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What game are you playing?
Steerpike
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March 8, 2017 - 8:40 am
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This is a rough month for our people. Naturally whenever a rough month rolls around, things in Life go crazy too because all we want to do is hang around in pajamas playing games but we can't because client meetings and due dates and what have you.

I got Dishonored 2 but couldn't get into it for two quasi technical problems. The interminable load times really got to me -- you shouldn't start a game and have to wait four minutes to reach the main menu, not in this day and age -- also, it kept semi-crashing the Steam Link. So that one will have to wait.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is occupying my time right now. I'm swapping back and forth between it and The Last Guardian, which... you know, I feel guilty saying this, but it feels over-engineered to me. I'm struggling to see it as a fun experience and not as a responsibility.

My online group is starting Ghost Recon Wildlands tomorrow; we had a good time with The Division so hopes are high.

Gregg, thanks also for the Oxenfree recommendation! That game is really great.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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xtal
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March 8, 2017 - 12:42 pm
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Steerpike, I don't remember having 4 minute load times at the initial boot up of Dishonored 2 (I know, sorry Brits). That seems really unacceptable. The levels themselves certainly didn't load quickly.

On the topic of that game, I would like to try (ahahahahahaha) to tell a brief (lololololololololololol) story.

Dishonored 2...Well, I want to say it helped me tackle A Problem I Sometimes Encounter With Some Games, but the truth is I helped myself tackle That Problem while I happened to be playing Dishonored 2. That problem is: playing a game "perfectly." As in, oops, I've been seen, quick load. Oops, got hit, quick load. I imagine some people fall into this camp, but would guess it is not too many people? I'm not sure.

To elaborate, I love when games have a working quick save system, which Dishonored 2 does. It can be freeing but also crippling. I've done this sort of load-fail-reload-fail-reload thing in games going back a long time. Probably back to Half-Life, when I definitely remember doing a lot of that. But it's especially bad in games where stealth is an option. I almost always try to go with perfect stealth. I think of the Deus Ex games, the Splinter Cell games, and many others I can't recall at the moment.

After a moment of oh shit this has gone bad in Dishonored 2, I said to myself "no." It was as much to free myself as it was for practical reasons. I started leaning into the game in late December and knew that if I wanted to be able to move on to a few other games I couldn't spend forever with this one. So I played the game as lethally as one could, killing everything possible. Attempting stealth to a degree, but when that failed I would just improvise and go on with the results.

THIS IS A WAY BETTER WAY TO PLAY DISHONORED!

Holy shit. I'd call it a combat system, but it's so simple and easy, that I'll call it instead a murder system. The murder system in Dishonored 2 is fucking satisfying. If you want to blow off steam, kill people in Dishonored 2. There's a move in combat where you'll parry your opponent, stick your blade above their kneecap, look briefly at the horror on their face, pull the blade out, drive it into their neck, and then as Corvo or Emily twists the blade, the head pops off and an intensely satisfying, deep bowwwwwwwwwwwww sound plays. Picture the "reveal" moment in the trailer of a cheesy catastrophe movie. When there's a closeup zoom on the faces of the actors and that noise plays. That's the noise you get in Dishonored 2 when you cut off people's heads, and goddamn it's satisfying.

It's the most violently I've played a violence-optional game, well, ever.

So that's what I have to say about Dishonored 2. I recommend just going with the flow, not compulsively reloading. One more thing: Dishonored 2 has some really great levels. My favourite level in the first game was the masqued ball party. There are four or five levels in this game as good as that one. And as you said Gregg, it is indeed a sequel. Indeed, more of. Though I think it is a lot better than the first game. In addition to the level design, the setting of Karnaca is just so good. It's still bleak, but in a much different way than Dunwall.

The game was released at an awful time, in the middle of the yearly blockbusters in November, and there's a good chance its low sales spell the end of the Dishonored franchise.

With an opportunity to get the game at a discount, perhaps during a lull in games (which these days is, never, I believe?) I do recommend it to anyone who thinks they can do another first-person stealth game.

The cons of the game are the story, which is nonsense, the Heart item, which is again the worst part of the game, and the amount of mostly inconsequential lore the game goads you into reading on the off chance you be may finding a safe combination or something else worthwhile in a notebook. The pros are the level design, the setting of the coastal city of Karnaca, the aesthetic and quality of the world itself that Arkane built, which many have fondly dubbed "whalepunk," and the versatility in acceptable ways to solve problems and complete missions.

I want to go back to the Heart for a moment. Some of you may recall I complained about it in the first game. I called it a silly tool that seemed overly simplistic. The developers went to great lengths to build a world that really felt like a place; I would compliment both games on that, but especially the second. And then this Heart, which reveals people's secrets, undermines it all by painting every person as black and white, as if they are personified by the one particular act the Heart reveals to you. "He said he would bring the bread to the orphans. He didn't." (I'm making up a phrase, that wasn't in the game but they're all shit like that). And, and so what? He deserves to be murdered or something because he didn't give bread to orphans?

I watch a lot of video reviews these days, and it concerns me that everyone I watched play this game treated it the same way: let's have this Heart judge someone, and then we'll be the executioner, or the hand of mercy. This is not okay. I know it's a video game and what I'm saying could be completely thrown out, but ... no. Just no. I think some absurd statistic came out about one of the Mass Effect games saying that over 90% of people played mostly paragon (good (yes, it's painfully simplistic)) their first time. What that tells me is that most people treat the first playthrough of a video game with choices, sort of in the way they would try to resolve problems themself. I think this is a fair observation, not sure if anyone else has thoughts on that.

My point being that ... I'm worried some people believe a person should be murdered because they were mean to their mother. No. No, that's just, ......no. World not work that way. Bad.

God forbid something like Dishonored's heart ever exist in our real world.

Fuck The Heart.

I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!

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xtal
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March 8, 2017 - 1:09 pm
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Separate post here because gosh that last one went on a bit.

Gregg, I'd like to add on to your rant a bit there. I'm with you for the most part. As far as sequels go, what I like to see is a fearlessness when faced with the possibility of re-inventing a franchise. Famous example: Mass Effect 2. I love Mass Effect 1; it has a very special place in my memory, yet I see the sense and value in the dramatic changes they made to the sequel. And ME2 is by far the most beloved game in the series (yes, to my chagrin), so Bioware obviously made the right choice to change what Mass Effect was.

From your critiques there I'll pick out Resident Evil 7. I'm not a Resident Evil expert. I'm not even an apprentice. I watched friends play the original game eighty-nine years ago, I played Resident Evil 4 myself about fifty years ago, and I saw a good deal of gameplay of Resident Evil 5, that one I believe came out twenty-six years ago.

RE5 seemed positively "meh," and RE6 by all accounts I've heard is one of the worst games ever made, those two games both being weirdly shoot-y games. I bought RE7, and it's clear that to a degree the developers have brought the series........Here it is.....Hold onto your butts...... BACKKKKKK TOOOOO ITTSSSSS ROOOOOOTTTSSSSSS (barf barf lol puke nooooo barf barf barf punch face barf).

Anyway, RE7 seems pretty rad. I haven't played a whole lot of it, maybe just three hours, because I'm a big dick and balls (30-somethings such as myself have correctly identified the genitalia that is actually the weak and sensitive one, and spoiler alert: it's not the one that humans come out of!) and will not play it when I'm home alone because see the first part of this sentence.

So what I was saying there is, I think RE7 is a smart way to do sequels. I'm in favour of sequels that are very different from their predecessors. There are obviously inherent problems with this because the majority of people buying and playing games are not far into the weeds as some of us, so I do understand the value of not making the next Call of Duty game a Harvest Moon-like game. That would probably annoy the average player. But certainly there's room to reinvent a series that has grown stale, especially when what it was doing before didn't work.

I'd compliment both RE7 and Breath of the Wild in a similar way actually; two franchises that I don't think many people would deny had a very insular feel to them. Stuck in their own expectations and limitations. Whereas RE7 and BotW not only break free of their limitations, but they look to games of recent years for inspiration. RE7 is very obviously inspired by the Amnesia games and PT. Breath of the Wild is inspired by so many games I can't even put my finger on all of them yet (but I can tell you Nintendo even noticed a game called Dark Souls existed in the years since Skyward Sword).

I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!

Steerpike
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March 9, 2017 - 8:45 am
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Xtal, it makes me feel happy to read your Dishonored post because it helps validate a Problem I Encounter myself sometimes: namely that moment to moment, despite my best intentions, I usually wind up playing a game the way I want to play it, which isn't always the way it's "meant" to be played. Dishonored is a great example of this. I played the first game stealthily until I got seen, and then like you in this latest go-round, out came the knife and it was neck-stabbing time.

A friend of mine still mocks me for shooting guards in the neck with arrows in Thief 2, despite acknowledging that guards made such a wonderful gurgling sound when shot in the neck. "It's thief, not assassin," he says.

I also stabbed and shot people in the neck in assassin('s creed), which despite being assassin not thief still acts like you're supposed to be all stealthy and shit.

Anyway, I find I enjoy myself more when I let go of preconceptions and play the way I want to play without judging myself for not playing the way it wants me to play. But I still find it hard to do that sometimes.

Ironically, if a game called Comparatively Unsubtle Neck Stabber came along, I'd probably play it for 100% stealth.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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xtal
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March 9, 2017 - 11:58 am
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It drove me nuts when I would start wasting civilians in the original Assassin's Creed (because who isn't going to try that??) and the animus bullshit would "de-synchronize" because that's not what my ancestor did. Well, I just watched him do it, so clearly he does! Sheesh.

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Dix
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March 9, 2017 - 12:13 pm
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xtal said
It drove me nuts when I would start wasting civilians in the original Assassin's Creed (because who isn't going to try that??).  

I've never tried wasting civilians in an Assassin's Creed (and I've played all the console ones for...some reason). I've actually never intentionally killed civilians in open world games in general, including games where chaos is much more a part of the appeal than in the Assassin's Creed series. I think the one exception is Infamous, where I only did it to jack up my evil score and access more evil powers when I decided to do my second play through as Evil Guy.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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The holiday in Orlando was waaaay busier than expected so of all the Vita games I picked up, I was only able to start Steamworld Heist which is a smooth and heady brew. It's a story-driven turn-based strategy game with procedurally generated levels and light loot and RPG elements. It reminds me of Invisible Inc. in that on most levels you have to get in, smash and grab, then get out before the threat level wipes your team, but instead of being isometric it's a sidescroller, like so:

Image Enlarger

I now have Breath of the Wild on Wii U but I want to try and finish off my campaign on Endless Legend first because I fear I'll never pick it up again if I loose the thread. I've nearly done it now but it's been a real eye-opening experience for me with regards to 4X strategy games. It's definitely something I'll be coming back to; had a really great time with it and it's such a gorgeous game too, visually and sonically.

War for the Overworld recently got its 1.6 patch ushering in the My Pet Dungeon DLC and a raft of other improvements. This game continues to impress and it's one I'm wanting to replay and sink my teeth back into since there's a whole lot more meat on these bones now. There's the new Heart of Gold single-player campaign which is reportedly better than the base game's, as well as The Crucible survival mode. Managed to play some co-op games with a friend against the AI and... I wasn't really convinced it's worth playing that way. You're not exactly co-operating more co-existing on the same map and reacting to each others' plight.

I also picked up Guns of Icarus Alliance which is the new co-op PvE mode that includes territorial faction warfare in addition to the tried and true PvP from Guns of Icarus Online. Looks great but I've no idea when I'm going to fit in in between Titanfall 2 and everything else.

Steerpike
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I've also picked up Guns of Icarus Alliance -- my little online group of four was thinking we'd switch over to that if we couldn't get the NAT Status problem in Ghost Recon Wildlands solved, but we did -- so it's on the shelf for now. Always felt like GoI had great potential as a co-op or even single player RPG, essentially, so I'm hoping for the best with it.

War for the Overworld was really a great example of what Kickstarter can do, and the folks at Subterranean continue to impress with their commitment and dedication. Anyone who loved Dungeon Keeper, and anyone who thinks they might have loved Dungeon Keeper, really should buy and play this game. It's the remake/reboot everyone was waiting for and most had lost hope of ever seeing.

As for me, I'm juggling Andromeda, Horizon, and Persona 5, plus Ghost Recon on Thursdays, which makes for a pretty full dance card. With life now reorganized, I'm hoping to get back to writing more as well. Someone needs to invent unnecessarily long and complex words!

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Dix
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I'm just playing all of the Persona 5. All of it.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Synonamess Botch
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Dix said
I'm just playing all of the Persona 5. All of it.  

Just the way it should be.

Does anyone know if there are differences between the PS3 and PS4 versions?  I got PS4 because why not ($10 savings was not a compelling data point for me).

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Dix
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Synonamess Botch said

Just the way it should be.

Does anyone know if there are differences between the PS3 and PS4 versions? I got PS4 because why not ($10 savings was not a compelling data point for me).  

Near as I can tell it's just the resolutions and frame rates of the output. You get 720p on the PS3 and 1080p on the PS4. I haven't seen anything about differences in gameplay or content.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Synonamess Botch
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Dix, I have become something of a Shoji Meguro fanatic (Digital Devil Saga is still my personal fav soundtrack).  What's your take on his musical chops?

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Synonamess Botch said
Dix, I have become something of a Shoji Meguro fanatic (Digital Devil Saga is still my personal fav soundtrack). What's your take on his musical chops?  

I don't really have a take, in particular. I've always enjoyed the music of Persona, and it feels very integral to the game experience as a whole to a degree that I have sort of a Pavlovian response to music in a similar vein, but I've never really sought it out outside of the games themselves. (This is generally true of my engagement with game music these days, anyway.)

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Synonamess Botch
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Well I'm nothing if not mild in my fanaticism, so I actually just stick to the games themselves for the music.  I just happen to think Meguro is really, really good.  I will admit to having the P4 soundtrack (which came with my copy of the game) sitting in my car CD player on occasion.

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xtal
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Has anyone played Stellaris? I don't think my laptop can handle it. I watched a pretty long stream today starting up a game of Stellaris. It seemed cool.

It seems kinda like a Gregg game. Is there a Gregg B around here? Or like a Helmut game. Or a Steerpike game.

It seems like it's a game.

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geggis
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It's more of a Dix game! I don't think I've ever played a real-time space 4X. Oh hang on: AI War. That just got too unwieldy for me in the end though.

There's a limit to how complex I'm willing to go with strategy games. Too much fiddling and I lose interest very quickly. Endless Legend strikes a very good balance between depth and accessibility, and the UI is on my side. It also helps that it's turn-based. Dominions 4 on the other hand is quite painful because of the cliff face of a learning curve and the horrible UI and controls, but I'm in a multiplayer game so ditching it is pretty much out of the question at this point. :-/

Stellaris looks lovely and one I might check out in the future but another thing with these games is that they're so complex and time consuming and the learning curves are steep so getting to the point where you can reliably say 'I do/don't like this!' is quite an investment.

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xtal
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I hear that. I bought but never really got into either Galactic Civilizations II and Sins of a Solar Empire due to their complexity. They both seemed enticing as hell so not playing much of either makes me sad. But like you said, there's a level of depth and complexity that makes some games difficult to just hop into.

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xtal said
Has anyone played Stellaris? I don't think my laptop can handle it. I watched a pretty long stream today starting up a game of Stellaris. It seemed cool.

Armand and I have both played a fair bit (well, I say that based on playtime - I've never actually finished game, and I've only started maybe three) and I like it a lot, but it's definitely pretty complex as wide-appeal 4X games go. It's not nearly as impenetrable as most of Paradox's offerings - your Crusader Kings, your Hearts of Irons - but there are just a ton of little systems to learn to really grasp the full picture. I don't think its real-time nature really adds to the difficulty much, though, since you can pause and give orders for as long as you like.

The difference between it and, say, Endless Legend is one I think of philosophy. In the 4X genre as a whole I think there are two fundamental approaches, neither inherently better than the other, that we see. Stellaris is an exceptional example of what is the more common approach, I think: the vast sandbox game, stringing together dozens of small systems and toggles and stuff for you and then just turning you loose. In that they have huge flexibility to play the game how you want, but a requisite steep learning curve and the element of having to sort of curate your own fun, since, for instance, the factions are all fundamentally basically the same and it won't stop you from setting up a galaxy that will be pretty boring to play in and so on. (Paradoxically, Stellaris also has a pretty bad victory condition problem right now, in that all of its victory conditions amount to minor variations on conquest/expansion victories.)

The other variety - and the one I tend to like better - is the one that the Endless series embodies, in which things are more...well, not more designed, because clearly Stellaris has many intricate designs...but more groomed, in some ways. The design is more visible in the way that factions play dramatically differently, and though there are a lot fewer little toggles and buttons and levers and so on, there are a few big ones that make a huge difference. I think this makes the play experience more even, but it obviously requires a lot of time spent in balancing and things while Stellaris can worry instead about making even more nuanced systems.

Which is all to say that I like Endless better, but I think that's a point of taste, not of objective quality; they are different enough in nature that I feel like I have room in my life for both. Stellaris does explain itself reasonably well all things considered, but it's still a game you've got to be prepared to spend a lot of time with just stumbling upon interactions you didn't realize existed. When those things click, and you realize some of the things the game allows you to do, it's really really cool - but there's also going to be a lot of time where nothing really really cool is happening and you won't quite be sure if it's your fault or how to fix it.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Synonamess Botch
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April 13, 2017 - 10:20 am
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The Persona 5 music is so good.  It seems much more low-key than that of Persona 4, which suits me just fine.

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Steerpike
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Stellaris: I've played with friends, in the context of sitting on the same sofa, drinking beer, and shouting instructions and disapproval at whoever happens to be controlling the mouse. We play a lot of games this way. My reaction was similar to Dix's -- that Stellaris is a very good representative of "traditional" Space 4X design, very in-keeping with the Crusader Kings complexity and emergent outcomes, but not as well-polished quite yet. I'd like to grab a copy of my own now that there've been some new expansions out. 

Endless Space/Legend are both really impressive games. Legend especially turns 4X on its ear by ignoring a lot of traditional approaches and building its own. You could imagine a reality in which the Endless Legend approach was "standard" and the Civilization approach was "nonstandard." Both work well, but if you're used to one (and we're all used to the Civilization style), it takes a while to get used to the other. Endless Space has a gorgeous interface but I'm really looking forward to the sequel more, since I think it'll give them a chance to show off their work even more effectively.

I love 4X games but find I have less and less time for them; there's also the problem -- Gregg mentioned this -- that you get into one, then stop for a week for some reason, and completely lose the thread of where you are and what you're doing. One great addition to any 4X game would be a snapshot tool that somehow gives you an overview of what you mean to do in the next several turns and where things stand whenever you save, so you can refer back to it after being away for a while. 

Persona 5: I remember loving the 3 soundtrack, and 5's is even better. Synth-lounge-electronica-disco. I want it on my Amazon Music.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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