This is Halloween, this is Halloween, try not to spend all my money on Steam. This is Halloween, The Outer Worlds isn’t on Steam, so I guess my money is mostly safe in that regard, besides, I have a massive backlog of unplayed games that I’m ignoring so I can replay games that I played the Hell out of back in 2004. In case nobody mentioned it yet, it’s the glorious month of Halloween, and while I would usually stay indoors to avoid the cold winds, and the smell of pumpkin-spiced, apple cider, this year I’m staying inside to avoid unseasonable warmth and apple cider spiked pumpkin spice lattes. Considering the time of year, I feel like there are certain things expected of me, but since Luigi’s Mansion 3 doesn’t launch until the day of Halloween, I guess I’ll spend the month playing older spooky games. Here’s my list;
(You can read that, right? This is fine...)
I think I’ve reached the epic conclusion of the adventures of Shoggatha, independent space trucker extraordinaire. Elite Dangerous hasn’t failed to help me unwind after a long day of telling retail customers that the item they’re looking for is 2 feet to the left of them, but the lack of structure means that a big draw for me was making my own game, within the game. For the past couple of months, that game was ‘earn enough money to buy the biggest freight hauler I could’. I abandoned that meta-game in favor of a different meta-game: ‘Fly to Barnard’s Loop’ which I also abandoned for the much more doable meta-game of, ‘Fly to the Pleiades Nebula’. Space in Elite Dangerous completely captured my imagination, I would almost go so far as to say it’s the prettiest game I’ve played on my PC so far. Every time I drop out of warp, and I find myself facing a pulsar, or one of those massive white stars, I stop everything and just admire the view for a moment before warping again or making my way to the nearest gas station. The nebula clouds on the star map intrigued me from the very beginning, and once I figured out how to tell which stars were inhabited, I started forming a plan to travel to whichever nebula seemed the closest or the easiest to get to. This was partly because I wanted to see if I could find a black hole, but the main motivating factor was to see how the interior of a colorful space-cloud would look. My findings once I made it to the inhabited systems within the nebula though were somewhat underwhelming. There’s a shininess to the space around the station I docked at in the Atlas system, but there’s not really a big difference between where I wound up and where I came from. Granted, in the whole of the Milky Way, 411 light years really isn't all that far. I think I’m going to retire from Elite Dangerous: Having over 60 million credits in the 34th century should be more than enough to retire on after all, and I feel like I’ve seen all there is to see without shelling out for Horizons. I don’t think I’m going to uninstall the game, not yet, but I don’t see myself spending too much time with it for the rest of the year.
There was a moment, maybe a day or two, when I thought about going back to Final Fantasy VIII and finally finishing it. Then I played a few rounds of cards, talked to an NPC, realized I was right before the first trip to Fisherman’s Horizon, and concluded that I would rather spend my time playing something else. I’ve been playing Final Fantasy VIII since it first launched on the Playstation, but thanks to factors beyond my control (ie: faulty memory cards, and better games launching), I’ve never actually made it to the end of this game. Part of what prompted me to make my BoB prompt this month (unfinished business) was to try and prod myself into finishing Final Fantasy VIII. That didn’t pan out, and I maintain that I really do enjoy this game, but I just couldn’t commit to it this month. I should have probably started from the beginning, that might have helped, but part of why I stopped was the realization that I didn’t know how far from the end crashing into Fisherman’s Horizon is other than knowing it’s part of disc 2 of 4.
I bought Deadbolt through Steam a couple of months ago, and it seemed nice and thematic, given the time of year, to play through it! In Deadbolt, you play as a sharply dressed Reaper who is given assassination jobs from your magical fireplace. The action is fast-paced and boombastic, like a side-scrolling Hotline Miami, but since you die in a single hit Deadbolt feels more like a puzzle game than a pure action title. In each level, you’re given a task to complete. This is usually just variations of ‘kill everything’, or ‘kill this specific person, and also everything else if you want’. Some levels task you with finding information by killing specific people to get their keys. Some enemies can only be killed if you break a specific something, like a bottle or their disembodied head. Since most enemies take either a head-shot or several shots to kill, it can be easy to find yourself overwhelmed. You can take cover but that only protects from (most) firearms, dogs and melee focused enemies are going to kill you once they’re close enough to you. The simplicity of this game and the ease by which you can mess up, coupled with how quickly you go from fail-state to restarting a mission, make this game really easy for me to lose myself in. Sure, there were a few stages that took me over a half hour to get right, but even the longest of these missions only take a couple of minutes to complete. I had a lot of fun with Deadbolt, and there’s a lot of user-generated content that I have the option to download if I chose to re-install the game onto my PC.
(There's a Mr. Death here, he's come about the reaping.)
Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet, is a point-and-click adventure game that I wanted to give more of a chance to, but which I didn’t stick with. For one thing, moving around the maps didn’t feel quite right to me. I think it has to do with the scale of everything: The game starts with an unskippable cutscene which, when the game was new I’m sure, was very impressive. It definitely sets a tone and I was intrigued to continue but I ran into the problem of wanting to play blind while simultaneously not having any idea what the Hell I was meant to do. Moving in this game felt really stiff, and unresponsive so the act of playing the game drained my enthusiasm. I think a part of why character movement seemed so slow had to do with how gargantuan all of the areas were. It seemed to take a while to get from one end of the house your character is staying at to the other for example. You’re not staying in a mansion either, it’s a wood cabin! I’m going to end up watching a longplay of this sooner or later, I’m sure, since I still have some interest in seeing if this turns out to be one of those ‘Moon Logic’ puzzle games.
Shadow Bandit was another game that I didn’t stick with this month. In fact, this was a game that I refunded on the last possible day that I was able to. The premise and trailers sold me: You play as a wooden marionette and wander around the spooky backlot of a cowboy-themed TV show. Puzzles need to be solved, currency collected, and stringless puppets need to be avoided unless you want to be verbed to death (I think they try cutting your strings). There were a couple of factors that made me request a refund for this game: First is the way by which you move. You click-to-move which is just jarring enough to keep me from being immersed in the atmosphere. Factor 2: The game is presented in a sort of isometric style which is somewhat hard to make scary for me. You can see fairly easily around corners, and when you do find an enemy, the early enemies anyway, are slow moving enough to where they don’t seem threatening at all. There’s not really a third thing, I just checked out fairly early on. The characters who speak to you didn’t really engage me all that well despite the fact that I am always interested in more puppet-based media, this just didn’t do anything for me.
King’s Quest IX, Chapter 1 is that game I mentioned starting last month, and this month I finished it. Since the rest of the game isn’t currently on sale I haven’t picked up any of the other chapters, but it’s definitely a ‘not yet’ kind of feeling. I don’t recall if it was this month or last month, but I thought I had hit a point of no return. I had to get my steed out of a tree, but I had already used an item to move a rock. That same item could have been used to cut down the tree, and I don’t even recall what the flag was that allowed me to ask a huge person for help. There didn’t seem to be any fail states at all as I went through the plot. There was a late-chapter puzzle that completely stumped me, and despite failing it twice, I was able to essentially cheat my way to victory on the third attempt. What drove me to complete this first chapter were the characters I kept meeting and the environment puzzles that lead to them. I’m hoping later chapters focus more on environment puzzles rather than mini-games, but no matter how they play out I’m confident they’re populated with more amusing characters.
Early this month I was talking to...somebody, and mentioned how part of what I liked about Deadbolt was how similar it was to Gunpoint. I realized that I haven’t played Gunpoint in a couple of years so I reinstalled it, realized I had no idea what I was doing, and played through all of the early levels, the level I didn’t complete, and finished up the game in about a day. Gunpoint really isn’t like Deadbolt except for things like the way the game is oriented, and how you die if you get shot once. Gunpoint has a heavy stealth focus, to the point that you’re given a better rating for going through a level without being seen verses punching out the guards in your way. That being said, punching out guards is incredibly satisfying in this game so it’s hard for me to not just pounce and punch when I’m given the chance to. I mean it when I say ‘pounce’ too, because what I would call the unique selling point of Gunpoint is the unique and high-tech pair of pants your character has from the very beginning. You don’t suffer any fall damage (even if you fall onto your back), you’re able to leap tens of feet into the air, and that also enables you to pounce, at speed, into enemies and sometimes through windows. You’re also able to hack into the electronics of whatever building you’re in. This allows you to rewire things like light switches, elevator call buttons, and security doors. By doing this, you can give yourself easy access into secure rooms, disable alarms, and make it so that being spotted by security cameras makes good things happen for you instead of terrible things.
(This actually doesn't happen until late-game)
So what’s the point of all of this jumping, stealth, and guard-glomping anyway? The premise of Gunpoint is that you’re a freelance spy for hire, and you can either choose to work for the police, work for a CEO, or work because you like money and those two parties are offering you a lot of it. The player character of Gunpoint has dialog options and choices to make, but the way the game is written makes me really like the guy as a person. You’re not Batman, you’re Garrett from Thief...not 2014 Garrett, he’s Batman, you’re just a Privet Dick (his name is literally Richard) who has bills to pay, a set of skills, and springy trousers. I don’t remember why I stopped playing however many years ago, because the stage I went back to wasn’t really difficult, it just required precise timing on my part. I’m glad I went back to Gunpoint and finished it though. Like with Deadbolt, there’s a lot of user generated content on Steam Workshop, but I haven’t touched it, and I’m not sure if I’m going to. Also like with Deadbolt, I strongly recommend this game. Check it out, I had a lot of fun with it, and you might too.
Sniper Elite 3 was another game that I had fun with this past month, but unlike the indie games I haven’t finished this one yet. I don’t think I’ve played any of the Sniper Elite games in the past, but it’s a series I’ve been interested in trying. I enjoy first person shooters, and I especially like sniper-focused levels in the FPS titles I’ve played before. I’m enjoying how open the levels have been so far: It might be difficult to climb to a high enough vantage point but once you’re up there, it’s satisfying to be able to look down at a large chunk of the level around you. I like the realism presented too; not just when it comes to bullet drop, but also when it comes to using sound to mask your shots and being able to shoot a driver, a gas tank, or an engine block to disable a vehicle. Of course, there’s also the spectacle of destroying an enemy soldier’s skull from a mile away with a single, well-timed shot. In the eight hours that I’ve spent with this game so far, I haven’t gotten tired of the slow motion kill cams that accompany so many of the shots I’ve taken. I’m aware that it’s empty spectacle, I’m aware that it takes you out of the game and kills the pace, but it’s still engaging for me to watch. I haven’t played the game in a few days at time of writing so maybe I am getting a little tired of the game, but I haven’t got any negative feelings about it.
Do you know what I do have negative feelings about though? Bendy and the Ink Machine. During spooky month, I played through the first two chapters and quit during the third. The first chapter of Bendy was alright: you arrive at a cartoon studio and need to turn on the ink machine. To achieve that end, you need to find several items and put them on alters. I liked this part; wandering around the abandoned studio was nicely atmospheric, and I was intrigued, but what took me out of the experience was the voice acting of the player character. Every time you interact with something that makes him talk, it’s always in the same bored tone. It’s easy to look past in the first chapter but in chapter 2, and 3 he’s still talking in a bored, deadpan voice, even after meeting a living cartoon character and being attacked by ink monsters. I was fairly happy with chapter 1, but by chapter 2 you’re given a lead pipe and once you’re attacked, you find out that Bendy wants you to defend yourself instead of run and hide. I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole and thus was my interest was fractured. Chapter 2 didn’t feel as much like whack-a-mole when they finally introduced the ink-demon incarnation of Bendy though! Running away from the thing felt fairly harrowing, but being caught by it didn’t feel like much of a penalty. You’re sent into an ink tunnel, and once you get out you’re able to try again with no further penalty, as often as you need until you get it right. Then there’s chapter 3, which introduces a new character and the task to collect things for her. I stopped playing here. I feel like there was one more major factor that made me really not want to play this game anymore, and it’s this: Bendy tries to scare the player, but it relies on the player looking in a certain direction at a certain time for the scare to be effective. Another game I played this month pulls your focus to a scary thing if it has to, but in Bendy, there was one jump scare in chapter 1 that got me (it didn’t even scream at me, so there’s a positive), and most other times when I heard a jump-scare musical sting, I was looking at a wall, or in the opposite direction of whatever was trying to jump me. F.E.A.R. had this problem too, but since F.E.A.R. was a first-person shooter, it was easy to shrug off a failed jumpscare. In Bendy, you’re a disinterested, ex-animator who could really use a good jumping.
Bendy and the Ink Machine was a game I uninstalled between chapters. What made me give it another chance between chapters 1 and 2, then again between 2 and 3, was my reinstalling Dark Souls 2. I talked about this game a lot earlier this year, so I’ll try not to gush too much here. Dark Souls 2 is imperfect and I kept reinstalling Bendy because it too is imperfect, so I wanted to keep giving it the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, I had a goal in mind for my latest playthrough, and that was a genocide run. Then I decided to re-brand it as a Demon Killer run because I didn’t want to murder passive NPCs, I just wanted to kill every monster until they stopped respawning. Now, if you think that’s insane, repetitive, and also a little boring, you’re right. I didn’t complete a playthrough, playing this way. I did however clear out several areas around Majula. I went down to Black Gulch before fighting the Last Giant, and when I did stop playing it was after going through a sort of improvised boss rush: Last Giant, The Rotten, Mohawk Rat, Najka, Dragon Rider, Dragon, Dragon Slayer...not necessarily in that order, but I stopped playing after Freyja killed me because I wanted to play other games, and I was tired of being invaded by player characters.
So, who else watched the latest trailer for Rise of Skywalker? Question 2: Does anybody know what the plot is going to be, because I have no idea what’s going on between the Star Destroyer Cavalry Charge in Space, and Rey and Kylo fighting each other but also fighting together. I miss the days when good Star Wars plots were canon, and that got me to start playing Knights of the Old Republic and The Sith Lords. I started with Knights 2 because I had forgotten about how drawn out Peragus and Telos turned out to be. Once I got to Telos from Peragus and started earning light side points, I swapped over from Sith Lords to the first Knights of the Old Republic.
(This is Canon, Disney can go eat a poisoned apple)
Knights of the Old Republic takes place roughly 4,000 years before the Battle of Yavin, roughly 3,000 years before Darth Bane rose to power and established the Sith Rule of Two, and has nothing to do with the Skywalkers. You play as whoever you name your character as and a war was raging among the stars between The Republic (a massive Government body which has been running for over 20,000 years and still has enough 3,970 or 3,980 to go) and the Sith Empire (who don’t have quite as much time, but still quite a lot). It’s a cold open too: You wake up on a ship that’s about to be destroyed and when you escape, you’re trapped on Taris, a planet currently under Sith blockade. Darth Malak, ruler of the Sith, has an interest in the Jedi Bastilla, who was on the ship you woke up on. You need to find her and get her to safety before Malak and the Sith find her. Along the way, you meet a diverse cast of characters, and once you leave Taris, you’re told that you too can use The Force, so I hope you didn’t level up too many times because you’re on your way to a class change, Charlie. It’s not until you get to Dantooine that the plot really starts unfolding: We know at this point that Bastilla has a power called Battle Meditation (a Force Power that makes one side of a conflict really effective while making the other side very ineffective), but we also find a star map on Dantooine which leads to several other planets. The Sith (specifically, Darth Malak and his former master) are linked to these maps, as well as the source of the Sith’s military might. It’s difficult to really talk about this game in depth though because of how plot heavy it is. Does a spoiler warning even matter considering the questionable qualities of the canon here? This is an old game so it’s possible that you recall the major plot events, but I’m not going to mention them here, just trust me when I say that the plot of this Star Wars story is focused, it expands the universe, it’s logically consistent, the characters are likable, and even relatable; basically, Knights of the Old Republic is everything the Disney Trilogy has failed to be so far. If you’re beating yourself up for spending money on The Last Jedi, this and Sith Lords are incredible palate cleansers.
I haven’t actually finished The Sith Lords this month, but like with the first Knights title, the main focus here is the plot. Unlike the first though, the Galaxy, Force Powers, and customization options are expanded in a much more significant way. Your main character is always going to be a Jedi, but you can turn other characters in your party into Jedi as well if you have enough influence over them. I’m not anywhere near this point in the plot of Sith Lords yet. I only just finished Knights of the Old Republic at the time of writing this, and since both games require a few dozen hours worth of time to get through, I’m still early on in Knights II. I’ve only just left the Telos station and made landfall on the surface of Telos, the planet.
I don’t remember what it was exactly that made me want to reinstall Viscera Cleanup Detail, but I did so and spent about a half hour in the office trying to get the achievement for cleaning the place up. I have no idea what I missed, but it probably has to do with the basement. I didn’t use the sniffer-thing either so that probably might have helped. I cleaned up a very messy bathroom, and threw a bunch of stuff into a hole in the floor, but I didn’t bother trying any of the actual levels. Something about the way you move in VCD just doesn’t click with me. I remember playing this a lot a couple of years ago, and cleaning up a stage to the point that I was given a B rating, I think, but I just can’t keep myself focused on the game after I’ve mopped up all of the blood.
There’s a demo out for Carrion! I downloaded and played that as soon as I was able to, but I’ve only played through it once. It seems like you play as a mass of alien worms, and I say that because when you’re underwater, the mass you play as breaks down to about 3 worms. Once you leave the water though, you’re back to being a tentacle mass. The Carrion demo showcases that what you’re playing is more of a puzzle game than a murder-sandbox. You crawl around a human research facility by pointing and clicking to drag yourself around corridors, halls, vents, etc, and you right-click on things to move them around. If you right-click on a vent, you can break it and give yourself a new way to get around a room. If you right-click on a human, you can pull it close and use its biomass to increase your own. You’re also able to use special abilities with the middle-mouse button but either I missed the tutorial on how to change these, or you’re simply unable to do so. Charging is useful to break down barricades, but shooting a web is seemingly the only way to deal with attack drones. Anyway, the demo is to infect the human base you’re in with yourself. You do this by squeezing into several holes in several walls, which causes your influence to grow and this slowly opens a security door. The level you’re in isn’t what I would call huge, but it suggests that the full game will be fairly large. I’m looking forward to seeing what the full game is going to be like once it launches next year.
This morning, the day of Halloween, I booted up Amnesia: The Dark Descent for the first time. Prior to this I played and adored SOMA, and spent about a half hour in Penumbra which I didn’t really get into. My plan was to play Amnesia for a half-hour, or until I was killed by something. I quit out about ninety five minutes later, after finding a calm water fountain. I knew about the water monster, it has a certain reputation, but I wasn’t expecting that to be the first creature that would actually threaten me. I had seen a couple of other monsters, but I had written them off as apparitions caused from low sanity levels. Amnesia has a really great atmosphere, and I enjoyed solving the puzzles that lead me to, and through, the wine cellar. I also like how Daniel reacts to the world around him: he’s afraid of the dark, so if you stay in the dark for too long, he starts whimpering, or shaking, or falling to the ground. I felt like I was playing as a character from a Lovecraft story; one of those people whose hair turns white at the mere thought that they were descended from an ape and humans aren’t alone in the universe. What’s more, when something scary happens (like say, a gust of wind blowing a door open), he looks at it and reacts. At first, this was a little bit annoying because I’m having control taken away from me, but when I think about Bendy, a game that was happy to have me miss jump-scares and let me assume the player character is a cardboard box on xanax, I feel like Daniel is an actual person who really wants to survive his time at Castle Anthrax or whatever the place is called (Brennenburg, Castle Brennenburg). I’m probably going to be talking about this one again next month, but for right now I still need to recover a little bit. Dealing with that water monster at 10am was a surprise to be sure, and an unpleasant one.
(Am I playing in hard mode? No. No I'm not.)
Sadly, Halloween is behind us and it’s going to be another year before we can get a chance to enjoy it again. Of course, there’s nothing stopping us from enjoying horror themed things during the course of the coming year, and the remainder of this one. There are a few new releases from this month that I’m looking forward to playing eventually, but it’ll be a while before I’m really able to dig into. My Switch is feeling a little neglected, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks fantastic but I wish it didn’t launch on the day of Halloween. The Outer Wilds looks fantastic too, and by the time it launches on Steam it will likely be accompanied by DLC and cheaper on other platforms. I may have even finished collecting all of the Steam Achievements for KOTOR 2 by then too. As for next month, other than Knights of the Old Republic, and Amnesia, I picked up a couple of games during the Halloween sale that I’m absolutely going to be diving into during November. There’s also no telling what else I may be getting my hands on as the days pass by but I’m feeling optimistic. This year is almost over and done with, and I’m feeling optimistic for some reason, probably because KotOR 2 is going to be a big part of my November, and Rise of Skywalker isn't.