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    Ori and the Will of the Wisps (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 24th, 2020 at 10:44:03)

    Another breathtaking game. This takes everything from the previous one and adds layers. The levels are bigger and more distinct, there are more enemy types, more abilities, more upgrades, they added quests, tons more characters, etc., etc. It's Ori turned up to 11.

    All that is to say that bigger is not necessarily better, as the game feels a bit bloated. An example: quests. The game has a heavier story focus, adds a handful of named characters whom you encounter, and adds quests to tell you about the characters. Quests are nearly all of the "fetch an item and return it" variety. You'll complete most of them just in the course of playing, but it necessitates looking in all the nooks and crannies (I generally did that anyway for pickups). For one, you find seeds and return them to a gardener so he can plant things. For another, someone asks you to find a hat for him.

    One big quest is to help a character build a village. To do this, he needs ore, which is hidden throughout the world. In total, there are probably 50 pieces of the stuff, and I'm pretty sure that you need to find every piece to complete every building project (I completed all but one). Finding and returning ore to complete building projects generally yields light conversation with another character, some spirit orbs (experience), and maybe a life or mana fragment. These interactions and quests are all kind of cute--the characters and creatures are very likable--but they're very shallow too.

    One huge improvement over the first game that I didn't know I wanted is 3D backgrounds. Stop and look as you play, or look at a screenshot. Every frame looks like concept art. It's beautiful. Sometimes, especially early in the game, the 3D backgrounds can be a little distracting or obfuscate what you are looking for (I used a walkthrough at the very beginning of the game because a movable stone blended so well with the environment that I couldn't see it), but you get used to it after a while.

    Another neat improvement is varied environments. In the previous game, the environments looked differently, but generally played the same. In this one, there are new movement abilities that make sense for each environment (e.g., a drill to travel through sand in the desert level; a fireball to warm braziers in the ice level). This means that, to some extent, each level forces you to think a bit differently. This could be annoying, but I think that's only my "I just want to use what I already learned!" brain talking. Really, it makes you figure out new abilities and ways of progressing through a level. At the very end of the game, you can go in an extra area or two, which I declined to explore, but my guess is that it (is really hard and) forces you to use all the abilities you have learned to master tough challenges. At least that's what I hope it was.

    So, if you're like me, you loved the first game and are happy for more. Most of the additions are welcome (I've talked to other people who disliked the combat addition, but, although combat was generally easy, I enjoyed it), but some are unnecessary and make the game feel overly packed with things. To that point, it took me 50% longer to finish this than the original. Maybe in another 5 years there will be a third!

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    Max Gentlemen Sexy Business! (PC)    by   jp       (May 20th, 2020 at 22:51:18)

    I started up a new game and interestingly your relationship with each of your colleagues/employees/business partners remains. So, you can essentially grind them all up to the maximum, which is nice for completion. I'm guessing there are rewards for repeated playthroughs and you can probably unlock new characters and make them available for hire and such.

    The beginning is similar, but your nemesis turns out to be working for your REAL nemesis and on it goes. I'm also guessing there's more story stuff to see and so on, but - I'm not really all that compelled to suss it out.

    I have enjoyed the writing and the humor and the game does have a neat little feature - a dictionary of sorts you can use to look up the meaning of certain words and phrases. It's quite funny, actually - and I'm guessing the writing team had a good time looking up old english slang and such.

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    Dragon Age: Origins (PS3)    by   jp       (May 19th, 2020 at 23:37:57)

    I thought I was closer to the end. :-(

    I had forgotten that I needed to go talk to the mages to get them to side with me. Since my character is a recently graduated mage, I figured I'd do this one last because I'd show up as "levelled up" (more impressive?). Anyways, so. I start doing the "go to the mages" and, as expected, something terrible has happened and so on. Interesting/fun story bits but what really knocked my socks off was a completely interesting gameplay twist!

    So, it turns out that demons and blood mages have taken over and a particular demon "traps" you in the fade, which is like another dimension. You wander around and eventually learn to transform into other "characters"! Each character has a bunch of special abilities and a key ability you need to use to solve navigation puzzles (e.g. walk through fire, bash open heavy doors).

    I really enjoyed this part since I had to figure out how to solve the puzzle - e.g. get to the monster in the middle. But, I also appreciated the "refresh" in terms of gameplay - I could play around with some new abilities and was also, at least for the moment, granted a respite from all the inventory management/optimization I'd been getting tired of (picking up treasure, not having enough space, trashing stuff, etc.). The entire "in the fade" portion of the game has no loot/treasure to pick up! (you get get stat boosts).

    So, a nice change of pace that really refreshed the gameplay.

    Ok, so then finished the mages and off to the last task before the final (supposedly). Perhaps one of the more interesting things is realizing that a lot of the story hooks/goals are political in nature. It's not about fight big monster move on to the next one, rather help this leader get this support so that they'll then do something else and so on. Really neat.

    Anyways, I spent some time wandering around the city and then went to rescue the queen(?) but - IT WAS ALL A TRAP!

    Whoah! Another nice surprise - again, with gameplay variations. I didn't play "after the trap", but it looks like I'll have lost my party/companions as well as all my equipment (a common trope), but it's interesting because it's happening so far/late into the game.

    Needless to say, I've been really impressed and enjoying the game!

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    Max Gentlemen Sexy Business! (PC)    by   jp       (May 17th, 2020 at 20:03:41)

    Played this a bit ago, but just posting now. It's not every day I get to play/write about a game a former student worked on. Or at least a former student I interacted with but might not have been in a class I taught? (hmmm...)


    It's basically a "empire builder" sim in which you're clicking on things to get numbers to go up before a (long) timer runs out. There's some "live" managing you need to do - you send people to places and then they get tired and you have to manually swap them out. However, it also has a dating sim side which is a change of pace - sure, you're always dating your employees/business partners which is not weird/unusual at all - but it's fun.

    In terms of the design I think it's an interesting mix of optimizing numbers and efficiency, with fun writing and dating. BUT I noticed there are a few elements from Slay the Spire! (familiar to me from that game, not claiming they were copied).

    In Slay you can get Relics that give you permanent buffs/modifiers/abilities - they can really change they way you play and help you lead into certain strategies etc. Here, you can also unlock "relics" (forget what they're called) - I only played once so... - but I think they might also affect the way you play? I don't think you always get the same ones. Mostly they might just be buffs/boosts? I hope not - definitely a more interesting game if they're not.

    I finished (beat my rival) a full game - but it hints that I have not REALLY finished it - so I might want to go back and see what's new? I wonder if other than unlocking new relics, there will be differences in story (I'm guessing I'll also see a lot of different/new characters and such).

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    Dishonored 2 (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 17th, 2020 at 10:26:52)

    Great game, totally immersive. I don't remember a whole lot about the first one. What I do remember most is using a controller and the Reach ability being annoying to aim. So this time around, mouse and keyboard! Reach works much better with a mouse to aim.

    First, the game has a wonderfully dark tone where everything is morally gray. Every character, even the main characters (you can choose to play between two), have faults. I chose to play as Emily, the recently dethroned Empress (instead of her father, Corvo, who is the protagonist in the first game). Emily was a hands-off ruler who didn't take much interest in being Empress and didn't pay attention much to how power was shifting in her realm. Thus, the dethronement. I did enjoy the story quite a bit, though there was one part that didn't make any logical sense. At one point, you can choose to kill the Duke (who orchestrated the coup) or you can convince his body double to become the new Duke. Then you knock out the real Duke and stage a scene so he gets taken to the dungeons. Now, why would a Duke body double make a fit ruler of a country? How does Emily know he'll be benevolent? How does Emily know he hates the real Duke? The Duke has access to all sorts of magic and shady people. How would he not be able to get himself out of a pickle and expose a mere body double? Whatever, Dishonored, I'll ignore that implausible plot thread.

    I love that you can always tackle objectives in multiple ways and that there are numerous paths through the environment. The game really does support varied play styles and doesn't seem to favor one over another. I tended, against my initial intentions, to attack everyone and kill a lot of people. I got a "high chaos" ending. Oops. This accidental tone was set during my very first enemy encounter. I choked out a guard, but then pushed the wrong button and threw him off a ledge, killing him.

    An example of how surprising navigating the levels can be is when you have to find a way into the Clockwork Mansion (a now famous level that gets 100 level design chef's kisses). You have to figure out how to power a tram line to cross a chasm to reach it. Once I activated the tram and rode across, I noticed a...path...below. I followed it backwards, beneath the tram line, and discovered a hidden broken fence on the initial side of the chasm. Oh my gosh, if I'd seen that, I could have just Far Reached my way across! The downside to taking shortcuts is that you miss any runes (ability points) and bone charms (little stat boosts) hidden throughout the level.

    An example where I did take the shortcut was when I had to get into Stinton's bunker. In this level, there are three main areas: Stinton's bunker (your main objective), and the hideouts of the Overseers (religious zealots) and Paolo's gang. You're told to take out the leader of either faction and present the corpse to the other faction to gain their favor. Then they will help you get into the bunker. You're also told that the bunker is guarded by an impossible lock, designed by the genius whose Clockwork Mansion you already infiltrated. If you walk to the bunker, you'll see some safe crackers trying to figure out the enigma. No one has ever figured it out blah blah blah. "Okay," I thought. "I like puzzles." So I spent an hour figuring out the solution and I got in the bunker without attacking a soul! I got a lot of achievements for that feat (but missed a lot of runes and bone charms). The puzzle is one of those where x number of people go to a party and there are y number of other variables that you have to match to the people. In this case, you have to figure out which of 5 heirlooms belongs to 5 women at a party. In doing so, you need to deduce what color clothes they are wearing, what they are drinking, the order they are sitting at a table, and where they are from. It was a doozy and I took up three pieces of scrap paper making charts to solve it.

    Another thing I love about this game are the hilarious (and useful!) interactions between your powers and the enemies. BY FAR one of the top 5 powers ever in a video game is called Domino. Like the name suggests, you "tag" multiple enemies, and whatever happens to one happens to them all. It's an easy way to get rid of several enemies at once. So here are a couple of my favorites that happened. Two NPCs were arguing. I Dominoed them, expecting to have to fight one or both to get past. But then one pushed another off a ledge! The one that fell died, and then the other one died too. In a similar case, I learned how to make guards commit suicide. If you Domino some, then grab one in a choke hold, the other guards will still attack you, but they'll hit whoever you're holding too. If they kill them, they die too. So basically, a guard attacks you and dies because he kills the other guard he's attached to. Hilarious. Another way I figured out to use it to clear whole areas of enemies (it felt like running a train in an MMO) was to place some mines in a spot, then run around the area Dominoing enemies and getting them to follow me. When I lead them back to the mines, they all drop dead at once. There are so many other ways to use Domino, and that's just barely scratching the surface of the abilities at your disposal. I didn't even unlock most of them!

    And finally, two little gripes that boggled my mind. First, the left mouse button is by default bound to the sword that you carry in your right hand. The right mouse button is bound to your left-hand weapon. !??!! That is so confusing! Why would you do that?! Second, characters vary in how they pronounce the name of the city where most of the game takes place: KarNOCa or KarNACa. It was driving me nuts, especially because I wanted to pronounce it KARnaca. Will there be a DIShonored 3? DisHONored. DishonORED? I hope so. This was a lot of fun.

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    GameLog hopes to be a site where gamers such as yourself keep track of the games that they are currently playing. A GameLog is basically a record of a game you started playing. If it's open, you still consider yourself to be playing the game. If it's closed, you finished playing the game. (it doesn't matter if you got bored, frustrated,etc.) You can also attach short comments to each of your games or even maintain a diary (with more detailed entries) for that game. Call it a weblog of game playing activity if you will.

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    1 : dkirschner's Gears 5 (PC)
    2 : jp's Max Gentlemen Sexy Business! (PC)
    3 : dkirschner's Dishonored 2 (PC)
    4 : dkirschner's Ori and the Will of the Wisps (PC)
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    This war of mine (PC)    by   MasterChief

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Thursday 7 May, 2015
    One of a man's first jobs has always been to survive, at least until the last century when we have become so comfortable that we forget what is is like to have to fight and scavenge for survival. We are so comfortable that a child is traumatized by actually being subject to the baser conditions of war and grows up to make a game about how traumatic war and survival and scavenging and having to work together is. Yes, war and death and terror absolutely is traumatic, but is that a function of how weak our lifestyles have made us, or is it just life?

    This War of Mine reminds us that survival is personal. War is personal. War puts a fire under the civilization that has grown used to comforts and conveniences, the way losing your cell phone for a day drives you nuts until you get used to it, except war has blood and bombs, and the limb we call a cell phone only has batteries.

    What is it really like to subsist? To scavenge, to make the best of what we have. That This War of Mine is presented as a traumatic and depressing event for the people in this world might suggest just how far we've come and how much we have lost as a civilization of life in becoming civilized.

    War does us a favor. It returns us to our mortal roots and teaches us how to live again.

    In this sense, war is like camping while leaving our cell phones at home. It is like hunting without a gun, maybe just a knife. It is about being on equal footing with nature instead of lifted up into our own worlds.

    I’m not saying I am in a hurry for more war, but is there a price for peace that goes on a little too long?

    As a soldier in Iraq, I lived in a palace complex with no running water because we were afraid turning on electricity would cause electrical fires. We had gold plated toilet seats but had to carry bucket loads of water from the lake in order to flush.

    We didn’t have cell phones. Sometimes we legitimately worried about the mortars that were fired blindly over the palace walls.

    The book and film The Book Thief explores the idea that the idea of war is actually far scarier than war itself. Once a bomb lands in your back yard and you survive, you learn to live with the bombs, until one day the war ends or your personal war ends.

    I’m not saying the game overhypes anything. I do think we might find ourselves more afraid to look in the mirror and see who we are without our guns and our technology than we might be startled by bombs if war ever comes home to us.

    [read this GameLog]


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