Backloggin' Fool BigBlueWolf’s profile

Not really active on SteamGifts these days…

Next Batch TBA

The Walking Dead: The Final Season

The Walking Dead: The Final Season

Epic Gamestore
In Progress

- hours, -/10
No achievements
Beaten: date

Paragraph 1.

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…


The Walking Dead: The Final Season

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, 6.5/10
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
39 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

Batch 26 is done!

ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West

ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West Premium Edition

Beaten
Steam Review
17.8 hours, 7.5/10
40 of 58 achievements
Not enough freedom
Beaten: 5-Apr-2019

Click the "Steam Review" button!
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series

Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series

Completed

12 hours, 8/10
48 of 48 achievements
Valar morghulis
Beaten: 19-Apr-2019

It seemed appropriate to play this now that the final season of GoT has arrived.

This game elaborates on the plight of a minor noble house only mentioned in passing in the novels. House Forrester of Ironwrath are Stark bannermen who control large swaths of ironwood supplies and must contend with the loss of their lord at the Red Wedding. And to make matters worse the Boltons tend to favor their arch-rivals, the Whitehills, to produce weaponry for their armies despite being inferior in their wood-working skills. This sets up a four-pronged story where you deal with politics and deadly games of rivalry between castles Ironwrath and Highpoint; the role of the dead Lord Forrester's squire, Garret, who is sent on a dangerous mission to get help from a mysterious location; King's Landing where one Forrester daughter is a handmaiden of Margaery Tyrell, trying to navigate the backbiting politics of the place to get help for her family from those in power; and lastly to Essos where one Forrester son has been exiled and is called home in hopes of bringing fighters that can help defend Ironwrath.

I give a lot of credit to the writers on this. The game is good despite not interfering with any key events of the HBO series. It draws on the likenesses (and voices!) of the show so the guest performances by GoT regulars are a nice touches during the occasion scene where you have to interact with them -- even if they mostly remind that you are playing in the wings of the theater. The script captures the harsh essence of Game of Thrones and it's often wrenching themes of honor and loss, particularly when your characters suffer for trying to do the right thing. I even had a good cry at one point over the horribleness that followed in the wake of my choices.

However some of the story threads are better than others, and it works best when not trying to be ambitious. Ironwrath and King's Landing are where the real heart of the conflict plays out in brutal power struggles. The squire, Garret, is a neat character whose story often feels too far removed from the others. Exiled son Asher is a charming sellsword whose story is more on the pure adventure side. You could say that's a good thing though, otherwise the entire game would be grim even for a seasoned GoT fan.

What's especially hard is that this season ends with a lot of dire circumstances clearly intended to set up the next game. And unfortunately for House Forrester Telltale Games no longer exists, so any plans that there might have been for another series are dead and gone. The game has also been pulled from Steam's store so it's potential audience will further dwindle.

Based on that I'd say play it if you love the series, but be warned that the ultimate fate of the family is in your imagination. It was a noble effort. Not one of Telltale's best, but engaging enough for this GoT watcher that I would have easily bought season two.

"Iron from ice!"
Grey Cubes

Grey Cubes

Completed

5.8 hours, 8/10
13 of 13 achievements
Chip off the old block
Beaten: 19-Mar-2019

I grew up with an Atari 2600 console and the infamous Breakout that was the classic brick-breaker game of its time. This genre has not seem many modern iterations, but Grey Cubes takes the formula and offers up some interesting variations across 60 levels. In addition to eliminating bricks you get power-ups in varying forms (not so original) but also indestructible barriers that move and hinder access to some parts of the field, roaming teleporters that move the ball in mid-flight to another part of the screen, exploding bricks that send others flying, bricks stacked on top of each other in the depth plane (knocking out the lower ones causes the stacked ones to tumble and spill across the screen. Trigger plates that when hit will affect the play-field, such as turning the bricks indestructible. Also the bricks often aren't a wall but arranged in patterns or just dumped haphazardly by a machine depositing them on the screen. One notable addition -- a magnet that you can occasionally use that will send your ball in a curved arc toward whatever bricks are left. This is really helpful for getting the last couple of bricks when the ball isn't cooperating. All in all a fun game that will keep you entertained for a few hours. There is one minor and annoying bug that sometimes will leave the last brick on the level unable to be destroyed and will force you to restart. But aside from that it's a solid game that would have been nice to have more levels.
Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero

Completed

6 hours, 8/10
No achievements
Take the road less traveled
Beaten: Acts I-IV -- 9-Apr-2019, Act V -- TBD

Marking this one as completed because it's completely linear.

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, dialog choices, a great artistic look, and a story to tell. Like most stories, you'll either get it and be drawn in, or it won't appeal to you and you might think the game a waste of time. KRZ is not for everyone. But if the idea of a slow-simmer plot in a world of magical realism with overtones of David Lynch is your thing, 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 only some people are fortunate -- or not -- to travel on. 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 stories along the way.

The good news for fans of this kind of thing is that the game is really well done even if there are moments when the pace could be a little quicker. The bad news is that the devs are taking their sweet time churning out the chapters. The story is "A Play in Five Acts", but the first four took several years between releases with short "interludes" from the game web site you can download and play locally. The three-man dev team's last post in Oct 2018 indicated that they are really eager to show off the conclusion, but they don't have a solid delivery schedule. Thus Act V will only arrive when they deem it ready.

I've enjoyed the game so far. It's a welcome change of pace. I think I would have been annoyed if I had waited like many fans through the slow process of getting the middle chapters.

Some might not call this a game, but that's OK. It's doesn't exactly pretend to be one. It's there for you to experience and hopefully enjoy.
Nihilumbra

Nihilumbra

Beaten

5.5 hours, 7.5/10
17 of 24 achievements
Out of nothingness
Beaten: 6-Apr-2019

This is a casual 2D puzzle-platformer where you play a kind of disembodied spirit traversing the world while trying to elude a darkness called "The Void". The game is only mildly challenging in normal story mode with easy to understand controls. You traverse five world segments, each one giving you a new color/power that is strategically spray-painted on the environment to help you navigate obstacles and enemies: blue for sliding, green for bouncing, brown for sticking/quiet movement, red for fire, yellow for electricity. If you want a greater challenge then a harder mode is unlocked after the conclusion that really tests your skills and quick-switching between colors to solve each section. This is a decent game, short, and the platforming element doesn't contain any surprises. The narrator's declamatory style becomes a bit annoying after awhile. But overall it's an interesting experience.
Papo & Yo

Papo & Yo

Beaten

4.1 hours, 8/10
9 of 10 achievements
Familiar demons
Beaten: 30-Mar-2019

Papo & Yo is a casual puzzle adventure game where you play the role of Quico who must navigate the dreamy, maze-like town of his youth along with Monster, his huge imaginary friend. But Monster is a bit of a conundrum. He's content to sleep and only pay attention when he can eat apples, but he's irresistibly drawn to eating green frogs that make him angry and a danger to Quico who then must stay out of his reach or else Monster will hurt him.

The metaphor here is fairly obvious to anyone who has a passing familiarity with the game. What sets it apart from many indie titles is its approach to sensitive subject matter, the beautiful artistry of the settings, and the perspective of the protagonist as a young boy growing up in the poor area of a small Brazilian city.

The game is easy and relatively short at about 3-4 hours with an optional second play-though to get all achievements. There's no goal other than to experience the story while engaging in light puzzle-solving along the way. Released in 2012, it is starting to show its age but is still entertaining.
Quantum Break

Quantum Break

Completed
Steam Review
19 hours, 8.5/10
42 of 42 achievements
Let's do the time warp again
Beaten: 15-Apr-2019

Click on the "Steam Review" link!

Backlog Update - Batch 25

I finally got the itch to delve into my library again and hauled out several titles that I’ve owned for many years and well as a few recent purchases.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation

Beaten
Steam Review
30 hours, 8.5/10
46 of 50 achievements
Everyone's expendable
Beaten: 2-Mar-2019

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Cross of the Dutchman

Cross of the Dutchman

Completed

3.4 hours, 6.5/10
31 of 31 achievements
Giant history lesson
Beaten: 16-Feb-2019

This is a short game based on the true story of 'Pier Gerlofs Donia', a towering man (~ 7 ft/2.1 m) who led a rebellion in the Netherlands to protect his people and family. That being said it's definitely a light version of the early part of his story, follows a linear chapter sequence of goals, and the game mechanics are pretty thin. Basically talk to people to get the story and move around with a mouse and attack with either left (sword) or right (melee) clicks. Attacking is not precise, but easy to get the hang of. The game is not challenging in any respect although there's a few points where you might get overwhelmed running into a crowd of soldiers. I wouldn't recommend this to serious gamers. But for easy-please types and cheevos, it's a mildly amusing way to spend a few hours.
Deadpool

Deadpool

Beaten

11.8 hours, 8.5/10
28 of 50 achievements
Super smart-ass
Beaten: 16-Feb-2019

If you know the character and loved the movies, this game is for you. While it pre-dates the films, everyone's favorite costumed smart-ass with a case of the healz is in top form here. You, "The Player", get to be a part of Deadpool's videogame that he has sorta blackmailed a Hollywood producer into helping him create. Along the way you get to kick -- and shake, and slap -- some serious booty in Arkham-style combat while living out some of D's fantasies including bitch-slapping Wolverine, trying not to be bored by Cable, rescuing a damsel-in-distress (Rogue) and thwarting the evil plot of Mr. Sinister. You are accompanied by swords, guns, grenades and the voices in Deadpool's head trying to keep him from getting too far off track. The results are hilarious. I don't think I've had a superhero brawler make me bust out laughing as many times as this game did.

The unfortunate punch line is that Deadpool is not available in the Steam store any longer, so you only get to catch this joyride if you already own it. And if you do, what are you waiting for? The world needs laughter these days. Play it now!
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Beaten
Extra Playthrough

10.1 hours, 8.5/10
18 of 19 achievements
Super dad-blast
Beaten: 12-Feb-2019

When it comes to visual novel/dating sims it's probably a good idea to be unusual (think Hatoful Boyfriend) to interest would-be players. So what about making a gay-themed sim that doesn't lean heavily on stereotypes and features heart-warming, feel-good wish fulfillment without being crass, pretentious or boring? That would be this game, which manages to take you and the best daughter you could ever imagine through a series of fun-filled social engagements.

You are Amanda's dad. And you've just moved into a home in a cozy cul-de-sac neighborhood that has several other single dads looking to make friends, hang out, and maybe more. In between unpacking and dealing with your daughter's teen-age senior-year anxieties, you cross paths with the guys in a variety of activities aimed at getting you out of the house to have fun. You also cross paths with the other dads' kids as they scope you out and decide if they like you or not. The intersecting plots here aren't terribly deep, but each of the dads has distinct personalities and interests. What could be an opportunity for two-dimensional portrayals and over-the-top sappiness is instead full of remarkably well-written characters with nuance and at times unexpected depth. They are definitely idealized and don't ever allude to the difficulties real gay and bi men face in public -- but hey it's part of the fantasy. And while it's definitely an adult game, it plays like a light-hearted rom-com; the banter between the characters is charming with some wonderfully funny twists and cultural references and zero politics or other heavy subject matter.

Also to be found: various silly and super-easy minigames. A few hidden possibilities of dying in embarrassing ways. A secret (non-canon, horror movie!) ending that you can unlock -- check the guides for it. The game is also full of more dad jokes than you can possibly imagine, but that's a good thing!

Yeah, it was fun. I played through each ending and was not disappointed by any of them. :)
The Fall

The Fall

Beaten

4 hours, 7/10
15 of 17 achievements
You will comply
Beaten: 24-Feb-2019

An interesting action/puzzle adventure. You are an intelligent combat suit attempting to protect the unconscious human inside you after crash-landing into an unfamiliar base where the other AIs appear to be malfunctioning. Short but with good voice-acting and visuals, the game has really odd, clunky controls. While there isn't a lot of combat, when it happens these controls make it a sub-par experience and the big boss fight at the end really hard to manage and thus artificially difficult. But the overall story is pretty good. It will require two play-throughs to get all achievements.

Good short game if you are looking for something quick and can get it on sale.
Hexcells Infinite

Hexcells Infinite

Beaten

8 hours, 7.5/10
6 of 7 achievements
To three and beyond
Beaten: 24-Feb-2019

Yes, it's the third installment of Hexcells, that re-imagining of Minesweeper but much more strategy-focused. The only caveat is that this outing didn't grab me the way the first two did because there wasn't anything new beyond the random puzzle generator (the "infinite" part of the game), and many of the advanced puzzles forced me into guessing. That made the game frustrating. In the previous titles I think I only ever had to look up a solution once, maybe twice. In this game once into "World Three" and above it was very common to run into a situation where there didn't seem to be enough clues available to predict the position of a cell.

Still fun. Just a bit of a letdown. Also there is a new achievement. Play 60 of the randomly generated games. I played a few but ... nah.
klocki

klocki

Completed

1.5 hours, 7.5/10
1 of 1 achievement
Puzzle line up
Beaten: 15-Feb-2019

A short and interesting little puzzle game that isn't terribly challenging once you get the basic goal down for each of types you are presented. Basically, flip and move different pieces on the face of an object until all lines or shapes are connected and contained within its surfaces. Neat concept. Could have been much more challenging.
Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares

Beaten

9.2 hours, 7.5/10
15 of 22 achievements
Creepy, kooky, spooky, ooky
Beaten: 23-Feb-2019

This horror title delivers big on visuals and atmosphere, even if it's short and relatively easy. The story isn't exactly clear as to why the little boy(?) you play is in this hellish place, but it is clear that survival is the top priority or risk getting killed by the other inhabitants or environmental hazards. The puzzles here are mostly about figuring out how to get to the next area or the right sequence of actions to avoid getting caught when pursued. But where are you trying to get to? And what do you hope to do once you get there? Those questions never really come up. That puts the game in the same narrative space as titles like LIMBO and INSIDE.

This can be a lot of fun when the game is offering a combination of puzzle solving and stealth to remain unobserved. But when there's a lot of "mini-parkour" action or precisely timed jumps the controller actions feel sloppy. The alignment of the camera in the 2.5D space makes this worse by distorting perspective in ways that can make you think you're moving directly toward something you need to interact with and then miss the critical timing to interact with it because your depth perception is off. This mars the experience by failing at something that seems like it should be simple. Re-spawning is also problematic. If you die you'll be sent back to the start of the room you are in, but quitting to the menu and then continuing the game can set you back several rooms you will then have to re-play. I'm not certain what purpose this serves. About the only place you know you won't lose ground is the beginning of each chapter.

If you aren't put off by the controller issues, this game is a great distraction for a few hours.
The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle

Beaten
Steam Review
33 hours, 8/10
37 of 40 achievements
Is it human to rebel?
Beaten: 15-Mar-2019

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone

Completed

5.7 hours, 8/10
35 of 35 achievements
Be there and be square
Beaten: 20-Feb-2019

It's a platformer, yes, and a short and mildly challenging one at that. But the intriguing thing about this game is how the well the narrator brings to life to the thoughts and feelings of this motley assortment of rectangles. Thomas may start off alone, but as he encounters other denizens of his spare, digital world they form bonds and together mature and find a purpose for their existence. It's a charming and funny story with hidden depths... and lots and lots of jumping. Definitely a surprise favorite.

Batch 24 Complete!

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Beaten
Steam Review
14.3 hours, 7/10
17 of 26 achievements
Old West arcade
Beaten: 15-Nov-2018

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Glass Masquerade

Glass Masquerade

Completed

3.8 hours, 9/10
31 of 31 achievements
Delightfully paneful
Beaten: 26-Oct-2018

This is a very casual puzzle game of assembling pieces to complete stained glass clock faces. Fashioned with a "countries-of-the-world" theme, the artwork is gorgeous. There's no penalty for taking your time, just sit back and enjoy working on pretty pictures. It's beautiful, low-key fun!
Hexcells Plus

Hexcells Plus

Completed

10.9 hours, 10/10
6 of 6 achievements
Hexalicious!
Beaten: 17-Nov-2018

This is a great puzzle game, the second in a series, that pits the player against various boards that can be solved with deduction and patience. The game format is similar to Minesweeper, except that instead of avoiding certain cells you are trying to locate and mark them appropriately. The clues are also much more varied giving indications of not only the number of adjacent "pattern cells" but also how they are distributed across lines and area fields. If you haven't tried any of the Hexcells series, they are well worth the effort.
Human Resource Machine

Human Resource Machine

Completed

4 hours, 7/10
16 of 16 achievements
Some assembly required
Beaten: 4-Nov-2018

As a game based around programming in assembly language (low-level machine code) Human Resource Machine actually does a clever presentation of puzzles as the mind-numbing efforts of a wage slave trying to please bosses who are corporate tools. But the interface isn't that great, with programs often taking up a lot more space than is visually available and the decision logic being a mess of arrows that often go off screen because of the limited view. This makes the harder puzzles a lot more difficult than they should be because it's already challenging to keep track of each program's flow. I feel like I also had an advantage over the average player because of my programming background. For the last third of the game I mostly used a guide because the aforementioned limitation plus the subject matter made the effort too tedious.

Given that 7 Billion Humans, the next title in the series, promises more of the same thing I'm not planning on buying it.
LiS: Before the Storm

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Completed
Nov '18 Theme Steam Review
10 hours, 8/10
34 of 34 achievements
Subject: Chloe Price
Beaten: 9-Nov-2018

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
LiS: Before the Storm

Metro 2033 Redux

Beaten

18.1 hours, 8.5/10
44 of 49 achievements
Apocalyptic transit pass
Beaten: 20-Nov-2018

An incredibly atmospheric FPS! I finally got the itch to play this, and I wasn't disappointed. You are immediately sucked into the world of post-nuclear war Moscow where the citizens live in fortified subway stations and travel through the underground rail passages. The controls handle well on a keyboard and mouse. Only a few odd glitches, such as aiming throwing knifes seems to have hit boxes that are slightly smaller than the humans you need to take out. But nothing that affects the overall difficulty or enjoyment of the game. Although there are no skills trees here, you can opt to play in "Spartan" or "Survival" mode -- basically run-and-gun or stealth -- and choose your difficulty level for either. To prevent you from going full Rambo in Survival mode, ammo and supplies are supposed to be a lot more limited. I played Spartan as it gave the most options for achievements.

The story is enjoyable albeit not terribly complex. Excellent voice acting (except for the children -- seriously bad) and some interesting people you cross paths with. The characters do a remarkable job of keeping the tension wound tight with nervous banter and attempts to make jokes that fall flat because they can't alleviate the brooding sense of doom. If there was only one nitpick it's that the story leaves a huge question unresolved. Perhaps that will be answered in the next game.

For those who are thinking of jumping into this series, this is the game you start with. Last Light follows. And then it's on to Exodus next year :)

Batch 23 and Spooktober Update

Hey hey! Finished all my monthly challenge games a little early. Might squeak in one more before Halloween. Hope everyone is having a great month! :D

The Cat Lady

The Cat Lady

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8.2 hours, 8/10
25 of 25 achievements
How to use nine lives
Beaten: 7-Oct-2018

Despite being released in 2013, this game looks and plays like a 2D, side-scrolling adventure that was released on Windows-95. The "choose-and-click" interface only uses the keyboard. However it's strength is the story, which is why this game gets such high review marks. You play Susan, a reclusive, suicidal woman who feeds the neighborhood stray cats. But suicide doesn't quite work out, and a supernatural entity enlists her to deal with several murderers who prey on the people in her run-down London neighborhood.

Despite the sometimes lengthy exposition, the psychological tension and horror elements hold together really well, even if there are some unanswered and dangling questions left by the end. Susan is a likable protagonist and is joined later by another likable character. And even though the graphics occupy a weird space mixing hand-drawn, photo-realistic and pixel art, the imagery is incredibly creepy and disturbing. It makes me wonder how much better the game would be if it had a modern graphical front-end on it. It would probably be considered a must-play title of the genre.

On the down side, the game locks out use of your mouse in the Steam overlay, and alt-tab'ing to the desktop will crash the game most of the time. If you need to interrupt play it's best to save the game and exit properly. You will be frozen out of tapping the ESC key to get to the game's options menu for really long stretches, so it's good to save after these points when you regain control. This is critical if you are replaying a chapter for achievements. Otherwise you may find yourself having to repeat these stretches as there's no "fast-forward" key like in some visual novels, only the spacebar that allows skipping character dialog turns but won't affect parts where characters pause, don't speak or perform cutscenes. Its native resolution in 800x600 with no option for windowed mode, but there are some forum posts about getting to it to look good on an HD or 4K monitor.

If you're looking for a good story-driven horror game and don't mind old technology, definitely consider picking this up.
Deadlight: Director's Cut

Deadlight Director's Cut

Oct '18 Theme
Beaten
Steam Review
8.2 hours, 6/10
29 of 32 achievements
2D zombie apocalypse
Beaten: 17-Oct-2018

Click the "Steam Review" button!
Layers of Fear: Masterpiece Edition

Layers of Fear Masterpiece Edition

Oct '18 Theme
Completed
Extra Playthrough
Steam Review
15.6 hours, 7/10
27 of 27 achievements
Make mad art
Beaten: 8-Oct-2018

Click the "Steam Review" button!
STASIS

STASIS

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8 hours, 7.5/10
27 of 27 achievements
In space no one can hear you sleep
Beaten: 5-Oct-2018

A man named John wakes up from stasis aboard a derelict spaceship and proceeds to uncover the unspeakable things going on there. This point-and-click bears some similarities in tone and style to SOMA but is shown from an isometric view. It's technically solid even if the interface is dated. The game play focuses on carefully examining your surroundings to find, combine and use objects to proceed to the next area or chapter. A handful require you to gather codes or info for data entry. Clues are found in various PDAs or displays scattered about, forcing you to read more of the story as told by the observations of the now dead crew members. There were only a few places I got stuck and needed a hint. But despite the gruesome visuals and tense pacing, the story seemed a bit derivative and much of it was predictable. If you are looking for sci-fi horror though it's not a bad way to spend a few hours.
Styx: Master of Shadows

Styx: Master of Shadows

Won on SteamGifts Oct '18 Theme
Abandoned
Steam Review
29.2 hours, 5/10
23 of 33 achievements
Alas, poor Styx ...
Beaten: n/a

Click the "Steam Review" button!

Batch 22 Completed and September Wrap-Up!

I managed to knock out four games in the monthly challenge “Otterly Cute” and two of those were SG Wins!

Click the down arrows for my thoughts and reviews of these games. Hope everyone’s had a great month :D

Animal Lover

Animal Lover

Sept '18 Theme
24/24 (100%) │ 6 hours │ 7.5/10
Five guys, an intern, and a curse
Beaten: 14-Sept-2018

This is the first dating sim/visual novel since I played Hatoful Boyfriend back in mid-2016 (Batch 6). While the tone of both appear light -- human girl in a high school for pigeons versus young woman caring for guys who suffer from turning into animals -- Animal Lover takes itself much more seriously. This was a bit unexpected, and the tone worked really well in some places, but it ultimately couldn't overcome the fantastical silliness of its situation and resolution.

The non-spoiler setup: as a young female veterinary intern (pick your name) you accidentally release a guy from his cursed animal form. After tracking down a few others like him, you have five guys in desperate need of your help because they periodically change back and (for a variety of reasons) can't go back to living their normal lives. Lots of dialogue, hanging out and some "crushing" commences as the game puts you on the path to making sure the curse is really broken and you end up with one of the guys (or none). BTW, the plot has nothing to do with "furries".

A big part of the reason the game falters is because it's REALLY long doing a single play-through during which very little actually happens. I finished the game in just under 6 hours, and that was speed reading through most of the last half of the game.

A huge amount of the dialogue contributes to drawn-out character moments of little value to the overall story. There's a lot of filler text that is either hearing "your" thoughts and mental reaction in monologue-like detail before responding, or the audible reactions of others where there's a lot of "hmm", "uhs", and other interjections that cause the plot to stall while we wait for the "realistic dialogue" to play out. I got so impatient having to read this that I just kept hitting the spacebar as fast as I could through many scenes and don't think I missed much as a result. I also used an achievement guide so I could find the canonical ending and be able to backtrack to pick the guy I liked best. That being said there were some really GOOD scenes sprinkled pretty evenly throughout the story, and that's what kept me intrigued enough to play through the entire thing.

This is not a genre I usually play, but I'm trying it out simply because it seems like it could have a cool premise if a talented writing team was behind it. I'd say this story was between fair and good and could have benefited from being about one-third shorter in length to bump that rating a little higher.

If you are trying to choose between this and Hatoful Boyfriend, go with the latter if you want shorter and funnier!
Botanicula

Botanicula

Sept '18 Theme
53/53 (100%) │ 4.7 hours │ 9.5/10
Bing, hum, whooo!
Beaten: 27-Sept-2018

The most charming game of this batch, Botanicula is a point-and-click adventure that sets five companions on a quest to defeat an invading force of life-sucking spider-like creatures that are encroaching on their idyllic biome that is teaming with other critters. Great visual humor, wonderful sound effects, and not-terribly-hard puzzles encourage exploration and rooting for the little group on their journey. A good portion of game is discovering all the different local wildlife. There are 123 cards to unlock throughout the game, and while the cards themselves are not achievements, getting the first, second and final third will unlock some bonus animation content after the credits. Only a few places where controls felt a little wonky, and it would have been great to have true full screen play area. But lots of smiles and several laugh-out-loud moments playing this one. Fun for all ages without being strictly for kids.
Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Won on SteamGifts Sept '18 Theme
47/55 (85%) │ 12.1 hours │ 7.5/10
Is it your type of game?
Beaten: 8-Sept-2018

Epistory is a typing game where you adventure through a pop-up paper mache world on a quest to figure out who you are and what has happened to the familiar world. It's got a cool aesthetic and can be genuinely fun. However the repetitive nature of the challenges gets a bit boring at times. Fortunately the game isn't overly long. The story is pretty thin, too. But the game is still worth playing because it's gorgeous to behold and stands out because it's game play is challenging (adapts to your typing speed) and so different from anything else.
Hook

Hook


1/1 (100%) │ 1.5 hours │ 10/10
Go on, press the button!
Beaten: 23-Sept-2018

A short, but fun puzzler! Untangle your way through 50 levels of interlocking pins, routers, circuits and release buttons. There are no hidden tricks or strategy, just the ability to follow paths and deduce the order needed to solve the puzzle. Very enjoyable with low/medium challenge. A easy 100% for achievement hunters. Just finish the game.
The LEGO Movie - Videogame

The LEGO Movie - Videogame

Won on SteamGifts Sept '18 Theme
44/48 (92%) │ 16.5 hours │ 7.5/10
Everything is awesome!
Beaten: 21-Sept-2018

This is my fourth LEGO game, and so far I have to say it was the most fun. The variety to the levels and the amount of things you get to do is pretty cool and the story is cute. There were a lot of fun characters, but Unikitty was awesome playing in rage mode. On the downside the controls were annoyingly imprecise and the camera control pretty flaky in a lot of spots. The game also has a lot of lag problems where the screen would repeatedly freeze for a few seconds. It didn't cause any missions to fail, but it was super annoying. Given that my system has a GTX 1080 in it, I chalk this up to bad optimization when porting the game to PC.
Tyranny

Tyranny


32/70 (46%) │ 58 hours │ 8/10
Conquest ... Sauron style
Beaten: 9-Sep-2018

I almost decided not to play this game. I got it shortly after finishing Pillars of Eternity so I wanted to try other kinds of games. But life happened and I kept putting off playing it. So around the beginning of summer with PoE2: Deadfire coming out and a new relationship starting up, I initially moved Tyranny into the "maybe some day" pile.

Then a few weeks ago I said screw it and plunged in. I'm glad I did!

First and foremost, Tyranny is a great game because a) you get to play the bad guy, and b) there's a ton of world-building in this game that completely immerses you in the role. As one of Kyros' Fatebinders, it's your job to enforce the law and keep his top lieutenants (called Archons) on task. The effect you have on The Tiers -- Kyros' last area to conquer on the continent -- can be just as monstrous as the others who hold power, but even if you try to do good there's still a lot of bloodshed and disturbing decisions to be made. The game is fairly unique in that regard. The recruitable NPCs are also varied and quite fun with a lot of background to delve into and multiple skill-trees to specialize according to your wants or needs. I don't think there's a weak link among them, though admittedly I stuck mostly with the first three you meet in-game. There's a loyalty/fear system that plays heavily into how people react to you, but that's not the same as morality. In fact, inspiring loyalty sometimes means doing awful things, and fear can occasionally be the result of trying to do the right thing. Tyranny forces you to think like a ruler who applies power rather than appealing to peoples' better angels. You're not even really an anti-hero; the moral grays are too thick to be the villain people can't help but love. It makes the game a phenomenal departure from all the "I'm here to save the world" tropes.

The true strength of this game comes out in its player choices. There are four possible major endings -- but those are arcs and not nearly as dramatic as the tons of small decisions that make one player's experience very different from the next. Choices really do matter here, making re-playability a huge bonus. It's largely about the flavor and tone of each situation and person and how you interact with them that carries forward in the evolution of the major plot fork that you've chosen.

But it's far from perfect. There are still bugs in the game that are quite maddening (lost saves) or frustrating (really quirky AI) in combat. But as a game that is built on the same engine as Pillars of Eternity it is definitely worth playing if CRPGs and wanting to give Sauron's style of rule a chance sounds like your kind of thing. And since it's around 60% of the run-length of PoE, a second or third playthough is do-able in a reasonable amount of time. I'm going to give it another go myself at some point. :)
What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch


9/9 (100%) │ 2.5 hours │ 9/10
Death runs in the family
Beaten: 15-Sep-2018

The folks at Giant Sparrow have created a marvelous game that certainly wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but as far as walking simulators go this one is among the very best, offering an intimate if morbid short story about the Finch family and it's tendency to find death early. Since the game's focus is completely on the story I'm not going to discuss the plot because it clocks in at 2-3 hours, so it's not terribly long. But the ingenuity of the designers to take different chapters and present them in a variety of narrative and mini-game formats is the stuff of masterful design. There's also a great bit toward the end that canonically ties WRoEF with another game Giant Sparrow made for the Playstation. I was completely delighted by the inclusion! From a purely aesthetic point of view, the Finch house is so wonderfully detailed that it's cool to just wander around and look all the things in it's rooms, halls and hidden places. The audio narration and sound ties it all together. If you are a fan of this type of game, it's a must play!

Batch 21 and August Wrap-Up

ABZÛ

ABZÛ


12/12 (100%) │ 4.4 hours │ 8.5/10
Day at the aquarium
Beaten: 7-Aug-2018

An underwater exploration game. Strictly speaking there's really not much game play here. Swimming simulator? But it's crazy beautiful nonetheless. And a tad weird because I didn't understand the machine aspect of the story. Anyway this was made by the people who made Journey for the Playstation, and it's a relaxing cross between mystical ocean meditation and a trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium (where I visited two weekends ago :D). Worth playing because it's short and just amazing to look at.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit


No Achievements │ 1.6 hours │ 8.5/10
Life is imagination
Beaten: 4-Aug-2018

Despite the fact that this is a "prelude" to Life Is Strange 2, the story is firmly rooted in an all-too-ordinary Saturday morning in Beaver Creek, OR, where Chris -- all 9-year old with an active imagination -- keeps himself entertained playing superheroes while his alcoholic dad watches TV. There's not much in terms of a game element here besides finding things for Chris to do, but the script is top-notch and the voice-acting utterly convincing as you learn in bits and pieces what family life is like under this roof. I won't say much more because the experience is quite short, but if you are a fan of this series it's a great teaser for the next game.
The Banner Saga 3

The Banner Saga 3

KS Backer
30/50 (60%) │ 29.4 hours │ 7.5/10
Apocalypse now
Beaten: 29-Jul-2018

The end has finally come for this series. Let me start of by saying that I absolutely adored parts 1 & 2. That makes this final game a small let-down because in wrapping things up the writers seem to have undercut a lot of the story elements. This is the number one complaint among the game's fans on the forums, and I have to agree. Even though there is a range of endings depending on your choices, they are so many threads left hanging without even an epilogue to provide the kind of closure needed after struggling and suffering with this incredible cast of characters in this fascinating world. There's a call for this in a game patch, and I'm likely going to wait and see what the devs say about it before attempting my next playthrough.

The combat is still the same turn-based alternating strategy, except for a really nice touch to the wave battles that allow you to trade out for fresh units from your character pool if you successfully clean the board before enemy reinforcements are called in. Unfortunately you have to be really careful at leveling characters to 9 and 10 because it costs a lot of Renown to do so. And despite being able to go to level 15, the key is level 11 where you can apply a Title to a character that has 5 levels on it's own and confers some pretty amazing attack/defense/support buffs that end up being critical as enemies get tougher. In the end, however, my characters still felt tremendously under-leveled for what was being thrown at them. Doubtless this is also a matter of finding the best combos of characters, leveling, and items to use.

All in all this was a good game that needed more attention to the story element, which has always been the series' strong point. Here it felt a little lackluster.
Broken Age

Broken Age

Won on SteamGifts
40/45 (89%) │ 9.6 hours │ 7.5/10
Worlds collide
Beaten: 30-Aug-2018

A very cute game with a fun story behind it. However I have to agree with many other reviewers in that the balance between the two halves is very uneven. The first part focused mostly on story with light puzzle-solving, whereas the last part the kept up with the story but delivered hard puzzles that often had no context from which to figure out what needed to be done and in what order. I had to use a guide to finish. Otherwise I found it very enjoyable and the humor even had my other half chuckling at times. :)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - A Criminal Past

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - A Criminal Past


10/10 (100%) │ 5.6 hours │ 8/10
Augmented undercover
Beaten: 3-Aug-2018

This was a quick return trip to the world of Deus Ex after buying the DLC pack during the summer Steam Sale. A Criminal Past is a good story focusing on Adam going undercover in a prison to retrieve another deep cover agent. Of course, things start going sideways almost from the get-go as there are shady things going on in the prison that complicate Adam's objective. Definitely worth a play-through if you have this add-on!
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust: An Elysian Tail


24/30 (80%) │ 15.1 hours │ 8/10
Cartoon cat assassin
Beaten: 16-Aug-2018

I really wanted to like this game. But while the game-play was solid, the story felt dumbed-down and predictable to a fault. It didn't help that the world was populated by low-budget cartoon characters that looked like they were CGI'd into the beautiful scenery. Fidget was the only character I liked because she had a great personality and all the good lines. Everyone else I wanted to skip past their dialogue after the first couple of sessions. This is definitely worthwhile to fans of platformers because it has some cool combat mechanics in it, although it's no Ori and the Blind Forest. Guess it just wasn't my thing. But high marks for play-ability and the fact that it was mostly designed and programmed by a single guy.
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Maize


No Achievements │ 3.7 hours │ 5/10
A little too corny
Beaten: 24-Aug-2018

[Sad trombone...] The comedic setup sounds good -- an isolated farm when sentient corn has been created. Unfortunately, the game fails to deliver much in the way of game-play or an engaging story. With only two mini-game exceptions you pick up objects in an area and combine/use them, but nothing about this is remotely challenging. A good story could have made up for this shortfall, but it never got past cute, missed a lot of potential, and many jokes (like the teddy bear, Vladdy) got tiresomely repetitive. Thankfully it was short because it couldn't have gone on much longer without becoming tedious. Still, it's bound to leave many people feeling unsatisfied like myself. Unless you are really motivated by the premise your time is better spent on something more entertaining.