with minimal input just by setting auto pilot to get you to whatever planetoid you need to reach and then immediately switching to the landing camera. A lot of the disorientation I experienced was due to trying to pull completely unnecessary maneuvers.

If you find yourself trying to do a lot of really elaborate flying just realize that the game doesn’t actually require a ton from you.

I finally wrapped up the endgame of GoW Ragnarok (i.e. all named favors that weren’t “collect X macguffins”), and I’ll say that for the most part the narrative rewards do not pay off. The main campaign and subsequent coda are well worth seeing, but hunting down pieces of Asgard, draugr holes, and berserker gravestones is super tedious and doesn’t lead to much. Mid postgame, do not recommend.

Pentiment! Good game, some of the more compelling long-term payoffs to early choices. It’s a game that made me want to start up a new game immediately to see what happened if I accused someone else, drove certain characters away from particular choices. Indeed, the last minutes of my game revealed encouraging the cute kid to keep the pagan traditions alive will end in her being burned at the stake and my initial reaction was just ‘oh, okay, I need to be a bit more pious on my replay perhaps.’

Not without its faults; I found myself tiring of the time text took to fill in the ‘red underline’ that allowed you to pull up a note in the margins, and the fact that the ‘look at the margins’ button is the screenshot button, one of my least favorite to need to press regularly. (I changed it to B, but then I had to use the screenshot button to close the journal instead, so…) Could use a couple more accessibility features, for me.

But overall, quite good. The broad strokes of the narrative go in some really fun directions, and a few of the characters are quite charming too. Otto, Mathieu, Smokey, Paul. The music was nice, too.

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I’m a good chunk into Dark Souls 3 and having a great time with it. It is the most ‘they made another one of those’ game I’ve played in ages, with all the good and bad that implies. The vibes, gameplay, and level design are all as good as in the previous two games, but I feel like it lacks the ambition either of those had; the almost entirely continuous and folded together world of DS1 or the geographical and temporal scope of DS2. Instead its largely content to serve up nostalgia which feels a bit backward facing for the series, though I gotta admit I’ve had a few pop of moments the biggest probably being falling below the Smoldering Lake and discovering the remains of Lost Izalith! But despite the lack of narrative / thematic ambition its just been a blast to play and has even served up a few new unique From experiences. Last night I was really struggling with the opening sections of Irithyll until on a whim I decided to stealth game it, waiting of tough enemies to walk by before rushing past and finding cover. And it worked! I got through and discovered the next bonfire on my first try.

So I’ve also been using a narrative guide to advance the NPC quests it had been going smoothly right up until around this point. I was trying to make sure Greirat survived his second pillage mission and unfortunately the guide I was using neglected some key triggers and now I’m pretty sure he’s doomed :frowning: This bummed me out so much I panicked that I may have messed up other storylines and in the rush to cover my ass accidentally also totally ruined my chances of getting the Lord of Hollows ending lol I had to put the game down after that and gotta admit I’m slightly less motivated to continue tonight despite there being a grim humor to the level of fucking up that happened in like 20 minutes. Dark Souls remains one of the best comedy series around. Theres a very small chance Greirat will make it so I’ll see how that plays out and will most likely pursue the End the Fire ending instead.

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For what it’s worth, that ending might be my favorite piece of narrative work in the series. I don’t know how much I appreciated it the first time, but when I replayed all the games earlier this year I found it deeply moving. Lord of Hollows is neat but End of Fire, albeit in the usual very vague and ambiguous way, really pulls together a lot of what DS3 is trying to do with all that nostalgia and repetition. I get why people feel that it’s all kinda navel-gazey and pointless but I think it’s genuinely going for a point with that stuff. If it’s your thing, there’s a really good Jacob Geller video on it all that, while I also don’t entirely agree with the sheer positivity (for want of a better word) of his reading, I think does a really good job of taking DS3 on its merits without a lot of the baggage it gets saddled with by being the last Dark Souls game.


I have continued playing Pokémon Violet, and I’ve also taken some advice I saw on twitter and moved the game from the SD card to the system memory. It seems a little better — the framerate is still low, but it feels more consistent, especially when I move the camera. For a bit I was considering just pausing it until it got some patches, if they ever came, but I think I can tough through it all now. It’s still rough though. I did the olive rolling gym trial and had to reset because the guy walked inside the olive and it got stuck on him. If this were any other game, I would not be sticking with it.

But I am sticking with it because the game is actually pretty amazing

Which is a shame, because man, performance aside, this game is actually proving the thing I said in my last comment wrong. It feels like it actually did take some of the epiphanies that Sun and Moon hit on and ran with them — like how Team Star feels a lot like Team Skull, in that they’re not some vague fascist/terrorist collective that wants to remake the world in their image but a group of people that rose naturally out of the conditions of the world they find themselves in. I like that, a lot. And I like this world design a lot — I think it captures that thing those pre-3D games had of dungeon-like levels that, despite their still relatively small size, you can get a little lost in. Its got that cool sense of traversal that PLA did so well. Terastellizing(?) is cool, I like it a lot more than Dynamaxing or Z-moves; it’s not mega-evos but it’s a neat strategic wrinkle to throw into battles and a cool idea to make individual pokemon more unique. It’s got really cool character designs and writing. People on twitter were talking about how much its designs play with gender and, while I think Pokemon has kinda always done that (hi Wallace and Lorelei and basically everyone in PLA, etc.) it’s been really fun to meet this game’s whole cast. It’s also been cool to see how many people immediately read Nemona as autistic and identified with it. These characters are actual characters! That’s cool! More of this please, Pokemon!

People on reddit stop saying "but they're for children" challenge

(Can I make a brief sidenote about how much I hate the “but these games are for children” excuse people bring up when someone complains about their writing/stories/characters/etc.? Children’s media should still have those things! Children’s media is not “simple adult media” in the same way that children are not simple versions of adults.)

The soundtrack especially rocks (with a gratuitous NBA reference)

Also the goddamn soundtrack, man. And that Team Star theme. I literally let that first battle just sit on-screen until my Switch almost went to sleep, just listening to it on repeat. The one thing even the worst Pokemon games have never missed on is music, and somehow I manage to forget that every time a new one comes out just in time to be surprised with how good the soundtrack is. Game Freak’s composition team is second to none and always has been. And now they have Toby Fox too? That’s a certified KD joining the 73-win Warriors moment. Lord.

Anyway, as these games go, I think they’ve made something that, after I found Sword and Shield deeply disappointing on a lot of levels, could be the peak of the series… and yet they had to basically release it as an alpha because TPC needs yearly games to match up with the rest of the franchise’s media schedule. These games deserved another several months in the oven, because they’re absolutely beautiful and I feel like every few minutes something else yanks me away from that, and that’s just so depressing. But hey, if you can take that, they’re really great! (If you can’t, you should try out Legends: Arceus, because that game rules in very similar ways and still runs fairly smoothly.)

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Thank you, this is really great to hear. I can get really into ‘directing’ my playthroughs of games and it can be a bummer when things end up going off script, but it sounds like End of Fire is really more in line with what I want out of the game anyway. I just got into Jacob Geller about a month ago so def looking forward to his analysis when I finish the game!

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I’ve been really enjoying Pokemon Scarlet, probably helped by being oblivious to most of the technical faults.

I have officially reached the point where I can’t advance any further without doing the gym challenge, having decided I wouldn’t step inside a gym until I absolutely had to. On the one hand, imoortant things seem to be locked behind gym progress that I’ve had to do without: no new items at the mart, and pokemon obedience is based on level of capture compared to how many gym badges you have. But at the same time, it made for an interesting challenge. I ended up using a different team of pokemon that I’d caught at low levels because the ones I caught later on simply wouldn’t obey me consistently (no matter how much I spoiled them at the picnic table). I had to be more aware of what pokeballs I was using because I couldn’t simply buy more of anything but the basic red and white. It’s super interesting the way that progress in different questlines advances you, much as I think that the whole game could have used more time to really make this new structure shine.

Koraidon is a lovely friend. As someone who normally balks at being made to interact with a particular monster, this big puppy-lizard is adorable and fun to ride. The mirror of Legends: Arceus movement modes is really cool and I kind of prefer the all-in-one mode, although I’m sure I would say differently if I weren’t as taken with the monster used for it.

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I’ve already made a long Deus Ex Mankind Divided post here, and I don’t have much new to say after spinning it up on console to try the HDR they never added on PC, except that I learned that the dismantling/crafting loop I was so positive about learning a build for? Yeah that was locked behind DLC I didn’t realize I have on PC.

7 dollar DLC. For one augment that’s critical to looting + crafting feeling magnitudes more worthwhile. Don’t worry, there are four other 7 dollar DLCs that add almost nothing except boring early weapons and another exponentially less useful augment, and since I got the dismantling augment thru the season pass on PC without realizing it wasn’t part of the base game, I had to wiki search which specific DLC had the actual augment I wanted for console.

Square Enix did a lot of things real dirty but nothing quite like Deus Ex, like holy shit dude.

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I think Game Freak has the password to my brain.

Pokemon Scarlet is still Pokemon. Still playing it the exact same way I would play a Pokemon game, although I find it way easier to find a particular Pokemon if I’m looking for one. The open world lets you hop around and approach things in whatever order suits your fancy, but you’re ultimately still pretty gated by 1. the Gym challenge 2. your current level 3. your available mount traversal abilities (although I’m sure somebody’s probably sequence-broken it already). It’s Basically Still That Game.

And I can’t stop playing it. I love doing team optimization. I got hype when I caught an Adamant Nature Gible. I almost don’t care that it runs in the “turned in this project at 4 in the morning” kind of way. Has more story than Sword & Shield (low bar - also is there some kind of bullying epidemic in Japan?) but it’s certainly not story-driven. But it’s a me-shaped video game.

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Finished up Dragon Age: Origins which holds up remarkably well – it was my first time going through it cover to cover. Started the Awakening expansion which out the gate feels a lot more confident, like them really narrowing in on what worked in Origins.

Apart from that, I want to get through some smaller games by, say, end of January. Top of the list is Norco. Finished Act and it’s really excellent so far. I have some personal tragedies that tie in a little too well with that writing in that game so it’s hard to sit through a tonne of it, but it’s always dancing on my frontal lobe when I’m doing anything else.

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Here’s a confession: I play basically every Call of Duty campaign and I’ve liked a lot of them. Infinite Warfare? Fantastic. Black Ops Cold War? Surprisingly solid late game twist that let me… well, I won’t spoil it, but I think I got the ‘good ending’ even though I’m not sure the designers agree. And yet, I skipped Vanguard (and kinda doubt I’ll ever get back to it) and I had more or less been planning on skipping this year’s Modern Warfare until Warzone 2.0 came out and I got really into DMZ.

I have pretty fond memories of the original Modern Warfare trilogy. I think they represent some of the best of what Call of Duty offers if you’re willing to meet the games halfway - something I really think you have to do to be able to enjoy them as singleplayer experiences. I know a lot of people hate how on rails they are, how tightly (claustrophobically?) scripted. They’re the kind of games that will create a setpiece where an NPC is screaming at you to hit the gas in order to make a getaway in some vehicle or other and if you don’t do it, it’s either game over and you repeat, or the scene just keeps going, the NPC keeps yelling, in some action movie limbo moment. But play along and they feel like the closest games get to the hugely bombastic nature of a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich movie.

The 2019 reboot of Modern Warfare is… not that. I’m trying not to rehash tired (albeit valid) arguments about the politics of it all but that world just felt grimy and unpleasant to be in. It was also a weird reach in that it would namedrop characters and concepts from the original games in a way that felt like it expected an audience that I’m not sure exists - like I said, I play a lot of these things, I remember those original Modern Warfare games, and I still don’t think “hell yeah, Gaz origin story!” I replayed it before the new one - insert some joke along the lines of “how else would I understand the richly layered propaganda storytelling?” - and there’s really not a lot positive to say about it. The lighting? Fantastic. The night levels where you’re using flashlights and night vision goggles are stunning, even just as a PS4 game barely running on my PS5 (seriously, trying to get the singleplayer campaign running was a nightmare of loading and log in screens, downloading different install packs, and the damn thing still crashing to the dashboard frequently and at one point locking up every time I reloaded a checkpoint until I just had to start the level all over).

So: Modern Warfare II. The story and world is maybe marginally less unpleasant this time around but twice as bonkers (Call of Duty has been mining anti-Russian feeling for a long time but replaying MW 2019, where they’re the primary antagonists again, before the Ukraine invasion felt very weird. If anything, it feels like MWII actually pulls back a little on it, spinning the big roulette wheel of America’s Traditional Enemies anew and landing with the arrow touching both “Iran” and “Drug Cartels”). The level design, though? Actually a huge improvement. Everything I’m about to say should have the caveat “but sometimes the checkpointing and demanding scripting conspire to make you repeat a cool idea until you hate it”, but it has a lot to theoretically recommend. A convoy chase where you’re constantly hijacking vehicles to keep up with the target; stealth levels that transition to action fairly well when you make a mistake and things go loud (including one that starts as a long range sniping exercise before getting up close, with the stakes changing depending on how well you do as a sniper); the classic Modern Warfare “aim the weapons on an aerial gunship and obliterate enemies while trying not to think about the fucked up reality of the situation”; a twist on the MW 2019 “control security cameras and issue orders to someone like it’s a weird RTS”.

My favourite, though? There’s a level that made me think of Halo 3: ODST, which is pretty much one of the highest compliments I can give a shooter. Dropped into a map at night with no equipment and searching for supplies with which to craft improvised weapons. A real delight. It’s just a shame most of the game isn’t like that (and a later rehash of the same systems winds up being more annoying than anything else). But while it lasts, what a vibe.

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Finished God of War (2018) earlier this month and had a lot of fun with it. I played it when it initially came out, but for some reason it never clicked with me. I gave it about 8-10 hours and I just couldn’t get into it. The acting was great, but I felt that it was just really taking its time to get going and the combat was just too repetitive.

After seeing all the positive press from God of War: Ragnarok, I wanted to give it another shot. I started a new save and was quickly back to where I left off. I couldn’t tell you why, but I was fully engrossed this time around and finished the entire game with a platinum trophy. It really goes to show that it could be worth your time to revisit games that might’ve not clicked with you initially.

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Yeah, I always give stuff a second chance even if the first impression was really off-putting - especially movies and games since the investment for doing so isn’t steep. Often times I come around in big ways that always surprises me.

That mission was the absolute high point for me in the campaign as well. I actually was hoping that the mechanics they were introducing there would get worked into the DMZ mode to make for a really tense multiplayer experience, but alas, it is not (though I’ve been really enjoying DMZ mode on its own!).

Both MWII and Black Ops: Cold War have a ton of interesting and compelling ideas in mission and gameplay design that work well, and I just wish were being applied to any other game setting. Like, a game that feels as good as Call of Duty but goes deep on Cold War-era espionage in Berlin? Or a full game oriented around surviving in a hostile urban environment like the aforementioned MW2 mission? Yeah, sign me up. Unfortunately, it always does come back to the traditional shooting galleries and fraught politics that always makes me feel a big queasy while engaging with these games.

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Brief Outer Wilds update: continuing to slowly make my way through, and while I still have my qualms about the mechanics and overall structure of the thing, the atmosphere and story telling have me pretty well locked in at this point, so, onwards I go!

What I really wanted to say is that I also started playing Neo: The World Ends With You over on the Switch, and…it kinda slaps? I adored the original when I played it way back on the DS, but I’d heard enough mixed things about the sequel that I kept putting it off. So far, though, its got style for days and a frantic battle system that I’m having a lot of fun with. Unfortunately a new character has just been introduced who I find absolutely insufferable in ways that I could see becoming a problem down the line. But, hopefully that isn’t too much of an impediment on my enjoyment of everything else on offer.

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Unfortunately, the Awakening Expansion puts its best foot forward before turning into a grindy mess of half-baked good ideas.

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Awakening is the best of DAO in that the writing and structure is the most inventive in the game, but that’s not saying much.

Huge swathes of DAO are anonymous dungeoneering as I experienced this year. Is the dungeon stuff better than its offspring in the sequels? Mostly, yes! Is it good? Depends on the quest, the dungeon layout, and how long it takes for you to get to the good stuff.

My partner doesn’t play a lot of games but occasionally gets very invested in watching me play something. The last thing that happened with was Disco Elysium. This week they brought up Pentiment. I was almost certainly going to play it anyway but this means it gets the big screen treatment instead of me going goblin mode in my office.

Haven’t finished it yet (had a squint at HLTB and I strongly suspect I’m going to be way over due to trying to talk to and interact with everything possible) but it’s likely to compete with Citizen Sleeper for my GOTY. We’ve probably got to stop staying up until 4am playing it though.

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Little deeper into Pokémon Violet — three gyms, two titans, one star base done. My prevailing thoughts on the game haven’t really changed. I’m having a good time, but every few minutes I also run into some reminder of how skeletal it is, and how much it could have benefitted from a few more coats of paint.

This open world is interesting but not balanced

Like, for one pet peeve, this is an open world in name but not in balance. There’s clearly an intended path through it based on enemy levels, and I am not finding that path to be intuitive the way something like BOTW’s radial difficulty was. Now, that has lead to some really fun moments — running into Tera mons twenty levels higher than my team is the closest I’ve felt to being 8 and trying to catch the legendary birds in several generations — but it also makes the main path kind of unpredictable, and it means I’ve just made it to a gym that’s way too tough for me to take with my current team, but the levels I built up making it there are going to make the actual next one a snoozefest. The gyms at least should scale based on something like number of badges — which to my inexperienced brain doesn’t seem like it would be that costly a thing to implement.

The difficulty curve is better, but it all just feels a bit empty

Though I have found that the game seems better balanced around the always-on EXP Share than SwSh were. I’m a little overleveled, but it’s because I’m using the entirely optional auto-battle system, and I’ve decided to raise like 15 different pokemon this time because there are lots of cool new ones I want to try. I’m torn — I think this is their best effort at region/world/level design in several generations, easily since the move to 3D, maybe even on par with Unova, but it’s also just so empty. There’s a lack of characterization that comes from the disconnected spawns, the seemingly random item drops, the way everything is just so wide and spacious.

I like pressing buttons but not when it's obvious all I'm doing is pressing buttons

Team Star is also another cool idea, but the actual mechanics of the base-clearing just aren’t catching my interest. All video games are just pressing buttons, but this is a video game thing that makes me acutely aware that all I’m doing is pressing buttons. I just wish they were like Po Town from Sun and Moon — actual imposing fortresses I could just battle through like old times. As it is, I’m just throwing out my dudes until the boss comes out. And the big tricked out armored car pokemon are very, very cool, but again, just could have been better.

Idk. Here’s the thing. They made a Pokemon game for me this year. It was called Legends: Arceus and it ruled. It ruled for similar reasons that this game is interesting, but it felt like a fully thought out draft of those ideas, and this one still feels like it’s full of TKs in the margins. The traversal stuff in Arceus and the ability to cheese and sequence break led to this amazing feeling of freedom that’s kind of absent here (though maybe I just haven’t tried hard enough to get Miraidon over rivers up weird cliffs). When it is there, the moments are smaller, less impactful than riding Wyrdeer up to a plateau with some rare lv35 monster when my team were all lv15. And the capture system in Arceus was — maybe a more controversial take — actually a lot better for a game without random encounters. Bear with me. With visible encounters, actually having to battle every new thing you see separates the excitement of seeing a pokemon from the actual process of catching it (and the lag before the battle starts doesn’t help at all). It gums everything up. If you’re not going to give me that little RNG dopamine burst when a rare pokemon shows up on a battle screen, let me just throw the damn ball at them, thanks Game Freak.

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Final Witcher 2 thoughts. I’m not particularly interested in discussing spoilers here but I will say the Roche leg of Chapter 2 is full of promise as you attempt to unravel a knotty conspiracy while trying to undo several curses, but really falls apart as they try to build up some momentum for the transition to Chapter 3.

As a political thriller, I think I prefer Dragon Age 2 more. It’s unfair to say Kirkwall has a better sense of place than the hubs in The Witcher 2; the former literally has nowhere else for you to go, but I think it plays into how that game draws you into the powderkeg at the centre of that story.

I ended up playing most of The Witcher 2 on Easy because the extra research and preparation that kinda defines the series’ rhythm versus other fantasy RPGs is virtually non-existent. You don’t really do much Witching in the Witcher 2!!! No wonder they made the next game full of Witching!

In all seriousness, this game has made me appreciate what The Witcher 3 did well. The best parts of these games are not the ones driven by narrative urgency and set pieces. They’re the ones where you’re doing some detective work, reading some books, and finding ingredients to brew something that will help you kill the big nasty. That’s a tertiary concern at best in this game, and I while I do know which countries Redania, Nilfgaard, Kaedwen, Aedirn, and Temeria are, I sort of wish The Witcher: Geopolitics Edition wasn’t 3/4 of this game.

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