Blapril 2020 – That’s a Wrap

Today is the last day of April, and as such that also means that the Blapril 2020 blogging event is ending with it as well. I wrote my first post for the challenge on March 31st, so given this post today I’ll have met my 31 post quota for the month. I actually wrote a few posts that week as well, so it’s been quite the run. When it comes down to it, Blapril really wasn’t any different than Blaugust, aside from the obvious shift in months. The pandemic still rages on around the world, but much of my country is up in arms trying to get things back to normal — maybe before they should. Whatever the case, trying to find something to write about every day was a welcomed part of my day throughout this period of isolation. It pushed me to find new hobbies, plow through some games and ultimately find entirely new things to write about.

I’m not as burnt out feeling as I was at the end of Blaugust last year. I have mentioned a thing or two about running out of steam, but that’s just because I typically don’t write every single day, so I crammed two or three months worth of posts into one month. Given that, I still found that many of my posts were wordy, and I haven’t been that wordy in the recent past. I also took that month or so off from writing altogether. I don’t think it honestly stems from these challenges, but more my own personal mood. I don’t like feeling constrained to a schedule, so I usually just write when I feel inspired. There have been many points over the life of this blog where I had no inspiration, and that’s when the breaks would come. Whatever the case, I’m still here at the end of this road, and I’m sure I’ll take on new challenges going forward. Writing is a habit I intend to keep going for as long as I can.

I want to thank Belghast for rallying the troops once more. It was a fun ride. I’m going to take a break now, but I hope to maintain a decent schedule of posts in the future. This shouldn’t be a problem for the remainder of time we’re in quarantine, but it’s unclear how much longer that will last.

Journey to The Outer Worlds

So Fallout is a thing. If we go back in time a bit, the third game in the series made the jump to the 3D space and turned the series into a first person affair, much like The Elder Scrolls series. This is partially due to the fact that at this time Bethesda bought the IP from Interplay, so it was their first game and they obviously used the TES architecture to design it. I played Fallout 3 but didn’t really enjoy the fact that you relied heavily on the VATS system to do well in combat so the game couldn’t be played in a fast paced style. Stealth didn’t make as much sense to me then either, though these issues were rectified for me come the fourth game in the series. Somewhere in between there, another Fallout game was made, but by a different company. This game was Fallout: New Vegas, and though it appeared at the time to be using the same engine as Fallout 3, it’s almost fair to say that Fallout: New Vegas was the “real” Fallout 3. 

Long ago a company named Black Isle Studios made some amazing cRPGs that I played and enjoyed. These games were distributed by Interplay, who would later go under and sell off IPs, hence the tidbit above. The studio itself would close down but was famous for developing the first two Fallout games along with Planescape: Torment. Later, a new company would emerge from the ashes, and Obsidian Entertainment would go on to work on similar titles like Neverwinter Nights 2, and Knights of the Old Republic 2. They came back around to Fallout with New Vegas and then I assume that they were no longer allowed (or interested) in pursuing more games in that world. Instead, we’ve gotten The Outer Worlds, which in itself is much like a Fallout game, but is set in its own world. I should also note that Obsidian went back to their roots for a few years developing the Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny games.

The Outer Worlds was on my radar early on, but I was skeptical after buying Fallout 76 on day one and being mostly disappointed with it. I wanted another Fallout experience but that wasn’t it, and I wasn’t sure that Obsidian would deliver something I wanted. The other issue was that while it was releasing on consoles and PC on day one, the PC version could only be picked up on the Epic Games store and I have whole-heartedly boycotted that platform. Later it was said that the release would come to Steam, but that it would be one year later. The Outer Worlds has been out since October of 2019, and here were are smack dab in the middle of that year. I saw the game on sale on the Playstation Store and decided I didn’t want to wait until October 2020 to pay full price for a year old game. That might not be the case, but I simply didn’t want to wait. So I picked it up, downloaded and started playing last night.

As much as I want to compare The Outer Worlds to Fallout, I’m going to try and leave the comparisons behind outside of those I’ve already mentioned. Yes, they are both first person RPGs that take place in the future, and have plenty of retro and futuristic elements but that’s about where it stops. Here, the story revolves around corporations that serve as factions throughout the universe. There’s also much more than just one world to explore, so I imagine if you put all of the maps together you’d get a similarly sized world. Travel on foot takes some time but there is a lot of detail put into each point of interest and the world feels alive.

As with most RPGs, you’ll start out by creating your character, which seemed pretty straight forward. I’m not sure how well I chose to spend my skill and attribute points, but I pulled from my knowledge of these style of games and assumed that dialog options along with hacking/lockpicking skills would be a good way to go. I’ve also focused on being able to use long guns so that I can take enemies out before they get to me. Overall it feels pretty much the same as most RPGs, but I see some little nuances that were interesting.

The story goes that you were frozen on a ship that was bound for a corporate owned colony somewhere in space, but something on the ship failed and so you (along with others) were frozen for 70 years. Apparently a lot has happened since then, but it seems that corporations control various parts of space and your faction standings will fluctuate as you participate in the story. A fugitive helps you escape, but then his ship is damaged so he sends you planet side to meet with a smuggler who is going to help you help the guy who saved you but then he gets squashed by your landing pod and you’re sort of on your own. I’ve only played through the first area and just got access to a ship, so now I’m able to travel the stars. But just the first portion of the game successfully introduces you to a number of characters, gets you some gear and experience (I believe I’m level 7 already) and even gets you your first companion. Apparently you can have up to two companions at a time in this game, so that’s something new.

Like most of these types of RPGs, you have an overarching story line and then a bunch of little side quests. At this point I believe my priority is to help get the rest of the frozen colonists free, but first I have to help the fugitive that freed me. From there I assume more will happen, but along the way a bunch of little stories will unfold. I love this style of game so I know that I’m going to have fun with this one, I just don’t really know what to expect.

Finally seeing the ship’s navigation makes the game appear that it will be huge. There are a lot of planets there to explore, however we didn’t do a whole lot on Terra 2, so I’m not sure that each place we visit will be that expansive. Whatever the case, I’m anxious to get back to it, so I’m gonna hit publish and play some more!

Hype Train: Streets of Rage 4

I was reading various blog posts and otherwise trolling the Internet yesterday and came across a game I had no idea coming. Series as old as this one rarely get direct sequels, rather reimaginings or reboots or even remakes. But 26 years ago, the last entry in the Streets of Rage franchise released. That is, until Thursday. Seriously, I think perhaps the lack of an E3 this year or simply the fact that I haven’t paid as much attention to gaming news sources lately let this one slip by. I was a huge fan of this style of side-scrolling beat-em-up game in the 1990’s. Back then I was fully a SEGA kid, and I played all three games in the series religiously, along with others like it — the Golden Axe series and TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist for example. We can’t say that these games were revolutionary, mainly because there are so many of them and so many that did different things in different ways. I largely left the side-scrolling and platforming genre behind in the 90’s, until a few years back when I started playing some rogue-likes and metrodvanias that started making a comeback with current technology. It turns out I still enjoy the play pattern, though these games tend to hold my interest a little less than they once did. Still, this seems like the perfect couch co-op game, and also has some online functionality that could make it even better. I’m not sure if they’re going to take things to Dragon’s Crown levels of replay-ability, but it still seems to have enough features to feel like a worth while purchase, if nothing else for nostalgia alone. Take a look at the reveal trailer and you’ll see what there is to like.

The game looks pretty damn beautiful, yet captures the spirit of the originals. I can tell this by just looking at it, but it also seems to have improved the combat mechanics to a point where there are more things to do than just mash a button (though I’m sure there’s still a lot of that). Another selling point they revealed is the ability to play with all of the playable characters through the original trilogy, but also included a couple of new characters, so I imagine there’s a lot of different combinations there to play with, and I’m sure achievements could be bound to completing things with each. Also noted is the ability to play as retro versions of the characters inside of the new engine, which is a nice touch, though I think I’m more inclined to stick to new artwork for a new game.

It’s an interesting idea that also attempts to pull on the heart strings, but since I own copies of the originals I can get that experience anytime and would prefer looking at the new stuff. The final selling point is “battle mode” which I guess was something you could do with the old games? I honestly don’t remember. Anyway, here’s that:

It’s a thing. It looks like it could be pretty fun, it’s obviously up to 4 player brawls, but I also don’t see a lot of room for strategy either. I guess it’s sort of a mini Street Fighter game within a game. Whatever the case I think the package as a whole looks pretty damn sweet, and with a $25 price point I can’t help but pick it up. I’m hoping to rope the family into playing it with me, as a last feature I can note is that there is now 4 player local co-op for the game. I’ll likely have more to say about this one come the weekend as release is in just a couple of days.

By The Numbers: Thoughts on the Packers’ 2020 Draft

With the pandemic going on for the past month plus, I hadn’t really thought about football all that much. I knew free agency was happening but I didn’t really pay attention (I do know we picked up one receiver at least). I also knew that the draft was around the corner, but I totally forgot until the day it was happening and I started seeing things on social media. I have some opinions, but I’ll wait just a moment. After seeing the first draft pick I started paying more attention over the next couple of days and since it’s been a couple of days more since the picks were made, I figured I should jump on this topic while the iron is still hot. So old news and all, but here’s the 2020 draft class for the Green Bay Packers:

So right off the bat, I was like what the fuck? Having watched some film of Jordan Love, I do see the similarities between his style and Rodgers’, and yet I still think it’s too soon to be making the switch. Brady is still going and he’s a handful of years older at least. I don’t know that even if Love can prove himself to be the heir to the throne that he’ll be willing to sit around waiting for his chance. Rodgers sat on the bench for three years, and I suppose in three years Rodgers will be about 40, so maybe this is the right time. I see the potential for the kid, but I also don’t know that there weren’t better uses for a round 1 pick.

Round 2 was also weird to me. It has been clear that the biggest weaknesses of last year’s team were the receiving core and the defense. We have had stars on both ends of the ball for as long as I can remember, but only a few solid enough defenses to get the Super Bowl victory. Oftentimes the offense would carry the defense who would then let us down in big games when it counts. However last year was different in that the offense mostly looked out of sorts and the defense was starting to carry it. So I was expecting an impact receiver or more defensive picks. This running back does look pretty damn good though, and perhaps he can become the 2nd part of the 1-2 punch with Aaron Jones.

Round 3 was less of a head scratcher only because we let Jimmy Graham go because he didn’t do shit for us. A new tight end is never a bad idea, considering there were years when much of our offense would lead through the position, eventually opening up big plays for guys like Jordy Nelson. Josiah Deguara looks to be talented, so hopefully he is a big piece in this offense.

From there I have little opinion on the other picks. Offensive linemen and others are fine, but they’re likely just backups. Hopefully they are good additions.

I’m hopeful for this season, considering we made it to the championship game last year, but I have my worry just because we didn’t fully address the issues present and the competition in the NFC has been pretty stiff lately.

The Pit: Infinity

If you haven’t heard of The Pit: Infinity, I wouldn’t blame you. Perhaps you’ve heard of the series of games that spawned this, which despite using the same series name they aren’t really all that related. Sword of the Stars was a mid-2000s space strategy game that was compared to Homeworld. It spawned a sequel several years later, and then a game called Sword of the Stars: The Pit, which I ended up buying back in the day off of GOG.com. As I had a DRM free copy, it ended up never making it to my new PC and eventually the game made its way to Steam where I picked it up again. It’s a traditional style rogue-like game with turn based movement and a variety of systems that made it a rather fun title, which is also why I wanted a copy on Steam. With that said, the day that I saw it on the marketplace and decided to buy it, there was also a new game of theirs in production and there was a sale for buying both at the same time. I ended up buying the bundle but The Pit: Infinity was still in early access. I tinkered with it a little bit but decided I would come back to it after release.

Well, I’m here to tell you that early access has come and gone. The game officially released on Steam back in November of last year, which I mentally noted at some point but it took quarantine to have the time to start playing some games I’ve neglected for far too long from the backlog. I’m here to give some impressions after playing a few sessions yesterday. The Pit: Infinity is essentially Sword of the Stars: The Pit but in full 3D first person shooter mode. It’s literally the same style of game, though it feels a little more forgiving than the original. I should also notate that it appears they have dropped the Sword of the Stars moniker from the 2013 game, and it’s now just called The Pit. Whatever the case, they are the two ends of the same coin. Both have rogue-like mechanics and account progression systems. Both use melee and ranged weapons along with a slew of skills that affect how you approach each run. Your goal is to get to the bottom of the pit, which is something I’ve never done in either game. Regardless, they’re both a spot of fun, particularly if you enjoy one or both of genres, also if you prefer a slower and more methodical shooter.

There have been some changes from what I can recall from trying this game about a year ago. The textures and atmospheric effects are definitely improved, but it still feels a little janky. The developers, Kerberos Productions, have made it their mission to produce A+ quality games with minimal overhead according to their website, so you can see where there ambition meets the budget and concessions are made. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but the animations aren’t the best and the environments aren’t very inspired. It does produce a sort of charm though, and because I enjoyed the source material, I still managed to find the fun in it despite it’s technological shortcomings. It’s just sort of hard to go from playing Doom Eternal to this and not notice the drop in quality.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. The first screen shot depicted the new character select at the beginning of the game, and that was a nice addition. I also enjoyed the fact that the put in a section at the start where you exit your space ship and actually have to fight some enemies before even entering the dungeon, which was a tribute to the original game. I also feel like the added animations for opening containers were a nice touch, though it doesn’t always seem to line up with how it would in real life. For example, when you’re repairing a broken cooker or other such crafting station, you kneel down and “do repairs” but the camera locks in a position where you are essentially staring at your knees while repairing delicate equipment. I don’t expect you to show exactly how I repair the machine but I should at least be looking at it to do said repairs.

Another low point for me is the UI overall. It’s pretty ugly. I appreciate my health/food/stamina bars being visible, along with ammo counts and my equipped items as well for quick reference, but it didn’t have to be so ugly. Parts of it seem like they’re trying to emulate The Elder Scrolls or Fallout with some of the menus, but it just doesn’t come across the same and I would have liked something a little better but it is what it is. I’ve played worse indie games. The gunplay isn’t fantastic, the movement is stuck between full FPS and the turn-based move-one-square-at-a-time gameplay of the orignal, and that feels weird, but after a floor or two it becomes less noticeable.

Eventually, you’ll go down floors, get new goods crafted and kill a ton of creeps. Some of these are obviously harder than others, and sometimes it’s a better idea to just jump down a floor rather than fight the thing that’s going to kill you, but you might miss out on needed supplies as well. I suppose it has all of the trappings of any rogue-like game you’ve played, but I applaud their dedication to moving their own game into a different space. Fans of the original will feel at home fast enough, but I’m not sure I’d tell you to start here, the original game might actually be a better place to start.

I managed to make it 6 floors deep on my best run, but ran into a little robot that did a fuckton of damage and I couldn’t seem to kill it despite using all of my remaining ammo. The rest of the run would have been difficult because ammo doesn’t come all that often, so it’s probably better I just died there. One comparison I have to make that is unfortunate is to the game Void Bastards which I wrote about last year. It does the same sort of thing, mixing elements from various successful rogue-like formulas from other games and puts its own spin on it, and I actually think it was a much better and more polished experience. I’d recommend it over this one, outside of die hard fans of The Pit.