Thursday, May 26, 2016

Violence In The Future

If you believe the games I've been playing lately, the future is a very violent place, and gets grimmer the further you get away from the present.

Overwatch is the closest of games I've played this week to being set in the present. It's pretty upbeat in presentation, but still shockingly violent. All these characters do is kill one another, over and over, in an endless war of attrition over a few square feet of ground. I didn't think I'd be down for this Blizzard game, but as it turns out, I was. I am. I may as well jump in with both feet; I'm going to try to play every character to some degree and enjoy myself at least well enough to get my sixty dollars' worth.

V game Vanquish is several more decades further out into the future, and really shows the beginning of the darkening of the timeline. There are moments of cheekiness and levity, mostly around our rogueish hero Sam Gideon, but also a dark harbinger of things to come, as he and his principal enemies pilot or comprise cybernetic power armor suits and renegade AI routines. Vanquish is superb. I don't know if I've played a 3rd person cover-based shooter that is as fun to play. The jet-slide mobility and bullet-time mode, decent and varied assortment of weapons, and lively pacing all come together for a very frenetic and intense game. To top it all off, it looks great, and runs like a dream on the PS3. I never noticed it dropping any frames, and it felt like a nice 60 fps the entire time I played.

And now to the far, far future, where the world is grim and dark, indeed.

Warhammer 40,000.

Regicide paints a picture for us of what war will be like in the future--turn based, and very much like Chess, but with the added deadliness of firearms and bludgeoning and ripping and tearing melee weapons. A frightful vision indeed. It makes for a fun and interesting game, though. You wouldn't think adulterating Chess with XCOM like tactical combat would be anything other than a mess, but it works, somehow.

Storm of Vengeance also represents for us future war in the abstract. It could be seen as a sort of supply lines  and logistics simulation, one supposes. It is also port of an iOS game that itself is like a rethemed Plants Vs. Zombies. Dark Angels Vs. Orks, you might call it. Not a lot of effort, relative to most games, was put into this port. It's not terrible, but you might call it bad and not be far off base. It's the type of game that doesn't do just a whole lot to justify its existence, unless you are that into the 40K theme it uses.

Dawn of War II is a recurring nightmare of a simulation of the horrors of conflict in the awful, dark future. The single mission I undertook was a horrific vision of brother Blood Raven killing brother Blood Raven to ends I could not fathom. A dark vision, indeed. More scrying will be necessary to gather more insight into what the future holds for our doomed species.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Heresy Continuing Apace

I have been fairly ripping through Horus Heresy books lately. At this rate 2016 may be the best booklog year yet.

I mentioned Vulkan Lives previously. It was a little lower-key, but did some important groundwork for later books.

I finished that one, then just devoured The Unremembered Empire, which was amazing, featuring four(!) primarchs pretty heavily, and covering some pretty momentous stuff in the Heresy timeframe, Such as the establishment of Imperium Secundus, Curze and the Lion returning to the field, and the apparent death of a second primarch.

From there, Scars rewound the overall timeline a ways to get us caught up on the White Scars and their campaign to far-flung Chondax, where Horus sent them to mop up a greenskin infestation while he did his dirty Isstvan business, kicking off the rebellion. Here we learn who the Scars are, and get an idea of what their primarch, Jaghatai Khan, is like. Space Wolves, Alpha Legion, and Death Guard all also make substantial appearances.

I'm now reading Vengeful Spirit, which is the first book since the opening trilogy to feature Horus himself and his legion as prime actors. I'm only getting started with it, but it looks like another barnstormer, and some of the Emperor's past may be revealed here, as well.

Double Shotgun Blast To The Backlog

It's been a varied and busy week. I'm not really concentrating on any one thing at the moment, just kind of playing whatever I feel like.

UFO: Afterlight - A U game. It's basically an early/mid '00s X-COM-esque game. I fiddled around with it for a while, but couldn't find a hook to keep me from disregarding it almost out of hand once I felt I had a handle on what the main thrust of the game would be, which seems like to build a presence on Mars, terraforming and advancing tech until (I'm assuming) you're able to reclaim Earth from the aliens that have conquered it and forced your relocation to the red planet. If you were there at the time, this might have been worth playing for a while.

Vanquish - A V game. PS3 release, action shooter from Platinum, directed by Shinji Mikami. It seems really cool, from the tutorial and brief first mission that I have played. More on this to come.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - The replay continues. I'm at the start of chapter 4 now. Cornell was much, much easier on the lowest difficulty setting.

Braid - Wanted to revisit this since having played a lot of The Witness. I find my patience for puzzles is very thin these days. I plowed right through this game when it released on Xbox Live 8 years ago, but felt tedium very quickly this time around.

Dark Souls II - I need a game to play while I listen to podcasts, and right now this is about the most likely thing. I made it to a new bonfire, so that's nice.

Final Doom, Doom II: Hell on Earth, and Master Levels for DOOM II - The release of the newest DOOM game, to rave reviews, inspired me to go back and play some more of the originals. They're great fun, to this day. I may have even come around to going keyboard only on these. I also have installed Doom 3 and its expansion, which I have actually never played, before.

Spelunky - I suppose it's worth mentioning that I do still play daily runs here and there.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dark Souls II: The Smattering

Over the last couple of weeks I've touched a few different things, but have spent the most time on Dark Souls II.

I felt like rolling right into it after finishing the first one, and in fact I had already at an earlier date begun the game and got as far as creating my character, who begun as one of the "Deprived" class, meaning they started with very basic clothing, no weapons, and at soul level 1, with all stats at 6.

Playing this way means playing the cards as they lie, and since I haven't been playing with a wiki thus far, it has meant a lot of slow going, diligent leveling, and making do with what I have found, as well as leading me to participate in summoning and being summoned much more than I did in Dark Souls, which I may not have even been online for the better portion of, come to think of it.

Right now my character, the Lost One, is wearing hollow soldiers' armor and using caesti on each hand; a sort of improvised version of the monk build many other RPGs feature. I've beaten one boss, the Last Giant, and am at level 35-ish. I've only begun to explore the forest of giants. There are braziers and sconces and such around the world that you can light with a torch, and light torches from, but I'm as of yet unaware of what effect they might have on the world, beyond providing more light in the environments and a place to light more torches. It seems like a great game, so far.

I'll briefly mention the other things I played, and why:

Titan Quest - Really just to add some more time to my Steam time played tracker for some reason. This game bores me, and it always has, but I've put hours into it in the past, and I wanted that dumb time tracker to record at least some of that time, for whatever reason.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - I think I'm going to do another run of this game for the Game Bytes Show as a sort of game club thing. I'll probably do it on easy, because on Knight difficulty (one above normal) it was a pretty hard game in spots, and I would prefer to kind of cruise through it this time around.

Overwatch - I was able to get into the closed Beta at one point and I played about 3 matches worth, I think entirely versus bots, before coming to the pretty solid conclusion that despite the apparent quality of the game, it just wasn't something I wanted to play. I don't tend to put a ton of time into multiplayer shooters anyway, and the prospect of shelling out $40 or $60 for one I'll likely not get much of a return on just doesn't add up for me. Especially a game like this that is so team-focused. I think I'd rather just play alone most of the time.

Heroes of the Storm - Speaking of playing alone, I did 5 practice matches with and against AIs last night, and had a good time doing them. MOBAs are pretty satisfying, especially when you tend to win a lot, and fairly easily. This game has been out for a long while now without me really giving it much of a look, but I may continue playing it some, now.

Friday, April 29, 2016

New True Lord of the Dark

Look out, Lordran, there's a new big man on the scene. That's right, the chosen undead, Fridge, just kept plugging away at the baddies until he was able to reach soul level 103 and gear up with fully maxed out giant's armor and a demon's greataxe. Now all the lord souls have been found, history set right in Oolacile, and the lord of cinder deposed. In league with Kaathe and Frampt, the great serpents, Fridge has begun a new reign of darkness over this blighted and forgotten land. There goes the neighborhood.

For the last week and a half or so, I've played practically nothing but Dark Souls. Previously I had made it to the point of having one of the four lord souls and venturing into the painting in Anor Londo. I finished that painting area, then promptly moved Seath, the Four Kings, and the Bed of Chaos, finalizing my gear and taking a detour into the Artorias DLC before taking out Gwynn for the ending. I'm proud of my accomplishment--beating the game at its own game. Fridge was an unstoppable juggernaut by the end of the game, and that felt pretty great in a game like Dark Souls.

I'm looking forward to replicating this success in Dark Souls II, just as I did with Demon's Souls previously.

I hadn't considered Dark Souls as a game I might return to and finish in 2016, but I'm very glad that I did. There was unfinished business there, now neatly tied off.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Vacation Download

I've done a fair amount of reading and gaming over the last 3 weeks or so of being abroad in Japan. Mostly, though, I took the opportunity to catch up on some TV and movies, though they're beyond the purview of this blog, like games on mobile platforms (which I do play, sometimes, but have decided not to write about here).

A booklog update first, then. I finished Mark of Calth, a Horus Heresy short story collection about the ongoing war on Calth after the Word Bearers' sneak attack on the Ultramarines there, which occurred in Know No Fear. I also began reading Vulkan Lives, about the titular Primarch of the XVIII legion, Salamanders, and their background and place in the widening conflict of Horus' treachery, still widening as it is in this, the 26th book on the subject. I do love them, though.

I almost hesitate to mention it, but I've gotten into some comics lately. I've been reading The Walking Dead regularly for years, but only recently, in the wake of The Force Awakens, have picked up three new ongoing Star Wars books, as well, Darth Vader first, and over my vacation, Star Wars proper as well as the newest one, Poe Dameron's ongoing series. The first two take place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and the Poe book, of which there is only one issue at the moment, is set before The Force Awakens. These are all pretty good, and are part of the new canon, as well. I also read a random All New X-Men trade a friend had given me a digital copy of, and that was interesting, as someone who hasn't read an X-Men comic more or less since the mid '90s.

Games, though. I had access to my brother-in-law's PS4 while staying at his house, so I had a chance to play both Tom Clancy's The Division and Bloodborne.

The Division - solid cover shooter, decent amount of fun. Could not care any less about the setting or looting of parkas and other winter gear. Server woes put me off it after reaching about level 7, I think, and nothing pulled me back.

Bloodborne - To be honest it mostly just strikes me as another Souls game, though I admittedly did not get very far in. I killed the Cleric Beast and was working on Father Gascoine before we had to leave. I don't remember what class I was, but I was using the trick cane whip weapon, which was cool. I bought a Japanese copy of this game, so I still have it in my possession, but it's all in Japanese, which makes getting the lore difficult, since this is written at a level higher than my proficiency. I'd need to a) buy a PS4 b) bone up on the kanji and vocabulary to delve any deeper.

I also got in some good time on my Vita.

Tactics Ogre - I'm stuck at a part where I need to do some grinding. It's my fault; I was foolishly trying to level up too many different classes at once, and experience points were being divvied up over too many categories as a result, and now my classes are all somewhat behind the curve for critical path battles, the next of which happens to feature a bunch of dragons that no one in my party can seem to do much damage to, for the moment. I've fixed the classing issue, and just need to do the grinding now, to move forward.

Spelunky - I ran the daily when I thought to do so, and also ran a some practice runs, as well. I'm still not good, though.

Being back from vacation now, I'm not sure what I'll pick up, next. I do need to make progress with my RPGs and RTSs, but I may also ease back into Dark Souls with an eye at eventually finishing that game sometime.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

All Playing All Preparing

I guess it slipped my mind just how many games I've played over the last week or so since the last update. I went to update thinking I didn't have much to write about, but in making the list discovered otherwise.

First up, the T game in my alphabetical backlog tour: Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers. You're thinking, what the fuck is this? I was too. I'm guessing this made it into my library as part of an indie game bundle at some point. It's a 3D platformer with physics puzzles and a snazzy graphical and musical style. The plot, if you can call it that, is nonsensical, but that's not the real star here, anyway. Tiny and Big is about navigation and manipulation of the environment. You have 3 primary tools in addition to your jump, a cutter for slicing and parting objects in the environment, a grapple to pull them, and an attachable rocket to propel them. Combined with large and malleable levels, it makes for a pretty fun and interesting game. I finished the tutorial and 2-3 levels.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is another Diablo clone I had in my library, and the mood struck, so I gave it a go. It's very well executed, if overwhelming at first with the amount of decisions it wants you to make about how to spec your character very early in the game. I found it to be completely competent, but not very interesting, otherwise. I've always loved Castlevania, Diablo, Dracula, and that sort of classic gothic horror, but the variant on offer here doesn't resonate enough to keep me playing and essentially duplicating to no end effort that could go into one of my D3 characters to more of a substantial sense of progression. Neocore Games, the folks behind this, are now working on Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor - Martyr, which I think I would like to partake in, when that appears.

Spelunky - I continue to run dailies to little avail.

Castlevania SOTN - Just a few minutes for that tactile flavor.

Dark Souls - Reinstalled the game and DSfix. I'd like to actually finish it at some point.

Dragon Age II - Ran a couple of quests, getting the ball rolling to continue and finish later.

Dawn of War II: Retribution - Playing The Last Stand here and there.

SF2 Turbo HD Remix - Got completely dominated by a normal AI DeeJay repeatedly. I've never been good, but this is ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Well, I finally did it. I finally put the cap on the Mass Effect trilogy. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with how things wrapped up for me. If I have any real regrets, it's that rushing through ME3 to some extent locked me out of a few quests, and caused the death of Miranda when I would really have liked to see her live. The other, from earlier in the saga, might choosing Morinth over Samara in ME2, though that certainly made for an interesting decision.

I had a pretty simple play style, as an Infiltrator with a single-shot, high-powered sniper rifle. Stealth up, headshot an enemy, duck back into cover, reload, and repeat. It was really satisfying, though. Most things died in a single hit, and I usually took Liara (biotic) and either Javik, James, or Ashley (assault) with me to round out the squad. I almost never used Garrus in ME3, just because he and I seemed to overlap too much in skillsets.

Here's looking forward to Andromeda.

That makes two titles off my prospectus altogether, and I'm making progress in a few others, as well. After finishing ME3, I immediately reinstalled Dragon Age II, and hopped back into that for a little bit to see if I could pick up where I left off. I don't think it'll be a problem to see that game through to the end, as well, sometime this year.

Mass Effect 3
The Witcher 3
The Walking Dead Season 2
Dawn of War II: Retribution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Warcraft III
StarCraft II
Dragon Age II
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Wasteland 2
Baldur's Gate II

I'm also maintaining the Spelunky daily challenge, as I mentioned before. I'm not back to the level of skill and proficiency with the game I used to have, but hopefully I'll get there.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Focus Fire!

I've been concentrating on Mass Effect 3 lately. There's a lot of stuff in this game. I've finished most of the base game now, maybe 80% if I had to guess, as well as the Leviathan post-release DLC module, and am currently in the middle of another, Omega. After that there is the final DLC, Citadel, to do, along with progressing through to the end of the campaign against the Reapers.

I've been mostly sticking to the renegade option, but going with the paragon one with Shepard's close friends when that seemed appropriate. Garrus, Liara, Ashley, and Tali from past games have all joined the crew, along with EDI, Javik, and James. Mordin, Thane, and Legion all gave their lives to the struggle, while Jack, Jacob, Grunt, Wrex, Miranda, Morinth, Kasumi, and Zaeed are all out there doing various things, as far as I know.

Elsewhere, I've been running the Spelunky daily challenge again, looking forward to wasting some time on that during my upcoming Japan trip. I also played around with Super Crate Box on the PC for a bit. I'd played the un-controllable iOS version before, but it was awful to grapple with sans buttons. With a proper man-machine interface, though, it's good fun.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Old, Old, Favorites

A few games of the past have been popping up recently.

I want to finish off Mass Effect 3 before my upcoming trip to Japan, and I'm working on that. I just put down an attempted coup on the Citadel by the human councilor Udina, and I think that puts me at about the halfway mark.

It was in thinking about the upcoming trip though, that I caught myself charging up my Vita and jumping back into a couple of games on that platform, Spelunky, enough of which I have already written about here, but also Tactics Ogre. TO is a game I began way back in, it must have been 2010. I've spent about 35 hours or so on my save, and I'm still, or rather, once again, working through that game. I couldn't tell you what the plot is about, at this point, but I still remember how to play it, and you can go back and watch all of the cutscenes anytime. You can, in fact, at some point, go back to the various forks in the game's path and explore the other branches, as well. I'd like to be that thorough with it at some point.

I also continue to play Devil Daggers and enjoy Talisman: The Horus Heresy, and I choose those words carefully.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

New Arrivals Appear On The Scene

Two new contenders for GOTY have appeared this week! Devil Daggers and Talisman: The Horus Heresy. Here are my top 4 2016 releases thus far, in no particular order:

The Witness
Devil Daggers
Talisman: The Horus Heresy

Just so I don't forget what actually came out this year that I have played. It is paramount that I have a definitive, rigorously considered GOTY each year, of course.

What I have been playing lately:

Rocket League - a few matches the other night. There really is something great about a 5 minute round of something as a palate cleanser or itch scratcher. This game is really lots of unadulterated fun, too. The production values are nice and crisp--Rocket League is just a great package all around.

Elite - I'm back to long-range exploration as my main modus operandi. I took a trip our to the Merope system in the Pleides nebula the other day to get a first-hand look at the "barnacles" that have been found out there. Getting to the system was a cinch in my exploration-optimized Asp, but getting to the specified coordinates on the planet was a real bear. It was a very cool thing to do, though. After that I returned to civilization to top off my hull repair, sell data, and dove back into the abyss. I'm working on a roundabout way toward VY Canis Majoris, this trip. I should mention that I also made a trip to Betelgeuse before going to Merope. Betelgeuse is very near the settled bubble, and an impressively large star. Unfortunately, like an idiot, within just a few light-seconds of a dock to sell that data, I decided to check out a Distress Call instance. Never again. I was torn apart by multiple assailants with no provocation and before I could even get my FSD more than a third of the way charged. And this was with 5D shields! Live and learn, and that was at least a million credits down the drain, figuring in re-buy costs.

Mass Effect 3 - I cured the Genophage, and won the support of both the Krogan and Turians in my galaxy-spanning war on the Reapers. It sounds like a real feat, but it only took less than a couple of hours. I have a lot of side quests to be doing, and I'm going to have to mediate a conflict between the Quarians and the Geth at some point, I know. There's still a lot of game left here. I should finish it before going to Japan for a few weeks in about a month's time.

Devil Daggers - This game came out of nowhere, as far as I'm concerned. I first saw a screenshot of the title screen on twitter, and then it was everywhere. It's Geometry Wars but in Quake, in a nutshell. The single round, one hit death, survive as long as you can play of the former in the perspective and motif of the former. The object of the game is primarily just to survive as long as possible, and presumably also to collect as many red gems as possible, which are dropped by certain enemy types. I'm guessing collecting enough will trigger some sort of power up. This game is very difficult, and very addicting. It is also very, very intense. It's a blast, as I love the feel and look of it. I'm currently at the top of my friends' leaderboard, though there is only one other person on it, with a time of 62-some-odd seconds.

Talisman: The Horus Heresy - It's Talisman Digital themed in my favorite Warhammer setting and characters. I was naturally going to pick this up, loving the license and liking the game well enough. I've played 4 games so far, trying out different characters, who all have unique traits. There is a very heavy luck component to any game of Talisman, this one being no exception. In my last game as Konrad Curze, I wandered around the periphery of the board barely accruing any strength or resources at all, where my partner Angron (this version is team-based, rather than a free-for-all) snowballed early and rolled right through all comers to slay The Emperor very quickly and win the game for us. It's only lightly interactive, and mostly dependent on dice rolls and card draws, so strategy is less emphasized, but I enjoy a game of Talisman here and there, and as an unrepentant Horus Heresy enthusiast, I'll be playing this game quite a bit in the future, I think.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Play Salad

I've been into a ton of different things in the past few days:

Firewatch - I finished it. It was alright, overall, but I didn't end up liking it as much as I anticipated. Maybe I was just not in the mindspace for this type of thing. The high points are the style of the game's art and believable characters on display, though I don't quite buy that it is set in the mid '80s when the characters speak the way they do. Something about it just seemed off. Hiking around the nature areas was nice, but got old kind of quickly, and I was soon dashing everywhere, and dashing through to the end of the game.

Torchlight II - I'm not sure why, now, but something made me want to go back to revisit this game, as I felt like we had unfinished business. I feel like I'm finished with it now, though. I realized while playing it for a while that I wasn't particularly in love with either the play or the world in this game, and my time would be better spent elsewhere.

Borderlands 2 - Same story here as above. I haven't been able to get into Borderlands 2 for whatever reason, after a couple of tries. I played all the way through the first and all the DLC for it, and while I do enjoy the combat in these games, the randomly generated guns don't really do all that much for me, and I don't particularly like the world they've built here, unique though it is. I could play any number of other shooters and probably eventually find one that clicks in a way that this one doesn't.

Tomb Raider II - Another game not really on my backlog, since I did play all the way through it back at release on the original PlayStation, but that I did want to revisit. I bought the entire collection of Tomb Raider games on Steam a while back, and I want to try each of them out, for a while at least. I never played past the second when these were contemporary, nor ever played Legend, Anniversary, or Underworld in later years. The next TR game I played after II was actually the 2013 reboot. I still really like these original games in the series. No other game has done quite this sort of 3D world navigation puzzle with a very well defined move set and a collection of levels planned out so exactly. I hypothesize that the advent of the analog stick cut short this evolutionary path in gaming.

Rocket League - It continues to be a great game to dip into for a few minutes at a time as a break here and there during the day, or in the evening as a warm-up for more serious fare.

The Witness - The more serious fare, often. I've made some really good progress lately. I'm up past 250 puzzles solved now, I think, with 5 or 6 laser beams activated. I really like this game.

X-COM Enemy Unknown - My campaign continues. I'm at a stage where I have to infiltrate an alien base, and I'm just trying to build up resources and prepare my squad before doing that. I don't know if it's time sensitive or not, but it probably is, at least in the sense that alien activity is going to keep happening, and I can never address all instances of it. Eventually everyone will just pull out of the whole X-COM project. One nation already has, Russia, if memory serves.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - I have a game in progress that I am half-serious about completing, and that I keep going back to when I feel like a quick hit of action play and the PS3 is on, usually because Mia and Juno have been watching something.

Elite Dangerous - I finally made it back to civilized space with my tons of exploration data, and sold it, making about 8 million credits, which was enough to bankroll the best FSD available for my Asp, as well as other improvements, and now I'm off out into the black for another run. I don't know where I'm headed, other than to the bottom of the galaxy, and rimward of the bubble of settled systems. One of the new toys I want to test out is my SRV, the rover that can be deployed to drive around the surfaces of planets (rocky and non-atmospheric, for the time being). I need to do more and longer expeditions if I'm going to make enough money to buy an Anaconda or other large ship, and if I'm going to rank up to Elite in exploration. These are long, long, long term goals. I can play CQC mode in between bouts of jump, scan, jump, scan, jump, scan, and so on.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Steady As She Goes

The Ship is an older entry in my Steam library. As I recall, everyone who purchased the game ended up with a few free copies to give away to others. They were as common as dirt for a while, it seemed. I finally decided to try the game out, since it began with S, and I could at once knock out three separate entries in my unplayed Steam list (The Ship, The Ship Tutorial, and The Ship Single Player). It's a mainly multiplayer game of the type where every player is given one other player to kill, while avoiding being killed by whomever is hunting them. At the same time, your character has various needs that need to be met, such as having to eat, drink, sleep, shower, urinate, socialize, read, et cetera. The game is a balancing act of hunting, evasion, and character upkeep on a Titanic-era ship on the high seas. It's a good idea, and seems to have been executed competently. It's a shame then, that several years on, there are no players on the servers. It does have a functional bunch of bots you can play against, at least to get a sense of how the game is supposed to play, and the single player mode is a sort of campaign-tutorial mélange that seemed to mean well, but lacked a quick save, meaning lots of repetition. No, thank you.

Horizons, the first major expansion to Elite: Dangerous was on sale recently, so I added that to my game and was able to make my first planetary landing on a random body in a random system still several hundred LY outside of civilized space. I don't have a rover yet, so landing is really all I can do, but it was still cool.  When I get the feeling, I'll make my way back to civilization and hopefully be able to make some money from my exploration data to then afford one of the rovers. They look like a lot of fun!

Progressing through some of my 2016 planned gaming syllabus, I have been working on both XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Dawn of War II: Retribution. I suppose the XCOM2 hype and rave reviews have influenced me some, but I've gained some ground on my Normal Ironman campaign. I still feel overwhelmed and lack satellite coverage, but I may be able to claw my way to success with some luck. I've never made it even this far in a campaign, though, so who can say? I ran one mission in Retribution last week, but it's got me wanting to run more. I'm playing it through as the Blood Raven Space Marine squad this first time, at least. It might be interesting to try some of the other factions, too.

A quick update on The Witness: I keep returning to this game and managing to figure out a little bit, and make a little bit of progress before being stumped and putting it down. Figuring out the rules that govern a set of puzzles is a really nice feeling, though. It makes me want to go back and keep trying until I figure it all out.

Firewatch has just come out, the walk and talk first person exploration and drama game from the new studio Campo Santo, made up of people formerly of Telltale Games, Double Fine, Irrational, Klei, and others, I'm sure, as well as members of the popular Idle Thumbs video games podcast. It features art by artist Olly Moss, whose style is very full of visual wordplay. You play one of those people that goes and spends the summer in a giant watchtower out in the wilderness and watches for brushfires and acts as a sort of deputy park ranger. Henry (his name) has some personal issues and he is in contact with Delilah, another firewatcher, and they talk a lot on the radio while interesting things occur in the parklands. I'm investigating a bit of a mystery at the point I'm at, now.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Witness The Turn

I'm at a pivot point.

I finally finished Knights of the Old Republic, as a Jedi Revan. I even managed to win Bastila back to the light side after she had been turned by Darth Malak while in his hands. Malak was killed, undone by his own hubris and the weaknesses of the dark side in the end. Isn't that always the way? It felt good to finally conclude the business between myself and this game after such a long time. I'm really looking forward to the Obsidian Studios-developed sequel which I'll play at some point.

For backlog diligence this week, I tried out Rage, the id Software shooter from 2011. Megatextures. It's got a great look, technically, and if it weren't for Borderlands already doing something similar, and more recently Mad Max itself entering gaming, Rage would also have a niche, artistically. Which would be nice, because mechanically there is nothing special about this game from the first couple of hours. It's by id, so the shooting is solid. There's also ATV and buggy driving, which seems fine, and faux-open world trappings and light RPG systems. I had a decent time in the first few missions, but I see no reason to play more, what with all the other potentially and actually better games at my fingertips.

A while back I played through Warhammer 40:000 Kill Team on PS3. It was not great by any means, but the PC version was very cheap recently so I picked it up on Steam for another go at greater fidelity. It's a very stupid game, and roughly made, like a bad old arcade game or something from the PS1 or N64 generation. I wanted to kill a few moments with it, though, so there you have it.

I'm keeping at The Witness, as well. I've activated two lasers, for what that's worth. One was in and under the desert, and the other the colored glass greenhouse elevator area. I wish I had some idea of what I'm supposed to do at the vaguely Asian temple area, with the diamond shaped puzzles on the garden wall, or the glass puzzle near the harbor with the twin lines. I did the apples-in-the-trees puzzle set last night, and I guess I'll roam the island for some more low hanging fruit when next I load up the game.

And I'm still leaning toward some Dawn of War II: Retribution soon.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hit and Miss

Sometimes even good games can miss the mark for us personally, for whatever reason.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has never really clicked with me, despite how plainly well designed and executed everything about it is. I certainly admire the game, and enjoy sessions of it, but it's one I have to make myself play. Even some of the best games require pushing through at times, but for whatever reason XCOM is always an uphill battle for me. I reached a mission last week that requires me to board an alien ship, and came across my first of the floating disc aliens, which promptly ended the runs of my entire squad. Now I am left with a bunch of rookies to face the same gauntlet, and I fear for the future of the XCOM initiative, and the world.

I checked out Payday: The Heist (yes, even though Payday 2 has been out for years at this point) as my P game for my mini backlog project. It was surprisingly fun playing alone with bots filling out the rest of my crew. I did the bank robbery heist, and thought seriously about going back to play more, probably trying the street battle scenario a la Heat, but then decided that was OK, I'd actually had enough. I should check out the sequel sometime.

This weekend saw some real leaps of progress in KOTOR. I started out just having arrived on Kashyyyk looking for the third piece of the star map, progressed through that and the scenario that followed which involved escaping Darth Malak's starship and the grand revelation that I was Darth Revan (before my turn as the light side boy scout I am now playing), and finally through the Korriban section of the game and acquiring the final piece of the map to the Stellar Forge. I think I must be pretty close to the end, now. Bastila is apparently being held by Malak, who is apparently also on the way to the Stellar Forge for some reason. I've heard Bastila can be turned to the dark side, but I'm unaware of whether it is a certainty or not. Perhaps it depends on what path the player character has taken. I'm squeaky clean, since for the most part the dark side options to me seem a little too moustache-twirling for me to roll with in this game. I've read that KOTOR II deals much more in shades of gray. I may play a bit more of a conflicted character in that game when the time comes.

Another very well done game that I'm not sure is really doing it for me is The Witness. I've never been the biggest fan of puzzles for puzzles' sake, but I do like a nice immersive world with enigmas spread about, and the game definitely has that. I'm not sure what portion of the puzzles I've done thus far, but I'd guess it's somewhere around 20%, probably. I've been wandering from place to place, abandoning areas as soon as they get a little too head-scratchingly obtuse. It's a neat game, to be sure, and I'll certainly keep plugging away at it, I just don't know if I'll ever figure it all out. I don't even know the totality of what there is to figure out, at this point.

For the next week or so, I'm really looking forward to finishing KOTOR. I'm not sure where to go from there, but perhaps back to Dawn of War II?