Pointless Nonsense

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.

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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.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 13, 2017

Superhot came in a Humble Bundle and it’s awesome. I’d seen a demo video of this a long time ago and I thought it looked clever, but it’s really a lot of fun. It’s a first person shooter where time only movies when you move. That gives you time to plan out your actions precisely, and you end up with action movie type superpowers. Two guys are running at you with guns and you’re unarmed? Punch the first one in the face, his gun goes flying so you grab it out of the air, dodge a bullet from the second guy and headshot him. And this is neither an incredibly complicated set of controls nor one of those things where it’s like “tap A to do this scripted thing that looks badass but all you did was tap A.” You’re really in control and the slow motion mechanic gives you time to plan out the sequence of moves to get you out of an impossible action movie situation.

The graphics are minimalist, but it works well for the game. Black and white except the enemies and bullet trails are red. There’s a plot built into it, but… meh. Who cares though, it’s all about navigating these scenarios and killing all the red guys.

It’s short, a few hours for the campaign type thing, though there are other modes to play in. But really quite fun. It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 11, 2017

The new Rocket League competitive season kicked off, so I lost basically a week to that (and I’ve somehow recently gotten a lot better at the game), but now that I hit what I’m pretty sure is my peak ranking, back to bundle/summer sale games I’ve stockpiled. First up is Plague Inc: Evolved which from what I’d seen looked like a fancy version of Pandemic II, the flash game where you spread a virus all over the world except to Madagascar. And that’s basically what it is. Fun enough, but not exactly a deep or rich gaming experience, wouldn’t pay more than a few bucks for it non-bundled. Since it’s currently listed at $15.99 on Steam, I’d avoid the hell out of that until it’s on sale.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 7, 2017

Offworld Trading Company is an economic game centered around resource extraction and processing on Mars. You control a corporation on the red planet and on an RTS-like map, you deploy mines, solar panels, and other stuff, then buy and sell the things you make on a market. Prices rise and fall based on supply and demand among all corporations on the map, so if your opponent has tons of iron and sells it all to the market, you can then buy it for cheap. Or more profitably, if you have tons of iron, you can sabotage your opponents’ iron mines to drive up the price and sell your stockpile for a bunch. You win the game by buying out the other corporations.

There’s an interesting campaign mode in which you all start with crippled corps, then play several games without the stock buyout mechanism, instead trying to build up colonies to get metagame income, and that income allows you to purchase upgrades to un-cripple yourself, until the last game with all the upgrades you’ve bought is a regular game where you try to buy your opponents out.

It’s kinda fun for a while, and for like $7 on sale I was happy to get 22 hours out of it, doing the tutorial, a few standalone games, and then a campaign. I’m not interested enough to try to get good at it though.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 3, 2017

The Room Two is not quite as good as the first one, but that’s very nitpicky. It’s still really fun (and cheap) and has a cool visual design.

My complaint is that in the interest of making the puzzles more challenging, they made the rooms more elaborate, but most of the additional complexity makes it about “did you notice you could click on that thing over there?” more than “can you figure out which of the things this new piece will help you open?”

But aside from that, I liked it a lot. Especially for $1.50. Looking around, it seems like there are probably plans to port the third one to PC, so I’m going to wait on that, rather than try it on a tiny screen, or risk discovering that my tablet lacks the horsepower to play it.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 29, 2017

The Room (no relation to the movie) is apparently a mobile game that has been ported to PC and it’s awesome.

It’s a puzzle game. Aside from flavor text and some short transitional cutscenes, all you do is open boxes. But they’re really elaborate science-fantasy boxes with cranks and gears and hidden ink and all that stuff. Turn this key to open that door, which reveals the numbers you put on those dials, which opens a drawer with a knob in it, place the knob into a slot and crank it and the gears do something to reveal something else. It’s all really cool looking with a vaguely Lovecraftian theme.

It’s short (about 3 hours, maybe less if you leave hints turned on, though steam has me at 5 due to extensive pausing at work), but extremely cheap (about $1.25 on sale), and for that price it’s a great deal. It has a sequel that I purchased (also on sale for a buck and a quarter) halfway through playing the first. There’s also a third on ios/android, but not ported to PC yet, and pricier. I dunno if it’ll play well on a phone, and I’m not sure my tablet has the specs to play it, but I may have to investigate that after finishing the second.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 28, 2017

Kentucky Route Zero had come up on searches for games with especially good story, and metacritic loves it. I, however, do not. It’s a minimalistic point-and-click adventure game kinda Twin Peaks-ish magical realism thing. I liked the visual style, but that’s about it. There’s some things I’ve never seen in a game before, like choosing dialogue options for both sides of a conversation, making up both parties’ backstories as you go (backstories that I believe to be totally irrelevant to the game). Or deciding what to think about while you breathe. Those are unique, but not things I’d consider to be actually good.

I’m being more liberal with refunds, and thus quicker to pull the trigger on cheap games. Also between this sale and bundles my Steam library has finally grown out of control. I used to have them all displayed, then I just hid all the ones that I didn’t like enough to finish, but I hit a point where they wouldn’t all fit on one screen even with that, so I had to start making folders (which Steam doesn’t exactly do, but “categories”) are close enough.