Backloggin' Fool BigBlueWolf’s profile

Batch 33

Fran Bow

Fran Bow

Completed
Oct '20 Theme
6 hours, 7/10
18 of 18 achievements
Monsters and a cute kitty
Beaten: 12-Oct-2020

This game gets high reviews on Steam. I think this is largely based on the story rather than any game play elements. And the story is fine, but in my opinion nothing amazing. I thought it was going to be a horror tale a little more on the adult side, but the only thing adult about it is the depiction of gore and violence. The story itself is very much down at the level of children's book simplicity. Through most of the middle of the game the tone shifts away from horror and into magical, escapist fantasy.

Anyway I got bored with it quickly but was curious to see how it turned out, so I got a guide and worked my way through in a few hours. I think others will find it more entertaining than I did.

More TBA …


Batch 32 Complete

Four more games and September already gone. No monthly challenges in this batch.

Of course with October looming I intend to focus on horror games for a little while like I usually do. However I may have my backlog work interrupted. We are currently working with a rental broker to find a place to live in Portland. We have some fairly demanding needs, so it might take a bit to find a place. But once we sign a lease and start the moving process I’ll have to pause until we are settled in Oregon :D

Hope everyone is doing well and stay safe!

The Dwarves

The Dwarves

Beaten
Steam Review
15.5 hours, 5/10
31 of 34 achievements
Pint-sized disappointment
Beaten: 29-Sep-2020

Click the "Steam Review" button above!
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Completed

10 hours, 8/10
14 of 14 achievements
Nordic pyscho-naut
Beaten: 1-Sep-2020

This game has utterly breath-taking graphics and amazing character acting. That's enough to make it worth playing when married to a short runtime. But it also has keenly crafted inner dialogue which breathes life into a woman who is losing her mind over tragic events that convince her to go on a quest to the "Underworld".

The combat is a different story. It's not quite as fun as you might expect, even a bit tedious. And as I got further along I found myself increasingly annoyed by it. In a way it feels tacked on, giving the player something else to do besides explore and react to emotionally charged scenery. At the end it's more of an excuse to make a point, but one that might take some players a lot of time to figure out. I think a lot of it could have been replaced with more puzzle-solving or more variety in combat objectives.

Definitely worth playing, especially because there's nothing quite like it out there.
Black Mesa

Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power

Won on SteamGifts
Completed
Steam Review
9.2 hours, 6/10
28 of 28 achievements
3D threesome
Beaten: 28-Aug-2020

Click the "Steam Review" button above!
The Turing Test

The Turing Test

Completed

6.2 hours, 7/10
15 of 15 achievements
Just keep testing
Beaten: 19-Sep-2020

This is is about as close to a clone of Portal as you can get. Although the story set-up is quite different, the basic game loop is reaching a room exit by manipulating buttons, switches, weighted cubes, light bridges and so forth ... just no Portal Gun. The rooms aren't nearly as challenging either. And your only companion? An AI that has nearly complete control of the facility.

So while it loses points on gameplay originality it does have some interesting banter between the characters.

I really can't think of much else to say. It's not bad. It just doesn't have anything that makes it a must-play experience.

Batch 31 completed!

This batch progress took a huge, multi-month pause in the middle of playing Dead in Vinland. I was going through my backlog, loaded up Skyrim Special Edition just for nostalgia and got sucked into modding it.

I never learn.

While I have mostly got Skyrim modded the way I want, I haven’t started seriously playing it yet. I returned to my other games because I needed a Skyrim break!

Black Mesa

Black Mesa

Beaten

36.4 hours, 8.5/10
46 of 50 achievements
A guy in a suit walks into a lab ...
Beaten: 9-Apr-2020

I bought Black Mesa years ago based on the strength of its Early Access reviews, but I put off playing it until it reached full release. So I came to the game with no previous runs to color my perceptions. My opinion is that its a great homage to Half-Life that pulls the neat trick of using the Source engine and a lot of original game assets while updating it with newer high-resolution textures, more fleshed-out areas and a longer story -- especially the Xen levels. It's the game you wish Valve had released as an "enhanced edition" of the original. It even rivals Half-Life 2 in terms of sheer beauty, creative spaces and level design. Only NPCs don't quite live up to the same level as the sequel, but that has a lot to do with what the developers had to work with.

The Source engine of course lends itself not just to keeping the original feel of the game and its control work but also its deficiencies. Getting off a ladder is still a nightmare. Odd collisions with the random small object or enemy can still send you flying skyward. You just have to keep in mind when this happens that it's part of the nostalgic charm.

For achievements, most are do-able with minimum effort, you'll probably need a guide to get the more obscure ones. Unfortunately there's also three carry quests in the game like the Garden Gnome from HL2: Episode Two. The only tolerable one starts in Xen and concludes in the following chapter. It's difficult and a pain-in-the-ass, and I'd not recommend but for the fact that there are four achievements you can't complete without doing it. The others start near the beginning of the game and resolve at the very end. If you are a masochist, go for it. I didn't bother.

Overall a great game with plenty of action packed moments. Boss fights are intense. The pacing is excellent except for some chapters that drag out too long, but that's a minor complaint. A big thumbs up and hearty endorsement!
Dead in Vinland

Dead In Vinland

Beaten

84 hours, 7/10
42 of 50 achievements
The tale of a fateful trip
Beaten: 1-Aug-2020

I liked many aspects about this game. The story was more filled out and explained a lot about the island, which later becomes the setting for Dead in Bermuda. As the prequel in the series it has taken great strides in game design. Beyond the original assignment of survivors to tasks there are encounters with other survivors that can be added to your camp (each offering different talents), combat sequences and more sophisticated puzzles.

And yet, I feel like this game was WAY too long. The game loop can get tedious, even if it is habit-forming. But to reach the game's true end I had to explore the entire island in order to collect the required quest items. Or maybe it was just bad RNG luck that the last 20 unexplored plots contained the last 8 items I needed? Quite literally the last unexplored spot on the map was the last puzzle to get the last item. And it took what felt like forever even when during the last quarter I had 2-3 people exploring with all the speed upgrades.

This is by no means a bad game and you'd expect it to be longer than the first one, but I finished a single run of DiB in 17 hours. Even if I took out some of the back-tracking I did and achievement hunting, I'm guessing this would have still been a 50-hour game instead of 84. And that's a really long time for a game of this style.

I was glad when it was finally done. I put it aside for several months before returning to finish.
Eliza

Eliza

Completed

8.2 hours, 8/10
1 of 1 achievements
The chatbot will see you now
Beaten: 22-Aug-2020

This is a short visual novel, running around 5-6 hours and split into 7 chapters. You play as Evelyn, a computer engineer and software dev living in Seattle who has been on a professional hiatus for the last three years. I won't ruin anything by saying more her. The themes of this game deal with big tech, AI, burn-out, mental health, and the moral ramifications of what technology does to the people who create it and the people who interact with it.

The story is well written and the voice acting is top-notch. It doesn't try to be preachy or slant things in an "activist" kind of tone. It's structured as a series of scenes between Evelyn and her friends, business associates and customers. The topics are very relatable and hit very close to home for anyone familiar with this world. I found immediate resonance with a lot of the insider discussions about the business as well as several topics brought up by the counseling patients either in my own experience or those of close friends. My only criticism is that the Eliza counseling AI in the game seems very simplistic compared to what current AI chat technology is capable of (as recently demonstrated by Google). It didn't seem realistic that a company would get much sales traction with the product as presented.

If this topic interests you, I recommend buying. The quality was such that I could imagine it being adapted into a movie as a drama. The sci-fi elements are not fantastical and it's easy to imagine them being real news headlines in the next 5-15 years.

The single Steam achievement is for winning an expert level game of solitaire on Evelyn's phone when she entertains the idea. Thus it isn't connected to the story, just an extra thrown in by the game dev. It's played with a Kabufuda deck instead of standard playing cards. I breezed through easy, medium and hard, but expert took me about 2.5 hours and several attempts before I won. The only rule I don't think is explained well is that you can unlock one of the four "free-cell" spaces on the top row when you lock out a space on the normal playing field with a matched set, BUT this isn't possible except at medium and higher difficulty because easy starts with all four free-cells available.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Beaten

31 hours, 10/10
29 of 37 achievements
Beyond the blind forest
Beaten: 25-Jul-2020

It's more Ori, so of course it was spectacular.

Everything that was fun about the first game is here along with new abilities and more locations to explore. Curiously though it didn't feel as difficult as the first one, and I think that's because you get several abilities early on that came later in Blind Forest. Most notable is the ability to stick to walls when climbing. While it's given to you here as a swap-able "shard" ability, it never left my load-out when I was exploring. Not having to repeatedly mash buttons to move upward or know where you are headed next when jumping on to a wall made getting around faster with fewer deaths.

The largest change from the previous game is the combat abilities. Whereas before you had Sen to shoot at enemies somewhat chaotically when you got close enough, now you have a variety of melee and ranged weapons to choose from that through unlocks can become massively OP in some instances. While this can make some boss fights surprisingly short, I didn't feel like it detracted too much from the game. If anything it made you feel more like Ori had grown into his abilities and was becoming ever more powerful.

The story has a lot of similarities to the first one and takes place in a new location with completely new environments to explore. These showcase many of the new game mechanics as you slowly acquire new abilities while moving along the main story line. There are also side quests this time, which makes for a lot of fun side adventures and more characters to meet.

Overall it's a great game and deserving of the high rating. If you are into platformers this is a series you shouldn't miss!
Pit People

Pit People

Beaten

30 hours, 8/10
19 of 27 achievements
Turn-based humor
Beaten: 20-Aug-2020

The Behemoth is at it again, this time with a take on turn-based strategy games. Despite the similar look to Castle Crashers (which I never played), Pit People is very loosely a sequel to Battleblock Theater, at least as told through the short mainline story. The voice of the Narrator returns also to play, well, almost everyone that isn't from the core cast of story characters. The humor is great in the same snarky way and the side quests that vastly outnumber the mainline quests poke fun at all kinds of modern topics and entertainment in typical irreverent style.

At the core of Pit People though is a game that lacks much sophistication and can be boring at times. Although it is turn-based combat, you only move your characters to positions on the board/battlefield. The characters then decide for themselves who they are going to attack. This can be modified by placing your characters so they only have one choice of target, but often this is not possible since the enemy AI is trying to jockey for position as well. You assign your positions as best you can and hope for a good outcome. The fun is in the wide variety of units you can pick from and how their abilities work as a team. The other bonus is the designers try very hard to offer battle maps that have objectives other than "kill the enemy units". These involve things like puzzles, going after specific targets, dynamic obstacles, and many other goals.

The rewards are largely hundreds of mostly cosmetic items. Armor, shields and weapons fall into broad categories giving base stats for each, but within these categories most items are just those base stats with a small number occasionally offering a different benefit (elemental damage, resistances, etc.) for trade-off with another stat. There are only a precious handful of items that don't come with a penalty, and they aren't useful in all combat situations anyway.

The game is also clearly designed for multi-player -- which is highlighted by "The Pit" offering PvP competition. I didn't try it as that had no appeal to me. If you're curious you can still gain experience playing against three waves of AI teams. There's also a mode that let's the AI play your side as well, but at the cost of good loot at the end of a round.

On the whole it's a good game. Worth playing if the idea of lightweight strategy plus Behemoth humor sounds like a good combo.
The Witness

The Witness

Gift
Abandoned

9 hours, 9/10
0 of 2 achievements
Amazing but not for me
Abandoned: 9-Aug-2020

This is a puzzle game in a similar setting to Myst. You are dropped on an island with no explanation and work through various sections of the landscape that are divided by theme and environment. The puzzles are mazes -- usually shown on a monitor display -- and each area introduces a new set of rules or conditions that must be used to determine solutions. Harder areas combine introductory rule sets to make for more challenging mazes.

If this sounds intriguing to you, go for it. I gave this game top ratings due to beauty and technical excellence. Then why did I abandon it? Because I got bored.

It's not that the game lacks variety. I think The Witness has far better overall design and challenge than The Talos Principle (which I finished). But after 8-9 hours spread out over 1-2 hour sessions, I simply lost the desire to continue playing it.

In closing I think this is an excellent puzzle game for the right audience. It just wasn't for me.

Batch 30

… the walking simulator batch.

Hope everyone is staying safe.

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition

Dear Esther Landmark Edition

Mar '20 Theme
Completed

3 hours, 8/10
10 of 10 achievements
THE walking sim
Beaten: 13-Mar-2020

This game needs no introduction as it was the original walking simulator -- or at least the game that inspired the label.

The game has been remade here with the Unity game engine, re-scored music and director commentary that has the team recounting the experience of making both the original and this edition. If you haven't played before, it's probably better to turn that off so you can enjoy it as it was meant to be played. For people returning to the game the commentary has some nice insights. Also, this time around you get achievements.
The Fidelio Incident

The Fidelio Incident

Mar '20 Theme
Completed

2.6 hours, 6.5/10
14 of 14 achievements
Cold memories
Beaten: 15-Mar-2020

Some walking sims fall short in some respects. It's a bit sad that is the case with The Fidelio Incident, which follows the aftermath of a light airplane crashing in a remote area of Iceland. From the get-go you are introduced to Stanley and Leonore as they banter in the cabin. Post-crash you play Stanley and get a desperate message from her over their hand-held walkie-talkies and set out to find her in the frozen landscape. The game is eerily beautiful. There's unusual bunkers and heating pipes dotting the landscape. As Stanley makes his way closer to the smoke plume that indicates Leonore's location, you find journal notes scattered from the crash and suffer from dream-like reveries that fill in the story.

But it's the story that falls flat here. Our couple has a checkered past they are trying to escape, but the manner in which it is told isn't terribly compelling. The story is deeply personal on many levels, but exploration of the details is limited and the game often seems to fight against connecting with the characters on anything other than surface level. By the end I shrugged my shoulders because I didn't really feel that much for them. Good voice-acting though.
The Fidelio Incident

Lethe Episode One

Mar '20 Theme
Completed

6 hours, 7/10
19 of 19 achievements
Terror and telekinesis
Beaten: 20-Mar-2020

This is horror walking sim in the tradition of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA. It oozes atmosphere. You start out the survivor of a boat wreck of the coast of an island. You start exploring and quickly get caught in the twisting caves, corridors and rooms of a vast underground complex while being stalked as you try to find answers and a way out. You are limited to running and/or hiding when confronted with an enemy.

There's not a lot else here to comment on except for the story. Unfortunately that's where the game falters because the letters and notes found imply human activity levels not supported by the visuals.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

You are not given a lot to start with -- namely that you discover a letter after your father's death indicating you weren't his biological child. This puts you on a boat to the aforementioned island, searching for your true family. Starting at the shore you are confronted with a rotting pier, a single rustic run-down cottage, a few utility buildings and a mine entrance. Being the survivor of a shipwreck you'd think set out trying to find a town to look for help, but of course there are no roads going anywhere. The mine is your only option. So, onward!

From that point you are uncovering clues about what happened to the island residents, who apparently hung out in the mine a lot. Some kind of disease hit. People went mad. A doctor arrived with his team and were researching properties of a substance he found on the island. There's a cult who think something from beyond Earth landed there. But whatever happened either killed everyone or made people kill each other. Based on the number of human remains you see the death toll had to be in the tens of thousands. How all that could have happened without anyone outside the island ever hearing about it is ... well, hard to imagine. And of course weird experiments on living people had to happen in a set up like this, leading to the horrific monsters that stalk your progression.

There's also these "resonator" figurines with faces that emit weird blue energy. And for reasons not explained, at the start of chapter four you gain telekinetic powers that allow you to manipulate objects you can't reach. (Throwing barrels at your pursuers doesn't help.) I can only assume the lack of answers at the end of the game is because of the "Episode One" billing. But since there doesn't seem to be a second installment coming, I'm guessing we aren't going to know the whys and hows.

In the end it's a fun game purely for tension and jump scares. Just go with it and don't make the mistake of trying to figure out what's actually happening.
Submerged

Submerged

Mar '20 Theme
Completed

4.7 hours, 7.5/10
10 of 10 achievements
Water tourist
Beaten: 27-Mar-2020

A beautiful game that has no dialogue while telling three different stories through the on-screen action and collectibles you pick up. Despite the fact that it looks like it has platformer elements, this really is a third-person walking sim. Directional key commands take care of jumping and climbing for you, so the game is 100% exploration with no possibility of missing a jump or dying by misadventure. The maturity level is great for young children, but older players might get bored with it.
Tengami

Tengami

Mar '20 Theme
Completed

1.1 hours, 7.5/10
4 of 4 achievements
Pop-up puzzler
Beaten: 19-Mar-2020

This is beautiful and short third-person walking sim that is presented as a Japanese pop-up story book. You guide your paper character through various settings in search of cherry blossoms to adorn the barren tree at the start of the game. The navigation leads you to hot spots where the book page can be "flipped" to reveal another beautifully stylized setting to navigate.

With some light puzzle mechanics to keep things interesting, the entire thing can be completed in about an hour. However the puzzles involved a little too much back-tracking. The whole experience came off as a great concept piece that I wished was larger, longer and more complex.

Batch 29 finished!

I did a lot of Steam reviews in this larger-than-normal batch, so apologies if it opens a lot of extra windows for those interested in reading.

Stay safe, everyone!

Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium

Beaten
Steam Review
36 hours, 9/10
15 of 24 achievements
Hot mess master class
Beaten: 1-Feb-2020

Click the "Steam Review" link above!
Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero

Completed
Extra Playthrough

16.5 hours, 8/10
24 of 24 achievements
Take the road less traveled
Beaten: Acts I-IV -- 9-Apr-2019, Act V -- 2-Feb-2020

The final chapter is out. The game is complete.

Kentucky Route Zero is pure interactive fiction told through it's scenery and text dialogue -- a visual novel in the truest sense.

No mini-games, puzzles or multiple endings, just a point-and-click system to move around, choose dialog, a great minimalist art style, and a story to tell that's a cross between a road trip and a stream-of-consciousness poem. Like most stories, you'll either get it and be drawn in, or it won't appeal to you and you might think it's a waste of time. KRZ is not for everyone. But if the idea of a slow-simmer plot that wanders through backwoods America dotted with magical realism and dreamy overtones of how "normal" people are not so much, you might want to give it a try.

You start the game with Conroy, an older man in a truck trying to deliver antiques to an address he can't find in rural Kentucky. As he tries to gather information about where he needs to go to finish the job, he is pointed in the direction of "the Zero" by an old man at a gas station and a young woman, Weaver Márquez, who may or may not be dead. The Zero is a mysterious road winding through the caves beneath Kentucky. He's eventually joined by new characters that become a loose group of traveling companions. As the narrative focus flows between them, either directly or by filling in the blanks with your own choices, you are treated to some sublime and often strange encounters and mini-tales along the way.

I enjoyed the game. It's a welcome change of pace that doesn't really have an equal among other story-driven video game titles. Most visual novels feature simply animated characters imposed over static background locales. KYZ presents fluid, navigable locales that surprise in how striking they look not just as tableaus but as slow-moving pieces of art.

Some might not call this a game, but that's OK. It's doesn't exactly pretend to be one. It simply asks your permission to experience and hopefully enjoy.
Home Behind

Home Behind

Beaten
Steam Review
13.3 hours, 6.5/10
12 of 35 achievements
Mooncakes for depression
Beaten: 14-Feb-2020

Click the "Steam Review" link above!
Kitty Powers' Matchmaker

Kitty Powers' Matchmaker

Beaten
Steam Review
29 hours, 8/10
28 of 31 achievements
Mini-game maven
Beaten: 27-Feb-2020

Click the "Steam Review" link above!

I also created my first ever guide for getting achievements for a Steam game. Find it here.
LEGO® MARVEL Super Heroes

LEGO MARVEL Super Heroes

Beaten
Steam Review
17.1 hours, 6/10
31 of 45 achievements
Marvelously boring
Beaten: 16-Feb-2020

Gave it a thumbs down! Click the "Steam Review" link.
Militia

Militia

Beaten

2.6 hours, 7.5/10
10 of 14 achievements
Minimalist combat
Beaten: 24-Feb-2020

This is a strategy board game that riffs on RPG-style combat being reduced to simpler chess-like rules. It works and it's entertaining, but I found the draw wearing off fairly quickly.

During each match you play three boards. The goal is to knock out the enemy pieces marked as captains in a set number of rounds per board. These can be any piece type. Once they are eliminated the next board is set up. On your side you have a variety of 2-4 pieces per board that can attack directly, at a distance, move other pieces around, and allow a single piece to take more than one turn.

As you move up in difficulty level you unlock new pieces with new abilities while confronting new enemies or more difficult boards to win.

This game will appeal to people who enjoy short, strategic challenges. It's an amusing time killer.
Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods

Mar '20 Theme
Beaten
Steam Review
13.6 hours, 9/10
25 of 31 achievements
Girl meets adulthood
Beaten: 8-Mar-2020

Click the "Steam Review" link above!
Plague Inc: Evolved

Plague Inc: Evolved

Won on SteamGifts
Beaten

26 hours, 8/10
60 of 211 achievements
You are the pandemic
Beaten: 4-Jan-2020

I picked up Plague Inc shortly after Thanksgiving and played it mostly in the gap leading up to Christmas. Then in mid-January the COVID-19 outbreak happened in China. It was a bit chilling reflecting on the game's model for enabling the spread of a world-wide pandemic while seeing coronavirus news popping up. I gotta hand it to the game maker's... they did their homework.

Plague Inc is a game where you attempt to wipe out humanity with a pathogen. After choosing your basic type (virus, bacteria, bioweapon, etc.) and some unlockable starting traits, you pick a starting country on the map of the world then commence with a mini-game of collecting points that can be used to develop new mutations that allow the infection to spread and cause harm. Once the organism is discovered and develops enough bad effects, the game shifts to a race between civilization finding a cure and the disease spreading dependably and lethally enough to take down the world before it can be stopped.

It's fun, if a bid morbid. The actual controls are easy to master. It's the winning that takes learned patience and proper timing. It has a lot of educational value even though -- as its makers strongly emphasize in the midst of the current pandemic -- it can't actually model the transmission of real-world pathogens. Tell that to the idiots who've fallen for screenshots of the game thinking they were seeing projection maps of the spread of COVID-19. :/

The game also has lighter scenarios where you get to spread the zombie apocalypse, a vampire plague, and the rise of intelligent primates. Other scenarios abound. The developer has added more and more content to the game over the years. Kudos to them.

I do take issue with the achievements on this game: there are way too many that are almost impossible to get without studying a guide. The structure goes something like this: set up the possibility of getting the achievement by using the right combination of two to four variables you pick when starting your game. Then the conditions for the achievement might come up if the game progresses exactly as described -- which is either down to luck or extreme micro-management of game progression. The only way you could get all of them would be sinking hundreds of hours into the game, often playing the exact scenario multiple times to get it just right. At best, this means a huge swath of achievements are really meant to be random surprises involving no skill at all. At worst it's a time-wasting trap that preys on people who have serious OCD.

Definitely worth playing. Be prepared to fail at destroying the world quite a bit, because humans are really kinda smart and pathogens are only opportunistic.

And one last note... screw you, Greenland!
The Room Three

The Room Three

Completed

7 hours, 8/10
10 of 10 achievements
Escapist thinking
Beaten: 18-Jan-2020

Once again you must master solving a sequence of puzzles involving different rooms that have complex mechanical devices and hidden surprises. It's all done with an incredible eye for detail and design like its two predecessors, and the game helpfully provides hints to point you in the right direction if you feel lost.

Picking up where The Room Two left off, this game is surprisingly short on advancing the established plot, alluding to sinister powers and creatures vaguely resembling the Cthulu mythos but never quite offering enough to give the player a coherent picture of what is going on. Of course it is an excuse for the puzzle elements, which are really what the game is all about, so whether or not you get a satisfying story is beside the point.

Another minor criticism, however, is this game felt like I needed more hand-holding than before. This time many of the puzzles pieces and interaction points are scattered across multiple rooms, making it more difficult to make connections to something you find or do in one place that allows you to proceed somewhere else. Maybe a part of it is getting older or just being more impatient these days, but I never once needed the hints to make it through the first game and the second I only remember relying on them from time-to-time. In this game there were a few occasions where even with the hints and playing with everything I could manipulate I was stumped. I hate having to go to a guide for that kind of thing, but there it is.

Fun game though. Just not quite as good as the first two.
Tacoma

Tacoma

Mar '20 Theme
Completed

3.6 hours, 7.5/10
12 of 12 achievements
Ship of silence
Beaten: 4-Mar-2020

Welcome to the space station, Tacoma. As an investigator tasked with figuring out what happened to the crew, you make your way from section to section examining the augmented reality recordings, electronic and personal correspondence and other miscellaneous evidence to fill in the blanks. This game is a walking simulator that tells a short story, so any discussion of the plot can quickly veer into giving away tidbits of information that's much more satisfying to discover during play.

On the technical side, Tacoma is a definite step up for the makers of Gone Home. The same exploration technique is featured but on a larger scale with more interactivity. The AR parts are particularly good as you can play, rewind and fast-forward them at will to follow some crew members then cut over and pick up other crew members who are having conversations in adjacent rooms at the same time. Everything about the controls for this is solid and quickly becomes mastered so that it's only you and the story. Nothing fiddly to interrupt the immersion.

The story, however, feels under-developed. It's got all the necessary elements for a compelling narrative with lots of great character details and some interesting background about what the year 2088 is like. But the final product is somewhat bland, delivering curiously few emotional highs or lows given the circumstances. If you are a fan of this genre it doesn't come anywhere near What Remains of Edith Finch, which set the emotional and exploratory high bar for this kind of story-telling.

At around 3 hours playtime, the game thankfully doesn't overstay its welcome. Worth a play-through if you are looking for a chill distraction for a few hours, but I'd advise getting it on sale.

This War of Mine

This War of Mine

Beaten
Extra Playthrough

72 hours, 8.5/10
40 of 55 achievements
The anti-"Call of Duty"
Beaten: 4-Jan-2020

I returned to this game after first playing it almost four years ago when only the base content was available. Since then they have added children to the game and a mode called "stories" that tweak the play with unique plots and characters. Apart from that the game is as devastating as I remember it. You don't play this game to be happy. It's mainly about avoiding the worst possible outcomes in an already desperate situation.

The game is inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. You control a group of survivors trying to get through each day in the shell of an abandoned building in the besieged city of Porogen. During the day you manage your shelter and individual needs. At night (the only safe time to travel around the city) one of your group goes out scavenging for materials in dangerous locations while the others sleep and keep watch. In my only play-through four years ago my last survivor, Katia, died a mere two days before the end of the war. It was quite depressing.

This time around I was able to guide my group of three adults successfully through to the end. Another play-through that included a father and his daughter only had one casualty, another man who had joined them in the first week. I also played through two of the stories including another father-daughter scenario and one where you play the wife of the city's only radio operator, a disabled elderly man who can't fend for himself but is dedicated to getting life-saving information out to those trapped in the city. You help gather info for his broadcasts during your nightly forays. Each of these games were intense in their own right. I didn't play the final story which seems to center around your people trying to preserve a collection of historical and cultural artifacts from being destroyed and thus moving their base to different locales when needed.

This is a brilliant game even though it's mechanics are not difficult and the cycle of day-night activity is repetitive. The setting highlights how video games can be used to tell all kinds of stories -- even the ones that we should think about but typically avoid because they are unsettling. The night-time maps are the game's main point of diversity. I don't think I saw all of them. And some vary randomly being occupied by either good or bad people. Overall the game is challenging, because even if you avoid conflict there's the ever-present threats of illness, cold weather, lack of critical supplies and depression that will affect your group members and what you must do to help them.

Big thumbs up. And if you want to go an extra step for a good cause, purchasing the War Child Charity DLC goes to helping children from conflict zones. Highly recommended.
Trine 2

Trine 2

Beaten

28 hours, 8.5/10
59 of 97 achievements
Another three-some
Beaten: 9-Jan-2020

If you loved the original Trine this is more of the same side-scrolling fantasy goodness. Once again you are in control of Zoya, Amadeus and Pontius as they are thrust into a new quest, traveling to the castle of a forgotten pair of princesses while goblins harass them along the way. I played this solo and had a great time. The sequel features most of the same powers as the original and some new ones. It's a cute, light-hearted romp of a game with gorgeous set pieces. The story is nothing special but is a serviceable back-drop to the action.

The game also comes with the Goblin Menace DLC included, but I was eager to move on to other games. May come back and complete it another time.

Taking a short hiatus

During the next 4-6 months I’m re-directing more time toward in-person social activities, baking, and board gaming. Also, I got married last month! My partner is a gamer as well but with different interests – mostly sims, RTS and simpler games on tablets. We are still figuring out where to go on a honeymoon. We also are trying to find a larger place than the cramped 2-bedroom we share.

During my hiatus I will be watching the news closely as several titles are rolling out in the near future. In particular I’m eager to see the reviews for Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Cyberpunk 2077.

And I’ve pre-purchased The Last of Us, Part II which comes out in mid-May. ;)

Have fun, everyone!

Batch 28 finished

So this is the last of the Telltale games in my backlog. It’s a shame the studio folded, but I’m glad I’ve finished with their games from my library on such a positive note with the Batman series!

Batman - The Telltale Series

Batman - The Telltale Series

Completed

7.5 hours, 8.5/10
30 of 30 achievements
Telltale Crusader
Beaten: 10-Nov-2019

Well... damn. That was good!

I have to admit going into it I thought I would be underwhelmed. That was put to rest even within the first episode which got things off to a rousing start. Compared to the last entry of The Walking Dead that I played just before this one, Batman has a faster moving and much more exciting plot. And I played the last three episodes in one sitting.

The story focuses early in Batman's career. While definitely not in the main DC comic universe, you are introduced to the Dark Knight already making inroads with Lieutenant Gordon's trust, but the main villains haven't surfaced yet. Catwoman is a person of interest. The Penguin is simply Oswald Cobblepot and former childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. Harvey Dent is still Gotham's D.A. Very shortly life for everyone is careening through city-wide chaos, and even if you are a knowledgeable Batman fan the story has many surprises. The writers took character histories and wrote them in a way that while staying mostly true to their comic-book counterparts, differ enough to make for unexpected plots twists and introductions. It feels like a parallel dimension Batman story where so much is familiar and yet key elements are strikingly different.

It's a fun ride. The quick-time button presses are fast and well-balanced during combat sequences. You also get to do crime scene analysis by discovering clues and linking them together to reconstruct events. There are several points where you must choose where you are going, leaving the other choice an unknown quantity or an event without your presence. Of course it's Telltale so ultimately nothing is at risk by making a "wrong" choice, but it adds a bit of weight to how you want to play the character and you can view how your choices affected things by the end.

Good game. Play it!
Batman - The Enemy Within

Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series

Completed

9.3 hours, 9/10
30 of 30 achievements
Bat-tastic story
Beaten: 16-Nov-2019

Played this one immediately following Batman - The Telltale Series and it proved even better, earning a half-point higher on my overall rating!

Building off the choices from the previous game, Batman/Bruce Wayne now has new problems and complications hitting him from all angles. The plot gets thick quickly, and I don't want to give away key details. Suffice to say this definitely ranks of one of Telltale's top games.

The story also continues to present its own version of characters and their re-imagined histories. It works well in the context of this Batman universe and helps to keep the surprises coming as Batman comes to rely more on outside help to give him the advantage over new and more deadly enemies.

The quicktime combat is even better than the previous game, with many more options and cinematic moves and actions. Unfortunately there was less of the crime analysis this time around, but that was more a function of the story.

If you have these two games in your library, they are well worth playing!
Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2

Beaten

36 hours, 9/10
39 of 50 achievements
Second time is a bone-charm
Beaten: 1-Nov-2019

In playing the second round of Dishonored, I have to admit that I was wondering if they could top the previous game. And I would say that yes, they did, and a damn fine job of it as well. It makes me wonder then why the game didn't get as good of reviews as the original.

The story is fairly straight-forward and picks up about 15 years after the events of the first game. Delilah, a previously unknown elder sister of the late Empress Jessamine shows up to claim the throne from the now grown-up Princess Emily, and with surgical precision launches a coup that quickly incapacitates one of the main characters and leaves you (your choice as either Emily or Corvo) conscious long enough to escape the palace and then figure out how to stop her. This immediately takes you to where most of the game is played out -- in the southern city of Karnaca where Delilah put together her plot along with several co-conspirators. Karnaca is just as corrupt as Dunwall, and soon you are moving through the back alleys avoiding guards and gangs, gathering clues and targeting those responsible.

The choice of character means having a slightly different set of powers granted once again by the Outsider (or a "no powers" run). For the record, I chose an Emily/high chaos play-through. But the really striking thing about this game is the level design. It's magnificent, with two missions that stand out in particular -- the Clockwork Mansion and the Stilton Estate. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of creativity in level design before, even on Arkane Studio's newest title that I also played in this batch, Prey. Of course like the previous game you also get tons of agency to approach any mission depending on how you spec your abilities, gadgets, combat vs stealth, lethal vs not, mixing in confrontation or going full ghost, and simply what choices you decide to make as the plot unfolds.

Combat is solid, should you chose to use it to solve your problems. Moving around with the Blink power can still be a little wonky at times but nothing that interrupts game flow. Also you get the new ability to craft bone-charms and runes if you invest the skill points to do so. You still have to acquire bone-charms and destroy them to add them to your menu of craft-able traits, but with the appropriate skill you can apply the same trait multiple times to a charm, creating yet another powerful way to customize your character build.

I'm not sure how much more praise I can add without delving into plots details. If you liked Dishonored don't hesitate like I did. This sequel is well worth it and boasts character choice that can give a different flavor to second play-through. Highly recommended!
Prey

Prey

Beaten

36 hours, 8/10
38 of 58 achievements
Imitation isn't flattery
Beaten: 21-Oct-2019

If you're looking for a good sci-fi game, you can't go wrong with this high-intensity action/thriller for at least one play-though. Prey brings several elements together in the form of in-depth story, stealth, FPS and skill trees in a high-tech space setting similar to BioShock and including the art deco design flair. The game manages to balance these elements quite well while never fully delivering a wow-factor on any of them. But it gives you freedom to approach situations with different strategies depending on how your character is spec'd.

You play as Morgan Yu (male or female, your choice), a principal investor and researcher of TransStar corporation, who is caught up in the midst of an alien invasion of the Talos I Space Station in orbit around the Moon. Neuromods (like plasmids/vigors in BS) can give you enhanced human abilities at first and then alien abilities a little later. Acquiring alien abilities has consequences that will force you to adapt your gameplay and can effect the final ending. For my playthough I chose to go the full human route (for which you get an achievement) and played with the alien abilities (again for achievements) after making saves I could reload to continue my chosen path. This gave me what I thought we be as close to a horror experience as possible keeping the aliens as "them", but I don't think this really bore out in the overall end result.

Part of the problem with playing this as a horror game is that the aliens are not that horrific. They are mostly blobs of black goo that sprout appendages as needed. But for all that the mimics (the first Typhon type you run into) are actually cool and dare I say somewhat cute. I often thought it would be great to have one as a pet. The fact that they can turn into ordinary looking objects ignores their incredible usefulness. The other side is that when you gain mimic ability via Neuromod that enables you to also turn into a coffee cup at will, there's an element of unintentional comedy that subverts the horror aspect of the game. If I was playing this again, I'd totally go for seeing how funny I could make certain situations by trying to sneak past enemies disguised as random objects.

There are non-alien enemies to contend with as well. Without giving away spoilers, there's a point toward the end where enemy robot assistants spawn repeatedly from indestructible machines that are never too far away from your location. This led to various complaints about the game being too hard toward to the end. I found this to be true even playing on easy mode and only having human abilities. Even if you avoid getting swarmed, these never-ending waves are a huge drain on ammo which you constantly have to loot from the environment or make from raw materials at fixed locations, so playing on normal or hard would make this phase incredibly challenging. It probably pays then to play with alien powers toward the end that allows you to avoid detection or kill at a distance as long as you have psi point healing packs.

The primary fun of Prey for me was the exploration. Talos I is a huge place with lots of interesting rooms and areas plus the environment outside the station which can be used during non-plot moments to get to different sections and also loot for floating resources. If you follow side-quests like I did you'll have a lot more reason to poke around these spaces trying to discover their secrets.

Overall, it is a fun game and worth playing if you are inclined.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season

The Walking Dead: The Final Season

Epic Gamestore
Completed

10 hours, 7.5/10
No achievements
Everything dies eventually
Beaten: 6-Nov-2019

Note: This game is listed on Steam but currently only available for purchase on Epic.

I've reached the end! Both sad and glad I finished.

It's hard to discuss this game without spoilers since Telltale games are all plot and choice-driven.

On a technical note the improved graphics are really nice, but the new "movement freedom" caused more trouble for me than in previous games. So much so that I often found myself getting impatient as I failed five or six times before getting things right to progress through the story.

Part of the problem is that the enemies will often home in on you and you have to maneuver so that you can kill or slow one down temporarily without getting mobbed by the others. But the space you can do this in is limited and has invisible walls, and turning the character is different directions is stiff. Also half the time you move at a leisurely stroll in these moments when if real life you'd be moving much faster to avoid getting trapped. Oh, I died again! I preferred the older method of just needing to react quickly with button presses or mouse clicks.

But back to the story... I would definitely say the it is worth polishing off the series if you want more Clementine. The worst of the series is Season 3. But thankfully there are no direct tie-backs here to Season 3, so you can skip from Season 2 to this one and not miss anything other than a short sequence around how Clem and AJ re-unite after being separated for a short time. Still, IMHO I liked Season 2 better than this one.

I'm not going to include spoilers, but don't read past the warning it you want to retain the element of pure surprise or avoid having my opinions color your own judgment before playing.

-- YOU'VE BEEN WARNED. ---

I think the writing team was correct to avoid another "bad town" narrative. They don't quite escape it here, but instead push it to the margins. However, the overall arc of the final season felt like they picked a setting that posed a difficult hurdle to creating a good story.

This time around the community Clem and AJ join up with is a group of teens and younger kids in the remains of a school for troubled youth. It's hard to write good depictions of kids who are naturally in the process of developing emotional maturity and experience. It's also hard to believe that such a dysfunctional and unskilled group would have lasted over five years in the post-apocalyptic aftermath when other more capable groups have fallen apart so quickly. The few adults that are featured in the story are generic bad guys you mostly use for target practice when you aren't fighting off walkers.

The game's relationship focus is squarely on Clementine and AJ -- and that's the good part. It's well-developed over the course of four episodes even though it lacks the touching nature of other parent-child relationships earlier in the series. But the secondary characters are flat. There are no equivalent major supporting characters of the same stature as Kenny and Jane or minor roles like Luke and Rebecca where you feel like they are contributing something to the narrative that makes them important. So the kids come across as stereotypes instead of fully developed human beings, and that causes a massive drag on the story in the parts where you have to personally interact with them to explore who they are. It made it difficult to agree with Clem's statement that the school and the kids "felt like home".

I went nearly two months between playing episode one and two because the story and supporting cast wasn't compelling to me. It picked up in episode two -- once past the majority of forgettable teenage emotional turmoil. The best episode was three when the stakes became important. And lastly the first part of episode four has frustratingly obvious set-ups for "something bad is going to happen" that seemed like they were created to fill out time rather than critical to the plot. After that the game found it's glide path for proper closure.

I didn't cry like I did in the first two seasons. All in all, I was satisfied with the conclusion, but those moments of da feelz were few and far between. It's not a bad game like the third entry, but it felt dull a lot of the time due to the lack of engaging characters apart from the leads.

Batch 27 - The “Not Steam” Batch … Mostly

I’ve been spending a lot of time away from Steam the past few months. Here’s what I’ve been keeping busy with…


Thief

Borderlands 3

Epic Gamestore
Beaten

50 hours, 7.5/10
No achievements
Fan of meat bicycles
Beaten: 28-Sept-2019

So it finally arrived after so many years of waiting, and my impression is... it's OK.

First a couple of caveats. I've logged more hours into the Borderlands franchise that any other set of games. Played all them and all the DLCs that had story content. Also played and loved Tales from the Borderlands.

On BL3 they've done fantastic improvement to the guns and how the gun-play feels. Multiple choice action skills for PCs is great. The graphic details to the environments and characters are richer. Instant ammo purchase and fast-travel from anywhere are nice if softer upgrades. The game's story is crap. I rank it below Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

BL3 shipped with a lot of bugs. Not game-breaking bugs (although there are scattered reports of those), but pretty annoying ones that still affect all platforms nearly a month after release. But bugs can be patched and these problems will likely be fixed by the time the game releases to Steam.

For the record, I did my playthrough as Zane.

Here There Be Story Spoilers. You Have Been Warned!



My main problem is the story and the cast.

Despite the sometimes choppy writing, Borderlands 2 had a great story, to say nothing of the Telltale Games outing. I was hoping the game would give us a story at least as good as BL2 or even better. Sadly, the Gearbox writing team wasn't up to the task this time around. The story didn't do any service to the now galaxy-wide scope of events set in motion by the Crimson Raiders. Lilith is the commander but she has no troops -- except you -- a very odd choice that doesn't logically follow for being the paramilitary outfit known to have opened two vaults. What follows is just running from planet to planet to open more vaults and fight a few more bosses without any over-arching reason other than to stop some boring new villains from getting control of them. Intersperse a bit of history about the adventurer who opened the first vault and that's a wrap.

This actually makes perfect sense given the shallowness of Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary. That DLC plot was incredibly thin and lacked a central, critical narrative to be a bridge story to BL3. It turns out it didn't matter. There's nothing in the DLC that contributes to BL3 in any direct way. Which means it was probably the same writers at work.

So let's talk (briefly) about the good stuff.

Zane is actually a great PC. One major improvement is that each PC participates in the mission/story dialogue with other characters. Zane's banter is exceptionally well done.

Then there's the NPCs. Lilith and Tanis are the primary characters now and do a good job with the thin material that is offered. Ellie, Moxxi, and Marcus are all back in their traditional roles. Zer0 and Vaughn (from Tales) each get some nice time in the story. A completely new face, Wainwright Jakobs, is the primary mission giver on Eden-6 and hands in a great performance, albeit at the expense of Sir Hammerlock who let's his other-half do most of the talking.

Unfortunately that's where the good stuff stops.

Starting with the most obvious, the Calypso Twins are crap. Trying to follow up an act like Handsome Jack is tough, but whereas he was an intelligent, charismatic meglomaniac with surprising depths and resourcefulness, the twins have about as much personality as several of the standard mid-game bosses that have been cranked out over the years. That's because they are annoying, self-absorbed hipsters with a YouTube channel -- and the plot keeps endlessly rehashing this point as if it's supposed to be funny. So unless you've managed to avoid being on the Internet for the last five years, this stereotype was the worst choice to try to exploit for laughs much less depth. It might have been interesting to do a humorous spin on the the dark side of social media and how people like the twins with evil intentions could do really heinous things with it, but that was apparently beyond the skills of the writing team.

Despite their prominent inclusion in the trailers, Brick, Mordecai and Tina only show up for a single mission in the game and don't take up residence in Sanctuary following its conclusion. What?! These are some of the most beloved characters of the series!

Claptrap wasn't nearly as funny as he was in the previous games. Nothing to do with the new voice actor. But with all of Claptrap's antics being central to all the games plus two of the highest-rated DLCs, I had hoped he'd be in top form here. The writers mostly ignored him this time around by creating a parts-hunting challenge spread across all the maps where he'd comment if you found a component he could use.

Ava is a new teenage character and an apprentice to Maya. Maya is briefly in the game and for awhile it feels awesome, but then she is killed suddenly and Ava takes her place, whining the whole time like some teenagers are prone to do. It feels completely pointless because by the end of the game Ava has not been given anything to do that Maya could not have done herself. So it feels like Maya is sacrificed solely to give the villains an obligatory "oh-look-how-evil-we-are" moment.

Contrary to some critics calling Ava a Mary Sue character, that's incorrect. Mary/Gary Sue's are impossibly perfect characters who are good at everything and trotted out to skim through impossible situations that major characters need resolved but can't spend time dealing with. Ava is a stand-in supporting character with no real purpose in the story.

Rhys is featured in a huge part of the Promethia chapters, but he doesn't come across like the Rhys portrayed in TftB. It isn't the fact that a different actor is doing the voice. It's simply like they ignored the character's development and just returned him to the "company man" wuss personality he is at the beginning of Tales. We get no explanation about what happened to him and Fiona in the Vault of the Traveler. Oddly enough, he and Vaughn never interact in the game. There's a lame picture in the credits showing them fist-bumping, so presumably they re-connected later -- but, another opportunity lost.

Axton, Gaige, Salvador, Krieg, Fiona, Sasha, and Athena are all absent from the game and their current whereabouts are unknown. Apparently none of them even merited being Lilith's second-in-command. Except for a brief hint of Rhys talking about Sasha, none of them are mentioned by the other characters.

Zed's got all-new recordings at the health vending machines, but doesn't show up in-person. It's a minor nitpick, but with all the space available on Sanctuary it seems weird that Tanis gets installed in the med bay instead of in her own lab. Maybe the team didn't have enough side missions created to put Zed on the ship?

In the end, I suppose the writing team had to cut characters and chose their focus. And maybe the ones we haven't seen yet will show up in DLC. But being unable to deliver a good story with the characters they chose to work with is a pretty bad sign that the whole effort to give us more Borderlands was still primarily about competing with games like Destiny 2 since mechanics was the only significantly improved aspect of the game over previous installments.

Oh well. It's still fun to run around and shoot things which is largely the point. But given how many hundreds of hours I've already spent doing exactly that, I can't say upgrading that experience alone will compel me to give BL3 the same amount of time and attention without any other hook. I played each PC in BL2 to level cap, Mordecai in BL1, and Claptrap and Nisha in Pre-Sequel. For Zane I played through the main story and several side missions, but so far I have no great desire to do the whole thing again with him or any other character.
God of War

God of War

PS4
Beaten

30 hours, 8.5/10
0/2/9/21 of 37 trophies
Boy! Pay attention!
Beaten: 9-Aug-2019
Platinum/Gold/Silver/Bronze trophies earned


I finally broke down and bought God of War during the last Playstation sale. I passed on the initial hype because I felt somehow it wasn't a game I'd really get into, but finally thought it might be worth half-price. And to its credit I enjoyed GoW a lot more than I thought I would; the game had fantastic elements that drew me in.

The starting plot point: playing as the titular Kratos and having left Greece behind many years ago, he is now older, a father and a recent widower, living in anonymity in the Norse realm of Midgard. But for reasons to be revealed, the Norse gods become suspicious he isn't the mortal he's been pretending to be, and what starts as the desire to spread his wife's ashes turns into a journey with his son that brings them into direct conflict.

Technically the game is very well put together. The graphics are utterly amazing and there are no loading screens. Armor and weapons and all their assorted upgrade-able parts replace the concept of character progression, and that is gated by money and rare crafting ingredients that you collect while exploring. The menus for handling all of these are clean, intuitive and easy to follow.

The combat keeps you on your toes. In order to fight effectively you have to learn defensive moves (dodge, parry, block) and powerful attack combos. Your weapon for the first half of the game is the one-handed Leviathan Axe that is used for melee and ranged targets and which flies back to your hand upon pressing the triangle button. You can also have skill trees for hitting your enemies with both fists and your shield. Oddly enough you can't do normal attacks with the axe when your shield is up, only special "runic" cooldown attacks are available.

You also have command over Atreus, Kratos' son and traveling companion. He comes equipped with an upgrade-able bow and its invaluable for ending fights quickly because in addition to damage his shots often have a stunning/slowing/distracting effect on enemies that move too fast to hit or can block your frontal assaults. However one criticism is that by late game his chained-lighting shots are so powerful that it's often possible and faster for him to clean out an entire area while Kratos simply dodges uninterruptible attacks. Atreus can aggro enemies but is immune to death, so there's no real danger (and no real challenge) in letting him handle things from time to time.

Turning to the story, the plotting and pacing is quite good and the dialogue is keen and interesting. I don't want to give away spoilers, but the game explores the relationship between Kratos, a father out of his element who is ill-equipped to parent, and Atreus who is a sweet and charming eleven-year old for the most part, doing his best to please dad but developing a rebellious streak like most kids his age. This is developed through exploration of various exotic locales and meeting other characters while learning a lot of their relevance to Norse legend. Quests all stem from the hub -- "The Lake of Nine" --- which you can explore first by boat and later with fast-travel gates.

Both of these elements, however, I felt were outclassed by other popular PS4 exclusives. The character-building side doesn't reach the excellence of the father-daughter dynamic of The Last of Us, and the much larger lands of Horizon Zero Dawn are more amazing to explore. So for that reason I felt it came in behind those titles. But not trailing distantly.

God of War is a great game and definitely worth picking up.
Thief

Thief

Won on SteamGifts
Abandoned

23 hours, 5.5/10
13 of 37 achievements
Sneaking is fun, until it isn't
Abandoned: 11-Sep-2019

It's been a long time since I abandoned a game because I lost interest in it.

Initially I liked Thief and was having fun. But once I got through the first two chapters it became apparent that the only focus of the game was to grab loot. The story, what little I managed to uncover, had an interesting set up at the beginning but had barely dropped any plot points after getting halfway through the game. As a result, I was getting a bit bored with just sneaking around to swipe the same objects (silverware, candlesticks, coin purses) from the same cabinets, drawers and chests found in every location. And avoiding enemies had become pretty easy to figure out.

Maybe I'll pick it up later, but for now I have a bunch of much more interesting games I can spend time on.

How Much Have I Enjoyed the Games I’ve Played?

Apologies for the long post.

I haven’t been playing much of anything new for several months now. However I thought upon reviewing my list of played games that I might try a different way of rating them. Mostly when I slap a rating of 1-10 on a game it’s a combination of enjoyment plus how well I feel the game is designed. That way I don’t pan a good game that doesn’t personally appeal to me.

So I took my list of beaten games and rated them solely on enjoyment on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest. I also marked my SteamGifts wins .

There were a few surprises in each category. “Dust: An Elysian Tail” in the lowest group. “Papo & Yo” and “Stacking” with only a 2. “Never Alone” and “Valiant Hearts” with a 3. “Hatoful Boyfriend” with a 4. And “Dark Dreams Don’t Die” and “Dead in Bermuda” with a 5.

For reference, I also track the games I abandoned out of lack of fun or interest: My Abandoned Games

Do you find yourself playing games you don’t like but seeing them through anyway instead of abandoning them?

Rating 1 - Can I have these hours of my life back?

A New Beginning - Final Cut Call of Duty: Black Ops Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Deadlight Dust: An Elysian Tail
Five Nights at Freddy’s Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 Human Resource Machine
Maize Mars: War Logs N.E.R.O.: Nothing Ever Remains Obscure
Rolling Sun Subject 13 The Journey Down: Chapter One
To the Moon    

Rating 2 - Meh…

A Bird Story Animal Lover Blameless
Broken Age Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons Collisions
Cross of the Dutchman Epistory - Typing Chronicles Fire
Grey Cubes Hexcells Plus klocki
Layers of Fear LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
Masochisia MIND Path to Thalamus My Name is Mayo
Nihilumbra Pandemic: The Board Game Papo & Yo
Particulars Project Temporality Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut
Scribblenauts Unmasked Stacking STASIS
STORM VR Strata The 39 Steps
The Cat Lady The Fall The Silent Age
The Stanley Parable The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Toby: The Secret Mine
Universe Sandbox Vanishing Realms Windward
Zenge    

Rating 3 - Pleasant Distraction

Alan Wake Among the Sleep Amphora
Batman: Arkham Knight Between Me and The Night BioShock 2
Blockwick 2 CONSORTIUM Contrast
Dear Esther Euclidean Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series
Glass Masquerade Goat Simulator Gone Home
Hexcells Infinite Hive - Complete Pack Kentucky Route Zero
L.A. Noire Little Nightmares LYNE
Mass Effect 2 NaissanceE Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)
Obduction Of Orcs And Men Portal Stories: Mel
Refunct Remember Me That Dragon, Cancer
The Bridge The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed
The Novelist The Swapper The Talos Principle
The Town of Light The Walking Dead: Michonne Typoman
Valiant Hearts: The Great War Year Walk  

Rating 4 - Enjoyed

ABZÛ Alice: Madness Returns Borderlands
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Botanicula Braid
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Dishonored Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West Eufloria Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Half-Life 2: Update Hand of Fate Hatoful Boyfriend
Hero of Many Hexcells Hook
Journey Kona LEGO The Lord of the Rings
Life is Strange: Before the Storm LIMBO Little Inferno
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Paws: A Shelter 2 Game Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire realMyst: Masterpiece Edition RiME
Spate Spec Ops: The Line The Banner Saga 3
The Unfinished Swan The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Thomas Was Alone
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End  

Rating 5 - Loved

Alien: Isolation Bastard Bonds Bastion
Batman: Arkham Asylum Batman: Arkham City Batman: Arkham Origins
BattleBlock Theater BioShock BioShock Infinite
Borderlands 2 Child of Light Cities: Skylines
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Dead In Bermuda Deadpool
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Firewatch Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2: Episode One Half-Life 2: Episode Two Horizon Zero Dawn
INSIDE Life is Strange Mad Max
Mass Effect Mass Effect 3 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metro 2033 Redux Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Mini Metro
No Man’s Sky Ori and the Blind Forest Oxenfree
Portal Portal 2 Quantum Break
Rise of the Tomb Raider Saints Row IV Shadowrun: Dragonfall
SOMA South Park: The Stick of Truth Tales from the Borderlands
The Banner Saga The Banner Saga 2 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Last of Us The LEGO Movie Videogame The Room
The Room Two The Walking Dead The Walking Dead: Season Two
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt The Wolf Among Us
This War of Mine Tomb Raider Transistor
Trine Tyranny Valley
What Remains of Edith Finch    

June Update

I haven’t been playing new games lately so much as revisiting older ones. My last update was going back to the Arkham games. This update only has Pillars 2 as my first new game in awhile.

Hope everyone’s summer is off to a good start!

No Man's Sky

Borderlands 2 Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary DLC

Beaten

7.2 hours, 8/10
5 of 6 achievements
It's free!
Beaten: 12-Jun-2019

I'm a big Borderlands 2 fan. It's one of a handful of games that I've spent an embarrassing amount of time playing. I've pre-purchased 3 on the Epic Games store. So naturally when I heard we were getting a free DLC to help bridge the plot between them, I downloaded it the moment it became available.

While the action is great, the level cap is now 80, there's a new raid boss and a new weapon class ("effervescent"), the actual story is a bit of a let down. There are the usual cheeky moments of trademark humor, but beyond the loss of Sanctuary and the vault key (and it's map), there's practically nothing here that sets up any known plot/locations/characters that we've glimpsed so far in the trailers and reveals of the third game. Maybe this is just one-half of the bridge and the new game will pick up where this DLC leaves off? We'll only know in September. For now the question of how we get from Pandora to a starship named Sanctuary 3 is as much a mystery as it's always been.

We do get to see Vaughn from Tales brought in and how he's introduced to Lilith and crew. But it's a plot point almost barely worth mentioning as he is quickly assimilated into the group and becomes a quest giver centered around his status as a bandit leader. He doesn't mention the other main characters from Tales or give any hints as to what might be going on with them.

Get it because it's BL2 and enjoy it for the new stuff it brings. But come September and beyond I doubt many people will be talking about it.
No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky

Beaten
Screenshots
Extra Playthrough

100+ hours, 8/10
26 of 27 achievements
Explore a universe
2nd Playthrough Beaten: 7-Jun-2019

I recently dove back into NMS to do a different play-through in "survival" mode. It basically means you are a lot more squishy, enemies are a little tougher, hazards more damaging, and aggressive sentinels are much more common on the planets you visit. The ultimate goal of the in-game story is still the same -- get to the center of the galaxy. And starting up was more difficult as I died three times and lost all my stuff early on. Most of the time it was from getting attacked by wildlife that can take you out in two hits if you haven't upgraded your shield. But after that rough start things got a lot easier, apart from having fewer safe planets to land on.

In the end I made it to the final Atlas interface and then chose to go to a new, lush galaxy called Eissentam. That meant leaving behind the galaxy where most of the player base is located (Euclid), but with more relaxed security it seems like a good place to continue that game save in the future. Haven't decided yet if I want to do the last achievement which is reach the center in permadeath mode.

I'm looking forward to the next update this summer that will include three major changes -- true multiplayer, VR, and a third unrevealed one as yet. Whatever the faults of the original release, this game has certainly come into its own as one of the best relaxing space exploration games out there that doesn't require a massive learning curve.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

KS Backer
Beaten

100+ hours, 8.5/10
47 of 55 achievements
Swords and sorcery at sea
Beaten: 30-May-2019

I waited a full year to play this even though I got my copy as a KS backer when the game released. I have no regrets as the game went through several patches and with 5.0 they seem to have reached that steady-state point where I had almost no issues with playing and only two or three CTDs during my (so far) 132 hours of running the game. I still have two DLC and a couple of alternate endings to complete.

Deadfire improves on most of the game play of the original PoE except that now instead of chasing a mysterious priest who can suck souls out of people you are chasing a massive statue inhabited by a god on a mission to "save the world". As the titan moves across a tropical archipelago full of swaggering pirates, suspicious island folk, dishonest trading companies and lost ruins, you get to play pretty much like any CRPG, but with an amazingly diverse cast of characters and societal politics instead of the usual western European model of fantasy setting. It's a refreshing difference, all the while keeping with the same game engine that feels vastly improved.

Once again you get a select choice of followers including the return of Edér, your best bud from the first game who can be spec'd as a fighter, rogue or something in-between. I played again as a cipher and has a great time charming enemies to get them to temporarily fight for me. The group dynamics and banter are good. The quests are interesting and there's a TON of background lore to get deep into. Criticism? The main quest line is relatively short and can be completed well below level cap. But completing the main quest ends the game, so I'm sure this has more to do with re-play value by combining the four separate faction quest lines with a selection of different side quests for a different experience each time.

A big difference from the last game is that your castle -- a fortress that had numerous uses -- is now replaced by a ship for travel among the islands. While the ship serves as a home base of sorts and you can purchase bigger ones, it's primary purpose was to also be involved in combat with other ships. But ship combat was only ever realized a mini-game that many people found dissatisfying and a detraction from the core game mechanics. So the latest patch allowed you to bypass it and go straight to a combat "boarding" option where you go head-to-head with the enemy crew like any other battle map in the game. The practical effect of this is it makes buying the various expensive ship upgrades pointless. It's a real shame as it seems the team either didn't have the time and money to develop a truly engaging ship combat system. I would have been happy with something simple like from the game Windward, but the normal combat system for boarding was a good enough compromise.

If you are a fan of CRPGs and this series in particular I give it a satisfying thumbs up.

Briefly Back to Arkham

I finished the main story line for both of these several years ago, but after playing the hot mess that was Batman: Arkham Knight last year, I got to yearning for a simpler and better game in the series. It was then that I realized I had skipped the Harley Quinn’s Revenge and Cold, Cold Heart DLCs for these titles. The latter one is the best of the two, and I personally love Mr. Freeze in these games.

Boy, it brought back good memories. I got the platinum trophy for AC on my PS3, having done all the original challenge maps. Not my intention to repeat that here as it would take a lot of practice to get good again. But I still managed to throw in a few combat challenges here and there.

Playing also got me in the frame of mind to try to pick off some of the left over achievements that were within reach without an entire play-through. It was during this I realized that Origins was a much better game that I remembered. Yeah it’s a little flaky around the edges, but in retrospect it’s a solid Arkham experience, great boss fights, and a superior story to Knight. Not to mention the blessed absence of the Batmobile. It’s a shame it got so much flack. One thing it probably could have done without is the online multi-player. I never heard much good about it and the servers shut down a few years ago.

Eventually I want to go back to Arkham Knight and play its DLC too.

Batman: Arkham City - Game of the Year Edition

Batman: Arkham City Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC

Beaten

58 hours, 9/10
52 of 64 achievements
Beaten: 24-Apr-2019

Batman: Arkham City - Game of the Year Edition

Batman: Arkham Origins Cold, Cold Heart DLC

Beaten

68 hours, 8/10
42 of 60 achievements
Beaten: 26-Apr-2019