What game are you playing?

Not sure what possessed me to start up two new games when I haven’t finished anything else I’m in the middle of (I think the answer is “I went back to work and wanted anything to distract me from reality”), but I installed High on Life and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga off Game Pass and took them both for a spin - finding two very different games that both have a weird amount of friction.

High on Life

For some reason I had this negative expectation for High on Life that I can’t quite pin down. I say this because I quite liked what I’ve seen of Rick and Morty (the first couple of seasons) and didn’t have the immediate “oh no, not that style of humour!” I caught from a lot of press coverage when this was announced. Maybe it’s the same reservations other folks had about the Rick and Morty fanbase (justified!) or maybe it was just those negative reactions rubbing off on me but I didn’t bother giving it a try until this week. As soon as the game starts and Justin Roiland cuts in for the tutorial I had this brief moment of “oh, we’re really just doing Rick and Morty then” but then he immediately got me with a joke about double-jumping and I was in.

I’ve only played for a couple of hours at most - just long enough to get the second gun - and I think the humour works far better than the actual gameplay, where the shooting mostly feels… bad. I really wanted to make sure I unlocked a second weapon to see if things improved once I had more than a pistol to work with but so far, not really. It’s certainly not unplayably bad! But it feels about a decade (or more) out of date, like it’s an Xbox 360 shooter still struggling to figure out how Bungie nailed the feel of Halo, and nothing compared to recent shooters with really great gamefeel. It’s a little bitterly ironic how Justin Roiland-as-my-gun will be saying basically “hey hurry up and finish this encounter so we can kill the boss and leave the level” and I will be thinking yes, Justin Roiland-as-my-gun, I wish this encounter was over but you keep throwing more enemies at me.

But! I can see myself playing more of it. The humour is enough to keep me going, and my understanding is it’s not particularly long. Maybe I’ll lower the difficulty down and just plow through it - so far on normal it’s not really challenging so much as just “I wish these encounters were shorter” - but I’ll see how it goes.

LEGO Star Wars

As for LEGO Star Wars, I’m not sure I’ll be muscling through the problems to get to the fun parts. The last LEGO game I played was LEGO City Undercover on the Wii U (unironically a real good time) and I kept meaning to check a more recent one out. I am flabbergasted by how many menus and systems and clunky interactions this has in between me and just tooling around doing LEGO Star Wars stuff. Especially because it’s a kids game! Or maybe it’s like this because it’s a kids game? I don’t know, maybe I should be closing my mind to everything that isn’t just following the objective markers and seeing if all the other systems bolted on make more sense later, but as someone who is normally like “The Open World With Too Much Shit on the Map Defender”, even just playing the first mission of A New Hope felt like being bombarded with too much stuff.

I will give it a note of credit: I thought that the sound mix was simply awful because the dialogue was nearly inaudible, which eventually led me to discover I’ve accidentally had my Xbox set to 5.1 Surround despite being hooked up to stereo TV speakers for months. Probably improved the sound mix in countless games fixing that. Thanks, LEGO!

EDIT: This turned into quite the wall of text, so I’ve thrown my thoughts behind the cut

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Learning a long time ago of how direly IW and HR was limited by severe memory bottlenecks, and then seeing the whole of 7th gen struggle with the same issue, was the catalyst for me appreciating the 8th gen jump in memory a lot more. PS4/Xbone were still underpowered for their time but just seeing devs have the space to make more than small blurry shiny rooms with 5 NPCs at a time, or just sparse open worlds truly was a blessing. I still wish DX got to use that level design breathing room as fully as Hitman got to, but MD still managed to flex a couple times.

Anyway, Invisible War will remain a game I’d love to see a modified remaster or midbudget faithful remake of with expanded levels, and it’s the one with the lowest chance of either thing happening. I am still unduly bummed about this and I’ve thought about it several times over the past few years.


I think the starkest illustration of the low memory/level size issue with Deus Ex I can think of is the PS2 port: mostly very faithful IRCC, but the huge levels had to get chopped up with loading screens. In Hong Kong, that meant that Maggie Chen’s apartment no longer had breakable windows that meant you could leap to the neighbouring building (or shoot in, I guess, but I always used it as an exit - was it a height issue? It’s been too long since my last replay!)

Deathloop was neat but not really what I’m looking for an immersive sim, and it doesn’t look like Redfall is either with the apparent emphasis on co-op (though it seems like since the Microsoft-Bethesda acquisition, the co-op emphasis at industry events has been dialled back - my theory was always that Deathloop and Redfall were scoped as such in response to the commercial ‘failure’ of Dishonored 2/Death of the Outsider, and I wonder if under Microsoft/Game Pass there’s less demand on studios to produce multiplayer-ish stuff). Anyway, getting sidetracked: still waiting on a next-gen immersive sim that can take advantage of current memory limits/rapid loading for a really big world, and it doesn’t sound like there’s one on the horizon.


Elder Scrolls games, especially Morrowind, sound so good to me on paper but they never succeed to capture my attention. I want to be lost in the woods but I get kinda lost in the open endedness I guess. I’ve been playing Northern Journey and its exactly what I always wanted from Morrowind, weird low poly woods to get lost in but not too lost in. It has some metroidvania elements where you do some backtracking with new equipment and it feels like you’re in a big world even though it is much more contained especially relative to TES. Incredible vibes.


I think simmy stuff’ll mostly be the domain of indies for a while, Cruelty Squad and Gloomwood are very different games but they’re basically the contemporary DX1/Thief. But with AA/B-games making a comeback, the DX IP now being under Embracer (for better or worse), the idea of Cyberpunk (saying nothing of experientially playing it lol) being highly marketable to the point I suspect Perfect Dark got greenlit because of it; we might see something meatily budgeted and console-targeted down the line.

Who knows what IOI’s 007 will end up like, too.

Shame Watch Dogs is probably in mothballs after Legion fumbled its (on paper very Warren Spector-y) ambition in a familiar way; I’ve seen a dev candidly spill that they actually ran into issues with 8th gen’s own limits, and it’s why a lot of the reactive simmy stuff from WD2 got cut for Legion, even the old-hat open world thing of ambulance response couldn’t make it in there.


Am I too late to get on the “Pentiment is a masterpiece” bandwagon? Because holy shit, what an outstanding experience. I often felt that the one thing video games do better than any other storytelling medium is in conveying a sense of place, and I would absolutely put this game forward as exhibit A of that sentiment. Tassing is positively tiny, but within its beaten paths and creaking shacks is a community that I felt deeply connected to as the 25 in-game years crept by. Children grow older, people die, and Ill Peter just keeps trucking along.

It’s a slow burn, to be sure. I played most of act 1 in 30-60 minute spurts because I was getting bored with all the table setting. But the game kicks into high gear as the first act wraps up and time marches forward. What I thought initially to be a clever murder mystery in a novel setting turned out to be a far greater probing of how history, or rather perceived history, can affect a community. It’s beautifully nuanced, and despite me never being a peasant in the Holy Roman Empire, it felt relatable how time can warp our perspective of events, and how we build a history more to cope with the present than to accurately document the past.

There’s just so, so much I love about this game. From the incredible foley work to the pitch perfect font selection. The colorful art style, the excellent writing, even the inscrutable dialog system. The music! I’m not sure how much variance my choices made in the overall plot, but I’m excited to return to the game in the future to find out. Play Pentiment, you won’t regret it.

Also, shoutout to Rob Zacny for putting together that incredible interview series on Pentiment on Waypoint Radio. Such insightful discussion on those pods!


I danced, Kim danced, everyone danced — and I also had the sword from Lillienne equipped at the time, and apparently the game lets you dance with whatever items you have out at the time so my Harry was busting movies with a giant sword in his hand. It was excellent.

I also forgot to mention the perfect title drop when you get asked to name the club. A prof of mine once said that you can always tell if a title drop is a good idea if you imagine everyone standing up and cheering when they come across it and it still works — and when that text option came up, I pretty much cheered. God that whole thing was so good.

I just powered through the rest of the game today, since it felt like I was getting pretty close to the end. Kim survived, though my neglect of the motorics skills ended up losing most of the Hardie boys, which was pretty devastating after getting pretty tight with Titus. I think most of the yellow checks late-in-game I’d only have been able to accomplish with drugs otherwise, but I had pretty much committed to only using cigarettes to boost the stats I needed for all the church quests, so several hand/eye coordination, reaction time, etc. ones got bricked up. I think the pacing of the end worked well — having the tribunal, then a brief lull, then the final set of clues falling into place around the islet. It really heightened the atmosphere of that last sequence, which was just another sublime set of moments. I would not have believed at the start of this game that its final bit would be communion with a giant stick bug, but I thought it was pretty perfect. Everything with Harry’s dream and then the Deserter just drips with melancholy and painful, useless nostalgia, so having this kind of natural, sublime thing to buttress up against it was a perfect contrast.

One thing I am wondering, as I go back now and read various reviews and bits of criticism on it, is how much the additions made in the Final Cut really did change the experience of playing Disco Elysium. Because I see people whose writing and thoughts on games and media I usually, if not agree with, can see clearly and fully, say things that make me wonder how in the world they got there. Like, I don’t want to rag on Austin’s work, because god knows he’s a much better media critic and more experienced at thinking about all of this stuff than I am, but he makes a comparison to Matt Parker/Trey Stone in his review that kinda baffles me. There’s a massive gulf between that kind of myopia, which by all its attributes it pretty obviously the result of being affluently brought-up white guys in the 70s/80s US, and the sort of… post-structural-ish cynicism the game is mired in. The former is an illusion, the latter comes from something a lot more like grief, and — maybe this is it — I don’t believe that art about grief owes a path forward, or that the path forward it offers has to be anything other than the experience of learning how to exist in the world again. Which is more or less what I read this game as about.

HOWEVER, I also played the version of this game that didn’t have the annoying fuckin’ Pod Squad voicing half its characters, and I know lots of little quests and moments around its politics were added in the Final Cut. So I can definitely imagine an older version of this game that maybe still had the stuff I’m seeing here, but felt a lot more South Park-y, and maybe a lot less grounded, than it now does.

At the very least, I’m glad to have unlocked a new Waypoint Spoilercast to listen to. Always a great moment when I’ve realized that just happened.


This alone got me really excited to check this game out. Not only do I love works that explore nostalgic vs more hauntological readings of the present, I literally based my whole PhD around the idea haha.

Re: Media opinions on Disco Elysium, if I recall convos on the podcast correctly the initial Waypoint response to the game was very critical but they did a near 180 on the game before the final cut had even come out. I’ve seen that same kind of critical journey on the game elsewhere, and while I haven’t played the game yet (but def want to) I’m curious if that’s because of a slow opening, caution/disbelief that the game will actually land its themes, or just confusion around what the themes are early on. I’ll hopefully get to the game this year and will def write on my own journey with it here when I do.

This game looks so cool, as soon as I can afford it I’m picking up a Steamdeck so I can finally start playing all the weird PC only games I’ve been missing out on.


I think this is fair. I’ve now listened to the spoilercast and I more or less agree with Patrick’s perspective on it from that, and their back-and-forth seemed to develop in some interesting ways. I do feel like, in line with @aoanla’s previous comment about this being a game distinct to Baltic/post-Soviet states, I feel like some of it is coming from a pretty Americentric/Eurocentric (Western Europe at least) critical perspective — like at the end of the spoilercast, Austin says it’s surprising to him that it was initiated before things like the 2016 US election and Brexit). And that’s not to say media can’t be read in the context of its viewers, but I think it might be indicative of the gulf that you find not just between Western leftists, for whom a lot of this is an unrealized idea, and leftists who grew up in states where it’s a tangible part of their history, and its wreckage.

I can’t believe it’s only two weeks into 2023 and I’ve already achieved my New Year’s Resolution of getting someone interested in DX:IW. I’m floating on air right now.

In all seriousness — yes, you should definitely find some interesting stuff in Invisible War. After this discussion, I might go load it up on my Steam Deck.


So, indeed, at the time I said the same thing as I said previously here - that I felt that the reason Austin’s critique here feels “weaker” than normal was that he was viewing things from a very American Left viewpoint, and that just doesn’t map as well onto the viewpoints of the Eastern European Left, who did have a period where they got Communism [or at least what the Soviets sold as “Communism”] and are now sandwiched between a fairly “neoliberal” USA + EU (who they may like for lots of reasons involving security, but may not be fully aligned with culturally) and a threatening looming post-Soviet Russia on the other side. (And indeed, I’d expect any critic to be more aware of this now, given the Ukraine conflict rather making this more obvious to everyone!)
It’s the flip side of the general-infection-of-all-leftwing-discussion-on-the-internet-with-Americanisms thing - in that case, we get people arguing to “defund the police” and claiming that “military spending takes all this money from the health service” in the UK, when neither of those statements is actually valid outside the USA (the UK police have a lot of issues, but “getting too much money” is not one of them - they’re historically underfunded, especially outside London; and it’s really only the USA out of all the Western Democracies that actually spends huge amounts on its military - the UK’s military spending is much less than its spending on health or education) - in this case, we get an assumption from American critics that “anything leftwing should look like how we think about leftwing”, which is equally hard to displace.


A downside to Disco is that they don’t have any anarchists in it to help the player make sense of it all. That’s the secret, the world is the way it is because all the anarchists were killed. I figured it all out!


Well, shit. I suppose it’s time to boot up my copy of Disco Elysium, thanks to this interesting discussion.


I guess I’m playing Rogue Legacy 2 now. It’s…fine? I don’t really have a handle on the combat yet but the numbers go up in satisfying ways and death isn’t really that frustrating, so it’s as good a way to pass the time as any until something I really want to play comes out.

I went to type my thoughts on the Waypoint, and wider left, perspective on DE and scrolled down and seen everyone had said what I intended to say! Cool forum.

I do think it’s very hard for those of us in the “West” to understand the post-Soviet left. I played Disco Elysium while coming to terms with the entirety of the British state coming together to crush Corbynism and that let the myopia hit but even then I don’t think it comes close to those who believe in the Soviet Union’s ideals but live in the shadow of its colossal failure. It has to be difficult to reconcile.

I also found its criticism of communists and left wingers generally to be more snarky than condemnatory. The game definitely has different levels of criticism reserved for those who pick a leftist approach (snark or snooty dismissal) versus those who opt to be fascist. The game pretty much stops dead in its tracks to tell you you are a terrible person and the game becomes actively horrible to play. I haven’t got past the first time Kim has a go at you which is not something I can say for, say, Mass Effect if I decide to play as an asshole. That to me suggests that while there’s a degree of criticism reserved for everyone, much like South Park, it is still picking a side in amongst the aloofness.

Less “South Park convervatism” and more “depressed and myopic communist” which I’m sure Mark Fisher would’ve been furious with.

ETA: I immediately hit send before acknowledging that the game, despite what it may seem like it’s saying, definitely wants you to think that the Hardie Boys, Liz and even Evrart Claire are forces for good in the world.


My reading on the game’s communist perspective always hinged around the flavour text for the communist thought cabinet entry. Paraphrasing I’m sure because of the passage of time but I believe it was “Kraz Mazov has personally fucked you over”.

I’m finding it hard to articulate my interpretation but it was basically like saying: you have internalised Mazov’s [/Marx’s] work, concluded it’s correct, and become immensely depressed due to the world’s failure to follow suit. And I rarely if ever felt like the game was pushing back on communism/leftism – just that it was violently pushing back on any communist/leftist ever being happy due to how the world is and the lengths the centre and right will go to keep it that way.


One thing the Final Cut does add via the reading group quest is a character who I think more or less says that to your face.

Spoilers: some dialogue from the end of that quest

Steban: Communism doesn’t dangle any promises of eternal bliss or reward. The only promise it offers is that the future can be better than the past, if we’re willing to work and fight and die for it… Nobody said fulfilling the proletariat’s historic role would be easy. It demands great faith with no promise of tangible reward. But that doesn’t mean we can simply give up.
Volition: So young. So unbearably young…
Half Light: Why do you see the two of them with their backs against a bullet-pocked wall, all of a sudden?
Inland Empire: Their faces, blurred yet frozen as though in ambrotype. You were never that young, were you?
Steban: I guess you could say we believe it because it’s impossible. (he looks at the scattered matchboxes on the ground) It’s our way of saying we refuse to accept that the world has to remain… like this…

So yeah — I think that’s definitely what the devs intended the game’s position regarding leftist thought to be.


Rolled credits on The Evil Within. Remarkable game. Absolutely one of the most interesting auteur works in big budget gaming. Mikami’s moratorium on his RE games, and the conclusion is that we were having too much fun.

I think that’s obviously one of the reads you can have on REmake. The Crimson Zombies were are new and spiteful form of friction, slamming the brakes on the player’s path towards optimising their way around Resident Evil strict resource constraints.

So too, The Evil Within constantly rewards exploration and curiosity with pain. Pain in a funny “ha ha you got me there Shinji” way, but pain nonetheless. The match mechanic is a prime example. You never have enough to just burn every corpse you come across in case it gets up, but enemies will rarely pick themselves up once you’ve killed them. The option is always there though, so cautious players will end up burning vital resources while brave players end up getting ambushed. It’s a no-win situation for the player, and Tango Game works clearly think that is a) scary, and b) hilarious.

While I can absolutely vibe with this approach, there are absolutely filler chapters that I finished and thought “Huh, that was a whole lot of nothing”. There are individual standout ideas as set-pieces, the 3rd and 8th Chapters especially are an example of the game humming along at the perfect tick of nasty little surprises and emergent, improvisational combat.

That sadism - that unwillingness to ever let the player feel comfortable in either the play or the narrative experience - is what’s impressive and enjoyable about the game. The shifting dream logic of the levels and pacing demands the player stop playing those little resource management optimisation meta-games in their head while navigating the space, because there is no space, no comfort to be had in mastery or getting one’s bearings.

It’s a game that seems to specifically dislike the fandom that had built up around the Resident Evil series and what they found both scary and compelling about Resident Evil. Mikami repeatedly sidelines the cerebral in favour of provoking surprise and terror. “This is what you should be afraid of!!” it seems to say about its many grotesqueries. Fittingly, they’re all the stuff of nightmares, which are often unfair and nonsensical. The Evil Within doesn’t care. You had your fun with the ‘tough but fair’ games, you now have to sit down and appreciate how their creator feels about you trivialising the things that scare him.


Dang. At some point I really need to play the Final Cut!

Unrelated, but I rolled credits on Ghost of Tsushima:

  • Pretty fun open world thing, very cool combat, some good characters, but the story leans heavily on superficial Japanese cultural tropes (tropes that I might not wince as much at if they came from a Japanese dev, but cringe more when it’s a western one). The best narrative stuff tends to be in the side stories when they’re telling a more unique thing not just about whether honour is good, like the archery teacher and his rogue student, or the widowed samurai seeking vengeance. The Iki Island expansion included in the director’s cut is also mostly really good – feels like it addresses many of the narrative complaints I had and actually interrogates “uh hey what does it mean to have an elevated noble class with the authority to wage war on peasants”, but because it’s only a side story going back to the main island ends up feeling disappointing.

  • As I got near the end I kept debating whether it would have been better if the game had a ‘morality’ system – the whole story is Jin, the protagonist, abandoning “honour” and becoming the titular Ghost and it seems like you could have included choices that went one way or the other. I was leaning towards “it’s cool actually that they’re telling a defined story with a specific ending in mind, even if I don’t totally dig everything that story is doing”. But then there is literally one choice in the entire game, in the epilogue, that can potentially reframe who the character is. Strange! I can’t help but wonder whether it originally had more choices that were scrapped (there are frequent dialogue choices, but they never affect the story, and several side quests end in a defined way but really feel like they could have ended in a choice) or if it’s a legacy of the studio making the Infamous games; that even without a morality system planned, they couldn’t help but tell a story shaped around a very videogame-y binary.

  • Three words: Let. Jin. Fuck. Like the absent morality system, the game gestures at at least two romance options (Tomoe and Yuna) but remains weirdly chaste.

  • The resource system is bad. I had enough to upgrade virtually everything by the end of Act I, and by mid-Act II I had so much that whenever I got new armour I could fully upgrade it. Really borked the sense of progression aside from stuff that was story-locked.

  • Act II spoilers: They really fucked me up about my horse. Nobu was a good horse. When I had to choose a second horse, I kept the scruffy, thin brown horse you get temporarily rather than choose one of the other horses.

  • The game has a weird obsession with capes! There are ~12 outfits in the game and at least 5 have capes. I’ve never associated capes with samurai stuff (even putting a pin in the anachronistic armour design, which the devs acknowledge is because stuff from 100s of years after the game is more recognisably “samurai”). I was chatting with IGN’s Morgan Park about it on Twitter and he pointed out that it’s probably to take advantage of the wind effects (admittedly, the fact that it uses the wind as a diegetic compass rather than a HUD element is cool) but I still feel it’s a strange aesthetic choice. I can’t help but wonder if I’m blanking on some pop culture inspiration. Best theory I have is that Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins kinda-sorta has some travelling cloaks/capes in it and they specifically reference that movie for the combat design.

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It does feel a bit like a bunch of white dudes did a Kurosawa marathon and decided to make a video game but they had cultural consultants on set to help direct body language and personal space and stuff like that. Apparently the directors were named official Ambassadors of Tsushima by the actual Tsushima government, so somebody over there thought they did okay.

But yeah, I basically agree with everything you wrote. I quite liked it but I preferred it as a “traveling ronin helps people in need” simulator than the main story they were telling.

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Spent a torrid weekend with Resident Evil 3 (2020) and I’m a defender. The original game is perhaps my favourite of the original set. It has the best atmosphere, the coolest setting, and the loveliest of the dingy grimy streets the PlayStation era could offer.

If I have a problem with RE3make it’s that this is not a claustrophobic alley affair. Instead, this is the cheesiest of Midwestern American Cities and I think that’s completely appropriate for the tone.

Loved this one. The budget feel, the lead performance, the playfulness of how Capcom are willing to remix the original. It’s confident in how it’s not trying to elevate the material. It’s trying to make it more human, more satisfying, and more fun. Crucially, it demands less of the player from a meta-game map knowledge and route-optimisation standpoint.

I hate maps!! Bad at reading them, don’t like looking at them in ANY context. Both in my regular life and in games, I like to rely on my sense of direction and landmarks. RE3Make seems to agree with me because I rarely needed to use the map, which RE2make necessitated. That game wasn’t for me, but this game definitely is. It’s remarkable how minor tweaks and a more aggressive pace, that sense of fun and excitement derived from action-first horror differentiate the two.