My progress for this month: Fnord’s profile

Because I’m terrible with keeping things like “currently playing” and my future plans consistent and up to date, I’ll just simplify things and make a list of my progress for the month, until I can come up with a good system.

If anyone is curious about my complete backlog, it can be found here

Games beaten
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters

Games dropped


1 week from the last update. Seems like a good time for a new update, right? I’ve been continuing my journey through my backlog, playing some games that I activated ages ago, and then for one reason or another have not played yet. Oh, and I beat one expansion for a game that I have played before. Just look at all those dropped games though. I never knew my steam library was so full of broken games!

Hector: Badge of Carnage Episode 1

2 hours, no achievements

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Hector: Badge of Carnage is one of Telltale's older games, from the era when they made classic point & click adventure games (in episodic form). This particular game seems to have been one of those that they did on the cheap, just to have something released, as it's full of bugs. Like during the fade-in when you enter a new screen, if you click, the fade-in stops and the screen remains dark, or if you re-visit a place where someone is behind a door, and you can see their feet underneath the door, the door is not there, and you just see a pair of feet + very long legs standing there.

The humor in this game is very crude. And not in a clever way. The game will for an example have you give someone a sex doll, and then you'll see the character hump the sex doll while saying the name of the main character. Or you need to fish a key out of a poo-filled toilet, so you use a condom and a string. If this sounds like your kind of humor, then you might enjoy it, but to me, it just fell flat. It just felt like things were crude for the sake of being crude, and the whole joke being "Look how crude we dare to be!". Crude humor can work, but there needs to be a bit more to it than that. So can you tell I'm not a fan? I'm probably skipping episode 2 & 3…


Age of Empires II: The Conquerors

74.6 hours, 63 of 294 achievements

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And going from one bad game to one good game! Last month I beat the main AoE 2 campaigns, and now I've beaten the campaigns from the first expansion, The Conquerors (the only expansion the non-HD version got).

I had some complaints about AoE 2's campaigns, like how the difficulty curve was all over the place. The expansion fixes this, and the campaigns do get progressively harder, with the first mission being the easiest, and the last generally being the hardest. That said, the AI is very passive here, and it feels like the campaigns got too easy this time around. For anyone interested in AoE 2, I would recommend playing these campaigns first, as they feel like they'll be a better introduction to the game (maybe after the tutorial campaign).

There is one level that stands out in a bad way though. You're supposed to defend a wonder that you build, and the level starts with with a bunch of villagers surrounding a wonder that's not yet completed, and the game tells you to complete the wonder. If you do this, then there's a level trigger that causes a massive invasion to happen, and there's another massive invasion that lacks suck a trigger that happens at the same time. So doing what the game tells you to do means that you'll likely automatically lose. So the trick is to ignore the wonder, focus on the massive invasion that will always come, then gather resources, and surround the wonder site with castles, and then build the wonder. This way the level becomes trivially easy. Other than this stupid level, I really enjoyed the levels on display here. The variety was good, and there was a difficulty curve!


SOL: Exodus

1 hours, 9 of 53 achievements

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SOL: Exodus is a relatively arcadey space combat game, similar to say Wing Commander or X-wing. Only the physics felt really bad, and that just ruined the game for me. It works, it's just not very fun.


Chantelise

0.5 hours, no achievements

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Well this was a disappointment. Screenshots made it look like a Zelda-esque game, but as far as I got, it mostly borrows the "kill everything in the room to progress" mechanic from Zelda. Which is kind of tedious, when enemies are scattered all over the place. Move to one room, kill everything, move to another, rinse and repeat. Poor draw distance, and a bad camera angle does not make things better. Oh, and that low health beeping sound, give me the one from Zelda 1 over this any day!


iBomber attack

0.1 hours, 0 of 12 achievements

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Another game broken by a patch. The game stutters to the point of being unplayable, and according to the forum, this issue was introduced in a patch.


Serious Sam 2

0.9 hours, no achievements

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The steam version of Serious Sam 2 has a bug which can corrupt your save file. It's been there since day 1, and was never fixed. I guess I could download a save file from the internet, but eh, I can't be bothered, all these broken games are making me bitter.


Another update, that I’m writing more out of frustration than anything else.
This month’s theme includes playing games that have been sitting unplayed in your library for ages. This is how my luck has panned out thus far:

I’ve tried 20 games
9 of them I could play through without any major issues (although that’s not to say I did not discover bugs in them…).
1 of them was broken due to servers being down (in a puzzle game…)
2 of them had had patches released that broke the games (and which never received any patch to fix the mess they caused)
1 of them had a serious bug in it from day one that was never fixed (corrupts your save data, and it seems to be a very common one, if you go by what people say on the forum for it)
3 of them did not play nice with my modern OS/hardware
1 of them worked, but was based on a comic book series I’m unfamiliar with, and it was clearly not made for people unfamiliar with it
1 of them worked, but there was no way to rebind the controls and the controls it defaulted to on my gamepad were completely bonkers (and it’s the kind of game I’m not playing with a keyboard & mouse)
2 of them were just really bad, or annoying. Considering I played through Air Conflicts: Secret Wars and Kane & Lynch 2, that should give you an idea of how bad these were.

Third update this month! Wow, I’m on fire :P It helps when one of the games was 3 min long, and the other were short. This months theme really gets me to play some varied games, at least. I would not say that the games have been great thus far, but sometimes it’s nice to step out of your comfort zone and play something weird.

Hitman: Sniper Challenge

0.1 hours, no achievements

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It's a 3 min long game. You shoot a person, then you shoot his guards. There's a scoring system, which I guess could create some replay value, but I don't really feel like trying to aim for a high score, particularly as the scoreboard is down.

This game was given out to anyone who pre-ordered Hitman: Absolution, and was also given out during different promotions (which is how I got it), so I was not expecting much, but I thought it would have more than one target.


Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

3.7 hours, 16 of 59 achievements

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Kane & Lynch 2 is a weird one. The first Kane & Lynch was really poorly received (and was involved in a rather big controversy over at Gamespot, where one person lost his job for giving it a low score). And despite this, they decided to make a sequel. Is the sequel good? Heck no, this is a bad game.

Kane & Lynch 2 is actually rather interesting to play. The game has a very unique aesthetic that it really commits to, even to the detriment of its gameplay. One might even call it a bit artsy in how it handles it (yes, I'm serious). Basically, you're playing more as a camera man, holding a low-quality hand-held camera that followed Lynch around. The screen is a bit blurry, there are visual artifacts and things that would upset a real world cheap camera of the era upsets this one as well (it also has insane camera bobbing, but you can at least turn that off). The game is also very grimy and ugly (intentionally so), which does help sell the idea that you're really a low-life violent criminal who ends up in bad situations that are entirely your own fault for being in.
The actual gameplay is bad. It's a 3rd person shooter, with really poor weapons. The early weapons are so bad that trying to hit something 10 meters away is nigh impossible, which actually makes the early game fights harder than the late game fights, where you have access to better weapons.

The game is really short. At less than 4h, this is the kind of game that you can easily beat in two evenings. Did I mention that this was a full priced game at launch? So they expected you to pay 50€ for a really short game, with an interesting style, and poor gameplay. These days you can pick it up for 1€ on most steam sales. And actually, if you have any interest in the game, I would highly recommend doing so. This game might be bad, but it is at least interesting, and it is worth paying 1€ just to see the unique things this games does.


Air Conflicts: Secret Wars

7.9 hours, 12 of 25 achievements

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Where Kane & Lynch was bad but interesting, Air Conflicts: Secret War is just bland and uninteresting. There's nothing seriously wrong with this game, it's a fully functional arcadey air-combat game where you fly around, shooting down enemies in about 50 very short missions. Everything works, but nothing is particularly exciting, and there's very little one could really say about this game. If you're really itching for an arcadey air combat game, I guess it will scratch that itch, but not much more than that.

One thing that really bugged me about this game is the song that plays when you're in combat. It's used in some other game, and I can't place it. I'm pretty certain it's a main menu theme, and not from the same developer or publisher. So the developers of this game apparently did not make their own music, they just bought it from somewhere else.


Avencast

0.1 hours, no achievements

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Game crashes when I try to start it, with an error message indicating that it's not compatible with my graphics card


Hitogata Happa

0.1 hours, 0 of 14 achievements

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The game stutters, and every time that happens, my gamepad gets unresponsive for a second or two. Which makes the game impossible to play.


Nikopol: Secret of the Immortals

0.5 hours, no achievements

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This game actually works. The problem is that the story is clearly written for those familiar with the source material, which I'm not. It's also very heavy on the pixel hunting. So instead of torturing myself with a game I can't enjoy, I just dropped it.


Midnight Club

0.3 hours, no achievements

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This game technically speaking works, but it has a pretty serious issue: You can't re-bind the controls, and at least the controls it defaulted to with my gamepad are completely bonkers. So I'm dropping this one as well.


Is it already time for another update? You bet! I’ve been able to take down one game per day in the last few days. This month’s theme is about cleaning out your steam library, and I’ve been committing to playing some of my oldest unplayed games, and it turns out that those games are also really short. I guess that should come as no surprise, most of these are from the first generation of bundles, and indie games back then were, generally speaking, a bit shorter and less involved than modern indies. This was also before we started seeing non-indies in bundles to any greater extent.

People who stalk my Monthly Themes post might have noticed that what I consider to be “games I bought early” to cover quite a big time span. Well, truth to be told, I did not get a lot of games on steam before bundles, and bundles came in at a far slower rate early on, so I had time to play most things that I got. It was not until around 2012 that things really started spiraling out of control.

Anyway, this is what I ended up playing:

Lugaru HD

1.2 hours, no achievements

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Lugaru was in the first ever Humble Bundle, and was actually made by the guy who created Humble. It's a martial arts game with rabbits, that's known for its flashy combat.

The story is a simple one, your tribe of rabbits gets attacked by raiders, and everyone except for you gets killed, so you're out for revenge. But it turns out that things are not quite what they seem.
The story is basically what you would get if a teenager watches too many kung-fu movies. The writing is so edgy that it almost gets cute. It's a bad story, not helped by how poorly paced it is, and how incoherent the writing ends up being. Sometimes it feels like you missed a few lines of dialogue, and sometimes it feels like you missed a few scenes. This is not a game you play for the story.

The combat system is pretty good though, although the front-loaded tutorial ensures that you'll forget most combat moves before the game even starts.

This is not exactly a glowing review, and there's a good reason for that. Lugaru is simply not all that well put together. If you take your time to really learn the combat system, I'm sure there's a lot of fun to be had, but the game seems to actively work against you at times.


Blueberry Garden

0.4 hours, no achievements

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And here we have a game that I just did not get.
In Blueberry Garden you play as a wingless bird-man, who flies around and collects things that he can then build a huge stack of. There are some fruits that helps you get special abilities (like the ability to fly higher, or breath underwater for a limited time), and by using these, and your ever growing stack, new parts of the level opens up.

As time goes on, the water level rises, so you need to hurry up, and collect things as fast as you can, before water makes the items inaccessible. Is this an allegory for global warming and the rising sea levels? Possibly. Or it might not be. Truth to be told, I don't really get it.


Bunch of Heroes

2.2 hours, 17 of 59 achievements

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I'm not even sure if this game deserved to be played. This game was a real stinker. It's a slow paced twin stick shooter, filled with unfunny jokes, tedious levels and poor audio-visual feedback. Look at the achievements for this game. 12,3% beat the first world, and 2% beat the entire game. That should give you an idea of how poor this game actually is.

There's really not much else to say about this one. I guess the graphics was nice, but other than that, no elements in this game were above mediocre.


NightSky

2.5 hours, 12 of 22 achievements

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Going straight from a poor game to a really good one! NightSky is a simple game, where you control a marble that needs to get to the end of the level. Different levels give you slightly different abilities, like the ability to speed yourself up, break, invert gravity and so on. It's another short game, but NightSky does a good job at mixing things up, and the game never ends up feeling repetitive.


Critical Mass

0.1 hours, 0 of 27 achievements

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Some of this games progression is broken due to its servers being down. Yay for always online requirements!


Middle Earth: Shadow of War

45.5 hours, 48 of 72 achievements

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Middle Earth: Shadow of War is a pretty typical sequel, in that it takes the things that worked in the original, and then expands on it. it does not strive to re-invent the wheel, just give some more of the same, but slightly better.

If you've played Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, you'll have a good idea of how this game works. Defeat Sauron's army, take control of his orcs, fight the forces of Mordor. It's pretty much the same thing as last time. The nemesis system, which was the highlight of Shadow of Mordor, returns, and it's pretty much the same (which is a bit disappointing, as I thought it had room for improvement). I would say that the biggest difference here is the focus on taking over regions, which ends up with larger siege battles. These battles do end up being a bit repetitive, as they never really change.

As for the story, it's nothing amazing, but it does help contextualize what you're doing. You're fighting the forces of Mordor, and you're effectively controlling two different characters, with different motivations. Talion, the ranger, wants to protect Gondor from the forces of evil, while Celebrimbor, the elf smith who forged some of the rings of power, and who wants his revenge on Sauron. This creates an interesting dynamic in the story. I'm not going to spoil any more of the story, you'll just have to play the game yourself.

The game also has some DLC, which I would not recommend getting if you did not get the Gold edition of the game on sale, because darn are these things overpriced.
The two "tribes" DLCs are priced at 15€ each, and adds a new orc tribe. These tribes have their own looks, and some abilities unique to them. You also get a smathering of small filler quests that clutters up the map, and which just boil down to "defeat this orc", similar to the regular encounters with orcs, only now you get some more experience from them. I suspect that these mini-quests were added just to make sure that the player feels like they actually got something from the DLC. Had these DLCs been 2€ each, I would have said that their price was slightly too high, but possibly worth picking up on a sale. At 15€ each, they're likely the most overpriced DLC I've seen.

Blade of Galadriel adds a 2h story expansion, which re-uses the same areas from the main game, and mostly just adds a few new unique orcs, plus a new main character. The new main character controls like the main character from the main game, but lacks the ability to dominate orcs, and can instead shoot light projectiles. At 15€, this is severely overpriced, and the DLC is kind of lackluster in general.

The Desolation of Mordor adds another 2h to the game, and costs 20€. This is overpriced, but the new main character and area do at least feel significantly different from the main game. Had this been a 10€ DLC, it would have felt worth it.

Overall, Shadow of War was pretty nice. It's just a shame that the DLC is so overpriced.


Cosmic Star Heroine

9.8 hours, no achievements
Non-steam version

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Cosmic Star Heroine is a JRPG by the same devs that gave us Cthulhu Saves the World, and much like Cthulhu Saves the World, it tries to fix many of the small frustrations that are typical for the genre.

In Cosmic Star Heroine you play as the titular heroine, who tries to save the solar system from a plot that threatens everyone living there. It's a pretty standard story, really, but it's told relatively well, and it never really feels like it slows down. New characters and locations are introduced at a brisk pace, which helps keep the game interesting to the end.

The game tries to make combat a bit more interesting than most JRPGs, by making it so that you can't just spam attack. Each ability can only be used once before "resting", which restores all your abilities. This means that mindlessly hitting the attack button in combat is impossible. You also get full health after each fight, so no need to worry about potions and such.
This is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, it prevents combat from becoming a mindless grind, on the other hand, it does meant that you need to pay attention even during the easiest of fights, and this can cause them to feel like they drag a bit. In fact, this is the games greatest weakness. When combat is frequent, it gets tedious in a way that most JRPGs don't (frequent combat can feel tedious in JRPGs, but in a different way).

So overall, this is a nice game, but it's nothing spectacular. Worth playing if you have it, but not worth going out of your way to play.


Reverse Crawl

2.8 hours, 11 of 18 achievements
Non-steam version

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I can't help but feel like Reverse Crawl was not quite what was advertised. The description made it seem like you would be trying to stop the heroes with the help of your monsters, in a way similar to how it is in an RPG, where the heroes are few but powerful, and your monsters are weak but plentiful. This is not really the case here, the monsters and heroes are fighting on equal terms. You pick a group of monsters, and they fight until they die, and you face groups of "heroes" who do the same. Each encounter is just a small set of tactical battles, where you need to wear down the enemy before they wear you down.
Reverse Crawl is not bad, mind you, but I feel like it's a missed opportunity. It's a short playthrough though, so anyone interested in trying it, and who have got it from any of the bundles its been in, should give it a shot.


Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings

55.6 hours, 47 of 294 achievements

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I got Age of Empires 2 back in 2000. And now I've finally beaten the original campaign. So it was about time, eh?

Age of Empires 2 is a classic RTS, where you're leading a civilization through the ages, crushing any other civilization that stands in your path. Unlike something like Civ though, this is an RTS in the same vein as StarCraft or Command & Conquer, and match generally lasts less than an hour.

First of all, for a game so steeped in history, it's interesting to see just how wrong they got things. They list the wrong nations as the winner in specific named battles, claim that the wrong crusading army sacked Constantinople and so on, and this is in a game that seemingly tries to present its history as actual history. It does not really detract from the game, but I find it interesting how wrong they got things, for no apparent reason.

It's interesting just how varied they managed to make the different levels in the campaigns. Every level feels unique, despite most of them using the same basic mechanics, and many of them having very similar objectives. What the levels lacked though was balance. There seems to have been no rhyme or reason to how hard a level was, with them placing some of the hardest battles early on in the first campaign, and the final mission in the final campaign being laughably easy. It's as if the level designers did not aim for any form of difficulty curve.
The campaigns of the main game were by the way about 20h in total. The 55,6h also includes time I've spent in skirmish mode, and playing the game in MP with friends.


Max and the Magic Marker

2.2 hours, no achievements

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As part of this month's theme, I looked into one of my oldest unplayed games on Steam. I think I got this game from one of the earliest Indie royale bundles.

Max and the Magic Marker is a simple puzzle platformer, where you've got a pen that can be used to create simple objects. This is clearly not a game meant for an older audience, as the puzzles are very simple, and there's little variety in the solutions. Draw a line to cross a gap, draw a box to gain some height, draw a seesaw to launch yourself into the air. It's cute though, and kind of fun. Had this been longer, I would have got really bored with it, but 2h is a fair length for a game like this.


InMomentum

0.1 hours, 0 of 37 achievements

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Every time I turn the camera, the framerate drops into the single digits. Kind of hard to play a game about fast movement when that happens.


Gish

1 hours, 0 of 11 achievements

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At some point a patch was introduced that added achievements, and broke the physics, and made you take damage from silly things like trying to cross an edge of a platform too fast. Apparently the version you can buy from the developers website still works, but the steam version is broken.


Is it already time for another update post?

Sonic Lost World

6 hours, 12 of 100 achievements

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So yet another Sonic game from the Sonic bundle beaten. Super Sonic Galaxy was SEGA's attempt to imitate Super Mario Galaxy, and it had some mixed success. It's clear that Sonic team lacked the expertise and resources of Nintendo, as this game is a lot less polished than Super Mario Galaxy, with jumps and enemy placement that does not quite feel right.

Overall, Sonic Lost World is a rather so-so game. There's nothing really wrong with it, but neither is it anything special. Some of the levels do make good use of the gravity mechanic, but most of the time it just feels like a gimmick that adds little to the game. Sonic also feels surprisingly slow in this game, which kind of runs counter to the whole idea of Sonic.
This game spends far more time than it should on the story. While some of the encounters with Eggman were genuinely funny, most of the story segments are cringe-worthy, and out of the new bad guys, only one actually felt like a good villain. The rest were simple stereotypes, like one was violent, one was fat, one was a woman (yes, the game goes there…), one was old… While you would not expect a deep story from a Sonic game, this is really bad, and the game spends far more time than it should on it.
So overall, not a game I would recommend, but it's not the worst Sonic game out there.


Halo Wars: Definitive Edition

7.6 hours, 20 of 75 achievements

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Halo Wars is an RTS that was first released on consoles, and that is really noticeable! The view is really zoomed in, and there are some control oddities with some of the special abilities that makes it clear that they were designed with an analogue stick in mind, not a mouse. Something tells me that unit rotation and preservation was not really something the developers had in mind when they made this, instead you were meant to send in your units in a big clump, and then make use of their special abilities. As someone who's been playing RTSs on PC since Red Alert 1, this felt odd, and I ended up playing the game more like a classic RTS, ignoring the elements that were very console-oriented, and made short work of the campaign this way.
On PC this game is actually very easy. That does not have to be a bad thing, but it feels like the developers thought certain things would be harder than they actually were. This is due to you just having better control of your units on PC.

The campaign has surprisingly high production value, with nice cut scenes before each level, good voice acting and so on. It feels like a game that had a large budget behind it. I'm no expert on the Halo universe, but I did enjoy the cutscenes. The campaign itself was not amazing though. This is the kind of game that's worth buying if it's cheap, but it won't have the lasting appeal of most other RTSs.


Outland

11.5 hours, 4 of 12 achievements

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Outland is basically Ikaruga meets 2D platformers.
The whole gimmick in Outland is, much like in Ikaruga, that you can switch colour, and when you do so, you can absorb bullets with the same colour as you without taking damage, and hurt enemies of the opposite colour. It does take a surprisingly long time for you to get this ability though, which was a bit disappointing, resulting in a weak early game, but once you get your abilities, the game becomes really fun.
I beat this game in co-op with Mskotor, and it was a pretty good co-op game. There are interactions in the game that feels like they were made with co-op in mind, for an example certain platforms become solid when you have a certain colour, and so you can use this to your advantage by letting one player stay that colour, or have one player absorb bullets for the other. This game would likely still be fun in SP, but if you can, play it in co-op.


Zombie Army Trilogy

14.4 hours, 44 of 68 achievements

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Zombie Army Trilogy is another co-op game that I beat with Mskotor this month.
Zombie Army Trilogy offers a slightly updated version of the two first Nazi Zombie Army games, and a brand new episode with new levels, which concludes the series. If you've ever played Sniper Elite V2, you'll have a good idea of how this works, as it uses the same basic mechanics, and the same engine, plus a bunch of assets from that game. Only instead of shooting German soldiers, you're now shooting hordes of German zombie soldiers. And it's far more fun than it should be!
Zombie Army Trilogy is a dumb game, with a really dumb plot, but it all works together to create a rather enjoyable B-movie experience. And the co-op mechanics are pretty good. While you've got no direct interactions with other players (other than the ability to revive them), the fact that you're playing snipers mean that you'll be quite blind to what's going on around you most of the time, so players need to cover each other's blind angles. Some zombies also require a bit of teamwork to take down. So yeah, overall, a really fun game.


So the sale is over, and this is what I ended up getting:

  • Age of Empires II

    35 hours playtime

    33 of 294 achievements

  • Age of Mythology: Extended Edition

    33 hours playtime

    5 of 70 achievements

  • Halo Wars: Definitive Edition

    2 hours playtime

    5 of 75 achievements

  • Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943

    0 minutes playtime

    0 of 43 achievements

  • Worshippers

    0 minutes playtime

    no achievements

  • Battlestations: Pacific

    0 minutes playtime

    no achievements

  • The Tenth Line

    0 minutes playtime

    0 of 21 achievements

  • Her Majesty's SPIFFING

    0 minutes playtime

    0 of 25 achievements

  • Europa Universalis IV

    176 hours playtime

    33 of 295 achievements

Two age of Empires 2 DLCs, 1 Age of Mythology DLC & Halo Wars came from the Microsoft RTS collection. I would likely have skipped at least the Age of Mythology DLC, had I’ve been given the option, as it’s reviews indicate that it is pretty terrible, but it was cheaper to buy the thing with it.
Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943 with all the DLC was actually cheaper than just buying the base game itself. The name of the game makes it sound quite bad, but I’ve played two of the company’s previous games (Achtung Panzer: Operation Star & Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943), and both were really good. This looks like more of the same, but set in north Africa, rather than Russia. I have high hopes for this one.
Worshippers was cheap, and looks quite good. I’ve heard nothing about it before though, so it will be interesting to see how it really is.
Battlestations: Pacific is another cheap game (less than 1€), which looked really fun in a video I watched on youtube. My only concern is getting it to run, as it uses GFWL.
The Tenth Line: There’s something really charming about how this game looks, that combined with a low price made it hard to resist.
Her Majesty’s SPIFFING: This one has been on my radar for a while now, and I finally ended up getting it. The developers of this game seemed really nice when I had a quick chat with them a few years back.
And finally, more EU4 DLCs, because you can never have too many of those!

  • Hylics

    0 minutes playtime

    no achievements

  • Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™

    0 minutes playtime

    0 of 72 achievements

  • Outcast - Second Contact

    0 minutes playtime

    0 of 41 achievements

I got three games as gifts.
Hylics: The art looks really interesting in this one. No idea if the game is any good, but the reviews do indicate that there’s something more to the game than just interesting art.
Shadow of War: I did like Shadow of Mordor, but I only semi-recently added Shadow of War to my wishlist, after they removed the lootboxes, and re-balanced the game.
Outcast - Second Contact: The first Outcast was very good, back in the days, but the controls make it feel a bit dated. So I do have high hopes for this one. There’s not a whole lot they would have to do to make Outcast into something that’s acceptable in this day & age.

Small rant time. Anyone remember how I ranted about Final Fantasy X, and made 2 posts about it? We have this post where I picked apart the games flaws, and pointed out that it really was not all that good, and then this post where I mentioned more flaws, but also pointed out that the characters, art style, story & soundtrack made the game compelling enough for me to see it through to the end.

Well, this is going to be about Final Fantasy X-2

  • Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster

    38 hours playtime

    11 of 69 achievements

FF X-2 takes place 2 years after the first game, and follows two returning characters from the first game (Yuna & Rikku) and a new character, Paine. Where FF X had a wide variety of characters, all having different “jobs”, FF X-2 has 3 characters, but you can switch jobs for them. In this regard, the game is similar to FF V, a game I quite liked for its “job system”. Unlike FFV, you can switch “job” mid-battle though, so X-2 is more flexible in this regard. This was actually the reason why I decided to install the game, as I was curious about the job system, which on paper sounded quite good.

That was a bad move, from my end.
The game starts with what looks like Yuna on a stage singing some really awful pop music. Actually, this is going to be a trend, awful music. You see the other two characters beating up guards while spying on Yuna, and then they start to fight. It turns out that a villain has stolen Yuna’s clothes, and is pretending to be her. There’s some more nonsense, which I think was meant to be funny, then there’s a chase sequence where you chase fake-Yuna, while getting bombarded with enemies (remember how I complained about FF X’s encounter rate? This is worse), and then the real Yuna shows up. She’s somehow gone from a kind-hearted person who summons spirits to a gun-ninja in the span of 2 years.

After this fight, you’re taken to an airship, where you get to talk to the crew. The music here sounds awful, and the characters are cringe-worthy. As a bit of optional content during this part you can find out about why you’re here. Yep, the very foundation to the games story is hidden in an optional menu when talking to a character who keeps spouting tutorials that were just as bad as that of Final Fantasy X (which had really bad tutorials). The new character, Paine, sounds bored and reminded me of what happens when a bad actor/actress tries to portray a goth character in a movie.

Then after some aimless wandering about, trying to find the trigger that makes the story progress (turns out that you need to talk to characters in a specific order, and then rest… that ended up taking me longer than it should have, as I missed one character’s dialogue as it was right next to another character, and every time I tried to talk with him, the character next to him would speak, which made me think that you could not speak to him. Turned out that you had to find that one specific spot to stand on in order to trigger the right character’s dialogue…)

And then you get taken down to a new mission area. Cue some cringe-worthy dialogue which fails to be funny, bad music, followed by the villain who stole Yuna’s clothes showing up, more cringe-dialogue, an encounter rate higher than an NES JRPG, and me giving up on the game.

So what went wrong? For one, the writing was awful, making the characters, which I thought was the strong point of FF X, a weak point. What about their design though? Well, their outfits seem to have taken a turn for the skimpier. Anyone who played FF X might remember how the camera loved focusing on Lulu’s breasts after combat. Now it does that will all characters instead. And if not their breasts, then their crotch. Something tells me this game was mostly targeted at teenage boys…

Class-switching is done through a on the fly clothes switch for the characters. That was why it was so important to get Yuna’s clothes back, because they are magical. You’re expected to switch clothes a lot during combat. During the clothes transformation animation, the camera really loves to focus on the characters breasts, crotch or butt.
Combat also feels a lot less structured than in the first game. It still has some kind of “active time battle” (meaning that the characters have a bar that fills up, and when it’s full, you get to act), but it feels a lot more chaotic than in the previous game. The animation quality is also oddly poor for the main characters, and their abilities are strange and nonsensical (so the character throws a shoe at the enemy, and now all the enemies take fire damage?). The animation quality for the enemies that returned from the first game was quite alright, but the few new enemies have noticeably worse animations.

So no, I did not beat the game, not even close to it. I got through 6% of the story, but wow, this was bad. It feels like they managed to take most of what was good about FF X, and then got rid of it, and replaced it with gratuitous fan-service and some of the worst music I’ve heard in a JRPG. This feels like a game made on the cheap, to cash in on the popularity of the first game, but with a fraction of the budget, and with a bunch of very out of touch people making all the decisions (Hey, people liked Yuna & Rikku, so let’s make a game about them, and as our main target audience are teenage boys, lets make them as sexy as we can. That will sell!). It might get better later on, but a game can’t leave a first impression this bad, and expect me to not drop it.

A few more games beaten, one of them being a rather large one (Pillars of Eternity 2). I ever expected to 100% a game like that, but it was so good that I ended up doing pretty much everything in that game.

Ghost 1.0

10 hours, 37 of 119 achievements
Non-steam verison

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Ghost 1.0 is a metroidvania game made by the same devs who made Unepic (a game that might be best known for getting rejected by Valve, despite being a relatively good game). This feels a lot more polished than Unepic, but it does lack some of that crude charm that comes with a game made by a developer who was learning things as they made the game.

What sets Ghost 1.0 apart from other Metroidvanias is the fact that you can take control of most enemies. You've got a main body that you control most of the time, but your character can leave it and jump into one of the enemies, and when doing so you get full control over it. This sounds more useful than it really is, but there are a few puzzles which relies on it. Other than that, it's a relatively standard Metroidvania game, with average levels, relatively good controls and a few fun boss fights, but it lacks one of the key features of Metroidvanias: The ability to find new and interesting abilities scattered through the world. You do find powerups, but you don't get any major game changers.

Overall though, Ghost 1.0 is not a bad game, it's worth a playthrough for fans of Metroidvanias, just don't expect the game to do anything extraordinary.


Sonic Mania

4 hours, 3 of 18 achievements

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The Sonic series has never been my favourite series of platforming games. While most Sonic games have a great first level, they tend to become a lot less fun in the later levels. Sonic Mania fixes a lot of issues that the classic Sonic games had, and has far more consistent level design and controls that make it a joy to play. This game feels like it was made to be like how people with a lot of nostalgia for the old sonic games remember them, not how they actually were. I would highly recommend that anyone who's a fan of 2D platformers take a look at this one, it's great!


Pillars of eternity 2

96 hours, 55 of 55 achievements

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Pillars of Eternity 2 might well be the best game I played last year. It's just that good!

Pillars 2 takes place about 5 years after the first game, and is a direct sequel to it. You play as the same main character, and you can import your old save file from the first game to it. While you won't start with a high level character if you do, the choices you made through the first game will impact things in the second game.

Pillars 2 is more of a sidegrade than an upgrade to Pillars 1. While you've got fully voiced dialogue this time around (rather than just have certain important moments be voiced), better graphics and the ability to multi-class, combat seems to have been made easier, and the caster classes feel less unique compared to each other.

I won't spoil the story of Pillars 2, but let me just say that the writing is better than the story. Overall the story is not amazing, but many of the characters you'll meet along the way are well written and feel fleshed out. You've also got several major factions this time around, and which one you chose to support through to the end will determine exactly what the ending will be like (you can, and probably should, work with all of them though, for as long as you can). Like with most modern RPGs, the factions don't represent good or evil here, but are rather different groups with different interests.

I would highly recommend this game to any fan of party based CRPGs, as it's great! I doubt it will be remembered as well, or as fondly, as the first Pillars of Eternity, but it's still a very good game.

There are also 3 DLCs for the game.
Beast of Winter
The first DLC for Pillars of Eternity sees you explore a mysterious ice floe. It comes with a small new settlement with new NPCs, and has the most involved boss fights of the entire game. The new boss fights are actually pretty challenging, and were the highlights of this DLC, which overall was quite good

Seeker, Slayer, Survivor
This DLC was probably the weakest part of the entire game. While it's not bad, it's mostly just a bunch of arena fights, with a relatively weak story holding it together. There's a bit more to it than that, but this DLC did not impress me. Worth playing if you get the season pass, but probably not worth getting on its own. Also, for some reason, loading times were longer in this one than any other part of the game.

The Forgotten Sanctum
This DLC is basically one big dungeon. The kind of dungeon that you'll only find in a fantasy RPG, that does not make a whole lot of sense if you think about it, but which is still interesting to explore. This DLC was also pretty good, and it's also more connected to the main plot than any of the other DLCs.


Bulletstorm

7 hours, 19 of 34 achievements
Non-steam version

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Bulletstorm is one of those games that I've heard a lot of good about, but up until last month, I had never actually played it.

Bulletstorm is a simple, fast paced shooter, where the main gimmick is that you can do a lot of different environmental kills, and the game rewards you for it. You can kick enemies into cacti, off cliffs, into electricity and so on, and the game gives you points for doing so, points you can then later exchange for more ammo and some minor upgrades for your weapons. You've got a kick that's so mighty that even Duke Nukem would be jealous, and a whip you can use to throw enemies around, and a bunch of different guns. While using the kick & whip is quite fun, the guns do actually feel a bit weak.
The difficulty is overall quite low in this one, but the difficulty is a bit uneven, and the enemies the game hypes up as being the most dangerous things on the planet are actually the easiest ones in the entire game, so the balance does feel a bit off. But despite this, Bulletstorm is a really fun game, and actually a better Duke Nukem game than Duke Nukem forever.


Sonic Foces

4 hours, 19 of 48 achievements

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After having recently beaten Sonic Mania, Sonic Forces feel like a real step down. Where Sonic Mania had tight controls and well designed levels, Sonic Forces has sloppy controls, that at times feel very slippery, and at times feel needlessly stiff. The levels also don't seem to have been designed with the controls in mind. This is extra obvious in sections where you're supposed to turn in mid-air, which never works well. There are a few other issues with the game, such as the games lock-on system sometimes sending you into a pit after hitting the enemy, and the camera not always being able to keep up. This is not the worst Sonic game ever, but it's just worse than Sonic Mania in pretty much every single way, and not a particularly good game as is. It's very easy though… when the controls cooperate.


End of the year!

So, in terms of gaming, this has been a pretty good year for me. Played a bunch of really nice games. I do feel like in terms of game releases (on PC at least) this year was a bit weaker than previous years, but that only meant that I had more time to play older games! And it’s not like it was a terrible year for game releases or anything, just that we had a bunch of really good years in a row. The highlights for this year has to be Pillars of Eternity 2 and Battletech, two really good games, that I still fear will be forgotten in the future. Pillars 2, while great, did not represent a big step forward for the genre, and unlike Pillars 1, it was not released during a drought period, there are plenty of good RPGs out there these days, and Battletech, while really fun to play, did not seem to really leave a lasting impression.

This year I beat fewer games than last year. Heck, there was one month where I just beat a single game. But on the other hand, several of the games I’ve played this year have been rather lengthy ones. Pillars of Eternity 2, Warhammer 40k: Sanctus Reach, Age of Mythology, Fallout 4, Tales of Berseria, Dying Light, Path of Exile, Battletech, Final Fantasy X, these were all games that broke 30h for a single playthrough. I’ve also been a bit better at not buying games I don’t need, although there’s still some work to be done.

But I don’t have time to write a lengthy post right now. So, Happy New year everyone!