Pointless Nonsense

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.

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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.

Posted in video games by Bill on September 30, 2017

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the second game in the rebooted franchise.  Just like the first one, you’ve got Camilla Luddington’s hot voice, elaborate climbing sequences, grisly deaths when you screw up, probably Lara getting a horrible infection from being covered with cuts and scrapes and the falling into corpse and rat infested waters, missions where I think I’m supposed to be stealthy but I just kill everyone, missions where I think I’m supposed to use a rifle or shotgun or explosives but killing guys with a bow and arrow is more fun, some fun jumping/climbing puzzles (with fully functional, thousand year old wood-and-rope pulleys and levers and cranks and things), exciting action sequences, and fairly forgettable plot and characters.

The story is about picking up where her father’s work left off, chasing proof of the existence of the soul and also a thing that grants immortality. Which seems like kind of a shitty basis for a sequel, especially one with a title indicating the main character is rising. It would be better to see her striking out on her own rather than riding on her father’s coattails. After a quick thing in Syria, it’s set in Siberia, which is a little bit disappointing as it results in wearing parkas and stuff. Obviously I’d object to her running around in a bikini in any setting, but the outfit from the first game was a nice mix of practical and easy on the eyes. There is a ridiculously obvious heel turn and an even more ridiculously obvious identity reveal.

There’s an annoying habit of revealing items on your map that you want to get, and spent a while trying to figure out how to get to them, only to discover that you need to advance the plot to trigger an event that makes it accessible to you. Like it shows you a relic on your map inside a house, so you try to get inside the house, trying to jump up to climb in through an open window, but you can’t quite reach. And then you find out if you go do a thing and come back later, the doors are wide open and you can walk right in. I’m cool with that happening, but they shouldn’t put the thing on my map until it’s actually accessible, or it just creates those time-wasting “how do I get in here?” struggles.

But the jumping and climbing and falling and stuff is exciting, and some of the puzzles are fun. I didn’t enjoy it enough to spring for the DLC, but for $12 towards a humble bundle, I won’t mind even if the rest of the bundle turns out to be uninteresting.

 

Posted in video games by Bill on September 12, 2017

Pillars of Eternity is an isometric RPG with with real-time combat from Obsidian, the studio that made KotOR2, Fallout: New Vegas, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. It appeared as the featured game in a humble monthly bundle (as in, the one game that you know you’re getting before you decide to pony up $12 for the bundle) and since it’d been on my wishlist for a while, I went for it. Even though I still have like 5 other games I haven’t even started yet. And I signed up for another monthly bundle while playing it because the next Tomb Raider game was the next featured game. But I digress…

Probably the biggest fault of the game is AAA ambitions on a kickstarter budget. It’s a large scope RPG with what I will admit is a quality story. At least, quality for as far as I got. The equivalent of cutscenes are still graphics with a narrator reading a description of the transition from one chapter of the story to the next. Very few NPCs get voices beyond a generic fantasy version of a hello (“well met, traveller” or something like that). It’d be nice if there were fancy cutscenes or more voice acting, but what really wrecks the game is the loading between zones. The large cities are broken up into four zones, but they don’t tailor quests to have you stay within a zone, so you’re quite frequently having to load from one zone to the other and then load back to the first zone to do a simple fetch quest. And unlike most isometric RPGs I remember, this one doesn’t do that thing where the roof becomes transparent when you walk into a building. Every building jumps to a loading screen to go in or out of it. Even ones that are tiny, single room, no event, nothing buildings. I tried to keep up with it because I really was interested in the story, but I moved on to the next chapter in a few four-zone city, and started to get piles of new quests that would involve dozens of instances of loading from one zone to another, and my dread of that outweighed my interest in seeing where the story went.

 

 

Posted in video games by Bill on July 25, 2017

INSIDE is from the same studio that made LIMO, a very clever minimalist indie platformer which was apparently a big success. This one is bigger and with more bells and whistles (like color and 3D, the previous game looked like you were seeing the shadow of a three dimensional game, but this one is really 3D). It’s the same basic concept though, the four arrows and a button to grab things and that’s it. Your objective is just to move through the world, but the obstacles become increasingly complicated.

This one has a bit of a story to it. Initially, you’re running through the woods at night. There are people in the background, some in cars, some have flashlights. If they spot you with their lights, they’ll try to shoot you or sick dogs on you. Who are they and why do they want to kill you? Towards the end, it gets weird. And since there’s no text or voiceover, what in the hell happened is somewhat ambiguous.

But the puzzles are very good. For a sidescroller with exactly five buttons (up, down, left, right, and grab), the puzzles can get pretty elaborate. Very fun game and well worth playing if you like puzzles, and don’t mind grisly deaths when you mess up.