Games You are Currently Playing

Definitely try the first one. Eternal is that game with the volume turned up.

The first game’s platforming is definitely like Half-Life. Eternal adds complexity that takes it in a Metroid Prime direction IMO.

As Scott said, there’s a lot of potential complexity for you to master, and if you do, you fight much more effectively. But also, it’s Doom, so guns still just work if you shoot em enough.

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Worth saying: I just really enjoy the feel of the super shotgun and the meat hook ability. Zipping around the map like a murdery Spider-Man is good feels.

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I spent the last week playing Prey (2017). I haven’t been playing too many big releases in the past couple of years, but with Covid-19 forcing a lot more time I can’t spend playing board games or Magic with friends, I am playing more video games and I found this game great. If you haven’t played it, you definitely should. But to talk about this game at length I need to spoil large chunks of it so be warned.

While I had played Bioshock and Bioshock infinite, I was never deep into the System Shock lineage of “Immersive Sims” and the two games I mentioned have some aspects of them, but are definitely a lot more linear shooters, never having played a Deus Ex or Dishonored game. I came to Prey after binging a ton of episodes of Game Maker’s Toolkit on YouTube where this game showed up repeatedly and seemed promising.

The initial attraction that had me was the “signature weapon”. Whereas Half-Life 2 had the Gravity Gun that let you pick up and fling various objects, Prey has the GLOO Cannon, which throws out white blobs of a sticky, hardening substance. This gun can do a bunch of things. It can freeze enemies in place for a moment so you can hit them easier, and destroys some small enemies directly. You can also shoot blobs on walls as footholds to climb, and you can use it to disable environmental hazards like insulating a broken electical switchboard so you can repair it, or plug up gas leaks that are on fire.

You use this gun (and an assortment of other, more conventional weapons) to fight an alien species that has overrun a space station. One type of alien you encounter is called a “mimic” and by now you should know that this name for an enemy is never a good thing. This enemy has the ability to turn into any physics object in the world. This gives the game a constant atmosphere of dread, but also facilitates a lot of jump-scares which I am less of a fan of. There is a certain element of horror throughout the game, particularly existential horror later on, as well.

Another mechanical aspect is the strong systametization of things. The gamespace has various systems that rub on each other, such as enemies, the space stations defenses, the physics system, etc. Which you can use to manipulate the world and play off each other, if that is your desire. You can also take on abilities of your enemies which have different ways to manipulate these systems. In my playthrough I did not utilize this very much but it is something I would like to explore a bit more in the future.

The game space is also relatively open. The space station has several different systems and modules you can move between freely for a large part, revisit and explore as you chose, though for narrative reasons there are large stretches of the game where you are confined to or from certain modules for some time.

After stating to play the game, what intrigued me more however was the narrative aspect of the game. And thus consider this a spoiler warning. I still highly recommend playing the game through on your own, sight unseen.

The game opens with you waking up in your apartment. After taking a short helicopter ride you meet your brother who tells you that you have to undergo a few tests but are going to join him to travel to a space station afterward. You do the tests, which has you answer some psycholog questions such as Trolley problems, and some physical tests which seem a bit odd. During the tests one of the mimics attacks the person administering the test and you are knocked out. You then wake up again in your apartment but things are off. Your computer has a bunch of messages that you should flee, the maintenance person in the hallway is dead, and the elevator to the helipad isn’t working. You try to get onto the balcony only to find out the balcony doesn’t exist. It is simulated by a video screen you just broke and you are in a recording studio like you are the main character of the Truman show, and that is a huge flash to my brain.

You find out that you are already on the space station, and that you have had your memory wiped several times before. You meet a robot that you built in the past and that helps you and gives you instructions. He wants you to destroy the whole space station and kill everyone involved, arguing that the alien race will otherwise destroy the earth. You are also contacted by your brother who has an arming key for the nuclear reactor that you need, but he is opposed, arguing that the reasearch is too valuable and he has another plan to stop the aliens.

Over the course of the game you do several tasks on the space station, trying to stop the aliens and find out what happened to you and what is going on, as well as giving some side tasks that involve other crewmembers that you can save (but don’t have to save). At the end of the game you have to choose which plan you follow, destroy the space station or put faith in your brother’s plan, but the two characters who give you the options physically get in the way, necessitating you to kill the person who is opposed.

But here comes the even bigger brain-flash. After the credits roll, you find that the entire game was a simulation, and you are not the main character, but a human-alien hybrid who was undergoing a test and all the choices you made in the game was a series of Trolley problems. Your “brother” and several other characters you meet in the game judge on how you did, reveal to you that the world is already overrun by the alien threat, and then decide whether you showed actual humanity.

Maybe I am a little bit too impressed with this considering similar things have been presented before, i.e. The Matrix, but the fact that you actually play through the game which does a pretty good job at making you emotionally invest into things and has you act out the actions rather than simply press A or B had me well hooked and not see through how this was testing my morals. There were several points in the game where I chose to do some bad things for the sake of self-preservation, but I did save people when I could despite the fact that I was supposed to kill them in the end anyhow by destroying the space station.

Let’s just say, I was impressed by how these moral questions were persented by the game.

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Control is a very fun game. I enjoyed my experience, but I am tepidly excited for more

It would be easy to say Control is inspired by SCP and Stranger Things, but that would be ignoring the long history of surreal horror media that has been quietly plunking along the edges of popular culture. There’s the book House of Leaves, the miniseries The Lost Room, even The Haunting of Hill House, all of which explore the idea of supernatural perversion of the mundane. Control is videogames boldly planting a flag in this narrative territory and showing that they might be the best medium to tell the story

I am going to preface with the things I did not like about Control, because over all I enjoyed the game and want to end on a high note.

The most painful part of Control is the writing. Jesse, the main character, has an internal monologue that is verisimilitudinously justified by an extraplanar entity riding along in her head. Her monologue is not good. I’m talking Harrison Ford in Blade Runner painful. She will either reiterate something that has literally just occurred or make snide remarks about the way characters act. It feels like Joss Whedon is poisoning the game with snark to the point that I found it hard to empathize with Jesse’s cynical misanthropy .

The other characters do not fare much better. Control takes place in the Bureau of Control, a secret government agency tasked with studying paranatural phenomenon and containing it so that it does not unravel normal society. It’s Men in Black + Repomen in their calculus towards the worth of human life over maintaining reality. And almost every agent you meet is chipper and bumbling. You get tonal whiplash as you clear rooms filled with possessed humans and then run into characters who you could see tripping over their own shoelaces. I won’t belabor the point, but it can be best summed up in an exchange burned into my mind

Warden: You need to secure that object of power soon, if it’s not contained it could bring the whole building down on us
Jesse: Don’t worry, I can handle it
speaking to a nearby guard as a walk away Warden: check it out, we’ve got a containment breach in cell 69. heh. get it? 69?

My more minor complaint is the difficulty. Control is an over-the-shoulder shooter with superpowers, kind of like Infamous. You can toss chunks of the environment around, shield yourself, fly, and more. Enemies drop health bits as you damage them, encouraging you to be aggressive and take ground. When it works it’s awesome. When it doesn’t it really sucks. A frenetic firefight in one room with you blasting apart waves of enemies can lead to another where you get unexpectedly smeared into paste. The speed at which you are obliterated provides poor feedback and leaves you scratching your head at exactly what you’re doing wrong. Sometimes you jump back to the same area and it just works, sometimes it like banging your head against a wall. Especially against bosses. They are not great. Multiple bosses are fought in arenas with bottomless pits, and it’s instant game over if you fall. It sucks hard.

So the good stuff. This game is beautiful. Aside from general graphical fidelity, Remedy Entertainment has done an excellent job creating texture and atmosphere. Possessed enemies and objects bleed out an oily rainbow fog. Filing cabinet and stacks of papers explode into action movie bursts of paper when hit. The concrete structure of the building cracks and shatters. The red glow of the Hiss plays beautifully against the brutalist architecture of the Bureau. The blinding whiteness of the astral plane contrasts with the gold-veined black marble that floats around. It’s gorgeous in static imagery and gorgeous as the chaos of combat blasts it all apart. Even if you get stuck against bosses, their wild forms are cool.

The presentation is theatrical. When you start a new chapter the level is teased in a trailer with a sweeping camera that gives you the opportunity to gawk at its vistas. New areas are introduced with gigantic, bold text across the screen. It puts the camerawork of most movies to shame.

The gameplay itself is super fun (when it works, which is most of the time). Your gun naturally regenerates ammo, which there is never enough of, encouraging you to rely on your supernatural abilities. It creates a flow to combat where you shoot down the spearhead of enemy forces before launching into the air and chuck concrete at those taking cover before dropping down and finishing them off with shotgun blasts. There are various mods you can use to improve your weapons and base skills. It feels a tad shallow, but is deep enough to let you create “builds”. You can supercharge specific abilities, give yourself a huge pool of energy, or instead make your small pool regenerate fast. You can make guns hit heavy in short bursts, or have sustained fire that lets you pin down enemies while you close in.

The most standout setpiece is the fight through the Ashtray Maze. This area is decorated like a retro hotel, a stark contrast from the blank concrete of the rest of the building. It warps and shifts; doors open in the floor leading to upside-down rooms. The walls press in and extend out. All the while an banging rock song plays, urging you to sprint forward, demolishing everything in your way. It’s a setpiece worth playing the whole game for.

The ending of the game is disappointingly abrupt. It does not feel conclusive, but at least it seems like Remedy wants to continue exploring the universe they’ve established. I’m cautiously excited. I’ll tune in to anything they announce, but as fun as the game was, if they aren’t going to innovate and evolve the gameplay I don’t have much appetite for more of the same.

So yeah, if you think it looks cool pick it up. It’s not a 60 hour behemoth of a game but it has just enough meat that it feels as long as it needs to be.

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Did you ever play Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy? I haven’t played Control yet, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it reminds me of Psi-Ops a lot:

I heard the decent press it got when it released, but never got around to playing it. I watched some gameplay on Youtube, and while it’s difficult to compare games multiple generations apart, they definitely fall on the same branch of the family tree.

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From what I recall/understand, it’s a problem that was covered in The Laundry Files, a series about a similar British government department - Everyone who uncovers the agency or is pulled into an incident in a way that’s undeniable, essentially, gets a choice: recruited into the agency to keep an eye on them(or in the case of the Laundry Files, to keep them under the entirely non-metaphorical geas of secrecy), or vanished under mysterious circumstances, ie, killed and erased. The Panopticon Warden being one of those, who managed to fail his way upward by virtue of The FBC being, generally, a casually lethal place to have a day-job.

Which naturally leads to an agency full of quasi-useless nonces in busywork jobs, byzantine bureaucratic nightmares, and all of it being held up and/or held together by a core of highly competent people and a hard-working sorcerer-in-chief personally handling more problems than they should need to, many of which were caused internally.

They’ve already released the first DLC that’s further exploring that universe, and reportedly, it’s very good.

So I saw a news article that Lonely Mountains: Downhill was released for the Switch. I don’t own a Switch, and while I’d like to get one, that’s not possible during the current circumstances. However, the game looked so good that I impulsively bought it on PS4 (also available on PC and XBox) and I’ve been having a blast with it all morning. It’s HARD, but very fair. The controls are tight, the graphics are gorgeous, and it’s just a joy to play through.

The sound of tires sliding on dirt is so damn good I’m gonna check this out.

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I’m not playing much but am watching my daughter, who rage quit a Kirby game before finishing the first level, do her best to get through Rygar. It’s quite enjoyable.

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I just finished Metro: Exodus, another game I played because of a video by Game Maker’s Toolkit that piqued my interest in the game itself. The things discussed in the video are definitely true, but unfortunately a little overstated for the whole package of the game, as only two of the six main chapters are these free-roaming open world style landscapes where you can really bring the game to bear, while the other four are far more linear. These two chapters are the longest in the game, but even with that it comes maybe to 50/50 between free roaming and linear sections. Maybe that is colored wrong by me as the chapter in the Taiga could also possibly allow for a bit more free movement, but I basically blasted straight through it.

But maybe I should start at the beginning. For those living underneath a rock, Metro is a series of video games (based on russian novels) that deal with a subterranean society in the subway system of Moscow after a nuclear war made the surface uninhabitable, filled with radiation and mutated monsters. Exodus is the third game of the series. I have not played the first two, but this game was good enough that I have bought the other two and plan to visit them over the course of the rest of the year, so consider this a stamp of approval for this one.

The player character is called Artyom, a soldier in The Order, a paramilitary group under the leadership of Colonel Miller, whose daughter Anna is Artyom’s wife. Artyom dreams of finding a place that survived the apocalypse and makes routine trips to the surface to try and find a radio signal, which earns him reprimands from his superior and pleas from his wife to stop. As the name “Exodus” hints at, in this game you are not trying to simply survive in Moscow, but escape Moscow by stealing a train together with your squad after they are basically forced out of the city after revealing that the russian military is actually isolating Moscow from the outside through a jamming device.

The journey takes you through various different locales in search of a place to stay, which is actually quite nice. As said above, a large chunk of the game allows you to freely roam through some interesting open-world sections. These are not littered with obvious markers on your map, but you have to discover them and any possible side-quests from characters yourself, which hides a lot of the artifice of other games of similar nature. All the parts of the game are also strongly differentiated by the types of enemies you face, with only one enemy type showing up twice (as far as I can tell).

The game play is very much focused on resource management, scavenging for crafting materials that you have to use to maintain your weapons and gear, make ammo for your weapons, health packs, and filters for your gas mask. Having played on normal I only once really fell into trouble though. This game also puts a large emphasis on stealth. While you have to option to storm in guns blazing (or fall back on that should things go sideways), sneaking up on human enemies conserves both your ammunition and health and preserves your ability to sneak up on more. The game is also in my opinion a bit unfairly punishing if you get spotted, as enemies seem to have a radar for where you are once combat has broken out. This unfortunately also entices a bit of save scumming, which I am not above doing. I also had an issue where I was never really sure whether I had to knock out or kill enemies or simply sneak past them, but that may be me not playing stealth games too often. The games in the Metro series are often classified as Horror, but wile the events and the setting are definitely horrific (and there is the occasional jumpscare), I don’t think it is really that as most of the time it is you who is stalking the enemies, rather than the other way around. There are definitely sections where there is a lot of dread and some moments of panic, particularly in the final chapter when the predator-prey dynamic is finally switched around.

However, the thing that really got impressed my from this game was the characterization. Between each main chapter there is a section where you are traveling by train to the next locale. During this you can roam the train and interact with the rest of your squad and other people you pick up along the way. This allows you to get them to know better and see that these are pretty well fleshed out characters and you, as a player, can actually feel connected to them as characters, which I think was very well executed. Unfortunately this is not flawless. For one, it is weird that Artyom is a silent protagonist. I guess this is to minimize the dissonance between player and character, but at times some characters will very much monologue on and on in your face as if it was a conversation. It is also weird because Artyom actually has a voice actor, who narrates the “what happened so far” when you load into a save game on first startup.

And then there is your wife Anna. She is characterized as a headstrong woman who can stand up for herself and is capable of fighting for herself when need be. The character relationship between her and Artyom is also the strongest built out. All of this is somewhat undermined by her being damseled twice throughout the story, once explicitly by being captured by enemies, and once more or less implicitly as in an early chapter she is exposed to a chemical gas, which gives her a lung condition that worsens over the course of the game with the final chapter being about you trying to find a cure from an abandoned city. In that regard the story is a bit paint by numbers.

The game is definitely not flawless, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to others.

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You’re right, it is kind of weird. Especially since both of the DLC portions - dealing with a late-game character and also with Sam’s post-game journey - have voiced PCs. (Then again, if I was paying for Steve Blum, I’d be trying to get my money’s worth, too.) And, especially considering in some of those conversations, you even get to pick dialog options, and the NPCs react as if Artyom said whatever you picked, except he, y’know, doesn’t.

I just finished Firewatch, a game I knew was good but just never gotten around to it. It is the type of walking simulator the “hardcore gamer” crowd hates, but I don’t mind them and I thoroughly enjoy stories and the first person perspective makes such stories a lot more visceral. I did like other games in similar like Dear Esther and Gone Home (which is also directly referenced by an easter egg). The game has you constantly make some choices, whether in the prologue how the backstory of your character unfolded, or how you respond to conversations. I think it would be interesting to see how exactly things are impacted by this, but I don’t particularly feel the need to do so, as I am content with the choices I made.

I won’t go very deeply into the story as it would defeat the purpose of playing the game. If you haven’t played it, I would recommend doing so as it is quite enjoyable and did elicit some very heightened emotions from me. I also very much enjoyed the themes of guilt, regret and obligation woven into the narrative.

Decided to try Riot’s newly out of beta Counter-Strike clone Valorant. Was in winning team both of the matches I’ve played and even got few kills, so I’m basically ready to go pro.

Don’t have anything too deep to say about it, I don’t have enough skill or experience to talk about things like balance. Basic gunplay feels good. Some really nice UI things Riot has done, like showing where teammates are looking at mini-map and if they see enemies, all that pops in the map. Also loud sounds have visual marker on hud, to point their direction, which is nice.

One of the biggest things that surprised me in the game was how small the “no man’s land” in the one map I played was. Most of the map was ether team’s setup zone, defenders could hole up deep in bomb spots and only small hallways leading to both bombsites and small central room were unaccesable before match started. So when round starts, things happen instantly.

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I plugged in the Wii and it works, which means I can go back to all the GameCube and Wii games I bought, but didn’t beat. Starting with some Kirby Yarn.

Yarn is fun with kids, you cannot die. There is zero challenge, but it’s ok for a few levels. Kirby’s Adventure on the Wii however is really fun and a good challenge. Pretty too, for a Wii game! What else do you have on your GC and Wii backlog?

Monster Train is an excellent variation of the deckbuilder roguelike. It has a Magic the Gathering feel with summonable units and explosive synergies. There are 4 demon clans; you choose 2 to compose your deck at the start of a run. Your primary and secondary choices determine which hero unit you start with. I haven’t counted, but there looks to be a comparable number of cards and artifacts to Slay the Spire. Runs have far fewer battles with a higher complexity per battle.

What stood out to me is the card upgrade system. Each card has two upgrade slots, with upgrades being very cheap as they only apply to one card. Upgrades range from lowering cost to increasing numbers to making the card hold in your hand until cast. Events that duplicate cards can now give you huge power boosts and money saves.

Difficulty is harder to judge. I achieved the win state on my second run, but there are 25 ascension levels with increasing difficulty. I also got lucky by grabbing an artifact that directly countered the last boss. There are a wealth of offers to upgrade and add cards which gives it a much more planned feel than StS. Highly recommend it.

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Recently I started watching someone play Zelda BOTW for the very first time on Twitch. It was exciting to see her experience this amazing game. I really missed that game, but I completed all the shrines and max all my armor.
It was then that I decided to get the DLC and check out Master Mode. Master Mode is a game changer, it is super difficult (there was a Lynel at The Great Plateu), enemies’ HP regenerates if you take too much time to defeat them, and finally it takes longer to defeat enemies (which means the weapons degrade faster).
That being said, the game was never boring, it teaches you to be more efficient when fighting, and to see if fighting enemies is worth your time and weapons.
So far I have unlocked the Master Sword, unlock all the Towers, and I am yet to upgrade any stamina wheels. I haven’t use stasis flying either during this run.
If you want to fall in love with Zelda BOTW all over again, I recommend Master Mode, it does not disappoint.

I definitely have considered replaying Breath of the Wild with the master mode. Thankfully my copy of the game is on my friend who lives in another city these days. Can focus time on games I haven’t finished before.

Since it got re-released on Steam for free, I went to play Frog Fractions to the end. When the game was new I only played it enough to find it it went down a weird rabbit hole, then I stopped and never finished. Now that I go back I found out the game is super short! I was deceived. I thought it was going to keep increasing it’s zaniness on and on. Disappointing, but still entertaining. It actually increases my recommendation, though. It takes such a short amount of time and effort to beat Frog Fractions, you have no reason not to.

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