Semi-weekly broadcasting of the Semi-weekly Max Backlog Extravaganza Show! Max Mnemonic’s profile
The backlog.. the backlog never changes.
I DID IT! (again)
Alright, I need to get this out of my system. Is the game good? Yes. Is it a masterpiece? Definitely not.
Amnesia and doing Detective workExcuses and inaction
Memory Loss and Characterization
The game puts you on the shoes of a detective that has drank himself into complete amnesia. Amnesia is the usual cliche used in games that have you decide how you are going to shape your character, and that is fine. There aren't many ways of presenting a blank slate for you to fill out and at the end of the day it doesn't matter as long as the rest of the game is good. The problem in DE (Disco Elysium) is that the game keeps beating you over the head the person your character used to be. But not in a "your past caught up with you" kinda way, it just straight up reminds you every chance it gets of your past characteristics, and it's always the same. For example: your name. If there's a person that knew you before, you have the option to ask them your name, or anything about you, really. This option doesn't go away after you learn your name, in fact, you could have read 10 biographies of your life and still ask the drunk hobo you met once what your name and life story is. You can ignore it, and I recommend doing so. The problem with this is that your expectations of something different usually outweigh your cynicism of knowing the answers won't change, so I clicked on every chat option that could tell me something about the past of my character, and boy does it get old really fast.
Moreover, the RP in RPG. It's not as deep as you heard. It boils down into three categories: politics, personality and "morality". On the politic spectrum, you can be a moralist, communist, fascist, centrist and another one which I don't remember. On personality, you can be depressed, egotistic, an asshole, boring, etc. (honestly I don't remember them all, I think there were around 7 options). On morality you can be bad, good, and honorable. You might be asking yourself, "But, max, this doesn't seem so bad. In fact, it seems like a lot of choices to flesh out my character!" Well, you're wrong! Never doubt me again! How dare you go against me in my own review! ... In all honesty, you're right. The problem is that there's absolutely no nuance. If you want to be a boring cop the option will be plain as day, same for everything else. It would have been easier if you had chosen your stats before starting the game and it chose the appropriate dialogue options for you. On the same topic, the only thing affected by it are a slight change in dialogue. If you're a communist there's a slight chance a character might reference it here or there, but other than that, the game's exactly the same.
As I previously said, the game puts you on the shoe of a detective. Now, this doesn't mean you get to act as a detective, it just means your character is one. The amount of thinking you need to do in this game to progress is tantamount to the amount of thinking it takes to stare at a wall for 25 hours. Anything you need to do is neatly and thoroughly told to you by the game mechanics, that being your stats, conversations with your partner/suspects or simply following what it says on the task menu. I'd say it's a highly interactive visual novel than an adventure or RPG game. This is where I'd point out the game needed some sort of combat, but that's a personal wish, because I enjoy tactical combat in RPGs. In truth, it just needed some sort of challenge other than clicking on everything and talking to everyone, then following the tasks given to you.
Now, that's not to say the game's necessarily boring, but if you expect to play as a regular Sherlock Holmes deducing the shit out of stuff and confronting suspects with your oh so clever discoveries you're in for a bad time. You'll be playing as someone telling Holmes to do his thing, but never doing it yourself.
Random Number GenerationChaos in the system
The (literal) throw of the dice
Why is this here? I like to be punished by the rng as much as the next guy, but when I fail a 97% chance for the eight time, something went wrong. First of all, I don't understand why the devs didn't allow you to get a 100% chance of success. You can be an omniscient god and still have a chance of failure when asked what is 2+2. Second, they didn't make losing fun. The flavor text is funny (the writing in general is excellent, but more on that later), but other than that, it just makes it so you can't do something. There is no real consequence to failing, and I'm pretty sure you can get through the game by failing every stat check, which is okay, since passing them is not only random, but also arbitrary as to how the amount of points you have in a skill gives you the win percentage. It just isn't fun when you fail them, and winning them isn't rewarding.
This is mildly alleviated by the fact that you can retry most checks if you put points into the used stat. Of course that means you won't be able to retry most checks with stats you don't plan on developing. This is somewhat of a problem on checks that have bonuses, for example, if you interrogate a suspect thoroughly you will get added bonuses to a stat check (ie: "+1 for asking about backlog" "+1 for shaming him on the size of his backlog", etc). I failed "inflated" checks of 70-80% that I wouldn't get to try again because I wasn't dumping points on the stat used.
Of course, none of this matters, since you can save scum every check. I don't have the muscle memory for it so reloading a save usually meant a lot of time lost, so I barely bothered.
If I were to develop this game, I probably would have used hidden stat checks. Logic more or equal to 7? You pass! Sadly, that would remove the only challenge the game presents, but when your challenge is just being annoying, better to be easy than the alternative.
The StoryMisdirection and Missed opportunities
The story seems intriguing at first, but little by little you realize it's utterly inconsequential. The dialogue focuses mostly about characters and the towns history. That would be fine on it's own right, but the main focus on the game is story progression. (The next part is spoiler heavy, and even thought I don't think it will detract from gameplay, since the game's strong points don't rely on it, I would still advice you to skip it if you want to experience the game for yourself. Otherwise, keep on reading, you've been warned.)
The first bits of info the games gives you: there's been a hanging, there's a strike going on in town, you're a piece of shit that destroys everything you touch. So far so good. You run around town meeting some wacky characters and getting bits and pieces of the story, mostly misdirection and lies, and doing side tasks if you think they look funny enough, or you want to stick by an archetype you were building for your character. But by the time you reach the ending, you realize the game played it's hand right at the beginning, it was bluffing, and it lost. Turns out nothing was really important, the killer is some recluse soldier living in a near island that killed the victim because he was "a bourgeoisie meanie" and was having a relationship with a woman the recluse was sexually attracted to. Keep in mind, we never come into contact with him until the very end, and the excuse he has is that he has been watching the city with his sniper scope. To get to the island we use 'forensics' to determine where the gunshot came from, so we go there and find this old man just sitting there. He confesses to everything and in the end we come back to the town, where we face the protagonists 'old squadron'. They again tell us how much of a piece of shit we are and after some dialogue the credits start rolling. Woopty doo! The union war was meaningless and every motive and suspicion we had about everyone we met is thrown out the window. None of your choices matter beside the immediate payoff and the way you characterize your character doesn't either . Is almost like the game is laughing at you for expecting your 24 hours of gameplay to have any meaning.
I'll give credits to the story to make sense until it decided to throw everything out of the window. EXCEPT! Everything relies on introduction of characters, or, in other words, game progression. The mystery moves at the pace it wants to, and there's nothing you can do about it. It has an extremely linear story-line, which in turn restricts the player. Where's the freedom or improvisation usually found in rpgs?
I admit I'm the least qualified person to give an opinion on this, but maybe the writers should have used Knox's ten commandments of detective fiction (except maybe no.5). Simply put the murder the story centers itself upon isn't fun to solve or play through.
The Dialogue and WritingA shining beacon of hope
Let's talk about it
This is probably the most talked aspect about the game, and with good reason. The quality of this game's writing is amazing and it should win every award there is about it. I don't know how to review writing since I'm a dum dum that barely reads one or two books a year, but if I were to throw a few buzzwords around, I'd say it has a lot of wit, it's very smart and they nail down the comedic aspects, you'll laugh a lot playing this game. The writing alone is probably worth a playthrough if you can ignore everything negative I said about the game.
Now that I got the praise out the way, you need to understand: the writing *had* to be this good, since it's 85% of the game. If you're not talking to someone you're walking on your way to talk to someone, and if you're examining an item or area, you still have dialogue in the form of the skills you choose for your character. In this game, the stats you choose will talk to you and aid you in your detective pursuits. This is the unique part that distinguishes this game from any other, and it's a twist so beautifully performed and interwoven into gameplay it sort of saddens me it was used in this game where everything other mechanic is forgettable and boring, but I'm hopeful the devs will continue to use it and improve it in their future games. What you can get in replayability terms will probably come in the form of testing different skills throughout multiple playthroughs, since the rest of the game mostly remains the same the second time around.
Worldbuilding and Extremes
The only gripe I have with the writing, is it's habit of oversharing. There must have been some history fanatics on the writing team, because a lot of the dialogues are about explaining the intricate history of the city, the multiple historical figures that affected it, dates, events, geography, most things you can think about developing for a fictional city, they have it covered. I'm sure there's plenty of people that find it interesting, but I'm not one of those people. By the fourth time I was being told about the revolution, I was already skipping through text at a moderate pace. By the hundredth, I was falling asleep, desperately trying to grab any speck of attention I had left, lest I missed something important. I'm not gonna sit through the million words script the game has and decide what's important of not, but I'm pretty sure you could have condensed or left out a little to make it a bit more digestible. Then again, I can always say I'm not the target demographic and leave it at that.
Everything elseMiscellaneous adventures
It's serviceable. You highlight things with tab, you click on things to get a description or to interact, and you click on people to talk to them. The running around is really tedious. I encountered a lot of backtracking or just walking around in general trying to find new dialogue options or things I missed, it accounted for a sizable portion of my time spent with the game. I wish there was a fast travel system. And the playable areas aren't even that big!
I liked the style used, and while game models and scenery is nothing breathtaking, a lot of love went into the artwork and it shows. The stat screen specially has some interesting characterizations in the form of paintings of the different skills you can acquire.
Music and Sound design
This is a really weird aspect of the game. I barely ever heard it, almost at all. I remember the distinct sound of something shuffling when you try a stat check, but other than that, maybe some faint background music when you walk around. Another weird detail is that some character voices have different volumes, but not quality, like they were all recorded in the same microphone, but the director forgot to tell some voice actors to get closer to the mic. Either way it didn't affect my experience neither negative or positively, I really don't know what to comment on it.
You can't rebind keys?! Such a seemingly simple feature that would enhance the experience for so many of us. I wanted to rebind the tab key(used to highlight objects) to my middle mouse key, so I could exclusively use the mouse, but couldn't. I ended up using AutoHotKey, but I don't think it would have taken the devs much work to include a native option. Other than that, also serviceable. You click on things and dialogue options, not much to discuss here.
Initial Reaction and Disappointment
To be honest, I was ready to hail the game as exceptional upon my first 6 hours of gameplay or so. I was having a lot of fun with the dialogue and the exploration, and I remember thinking how the tasks you're assigned don't really feel "forced" filler quests like in many other rpgs, but instead are very organic and you don't really feel like you're ticking down a list, but instead living in this fictional world and feeling part of it through the tasks given. That feeling went out the door pretty quickly, since every task boiled down to talking to someone, then having to interact with an object or talk to someone else, then talking to the original person again to finish the quest, or simply just passing a skill check without any further input. You do this all throughout the game, and it's very repetitive.
ConclusionThe End of the review
All in all, Disco Elysium is an okay game greatly elevated by it's writing, with a fantastic introduction, which sadly doesn't have enough surprises to last you until the endgame, but remains consistent enough that while repetitive, it doesn't become less enjoyable.
I feel like I've been too negative on a game I very much liked, but I also feel that it has been somewhat misrepresented as this perfect game that can do nothing wrong by most of the player base and journalism in general. Every game has flaws, ignoring them isn't gonna make them go away and it robs the opportunity for improvement, and this game is definitely not perfect.
RONIN: The backlog is dead
RONIN is an action game with a twist, where the combat is turn-based in a 2d platformer environment. In your turn you can either move, kill an enemy if you're close enough or use a special ability. It's inspired by Gunpoint, a game which I played around 5 years ago for about an hour so you'll forgive me if I can't make any comparisons.
Right off the bat I'm going to say I don't dislike the game, but it has a lot of problems. For one, the turn based combat mechanic is barely developed throughout the game, with barely any enemy, location or weapon variety. The skills *sort of* bring a little spice to the gameplay, but half of them are useless or extremely situational.
There's only 4 skills, with a couple of power ups for each, but I only found two skills useful throughout the game. You need stamina to use skills, which you get by knocking(1 stamina) or killing enemies (2 stamina). All good here, so what's the problem? Any other non skill action also takes stamina away from you. Unless you fall on an enemy directly from above, you're going to push it further away from you when knocking it, which means you have to use the stamina you just gained from knocking him to get near him again to kill him. Not knocking him means he can use his turn to shoot you, and you don't want that, since one shot will kill you. Let's take the sword throw as an example. This skill (as some others) has the condition that you need to be airborne to use it, and it requires two stamina. So, you kill an enemy, get two stamina, and go airborne, which uses up one stamina. Now, you're left with just one stamina so you can't use the sword throw. This is just one example but the stamina system really limits the times you can use skills, and it's just one of the problems this game has.
Another problem: Variety. I think I understand why there's only two 4 skills: the game's really short. I'm guessing the dev didn't want to overwhelm the player with too many options or didn't want to make the character too overpowered, and the solution to that was limit the number of skills. The problem with this is that more choices would add replayability and you could allow the player to adjust to their own preferred playstyle, not to mention making combat more fun, which brings us to the next problem of the game: The combat is too bloody repetitive.
The combat is too repetitive. There's only 4 unique enemies. 4!! Introducing: Guy with gun, guy with machine gun, guy with sword and guy with phone! Gun guy shoots at you every turn, machine gun guy shoots at the same spot twice, basically suppressing fire, guy with sword does a dash, and can only be knocked down and subsequently killed by attacking him. Guy with phone triggers a lockdown of the facility after 8 turns, and that's it. This four enemies are all you're going to see for the whole game, so you better start asking names so you can refer to each other on a first-name basis. There's also civilians, which you're not supposed to kill, but they are more a nuisance than a meaningful game mechanic. The only diversity in later levels is that more guys show up to the party. I'm okay with not having many enemies when the ones you have are complex and interesting and make for varied gameplay, which is sadly not the case here. Every battle is 90% similar to the last, and after a while you either get annoyed because the amount of enemies is frustrating or because it's too easy to win small fights since you already know what to do.
Since it's turn based, I'm guessing the developer wants you to approach combat as if it were chess, but since skills are extremely restrictive, enemies are boring after a while and there's little to no complexity to the gameplay, I'd say you have to approach it more as if you were playing a very action packed game of UNO. The icing on the cake: Controls are also extremely restrictive.
If you're not in a fight, you can jump, move and throw hooks at your heart content. During a fight though? Well, obviously it's very bad etiquette to move during fights, you can only jump in wide arcs and waste a turn throwing a hook without knowing exactly what trajectory you're going to make when swinging from it. We're all familiar with the concept of gravity, right? If you're hanging from a thread, you can't apply force on the thread to propel yourself towards the sides, you need to go straight down! Any deviation from this would destroy modern science as we know it, clearly.
Seriously, though, you'll be fighting the controls almost as much as you'll be fighting the enemies, but mostly because sometimes they don't act as you initially intended, and while it may not always kill you, it will frustrate you to no end when it does. I had way more fun with the game when you weren't on a combat situation, and I was stealthily swing from roof to roof killing unsuspected enemies, free from the shackles that was the turn based gameplay.
The Closing Thoughts
I enjoyed my time with RONIN but I wouldn't play it again, ever. It feels like it could have been of one of those amazing hidden indie gems, if only the developer would have put a little bit of time to polish all the things they half assed, or at the very least spent some more time playtesting their own game. I saw on the forums that the game was on early access at one point? That confuses me to no end because unless the dev released a demo and then made the rest of the game through early access this doesn't feel like something that went through a lot of development after the base completion and release.
I also want to mention New Game + (didn't know in which category to put it, combat got a little long), the story and the artwork (too short to make it it's own category). NG+ it's pretty much the same as the first playthrough. There's one enemy that gets an upgrade, making him a bit more deadly (or frustrating, however you want to call it), and other than that I didn't notice any other major change. The story is almost non existent, since every mission it's "do some hacking", and you get a couple of phrases thrown at you at the start of the game and at the start of the some missions. I like the artstyle and animations are nice and smooth but it also feels like a regular flash game, not a game sold on steam for 13 bucks, but I guess that comes down to preference.
Contrasting 1001 Shadow Dragons
This is a great tool for making small rpg hack 'n slash adventures (2-20 minutes long), but the problem is 99% of the content is community based, so 90% of what you get is uninspired, simple and mind-numbing. A lot of the adventures I encountered were titled "My first try" or "Small dungeon/map/whatever" and you could probably not tell the difference between them. The other 10%, however, are great experiences that make great use of the adventure editor and managed to impress me. Of course, I didn't play ALL the available maps (there are over 10000), but I'm fairly certain the percentages remain the same throughout the whole community content, having played 500 (give or take a few) adventures.
This is what you could consider another rpg making tool. I haven't played any community based stories yet, but based on the main story made by the developers, this kind of rpg tool might be a little bit more refined. Gameplay is turn based strategy, with a linear storyline, and I found it pretty fun, maybe a little too easy in Normal difficulty. Something that bugged me though, is that in the last mission you need to carry at least two people with a special weapon. If you just bring one you can't progress at all. Luckily, you can "rewind" filesaves, but I still think some warning would've been nice. I really enjoyed the story, and the different classes of characters might give it a bit of replayability value.
10/10 platformer. Hard as nails. Really puts the laughter in slaughter. Excellent level design, and every mistake made is only your fault. You will die a lot and your whole body will go into a self-induced paralysis as you attempt that jump for the hundred time, confident you'll make it this time. Finishing a level might give you a god complex, and it might feel so good you'll never be able to enjoy life again, because nothing will amount to what you just did. Or maybe I'm exaggerating. Either way, a must for platformer fans.
It was okay. For some reason I had it pictured as a great indie gem, but it's just another 3d plataformer with a twist that, in my opinion, was underdeveloped. Story is okay, nothing too great but not forgettable either. Puzzles are kind of repetitive and in some cases were frustrating for me because the shadow mechanic glitched out and I had to start over, several times. Game lasts about 2 hours or around 3-4 if you want to 100% it's a fairly easy 100% too. All in all, I enjoyed my time with Contrast, but with a little more thought put into it, it could've been something truly special.
Up next: Who knows?
How to: Overthrow a goverment.
Another chapter in the Do It Yourself: Anarchy Edition series!
In this little RogueLike shoot 'em up hack 'n slash RPG you are part of a group called "The Resistance" that is trying to kill a corrupt mayor in order to free the town. To do that you must travel through different environments divided in 3 segments, and you start again if you die. NOW, the game is in a state of pretty early alpha, meaning the current amount of actual gameplay is small and limited. There's a huge amount of items, weapons and characters, but the game itself it's only those 3 levels, which get really repetitive after a while (8+ hours did it for me). Easy 100% but it takes quite a bit of grinding: you need to finish the first and second level with 5 different characters. That took me a while since some characters are backed into a corner sometimes due to their abilities not being useful to finish the level missions. Good thing is that there is not just one fixed way of finishing a mission, depending on your character or rng luck you'll have a ton of possible approaches, and this aspect really helps replayability. It also has a kind of goofy-meta humor, that I personally really enjoyed.
I got this game in the Humble TinyBuild Bundle $15+ tier, which I think was a bit much for a game that is in an alpha state, but the developer seems dedicated to the game so in my opinion I paid third tier for the possibility of a third tier game (although this is highly subjective so take it with a grain of salt).
Next up: Another 2 months of silence.
Assassination Aftermath: Radioactive content ahead.
Now this is the definition of a classic. Great from start to finish, with all the defining qualities of a good rpg: Lots of choices, customization, interesting quests and Dogmeat! A lot of people don't like the graphics, think it's outdated and it didn't age well. I completely disagree with those people. I see it as a graphic style that is unique to that game, like Borderlands, MadWorld, Heavy Bullets or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Granted, I didn't play many games from before the 2000 in 3d, so that may be why it's so unique to me. The only problem I had with the graphics was that some objects blend into each other because of very similar colors, but it wasn't a huge issue. I got the ending in which the super mutants invade most of the settlements you saved and I will definitely come back to it to get other endings, but besides that I feel the game doesn't offer much in terms of replayability, chances are that after your first playthrough you will have seen most of what the game has to offer, except maybe random encounters that are based on luck.
One SG Win in the bag! All of the other ones remaining!
Short puzzle game a la minesweeper. Except minesweeper relies on rng and logic, while in Hexcells it's a predetermined grid,
Finished original BoI
I ran into some problems with this one. The last achievement popped up before hand, so now it looks like I got it before actually finishing the game, but the game’s so full of bugs I won’t even bother fixing it with SAM. This one is CONSIDERABLY harder than Rebirth, because the optimization
sucks huge enormous balls is bad so you’ll get a lot of lag if too much is going on in the screen, among other problems. I hadn’t picked this one up for a long time because I was playing rebirth, and I have to say I don’t like it as much as I did with my first 200+ hours. It’s still good, but now that there is Rebirth there is no point in playing the original simply because Rebirth actually works. Either way I’ll still enjoy it in 50 years when I decide to replay some “retro” games of my youth.
I DID IT!
2 games have been assassinated
I recently finished both Refunct and A Boy and his Blob. Refunct is a short (very short) first person platformer that doesn’t have much going on for it, but it compensates by the fact that it’s only half an hour long. It also asks some pretty deep questions that will hurt you philosophically. All in all a fun experience. Extremely easy 100% that will only take you half an hour.
Now A Boy and his Blob, that’s a whole other deal. I have conflicted opinions, because on one hand, it does so many things right, and on the other, it fails where it matters most: the gameplay. The game is slow, and frankly, boring. There’s no sense of challenge and everything is so easy you could probably do it with your eyes closed. The only challenge lies in the awful controls, and that’s never fun. But I will say that I enjoyed it enormously. The art is gorgeous (to my taste), the music is beautiful, and the characters are unique and charming. Crushing the black goo enemies is fun and trying out all of the blob transformations is also entertaining. So all in all if you want a relaxing experience without any difficulty other than trying to adjust to the controls, I’d definitely recommend it.
It’s also a pretty easy (albeit time consuming) 100% if you are looking to increase your completed games count.
On a side note I’ll have 100%ed The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth in exactly 4 days.
Stay tuned for our next broadcasting where we show you how to make a magic trick involving just 4 cards and backlog.