dkirschner's GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay the Breach (PC) - Sun, 21 Feb 2021 12:20:16 this was surprisingly short! I beat this rogue-lite on my second try. I thought it would give me like 15 hours, but it was about 4. I will chalk this up to the thousands of hours I've spent playing strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and everything Atlus published in their PS2 SRPG heyday. In Into the Breach, you guide a squad of three mechs on missions to destroy the Vek, nasty alien bugs who are trying to kill all humans. You begin with a basic squad, one melee unit, one ranged cannon (just like a rook in chess), and one missile launcher. If you've played these kinds of games before, this is all familiar. They attack in different ways, you can level up their health and give them special abilities, yada yada yada. What sets Into the Breach apart is the focus on moving allies and enemies with attacks. You won't win by simply trying to do damage. All attacks move enemies in some way or another, and that is key to winning. The movement focus makes the game feel a lot like chess. You can push back, pull forward (with purchasable weapons), redirect enemies' attacks by moving them, make them attack one another, shove them into things, and use environmental effects to your advantage. For example, on one level (all of which are environmentally themed), the floor turns to lava and rocks rain down from the sky (thanks volcano!) every turn. Into the Breach gives you all the information you need to plan your moves. All enemy attacks are shown, all environmental damage is shown, you know where enemies will spawn each turn...enemies plan their attacks, and then it's your turn to respond. They don't attack until you take your turn. You can sit there and figure out the most ideal way to handle all the stuff that's going on to minimize damage to your mechs, and to the power grid (you're always defending buildings--if the power grid goes down, it's game over), and to maximize damage to the Vek. In that sense, the game is incredibly fair. The one time I died (one, ha), it was definitely my fault. There's some other stuff going on here too--some resource management, some risk-reward choices, leveling up pilots (which is important not least of all because you get to choose who you carry to your next game when you die), and so on. In the end, this is just a super tight tactics game. It wins for simplicity on the surface, but with a lot of depth down below. It's highly replayable, as when you complete achievements you unlock more "squads" with different types of mechs. This would be my motivation to continue playing, to follow this progression path, so I'll keep the game installed just in case. In the meantime, what's next?Sun, 21 Feb 2021 12:20:16 CST Days (PC) - Sun, 21 Feb 2021 07:42:21 is a fantastic homage to the Jules Verne classic. If you've read the book, I think you will get a lot more out of the game (you'll understand more context, the personalities and relationship between Passepartout and Fogg, the one random appearance of Fix in my game, the Chinese opium den scene, etc.). But, essentially, it's an interactive visual novel re-telling of the story. The main change is that it drops the story in more of a steampunk setting. Instead of it being the 18xx of our history, this timeline has airships, commercial submarines, automata, and so on. This makes it different for those who know the original story and inspires wonder all over again. So, as you might expect, you have 80 days to circumnavigate the globe. As Passepartout, Fogg's loyal servant and valet, you are in charge of choosing your route, managing money and items, talking to people, and keeping Fogg comfortable. As you travel, you can buy and sell items (some of which fetch high prices in specific cities), but are confounded in this by the fact that different modes of transportation allow different numbers of suitcases, so you cannot just carry around all the useful and valuable items. Useful items include those that are part of "sets" (e.g., an altimeter and binoculars for the Airman's Set), which allow you to negotiate ticket prices and departure dates for modes of transportation, or may allow special conversations. Despite that, I never ran out of money until the very end, and I suspect that everyone runs out of money near the very end because the final leg of the journey suspiciously cost me nearly all I had left (a very random amount of $5300 of my $5476 for tickets, which set my heart beating quickly). Part of the excitement comes in seeing which routes open up as you travel, as your path will be winding! You start in London. I went from there east into Germany (or Prussia? Ouch, my history...). I had a route planned taking the Trans Siberian Railroad, but then decided to go south because I obtained some valuable item that could be sold in Southern Europe somewhere. Long story short, I wound up in the Middle East, headed toward India, and eventually took a wild airship ride all the way to Hong Kong. Then to Japan, then across the Pacific (with much drama, and my favorite part of my playthrough!) to the US. Across the US and over the Atlantic to London in 75 days. I definitely wanted to see other cities (like Singapore) and parts of the world (like the Caribbean and South America), but my time was running out! At some point it really did feel like a mad race to the finish, hoping that I could find efficient and affordable routes to finish within 80 days. The only thing I didn't like about the game is the conversation system. When you travel, you can talk to drivers, crew, other civilians, and Fogg. You can ask them about cities and routes (that's it) and they often reply with nonsense. "Can you tell me about the route from Atlanta to New York?" "I dare say! You can buy amethyst in Atlanta that sell for a fortune in San Pedro!" "What? Okay, that's not what I asked..." These conversations broke with the otherwise stellar writing. Seriously, playing this is like reading a book. It's so well done. I'm tempted to play it again to see more cities, try for a tough achievement, and read some more great writing. There are achievements for finishing as quickly as 40 days, not using banks (which I only did once just to try it! I would have gotten that achievement!), and not staying in hotels (which means Fogg has to sleep on the street, ha). Maybe sometime! Sun, 21 Feb 2021 07:42:21 CST (PC) - Mon, 15 Feb 2021 07:15:36 was a freebie somewhere but looked cute and quirky. GNOG is a tactile puzzle game where you solve little scenes. All scenes have a front and a back. Usually there are a couple things to manipulate on the front, but you have to spin the scene around and open its back panel, revealing the interior where the real puzzle is. Solve it and you spin the scene back around and clickity click a button or something on the front to finish. You get a cute animated win screen and unlock the next puzzle. For example (and they aren't all this weird), in the most memorable level for me, the scene is a bird on a log, with worms popping out like in whack-a-mole. There are little stumps that you can click for the bird to land on, near where worms come out, and the bird will fly to the stumps and try to eat a worm (if it's currently there). I caught a worm and the bird flew to a hole in the stump and stuck its head in. I didn't know what was going on, and this was a lot for a puzzle front, so I flipped it around, opened the back panel, and realized that the bird was a momma bird and she was regurgitating the worm for her babies. You've got to rotate the thumbstick to spin a wheel and reveal bird eggs, which you click on to hatch. Once you've got a chick, you have to click and drag the momma bird's mouth to angle the food at the baby. Then click the baby to eat the food. It grows and becomes an adult bird. I did this for all 5 eggs (catching a new worm each time), but nothing happened. I realized that some of the birds were singing and that clicking on a bird toggles its singing on and off. I clicked around and realized that some sing on key and others sing off key. I made the three on-key birds sing and it triggered whatever it was on the front of the puzzle so that I could finish the scene. Other puzzles similarly proceed by you clicking around on things to figure out what they do. But the clicking isn't just randomly hoping something does something. It always makes sense, and there are often clues in the scene for how to sequence buttons and this or that. Other memorable scenes included the submarine and the robber (both of which were much bigger than the others). In the robber scene, for example, you have to help a robber steal money from four or five different houses, solving a little puzzle piece in each one. It was clever and I liked the playfulness of being a silly robber vacuuming up big gold coins. Puzzles are always fair, can be a little tricky, but thankfully are not terribly difficult. You have to play with the scene, so GNOG captures the spirit of like a toy box, or like those little tactile sets for children. I'm still a little peeved at the last puzzle though. I figured out that you have to line up a bunch of concentric circles, but I was trying to do it on the wrong plane and the game would not let me snap the last one into place. I finally looked it up and saw that I just had to put them on a different plane. The only downside to GNOG is the shitty, shitty "rotate" control. I played with a gamepad, so this involves spinning LS around to turn gears, dials, and the like. The command is so finnicky, really hard to control how things turn. This was super frustrating on the submarine level, where you have to turn a knob to fill the sub with water, then quickly turn it off at just the right time. It took me like 10 minutes to finally get it right. It's really frustrating knowing exactly what you are trying to do but being unable to do it, not because your skills are not sharp enough (as in a challenging platformer), but because the input doesn't work well. Still, GNOG is cute and charming and totally worth a couple hours of relaxing puzzle solving!Mon, 15 Feb 2021 07:15:36 CST (PC) - Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:31:52 COOL god game about existence, interconnectedness, nature, and the nature of things. It's got wisps of Katamari Damacy (rolling around), Spore (levels of scale), and the developer's former game, Mountain (quiet reflection in the natural world). I had no idea what playing this would be like, but here goes an attempt to describe the experience. You can inhabit anything in the world. The world spans from galaxies to elements. Let's imagine you start in the desert. There are some trees, grasses, rocks, scorpions, pyramids (if we're in Egypt). When you "become" something, you can move around. You can sing and dance and bond with others of the same object or the same larger category. Things are grouped in categories (grasses, trees, animals, birds, insects, rocks, transportation vehicles, stars, landforms, etc.). So you are a scorpion and you're running around being a scorpion. You can talk to other objects, hear their thoughts. The desert grass might ask when it will rain, or be grateful to be in the heat instead of the freezing cold, or might just reflect on its goals. Sometimes the thoughts are parts of a lecture by someone who sounds like a philosopher or physicist or something. The game's point seems to clarified in these lecture clips, which talk about all sorts of concepts related to being in the world and relating to other people and to nature. My girlfriend commented that this would be a good game to play while high. Maybe you tire of having the scorpion's-eye view of the world. Not only can you become something else nearby (and later, anything you've once been), but you can "ascend" or "descend" in scale, essentially zooming in (into the sand, into the microscopic) or out (into the sky, the galaxy, the universe). All of the scales work the same way. There are things to become, you move around, sing, dance, bond, read and listen to thoughts. It's very reflective and meditative. This was certainly a cool experience. I've got the game on in the background right now collecting some Steam trading cards and getting a few achievements. If you just let it run, it goes into "autoplay" mode and will itself. Aiming for achievements is really cool because you will see some stuff you wouldn't have otherwise, like the mesmerizing patterns that a huge number of objects makes while dancing. I am definitely interested in David OReilly's next game.Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:31:52 CST 2 (PC) - Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:09:06's hard to believe I started playing Hitman 2 back in JULY 2020. What a journey. This has been like THE pandemic game for me. I started it before going on a quick vacation before school began in August. I got into it quickly, played and replayed the first couple levels. Then, well, we all know how August was, and then September, and then October, and then November...I barely touched a game for months because work was so busy. I picked Hitman back up briefly when my cat was dying in November. I lived in my bathroom for several days with her and remember I couldn't sleep one night and so I set my laptop on my toilet and played for a few hours sitting on the floor to occupy my brain. That was the Mumbai level. I picked it up briefly again before this semester started, but I was getting frustrated with it because I forgot how to play and didn't remember what I was doing, and the story was confusing, and it felt samey, and there is so much replayability, and I was stressed about another pandemic semester, and I started thinking "just end this game!" I uninstalled and started something else. But what happened when I uninstalled? It started creeping into my head. How funny some of the set pieces were. How clever I felt finding new ways to assassinate someone. How beautiful and masterfully designed the levels were. I eventually looked and saw I had only two levels left. I reinstalled, and eventually found time over the last week to finish. Worth it. This is by far the best Hitman game I've played, and although I don't love the series, this is the easiest to love of all of them. In fact, I did replay most missions (and I am not a replayer!) over the course of it, did a lot of the mission stories, and so on. I could spend another 20 hours with it and be entertained. So, maybe more than the game itself, I remember the state of the world (my little world and the larger world) while I was playing it. Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:09:06 CST Age (PC) - Sun, 07 Feb 2021 13:32:45 point-and-click with a clear Double Fine feel and a cool history of crowdfunding in games. What I liked best about this was not only the inventive settings, but the fact that you can switch back and forth between two interconnected stories. They don't seem connected but they are. Both Shay and Vella are teenagers confined by routine or tradition, and they each seek to break free. Shay is a lonely boy in a space ship. His mom (an AI) is a helicopter parent, and his entire world is built around giving him the illusion of autonomy. It reminded me of the Truman Show. It's so cleverly done that it sucks the player into the illusion, making you think that you are guiding Shay toward some independence, making you think that he is doing some new, daring, rebellious things. But the joke's on you...until the end of Act 1! Vella is a girl chosen to be sacrificed to a Lovecraftian monstrosity. The sacrifices are a necessary part of life that prevent said monstrosity from destroying the town (and it seemingly visits every town). Vella is opposed to this and frustrated that girls have to die according to tradition, so she escapes the monster and spends Act 1 figuring out how to kill it. There is a huge twist at the end of Act 1/beginning of Act 2..! I started with Shay and played until I got stuck. Then I switched to Vella and played her Act 1 all the way to nearly the very end before getting stuck there. Both stories are interesting, but Vella's has more varied locations and characters. I think just the fact that Shay's story takes place entirely on his ship, while Vella's spans multiple villages, made the difference. Anyway, I used a walkthrough to get a couple puzzles and finished up. I'm stopping here because, by all accounts, Act 2 pales compared to Act 1, especially because Shay just retraces Vella's steps, and the puzzles are apparently obtuse. While I did enjoy Act 1, it wasn't fantastic or anything, so I'll just read the rest of the plot...aaaand there are some twists!Sun, 07 Feb 2021 13:32:45 CST Eternal (PC) - Thu, 31 Dec 2020 16:25:36 completing Doom Eternal, I opened my Steam wishlist and deleted all other FPS games (except Wolfenstein II). Why bother playing them? Doom Eternal is a masterpiece. Playing immediately after Doom (2016), the game has noticeable differences. I admit to thinking this was more or less a standalone expansion, but it is a new game. Somehow, it's even faster than Doom and I got my ass handed to me on Normal. After a few levels of slogging through, I turned it down to Easy. I'm a little disappointed in myself for not properly learning to handle Normal difficulty, but I was on a time crunch (had to finish before tomorrow and not get charged for another month of Game Pass!). I'll work on mastery another time. Doom Eternal did away with Doom's pointless (joke?) walk and crouch buttons. Now Shift is a dash and C attacks with your chainsaw. Appropriate. You instantly have double jump and quickly get double dash, which is useful for all the platforming that Doom Eternal introduces. I enjoyed the platforming. It looks cool, letting you take in the massive and detailed environments during the outdoor sections. It's also useful for finding secrets, of which there are many. And it gives you a breather between fights. Combat in Doom Eternal is more of a rock-paper-scissors style than Doom, when you could effectively use any weapon against any enemy. I disliked this at first, but it grew on me. Enemies have weak points, armor, and certain weapons interact differently with them. For example, you can shoot off the Mancubus's arms and the Revenant's shoulder rocket launchers, making them much less dangerous. You can Blood Punch (a new melee ability) the Cybermancubus to destroy its armor or the tank guy to destroy its tank bottom. The plasma rifle eats through shields and will cause some of them to explode, dealing AoE damage. It's far more important now to cycle weapons, weapon mods, and special attacks. You will die and run out of ammo far quicker in Doom Eternal, making upgrades and smart use of armor- and health-spewing abilities also more important. One new suit upgrade you get is a shoulder flamethrower, which ignites enemies and causes them to bleed armor pickups. Kill them while on fire and they drop a lot of armor. Later upgrades allow the flamethrower to quickly recharge, even more quickly if you kill an enemy that is on fire. I realized at some point that to play on higher difficulties, you need to constantly burn enemies and cycle through attacks that give you health and ammo. Easy is really forgiving, which allowed me less frustration and to experience the excellent story. I alluded to the good story in Doom but Doom Eternal's is better still. I had no idea there was a story worth telling in the Doom universe, but damn if that wasn't a major driver of me looking everywhere for secrets. Finding and reading Codex entries was a great part of the game. Unlike Doom, Eternal never got repetitive. It's a longer game by a decent chunk of time, and far more varied in its pacing and environments. Whereas I could predict what Doom would throw at me in its arenas, Eternal had me constantly guessing. And it threw more and more enemies at me, which is probably the one complaint I had while playing. Sometimes it's super overwhelming the amount of enemies. Sometimes they'll back you into a corner and you die because you can't jump away. Sometimes one will spawn right behind you and kill you. Sometimes you'll run out of ammo at a really bad time. I don't like that there isn't a lowly infinite ammo weapon like the pistol in Doom. Here, you have to wait for your grenade to recharge (which is unlikely to save you) or hope your Blood Punch is charged; otherwise, if you run out of ammo, you're out of luck. I mean, I understand that the game is hard and that you should learn to ration it and whatever, but it sucked to (especially early on) be put in situations that you couldn't wriggle out of. There are, of course, new enemies, and they are doozies. The Marauder requires some Dark Souls-esque finesse in dodging and attacking when it flashes green. The Archvile (who was in old Doom games but not 2016) is back and troublesome. He buffs enemies (a new thing to deal with!), which makes them super fast and strong until you kill him. Bosses are even more epic, tough, and fun. I will very likely buy this on Steam and play it again, or play the expansions, and play online some. This is one of the best FPS games I've ever played. The last two I enjoyed nearly as much are Doom (last week...) and Titanfall 2. Top tier recommendation. Thu, 31 Dec 2020 16:25:36 CST (2016) (PC) - Mon, 28 Dec 2020 08:51:04 is back! Doom Eternal is free on Game Pass, so I grabbed this one off Steam to play first. It's sooo good. It's bloody, frenetic, and nostalgic. A million times better than Doom 3, which I liked (the only game I have bought upon release besides WoW expansions in like 20 years), but which was more of a survival horror game. I'm also trying to reconcile this with id's Wolfenstein reboot. The one way Doom reminds me of that franchise is that there's a robust "encyclopedia" with descriptions of enemies, areas, weapons, and so on. I guess I won't have to read most of that in Doom Eternal! Time-saver! But Doom is MUCH faster than Wolfenstein, which is the main difference in gameplay. So Doom actually has narrative depth now! You are, again, the Doom Slayer, re-animated on a UAC base on Mars by the scientist in charge of UAC research. The demons previously imprisoned the Doom Slayer in Hell after his earlier exploits there, and UAC expeditions into Hell recovered him. Why was the UAC in Hell anyway? An energy crisis on Earth! Commentary on how hot it's going to get here? Hot as hell! Anyway, another scientist has gone off the deep end and made a pact with the Demons. You pursue her through the facility and Hell itself and cause much destruction in the process. Back to gameplay. Back to the speed of the game. It's the fastest FPS I've played in memory and really does remind me of old id games, Doom obviously and maybe Quake even more. Every mechanic and piece of level design encourages movement. Demons are highly aggressive. If you stand still, you will be mauled. You sprint by default and can hold Shift to walk (though why would you?). You can also crouch with C, though I don't think there was a single time in the campaign that this was necessary. Is that control command a joke? Combat usually takes place in arenas. You'll enter an area, you'll hear a warning ("Demonic presence unstable" or something), demons will begin warping in, and you kill them all to progress. The only criticism I have of the game is that this formula becomes repetitive. Nevertheless, once I realized this was essentially an arena shooter, I at least understood what to expect. Various pickups (health, armor, ammo) are scattered around. Here's where it gets exciting though. You've got a bunch of guns, each with one or two mods that give them special firing modes, and you have a chainsaw and eventually the BFG-9000. If you shoot an enemy enough without killing it, it will get "stunned," at which point you can perform a "glory kill" by pressing F. The Doom Slayer launches forward for a melee execution. These are wonderful. When you perform a glory kill, the enemy drops health (and later, if you get the upgrade, armor too). They may also drop ammo sometimes. This is one way the game encourages movement (and risk-taking). Getting up close and personal is dangerous but rewards you with health, which allows you to continue taking risks. It's a brilliant loop. If you run out of ammo, you can use the chainsaw. Chainsaw kills spit out a ton of ammo. Chainsaw ammo is really limited though (as is BFG ammo). So, you're in an arena, powerups and drops are all over, you're running, jumping, switching guns, avoiding attacks and killing demons like a pro. In the first half of the game, I was thinking, "This feels too easy." Later on, the game definitely gets harder. It's not that later enemies are tougher. For example, the Baron of Hell, the last non-boss enemy you encounter, never killed me. I always saved BFG ammo and one-shotted them every time. I suppose if I had missed, I might have been in trouble. You fight so many demons that you get good at devising strategies for each. Which weapons are best? What distance is best? What are their attacks? How much health do they have? How do you handle them when they are with other demons? Etc. Summoners are pretty annoying because they are fast and teleport around the arena, but they are relatively rare. By far the most annoying enemies though are the Pinky demons and their invisible counterparts. I hated these things so much and surely died to them more than anything else. They are faster than you (so if you think you can turn and run, you are wrong) and love to charge. Shooting them head-on does nothing. You have to flank them, which means avoiding their charges first. And they often attack in twos, threes, or fours, making it even more challenging. I hated these things so much! But back to the #1 Doom rule: Keep moving. Some weapon modifications made combat significantly easier. For example, the rocket launcher has a lock-on mode that fires three rockets at a target. This made Revenants (previously a bit challenging due to their fast movement and flying around) pretty easy to deal with. The Gauss Cannon's powerful snipe upgrade kills Mancubuses in two shots and Cybermancubuses in three or four. Since those dudes are slow, it's easy to take them out from afar. My main weapon of choice though was the shotgun with the burst mod. You get mods by finding secrets, many of which are scattered throughout each level. You can also mod your suit (boost health, armor, or ammo) and acquire passive bonuses (like increased distance at which you can perform a glory kill or increase the amount of ammo that drops) by finding and completing "rune challenges," little speedrun arenas (kill x enemies or reach this spot in x time). I found and completed most of these throughout the campaign, and the more you do, the more you can equip (I had three). Later in the game, you encounter a few bosses, all of which are neat battles. Only one was really hard for me (the Hell Guards). I had to be patient and learn their attacks. Key to this fight is realizing that you can interrupt them. But it is still tricky to keep track of two fast-moving enemies simultaneously! The Cyberdemon I may have killed on the first attempt. He was easy. Finally, the Spider Mastermind took two tries and wasn't very hard either. When you fight bosses, quickly figure out how to get them to bleed health and ammo (usually a BFG shot). There is a lot of BFG ammo around the Spider Mastermind, so she really shouldn't be a problem. But of course, I was playing on Hurt Me Plenty (normal) and there are harder difficulties. Doom sets itself up for a sequel, which I am just about to begin playing! I have until New Year's Day to beat it and cancel my month of Game Pass. There are a few other games on there that I want to play, but they're all longer, or I know I want to own them (e.g., Slay the Spire), so no need for a subscription. One month and I will have knocked most everything out! Nice!Mon, 28 Dec 2020 08:51:04 CST Outlaw (PC) - Wed, 23 Dec 2020 22:25:54 was a really cool one that I thoroughly enjoyed until about halfway through. If you're someone who plays GTA games and finds themselves in their virtual internet cafes or on your smartphone for half your playtime browsing the in-game internet, you will love this. It's basically a simulation of a desktop computer. Also, if you spent a lot of time on the internet in the late 90s/early 2000s. That's when I was in high school and college, so Hypnospace Outlaw's recreation of that era's netspace is brilliantly nostalgic. The premise is neat. New technology allows people to access Hypnospace (and other "sleepspaces") while they're asleep. You are hired as an "Enforcer," someone who enforces the rules of Hypnospace. No harassment, no shady business dealings, no copyright infringement, no profane or pornographic things, and so on. You basically browse the internet looking for users violating the rules. When you see something, you remove the content and can eventually flag users if they have enough violations. You get paid for each violation you catch, so there's an ethical dimension to it. Do you bust people for minor infractions and make some cash or leave them alone? Eventually you begin getting assigned "cases" where you have to do increasingly in-depth digging to get to the bottom of various complaints and tips. One of these finally threw me hard, Case 8, where you have to find some illegal music distribution and dig into some password-protected back end of the internet. Long story short, I used a guide for help (and learned that there is an in-game hint system if you type "hint" in the search bar), and after that I just sort of read the rest of the guide and browsed some videos instead of finishing myself because the meat of what I loved about the game--browsing webpages from 1999 and banning people--was over and it became a more difficult/tedious puzzle/detective kind of game. I would have enjoyed continuing to devour the fake content. It is so spot on for the time period and the humor gelled with me. This was the era when everyone had a personal website, but they all sucked and had dancing skeletons and glitter on them. Teens were trying to be cool and old retirees didn't know how to use page editors. Through poking around, you learn who are friends and enemies, what's going on in the world, and learn about all sorts of drama between the users and the corporation that runs Hypnospace. There is a larger story here about hackers and sleepspace technology, but I found all the smaller connections more interesting. There are various "communities" like Teentopia, which features a "cool" teen counselor who sings songs about not doing drugs; a spiritual community; a fantasy and sci-fi community; communities for various kinds of music; a community preserving the "good old days," and so on. The music in the game is so great. They created a bunch of genres (e.g., chillpunk, haze, flip-flop) and got some genius to write a bunch of songs, some of which are really funny or really catchy. The XMAS Medley is pretty great, and most of Chowder Man's songs had me laughing. This is definitely worth spending some time in for something different. Wed, 23 Dec 2020 22:25:54 CST Fantasy XV (PC) - Mon, 21 Dec 2020 16:46:21 through this fairly quickly, though possibly the shortest FF game I've played and definitely my least favorite. I finished it in just over 40 hours and that's only because I spent forever doing side quests and exploiting the leveling system. That's a big question I have about this game. Why is it so easy to exploit the leveling system? That's the number one thing I'll remember about this in the future, that I was level 65 doing level 20 story missions, that the game actually let me do that. I'll talk about that first because it involves a couple of the game's systems. You gain XP like any other RPG, but it doesn't affect anything until you rest. You are encouraged to rest at campsites scattered across the open world, and if not there, then at rest spots in outposts. When you rest, by default, your XP is tallied as it is, but some rest spots grant bonus XP--up to double! You find a 2x XP rest spot pretty quickly in the game. So obviously you want to rest there, right? Obviously. When you rest at camp, one of your bros, Ignis, will cook a meal. You're encouraged to rest at camp because you can eat one of these stat-boosting meals. And these can be legitimately awesome, boosting stats by a huge chunk for a long time. You can also purchase these meals at vendors. Early on, at the chocobo farm, I found that the vendor sells a meal that increases XP gain by 50%. So obviously you want to eat this meal constantly to have this buff all the time, right? Obviously. What this means is that I spent most of the game running (driving, really) around doing side quests with a +50% XP buff, saving up tens or hundreds of thousands of XP and then resting for 2x XP for massive level increases. For example, the last one I did I went from 48 to 63 instantaneously. 15 levels at once! And those weren't the low levels that always go fast! What this also means is that I was supremely overpowered for the entire game. Literally the entire game. Side quests were the only challenge because I did so many that some of them kept somewhat pace with me. The story missions max out around level 55, and I think that's the closest I was (when I was in the mid-60s) except near the beginning of the game. I often took hunts (a type of "kill x of this creature" side quest) that were higher levels than me, but by the end of the game, I had like two side quests that were over 65 (and one was 99, which I didn't realize until I attempted it and almost died. Quests were never near my level, so why would I check it?!). So one of this game's biggest flaws is how ridiculously easy it is, unless you purposefully don't use meals or XP bonuses to your advantage. Even then, it's probably still easy because, while death happens, it's rare. To die, you have to get knocked unconscious (HP to zero) and then have your "second" HP bar deplete to zero also. You will have a zillion items that you can replenish nearly anywhere and use any time in battle, so there is no reason you should ever die. I died once but it was during a timed event where I ran out of time. I never died from, you know, battle. You can also set your companions to auto heal and they will help you up if you are hurt too. Easy as the combat is though (and as much as I wish they'd taken cues from a Soulslike game), it's a lot of fun. It's fast and flashy and combos (link strikes) with your teammates are a joy to pull off. I never really got tired of fighting, which is one reason I did so many hunts. The main character can cycle between four weapons or spells and has various gauges to monitor that allow him to do (or command teammates to do) various special attacks. Your teammates' special attacks level up as they use them and I had them mostly maxed out without any problem whatsoever (again, overpowered). My favorite thing about the combat is "warp strikes," where you launch yourself to the nearest high point and then zoom through the air to attack faraway enemies. The farther you are, the more damage you do. My other favorite thing is the bro bonding. It's kinda cheesy but I found it endearing and heart-warming too. The game is basically a boys' road trip. You and your three best friends go off saving the world in a car. There's the smart friend, the jock friend, the goofy dork friend, and you, the emo friend. They play right into their stereotypes, are voiced really well, and play off each other well. This is one part of the game that I thought I would suffer through, but was surprised to enjoy. Now, the larger story in which their bro trip is embedded sucks. It's disjointed, dense, and was told so poorly that I rarely knew or cared what was going on. It checks all the video game story boxes: kings and royalty, wild west, mechs, zombies, demons, magic, research and evil scientists and experiments gone wrong, a vicious imperial army, prophecies, gods, and so on. You also, in the course of it, get to attack enemy bases, customize cars, wear outfits, gather resources, and do all the modern video game things too. I think they even added a multiplayer mode, which looked like Horde mode to me. There's also DLC that apparently is the only meaningful source of character development for your bro companions. I could take any or all of those things to pick apart, but I'll stick with the one thing that seems to define the game: driving around in the Regalia, your royal car. I both liked and disliked this. I liked that it was novel in the context of a fantasy game (this game is all about fantasy in a realistic world, which was a neat idea). I liked customizing it, even if that generally just meant buying some decals at shops or going on some item hunting quests for upgrade parts. But talk about restrictions! At first, you can't even drive it. Ignis (smart bro) has to drive. Fine. Except he refuses to drive at night (demons come out and he's scared). Super annoying. It forces you to camp or just wait out the night. Eventually, you either level up enough or hit a story point and he lets you drive. Awesome. But he still won't let you drive at night. Stupid. Eventually, you level up enough and Ignis deems you strong enough to drive at night. This is fine, except you stop every time you see a monster. You can't drive around it (even after you upgrade the Regalia to a giant monster truck). Stupid. Eventually, you level up enough so that you can kill any monster easily enough and it's just a minor inconvenience. But Ignis STILL makes you sit through dialogue with him every single time you want to drive at night, where he makes sure you don't want to rest somewhere instead. When Ignis drives, you can fast travel (when you drive, it's manual). Fast traveling only works if you are going between places that you have visited before and discovered their parking spots. Otherwise, you have to sit there while Ignis drives in real time. This takes on average probably 5 minutes to get somewhere. I read about 100 pages of a book over the course of this game while Ignis drove around. And folded a lot of laundry, packed for a trip, ate meals. I mean, thanks for making video game time more productive, I guess, but damn. Was that necessary? Can't I just fast travel? Or drive faster? Maybe this says something about the game as a whole. There are a lot of neat ideas. But the implementation wasn't always on the mark. I often found myself wondering why the game wanted me to do this or that or why this or that wasn't different. In the end, I sort of wondered why I'd stuck with it and played the whole thing. I think it's because I really was having fun doing all the open world stuff, even if I did read half a book while doing so. Then around Chapter 8 or 9 (of 14), the game railroads you into linear story chapters and you are basically done with the open world with little fanfare. Why did I spend all that time leveling up?! I didn't even need 10 of those levels! I was so glad when it ended (Chapter 13 is like 5x too long) and relieved to be done. It's like all of a sudden at the very end I was like, "This game sucks!" But it was just my late-game thought. I really enjoyed most of it, weird as it was. Recommended? Not really, unless you have to play all the Final Fantasy games. Mon, 21 Dec 2020 16:46:21 CST