I think I’m closing in on the end of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and uh, it’s turning into a real struggle. The frustrating thing is that purely from a gameplay standpoint, I really like it! The world is beautiful, moving around it feels good, the puzzles are fun, and there’s minimal combat. But the story is so bad. I just got to the point with the tribal creature things that look like orcs and I’m kind of at a loss for words. It’s like someone thought to themselves, “Maybe the rest of the game makes it seem like we’re at least trying to be respectful, and we definitely don’t want that!”
It’s a really bad (read: hacky) plot move, and one of many that made me really grow to dislike that game on the whole. Same bullshit pulled in Bone Tomahawk, but at least that was made by a regressive ideologue who was committing (half-heartedly) to noxiousness. SotTR doesn’t even have self-awareness or courage of its convictions going for it.
I’ve been playing Unity of Command, which is a turn-based historical wargame. Several people have recommended it as an introduction to traditional wargaming of the hex-and-counter variety, and I can see why. (edited to add: this is a good interview about its status as a gateway game)
Its visual style is more accessible than most wargames and the mechanics are streamlined but still include crunchy stuff like zones of control, supply lines, and step losses. The historical scenarios are pretty short (some only 4 turns long) and they are almost like puzzles. It’s satisfying to replay a scenario until you figure out how to accomplish the objectives in the allotted turn limit. The AI opponent seems to understand the rules of the game and will ruthlessly take advantage of your mistakes, which adds to the challenge.
But… it’s set on the Eastern front of WW2. Rob Zacny described it on an episode of Waypoint radio as “are you a bad enough Blitzkrieg-er to knock the Soviets out of the war as Germany in 1941…it’s basically a Nazi speedrun game” and I think that’s pretty accurate. You CAN play as the Soviets, but half the scenarios are from the perspective of the Germans.
I have mixed feelings about playing as the Nazis in any game (an understatement to say the least), and this one is especially disquieting because the interface is so abstract and almost cutesy. It’s made me think a lot about historical wargaming as a hobby and genre. I used to be someone who completely avoided historical stuff and only played sci-fi and fantasy themed games, and I think I missed out on a lot of great historical games because of that. But as Austin Walker said on a different episode of the podcast, about Battlefield V, “I just don’t want to be a German tank commander in North Africa.”
It has been really interesting to play UoC after playing a lot of Into the Breach this year. They are very different beasts. But it’s not surprising that the designer of UoC is a fan of ITB. If you like ITB and can stomach the setting, I would definitely recommend trying UoC (it’s pretty cheap if you get it direct from the dev).
There’s a sequel in development set on the Western front (maybe going to be released this year?) and I’m curious to see how that compares, since it’s been 7 years since the original was released.
I finally sat down and took a minute to get past the prologue in Nier: Automata and …
it’s not clicking. It feels like the combat offers a lot of options that mostly don’t matter and the spaces are sparse and the characters are either ciphers or Very Anime in a way i’m not into anymore.
I’m going to at least try to get to the first ending (because it doesn’t seem far off) but it feels like a bit of a chore. I’m led to understand that most of the interesting bits are in the multiple endings but if I’m not intrigued by the end of Ending A I’m probably going to drop this.
On a more positive note, I traded in a duplicate game I got for Christmas and picked up Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for the Switch. I’ve been meaning to get around to this one ever since playing the Captain Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World but apparently it took the justification of “free money” to go for it. And I’m glad I did!
It’s a great example of the kind of thing modern Nintendo does best: Polished adorableness, repeated iteration on a small number of design ideas, and a curious fascination with the possibilities of perspective in 3D. I’m only six levels in at this point but I’ve been enjoying it enough to do the optional bonus objectives for each level and even the somewhat frivolous Pixel Toad Hide And Seek bits.
It also has a tiny bit of the inexplicable anachronism we’ve come to expect from modern Nintendo: why the heck does this have a lives system?
I have been a giant ball of stress over the holidays (for various reasons) and so far Captain Toad is the one game that can reliably put a smile on my face and get me to chill out.
They’re not really endings, more like chapter changes. It starts pretty normal but gets progressively way more interesting as it goes and it starts showing the cards (a common thing Yoko Taro does).
Let’s see… I beat the story of Minit, started Gris, still trying to find my main in Smash, starting to get into Civilization 6, as well as the original Prey. I’m also replaying RDR2 and Dragon Age Origins. And I also might start BOTW and maaaaaaybe Monster Hunter, maybe.
Don’t ever tell me I don’t know how to keep things simple.
over my school’s (super long) holiday break ive been slowly playing through Dark Souls still, just beat Ornstein and Smough a week or two ago. honestly, given how much of a struggle the rest of the game’s been, they weren’t that tough, but i definitely got why folks talk about them.
also im finally playing Heaven Will Be Mine and while i’ll probably have more thoughts on it once ive played it more, its really really good!!! i love the characters so much. it also strikes a really interesting balance between giving you different angles of the story depending on whose story you play through and how, while also not feeling Gotta Catch 'Em All - y? idk if this is a thing a lot of VNs do bc i have limited experience with the genre, but its good.
I am playing the pubg mobile, and i will continue in
about 14 hours into subnautica and i’m having a lot of fun with this Sea Minecraft. it’s a relief that it hasn’t hit any deep instinctual fears for me like it has for many other people because sea life is such a passion for me and this game is so good at evoking a beautiful underwater world. being out in the middle of the open ocean makes me a bit paranoid but as long as i can see the seafloor i’m not too nervous. sticking close to the seafloor has also helped me avoid huge predators like the reaper leviathan, since they usually don’t hug the sand and i can spot them before they see me!
probably the coolest random moment i’ve experienced in this game so far was a time when i happened to glance out into the open water while looking for resources and was able to glimpse an enormous tail in the distance for a few moments before it disappeared into the murky blue. it was awe-inspiring to watch and also i am very glad it was swimming away from me cause damn
I’m getting into Just Cause 4. I didn’t touch the last game and I’m having a great, if detached, time with it. Attaching boosters and balloons to shit is hilarious and the game holds up remarkably well as the physical engine buckles under all the tethering and soldiers whizzing around like bottle rockets.
What I will say for this game is that they have their politics right in a game that didn’t need it. Half the characters are Latinex women who are much more crucial to the plot than Rodrigo. Even what seems like half the enemies are women. Rodrigo isn’t working for the CIA, he’s just allied himself with a resistance movement fighting against a disaster capitalist, rather than the usual caricature of a tinpot South American dictator. The game uses words like “organise” plenty and the friendly factions’ vehicles and equipment are decked out is garish rainbow colours ala Wolfenstein 2 in contrast to the enemies’ red and black fascist aesthetic. They know what they’re doing, basically.
Just Cause 4 was last game I expected to have okay politics, but when I stop to think about it, why the hell shouldn’t B-tier popcorn entertainment have that? It’s not hard and honestly it makes having a ridiculous shooty bang time in Solis easier to switch my brain off to.
I’m playing Tomb raider. I love that game!
I finally got Into the Breach and wow that game got it’s hooks in me I love it! It’s the first game that’s really gotten me to use my switch in handheld mode instead of leaving it in the dock. Whenever I have a bit of spare time I grab my switch and play a mission or two, it’s great!
Other than that I’ve been playing through the Elder Scrolls games bc it’s been a while since I’ve played them and it’s a beloved franchise of mine. Not too long ago I wrapped up my playthrough of Oblivion and I’m putting together what mods I want to use for my playthrough of Skyrim.
I just played through Night in the Woods last week with my partner and wow did I love that game.
It just has so much charm, and the writing is extremely good, even by non-videogame standards. Plus the soundtrack is phenomenal.
Not a totally unqualified win, since I’ve heard a lot of people take issue with the slow movement/controls in general, but those weren’t an issue for me. I think you just need to go in with proper expectations.
There was a co-op Serious Sam speed run yesterday on AGDQ, so I was in a Serious Sam mood and realized I’d never actually tried Serious Sam 2.
Boy HOWDY does that game suck. I knew it was the black sheep, but I was unprepared for just how much it rubbed me the wrong way. Literally one of the first things the game shows you are an alien tribe of indigenous people that all live in stereotypical mud huts, have stereotypical face paint, and speak broken english. It’d be super easy to move the skin tone slider in one direction and have a full-blown racist caricature. One of them, the tribe’s shaman, is even wearing a Flava Flav clock around his neck.
In terms of play, it’s a disaster. This was back when Croteam was pushing really hard for Serious Sam to be a “funny” game franchise, and the sense of humor can be charitably described as “sub-Earthworm-Jim.” There’s no point to any of it, everything is just random and “wacky.” You get down near a river and inside of a fishing hut you find a bowl of baked beans. Push the use key on them, the hut explodes, and the game proudly declares “FARTING SECRET HAS BEEN FOUND!”
One level later, I found a refrigerator in the jungle, opened it to find a penguin inside. “FROZEN PENGUIN SECRET HAS BEEN FOUND!”
That’s not even touching the “sexy bush” secret, which features two tribal aliens going at it.
It’s also from that era where Halo was taking the world by storm, and so much of this game feels influenced by that. You shoot with the left mouse button, and huck grenades with the right mouse. So many levels are full of huge open spaces and pointless vehicle sections, some of which are direct analogs to Halo vehicles. Also, a giant hamster ball. Isn’t that just so WACKY?
Which really just makes this feel like it was designed mainly as a console game. The huge armies you’d fight in the original Serious Sam games (First Encounter and Second Encounter) seem to have been seriously (heh) dialed back. Enemies in Sam 2 are bullet-spongier and drip fed in to arenas at a rate of 3-5 at a time, as opposed to the 10-15+ of the original games. Sometimes it actually works, but it does make each encounter feel way too drawn out.
In the hour or so I could stomach it, the one part I actually liked was when the game dropped a huge 20-foot-tall robot spider mini-boss in front of me. It was this great ending to one of the largest battles the game had put me in, I finally get the boss down, think I’m done, when in classic Serious Sam fashion… three more drop in.
And then three more after that. And three more after those. It took nearly every bullet in every gun I had and left me with 13 health. I was honestly starting to get bored.
Maybe enemy numbers pick up in later levels, but I don’t know if I can stomach the game’s awful sense of humor until I get there.
Reinstalled OG PC Dark Souls for this massive new mod:
It’s been pretty incredible so far, both in terms of the work needed to change the game so much and just how utterly fresh the whole thing feels. It’s pulled off some incredibly clever stuff with the mechanics, and not just by playing with expectations. Like, there’s plenty of that, and I’ve enjoyed chuckling to myself every time I’ve done what I’d normally do in the base game and got absolutely bodied for it. But even outside of that, there’s so much work put into characterising bosses and enemies. If you always have a smile on your face when a boss does something that makes you vocally panic, absolutely check this mod out.
The reworked lore is extremely fanfiction, but it’s fun fanfiction. Characters mentioned in passing get fleshed out and woven together, and then forefronted. About 3/4 of all the stuff I’ve picked up has had new descriptions, and it’s all about the new characters and plotlines. That coupled with the completely new order of progression through the world really does make it feel like a whole new game. It feels SO good to play this game for the 20th odd time and be laboriously searching through areas that feel completely different, wondering what happens next. I really don’t wont to go into any spoilers about the biggest and best changes, it’s absolutely worth a dive in if you’ve played DS to death and know it like the back of your hand.
Everything I’ve read about this new mod makes me wish I had a computer so I could buy this game for the 5th time. Could you share some spoilers with tags??
Sure! My fave structural change so far has to be the recontextualising of the little street with the theives hiding in houses, home of the Capra Demon. Originally, you get the key from the parish(I think) and go in through the door at the end of the bridge, streight ahead after you beat the Taurus Demon. In this version, that door can only be opened from the other side. You’ll probably find that out as the hellkite Drake on the bridge demonstrates it’s newfound stamina, which it uses to make the path you’d usually take towards the parish completely impassable. The new parish path is a whole thing of it’s own, including a absolute rollercoaster of emotions at Andre’s chapel. But the path around to the Capra Demon is the real highlight. Because the first thing I had to do upon seeing that the door was one-way was test my knowlage of the Dark Souls map to it’s absolute upper limits figuring out how else to get in, which was a wonderful moment of gears turning in the head that you should absolutely go through yourself. I’ll keep the path in a seperate spoiler paragraph for anyone that wants to do the exploring themselves.
Done? Great, now if you’ve done your working correctly, you’ve figured out that there’s 2 other ways into that place, one of which is through the aquaduct that leads to the undead burg right at the start. That’s not it, that door is still opened from the other side. The other way, is BACKWARDS through Blighttown. And there’s a real good chance that that’s not a journey you’ve ever made, or ever thaught you’d make. So after working your way through New Londo way earlier than you’d normally dare(New Londo has some lovely new lighting too) to get the key to the valley of drakes, going backwards though Blighttown, which has a new name and new enemy placements, backwards again through the sewers, again renamed and restructured, you finally end up in this street.
A street that before was just a short transition area has been completely recontextualised as an end goal, reached after ages of work and buildup. And the reward is incredible, I’m not even gonna say what’s been done with the Capra Demon fight, partly because I’m still feeling the effects of it now. It’s fulfilling a hope I’ve had since Dark Souls 2 and I’m loving it.
You can do this thing on Playstation’s website where you create a commemorative video or some other marketing thing and it shows you your three most played games. Mine:
- Destiny, 685 hours
- Overwatch, 276 hours
- Bloodborne, 146 hours
Anyway, if they keep track of this, why not have that statistic in the dang machine!
I just finished RDR2, and I’m glad that I did. I stopped playing back in November around the beginning of Chapter 4, but burned out on it. I decided to do as much mainline story as I could over the past week or so, and finally saw it through to the end. The finale of Chapter 4 through the conclusion of Chapter 6 was one hell of a ride, and I loved how Arthur grew as a character throughout it. Maybe ‘enjoyed’ isn’t quite the right word, but I’m glad I experienced it.
I’ve also jumped into AC: Odyssey, as it was on sale over the holidays on Xbox, and boy, going from Red Dead to AC is really jarring in how they represent two completely different philosophies for building an open world game. While Odyssey’s story has been nothing to write home about, it’s still really enjoyable to actually play, and I’m getting some satisfaction with working through the various systems (mercenaries, cult leaders, upgrades, etc.) I played through Origins during the same time period last year (also after a sale), and it’s making for a nice palette cleanser from the seriousness (and something of a slog) that was RDR2. It’s clear that there is entirely too much to do in this game, but it’s still fun to run around and stab everyone as a badass Spartan lady.
Wow, so this sounds completely amazing and I can’t believe I haven’t heard anyone else talk about it.