dkirschner's GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay Machina (PC) - Thu, 17 Jun 2021 07:33:51 twin-stick shooter/bullet hell game that is very polished. Its arcade mode on normal difficulty clocks in at around an hour, though I spent over twice as long because I exited once without knowing you couldn't save and then it crashed on me. Then I tried the first world on the two next hardest difficulties. So I basically played the first world...5 times, the second and third world twice, and the fourth and fifth once. On each "level" of each world, which take like 30 seconds to a couple minutes, you progress by killing all the spawning enemies. There are several humans to save and various secrets and optional objectives that add even more challenge to an already challenging game. The normal difficulty wasn't too bad, and I could save almost all humans and find some secrets, but it ramps up on the other difficulties! Enemies begin simply walking toward you, but by the end of the game they are firing bullets and lasers everywhere and doing leaping and burrowing attacks. Boss battles are fun and chaotic. One is like a mecha-Donkey Kong, which was funny. I have no idea what the game is about. You're killing bad machines I guess? At the end you pull a plug or something? Doesn't matter! Kill kill kill. Yeah, that's about it! I played this on Xbox Game Pass and would pick it up on Steam to own permanently for a couple bucks. Worth playing, but nothing you haven't seen in a twin-stick shooter before. Thu, 17 Jun 2021 07:33:51 CDT Medium (PC) - Wed, 16 Jun 2021 09:25:51 Team is kicking ass. I played Observer a couple months ago, which was fantastic. The Medium is at least as good. It's another story-focused game, straight up psychological horror this time. Observer had some psychological horror to it, but the dystopian cyberpunk setting was so strong that it overshadowed the horror. Honestly, the horror elements in Observer--primarily avoiding a monster--were the most drab parts of the game. And Layers of Fear, their first game I played, was not good. So The Medium is the first time they nailed the genre. The story is a complex narrative puzzle that you are fed out of order. You'll be confused as it unwinds, but you should stop to think about it. Piecing it together is thought-provoking and all falls into place by the end. Here are the basics: You primarily play as Marianne. Marianne is mourning the loss of her adoptive father when she gets an urgent phone call begging her to come to an abandoned workers' retreat, as "you are the only one who can help." Marianne is a medium, which means she exists both in the physical world and in the spirit world. She goes to the workers' retreat, which has suffered tragedy and ruin, and over the course of the game, she learns the dark truth of what happened there. Spoiler: It involves Marianne's past. The gameplay is a novel take on psychological horror games. You play from a third-person perspective with fixed camera angles (which are done well, very few issues with doors or movement!). You are generally exploring areas, reading notes, listening to "echoes" and "memories," and solving puzzles. The neat bit is that, as I said, Marianne exists in the physical and spiritual worlds, and so at times, the screen splits and "both" Mariannes are controlled together. Their movements are exactly the same. Sometimes you can interact with things only in one of the worlds; they need each other to solve puzzles. Sometimes, physical world Marianne's way will be blocked and you have to trigger an "out of body experience," which allows you to briefly cross obstacles with spirit world Marianne. In more elaborate puzzles, you use mirrors to cross between worlds at will. Characters and objects may exist in only one world, and it is cool to see both Mariannes doing the same actions, but only one of them actually interacting in the presence of the character or object. If I had to take an issue with the game, it would be that it's totally linear. The game's progression is, I mean. The story is not, but the gameplay is. Couple its linearity with the lack of challenge in the puzzles and one could understand how players could find the game boring. However, I found the story, characters, and settings so strong that I didn't feel bored in the slightest. The Medium is really well paced. Although there is no combat per se (no weapons), there are a few enemies. And beyond the simple "avoid bad thing" in Observer and Layers of Fear, you do actually "fight" the enemies here and you can (and will) actually die. They are also scarier and more omnipresent. Taking a page from Observer, the enemies are all manifestations of psychological suffering and trauma. In that game, the protagonist hacked into the brain-chips of murder victims and explored their memories/consciousnesses and saw their lost grips on reality. In this game, you do a similar sort of thing, exploring past traumas and facing characters' demons. Since the worlds are linked, doing something in one world affects characters in the other. It's really interesting, similar to and different from how Bloober Team did it in Observer. So yeah, I'd definitely recommend this. I've got The Evil Within 2 queued up soon, so I'll get some direct comparison in the genre. Wed, 16 Jun 2021 09:25:51 CDT Death of the Outsider (PC) - Tue, 15 Jun 2021 12:44:23 through this one. It ends the Dishonored series with the Outsider (apparently there is another coming with a new storyline). It's basically a watered down version of Dishonored 2, still fun, but less interesting than either of the other games. You play as Billie Lurk (aka, Meagan the boat driver), and I might have enjoyed her and Daud's story more if I'd played Knife of Dunwall. I'm not sure why this plays so much as watered down Dishonored 2. Maybe they rushed it? I understand this was meant to be DLC and then folded into a standalone expansion. Anyway, some things are missing from the main game. There's no Chaos system, which means that it doesn't matter how you go about your missions. Kill no one, kill everyone, doesn't matter. Instead of unlocking Void powers as you go, you get your only three almost right off the bat, and unfortunately they are not great. One is a movement power (though when I learned that if you teleport on top of an enemy then they explode, it is how I killed most enemies from then on, very satisfying). One is a mimic power where you can impersonate someone, which is useful for sneaking around I guess, but I always went guns blazing and only used it a couple times. The third is just an exploration power that lets you spirit around undetectable and tag enemies and objects. Useful I guess, but not fun or necessary. I preferred to go in guns blazing, getting all the enemies pissed off and chasing me, then just jumping around like mad and picking them off with sword techniques, by teleporting onto them and making them explode, and with my other favorite move, jumping up high and doing an air assassination. Beware fighting me in a room with stairs! I actually never used an offensive item (grenades, mines, etc.), save for a few bolts at the beginning of the game. I felt like a badass, but compared to other Dishonored main characters, I really wasn't. I did explore a fair amount, as you can go in houses and poke around stealing things. Though toward the end, it felt like none of that mattered in the way that it did in other games. I read a lot of books and letters and whatnot that were mildly interesting. I did some of the side missions, which you collect from a hub instead of find naturally in the world (mostly), but also stopped caring about them because again they didn't seem to matter. There are fewer upgrades and fewer incentives to do most anything except blast your way through. There weren't even good puzzles! The level design was fine, but I was really missing something like the Jindosh mansion. Cracking the bank vault was the closest thing, but it is a simple arithmetic puzzle (versus the Jindosh lock in Dishonored 2 that took me an hour!), and for some reason these people barely kept anything valuable in their lockboxes (and always a lore book, why?). In the end, I saw the series' ending, which was fine. That's my summary of the game. It's fine. As I read a reviewer say, "a bad Dishonored game is still a good game," and I agree with that. It was enjoyable, but unnecessary. The other games are so much better! Well, until Dishonored 3!Tue, 15 Jun 2021 12:44:23 CDT Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC) - Thu, 10 Jun 2021 07:04:56 shattered my expectations. My little Star Wars obsessed brother had been talking it up and I played half an hour at his house recently and got more interested. My first impressions were, "Wow, this feels like Dark Souls with a light saber." The basic combat controls and the flow of combat are similar. As I played more, I thought, "Wow, this feels like Tomb Raider too," because you spend a lot of time with solid environmental puzzles (really, some of these were head-scratchers! great puzzle difficulty) and exploring tombs. Then, as the game really gets rolling, I realized this was an excellent, unique Star Wars game with smart influences. I'm not big into Star Wars. I like it, but stopped paying attention when Disney started rolling movies out every year. My knowledge of it was enough to understand basically where the story fit into the timeline though. It's interesting how Star Wars can take for granted that most people will be at least somewhat familiar with its world, story, and characters, and I try to imagine what the game would be like for someone with zero background in the franchise. It would still be fun, but would probably lack depth (and I know I missed depth, compared to my brother for example, who was going on and on about events and things as I blankly nodded along). The story this game tells is compelling. You play as Cal, a force user who escaped the Jedi purge (when the Empire activated all the clones to kill their Jedi masters). Cal has been in hiding but uses the Force to save a friend, which is detected by the Empire, and the Inquisitors come to hunt you for the rest of the game as you go on the run with some trusty crew on the trail of an old Jedi master who was looking to restore the order. You'll travel from planet to planet on this quest and for me the game got better as it went along. At first, it felt slow. I was getting used to the controls (admittedly, I've only completed one Soulsborne game and wasn't great at it) and the characters mostly seemed like cardboard cutouts. It took time for their personalities and stories to emerge and for me to care about them, and in the end I enjoyed their growth. Another reason it felt slow at first is because on the first planet, I discovered a special enemy, some three-eyed frog boss. There is maybe one of these bosses per planet. This thing annihilated me. Remember, I had just started and was learning the controls and basic combat mechanics. Well, like in Dark Souls, when you die, you lose your experience. Sort of. Your experience stays with the enemy that killed you and you can get it back by landing an attack on that enemy. If you die before you attack the enemy, your experience is gone for good. But, this is a generous system! Only one time did I die before recovering my experience. To the frog boss, I died about 30 times. So within my first few hours of playing, half of my time was spent on this frog boss. This made me think, "My god, this game is going to be hard, and I'm only playing on normal." But 30 deaths later, I had gotten pretty damn good at dodging, targeting, slowing time, attacking, reading the frog boss, and I killed it. It felt awesome. I never died that much again, though there were plenty of difficult encounters that required several attempts (the first time I fought some of the Purge Trooper varieties and the Second Sister in particular). The first planet also introduces you to the level design, which I think can be described as "sprawling and complex." There are a lot of obstacles that you can systematically pass throughout the game as you gain new abilities, and on that first planet, I spent a lot of time trying to get to places that I didn't have the abilities to get to yet. I wish I had known that there was no way to get that chest! (I never did figure out how to get that chest.) Paths connect in surprising ways and there are a lot of shortcuts to open. Some of the planets you visit look incredible, and some have like self-contained stories. On Kashyyyk, you help resistance fighters in your search for a special wookie, and fight through a giant forest, with a badass set piece and boss fights at the end (set pieces and boss fights are exhilarating throughout). On Dathomir, my favorite, you learn about the history of the Night Sisters and Night Brothers who live(d) there, what's become of them, and meet some really strong characters. By the time you get to explore Dathomir for real (you can go earlier in the game I think, but I skipped it early and just went later when you have to), you'll have unlocked all your Force abilities and most other abilities. The Force abilities make the game stand out among its influences. They are really fun to use, and you can get a bit creative with them. Storm Troopers serve as wonderful fodder to abuse, and when I realized that I could Force Push them off cliffs, I never stopped smiling when I did it. The best was when I pushed four of them off at once. Running around deflecting blaster bolts, pulling enemies toward you and impaling them, switching your light saber from a single blade to a double blade to take on groups, and doing all the other badass things that Jedi do never, ever got old. And, by the end of the game, you probably will have gotten most everything on the skill tree. I did a good amount of exploring and took my time admiring the planets and killing all of their inhabitants. Exploration in this game rewards you nicely with experience, which is always a motivating factor for me. It also rewards you with information and lore (neat), secrets (rare but useful, increase life and Force) and chests (so, so many chests). I think the chests are like a fan service because, besides giving some experience, they all just have cosmetic items in them so that you can customize your clothing, ship paint, lightsaber parts, and so on. I care nothing for any of that, so the fact that there are SO MANY chests (literally over 40 on some planets) was disappointing. I would have liked more of the story/lore collectibles than the customization ones. That's about the only minor gripe I have. Highly, highly recommend this one. I like it even better than Nier: Automata, which I thought was going to be the Best of Summer when I started. Nope, quickly displaced by Fallen Order! Thu, 10 Jun 2021 07:04:56 CDT Automata (PC) - Wed, 09 Jun 2021 09:12:41 really had no idea what this was about before playing, just that it was supposed to be a phenomenal action game. I assumed it would be in the vein of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry and I was somewhat right, mostly in terms of the combat. It's more open-world than I thought and the story is way better than I would have thought, so I was impressed and thoroughly enjoyed it. But, it both ended too soon and lasted too long! What a contradiction! Right now, I am watching the other 25 (!) endings on YouTube. There are at least 3 main ones for finishing the game (once, twice, and thrice), and most of the rest are jokes, often obtained through ignoring an urgent story mission. I just watched one where 2B (one of the main characters) decides to go fishing instead of helping the resistance camp, watched one where 2B eats a mackerel and dies, and am watching one now where 9S and 2B are annihilating the peaceful machine village, even as they plead not to die ("Please! Do not kill! We have done nothing bad!"), which is really sad! Anyway, as I played the game, I was doing all the side quests I could and had done ~42% of them. There were also a handful of unexplored areas of the map, and I had only done one round of the various arenas and wasn't even leveled up enough to do the next rounds. So, I thought I had a lot of game left. But it ended! I mean, it wrapped up and I liked the ending, but it there is obviously more stuff! After the credits roll, Square Enix tells you that there is more to the story (!) and that you should continue your save and play again. I did as suggested and, whereas you play from the perspective of 2B first, on the second playthrough you play as 9S, which was immediately awesome and revealed just how clever the writing is. For example, in the beginning of the game it's just 2B and then 9S comes and remotely helps with some of the first area. Well, you get to play all that from his perspective, which is differently gameplay. Then, after they are back in the bunker, 9S helps 2B boot up. This is when, as the player, you adjust the game options as 9S walks you through things. He casually says, "This is being recorded for posterity." When this happens as 9S in the second playthrough, he talks 2B (you) through options like he did before, but it plays back the video of you adjusting options from the first playthrough. That was so cool! After that, though, it seems like you mostly just play through the game again but controlling a different character. There is a third character I'm seeing in the endings, A2, and apparently you can play as her on the THIRD playthrough, and the gameplay and story is different there. But that's what I mean about it being too short (there's clearly more to do) but too long (I don't want to play the whole game again and THEN play it a THIRD time with another character). I guess I would have seen more side quests and some new stuff, but one playthrough was sufficient. Oh, I just watched another ending (ending U) where 2B self-destructs in the bunker and destroys everything and everyone there, ha. "Somewhere in the depth of space, the Commander still floats about with a stern look on her face." Some of these are funny. In ending W, you can die in the first battle ("YoRHa was destroyed and Earth became a paradise for the machines"). In X, A2 abandons 2B. In Y, there is a secret level 99 boss fight (I finished at like level 35). Z is a sad one. Okay, so, I've established that everything is basically great. Combat and controls are super slick. Looks great, sounds great. The chip system for upgrades is fun to use. None of the upgrading stuff is very strategic, so it's really just about pursuing the upgrades, but that's fine. Story is outstanding, main characters especially. Honorable mention to the cute machines, which have gained sentience and are struggling with what that means. You've read/played/watched hundreds of stories about machines and androids and what it means to be human, but this is one of the better ones. But I've got to find a flaw, right? What is the flaw? You don't have to look hard for it. The flaw is the unnecessary objectification of 2B. The artists took great pains to make her underwear visible. And not just like the waistband sticking out, but constant upskirt camera angles, her skirt that has a permanent billow such that you can always see inside it, the white underwear that is visible in full view. Why? What is the point? Why can't I see the male android's underwear? Why does 9S get shorts and reasonable attire, but not 2B? Why do other androids and characters you encounter in the world not have this billowy skirt issue, only the one that the player controls? This shit boggles my mind and drives me nuts. Final verdict: Despite seeing 2B's underwear for the whole game, it's awesome and very much worth playing. Wed, 09 Jun 2021 09:12:41 CDT Route Zero (Switch) - Mon, 07 Jun 2021 09:44:38 has a neat concept and has been repeatedly hailed by PC Gamer as something special since like 2014, so I finally sat down to play it. I made it halfway through Act 2 and am bored. It's very much an art/narrative game. You are a guy driving a delivery truck and your next destination requires you to find "the zero." It opens at an old gas station, where you talk to the owner, talk to your dog, find a fuse or something, see some ghosts playing cards (?), read some emails, and then finally get to drive. Driving was the most intriguing part, as the winding map of roads has strange landmarks to stop and explore. Directions given are always a little vague ("get to the meat plant and make a u-turn, and you'll see"). The visuals are cool and the audio made me feel lonely, just like I was driving late at night through quiet, rural roads. Otherwise, I really don't have much to say. It's magical realism, which is weird and intriguing, but it's very slow, with tons of dialogue. I mean, the character even gets a broken leg and has to walk around with it...sooo...slowly. Between acts are interludes. The one between act 1 and 2 is just an art gallery where you look at some pieces and listen to the artist going on and on. I mean, I know all this stuff ties together, and I want to like it, but I can't bring myself to care.Mon, 07 Jun 2021 09:44:38 CDT (PC) - Thu, 27 May 2021 21:06:11 is a real gem. Having just played Prey (another sci-fi/supernatural action game with psychic powers), I had hoped Control wouldn't feel too similar. Well, Control blows Prey out of the water. Playing them back-to-back, Prey was unnecessary! I won't go on about how practically every aspect of Control is better (sorry Prey), but will detail things I particularly enjoyed. First off, the story is bananas, in a good way. There is a federal agency called the Bureau of Control. Their job is to investigate paranatural activities (not ghosts or spirits, but like weird occurrences with everyday objects like your toaster randomly turning on or your TV set sucking you in). Then, they take the object (called an Object of Power, or an Altered Item) back to the Bureau and study it. These things are all linked and it gets complicated about alternate dimensions and entities and whatnot, but it's so cool. You play as Jesse Faden, the new Director of the Bureau, as she tries to find answers to where her brother went, to an entity in her head, and to her own past. Along the way, you explore the Bureau, which has been overrun by the Hiss, some sort of hostile alternate dimension thing that produces some cool enemies. Many are just Hiss varieties of armed Bureau personnel, but then there are various flying enemies, one that blinks in and out of visibility, a scary floating orb that heals others. The best enemies are the bosses, most of which are optional. In fact, I only completed a few of the optional ones. Most are really hard! And when you die in Control, you lose 10% of your...I forget the word...basically your main "leveling up" resource. So throwing yourself at a boss just screws you over. Best to wait until you are more powerful or until you've just purchased some upgrades and don't have much resources left to lose. Anyway, I beat the game before I came back to them. A lot of the enemies you fight are "altered items," which are everyday objects that have powers, that can alter reality, do things to people. One fight was against an anchor. There are four platforms in a square, and the anchor is this massive ball of energy with a core in the middle. It rotates, turning from platform to platform, and at each stop along its rotation, it belches a bunch of clocks (it's part of the story of the item--all items have backstories about how they came to the Bureau's attention). Before it belches, it exposes its core and you can use telekinesis--one of your abilities--to launch a clock at it. It won't belch and will instead spin to the next platform. I don't know what happens if you get hit with the clocks. My guess is you pretty much die. Anyway, that sounds too easy, right? Yeah, it is. So after you hit the core a couple times, it starts spawning enemies, the flying bomb guys that drift toward you and explode, as well as regular soldier dudes on other platforms who fire at you. This makes it a lot trickier because all of a sudden you are avoiding/killing bomb guys, sniping solders (or you could levitate over and dispose of them more closely), and watching for the anchor's rotation, which speeds up as the fight progresses. Even though I didn't beat many of these, I did see a lot (tried and got scared of losing resources and said I'd come back later!). They are really creative and some are really hard! So I mentioned the combat. Combat is fun, varied, never got old. In fact, I didn't even unlock all the main abilities. You have a gun that takes different forms. These are standard shooter fare (pistol, shotgun, minigun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle) that you can usefully upgrade. You switch between two forms at any time (and can change to others from the menu at any time). You also have access to some cool, powerful psychic abilities. You can pick up and launch objects (a go-to attack, very useful for destroying armor and interrupting enemies), you can levitate, you can ground slam from levitating, you can mind control enemies (very useful, especially because when you take control of them, they go to full health), aaaand...oh, and I think the one I missed, which is a shield. With like 4 psychic abilities and two guns (plus many swappable mods), and a variety of enemy types, you always have a lot of combinations to play with and fit any situation. Once you do unlock the levitation ability, the levels become noticeably more vertical (or sometimes they always were and you just never noticed because you couldn't float!), which provides even more tactical opportunities. I know I said I wouldn't compare to Prey anymore, but I have to just this once! In Prey, Talos 1 felt nice and lived in, in part because of all the audiologs, notes, and emails. But as neat as some of that stuff is, do you know how many games I can count where you listen to audiologs and read emails to learn more about the world? Like, hundreds. I remember it was novel when Doom 3 did it in like 2004. "I'm sure we can be more creative!" said Control. Yes, there are tons of documents laying around that you can pick up and read. They generally interesting and often relate to things you see in the world. For example, one of my favorite parts of the game was going to the Containment sector where the Bureau keeps all the altered items. Throughout the game, I had been picking up reports and reading about all these altered items (a refrigerator that kills everyone if no one is looking, a rubber duck that follows people, an oscillating fan that sucks oxygen from rooms and suffocates people, etc.). In the Containment sector, there they all were, each in their own room! The refrigerator was the most surprising because there was a Bureau agent sitting in there freaking out because he'd been staring at it for like 24 hours. Someone forgot to relieve him of his shift when the Hiss infiltrated the building, haha. In addition to all the optional reading, there are radio broadcasts of a Twilight Zone sort of show, internal videos produced by the head researcher (humorously low budget), a kids' puppet show series for children growing up in the Bureau (terrifying), and more. It's not just that there was more media to examine, but it was all so interesting and tied together with all the stories of the altered items, with stories of what happened to specific people in the Bureau, with stories of specific AWEs (altered world events). Anyway, I'm about out of steam with writing. The last thing--Control ties in with Alan Wake. I did not know that. I went back and read some about that game since it's been a while since I played it. Very, very cool. Control gets an A+ from me. Definitely recommended. Thu, 27 May 2021 21:06:11 CDT (PC) - Mon, 24 May 2021 10:00:12, charming, wonderful audio and visuals. This is a game about relationships, death, loss, love--hits a lot of emotions. I haven't ever played this much of a management game like this. But despite all that I did like about it, and how interesting and engaging it was at first, like all management games I've played it still became tedious and boring. The premise of Spiritfarer is that you, Stella, are the new Spiritfarer. You help spirits resolve issues and then escort them through the Everdoor into whatever lies beyond. The game world is set on an ocean, so you captain a ship. You sail from island to island, point of interest to point of interest, exploring, talking, gathering resources. On your boat, you build farms, foundries, homes, kitchens, and all the other buildings you need to manage spirits and convert raw materials into processed items, with which you, of course, spend on upgrading the ship so that you can process the next type of item. I am retiring the game after about 10 hours (it's roughly 25 hours just for the main story on Howlongtobeat). I have four or five spirits on my ship, plus a few sheep. I've explored what looks like about 25% of the map and gotten maybe 25% of the ship's upgrades. I haven't escorted any spirit to the Everdoor, but have done a bunch of quests. What I love about this game are the spirits and their stories. I also love exploring islands. As you get more spirits, you learn new exploration abilities (double jump, glide, etc.), which lets you find new items. I like that loop, the story/platforming/exploration loop. What I dislike about the game, at this point, is the resource gathering and crafting loop, the general "management" aspect of the game. It was novel at first, building all these buildings and learning how to do all the little minigames to saw trees, weave wool, and smelt iron. It was cute cooking all the food and learning which type of food was this or that spirit's favorite. Now that I understand the loops, the novelty is worn off, and it's just "I have to keep feeding these damn spirits to keep them happy" and "I have to keep feeding these damn sheep so I can shear them for wool and so that they won't eat my crops" and "I have to water these rows of seeds over and over to get food or linen or whatever to cook it or weave it to get the next thing to get the upgrade to build the next thing to do the same thing with the next type of thing..." Keeping up with all the things on the ship is detracting from the joys of pursuing the upgrades, of exploring, and of progressing the spirits' journeys. I wish the ratio of the things I like to the ship management and resource gathering stuff was different. I'm glad I realized that instead of continuing to mindlessly click on ore. Maybe after finishing Prey recently, I am particularly sensitive to filler and don't feel like doing it. Anyway, I watched my first spirit go through the Everdoor on YouTube and it was neat, but I am sure I wouldn't have cared all that much, as I don't seem to have the emotional connection to the spirits' stories that people who love this game have. I will remember the cute interactions between Stella and her cat and Stella and the spirits. It's still a charming game, and I'm glad I spent some time with it.Mon, 24 May 2021 10:00:12 CDT (2017) (PC) - Mon, 24 May 2021 09:16:37 didn't live up to my expectations. Here's what I expected: shapeshifting, mind-bending and fast-paced FPS action, maybe some portals (re: the last Prey game). What Prey is: a slower-paced immersive sim with a ton of crap to pick up and a ton of audiologs/computers/emails/notes to find. It has cool pieces, but the whole was underwhelming. Talos 1 The Talos 1 space station itself is huge. There are maybe 12 areas of the station, plus you can put on a spacesuit and explore its exterior. It's a neat, well realized environment. This is perhaps best exemplified by it feeling lived in. You can, in fact, find every single person aboard the space station, and that's, according to the internet, 268 people. Most of them are dead, but they leave their traces. Although I didn't find them all, and I don't know how many I did find, I did get an achievement (unexpectedly) for reading every single email and listening to every single audiolog. So I feel like I was close! Anyway, the fact that I found all the extra narrative stuff speaks volumes about how engaging Talos 1 is. Search Everything for Neuromods The downside of this is that they had to try and make 268 people and their lives compelling enough that players would want to explore everything. Most of the side stories are fine and, after a while, you realize that the main point of them is to get neuromods. Neuromods are central to the game's story, but the short of it is they are skill points. You start the game with few of these. They seem hard to come by. You think you'll never have enough to get the many useful sounding skills in the (initially) three skill trees. But eventually you gain access to recyclers and fabricators. Recyclers allow you to deposit all your junk (you know, from obsessively searching trash cans, beneath stair wells, and kitchen cabinets) to convert to raw materials. Place the raw materials in a fabricator to craft items ranging from guns to ammo to other useful items. Eventually, you get a recipe to fabricate neuromods, which is obviously awesome. And they turn out to be pretty cheap, requiring one rarer ingredient that you get from killing Typhon (the alien enemies). Well, if you pump points into the skills increasing yields of exotic material, and if you choose to fight Typhon around Talos 1 instead of avoiding them, then you'll wind up with tons of neuromods. Seriously, by the end of the game, I had about 50 unspent neuromods (average skill cost is probably 4 or 5). Difficulty Curves The thing is, you simply don't need all those neuromods. You'll search high and low and spend time managing your inventory, but the game becomes quite easy as it goes on. At first, wow, Prey gave me a challenge. Each new enemy type was dangerous and scary as I scanned them and learned their strengths and weaknesses. Ammo is scarce at first and you have no psi powers for a while. I relied on sneaking up with my wrench to melee enemies--saves ammo, but risky! But once you do learn all the enemies' strengths and weaknesses and you get some basic Typhon powers (these open up three more skill trees for a total of six), you will be more efficient with ammo and you'll have all the items you need to kill anything. Even the "Nightmare," the big scary alien who occasionally surfaces to hunt you (and you can kill it or hide from it for 3 minutes and it'll go away) becomes simple to take down. A Dull Plateau What all this culminates in is a dull plateau of gameplay that persists for at least half of the game, which is long if you bother doing all the side quests (which I did). You'll be a packrat searching for stuff to convert to neuromods, which you don't really need, completing side quests for characters who aren't really that interesting, that give you more neuromods and items that you already have enough of because you are a packrat. And you'll be able to hack anything, lift the heaviest objects, repair the most difficult electronics. In short, I could go anywhere. I wound up debating whether or not to just pursue the main objective or continue with side quests just to see if there were some really cool ones. It wound up feeling very MMORPGish: go here, click that, go there, retrieve that, bring it to the NPC, follow their next instruction to go back there, search that, get your reward. By the time you are at this point in the game, you will be doing a lot of backtracking, whether you are doing side quests or not. You will have unlocked the exceedingly complex travel system within Talos 1 (consisting of an anti-gravity tunnel, a central elevator that doesn't work for a long time, airlocks to get to sections of the ship from outside) and you will be acutely aware of how you still have to take specific routes to get to specific places despite the myriad doors, hatches, and elevators you will have unlocked. I bet if I hadn't bothered with all those side quests, reading emails, and listening to audiologs, the game length would have been cut by 25-33% and if there was a fast travel system, it would have been cut by another 10-15%. I guess, by the end, it just felt bloated, and it went on for ever and ever. In fact, in the very last area of Talos 1 that I explored, the game tossed 4 or 5 new side quests at me. Like, I'm about to finish the game! More of these side quests!? Uuuugh! Mimics Okay, at the beginning, I said that I thought Prey would focus on shape-shifting. This is what I remember from the ads years ago, and promos always focused on this. There is an enemy called a Mimic and they can transform into ordinary items (coffee mugs, chairs, etc.). This is, again, central to the story, and I remember learning that the player-character could also transform into things. This sounded like great fun. In practice? Mimics (and Greater Mimics) are the first enemies you find and they are a complete gimmick! Yeah, you'll walk into a room and get jump scared by a coffee mug. It's cool, it's fun, you'll kill the Mimic in two swings of the wrench. Sometimes they'll run off and turn into something else, but whatever. Eventually, yes, you can turn into coffee mugs too. This is not exciting. It allows you to be a little sneaky, evading enemies as they walk past the ordinary office printer you have become. I get it. It's an immersive sim and this is a clever way to take on the stealth element. But it's just so unnecessary. You can already sneak. Enemies are not hard to kill. Maybe you want a pacifist run or something? I thought this would be more central to the gameplay, but it isn't. No enemies hide except the Mimics, the first enemies you encounter. And there's nothing else you can do with it except turn into something and sit there. Narrative The main story is pretty interesting and kept me engaged throughout. The choices seem fairly binary. The ending (whichever ending you get) is not the ending though. I was underwhelmed at the ending, and had it predicted since I had gotten a "secret" earlier ending that spoils the actual ending. But after the credits, Prey redeemed its narrative. It made me feel bad for wondering if I could kill a friendly NPC because I really shouldn't have done that. I was judged accordingly. Oh well! I'm going to try out Control next, which hopefully is not very similar to Prey. And hopefully it doesn't melt my laptop. Mon, 24 May 2021 09:16:37 CDT Goose Game (Switch) - Tue, 27 Apr 2021 22:11:10 this with Sasha the other night. It's a really silly game and lives up to its promise that you are a horrible goose. The premise is that you annoy the crap out of small town villagers, and it is a joy to be so annoying. You are given a series of objectives in each of several areas of the village. Objectives include things like stealing objects from villagers or otherwise doing something to them that causes them to look dumb (like knocking a bucket onto a man's head). The villagers obviously are not pleased with you, annoying goose that you are. They chase you and constantly try to fix what you have destroyed. Taking advantage of their impulse to clean up your messes, you can lead them around areas, divert their attention, and enjoy watching them shake their fists in frustration. So, the joy in the game is being annoying, yes, but there is also joy in solving its puzzles. You can see your to-do list, but it's up to you to figure out how to make whatever it is happen. Dress up the mannequin? Hmm. Have a picnic? Hmm. Etc. To cap off everything, I think, is the score, the rambling, crashing piano that escalates as you cause a ruckus. Worth a few hours.Tue, 27 Apr 2021 22:11:10 CDT