Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on April 28, 2018

The Stanley Parable is an indie game from a few years back which was either in a humble bundle or I traded extra steam keys for it at some point. Either way, it’s been in my steam library for a while. It’s a first person game where all you do is walk around and interact with stuff, but it features amusing narration and some reasonably interesting meta stuff. I spent just under two hours on it exploring I think about half of the endings, and I think that’s about all the enjoyment I’ll get out of it. The list price is $15 which is a little steep for 110 minutes, but it’s worth playing if it goes on sale for less than $10.

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Posted in video games by Bill on April 28, 2018

Divinity: Original Sin spent forever on my wishlist and finally went on sale recently. 10 hours in, I gave up. It’s an isometric RPG with turn-based combat, and I don’t know if I’ve played that combo since Fallout 2. It has some merits, but it’s old-school in ways that I no longer have the patience for. The lack of not only waypoints but also general direction on quests leads to running back and forth across town, hoping that I’ve guessed right on who I need to talk to next to progress the quest (but usually guessing wrong and having to go from person to person, running through a dialogue tree only to find nothing has changed since the last time I talked to them).

I’m sure fans of the old isometric RPG praise the game for not holding your hand, but I lack the patience for that.

Posted in video games by Bill on February 3, 2018

The Witness is a puzzle game that has been on my wishlist forever, but had been pricey until it went on sale for $10 about a week ago. It is, by design, a game where you have to intuit the rules of the puzzles. Wikipedia claims the developer went in this direction to give the player moments of epiphany when they figured out the solution with no instruction at all. But I found a few elements of it to be really frustrating.

Though it’s in a 3D, first-person world, the puzzles are hundreds of 2D mazes where you trace out a pattern with your mouse. Generally, you come to an area, and only one puzzle has power. You solve that one, and a cable coming out of it lights up, you follow that cable to another puzzle that now has power. Solve a puzzle, follow the cable, and eventually you get to… often nothing, you’ve solved all the puzzles in a series and nothing happens.

There are also the usual thing where a simple puzzle introduces a new concept, then subsequent puzzles become more complex, or combine the new concept with old concepts. But the game doesn’t seem to direct you all that well to the starter puzzles. Or something. Within 2 hours, I ran across maybe 5 puzzles I had zero idea how to do, and I never managed to guess at how they worked.

And some just rely on memory, which I don’t find very fun. You find a piece of paper that tells you the pattern that solves some puzzle, and then 20 minutes later you find the puzzle, but by then you’ve forgotten the pattern, and there’s no way, as far as I can tell, to have the paper in an inventory or something. Or there’s another set of puzzles, four on the right that made perfect sense and I solved them and four on the left that gave no indication what to do. Eventually I figured out that I should be mirroring the corresponding puzzles, but it doesn’t seem to let me look at the one on the left while I do the one on the right. So the puzzle is to remember a pattern and flip it, which… to me, is far more frustrating than it is fun.

I ragequit on that mirrored pattern puzzle. Under 2 hours, so I could technically request a refund, but I may come back to it. However, I would not recommend paying full price for this.

Posted in video games by Bill on January 6, 2018

Ruiner was on sale and I’d added it to my wishlist because it looks really cool. Not that it looked fun, it’s just visually cool. It’s redder than Quake was brown, but really cool looking. And that I think is largely the appeal. It’s a cyberpunk setting with a pretty traditional cyberpunk story (you’re a guy whose brain has been hacked, another hacker gives you control back but you’ve got to find out who hacked you and why, which involves fighting gangs of cyborg criminals and robots), and the music (moody electronic stuff) and visual design (also moody with heavy asian influence) fit it perfectly.

I don’t particularly like the gameplay. It’s pretty close to the hack-and-slash style of just clicking on the bad guys (though there’s at least a little more to it). I put it on easy to enjoy the style and work my way through the story without much frustration. And the story was mostly ok. Revenge, save your brother, hacker girl talking to you throughout. The end was a little disappointing, I guess, but not bad. It’s also fairly short, 7 hours for me, so I wouldn’t recommend paying full price. But if it’s $10 or less, it’s not a bad deal if you like this kind of action/RPG thing.

Posted in video games by Bill on November 29, 2017

Contrast is a 3D puzzle platformer with a Jazz age design and film noir feel. You play as a girl’s imaginary friend, and you can navigate otherwise impossible to reach places by turning to shadow and climbing other shadows, then turning corporeal again. It’s short, has no manual saves and the autosave points too far apart, a couple of the puzzles are a little frustrating because you know how to solve it but screw up the mechanics of it, and the little girl’s mom despite only appearing in silhouette had a distractingly large rack, but otherwise it has some fun puzzles with a nice little story and appealing visual design.

It’s short enough that I wouldn’t pay full price for it, but I dropped $3.40 on it and felt quite satisfied.

Posted in video games by Bill on November 28, 2017

Silence is an adventure game that got ok reviews and has a nice visual style (though I now see it’s the sequel to another game, so I probably shouldn’t have started here). But I didn’t get very far into it. Like most adventure games, you end up in a room with a few clickable items and have to do something to solve the situation you find yourself in. But here, the solution is often to click on the same thing three or four times, until suddenly clicking on it has a different result, or something previously un-clickable becomes clickable for no real reason. Example: you’re in a room with a TV squawking and you want it to shut up. So you click on it which causes you to look at it and try turning the dials or something. Then you click on everything else in the room but it doesn’t help. So you click on the TV again and fiddle with the dials again. Then you click on it and now that causes you to kick it instead of fiddling with the dials. Then you click again and and kick it some more. And now there’s a hammer, which has been there the whole time, that you can click on to smash the TV. So the solution to this puzzle is just to get frustrated with the lack of solution and click on shit that didn’t do anything the first time? I found that infuriating.

Posted in video games by Bill on November 27, 2017

Another game I acquired from trading unused Humble Bundle keys was Saints Row 2. I was told you could ignore Saints Row 1, but I watched a quick youtube recap before jumping in. It’s a GTA-type game, except absurdly over the top (one of my first side missions was to ride around in a truck spraying sewage on rich people’s stuff, just shit everywhere, so as to lower property values in the area for a shady real estate dude). I thought my distaste for driving in these games might be overcome by some of ridiculous comedy.

I actually got the hang of driving cars ok, but motorcycles are death traps and I immediately go head first over the handlebars. With the driving under control, I thought I might actually enjoy it, but honestly the game gets really repetitive quickly. There’s a couple little intro missions, then I felt the need to be fashion conscious (I hate the way the game renders lips, so the only way to make the lips look ok was black lipstick, which meant I had to make my character a goth chick and wear all black) then you take a series of missions to take a rival gang’s territory by going to a place, watching a short cutscene, and then killing some guys. Apparently you have to do this 45 times to take over the city, and at least the first 9 I did were basically the same. If you just concentrate on the missions, it’s a really crappy third person shooter. There’s not much as far as character improvement, pretty much just acquisition of stuff which is mostly cosmetic (or provides income, which allows you to purchase more stuff that’s cosmetic or provides income), and I got one character ability bonus (extra punching damage) in 9 hours of play.

The appeal must be tied to the random chaos I guess? But I really can’t get into it. I feel bad running over pedestrians, I don’t like shooting innocent bystanders, and I get pissed off when I’m driving a nice car and someone bumps into me and does damage to it. Going flying off a bridge and crashing into the ground just pisses me off because it means taking longer to get to where I was headed.

The guy who gave me the keys also gave me Saints Row The Third keys, but I guess those will go to waste. I’m just not right for this genre.

Posted in video games by Bill on November 26, 2017

I added 2012’s Binary Domain to my wishlist a while back and I don’t remember why, but it’s an action RPG/third person shooter with a cyberpunk-ish story, and on sale for $5, so I was willing to give it a shot despite middling reviews. It’s… deserving of middling revews. There are things to like about it, and things about it that sucked. Totally worth $5 if you like shooting robots and making virtually no decisions in an “anyone could be an evil robot” story. With the exception ~3 short scenes where you slowly walk around and can have a dialogue exchange with the people in the area, it’s entirely cutscenes and shooting, so it doesn’t get boring. It came in at about 15 hours, and I knocked that out in a couple days. Too much action to think about stopping before 2 hours to return it for my $5 back.

It’s older, and a port from a console, so that it’s a little clunky isn’t surprising. Almost none of the settings (graphics, key bindings) can be accessed in the game. You have to quit, restart, and select config options from the launcher to change those. In windowed mode, the mouse can drift out of the window, causing you to click intending to fire but instead catch the title bar and move the window, or maximize it, click out of the game, or occasionally catch the X and unexpectedly close the game (although after twice closing out of windowed mode in a turret operating mission that caused me to push the mouse to the corner and X out, I restarted in fullscreen, and discovered that their fullscreen implementation is basically borderless windowed, because there’s no video reset when alt-tabbing out). The menus don’t give me a mouse pointer, and they’re tilted at like a 30 degree angle to look “futuristic” or something, but it actually makes me have to think “do I hit down or left to move in a downward-left direction?”

The game tried to do a whole voice command thing, where you enable the mic and give orders by saying “fire” or “charge” or whatever. That was obviously the first thing I turned off. Somewhat appropriately for the title, the dialogue options (which I think could be said at a mic also if I left that on) are binary in annoying ways (and sometimes confusing, when your options are “yes” and “damn”). Or like, my squadmate 100% sexually harasses a new team member (“she’s got a great body right?”) I can either say “yes” (agreeing, and becoming a sexual harasser) or “no” (disagreeing, insulting her obviously great body). No option for “cut it out, that’s inappropriate” or whatever.

The combat is mostly normal third person stuff, hide behind cover and shoot. The one nifty aspect is that chunks of robot fly all over the place when you shoot them, and what body parts you take chunks out of matter (knock off a leg so it can’t walk, etc). Character-wise, you have a reputation meter with your squadmates. It’s boosted by killing stuff when they’re around and making dialogue choices they like, and it’s dropped by friendly fire (which took a while to learn how not to do, because your teammates will happily run right in front of you when you’re emptying a machine gun into a bad guy). I was apparently just a tiny bit of reputation away from the best possible ending, but I don’t care nearly enough to try to go back and fix that.

The dialogue and voice acting are pretty corny (slightly annoying as the English adaptation is done by Antony Johnston, a comic writer I rather like, but… I’m not sure how much leeway a game writer has in adapting from another language, so he may not be to blame). And sometimes there are things that happen without any kind of transition for no reason… “good thing we’re safe here for a moment let’s take a breather [gets on radio, suddenly screaming at the top of his lungs] WHERE ARE OUR REINFORCEMENTS????”

The story concerns robots in the future, someone violating international law by making robots that can pass for humans, so me and a bunch of national stereotypes (loud Americans, reserved and calculating Chinese, smooth Brits, and a wisecracking robot teammate who speaks in English and in middle school French phrases (“zut alors, mon ami!”)) head to Japan to take down the company that’s doing it. And the robots that can pass for people don’t even know they’re robots, so obviously me or one of my teammates has to be one. There is a romance with you and the girl you sexually harassed (possibly twice, but one time is not optional, in which you openly discuss her resemblance to a porn star when you first meet), and I don’t think I did anything on purpose to make that happen, which kinda ruins any sense of accomplishment.

One story thing that I thought was weird, and concerns a late game plot twist, so if anyone hasn’t played this but plans to (doubtful), know there are spoilers to follow:

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Posted in video games by Bill on November 23, 2017

I traded some unused humble bundle keys for Mini Metro, the full version of that simple subway design browser game I played a few years back. It’s basically the same, but with a couple extra bells and whistles and more maps. It’s nothing special, but a perfectly fine way to waste 15 minutes at a time (which was a breath of fresh air after going back to give Stellaris another chance and spending hundreds of hours on it, though I can at least beat that game now).

Posted in video games by Bill on October 1, 2017

Galactic Civilizations III is a space based 4x game from the same developer that did Offworld Trading Company, which, though I thought it seemed only slightly above indie level budget, was slickly designed with a nice interface. So when this appeared in a humble bundle, I figured that would mean this would be easy to pick up and not have interface frustrations like a lot of these games.

Well I was certainly wrong about interface frustrations, because it has this horrible clicking sound that the only way to disable is to mute all sound effects. One of the most annoying sounds I have ever encountered in a game. I had hoped it might be restricted to just the menu, but it continued into the game. And I got about 10 minutes into the tutorial and nothing interesting enough happened to make me keep putting up with the damn sound.