I realize that I probably sound like a Debby-Downer during this time of year but I can’t stress how much I hate summer. August is finally over but it’s not unheard of for September to feature excessively hot and humid days in my area. Nothing nearby is on fire so I guess I’m lucky in that respect. What’s really great about the end of Summer though is that I’m not feeling as much seasonal depression any more so the last few days of August didn’t feel like they went by all that quickly. Most of the month though, did seem to fly by but I’m willing to blame the great games I’ve been playing on that. For the first time in a while, I enjoyed a few demos but I also feel like it’s been a while since I played a wide variety of gameplay genres. Just check out my list!
(I don't mention it anywhere else: I made a catgirl in FFXIV because of course I did)
The prompt for Augusts’ Band of Bloggers was titled, ‘The Company You Keep’ and I had 2 potential ideas for what I was going to do with it. My first idea was to play my 30-day free trial of Final Fantasy XIV with people and write about my experience with that. I didn’t make a band of bloggers post about FF14 and after about two weeks I stopped playing all together. I haven’t owned a PC that I can play big games on for very long but I’m not unfamiliar with MMORPGs. Back when I was in high school I played a little bit of Silk Road and when it went free to play, I created a few characters in World of Warcraft. My problem with games like that is how disconnected everything feels. You swing your weapon at an enemy that doesn’t react and wait for its numbers to reach zero. You collect X number of object 1 to complete that person’s quest which will unlock a new quest where you need to go and kill X number of monster A so as to collect X number of object 2. It’s a type of gameplay that I have a lot of trouble sticking with. The combat in FF14 feels a lot more substantial than other MMO’s and MMO-lite games such as Final Fantasy XII or Xenoblade Chronicles which I’ve previously played. The satisfying combat kept me invested but the story didn’t do much to hook me. What really made me check out of FF14 were the dungeons: At first it was fun connecting with other players but in the three dungeons that I ran through, they all just felt like linear sets of hallways with damage sponge enemies. The boss fights at the end of the dungeons were fine but getting to them was just draining for me. There’s a chance that playing with friends might have helped keep me engaged but I had lost my investment well before my first dungeon raid. I don’t see myself spending money on Final Fantasy XIV and I don’t see myself even trying Final Fantasy XI but I’m glad I gave this game a chance.
Last month I started a new playthrough of Metroid: Samus Returns and this month, I finished it off. I still have yet to play Another Metroid 2 Remake but after going through and getting 100% of everything out of my third playthrough of Samus Returns, I don’t think I really need to at the moment. Samus Returns is a fantastic entry to the Metroid series, and an incredible remake of the gameboy title Metroid 2: Samus Returns. The various areas of SR-388 are brought to life wonderfully and they’re all fairly unique though it’s very noticeable that the lava areas have the same music. The main goal of the game is the total eradication of the Metroid species but that’s complicated somewhat since it seems they metamorph into higher forms as they age. Since the majority of the boss encounters you take on in this game are just advanced Metroids, their higher forms bring about interesting twists to the already threatening creatures. As you explore the planet, you find power-ups that give Samus new items, more durable armor, and powerful new weapons and abilities. It’s somewhat annoying going back to earlier areas to pick up items that you couldn’t get to earlier but I do like how often one could potentially find upgrades. I don’t remember the last time I filled out all three save files on a game cartridge but Samus Returns is a game that I absolutely love and I see myself playing through it again. Regrettably, I ended up finishing it while sitting in the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles roughly six hours before I ended up leaving.
Todd finally Howarded me: The Elder Scrolls 5 is a game that I first played about five years ago, when I got it from a friend of mine who was getting rid of their PS3 collection. I played the Playstation 3 version for dozens of hours, getting almost all the way through the story but stopping when I was asked to do something to an NPC which I refused to do because of moral reasons. Any other time I played Skyrim, it was either to get the trophies and achievements (which I did) or to go back through the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild quest lines (which I greatly enjoy). I got this game and Fallout 4 on Steam for roughly $11 each and since they’re both the complete editions of those games, I finally conceded and gave in to the good deal. I didn’t go into Skyrim with a plan or goal but when I first booted it up on my PC, vanilla and un-modded, I was still stricken by how good it looks. I’m still fairly new to modern PC gaming and Morrowind is still fresh in my mind so wandering aimlessly around Skyrim is really engaging for me. Apparently I’ve only played for about 5 hours, which is weird because I feel like I’ve been wandering around for much longer but whatever. During my time in Skyrim this past month, I went right back to Riften and started stealing things. I didn’t want to murder any humanoids but I was attacked by vagabonds and this SUPER big bitch at an orphanage who I’m sure won’t lead me down a winding path that leads to other grisley murders. As for story quests, I haven’t really looked into any of those yet aside from the mandatory one at the beginning. Since I’m playing as an Argonian, I’m definitely going to side with the Empire during the Civil War though, because those nords are utter racists towards anything that doesn’t look like they spend their spare time posing in snowy woods for black metal album covers. Other games have taken my attention away from Skyrim so I may or may not be coming back to it but it’s definitely a game that I enjoy as I’m playing it. I’ve never played the DLC content so that’s probably something I’ll be getting into at some point.
(This image is about as close as I'm going to get to making high art)
So remember when I mentioned the August Band of Bloggers prompt? My second idea for that blog was to play through Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time then do a blog comparing the main characters of both games. What I did instead was write up a blog about Yooka, Laylee, Capital B, Dr. Quack (no, not the Webkinz character), and a few others. The main reason I didn’t go through with my plan B is because I spent 17 hours playing through this game up until the end of the story and the credits crawl but I didn’t do that with Hat in Time (more on that later). There may be an extra ending for getting 100% of everything but I’m not going to see that since I don’t usually like this type of game. The fact that I was able to play this game, not only to story completion, but do so in a series of marathon play sessions is very strange for me. This game was just really endearing and engaging for me though: It was big but not overwhelmingly so and the worlds were varied and imaginative. It seemed superfluous that I could change the seasons in the first world and I admit that I didn’t spend much time at all in the third world but the Casino world was a delight. There were a couple of instances where I couldn’t get the camera to pan above me but it was a very minor issue and easily remedied. Trying to collect featheries while flying was very difficult for me but luckily, I had already bought everything I could with those long before this became a major issue. I didn’t really like the world 2 boss very much but mainly because it wasn’t very fun to fight against. The bosses in worlds 1 and 3 through 5 were great, especially the world 5 boss who I didn’t even realize I was activating as I entered its arena. I recall there being criticism about either Kartos and his minigame or Rextro and his retro-inspired minigames. Rextro hangs around near giant arcade cabinets and once you find the coin in each world, you can play them. I didn’t play all of them but it’s not because they were necessarily bad, I just didn’t feel too incentivized to go through all of them. As for Kartos and his minigame: those are essentially minecart challenges which you may be familiar with if you played any of the Donkey Kong Country games on the Super Nintendo or Game Boy Advance (I think the Donkey Kong Returns games also have minecart levels but I’m not familiar enough to say definitively). It takes a bit more skill to complete Kartos’ minigame than what’s usually required throughout the game so mastering his courses really felt like an accomplishment. I don’t think any of Kartos’ challenges are as bad as some of the harder minecart levels from the Donkey Kong Country trilogy but it’s been a long time since I’ve played any of those games and I just can’t say definitively. I can say that I enjoyed Kartos’ challenges enough that I went through all of the ones I found as I played through the game. I greatly enjoyed Yooka-Laylee and I may even play it again in future.
(Ollie has no reason to cry, he never called Yooka a Gary Stu.)
I started playing Elite Dangerous last month and as I write this, I’ve put about 38 hours into it. This is one of two games I’ve played this month when I needed to calm down and just chillax and for that purpose, it’s very effective. I consider Elite Dangerous to be one of the most open-ended RPGs out there: While flying through space you can chose to be a miner, a privateer, a trucker, a bus driver, a tour guide, a pirate, a cartographer, the world’s loneliest Star Trek Voyager re-enactor, or something more violent if you’re into that kind of thing. This month, I’ve had to self-destruct for the second time. The first time, I had no idea what I was doing but this time I was specifically trying to get to an area of dark space near Ophiuchus. Unfortunately, I ran out of fuel about 150 light years away from the last station I had docked at. Other than that one wreckless voyage, I’ve spent most of my time transporting cargo for the Federation. I spent some time working for the Empire too but I chose to leave since it seemed like they wanted me to transport more explosives than anything else. Ironically, what spurred me to go on a dangerously long trek was a desire to get back into Imperial space since, though more dangerous, their jobs are usually much more lucrative than what I’m finding in Federation space. I would like to get a license to visit Sol but I would much rather go to an area of space where I can make a million credits or more per delivery. I could purchase a Type-7 Transport now but at the moment, I’m piloting a Type-6 that’s been modified to hold up to 96 tons of cargo, more than a standard Type-6. It’s not as large as the Type-7 so I can dock anywhere I want too. My current long term goal though is purchasing a Type-9 Transport. The Type-9 is a massive ship and I’m just under 40 Million credits away from being able to afford it too so I’ll probably hold off on buying a new ship for the time being.
All I knew about A Hat in Time before I bought it was that it’s what general audiences really wanted when they spent all of their money and all of their hype on Yooka-Laylee. Hat in Time has a really cute protagonist too and it looks like the game is populated with fun, colorful characters. I hated playing this game. I don’t know exactly how to describe my issue with it either: If you’ve ever played Super Mario Odyssey, think of that but try and imagine what it might have felt like while it was still being developed. I never felt like I had as much control over Hat Girl as I had over Yooka and Laylee and what’s worse, it felt like most surfaces in Hat in Time are slippery. I couldn’t just land on a platform or walk along a path; it felt more like I was sliding. I also had lots of trouble judging where a jump was going to take me. This usually led to me overcompensating and making a jump easily but for platforms that required precision, I almost always came up short. I didn’t like how Hat in Time had voice acting and I couldn’t turn the voices off quickly enough but that’s more of a nitpick than anything; An issue with more validity had to do with what my goals are. Very early on, you’re supposed to follow an NPC to the top of a tower. I did this but whatever was supposed to happen, didn’t. I didn’t see any indicator for what I was supposed to do or what I might have done wrong. I was standing right next to this NPC but I couldn’t interact with them in any way that progressed the game. I restarted the game and found that I had to activate a crane to move a pipe and climb on top of said pipe to make the NPC start moving again. There was a boss fight not long after that which also felt broken but it felt broken in that it didn’t feel like I was in any danger. I stood in place, lamely jumping over the lone obstacle that was flung at me and waiting for the part where I was allowed to attack the boss. Maybe if I had run, the boss fight would have felt more engaging but I had already mostly checked out by this point. The first red flag for me actually popped up before I started the game: The launch menu highlights DLC that I can purchase and means by which I can link up my social media accounts to the game but the option to actually start the game was difficult for me to find. There were a lot of options that I could play with and even though the descriptions were somewhat vague, changing settings happens in real time, which I liked! Overall, I strongly disliked A Hat in Time and I don’t see myself touching it again. It feels just enough like Super Mario Odyssey that I think I’ll just play that again if I want to play a 3D Collectathon that isn’t Yooka-Laylee.
I’m a fan of Matthew Matosis and as such, I’ve heard a thing or two about games by Zachtronics. All of them are currently nestled in my Steam wishlist, waiting for the next big sale when I may or may not pick them up but Opus Magnum was the one I wanted to try first. The tutorial levels of Opus Magnum could have done more to prepare me for the puzzles to come but a part of me is actually fine with how the game truly begins: You’re presented with a solution and resources that you’re expected to use to reach that conclusion. You’re free to use the resources at hand to solve the puzzles in this game in any way you wish. Puzzling out solutions, then optimizing those solutions, with very little in the way of guidance makes for a series of puzzles that are incredibly satisfying to solve. After solving a certain number of puzzles in Opus Magnum, you unlock Sigmar’s Garden, a puzzle game within the puzzle game but this one plays more like Mahjong. You match elemental marbles which allow you to match others until the board is cleared. It’s a very different kind of puzzle and could have been its own game but it’s still satisfying to play through Sigmar’s Garden. What’s more, I’ve found that it’s fairly effective at clearing my head if one of the main puzzles has me stumped. By completing certain numbers of Sigmar’s Garden boards, you unlock flavor text and lore that fleshes out the world the game takes place in. I strongly recommend Opus Magnum if you’re the kind of person who thinks they have the smartest pants in the box or if you think that the puzzles in other games can be more than just color matching, or pipe dream.
I played the demo for Dragon Quest XI on the Switch but I really don’t think there’s a lot that I can say about it. I was disappointed that I couldn’t play the demo using the pixel art style; if I do get the full game, I don’t see myself playing on anything but pixel art mode. Despite being stuck in my nostalgia hole, I can’t deny that DQXI looks great on the Switch in handheld mode. I was eager to play the game so I skipped the starting cutscene and dialog. I ran towards the cave that I was aimed at and when I encountered my first gang of slimes, I found that I could run around on the battlefield. It really distracted me and since it doesn’t seem to matter if I move or not in combat, it made me wonder why I can even do that. It seemed really superfluous and took me right out of the experience. I should probably give DQXI another chance but here’s why I probably won’t; I own Dragon Quest VII on the 3DS, VIII on the PS2, and 1 on the NES. I’ve only ever beaten the NES one. When it comes to the modern titles, I spent a couple dozen hours playing through each game only to lose motivation and just give them up, never to look back. I don’t know what it is about XI but it completely failed to catch my attention. I might try again in a month or two but by then I may be playing something completely different and nobody else will care by then anyway.
The Blasphemous demo, unlike Final Fantasy XIV and Dragon Quest XI’s demo, sold me on the game it represents. In hindsight, the demo probably doesn’t cover much of the game area at all. I feel like I only went through a handful of rooms before I found a large boss and was thanked for playing. I think the developers are banking on most players being killed on their way to, and while fighting, that boss to pad out the overall game time. When I died in this game, it was usually to the traps that litter the halls rather than to the monsters though they also killed me a few times, so did the boss. Blasphemous presents itself in such a way that makes me automatically think of Dark Souls and the way enemies and traps hit, it definitely seems to wear that inspiration on its sleeve. Here’s the thing though, I feel like Blasphemous plays more like an especially dark Castlevania title rather than a Souls title (granted, I’ve heard arguments that claim Dark Souls is the best 3D Castlevania so it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a 2D Dark Souls playing like a Castlevania, but that’s neither here nor there). What I wasn’t expecting were cutscenes. There’s an instance where you enter a room and interact with an object which triggers a scene that reminded me very much of those you may remember if you’ve ever played the original Flashback or Out of This World. They look rotoscoped and highly detailed while still maintaining a simple artstyle. The effect made me feel somewhat uneasy which I’m sure was the point; the cutscene had a strong horror movie feel to it. The visuals in Blasphemous are macabre but they’re built out of assets that would look at home on much older hardwear. I definitely see myself picking this game up soon after release rather than waiting for a potentially greater sale.
PS+ is finally having a good month so when it launches on the 3rd, I’m downloading my free-ish copies of Arkham Knight and Darksiders III. I’m excited to finally playing the final chapter in Rocksteady’s Batman-em-up. I’ve turned it down on Steam a couple of times already but I’m not turning down free. Aside from that, Untitled Goose Game is another title I’ve been anticipating since last year so expect to hear me talk about it when I make next months journal. Then there are the big jobs: Link’s Awakening, Ori on Switch, and Final Fantasy VIII-R. I may get back into FFVIII anyway since it would be nice to finish a Final Fantasy this year but I don’t see myself buying too much since I have other things that I actually need to throw my money at and it looks like I’m going to be kind of strapped if things decide to go poorly for me. No matter what happens though, there’s one thing that everybody needs to keep in mind: I’ve always disliked Borderlands and I guarantee Borderlands 3 will be just as vapid and shallow as the other entries in the series.