What’s up 2020 ?
Like a lot of people all around the world, I’m in quarantine, so it’s the perfect time for a first 2020 BLAEO post. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel like holidays because I still have to take care of the kids, prepare meals, work from home and sometimes from the office. So my gaming time hasn’t exactly skyrocketed.
Anyway, I don’t scrutinize my backlog on a regular basis but it feels great to see only 41% of my games are yet unplayed (less than half is a psychological turning point even if it means 180 games). And I beat or completed 25% of my games !
Currently going on : LEGO® the Lord of the Rings™ (hate those ® and ™), the usual Pixel Puzzles Ultimate and recently, I found out 2 new time-wasters in Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator.
Last post of 2019 !
I was supposed to publish this text in November but my procrastination struck again and I finished this post on the verge of 2020.
When I look back at the games I played during the last months, I think I made nice picks in my backlog and played a lot of good games (well, actually, it’s because the bad ones, I just dropped them !).
Currently going on : The LEGO® NINJAGO® Movie Video Game (hate those double ®), the usual Pixel Puzzles Ultimate and recently, a lot of Forza Horizon 4.
Summer’s gone and my AC spree finally dried up
Because I tend to post too sporadically, I have a lot to report since my last post (5 months ago says BLAEO).
Ongoing : Pictopix ; Cook, Serve, Delicious ; Pumped BMX + ; Chroma Squad.
What’s up since my last post ? Not much in term of backlog-stabbing I’m afraid.
I didn’t play a lot of games and of course beat even less. Honestly, I could even sum up my game time during the past 6 months to beating 2 games, both third iterations of renowned series : Just Cause 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3.
Other than that, I also spent :
- some time on Dirt Rally (again) and much more on Pixel Puzzles Ultimate and Pictopix than I reasonably should,
- a couple hours in order to complete Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire (well, it’s mahjong solitaire, with cliché not-so-pretty girls with big bosom to lure you in ; doesn’t really deserve a note, right ? If really needed, it would be “lewd / 10”. ;-) )
- 3 hours on La-Mulana (found it too hard and punitive),
- 12 hours on Rimworld (this game should so be my thing but it’s not, some things don’t click : I mainly blame the lack of control on what the characters do, that my control-freakness dislikes very much),
- 10 hours on Parkitect (my first insight in the theme park games : pleasant little experience but the management aspect is underwhelming, hence the neglect after 10 hours of playtime, because I’m not really interested in designing roller coasters),
- precisely 21 minutes on Hearts of Iron III (won on Steamgift but the game kept on crashing and I couldn’t make it work on my system),
- 1 hour on Eufloria (so much for another ABC challenge game : didn’t feel it so dropped it),
- 7 hours on Cook, Serve, Delicious (fun in small doses and some casual gaming sometimes fits perfectly in my agenda ; reminds me of Epistory in that it makes me a typing hero),
- 13 hours on LEGO MARVEL Super Heroes with my kids as an audience (love it when after playing, my son rushes back to his real Lego and recreates scenes he just witnessed in the game).
It’s been many months since my last update : I plea guilty of procrastinating this post. Summer went by and here’s already Fall. :/
I left aside a small number of multiplayer games I played a couple hours each : they are all F2P and pretty forgettable. And the usual Dirt Rally and Pixel Puzzles too.
Finally, on a side note, I’m afraid completing my ABC plan is gonna take me much more than a year. But like says T.S. Eliot (and it would make a nice slogan for BLAEO) :
“the journey not the arrival matters”.
May is over and I managed to eliminate 6 more games from my backlog (2 from my ABC project) since the last update at the end of April.
Looking back 1,5 month
It’s been a few days I should have started to write March’s recap, so I’m gonna look back both March and half of April.
Like announced in my last post, I decided first to finish XCOM2 and then dove into Hollow Knight. On the way, I also moved forward in my ABC project with the Shrouded Isle and strolled in Dirt Rally.
XCOM2 : I loved XCOM-EU/EW, which was my first encounter with this venerable franchise but XCOM2 didn’t make my heart go wild as the previous episode had. I can’t explain much why : in fact, I didn’t see many differences between the 2 games apart from being the attacker in the sequel rather than defending Earth in the previous one. The campaign rhythm is still compelling, forcing you to always go forward eventhough you would prefer to fill your weaknesses and strengthen your team. The enemies are good and varied. The difficulty curve is still sharp : I had begun in Normal but ended in Easy because I didn’t want to start from scratch because of bad decisions taken while I didn’t know what to expect in my first run.
I read the WotC DLC is pretty good but I don’t think I want to go back at it for the moment.
Verdict on XCOM2: 6,5/10
Hollow Knight : my oh my ! Orkestra had warned me in February that Life is Strange maybe wouldn’t stay my 2018 GOTY after I had begun HK : oh, how right he was ! HK is without any doubt a masterpiece, a Metroidvania gem and landed right on top of my 2018 podium.
What stands out for me is how the game manages to draw out the pleasure of always discovering new things, be it zones, enemies, power-ups, bosses, etc. This game is so deep : for hours, it seemed to me there was no bottom and every time I discovered a new zone I thought “That sure is the last zone that was to be unveiled” but I was wrong. Even after you’ve discovered all the map, the beginning stage you visited countless times gets transformed and becomes harder : what a brilliant idea !
Let’s speak about bosses. I usually hate bosses but in HK, where there are tens of them, I wasn’t reluctant to face them. I’ve seen HK compared to Dark souls (but what game hasn’t been compared to DS ? :) for how the inventory is lost but can be retrieved every time you die, and for the many bosses you meet. I never played any DS (I’m intimidated by the supposed difficulty) but HK’s not that hard and the punishment it inflicts you is always fair : once you master your character’s moves and powers, and you study well the bosses’ attacks and patterns (I confess having watched a lot of playthrough on YouTube in order to assimilate faster these patterns), it’s not so hard. Some are tough but with patience and the right charms (see further), you can beat them. That being said, I also confess in the end, I wasn’t patient enough, after almost 50 hours of play, to beat the Grimm troupe (I read the Dream version of Grimm is really a nightmare) and skipped this part.
This pops up the charms : this system is so innovative, so rewarding, so practical to adopt your fighting style. I loved chasing them and then trying them out to find out which ones suited me the best.
Congrats on the Cherry team for developing this game and still continuing to deepen (freely, without any charged DLCs for the time being !) the gameplay.
Verdict on Hollow Knight : 9/10
the Shrouded Isle : this little management game was in my ABC project and I decided after Hollow Knight, it was a good time to play something lighter. Well, I’d rather say shorter because the atmosphere of tSI is very dark and oppressive.
It’s basically a story of sacrifice : every season, you have to kill someone among the 5 main families, in a sacrifice for the local God, without destroying the village’s cohesion.
Very quickly, I suffered the Crusader King 2’s syndrome where you don’t really care for the story or what the characters say or live anymore, but you only look at the events’ output and the influence on the parameters you monitor (5 categories and the 5 families mood, to maintain above a given level).
If you’re good at this, you can finish the game in less than 2 hours. It took me roughly 4 hours : it was moderately fun but I wonder how much I would have been ready to pay for this kind of very short game (actually, I got it through a Barter’s trade).
Verdict on the Shrouded Isle : 5/10
Dirt Rally : I love car games but I still haven’t found any better than Forza Motorsport 4 (on XBOX 360) where the career mode is well balanced, not too long and incentive enough. DR isn’t the most generous game in terms of cars or stages proposed. The wrapping is also miles away from a Forza Horizon spirit, which is fine for me coz’ I hate being taken for a hipster teenager. What matters to me in a car game is above all the physics and they are pretty well rendered in DR (nothing surprising coming from Codemasters). I think I’m gonna play DR sporadically in the coming months, a few races here and there.
Looking back at February
I postponed this post for a few days, more by idleness than by shame beacuse there’s no reason to be ashame this month. On the contrary, I can be proud of my February activity : 3 games beaten (among which 1 was on my ABC project), thanks to a private Challenge me event. In the meantime, contrary to what I thought in January, I almost didn’t touch to Terraria : I’m afraid this one is gone again in the depths of my backlog (sigh). My game cravings are so odd.
Anyway, let’s look back at this recent activity in chronological order.
Steamworld Heist : I was so hyped by the facts that 1) Evilblacksheep is so eagerly enthusiastic about this game, 2) I’m a huge fan of the XCOM franchise and 3) I had really loved Steamworld Dig and its robots world. But the higher the expectations, the harder it is for a game to reach such high standards. All in all, I liked the game but I expected to fall in love with it (sigh).
To sum it up in a mesclun mix : the music is great ; the story is average ; some perks are quite innovative ; I didn’t like some of the level design (sometimes hard for me to tell which platforms were bullet-proof and which could be shot through) ; the boss stages (especially the last one) were a pain in the a$$ :/ .
Verdict on Steamworld Heist: 6/10
The Deadly Tower of Monsters : now that I give a grade to my games on BLAEO, this one’s gonna be pretty hard to assess.
On the one hand, I absolutely loved the idea of making a pastiche of 60s low-budget sci-fi B-movies. The very idea of the director commenting the game like it’s a DVD version of its film is brilliant. The implementation of this idea also turns out to be hilarious, even though I regret not to be perfectly fluent in English (not my native language) since it was sometimes hard to listen to the commentaries (or read the subtitles) while I was playing some attention-requiring stages.
On the other hand, once you set aside the coating, the candy tasted pretty sour. I mean, the gameplay is lame (a badly scripted beat’em all), the camera terrible, the weapons always disappointingly unresponsive, the platform parts frustrating. OK, you can take it all for a tongue-in-cheek humor but the point is the gaming part of the game is not very fun : annoying for a game, huh ?
Verdict on The Deadly Tower of Monsters : 5/10 (+2 if you value more the container than the content)
Life is Strange : what a plat de resistance ! At first, I was a bit afraid of the game, having read mixed reviews where either people loved it, either hated it. Moreover, this kind of slow, narrative, contemplative game is really not a genre I’m usually into. But on the exact opposite of Steamworld Heist’s scheme, I had relatively low expectations and they were skyrocketed by the output : I was thrilled !
(I don’t want to spoil but don’t read this if you want to keep LiS charm intact.)
What can I say that hasn’t already be said ? I’m very aware of a few flaws : the animations are simplistic and occasionally disconnected from what’s going on, the story developments are sometimes predictable and some gameplay around the end is very tedious to say the less (those who finished the game will surely know what I’m talking about). And yet I loved the game, in spite of these flaws and I even wonder if I didn’t love it more because of such minor flaws, just like when you’re attracted by a person with an unsettling beauty, far from usual canons.
Listing all the things I loved will be long ;). First, from the very beginning, I liked the peaceful, natural atmosphere, the overall golden lighting and the setting in small town, somewhere in a US Northwestern state. I enjoyed how DONTNOD depicted those teenage years, not in a sensationalist way, without skimming off all the fck and sht in the dialogues : I think the core of the story is about friendship and that time when you become adult. But it’s also the first time I play a game broaching so many serious topics (suicide, harassment, depression, alcoholism, environmental issues, handicap, euthanasia, etc) in a clever, sensitive way, far from the usual cliches. I love the photographic background and how it’s used in the game to encourage you to rummage around the sceneries (on a side note, it also quite easily permits to 100% the game !). The voice actors are stupendous and play a big role in how you really grow attached to the characters : OK, I admit I wanted to slap Chloe and tell her to grow up from time to time, but that’s because she’s a well-written character, well embodied by her actress. The music was perfect (I obviously became addicted to the menu theme and to Obstacles). The graphic style fits fantastically well with the rest of the game : I witnessed the most beautiful sky I ever saw in a game.
This game is such an emotional roller-coaster : this must have been written countless times about the game but it’s so true. It’s proven all along the whole game but it’s epitomized by episode 5 : what a memorable finish ! Even if I said earlier some storyline could be anticipated, I was also struck a few times by some scenario U-turns.
It’s a bit strange to talk about GOTY that early in 2018 , but so far, LiS is clearly my GOTY !
Verdict on Life is Strange : 9/10
Looking forward to March, I decided it was about time to finally erase from my backlog some games started a long time ago, starting with XCOM2 that I’m about to beat. I also succumbed to Hollow Knight, a longtime top-of-my-wishlist dweller that was offered to me a few weeks ago.
Good bye January, 1984 and Mordor !
Since my last post, I’ve yet made some progress through my ABC project (currently 4/23) and beat Orwell lately.
But first, for the monthly challenge, I finally brought Middle-Earth : Shadow of Mordor to an end, along fellow BLAEO-er Jowy.
My opinion about ME:SoM is commonplace I think : the game is nice, well done, technically all set but it lacks something, call it personality or ambition. The sandbox is a strength to me, since it’s well implemented : you choose your target among Orcs leaders, analyze its weak side, track it, hunt it, get rid of the minions and finally slash it. The problem is the rest of the game equals totally more of the same : target, analyze, track, hunt, kill, rinse and repeat. The supposed core of the game, that is to say the storyline missions, is pretty forgettable, even more for someone like me with no particular affinity for the Lords of the Rings’ universe (I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s trilogy and that’s it). I happen to own ME:SoM’s GOTY version but I don’t feel like even glancing at the DLCs. My monthly challenge’s buddy Jowy told me he basically felt the same way about the game overall and the DLCs in particular.
BTW, fighting along Orcs and the backlog with Jowy was a good motivation to go through the game, even if it was hard to push forward at the same pace and to be able to find some time to exchange feedbacks. So, hooray for January monthly theme !
Verdict on Middle-Earth : Shadow of Mordor : 6,5/10
Orwell : while we were on a roll after ME:SoM, Jowy and I agreed to go on the monthly challenge and beat Orwell, (virtually) side by side. Once again, we succeeded but I was slightly disappointed…
First, with such a title, you can presume the game is about the concepts of privacy and social surveillance. Indeed, your character is part of some Big Brother project, in an imaginary country. Your new job is to monitor targeted people by spying their mails, phone calls, social media posts, etc : in concrete terms, it translates in the game in doing some sort of copy-paste of pre-chosen sentences. I found this dim gameplay to be boring but like Jowy said to me, you’re part of a blind and cold administration, so it’s normal to feel bored while doing these everyday chores. Jowy 1, RomTaka 0. ;)
What is supposed to be the heart of the game is the story, and while I write that, I realize the game is definitely closer to a VN than I would have thought at first : rather than the dialogs and answers you give like in a normal VN, it’s the pieces of “truth” you choose to pick, in order to paint a character honest or shady, insignificant or interesting, innocent or guilty, that direct Orwell’s story. This being said, the game is very rigid and guiding and would have been better if you could have chosen more freely the sentences and facts you want to retain. So, you could say that just like in a VN, your decisions can bend the story in a direction or another, but even with my single run, I feel like these changes of direction are very few. Moreover, even though the game is divided in acts, you have to start over the whole game in order to take different decisions and see how it affects the story : poor choice of game design. About the technical aspects, there’s almost no music or sound and very few animations (BTW, it’s really a shame you have to wait for the conversations to scroll down in real time and can’t fast forward) : once again, don’t expect Orwell to be fun. If you expect it to make you think, you could be more satisfied but myself, considering I’m already pretty sensitive to all the privacy protection subject, I don’t grant the game any particular enlightenment.
The good point is I beat one more game on my ABC project. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Verdict on Orwell : 5/10
Finally, it had been years that I hadn’t touched Terraria but a few months ago, I saw Steam achievements had been added to the game, so this month, I decided to give it a try again. I had already played some 35 hours in my previous run but I plunged back instantly : as of today, I added 38 hours to my playtime and 44 achievements !
What a delight to dig, loot, fight underground mobs, gear yourself, set your arena and return victorious from a boss fight ! As of now, I finally managed to beat the Wall of Flesh and subsequently enter the hardmode. What I like best in Terraria, it’s I can progress at my own pace (in spite of random events and although in hardmode the Corruption and Hallow now slowly but surely invades the map), which honestly means I can linger as much as I want : this way, I’m thoroughly preparing to face the Mechanical bosses and not ready to quit Terraria !
February will be a “Challenge me” month for me, so I should be busy next month beating at least 1 or 2 of my assigned games… and continuing Terraria.
ABC project on track
Tibetan Quest: Beyond the World's End
Middle-earth™: Shadow of Mordor™
Koi-Koi Japan [Hanafuda playing cards]
Unbox : one more ABC project game finished !
This is the kind of nice little game that I will unfortunately forget soon after I finished it. This is also the kind of game where I feel sorry for the graphist designer(s), who created a beautiful world that the game designer failed to bring to life.
All in all, I spent 6 fun hours being a little cardboard box, jumping around the 3 levels and half but the gameplay’s too restrictive : you can roll, jump and… jump higher. With these abilities, you have to track down (a lot of) collectible gizmos, run 3 or 4 little races on each level (whether “on foot” - if I may say - or aboard cars), crush a few enemies here and there, face 3 bosses and… that’s it. A pity the devs didn’t exploit better the beautifully crafted levels (a tropical island, a ski resort, another island, plus the main hub, on a boat). On top of that, there are a few bugs : the worst one happened when I - as a cardboard box, remember ? - was trying to push big stone balls into slots, without ‘em falling in the water. Have you ever tried pushing a ball when you’re a cube ? I guess not but it’s hell and after some long minutes, when I finally succeeded in placing the 3 balls in their slots, my little cardboard box laid down and never stood up again. I had to redo the whole stone-pushing nightmare in order to get my stamp (yes, all the trials reward you with a stamp, ‘coz you’re a self-delivering package, as a matter of fact).
I’ve read in the credits that Unbox is supposed to be some sort of a tribute to Banjo and Kazooie : I never played any game from this acclaimed series but I have the feeling Unbox failed to echo the role model. A few screenshots where you can admire my customized box
Tibetan Quest: Beyond the World’s End : another beaten game from my ABC project !
TB:BWE AKA just another HOG : I’m definitely not a huge HOG genre fan. I had included this one in my ABC project because I thought I would need breathing spaces in between bigger games, and that plan ran smoothly. TQ:BWE isn’t particularly attractive or wily. It does the job and distracts you for a couple of hours. Nothing less, nothing more.
Other than that, I’m making progress on ABC project’s letter K : Koi-Koi Japan (Hanafuda playing cards).
Finally, outside of the ABC project, I’m near the end of Shadow of Mordor, side by side with Jowy as part of the monthly challenge : it feels more and more repetitive to mass murder tens of ugly Orcs, so I only do short play sessions. Soon to come my complete opinion !
Poll : how do you decide you beat or complete your "endless" games (such as these) ? Time spent, achievements, personal objectives, à la carte ?