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    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Aug 11th, 2019 at 17:10:55)

    I'm 22 hours into Mankind Divided and I've done four story missions. Yesterday I got to the gun mod tutorial. Am I playing incredibly slow?

    What I HAVE done: explore nearly every nook and cranny of Prague. At least the first two parts of it (are there more??). I've got a ton of money and more praxis points than I know what to do with. I can break in anywhere and steal anything.

    The pacing and open world are throwing me off. Am I far? Am I not far? 22 hours is a long time and I have no sense for my progression through the story. It feels like I'm doing things out of order. Example: I spent two entire play sessions just sneaking around and stealing everything I could from the Palisade Bank, a gargantuan building with guards and security systems densely populating it. No quest or anything. I just found myself inside and started doing my stealth thief thing.

    The exploration, stealth, and thievery are clearly mesmerizing to me. Combat? I'm not quite sure. I've mostly knocked people out, and shot a few with tranquilizer darts. Story? Not enough data yet. The world-building though is excellent. I've read a hundred emails in hacked computers, e-books, personal data files, and more. There are a lot of little stories that weave together to give a sense of a world on edge after the Aug incident at the end of Human Revolution. I'm looking forward to doing more story missions soon.

    I have noticed some odd gripes. The TVs and radios in the game. I hate them. These people in future Prague have so many TVs, and they are all tuned to the same news station that loops the same broadcast. Similarly, the radios are all tuned to an Alex Jones type angry man. I turn them all off whenever I can, but I've really come to loathe them because their noise pierces through all other sounds in the game. There are some bugs. After the gun tutorial, the game crashes. I re-did it three times. So I technically never completed the gun tutorial. Sometimes guards will become hostile to me because I am in a friendly space that used to be forbidden. The guards still think such spaces are forbidden sometimes. I don't know if this is a bug, but often vendors (like NPCs marked as such! In stores!) will not show me anything for sale and make comments suggesting that I have no money (and that that is why they aren't showing me their inventories).

    It seems weird to write about Mankind Divided having played so long yet so little. How many more areas are there? How many places will I have to revisit? How many story missions are there? I know it ends on an awful cliffhanger, and I think I know that it only takes place in Prague. Its scope is illusory.

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    Life is Strange (PS4)    by   jp       (Jul 19th, 2019 at 19:52:29)

    Finished!

    And woah, that last episode went all kinds of crazy places. In really interesting ways as far as I'm concerned. I already knew about the final decision (save or not save) so I wasn't surprised there BUT that's totally fine because it was the natural/expected way for it to go. I mean, that's what the game was building up to in more ways than one. I also felt that it was consistent with the gameplay - and Chloe herself calls this out in the end. Max is essentially manipulating people and time in order to get what she wants (save her friend) but the universe is basically pushing back at all that.

    I'm really curious to play the "prequel" now because, supposedly, there won't be any of those time-rewinding mechanics? Supposedly? I guess I'll have to wait and see..

    I also enjoyed how most of the trophies were connected to taking specific pictures. Something that, again, is consistent with Max's character AND it forces you to seek out those pic-taking moments...BUT, you're provided with a visual clue of what/when those might be. I didn't get them all the first time around, but I was more attentive later. Like a photographer would be attentive perhaps?

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    Thief (PS4)    by   jp       (Jul 19th, 2019 at 19:44:34)

    I've finished chapter 4 and I'm really surprised at how quickly major events are happening in the city. And also, it's neat how, at least so far, there has been buildup between these events in the city.

    For example, sometime between chapter 2 and 3 there were people in the streets complaining about the oppressive regime. A lot of public unrest. This was preceded (chapter 1 and 2?) by the regime cracking down on people more - more soldiers in the streets as well. By the time chapter 4 rolled around, there was a full scale revolt were the stormed the central keep/tower (which I assumed I'd get to at the end)! Chapter 4 was basically infiltrating the tower... while it was collapsing, exploding, etc.

    So, in all pretty exciting stuff.

    I'm having enough fun to keep on playing BUT...

    a. I'm always getting lost in the "open world" city. I have a hard time navigating to the places I need to go. I'm also always distracted by windows you can "break into" - not remembering if I've been inside (stealing) or not.. It also doesn't help that some rooms you break into have multiple points of entry/exit and that sometimes these are on different areas of the map. So yes, navigation has been a real pain and I've lost a lot of time to this.

    b. I'm not a fan at all of having to buy all my arrows. I'm scavenging all over the place and it feels that if I'm wasteful with the arrows I'll never save enough for the big upgrades because there simply isn't all that much money to be made. AFAIK, all the loot is fixed (never respawning) with the exception perhaps of whatever the townspeople/soldiers might carry. But trying to make $$$ of that would be a REALLY, REALLY annoying grind. I feel like the games' design wants me to try out the arrows and do fun things with them...but I'm all like ONLY if I REALLY have to. Otherwise I'm just wasting money. I've also been save-scumming those moments where I missed a few shots (trying to headshot soldiers)... I'd much rather you were limited in carrying capacity and that new arrows were unlocked along the way. So, feel fine about using them all in a mission, you'll get them back but perhaps be a bit careful about not wasting in a mission.

    c. The game has some haptic gameplay moments. I've realized that these are really rare in games. Most will have haptic feedback (rumble when explosions) but few have gameplay where you need to make a decision based on a slight rumble, for example. The haptic gameplay happens on two different moments. First, when you're searching for hidden things behind paintings/bookshelves that have them. You slide you hands around and need to stop when you feel a buzz on the controller. The other is when you pick locks. Here you rotate the left stick (or right?) and again need to feel a buzz. Harder locks require that you do this more often and the window of movement is "smaller", so you need to be more careful and precise.

    d. Oh, I'm also not enjoying the scarcity of "focus". You use this to activate a special sight and other abilities. BUT, it decreases never to increase again until you find and use a poppy flower. Again, there's all these neat upgrades/abilities you can unlock but I'm super careful about using focus because it doesn't replenish and there aren't that many poppies lying around (and there not cheap to buy). So again, the games' economy is getting in the way of what I imagine the intended play experience was supposed to be...

    Sigh.

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    Kero Blaster (PS4)    by   jp       (Jul 19th, 2019 at 19:12:47)

    So, I finished it!

    This game was just on the shy side of what I was willing/able to play in terms of difficulty. It was made better due to the possibility of upgrading your weapons, available hearts, etc.

    As soon as I finished, it offered up a new game! Strangely, it's not the same levels but harder, but different levels entirely (and harder). I tried the first one...and quickly realized that I wasn't going to get very far without a lot of practice, frustration, and time.

    The last level was interesting - you have to head back to fight the mayor/president(?)...but along the way you need to deal with all of the different kinds of monsters/baddies you've been dealing with along the way. This included one of the bosses (thankfully not all of them) who was obviously much easier to deal with since now my weapons were maxxed out.

    I wasn't too excited about the extra boss after the boss though. It took me a while to understand how it worked and to practice enough to BARELY defeat it. Barely. Phew.

    In all, I enjoyed the game - it's pretty old school in its design BUT really polished in a way that old school games were not. And, as far as I can tell, it's a Japanese indie game which makes it extra cool.

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    Wuppo (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 18th, 2019 at 13:17:10)

    Yet another free game that I'd never heard of before from...from where...probably Humble Bundle since it was in my Steam library. The number of great free stuff from Humble Bundle (or $1, okay), Twitch Prime (free with Amazon Prime), Epic Games, and etc. is getting wild. It's like I don't have to buy games anymore. I bought two cheap things from the Steam summer sale (because it felt weird not to!), and I may not have bought anything over the winter one. And I've still got a massive backlog.

    Anyway, Wuppo. Odd name, odd game. What a hidden gem this was. It's like a narrative puzzle-platformer RPG hybrid thingy. It is cute and charming and funny and really well made. You play as a "wum," which is a little creature that reminded me of Strongbad's head on 4 legs. You're chilling in the "Wumhouse," where a lot of wums live, and the manager gets pissed at you for dripping ice cream all over the floors, so he kicks you out. But not before you meet a bunch of the quirky residents, take a lot of baths, play a quiz game to get a disguise to get to the 5th floor so that you can clean it, fight a giant dust monster, fight a giant ice cream monster, steal a train ticket, take over operation of the bell tower, help a wum paint a picture of fireworks, and more. Thus begins your adventure as you leave Wumhouse and look for a new place to live.

    During the game, you learn about the history of the world and its "races," largely through collectible film strips that you bring to wise wums (and one wise fnakker), who help you interpret the films. You'll encounter a wide variety of creature types (like the mud-loving fnakkers, the peaceful zen-like blussers, and the capitalistic splenhakkers). For example, you quickly learn that there was a big war between the wums and the fnakkers, and the wums cast the fnakkers into a giant sinkhole. Are the fnakkers really dead and gone, or are they still alive down there in that sinkhole??

    Gameplay in Wuppo generally involves talking to NPCs and completing missions that move the story forward, opening up new areas to explore. You'll acquire a variety of items (and lots of hats) that you can equip one at a time. Most items serve some useful purpose. For example, you get a "popo" hat that can pull levers and doors, various items that let you see in the dark, a "workman's hat" that lets you blend in with wums in Popo City and gives you a mustache, and on and on. You do use a gun to fight, but it looks like it shoots paint, and you can modify it in a few different ways. There are a lot of boss fights (about 20 total, I believe, and a handful are optional), and these are really fun. I didn't have any real problem with any until the final boss, but I eventually got him after 5 or 6 tries. The focus of the game is not on combat, even though you have to fight to progress, and I really like that. It didn't feel violent or combative, which is a nice change of pace. The antagonisms are sillier. A related thing is that you don't have HP, you have "happiness." You can increase your happiness by doing nice things for NPCs. This was a cool way to incorporate HP in the game.

    There is all sorts of stuff to do in the game that isn't related to the main story. You can fish for items, you can go to a theme park and ride rides. There is an entire island chain that has nothing to do with your main mission, but you can go explore it anyway, talk to characters there, swim out far and see what's out in the ocean. I took a train one time and it stopped at a cafe that I never went in (because I had no money to spend at the time, but I'm sure there were other neat things there to do). The game is so creative and so well done. The art looks like MS Paint. The characters are really expressive. The characters and dialogue are always funny. The audio fits the game like a glove.

    Definitely worth just getting lost in the game's charm for the duration. It's never too hard, though there are some challenging puzzles and areas (such as Redav Kned's guest house) that will make you feel great for completing them. Took me near 11 hours. Minus a few points for some bugs (screen size was stuck small sometimes, first time I tried to play I couldn't get the sound working and nothing would fix it) and the time I crashed the game by worming my way off screen. I was worried that I would start and then not be able to finish because the audio wouldn't work or the screen size would lock small, but it was okay! How do people not know about this game?! It probably just got lost in the crowd in Steam. Play it and tell other people to play it!



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    1 : dkirschner's Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC)
    2 : jp's Thief (PS4)
    3 : dkirschner's Wuppo (PC)
    4 : dkirschner's Scanner Sombre (PC)
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