It’s not a backlog, it’s a library.
You’re never going to play everything to completion so don’t worry about it.
4 months of 2021 recap
I’m quite happy with the number of games I beat during these first 4 months of 2021 : with 10, I’m on track for a record year !
Regions Of Ruin
16.4 hours, 20 of 20 achievements
I got this RoR for free on Steam if I recall well and that was a well spent investment ;-) . Sure, the game is repetitive but the gameplay loop is OK, and once in, I wanted to see the end. Actually, I played less than 4 months ago but I don't recall much of the game, except it was about dwarfs. I should review games quicker after I play them (҂◡_◡).
1.6 hours, 4 of 20 achievements
A FMV game where you have to play through the entire game (1h30 or 2h) if you want to try distinct arcs and get the different endings. It's almost all you need to know. It's basically a "you are the hero" movie and call it a video game : it's not bad but watching a movie and choosing an output every other 5 to 10 minutes is not really my idea of a fun game (or even just a game).
Rusty Lake: Roots
2.3 hours, 5 of 16 achievements
I don't like P&C, I realized I don't like escape room game either and I certainly didn't like the mobile-friendly interface, so I can safely say I didn't like RLR. So dropped it after 2 hours.
Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire
4 hours, 8 of 8 achievements
There's not much to say here neither. It's a mahjong game (not "real mahjong" Yakuza style, just the solitaire puzzle type) with big-chested anime girls in the background. Nothing special, no twist. Completed in 4 hours.
Yoku's Island Express
10.1 hours, 31 of 31 achievements
This is an underestimated gem. If you like pinball and metroidvania, YIE is the perfect mix for you, but even if only one side of the mix appeals to you (I myself am not a pinball aficionado), the game's pretty fun. And memorable : I'm sure everybody who played it perfectly remembers this unpromising hybrid of genres.
And yet, in addition to this hazardous classification, who would have bet a penny on a game starring a dung beetle ? Yes, that's a bug that feed on feces.
Like usually in metroidvania, the game imposes you a lot of backtracking, and sometimes it's really puzzling to guess where you can go or what you just unlocked, but that's the only reproach I can make. Otherwise, the realization is always perfect, with a colored and shiny atmosphere of tropical island.
YIE was the first project of the Swedish team Villa Gorilla and still the only one. I hope they will release other games as good as this one.
2.9 hours, 20 of 64 achievements
This game looked old AF and like dating back to Windows 95, whereas it was released in 2010. It's a puzzle game hard to describe : you've got blocks with arrows and must make chains of them. The campaign mode is well done since it slowly introduces new mechanics but after a total play of 3 hours, I was bored and called it quit.
3.5 hours, 30 of 30 achievements
The second free game of this recap is a 3D platformer developed by students from Quebec in 2020. It's a tribute to video game history : each of the 4 levels makes a nod to a decade of video games. One level definitely reminded me the days of PS1 for instance. It's also a collect-a-thon packed with references and a bit of trivia. Even though 3D, the handling is tip-top. The synthwave music perfectly fits the game. I completed it in around 4 hours.
Horizon Zero Dawn
43.0 hours, 37 of 79 achievements
I like to alternate AAA games with indies and short games. HZD is the biggest game of the period I managed to complete. I spent 43 hours on it so it wasn't bad but with a few fixes, it could have been so much better.
It has 3 strong points :
- the combat gameplay is decent, at least against robots, with their weak points or weaknesses against some elements. Even at the end with all perks and experience, I felt frail against some metal behemoths and it's always a better tactic to stay at a distance and stealthy rather than rush in.
- beautiful art : varied environments (mountains, deserts, cities, jungles), an endearing heroin (called Aloy) and above all a flabbergasting robot bestiary.
- a better story than 90% of your usual AAA games. The tutorial and the first encounters with all kinds of robots made me want to know how we got there, what triggered the changes, etc and this thirst of knowledge drove me all the game long.
On the other hand, the game has many little flaws that curved my enthusiasm, so much that I had to force myself in the last couple hours (and lowered the difficulty, but that's because like always, I hated the final boss fight).
The worst is the dull staging (or lack of) : all dialogs are shown from a boring standstill point of view behind Aloy's right shoulder. It's a pity because the animations and the chara-design are gorgeous. Even the cutscenes are floppy (fortunately, the music remedy a little this and overall underlines well the alternation of calm and tense moments). I heard it's because of time pressure that the studio was rushed by Sony to release the game earlier than needed, and that they set things right in the DLC (but I didn't check coz' didn't want to do it).
Even with a captivating story, the way it's unraveled through holograms ans with bits of lore hidden in books or stuff, it's a bit artificial, just like Jedi Fallen Order felt. Too bad some themes such as identity (self within a group), man-machine relationship, religion, are just skimmed because they looked promising. Sometimes the story feels lazy and sounds like a Miss world contestant speech (War is bad, y' know). In a way, that leaves things to say for HZ next episode(s). Finally, I regretted Aloy is too often a caricature of rebel teenager, in opposition with everything and everyone : she can or must save the world but remains only motivated by her personal quest.
If fighting robots is fun, fighting humans is shitty : to kill them, you need either an arrow to the head (or two for badass coz' it's well known one isn't enough to kill a man) or 14 arrows to the body or some kind of grenade. I read the advice to avoid them as much as possible and I followed it, blaming the times when the main quest compelled me to confront them. A lot of collectibles can be avoided to since you can buy all the most powerful weapons (mainly bows) since the very beginning with a bit of grind for the money.
Inventory and menus are thought for consoles and irritating on PC. The skill tree can be totally unlocked with time and therefore doesn't need you to make any choice. No real choice either in the story or the quests, even though some dialogs try to make you believe so. The parkour is quite rigid and nothing special.
Near the end, I was bored : a lot of quests and secondary characters are disposable (and already forgotten) and I got tired of always the same fights in different sceneries, so I used more and more fast travel, which broke even more my immersion. BTM, except those "pre-spawn" moments, the game is completely free of loading times and I bloody loved it.
In conclusion, the story made me want to believe such an unbelievable universe but unfortunately, many little clashing elements and blunders slowly broke my suspension of incredulity.
Game Corp DX
5.1 hours, 36 of 36 achievements
I finished this one in around 5 hours but I left it playing in the background for at least 2 hours so it's a really short game, not with a deep gameplay. In order to develop games, you hire a couple people, install their desks in an office, you tune a few cursors (choosing game genre, graphics or story investment, marketing budget, etc), are given a grade and some money, your company grows bigger and voilà, you repeat this until the final achievement.
67.9 hours, 37 of 51 achievements
Most played game of the period
The "Terraria in space" pitch wasn't a lie, and yet, although unavoidable, this comparison is a bit reductive because the 2 games feel different to me. I loved both of them but they don't shine in the same departments.
Terraria gave me a greater feeling of progression, the story is longer (and have a lot more enemies and bosses), there are more weapons types and more versatility ; last but not least, Terraria moves are way smoothier than Starbound's.
Starbound deals better with the exploration feeling for me : while Terraria only has one (big) playground, SB gives you plenty of (small) planets to explore, full of different sceneries, enemies and chests to loot. With a shorter main quest, SB is also easier to beat even if you can also assign yourself your own objectives and for example genocide planets, endlessly collect bounty rewards or terraform your home. The game is especially good in this department, with many many decoration tools and sets of furniture, it's really a game within the game to build some sort of castle (or moon base or cyberpunk slums) and furnish all of your NPC's rooms. SB's ambiance is also extraordinary and the music counts a lot into that statement : the best moments I had in the games were spent calmly harvesting food in my garden and then cooking dishes, while the rain was falling and a melancholic non-diegetic piano song was playing. I spent so much time playing like this, unlocking all the cooking recipes, that I could call the game Starbound Valley (｡◕‿◕｡).
I know a lot of people recommend to finish first a complete vanilla session before venturing into the widely acclaimed and huge mod Frackin' Universe. Now that I beat the vanilla game, maybe some day, if I feel nostalgic to SB, I'll give this mod and others a try.
4.3 hours, 19 of 33 achievements
I haven't ventured a lot into adult games territory. If I exclude a couple Sakura games I just tried for a few minutes, I think the only one I seriously played was HuniePop.
But after reading a BLAEO review by Sharky, I felt like trying CK. And I can't agree more to his statement "I clicked for the girls but actually stayed for the story". I was pleasantly surprised to find the trolley dilemma or feminist speeches in the game, and it symbolizes how some characters are unexpectedly not so shallow. I don't think I'll buy the next acts (to beckon you, this first one is free) but once in a while, it's good to change your gaming habits and try new things.
Battle Chef Brigade
8.4 hours, 10 of 25 achievements
The match-3 works very well and blending it in a cooking universe is a very good idea. The game introduces perfectly the novelties : it felt always refreshing and never boring to start a new challenge with new rules or twists. The hunting wasn't so attractive to me but it's a nice puzzle to wonder what you have to hunt in order to reap the needed ingredients. What bothered me most was the parts between the match-3…
The rhythm of the game is weird : first, those short-but-countless loading times (where you see the map with an arrow showing where the story takes place) were pretty annoying and useless in my view. Secondly, I don't think the VN and match-3 parts blend well together nor are they well balanced : a lot of dialogs are uninteresting, and the story overall is a bit too childish. It's a pity because the dubbing is good but I ended fast-reading the text and skipping the audio just to reach the match-3 mini-games. Finally, I don't get why they introduced Thrash arc only for a single chapter and near the end of the story : I mean, it's a good idea but why so late and why didn't they introduce other characters with different play-styles to vary the gameplay ?
Currently playing :
LEGO® Batman™ 3: Beyond Gotham, hexceed, Dorfromantik, Brigador.
Rest of 2020 recap
A game I played with my kids. Like often in point and click, it forced me to go back and forth repeatedly when I didn't understand clearly what was expected to unravel the story, exactly why I don't like this genre. Overall, it's basic, in animations, voices, sound, music or story but it's a nice modest introduction to gaming for kids I'd say.
2.1 hours, 1 of 19 achievements
V (yeah, let me spare myself some Vs) is a 2010 classic where you have to travel across a spaceship to rescue your partners. The trick is gravity messes with you. The short levels are never too mind-boggling and I finished the game in just 2 hours (but most of achievements are really hardcore and for PGM). With its big pixels and savvy gameplay, I feel like V can withstand forever the test of time.
Avalanche 2: Super Avalanche
10.0 hours, 16 of 22 achievements
A simple (even if wacky) concept : blocks fall through the sky while lava (or whatever) forces you to go up, so you have to use the falling blocks, sliding atop them or on their sides, to escape death. Of course, some enemies and a couple of bosses come uninvited to make it more difficult, but on the other hand, you can also pick up bonus (shield, higher jumps, dashes, higher start point…), some time-limited others permanent. It's the perfect game for short sessions of 10 or 15 minutes, and when added, I spent 10 hours until I finally beat the last boss, and I kept fond memories of this game.
And there's only 3 games left on my ABC list !
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
0.9 hours, 2 of 54 achievements
I dropped this game after 1 hour because of the way it deals with stealth and gunfights. I felt like in every level, the game forced me to always approach situations in the same way : come closer to a lone enemy, kill him stealthily, repeat with the next bad guy and when there's just a couple left, you can kill them with loud shooting. I thought the game would more look like X-COM but it's not even a distant relative, so not for my taste.
What a good game ! (CAUTION : little spoilers ahead)
Like some CD Projekt games :wink wink:, I heard this one was released in a pretty bad state, with buckets of (sometimes game-breaking) bugs. There remains some (the erratic pathfinding of NPC) but KCD's still a gem : you start as an ordinary Middle-Age fellow, son of a blacksmith in a small Moravian village, who finds himself entangled in war and a broader story, and I really felt the slow evolution till you're some sort of a knight. And yet, even when you're more powerful, you're never OP and even often helpless in a way, because for example, it's hard to win when you fight alone against more than one enemy at a time. So, all the game long, I kept that feeling of vulnerability while going through the woods. The scenery is BTW magnificent, lively and feels real, especially in the wild.
I enjoyed the different junctions in the story and different outcomes depending of your choices and the way you play : you can focus on building your character, leveling up in hunting, gathering herbs, alchemy, theft, fight, etc thanks to side quests or "free play", or you can just ride the main quest. The plot and the twists are interesting. It's rare a game makes me want to learn more about real history but I wanted to do so with Middle-Age Bohemia.
Oh how much I loved hunting in the woods, stealing and slaughtering poachers, walking the countryside always on alert after a couple of early deadly encounters with bandits (or worst, Cumans). My best time was when Black Peter set a revenge ambush the day after I managed to beat him during the tournament. Or maybe that quest with the bon vivant priest, where you share good food and good girls, and finish drunk together naked in fields at sunset. All in all, I'm full of such nice memories of the game so it's hard to retain my best one.
A special facepalm to myself when I understood only after 30 hours how to "perfect block". Well actually I knew how to do it because I had read it on forums but it didn't work and I was puzzled : the point was I had not triggered the appropriate quest (which kind of end the fighting tutorial) and so, perfect blocking wasn't yet possible… After that, duels became much easier and entertaining !
169.7 hours, 76 of 104 achievements
June and July 2020 were Terraria months, with around 90 hours spent (and the end of the game yet to overcome).
I will not present this gaming behemoth, just say that I managed to progress till the Lunatic Cultist but then stalled against him, and decided Terraria months were over. If anyone has a couple of hints for this lunatic guy, I'd be happy to beat him (and later the game).
Darkarta: A Broken Heart's Quest Collector's Edition
4.6 hours, 33 of 40 achievements
Just another HOG game, with nothing wrong in the mechanisms but always the same dull story of love, hate, good and bad guys, malediction and patronizing divinities.
Teddy Floppy Ear - The Race
2.9 hours, 7 of 14 achievements
The last Teddy Floppy Ear game was not the best of the series. OK, it's a game catering to children but the driving feeling is really bad, the power-ups vary from lousy to impenetrable and the tracks seems to date back to the Nintendo 64 era. Moreover, it's not an easy game and I doubt a kid could win by himself all the races in different modes. It's as much a chore to win a string of championships, as to pick up stars on tracks or to beat time trials. Kudos to the people that got all the achievements of this game, must not have been a sinecure.
165.6 hours, 50 of 101 achievements
After my summer Terraria marathon, I followed with a big BB surge.
I succumbed to 2 DLCs (Beast and Exploration and Warriors of the North), unlocked a couple of tricky achievements, and like for Terraria, I realized I was over my whim after 111 hours between August and September !
PC Building Simulator
2.9 hours, 9 of 74 achievements
Like many (all ?) simulator games, this one is getting repetitive once you've grasped the gameplay loop. It's interesting if you want to learn how to build PCs (I already knew most of the basics) and it's a technical feat to render every PC components and emulate how they come together in a machine, but as a game, it's not very fun to me.
LEGO® The Lord of the Rings™
38.4 hours, 48 of 48 achievements
One more LEGO game completed. This one is as buggy as former games : I had to start a second campaign on another save slot to unlock one achievement (fortunately unlockable in the first level), some jumps have to be done in diagonal with the pad while your character jumps straight onscreen. Many achievements required quite some grind. Finally, I'm not really keen on LOTR, and the universe is a bit too dark to fit LEGO but I enjoyed my time.
Horizon Chase Turbo
8.9 hours, 14 of 37 achievements
I managed to see through the end of HCT campaign and I think I'll try to unlock every achievements (not sure I'm patient enough to persevere through the endurance races though).
I have mixed feelings about this game : I regret you can keep almost always the same car, whether the track is twisty or straight and speed-oriented. Once you get the power-ups, your car is way better than your opponents' and beating them in the first levels in order to get all gold medals becomes casual. The weather or tracks variations are nice but I would have really loved if they had also implemented variations of AI behaviors, or completely different modes, because every single race feels more or less the same : you start last, catch up many cars in a glimpse and then you try to overtake number 1 and 2 rubber-banded cars, which are always miles ahead in front of others, and you usually manage to do so near the end of the race. It's often more challenging to pick up the badges scattered on the track than winning the race.
Some 15 or 20 years ago, touted by football-loving friends, I had played a version of Football Manager, when it was still called Championship Manager. But after a short time of play (with Bordeaux, this I still remember), I had dropped it because of the lack of control on the team and the lack of feedback on what happens : I felt frustrated not to know how my choices and actions (recruitment, training…) were taken into account to make my team win or lose a game and a championship.
When EGS offered FM2020, I thought it was time to give it another try. But in spite of all the tweaks and adds of this modern version, the symptoms remained. There's at once too much to grasp (and it's a blessing you can delegate many tasks and chores to different AI people) and too little hints for me on why you lost this particular game. Although I know well football, playing FM still feels like a slot machine where after you chose your tactic and tickled a few cursors, your most common task is to repeatedly click "next day", and watch your team win or lose games : some players seems to enjoy looking for golden rookies in hidden places, scrutinizing endless columns of numbers, or even cheesing the game with OP tactics but after all these years, I still don't.
Pretty Girls Panic!
3.6 hours, 38 of 38 achievements
This game recalled me of a small and old game I played on Windows 95, where you had to split the screen while avoiding bouncing objects to touch your cursor. Therefore, PGP has not an innovative gameplay, it only adds moe girls pictures in the backgrounds you unveil, hence "pretty girls" name. Once you've caught the different enemies patterns, it's quite easy to complete and get all achievements.
2.7 hours, 10 of 10 achievements
This is the little brother of Hexcells games (same dev), but a bit shorter and easier than these. There are 50 levels of increasing difficulty, and the learning curve is very progressive. It took me less than 3 hours to complete all the puzzles.
I'm not the biggest fan of rogue-like but 2 of them captivated me recently and I can't help comparing Hades with Dead Cells and the former makes almost everything better. So why is Hades better than Dead Cells ?
Hades is shorter : my main grief about DC is the long runs. You can spend up to 1 hour on a run and lose it all in a few seconds against a nasty enemy or a mid-run boss, because of a bad weapon drop or a personal blunder. In Hades, I'm much more tempted to try another run because they take only around 30 minutes. The backlash is Hades only has 4 worlds while there are many different levels in DC (especially with DLCs) and therefore a greater variety of foes. But even if Hades first ending can be easily attained, if you want to complete all the side quests, unlock every trinkets, etc, you can easily play 100 hours and still have a lot of fun.
Hades is easier : I managed to reach the end for the first time in around 35 or 40 runs. Since there are less different enemies and bosses than in DC, their patterns are easier to memorize. The best idea of Hades is the way you can adjust the difficulty level once you've beaten it, hence lengthening its life-span with potential tens of hours ; DC introduced this idea too but the tuning felt less astute than Hades' and more punishing with only stronger enemies and a weaker protagonist. Hades is sometimes too easy with certain combinations of boons and weapons, and sometimes on the verge of being muddled when there are a lot of simultaneous (positive and negative) visual effects. But these are petty flaws.
Hades has a great background story : DC has some sort of narrative but it didn't really catch my attention while in Hades, unveiling the story and the characters, understanding their motivations was my main reason to keep on playing till the epilogue. The gameplay is great but coupled with a compelling story, the game's even more enticing.
For all those reasons, I understand Hades is 2020 GOTY of many, and it certainly is mine too.
theHunter: Call of the Wild™
7.4 hours, 10 of 164 achievements
Who could have thought I would play and like a hunting game, where you mainly walk in nature and occasionally shoot a bullet every 10 or 15 minutes ?
I'm not a hunting or weapons aficionado, quite the contrary in fact. But I, as many, experienced 2020 lockdowns and this game (a bit like American and Euro Truck Simulator I found out during Spring 2020) offered a nice alternative to real walks in the countryside, holidays spent in nature or finding out new places. It's calm and contemplative, it's more of a hiking simulation in beautiful natural areas than a hunting one, even more so if you decide not to shoot animals but only take them in pictures for example.
I played this for a couple of days, around the end of 2020. I had not put my hands on it when it got released, back in 2009, only had heard good things about the game back then, which got me to buy it on GOG a few years ago (it's not on Steam, you can only buy it on GOG and Origin).
After playing it a couple hours, I went to read reviews on GOG : most of them were praise and once again, they sounded to me more like nostalgic memories than objective evaluation of a game you play 10 years after release. The point is : can you like such a game today if you haven't played it at the time of its release ? I'm not sure and it applies to a lot of genres whose gameplay greatly evolved in 10 years (while others are timeless classics).
The real strong point of The Saboteur is undeniably the ambiance : if history must keep something from this last game of Pandemic studio (they were shut down by Electronic Arts even before the game was completed, hence the lack of polish in the story and fixing some bugs), it should be the use of mostly black and white graphics - with pinches of red for swastika flags and blood - in the zones you haven't yet liberated from the Nazis while freed districts get a new lease of life embodied by the come back of colors. The idea and implementation are both great, it gives a nice to WW2 Paris. The map (mainly Paris and some countryside) is reasonably big, with notorious landmarks and architecture, and the graphics are still OK under today standards. On top of that, music broadcast while driving is great. That's it for the good things.
As for the bad things, they are plentiful.
First, the story, characters and acting are really mediocre and stereotypical, while taking themselves too much seriously : the worst thing I saw was the bad guy, a blond Nazi being at the same time a crazy race car driver and a psycho torturer, supported by some sort of female bodyguard with prominent bosoms showcased in a black leather outfit, in a kind of representation you expect more in Saints Row. The 3 or 4 hours I played were full of such clichés. All women seemed designed to appeal to average male teenagers (for instance, you can enhance a nude mode where I think in the devs mind you're supposed to take full advantage of the HQ being located in a cabaret, crammed with topless dancers, oh, how convenient) and the protagonist acts like a "chick-magnet", eventhough he's a total jerk. These flaws have nothing to do with the fact the game is 10 years old : a lame story with crappy characters and bad acting remains forever a lame story with crappy characters and bad acting.
The gameplay, a mix of Assassin's Creed, Just Cause and GTA, was maybe OK in 2009 but it felt to me limited in all these three aspects. First, it's hard staying stealthy because enemies always peep on you, see you from miles away, even with disguises ; anyone of them can blow his whistle in a second and attract infinite waves of soldiers until you manage to escape the area. No matter how stealthy you are, you'll almost always have to pull your guns and shoot like a damned anyway, so why bother losing time trying stealth in the first place. The easiest way to escape is then to climb the roofs of Paris but parkour felt mostly unnecessary ("let's follow this AC fashion" must have thought the devs) and clankier than in AC. The main missions ("kill this man", ""help this guy", ""blow this up") recalled me how stiff old AC's missions were and how much I hated them : make one step out of the tracks and you're doomed to replay the mission from the last save point (no free saving points BTW, it's 2009 and a console game ported to PC). Like in JC, you have a gazillion things to sabotage but there's little interest doing so since the punishment of having to escape the zone after the explosion is worst than the reward. And it's unsurprisingly repetitive. Like in GTA, you can carjack the poor old passers-by without anybody (especially German soldiers) raising an eyebrow, and you even have to do so since you don't have any personal car : harassing and occasionally running over innocent people is funnily ironic since you're supposed to help liberating French people from brutal Nazi occupiers.
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 !
0.6 hours, 2 of 8 achievements
I previously played Gunpoint which is kind of a distant cousin of Ronin. But the former was way better than the latter. What they have in common is their big pixels and stories of intrusions but Ronin feels clunky and punitive, the moving system being more imprecise than Gunpoint's: the worst is when you die and retry the exact same action many times but the output is not the same every time.
Like I'm now used to saying, one more dropped game in my ABC list… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
'Verdict on Ronin : unfinished/10'
The LEGO® NINJAGO® Movie Video Game
16.5 hours, 50 of 50 achievements
And one more Lego game 100%ed !
I didn't know the Ninjago franchise before, obviously haven't seen the movie but it was interesting and my kids loved this new universe. They fondled the adventures of Kai, Lloyd and Sensei Wu (but they also freaked out about the giant cat and his vicious miaowing !) and couldn't wait every time we shut down the game to recreate the scenes with their real Legos. Technically, there were a few bugs but the visuals were really a big step up compared to previous games. Gameplay-wise, as usual, backtracking all the golden bricks and collectibles sometimes felt tedious but hey, getting 100% was worth it.
'Verdict on The LEGO® NINJAGO® Movie Video Game : 8,5/10'
SteamWorld Dig 2
10.0 hours, 19 of 34 achievements
I had loved the first episode (and liked Heist). Unsurprisingly, I really liked Dig 2.
As far as I remember, what's new in Dig 2 isn't ground-breaking, it stands just in the continuity of Dig 1 in terms of gameplay and story. I think there weren't all these puzzles in Dig 1, which are not what I preferred in Dig 2 but it's a good idea to break monotony. There was less back and forth than what I remember from the first, the perks were a nice way to introduce a bit of metroidvania in the game and the music was equally good. I heard the devs Image & Form Games released a fourth game in the SteamWorld universe, SW Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, more a RPG deckbuilding game according to Steam tags : I'll have to try it someday to check if every game they make appeals to me (spoiler : I'm 100% sure it appeals EvilBlackSheep).
'Verdict on SteamWorld Dig 2: 9/10'
Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride
5.4 hours, 18 of 24 achievements
Every now and then, I feel lazy enough to play a HOG, of which I have a few in my backlog, unearthed for a few pennies in some cheap bundle. This time, it was GL:TFB's turn. It was in January but I already don't remember much of story and gameplay, as shallow as they usually are. What I remember well is the cut-scenes were dirty as hell, pixelated like a YouTube video in the 56K era. Oh, and also that Prince Charming don't exist.
'Verdict on Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride : 5/10'
0.4 hours, 0 of 12 achievements
This one is old (actually 2014, but I thought it was older). And it's hard, and not fun. I imagine once you're used to the counter-intuitive controls, you might enjoy it but I wasn't ready for that endeavor. It's funny because OlliOlli looks a lot like Pumped BMX +, which I still play occasionally, but OlliOlli didn't clank, don't know why. I have the second episode : curious to see if it's as repulsive to me.
'Verdict on OlliOlli : 4/10'
Kingdom: New Lands
1.9 hours, 4 of 34 achievements
All I knew about K:NL before my first launch was a couple screenshots with a king on a horse and that the game's often put on higher grounds by players. Well, to me, it's a bit overestimated. OK the pixel art is charming but the gameplay loop is poor, it's so frustratingly long to ride from one side of the map to another. I managed to get past the first island but when I realized the next stages were more of the same, and that you have to figure by yourself the effects of all new buildings (a method I usually find lazy from developers, as a way to artificially lengthen games), I declared right away to my peons "I hereby abdicate".
'Verdict on Kingdom: New Lands : 5,5/10'
2.6 hours, 4 of 13 achievements
Since I was in the mood to embody a king, I went into Reigns (from some recent Humble Bundle). The left or right swiping gameplay for decision-making makes it probably a better mobile game than a PC game. To me, it was fun for an hour and then got old very quickly, seeing the same encounters and events over and over. Not much else to say.
'Verdict on Reigns : 5/10'
1.4 hours, 4 of 20 achievements
I had launched AD for the first time maybe 2 or 3 years ago. I don't know why but I decided on a February day that it was time to get it to an end. What I always found odd is the camera is still (or rather moves but keeps the same angle) while the car turns and yet, the directions are fixed ; I'm not sure it's understandable but as an example, when you see the car from behind, you push right, the car goes right but when the car is facing you, you still have to push right so that the car goes left on-screen. It's puzzling, I much prefer when the camera stays behind the car and the directions you push on the pad are the same directions the car goes. But I more or less got used to it.
The mix of drift and zen universe is also puzzling, I'm sure none other game ever tried it before: usually, when you think about drift, you imagine a loud music, flashy colors, smoke and light effects and even sometimes lightly-clothed ladies. There, you only have a B&W world with strokes of red, a gong and a small bell to celebrate any achievement in a level or the passage to another level. To say the least, it's relaxing.
I found out the devs are working on a rally game called art of rally, and the demo looks very promising.
'Verdict on Absolute Drift : 6/10'
Slay the Spire
9.4 hours, 9 of 46 achievements
I don't like dungeon crawler and I usually have mixed feelings about roguelike but I like card games. Oh boy, what a suspense : did I enjoy Slay the Spire, a perfect mix of deckbuilding, roguelike and dungeon crawler ?
The answer is yes because the game's learning curve is quite regular, you easily unlock new characters and new cards, and the UI is perfect: this is the best achievement of the game, everything is clear, all the buffs and trinkets effects are shown and explained at a glance. I have one main reproach and it's related to the (lack of) story: since you don't know what you're doing or why you're fighting enemies, it's hard to know when or even if you've really won. After 9 hours, I finished one run with the first character, that is to say I beat the 3 stages and the final boss. I got a Steam achievement and a little cut-scene but the game is very clumsy to signify you're far from the real end. I had to read forums to understand the different degrees of win and completion (finish with every character and then in another mode, etc). For the sake of BLAEO, I consider the game beaten but it's obviously far from completed. I'm sure I won't get really further in the game because it remains a dungeon crawler roguelike, and the deckbuilding aspect doesn't counter-weight enough these 2 deterrents for me.
'Verdict on Slay the Spire : 7,5/10'
I'm a big SW fan but like I said in my previous post, in terms of SW games, there's only one I liked among those I tried and that's KOTOR. Sorry for the Jedi Knight worshipers, go read my 2019 November post if you feel outraged ;-). I've read good things all around the Internet about SWJ:FO, so in spite of my vow of patient gaming, I was hyped enough to play it less than 6 months after the release. That even led me to install Origin for the first time (BTW I would tend to put the "obligation to install a new launcher to play the game" in the cons of the game ;-) ).
In practice, I had to force myself to get back to the game and beat it. That's a bad sign. And I did so because it was a AAA gift from a friend, moreover in the SW universe. The game has its moments but in the end, its artificiality, lacks and failures exceed the rare good points.
BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD !
Cal is not as bad and lacking of charisma as almost everybody was afraid of when the first trailer was unveiled. He's well animated (except when he runs) and has a (mildly) interesting background. I find his face, like most other faces, is very well rendered during cut-scenes. On the other hand, Cere is a disaster when it comes to character design and animation, except if you like scary froggy eyes.
Some climactic scenes and some places are memorable, the best for me being when you ride the giant flying beast on Kashyyk.
The fights are well paced, you can quickly be outflanked when various enemies attack and these different enemies entail a good variety of challenges. I just regret that the only way to deal with distant foes is to deflect blasters with the saber. Like I say later, it's frustrating to feel for long like a powerless Jedi.
The game is full of technical problems that kill immersion. First of all, after launching, it takes 68 seconds to arrive to the menu and then another 30 seconds to get in-game : it's too long. Then, there were the numerous freezes and stuttering. The narrow tunnels used to conceal (extra) loading times are immersion-killers and yet, there were still plenty of times where the game stuttered because of just entering new areas or failing to load smoothly new events triggered. Finally, I suffered from desynchronized dialogs multiple times during cut-scenes.
The whole level-design full of vertical walls and of those crates thrown down there for no reason really hurt my willing suspension of disbelief. BTW, the cosmetics provided by the crates are a really thin pretext for me to replay the levels, and replayability is close to zero from my point of view. I had read the game had some metroidvania but I don't see it like that since there's no exploration and you just follow the story which almost compels you to visit back places once new abilities acquired. While I'm on the level design, no fast travel and labyrinthine-yet-corridor-like levels are a big deterrent : backtracking never felt so annoying to me than in this game. Especially when all of a sudden, the zones that were empty during the going are full of troopers for the going back (Ilum, I'm looking at you !).
SWJ:FO gameplay is supposed to take inspirations from Dark Souls, Uncharted, Metroid Prime, all games I never played (yeah, shame on me). But I assume in those games, you start weak for a good reason and gaining new abilities feels rewarding. In SWJ:FO, it's as if you start crippled and in the end, when you've gained back all your Jedi powers, you just feel… normal. There again, the devs curbed artificially the player, with petty justifications : I would say it's legitimate to get new abilities when it's through acquiring new items (like the rebreather or climbing claws) but when it's Jedi powers you just recall through flashbacks, it seems to me pretty lame story-wise and gameplay-wise (suddenly, Cal recalls how to double somersault, force push or force pull ? Come on !).
A Jedi archeologist ? OK, why not but the way this guy unravels the story feels so artificial. Equally artificial is the way most "Force Echoes" are limited to a few dispensable lines in the metastory. While I'm on the story, I won't come back on the fact broadly picked up that Cal bonds with people he meets in about 10 minutes (whether it is Cere and Greez or Merrin).
Who thought adding undead in SW would be a good idea ? The moment I met those… things in Dathomir was my biggest facepalm of the game. Some fans might like the novelty but to me, it's hugely irrelevant to have undead in the SW universe. What's the next step in this don't-give-a-shit attitude ? Zombies ?
'Verdict on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order : 6/10'
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 !).
I got this Picross game 100%ed in September. The UI could have been better especially on bigger puzzles where you can't see the whole picture. I cheated a lot with Steam guides to finish these last levels and to get some tricky achievements too. Playing this game made by a single (French BTW) dev was a nice ride anyway.
Verdict on Pictopix : 6/10
Aaaaahh, how nice it feels to stroll along a game in easy mode, to play without the pressure of result or the need to 'git gud' (that is to say no need to play again the same level over and over). I'm definitely not one of those hardcore gamers eager to beat uber-harsh bosses in order to prove how elite they are. Yes, I confess I chose to play Chroma Squad in the easiest difficulty level and this way, I really enjoyed the story with all the cultural winks and 2nd degree comments introduced by the devs. The tactical gameplay is my stuff (even without cover system) as can be seen in some other games I played after this one.
Oh and it's another game beaten in my (old) ABC list.
Verdict on Chroma Squad : 7,5/10
One more universally acclaimed game, by the famous Lucas Pope, out of my backlog. What can I say that hasn't already said about it ? Nothing probably. 2 good points for me : the game is short, with replay value. To make comparison with other serious-topic games, I would put it with Orwell rather than with This War of Mine because it makes you think about political stuff but remains a game, fun to play, while I found TWoM too gloomy and depressive. Maybe is it because like in Orwell, you're just a cogwheel in a big system and even if your decisions can kill pepole in the end, you don't have to get your hands dirty like in TWoM. That the game manages to transcribe this feeling of being just a piece of a (totalitarist) system is simply brilliant, what's more just with this austere gameplay loop of stamping and controlling documents ! I also watched the short film published on Steam and found it good too.
Verdict on Papers, Please: 9/10
After beating two games out of my ABC list, I focused on a third one in a row. But I didn't expect Flinthook to be a rogue-lite : I knew it was a grappling game but I thought it was rather a platformer or a metroidvania. I'm usually at loss in rogue-like/lite because I tend to suck at hard games and usually can't stand well the increasing pressure of when I'm in a good run (for example, I only managed to beat once Dead Cells, on 0-cell and in more than 30 hours, and it was already a big achievement for me). Back to the topic, I really liked Flinthook universe, the design, the gameplay but after I managed to beat the first boss in 3 or 4 hours, I realized I would very probably struggle a lot to reach the endgame. The grapple gameplay is good but still hard : you have to use one stick to move the character, the other stick to point your shooting weapon or the grapple and finally also use a trigger to activate bullet-time. I read reviews that reassured my fear, describing how punitive the game could be further on, through spiky traps and swarms of foes.
So, one more dropped game in my ABC list…
Verdict on Flinthook : 5/10
The 3 Jedi Knight games were slumbering in my backlog since 2015 when I bought a Star Wars Humble bundle. I remember when some Jedi game (maybe Dark Forces 2) was published in the late 1990s and one of my friend praised it but I couldn't get my hands on it back then as a kid. So finally, I decided it was time to try them in 2019. And once again I got disappointed with old games I hadn't played in their glory days.
First, they are FPS and I have a personal history of hard time with FPS (mainly dizziness after a while), even though you can also play them in TP view, which is a rare feature I haven't seen used in a lot of games since. But be it in FP or TP, the moving is equally clunky, with a huge latency that destroys any sense of precision in jumps and moves ; it's really a pain to get through the platforming parts. Moreover, in spite of using mods to polish the graphics, I found them really obsolete : Kyle Katarn is plain ugly, worst than the first Lara Croft. It's harder for me to play old 3D games than old 2D games : the ugliness of these big sharp polygons is so aggressive for the eyes whereas 2D pixel-art didn't age that bad.
About the gameplay, the same scene infuriated me when at the beginning of DF2 and Outcast, you have storm troopers coming at you in zigzags while you are desperately trying to shoot them with a goddamn laser rifle : it's a freaking Jedi game, you look forward to use a lightsaber, not a rifle !
In the end, I spent 1 hour on DF2, 3 hours on Outcast and 1 hour on Academy : I reckon they must have been revolutionary in their time, that a lot of players have fond memories of playing them at that time and a big nostalgia when playing them today but it is hard to discover them 20 years after they were released.
Verdict on Jedi Knight trilogy : 0/nostalgia
This game is so well executed, everything is so well thought and efficient : the tutorial is perfect, the progression is steady and you have this savvy incentive to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. I really enjoyed unlocking achievements and the way these are set in-game is the best way to do so.
It's more a puzzle game than anything else, and the closer thing I would compare it is chess, because you always have to calculate one, two or three strokes ahead.
My only concern was about the time it takes to finish one run (between 30 minutes and one hour if I recall well), a little too long for these times when I just play for short sessions.
Verdict on Into the breach : 9/10
This one is interesting : for a couple weeks, I couldn't play anything else and sunk 54 hours in it. And then, all of sudden, the urge vanished : I quit and haven't played it since mid-November. This happens a lot to me ; I don't know if it's my backlog's appeal (or pressure) but I often drop games suddenly, even if I loved them.
Back to BB, I love the team management and the tactical but (it's a huge but) the game is way too long, repetitive and grinding. To my liking, they should have cut the campaign by half : I think I played 2 campaigns, my first where I learnt the basics until my company got erased and a second one, longer, but I didn't even make it to the end in 30 or 40 hours !
If you look at objectively my game time, you could say I liked it much more than Into the breach but when I look back, I think I found the latter more fun than the former, mainly because there are many approaches in ITB while you are always doing the same thing in BB.
Verdict on Battle Brothers : 8,5/10
I finally finished this one on UPlay, beating the main quest and the main side quests (if I may say) like the Cult, become No.1 mercenary, the Arena, defeating the Beasts etc.
I liked the game but after some time, I started to feel being full and near overdose of Greek stuff or (among other things) the same animations during talks. I still regret most of the quests are not story-driven but rather too often "got get this and bring it back to me". And still happy they left away most of the usual AC bullshit (conspiracy, etc) and present time flash forward.
Anyway, in the end, I'll keep good memories of this time spent with Kassandra.
Verdict on AC Odyssey : 8/10
One of my ABC list games. Nothing memorable : with these graphics, it could have been released in the 1990s. I read the gameplay was deeper than it looked but after playing one hour, I really don't feel grinding the arenas to reach the Colosseum.
Verdict on Qvadriga : one lap/10
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).
So, first, let's go back in April. Eventhough I had promised myself after beating AC3 not to succumb to any other AC game too soon, I finally decided to play AC4 Black Flag. The fact Ubi decided to give away for free AC Unity (after Paris' Notre Dame burning) counts a lot in this decision, because it put another game between me and Odyssey in my quest to beat all the AC games I own until I can buy Odyssey.
I agree with those who say Black Flag is the least faithful to the series, but to me it's for the best : it's refreshing to get a bit away from parkour and espionage in big cities, the sunny Caribbean setting is exotic (especially after AC3's rainy New England) and the naval warfare is quite fun. I'd even say I preferred by far the naval parts ; the land parts of the plot ("follow that guy missions", "listen to this conversation", "get this gizmo", etc) started to tap on my nerves after a certain time but so did AC3's main missions after a while. All in all, I feel any AC game fails to keep me entertained and starts to feed me up after 10 or 20 hours playing : I dropped the game in the last episode, a couple missions away from the end maybe. I don't know my precise playtime since UPlay didn't deign to track it.
The pros :
- free roaming on the sea is great, listening to the shanties song (like Drunken Sailor and my favorite Lowlands away) : the colourful and sunny Caribbean are a nice setting
The cons :
- the main character (I already forgot his name) is not very charismatic although its craftiness makes a nice change from the usual SJW we're used to playing in AC.
- the missions are still way too directive.
Verdict on AC Black Flag : 7 / 10
While I was on a roll, I left AC Unity in my backlog and jumped directly to AC Odyssey , which I played more than 80 hours (I just checked Uplay's playtime because I thought it was only 50ish hours !). Unsurprisingly, having spent such a lot of time on it, I loved the game.
First of all, obviously, I didn't suffer the usual bore involved by any other AC, after 10 or 20 hours of repetitive tasks. That's a good sign, right ?
I chose Kassandra (what kind of monster doesn't choose her ?) and I liked her personality. Playing a strong badass girl freshen things up and I give Ubi credit for not saddling her with any cliché that usually plague woman image in video games (for example, no sentimentality and no sexualization).
The first 10 or 20 hours, and even after 30 or 40 hours, I was amazed by all the content the game was still pulling out from its hat : the main quest junctions, the huge map, the side quests (I liked the Daughters of Artemis' hunting quest, eventhough the legendary beasts are just damage-sponges), the soft RPG-like aspects (XP, personalization of the hero after every level earned…), the battlefields, the Cult, the bounty hunters, the Arena, etc.
The graphics were not as overwhelming as I expected them to be (it didn't look to me many steps up Black Flag) but the game is still pretty : some places are nicer than others and the people and animals are well rendered and animated. The game is not free from glitches and collision bugs, and I suffered a couple of crashes (that's not much regarding my playtime).
I am not very fond of the XP "levelling out" system but I reckon it's an efficient way to avoid farming and keep the player involved in the quests. Speaking of quests, the best ones are those few where I had to make real choice (basically who's guilty, who's gonna leave, who's gonna die) or those even fewer where the writers dare to show a real sense of humor, drifting away from political correctness.
Contrary to Black Flag's, the music didn't leave any mark on me.
The pros :
- lots of things to do, at your pace, picking what you prefer and leaving aside what you don't like. That's a huge step forward compared to the old AC tendency to excessive guiding in the quests sequence and also inside every mission.
The cons :
- There are lenghty parts and monotonous Fedex quests but the key for me was to alternate different tasks and types of missions.
Verdict on AC Odyssey : 9,5 / 10
This one was utterly relaxing. There's no challenge, you just play jigsaw puzzle with unconventionally shaped pieces of colourful stained glass. Easy to complete.
Verdict on Glass Masquerade : 7 / 10
I didn't like much Tropico 3 when I tried it for 2 hours a couple years ago and the next episode conveyed the same feeling : I'm usually a fan of management and city-building games, I liked the farcical dictatorial atmosphere but the graphics are old (I'd even say ugly in 2019 standards) and the management was again mediocre. Like a symbol, I got a bug preventing me to finish the first mission in the campaign, so I just dropped the whole game after a couple of hours (the history repeats…). Maybe I'll give a chance to T5 or T6 someday…
Verdict on Tropico 4 : 4 / 10
I completed all the levels except for the DLC, that I didn't buy yet. The game is funny for a while but in the bigger levels, finding some characters or objects became tedious, because of the vague description or because they were hidden behind or inside things that have to be clicked one by one. A better system of hint would be nice.
Verdict on Hidden Folks : 7 / 10
Generally speaking, I don't like serious gaming nor any entertainment (including movies or TV shows) about real world's atrocities. Because such topics makes so-called entertainment not entertaining at all to me.
TWoM falls perfectly in this category : one run of around ten days was enough for realizing it's not my kind of game. Even if it is gamified, the subject of surviving war as a civilian ain't fun at all to me. The oppressive music and gloomy shades of grey didn't help. Moreover, leaving aside the bleak topic, it's this sort of game where you have to miss a run or two before you understand well the mechanics, and I more and more dislike this process, sometimes feeling like artificially lengthening the game lifespan and often feeling like wasted time to me. I mean, I love XCOM games but they can be so frustrating when a mission messes up : when it happens, you can cheat a little and load a previous save but in TWoM, you can't do that and you have to start again from scratch.
Verdict on This War of Mine : Gloom / 10
With a perfect transition from TWoM speaking of game lifespan, we have Endless Legend where any run lasts between 5 and 12 hours : I'm OK with 4X (don't love, just like them) but spending an average 8-10 hours a game is way more than I can endure nowadays. Endless Space suffered from the same flaw for me.
That being said, Endless Legend is pretty and has nice mechanics. I made one game (lost BTW) of 11 hours and enjoyed it but I'm afraid I won't be brave enough to try another faction or another strategy. I've heard Amplitude Studio is currently working on another 4X game called Humankind, where you're not quasi-compelled to choose at the beginning of the game the kind of victory conditions you will pursue (scientific, military, diplomatic, economic…) : it should be more oriented toward global score victory conditions, something already existing in 4X but leaving you more freedom, and it's a direction I may like.
Verdict on Endless Legend : 6,5 / 10
Just another Lego game, in line with already played Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter and Jurassic World episodes. This one is equally good and itches my (relative) need of completion because like the others, it can reasonably easily be 100%ed : took me around 40 hours however but it was not grinding. One grinding aspect I didn't like was the boss fights, where you always had to strike them three times in order to beat them.
I played the most of it with my kids, introducing them little by little to playing themselves in the NYC hub : they loved the Marvel universe, all the good and evil characters (Venom freaked them out a little though) and they loved even better afterwards to reproduce the game scenes with their real Lego !
Verdict on LEGO Marvel Super Heroes : 8,5 / 10
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.
- + the world is among the most beautiful I've ever played in. The water is especially well rendered, the sunsets are gorgeous, and it's a pleasure to discover those Mediterranean islands one after the other. But JC being JC, they end up feeling more and more empty, just like in JC2 (where the universe was among the biggest of its time), as if one more time the devs didn't have enough time to make it lively and just tried to fill in the gaps between isolated spots of interest they actually and thoroughly worked on.
- + I had such a blast blasting everything away ! Once again, the explosions are the best I've seen in a game. JC3 is even more centered than its predecessor on how about being creative in exploding stuff. And it works (up to a certain point) : first, you try to destroy a base, let's say while in a tank, then the next one in a chopper, then on foot with a bazooka, then without shooting a single bullet but rather with the grappler, etc.
- + BTW the grappler is perfect : you can use it to kill enemies, to travel in combination with the paraglider and if you're imaginative enough (which I'm not really), turn it into a morbid fun-fair instrument (on second thought, this video is not about the grappler but the human rockets : didn't manage to find back the awesome grappler vid or gif I had in mind).
- - cars and bikes driving is awful (but planes' and choppers' is better).
- - the main story doesn't re-invent the wheel : overthrow an evil dictator, period. I think I preferred JC2 factions system. The side-quests are dull and insignificant : find spare parts of dispensable weapons, find gizmo offering then fast-travel in a given province. Finally, what's a novelty of this opus, the challenges (like, who among your friends threw a cow furthest ?), are not my cup of tea and lose a lot of interest when you play the game as a patient gamer, which means the leaderboards are pretty still.
- - the loading times were a pain in the ass, particularly before the not-so-much-more-beautiful-than-in-game-as-you'd-expect'em cut-scenes.
- - t-e-d-i-o-u-s gameplay : kill, explode, destroy. Move to the next spot, kill, explode, destroy. Rinse and repeat. Nevertheless, compared to JC2, JC3 managed to keep me entertained and involved till the end and in spite of my poor creativity, I conscientiously took over all the cities and bases on the map.
Verdict on Just Cause 3 : 7,5/10
Outside of Steam, I've played the good old (2012) third (but actually fifth) installment in the AC series. It's been many years since I had played the 2 first episodes on Xbox360. This time, I came back to PC for AC3, that I got for free in a Uplay official giveaway a couple years ago. In fact, I admit I'm quite hyped by AC Odyssey so, I thought I should at least skim through this episode before yielding to the Greek adventures.
- + the 1776 period in the US is more interesting to me than the Renaissance in Europe (not so exotic for a European guy) or the Crusades.
- + I liked the fact Ubisoft tried to avoid the usual simplistic black and white approach to some extent : if I may simplify myself, we're shown the Templars pursue their own goals and have their own "faith" while some Assassins can be shady too.
- + in theory, the naval parts were a nice way of refreshing and diversifying the gameplay, eventhough 1) I didn't really enjoyed them and 2) Connor becoming an old sea dog on top of a stylish assassin was very hard to believe.
- - the introduction is so long until you can actually play and do usual stuff in AC games (like you know, climbing anything higher than 10 feet so you can admire the skyline from above).
- - some staging and acting were laughable or pathetic, and some game design choices were ill-advised (for example, I hate when your character is forced to walk, for staging purpose, while you'd want him to run to speed up the situation).
- - so many glitches and bugs : the game got on my nerves when I had to manually reboot some sequences because some event didn't trigger as expected. That being said, the game didn't age so badly in terms of graphics and animation (apart from the ubiquitous collision bugs that ruins the atmosphere).
- - as usually, the whole present time stories felt awkward and boring to me : don't people play AC games for living little stories in the big history ? Moreover, I just can't emphasize enough how the raw violence of Desmond against the guards in his third mission made me ill at ease.
- - who on Earth believed it was a good idea not allowing the player to skip the 20-minutes-long credits ?!?
Verdict on Assassin's Creed 3 : 6/10
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. :/
Football, Tactics & Glory
90.0 hours, 42 of 70 achievements
June was all about Football, Tactics and Glory. It turns out there was also some sort of World Cup in Russia - as some of you may have noticed ;-) -, so I guess I enjoyed being immersed in football all month long. I already stated how much I love this little game and how easily I spend hours on it, so no more talking about it.
5.8 hours, 10 of 53 achievements
Next, I touched Voxel Turf. I was intrigued by the promising cocktail of city-building / GTA / Minecraft but I admit I was disappointed. During my 6 hours of gameplay in single-player, I must say it still feels quite empty and basic : the creative part is unpractical while the action part is bland, and all of this occurs in an ugly environment.
Hand of Fate
4.8 hours, 7 of 53 achievements
My ABC plan has remained fallow for some long weeks. I nevertheless made progress on it in June when I beat Hand of Fate. There again, I liked the concept more than the implementation. It's certainly a good idea to mix cards and beat'em all but I found the game repetitive (gosh, those Dealer's lines hammered again and again were infuriating) and the fighting stages a bit muddled. From a few months away perspective, HoF already began to fade away in my mind and I'm afraid it won't leave much of an heritage in my gamer memories.
Verdict on Hand of Fate : 5,5/10
38.9 hours, 35 of 53 achievements
Then it was the time I found out Dead Cells. I put my hands on it just before the end of early access. The game was already well polished, with a hand-crafted balanced difficulty and good-looking pixel art. It took me 38 hours to finish it once. I'm not the best at this kind of roguelite, but the mixture with a bit of platformer and metroidvania works very well. The game never ceased to beacon me so that I try "just that extra run", until I finally beat the final boss. The controls are among the best I experienced and it's really fun to try the different combo and styles you're offered to forge thanks to buffs and a vast array of weapons.
On top of it, the game's made by a little French studio : it's their first major title and I'm happy they managed to make such a best seller.
Verdict on Dead Cells : 9/10
July was holidays time so I played very little while August was still a lot about Dead Cells.
71.3 hours, 24 of 55 achievements
And finally, from late August up to these last weeks, I spent tens and tens of hours on Yakuza 0. This game's simply brilliant. It was my first encounter with the series and had read a bit about what to expect (namely, few in common with GTA, in spite of the mafia topic (yes, yakuza = mafia) : don't judge a book by its cover). So, I wasn't disappointed by the small map or rail-guided main quest. Basically, this main quest feels like watching a series (a good one, like The Wire), with episodic progress through nice cut-scenes. Going forward in the story always translates into crushing foes with your fists ; Y 0 is basically a BTA and you never spend more than 2 minutes in the imaginary colorful streets of Tokyo and Osaka without being dragged in street fights with hooligans, drunkards, punks, mobsters, in short, bad guys crying for being pummeled.
If like me you fondle original-language (especially Japanese) with subtitles, the voices are neat, especially the yakuza guys (so that's almost everyone in a yakuza game : hats off to Kuze who sounds so badass !). Musical tunes are also very good and catchy.
A word about the 2 protagonists : I much prefer Majima Goro over Kiryu Kazuma. Kiryu is less interesting to me, more of a yakuza cliché : he's the ultimate fist-fighter, too serious, almost without any humor, often naive and dumb-looking with his white-knight tendencies. Majima has a great background, with realistic emotional cracks, and his exposition scene (in which he scolds a customer with the most delicate diplomacy) is awesome ; contrary to Kiryu, he knows how to play a role (he can act dumb but isn't at all), in turns cuddles then punishes. Like Kiryu, his gullibility sometimes hurts the realism of his status but I forgive him because he's so much more fun to watch and listen (this Kansai accent !). BTW, about this gullibility thing, the whole game suffers from this risky balance between cold realism during the cut-scenes and outrageous funny behaviors during substories or mini-games. But I somehow liked this unpromising mix.
Back to the story. Little by little, once I had grasped the 2 main characters, my interest for the main quest - as good as it is - began to fade away as I found out all the substories and secondary activities you can do. Among other things, you can practice fishing, base-ball, karaoke, dancing, card games, mahjong, shogi (Japanese chess), remote-controlled cars races, bowling and I must forget many other activities. The 2 bigger games in the game (real estate for Kiryu and cabaret club for Goro) are the best part and before I realized, I spent much more time in these than driving forward the main story. Even though I knew before playing this game that there was a shitload of activities ans substories, I definitely think the core of the game lies there rather than in the BTA part.
Verdict on Yakuza 0 : 9/10
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.
Scribblenauts Unlimited : I play this one with my kids, in order to introduce them and get interested in video games, eventhough they can't play themselves yet. Since they can't read either, I describe what is asked on the screen and make them think about possible answers. The concept of the game is neat but it suffers one big flaw : translation. I play in French and a lot of the puzzles are based on puns in English. Therefore, many times, what you're asked to do remains hard to understand, even for a grown-up so imagine for a kid.
Verdict on Scribblenauts Unlimited : 5/10
Brothers : a tale of two sons : I played and beat B:atots in a "challenge me" event (out of BLAEO). It was as expected a nice story, emotional and of perfect length (not too short, not too long). I will remember the gameplay where you direct each brother with a side of the controller (stick and target) : it's savvy and challenging, because it requires a lot of coordination, and the gameplay fits nicely the subject of coop between the brothers.
Verdict on Brothers : a tale of two sons : 6,5/10
Mafia II : there's a lot to say about this one but since I'm a patient gamer and this game was released in 2010, I think you may have already read a lot about it.
First of all, I started it because I was recently gifted Mafia III, so I decided it was time to make the second episode before someday I started the third (and I know nothing about the first).
The strong point of the game for me is the story, the atmosphere and the characters. The missions are not "go there, kill this guy and bring back this thing". They are all about discovering little by little the mafia, from the base to the top level, with petty missions at first before getting a gun and finally becoming a "cleaner". Unfortunately, it looks like the game was never ended and had to be released unfinished by 2K, so the end is rather abrupt, raising more questions than delivering answers.
On the other hand, M2 is a semi-open-world : at first, I didn't realize since you're always in a mission and it looks like there's no free time to hang out freely. Well, in fact, you're not compelled to rush the missions and you could drive wherever you want before realizing the missions but since there are no activities like say in GTA IV (golfing, races…), there's no point to go off the rails. The only collectibles are Playboy girls' posters during the missions (OK, I confess it, I found these posters gorgeous [eventhough fussy spoilsports noted the posters - presented as part of an agreement with Playboy - depicted girls from late 50s and 60s while the story takes place in the 40s and early 50s]) and fake criminals' posters (with faces of 2K Czech devs) in the streets : that's very scarce to motivate me to visit the world. Consequently, it feels like the world is really thorough but the game doesn't make the most of it. It's just a beautiful background. Moreover, you're required to drive through the whole map on many occasions but driving sensations are dull and nothing happens during these drives.
The checkpoints enraged me a few times because I had to start over some tricky missions (one boss in particular was very hard to beat) but overall, the progression is not too steep.
So, in the end, the game could have been so great but it looks to me like a failed GTA IV. Both games take place in NY and in the mafia world but GTA IV managed to implement well many of the good ideas M2 failed. At first, I even thought M2 was released before GTA IV but it was released in 2010, 2 years after GTA IV !
Verdict on Mafia II : 7/10
Koi-koi Japan : not much to say about this one, except I picked it in my ABC project because at the time, it was the only K game I own. It's a little card game with Iroha cards, a japanese card game. I bought it in a deviant anime bundle but it's not racy at all. I kind of beat it by completing the campaign, but to shorten it, I admit I remained in level 1 difficulty, so the AI wasn't really competitive.
Verdict on Koi-koi Japan : 5/10
Call of Juarez : Gunslinger : the nice surprise of the month ! I'm usually not very much into FPS but I like almost anything Western-themed. I didn't play a lot of games set in the Old West : my best memory is of course Red Dead Redemption but CoJ:G reminded me a very old FPS I had played as a kid. I had to look for the title on Internet because all I had in mind were fleeting images : it turned out it's 1997 LucasArts' Outlaws that was in my mind. And it's funny how memories work : the video I watched on YT, to check if it was the game I remembered, was harsh with the images I had kept (or made up ?) in my memory. The graphics, already a bit dated when the game was released because using Dark Forces' Jedi engine, haven't aged well to say the least. And the levels feel so empty. The moral is : never look back at games you played and liked more than 10 years ago if you don't want your sweet memories to be crushed. :)
Anyway, back to CoJ:G : these graphics aged well since 2013 ;). In terms of game design, I was at first disappointed the levels weren't more open-world but took place in corridors, without any freedom of movement. They are also only flashbacks, without a linear progression, but the idea of the narrator changing his story because of erratic memories and how it influences the level design in real-time is brilliant.
There are a dozen of levels, that can all end in 2 ways : a boss fight or a duel. As always, some bosses fight were really boring for me (like when you have to fight guys with a Gatling) but on the other hand, the duels are another good and well implemented idea : it's a bit tricky because you have to deal with your opponent moves, keeping him in target with the mouse, while in the same time you also have to focus on your gun by putting your hand as close as possible of the grip ; and then, finally, it becomes a race when you have to react fast to draw the gun and aim when the other guy shows he's gonna shoot.
The story itself was a good surprise, with a very nice ending. And as an icing on the cake, the "nuggets of truth", which are collectibles to be found in the levels, reveal the more realistic and grim aspects of the wild West, often too much idealized when depicted in games and Hollywood movies.
Verdict on Call of Juarez : Gunslinger : 7,5/10
Hell Yeah ! : like B:atots and CoJ:G (sorry for the acronyms), HY! was assigned to me in a monthly "challenge me" event. This one didn't hit the target like the others : it was funny for half an hour, when you discover the frenzy, the 2nd degree humor and the mini-games (that means QTE). But once you encountered them once, you pretty much have seen all the possibilities and the rest is just "more of the same". The platform parts are dispensable and the game is very clumsy in how it shows you where to go : after every notch of mini-bosses beaten (there are 100 of them), the game rewards you with a long scrolling to show you the door to the next stage, eventhough it's often just at the end of a corridor, yet tortuous but still a corridor.
So, pun intended, HY! is repetitive as hell = NO.
Verdict on Hell Yeah ! : 4/10
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.