Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on June 15, 2021

me-leMass Effect: Legendary Edition is the new remaster of my favorite gaming trilogy. Being a PC player, I had access to mods to adjust some of the rougher parts of the games and apply some fan-made higher res textures, so I don’t get as much of a benefit as console players, but there are still some nice updates.

The first game gets the biggest overhaul, with the interface updated to ME3-style, the biggest graphical updates, and some really good gameplay changes. Inventory management gets the best improvement, but while the Mako gets some good updates to the physics, the default controls are a little unintuitive to me (but fortunately you can switch back to the old way).

The only complaint I have is that they fucked up Kelly Chambers’ hair in 2 and 3, and Jack’s hair in 3. They look 100% wrong.

Posted in video games by Bill on March 12, 2021

The Room 4: Old Sins is another in the series of hidden object puzzle games that I enjoy almost entirely for the aesthetics and nifty animations of gears turning and puzzle boxes opening. It’s more of the same, and solid entertainment for ~4 hours for $8 is a good deal in my book.

Posted in video games by Bill on March 10, 2021

Detroit: Become Human is an adventure game from 2018 that is basically an interactive movie with a branching narrative, but with much higher production values and more cinematic than Telltale games or Life is Strange*, but essentially the same type of game. It’s slow going at first but eventually becomes pretty compelling. I ended the game really curious about the outcomes of other options, but not curious enough to do multiple playthroughs. Probably just going to hit up youtube for that. But it’s definitely worth getting if cheap. A solid ~10 hour movie.

All the characters are rendered in detail. I assume performance capture from the actors, because the lip sync at least on the recognizable actors (Valorie Currie, Jessie Williams, Clancy Brown, Minka Kelly, and Lance Henrikson), although Clancy Brown’s face is a bit uncanny valley, it looks like a Clancy Brown plastic surgery nightmare.

Similar to Telltale games, they want to make you feel more involved by giving you things to do, even though all you’re really doing is interacting with objects and making dialogue choices. But for some reason they choose these weird mouse gestures for a lot of stuff. Make a hadouken pattern to open this door, dragon punch to cut a semicircular shape in glass. And sometimes the controls are weird, mostly from camera placement. 90% of the time you control the camera, so you hold forward and move the mouse to turn, but 10% of the time you don’t, so you release forward and press left/right to make a turn… also there’s a time when my character makes the same left-to-right arm movement three times in a row, but they change the camera angle each time. My mind wants to do it from the character’s perspective, so I want to to left-to-right, left-to-right, left-to-right, but they want to do it from the camera’s perspective, left-to-right, lower-right-to-upper-left, right-to-left.

There’s a gimmick where the main menu is an android looking right at you and she occasionally talks to you. There are a few special events where she’ll interrupt to ask you a question or something, and that turned out to be a surprisingly good little element.

* – I couldn’t remember the name of it, so I tried googling “teen lesbian adventure game” and that did not give me the results I wanted. The much wordier “adventure game like telltale but with time manipulation” got it.

Posted in video games by Bill on January 17, 2021

Defense Grid: The Awakening is a tower defense game that was free on Epic’s store over Christmas. It’s pretty standard for tower defense, but good enough that it kept me entertained for several days. They try to give it a storyline by making the things you’re defending be computing cores for an AI, and the AI talks to you, but despite fairly decent voice acting for a game of what I imagine to be limited budget, I couldn’t get invested in the story at all. Still, tower defense games are compelling enough, and this one does fine at it. Definitely worth the price of free, but not something I’d pay more than $5 for.

Posted in video games by Bill on January 6, 2021

XCom 2 is the sequel to a game I never played, which itself was a remake/reboot of a game series I never played, a turn-based strategy game about a resistance against alien invaders. I would normally not have played it, both due to lack of interest in the genre and not knowing the story up to this point, but someone offered up a Steam key for free, so I gave it a shot. I neither loved the combat nor the story, but it sucked me in with the upgradeability of soldiers, weapons, and your HQ that sometimes gives me an urge to improve everything even though I don’t really care. I would imagine people into tactical combat would totally dig this game. But I found it just ok enough to finish.

There’s a world map where you fly around and do things to expand your resistance network, attack enemy installations, acquire resources, and respond to random events. The random events happen so much it feels hard for a long time to accomplish anything. You want to get enough resources to upgrade your ship, so you try to go over to one spot to get more resources. But then an event interrupts that, and you have to go to the other side of the world to fight back. You beat that, then try to head back to the resource thing, but that gets interrupted by a new alien project that you have to stop. But to stop it, you have to expand your network first to encompass that territory. But to expand your territory, you need a different ship upgrade. So now you’re back to trying to get resources, but you’re forced to abandon your original upgrade plan. The random events felt dizzying for the first half of the game, like I was never making any progress at all, just reacting and putting out fires and getting nowhere. I suppose that helps the narrative of an impossible cause, but it’s frustrating to the player (or at least it is for a player like me).

The voice cast includes both the voices of Varric from Dragon Age and Garrus from Mass Effect, which would show good taste., except there’s a character who’s your mole inside the Vichy-like human-run-but-alien-controlled government, and they got the Honest Trailer narrator guy to do that, doing his exact Honest Trailer voice for it, and that’s a totally weird choice.

Posted in video games by Bill on December 15, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 is the long-anticipated game from Witcher devs CD Projekt Red set in the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop universe. It has many, many problems, most of which I think are based on how ambitious they were, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’s weird to have checked the (very good) metacritic score before buying the game, then re-emerge from my irrational spoiler paranoia blackout and see a generally very negative response from gamers. But apparently if you:

  • go in with no idea what they promised would be in the game
  • don’t care about the GTA aspects and just want to
  • have a relatively high end PC (or Stadia)

then everything’s pretty good. There are obvious flaws (the car AI is nonexistent), and lots of bugs (none game-breaking but I crashed a few times and got quests stuck many times requiring loading earlier saves), and even with good hardware my framerate dropped to around 20 in some spots, but I had fun, and the game is beautiful. And I’ll probably play again when there’s another patch out (and maybe some mods) to try a different origin and make some other choices.

Keanu Reeves is in it, but the real star of the game is the city. Where in a lot of games, you can spot the important NPCs because they have the elaborate designs, and you wander through mostly mundane environments only occasionally getting spectacular views. In Cyberpunk 2077, the blue mohawk, bikini top, miniskirt, thigh high boots, one robot arm girl is just a random nobody. And every corner you turn is a view of the city that looks like something out of a movie.

From what I can see on youtube, the visual quality on base last-gen consoles is embarrassing. And the GTA features are kind of a joke. The cars are on fixed paths and their only responses to obstructions are horn honking and braking. If you block their path, they will stop and wait. And cars will line up, all stopping and waiting. This also means no getting chased because the car AI doesn’t know how. So when you get the attention of cops, you just drive for 5 seconds and you’re good. It seems clear that they wanted to make a game that had both GTA gameplay and Fallout 3 type gameplay, but that they found themselves several years into development and needed to release a product. So they started cutting features, mostly from the GTA end of things, apparently many of which they had said would be in the game in interviews and things, leaving the Fallout-ish gameplay pretty intact (because that was essential for the plot missions), but the GTA gameplay lousy. Since I didn’t know what they’d promised, I couldn’t be disappointed, and since I considered driving to be a nuisance and the storyless encounters pointless, I didn’t care about the GTA gameplay either.

From what I wanted out of the game, it would have been nice to have fewer graphical glitches, my own reflection to work right, some better RPG features like the world reflecting the impact you’ve had on it or a real implementation of factions… but even with all those flaws, I found the environment immersive and the story and characters engaging.

Posted in video games by Bill on November 1, 2020

Dicey Dungeons has the Deckbuilding Roguelike tag on Steam, but that’s not entirely accurate, since you don’t really have a deck. You have a fixed set of cards for each combat (acquiring more as you go, and swapping them out to decide your set for the next combat), and then you roll some dice each combat round, and you use the abilities on those cards based on the faces showing on the dice.

It differs further from other games of this type by not really giving you choices with risk in the dungeons. All you really decide is the order you do things in. You can always do everything on each level. And it also focuses a lot on story, even though the story is thin (the characters making their way through the dungeons are contestants on a supernatural game show of some sort), so you spend a lot of time clicking through dialogue that I personally didn’t care about at all.

I got 5 hours out of it for $7, so I’m not complaining, but I don’t find it interesting enough to want to repeat over and over again and advance the difficulty.

Posted in video games by Bill on October 2, 2020

Monster Train is a deckbuilding rogue-like game, similar to Slay the Spire. Very similar. It doesn’t seem to be the same developer, but the similarities go beyond the basic concept of card acquiring and dungeon crawling (except that the monster train goes down, while the spire goes up).

But despite all the similarities, it does a lot of things better, and ends up being a superior game. In Slay the Spire, I just wanted to beat the game with the four different characters, but never wanted to do the increasing difficulty level aspects. In Monster Train, there are five factions (unique decks) with two champions each (each champion has its own corresponding starting card), making for 25 combinations, and that left enough variety that I actually did start climbing the increasing difficulty ladder. My obsession stopped at 22 out of 25 of those, when it got hard enough to be genuinely frustrating, but still I haven’t stopped playing entirely, just enough to start catching up on my RSS feeds and some less-interesting TV.

There’s some story about a frozen heart and angels and hell, but that never matters in these games. You successfully beat the thing! Now would you like to do it again, but differently? Or intentionally make it harder on yourself? You would need a really contrived story for that to make sense.

Posted in video games by Bill on August 22, 2020

BattleTech is a turn-based tactical combat game from a couple years ago, made by Paradox, which I got in a bundle at some point and never bothered to check out until now.

Having played Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries in about 1997 and had no other familiarity with the universe, all the story stuff meant nothing to me. And apparently meant nothing in the game, since as far as I can tell, you have all these dialogue choices and character decisions, and they don’t matter. And for the turn based combat, I found myself fighting with the interface, wanting things to operate in semi-intuitive ways, but finding that I had to do things like press V to cycle through targets, instead of just clicking on the thing I wanted to hit and getting a contextual menu or something.

I’m not sure if this game is bad necessarily, but it’s not for me. No interest in the lore, not typically a fan of the turn-based tactics, and not willing to put up with the controls long enough to get past any of that.

Posted in video games by Bill on August 22, 2020

Everreach: Project Eden is a third person action/rpg that was cheap in a bundle, and one of the many “small studio tries to make Mass Effect clone” games that I’ve tried out because I really like Mass Effect. Most have been disappointing, and this got pretty lousy reviews, but even knowing that, it’s impressively bad.

  • The characters have realistic skin and armor textures, which makes their dead eyes really stand out.
  • Some of the voice actors are surprisingly good for a game of this budget, but the main character and what seems like the main quest-giver are pretty terrible.
  • The shooting controls are abysmal, with the worst feel of firing a gun I can remember in a game. Zero recoil and the sound of my own gun is drowned out by the opponents’ shooting. Even with zero recoil, the sluggish controls made aiming hard.
  • The environments are actually pretty nice looking, but you’re often running through tall grass. And then get suck on obstacles that you couldn’t see coming because of the grass. Just running around the world is unnecessarily difficult.
  • The only saving is at checkpoints, which are entirely location-based as far as I can tell. So if you double-back because the unhelpful map made you miss some quest objectives, then die, you go all the way back to the first time you passed the checkpoint. Which is where I quit, losing about 20 minutes of progress as I was trying to give the story a chance to develop and make me want to put up with the poor gameplay.