State of the Game: Current Events 2020

I don’t intentionally go so long between my State of the Game posts, but it seems that because I have focused more on just completing a game at a time I don’t have as many bite sized bits to talk about. Although I’ve started and completed several games over the past few months since the last round-up, I’ve somehow managed to start a few that I’ve already written about and wish to give updates on. As it goes, I haven’t actually completed (or really played) the games I talked about last time, but I can touch on some of the stuff I’ve been doing recently. This time around we’ll be talking about the Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wildermyth, Streets of Rage 4, and The Outer Worlds.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

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The Remake continues to impress, but has also begun to frustrate. I will admit that much of my nostalgia for the game weighed heavily on my decision to pick this one up, mainly because I absolutely loved JRPGs in the 1990’s. It turns out that older me is not as invested in the storyline, and honestly I’m not enjoying the combat all that much either. The camera gets itself into janky angles too easily, the AI of your companions is absolute dog shit, unlike older games where you could set the behavior of the AI (ala Dragon Age), and it’s twitchy but unresponsive at times. So basically I spend half of the time enjoying the sites and remembering bits of the original from my long term memory banks, and the other half of the time yelling at the screen with how stupid the combat can be. Sometimes it’s pretty straight forward and satisfying though, so I’m torn between loving and hating this game. I should note that I skipped The Witcher III entirely because of similar irritations with the combat, but I still feel like I need to see this one through. I may be that guy and turn the difficulty all the way down because I may not finish the game otherwise. I absolutely cannot fathom how they will implement things like Emerald and Ruby Weapon. They were impossible enough with turn based combat. Whatever the case, we’re starting to see various parts of the game open up a bit beyond the slums, with mini games like darts showing up, more music to collect, and I’ve even had my first couple of summons since then, though they work so much differently now I was a bit underwhelmed. I met a new character on a motorcycle that I don’t remember from the original, but he was interesting enough and I imagine since he did not die we might see him again. I have a friend playing the game who has been ahead of me and given some vague spoilers and it seems that there is more new here than old, so it’s more of a new experience than a remake, so it does keep me wanting to see what happens next.

Streets of Rage 4

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My original post about Streets of Rage 4 was prior to the game releasing, but my first hearing about it. I have since purchased the game and started playing through it over the course of last weekend. During that first session I discovered that most of the game’s features were progress locked, so you could only start off with Story mode or Battle mode. Playing solo I of course started out with the story. I picked Axel as he is the most recognizable character for me, and powered through almost the whole game in one sitting. I started getting frustrated towards the end and decided to take a break before picking it up again another day and finally completing it. From there I unlocked the ability to play any stage where you can try and increase your ranking as there are trophies for S rank on every stage and other such nonsense that I’ll never shoot for. Other trophies include beating the story with every playable character, and others that come from performing certain actions on various levels. I unlocked Adam (from SOR1) about halfway through the story, and unlocked the original pixel art version of Axel for completing his story. I assume the story will largely play out the same despite who you pick, but I also assume that you’ll unlock all of the playable characters and alternate models by playing through the game multiple times. The trophies seem to be tied to solo play, but you have the option to play through the story in co-op, and apparently up to 4 players can join in, but I’m unsure how that affects difficulty. It was clear to me that some levels would have been much easier as-is with more players, but perhaps more enemies are added if you are playing with more friends. There’s also online options that I haven’t looked into yet, but I assume you’ll be able to co-op or battle just the same as you could locally. Overall the game looks great, I love the new combat system and animations, but it’s still challenging because of timing and stuff that was more of a thing back in the 1990’s that we aren’t used to now, but the devs recreated to the letter. You really have to play it to understand what I mean (also need to be old enough to have played games back then). It’s still something I’d recommend for fans of the series or this style of game, but if you don’t like beat-em-ups you could probably skip it.

The Outer Worlds

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In my original post I had only spent a couple of sessions with The Outer Worlds but I already loved what I had seen. I actually haven’t played it much since then only because I’ve been distracted by the other games I’ve mentioned here, along with a couple of others that I have dedicated posts planned for. Whatever the case, I have enjoyed how the game has expanded beyond the early portion. Getting a spaceship has allowed my crew (and I say crew because I’ve recruited a couple of new bodies outside of the original girl that joined the squad while I was leaving the first planet. Different companions bring different skills to the crew, and some of their own quests as well. Some quests will also mention a crew member’s skillset needed for that particular mission so it’s advised to bring them along when needed. As such, you’ll want to keep them equipped with new gear. This differs from older games in this genre where you’d only have one companion and they were likely just a mule to carry your shit. Now you need to pay attention to the different members a little bit more, and you’ll have two of them with you at all times. Another nice feature is the ability to control their special moves which can turn the tide of fights single-handedly. Rather than being a big open world, the devs had designed this one as more of a Borderlands style setup, where you have some planet areas that are large, but they are bordered and you can fast travel while on them, but otherwise have to return to the ship to visit other planets. It’s also clear that sometimes you’re on the same planet but in a different region, and you can’t really travel between them without returning to the ship either. So it’s a hybrid open-world but it seems to work pretty well. You’ll be able to focus on the tasks at hand and then move on. I’ve visited several of the planets and completed quite a few missions. I believe I’m nearly level 20, I know I’m in the teens at least. I’m not sure the amount of content I have still left to go but I look forward to enjoying the ride.

Wildermyth

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I have less to say about Wildermyth only because I have only just started my second session with the game. In my first post I talked about the mechanics and gameplay, but also notated that I only played the beginner 3 chapter session. I have since started up a new game with the normal mode 5 chapter story. I was under the impression initially that characters would transfer between games, but it appears that your legacy is generated in different ways. When you have heroes die and you memorialize them, those memorials will remain in the game. Other characters who survived a story can reappear in new games, so I guess eventually you might see those characters again or perhaps their offspring. It’s not overly clear to me, and though I only played through one chapter before quitting that session, I didn’t seen any legacy stuff, so I guess I’ll write more about it when I figure it out. Whatever the case I have enjoyed starting a new story and getting to know some new characters. Having a new main enemy makes a difference in gameplay a bit as well. This time around I have a group of five, with 2 warriors, 2 mystics and a ranger, so I’ve switched up the configuration a little bit. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this one sooner than later because I really enjoy the story telling here.

So there you have it. Some progress on all accounts. As I mentioned I have a couple other posts in the works for a couple other games I haven’t yet introduced on the blog, so stay tuned for that.

Adulting During Quarantine

It’s been a few days since the whole Blapril 2020 thing wound down (though I guess it went past when I called it done, but I still qualify for having “completed” the challenge to my knowledge) and I took a little bit of a break from blogging because I was running out of things to talk about and needed to recharge a bit. The marathon of blogging every day for a month takes its toll despite the fact that I have done it on multiple occasions. I know I can do it, but I prefer a more lax “write when you have something meaningful to write” approach. To each their own, I guess. Whatever the case, I have been playing games, doing adult stuff and have built up a set of drafts that I’d like to publish in the near future. Today, rather than talking about games or MTG, instead I have some IRL updates for you.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it on the blog already, if not I definitely mentioned it on social media. I moved my family into a house back at the beginning of the year, and one of the positives was it had a nice sized back yard for my dog to occupy. The front yard had grass that was mostly dead, but with all of the rain we had over the course of the last couple of months, things got hairy pretty quick. Soon enough I had several foot tall weeds in the back yard, and the front yard was starting to look horrendous as well. When it first started getting out of control, I borrowed my friend’s lawnmower to get things handled, but unfortunately his machine was a bit old and in disrepair. We couldn’t get it to work no matter what we tried. Option #2 was to pick up a weed eater from a local hardware store and at least try and knock the bulk of it down. We did that, and though it wasn’t pretty at least the front was presentable again, though the back yard managed to eat up the remaining line I had. Eventually I knew it was time to bite the bullet and buy a proper lawn mower. So that’s what I did, though the story doesn’t end there. I went to the local Home Depot to get one and due to the COVID-19 madness, there was a line just to get into the store. As such I turned to Amazon, who came through with the Craftsman mower pictured here, and delivered it within a week. I still had to look at my shabby yard during that time, but once it finally showed and I put it together, I ran through the rest of the project and have mowed again since. It’s definitely nicer to maintain it and I’m glad I can do so now.

Another purchase that needed to be made but we had gone without, was for the front room. When I got my new computer desk setup in my office, I still had the old one ready to be used, so it became our makeshift TV stand. As much as it worked and wasn’t really an issue, I have always wanted a big TV (which I got earlier this year) on a proper entertainment center where I could hook up my multitude of consoles in one spot so they could all be easily enjoyed. We ended up going for a little more expensive of a selection just to make sure it was higher quality. I wanted something that would be comparable to the computer desk I selected a few months prior. When it arrived and I started putting it together though, I realized that it was going to be a bit of an undertaking to get everything set up. Also, we these build it yourself pieces of furniture, they are usually pretty easy to put together, but this one required so much screwdriver work that I decided it was probably time to also invest in a power drill.

My local hardware store had a good selection of drills, but I finally narrowed it down to this DeWalt. I’ve used the brand in the past and they’ve always seemed a good value. The pack I picked came with a battery, charger and case, but I also had to spend a little extra on a set of bits for it. I guess I’m getting pretty old, when buying tools and furniture is actually exciting. Whatever the case, I had stopped mid-build on the entertainment center to pick this bad boy up, so I came back home and got back to work. The rest of the assembly was a breeze with the help of this drill along with my lovely lady. Soon enough it was put together and I set up my PS4 on it. As you can see above, it was pretty bare bones at this point.

Having purchased this entertainment center with the explicit intention of having all of my consoles on deck, I picked this one because it not only had hidden shelves inside the cabinets, but also the premade holes on the back of the unit for cable management. But after getting them all set up I realized two things. A: I would need an HDMI switch because my TV only has 2 inputs, and B: I would need a larger surge protector in order to plug everything in. I only had a 6-outlet protector at that moment, so I ended up purchasing a 12-outlet one along with a 5 input HDMI switch. The final piece of the puzzle arrived yesterday, as I already had the switch and consoles set up for the past couple of days. I hooked up the surge protector and plugged everything in, and I thought I’d share the test run with you here:

Here you’ll see the switch, my console setup, and me swapping through all of the inputs. We start with the PS4, switch over to the PS3 (which had just rebooted from a system software update), on to the NES Classic and SNES Classic (both of which were on screen saver mode, showing the intro movies to various games) and finally my At Games Genesis mini, then back to the PS4. It works great, is a sleek/solid design and quite compact to boot. The only thing I still want to add to the setup is a sound bar with subwoofer for the TV, which will be great for all consoles along with movie watching, etc. Overall I’m happy with the purchase, and the ability to finally have all of these great consoles out and usable. The mini systems and my PS3 have been collecting dust for some time, and there’s some great games installed on all of these platforms. Time to start a retro gaming series I suppose!

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.