November! It's a time for cold weather, family gatherings, rabid consumerism, and that most beautiful of things: transitioning from pumpkin spice to something different. So, while I was enjoying a sweet coffee with butter toffee creamer, I booted up a game or two from last month and thought about what I would be doing next. It seems like what I planned on doing next was something that I've done before, then something completely different, but not in the fun Monty Python kind of way. Overall though, I had a good month and played some things that I wasn't expecting to play this year, if at all. There isn't as much variety as there's been during previous months, but what I have played this month have been a series of time sinks. I can't think of any food-related puns or Thanksgiving-related references so heres my list for this month:
(...This is an odd happenstance...)
The Rise of Skywalker looms on the horizon and with it comes a sort of melancholy in me. The latest Star Wars trilogy could have been so much more, it could have been fantastic, and even though it looks fantastic the plot just doesn’t make sense or maintain any consistency. I wanted to go back and re-experience good Star Wars and since Disney+ wasn’t a thing until very recently I went just went ahead and re-installed the 2 KotOR games. This month I finished a light side playthrough of Sith Lords, and went through a full dark side playthrough as well! If you haven’t played these games, fix that. Sith Lords takes place shortly after the events of the first Knights of the Old Republic and focuses on a potential collapse of the Galactic Republic. You play as The Jedi Exile, whose name, gender, alignment, powers, etc are up to you to decide. In order to stabilize the Galactic Republic, you’re going to need to travel to several planets and resolve their territorial issues. You don’t find out about this until about 3 or 4 hours into the game though, because you’re being hunted by horrifying Sith Lords who can’t be stopped by conventional means. Sandwiched between these issues is the personal issue your character has to deal with: You play as a Jedi whose connection to the Force was severed. As the game progresses you slowly regain your connection to The Force while a mentor character tries to guide you and probe your mind as you make various choices and actions.
There’s a lot going on in here narrative-wise, and your choices have a very tangible influence over the people who follow you around the Galaxy. This is an old looking game, so is the original Knights of the Old Republic, but for the narrative alone I can’t recommend these games highly enough. As for gameplay, you and your party attack automatically, but you can set your party members to follow specific behaviors or you can pause combat at any time to issue your own specific orders for them to follow. Special abilities can be used as often as you like without cooldowns, but Force Powers can only be used if you have Force Points. A majority of the people who follow you can be taught Force powers, and no matter how they’re aligned there are a lot of powers to choose from as your party develops. It’s not the latest Obsidian title, but I have spent a ton of time playing this one specifically this past month. I couldn’t stop myself from beginning a second playthrough and wrecking the Galaxy as a Sith Lord. In between my horrible acts of evil and pettiness though, I played a few other games.
Last month I started playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but I stopped because I played through the bit with the water monster and needed a little bit of time to calm down. This month, I played some more Amnesia double-D and upon reaching the dungeon, I’ve stopped so that I can catch my breath and stop crying. Once I had regained myself, I managed to drag my insane player character from the dungeon and into a cistern. I’m taking another little break for the time being I think; sewers in horror games have a little bit of a reputation. For the most part I’m still really enjoying Amnesia, but playing with little to no sanity has been really challenging. I’m usually able to evade the monsters, but this requires me to hide in the dark and Daniel would rather I didn’t do that. Funnily enough, I didn’t notice any sanity loss during a section when I had broken a window and jumped along window sills high above a forest. I’m not Daniel, I don’t have a fear of the dark (which is a shame, it’s one of my favorite Iron Maiden songs), but I do have a fear of heights. Platforming in first person is always iffy, but despite my troubles staying sane in this game, I haven’t died at that point and I really didn’t want to fall to death. I didn’t, I made it out and lived to almost blow myself up or be mauled another day. As for the puzzles, I admit that I had to look up solutions to 2 problems: The first was the valve puzzle a machine room. I was able to fix the machine, but I didn’t know what it wanted me to do with the switchboard and I didn’t know what the numbers meant. I probably missed a note, so I checked out an FAQ instead. The other thing I needed to look up had to do with making chemicals explode, and I feel like an idiot for not trying to throw it or throw something at it, earlier. I have died a couple of times and it actually came as a bit of a relief to find out that dying and restarting is as fast as it is. I’m not done with Amnesia, I’m not going to let it beat me, I’m just a little bit terrified of being in a cistern.
(Everything is going to be fine)
Fallout 4 is a game that’s kept me distracted this month, and I’m really not sure how that’s happened. The gameplay loop just caught me in its current somehow; it started with me playing around with the nexus mod manager and turned into me playing vanilla so that I could get Steam achievements. I chose to play as Nora, and upon waking up and leaving Vault 111 I tried going directly to Diamond City. I kind of made it too; ignoring Dog was a lot easier for me than avoiding Concord, but I was able to stick it to the man by going through the Concord state house backwards. Since this is Fallout 4, I’ve spent a majority of my time dicking around and furnishing Home Plate. When I finally did decide to start going through the main quests (and trying to avoid the DLC ones because I’m not even level 30 yet), I started by helping Nick Valentine. After helping Nick to the point that the Boston Skybox gets a new accessory, I helped Paladin Danse out. I still have work to do with him, but his head keeps buzzing for some reason and every time he moves I hear servos whirring, so I went over to the Railroads’ hideout and am currently helping them out. Regrettably, I have also been helping out Preston Garvey but only because I haven’t turned off his immortal status...not yet anyway. I’ve helped a couple of settlements, but I’m mostly focused on turning Sanctuary into a happy enough community to unlock that horrible Steam achievement. I can’t say why I’m playing this instead of one of the better Fallouts, like New Vegas or Wasteland 2, I’m just going to blame the fun gunplay. I’m also getting a lot of satisfaction with the crafting system on offer here. You may not be able to build a unique character in this like in most other RPGs, but your weapons and armor can be built up and customized to a point that I almost feel like they’re the real RPG characters here. You build them up, make them more powerful, name them, get attached to them, agonize over replacing them: One of my guns is a 10mm pistol that I’ve had since Vault 111, I’ve basically maxed out its stats, I’ve named it, I feel a real connection to it that I just don’t have with Strong, Dog, or even Piper. I’m not sure when I’m ultimately going to stop playing Fallout 4; I might just stop randomly, and funnily enough that’s kinda what happened. Sorry Shawn, but I figured out the plot twist within about half an hour of my first playthrough a few years ago.
Death Stranding inspired me to do something I haven’t done in over a year; I typed up a first impressions, review kind of thing and posted that. Here’s a little more though, since it came to me after I posted my Shoggy Look; As much as I liked wandering around the empty wilderness, it really annoyed me that music would start playing with no way to turn it off. There’s a master volume control, but I didn’t see any way in the menu to turn off the music. I can’t overstate how much the Baby creeps me out, but on the plus side it seems like I don’t need to interact with it directly to make it happy. I’m not sure why Timefall isn’t just called acid rain; maybe that’ll be explained later in the narrative, it just seems weird to me. Monster Energy Drink, like other sodas and energy drinks, is so overloaded with sodium that it’s going to dehydrate you. I get that Sam feels cottonmouth every other hour but if you had some water instead you’d be better off in the long run. As long as I’m just wandering around the world on my own I don’t dislike the game, but I’ve spent most of the month coming up with things to do that isn’t playing this game. There was an instance where I intended to sit down and play this for a few hours, but when I ended my session it had only been about 30 minutes. Death Stranding is just not for me, and everything that I didn’t like about it was actually summed up nicely by the youtuber Caddicarus...although he liked the story, and I didn’t so never mind.
(This is a drink that's better than Monster in every way, shape, and form)
Death Stranding isn’t the only game I played where I was delivering precious cargo from American Distribution Center A to American Distribution Center B; that’s right, I played American Truck Simulator! It’s like Euro Truck Simulator, except it takes place in the American south-west. So instead of worrying about whether or not some smelly Euorpean is going to offer me free health care, or invite me to live in a nation with high job satisfaction, and high overall happiness, I get to drive around swearing because California seems to have installed 50 new speed cameras while I was between jobs. This past month, there was a free trial weekend on offer through Steam so I thought I would give this game a try to see what all of the non-existent fuss was about. What I wasn’t expecting was to spend roughly six hours driving large vehicles, delivering large things, and getting reacquainted with country music. I can’t say I completely got the hang of ATS: I was never able to do one of the high-difficulty parking challenges, but I was able to manage the low-difficulty parking challenges once I was told which key unloads my trailer. I only had to abandon one job because I was way past the delivery time, and I had been through more than one serious accident. As I mentioned previously, I had some trouble with speed cameras in California, but I only annoyed a police car enough to be ticketed once. I didn’t get far enough into ATS to have hired anybody, in fact I haven’t even bought my own truck yet, but I was really feeling absorbed by the gameplay. It was just casual enough that all I was really doing was sitting back and wondering why Johnny Cash isn’t seen as a goth icon given his covers of I See a Darkness and Hurt. At the same time however, I was also annoying myself by taking turns too sharply and scraping my trailer, thus I never achieved a perfect run. I don’t know if I’m 100% sold on the game to be honest. I could see myself buying in, but I might wait until I can find DLC that lets me deliver cargo along the east coast. Maybe it exists and I haven’t found it, but it seems like American Truck Simulator only really covers the west coast and the American south-west. I’d like to drive around in places that I’ve actually been, like Baltimore, Washington D.C, Atlanta, but that’s just not available right now.
Pokemon Shield and Sword launched this month, but if I get them at all this year it’ll be during the December holiday. In the meantime though, I’ve decided to try playing through Pokemon Moon. When it was new I played through Pokemon Sun so my goal with Moon is to just do it again but with a different team. I think I know who my final team is going to be this time around too; Trevenant, Glaceon, Araquanid, Vikavolt, Metagross, and Goodra (those last two still have some evolving to do). If it seems like something is missing, it’s because I’m choosing not to use any of the starters. I have both Moon, and Sun, but I haven’t collected all three starters mainly because I’m not a completionist, but also because I didn’t care too much for Popplio. Apparently, I started playing Pokemon Moon a while ago, but I only made it as far as completing three of the island trials. Since I started playing again though, I’ve made it to Konikoni City and have completed five island trials! Truly, I am on my way to mastering Pokemon. I’m playing Pokemon Moon fairly casually, a few minutes here, a few minutes there, so I don’t see myself making serious progress since Pokemon hasn’t been able to capture my attention in the same way that Fallout 4, and Sith Lords have. I’m sure the same thing will happen next month too, but there’s no telling how much more progress I’m going to make with Moon in the meantime.
(I didn't make this, but HOLY SHIT)
During one of the Steam sales that happened this past year, I picked up the Alien Breed trilogy. I don’t remember where I first heard of this series, but I’m going to play Kim Justice since she reviews Amiiga games and the trilogy I picked up is a revival or remake of a franchise best remembered on that platform. I grabbed these because I wanted to play something more arcade-like, and these games seem to be right up my alley! Gauntlet-style games that take place in space and on colonies on other planets, overrun by the totally-not-Xenomorphs. This month, I played the first title for just over an hour. That time was mostly taken up by the first level of the game and a couple of unskippable cutscenes. In terms of gameplay, I had a little bit of trouble moving the camera and keeping things in view while I explored the first level. I was playing with my mouse and keyboard, but I probably should have played this one with a controller. I might have considered trying that, but I uninstalled Impact before I started writing this and when I do end up going back to it, it’ll likely be after I post this. My main criticism for Alien Breed: Impact is that I can’t skip the cutscenes. I watched one before the beginning of the first level and a second one before the beginning of the second level, and it’s not like I’m tripping over them in-game, I was just hoping to get into the action much sooner.
Speaking of getting into the action, did you know there are games on Steam that feature gratuitous nudity, and sexual content? Lust from Beyond: Prologue is one of those games, and since it’s a prologue to what I can only assume is a larger game, I was able to download it for free. Lust from Beyond seems to have taken its inspiration from a few sources; The art of H. R. Giger, the atmosphere and mentality of Outlast, and the fact that gamers are thought to like nudity and sex. Lust from Beyond is a first-person game so it’s easy to self-insert yourself as you play, but if you’re looking for a game with a lot of sexual content you might be a little bit disappointed. A majority of the game is spent walking around a house collecting items to use on people or objects in the house. There are other people in the house, but you can’t really interact with a majority of them. Two of them are quest-givers, and a third talks to you for an achievement before the plot happens at them. The puzzles in Lust from Beyond are fairly simple; like I said before, you’re mostly just collecting items to either give to an NPC or use on another item so you can progress. After a while, the game world changes and an element of danger is introduced, but despite a couple of jumpscares I don’t think it’s possible to die. Furthermore, it only took me about 90 minutes to complete the narrative, and I don’t feel compelled to go back for the Steam achievements that I wasn’t able to collect on that first playthrough.
I’ve had my eye on Blasphemous for a while: I don’t recall when it was announced, but it has a lot of what I look for in a game. It’s an open-ending, 2D, pixel-art, Dark Souls inspired game, fairly difficult, published by Team 17, and the world is nightmarish. I haven’t gone too deep into the lore yet, I’ve primarily spent my four hours of gameplay trying to not die. I feel like I’ve been doing a decent job at that too! I haven’t hit an area of that’s proven to be insurmountable yet and the boss which has given me the most trouble so far has only killed me once. Back when I played the demo, the boss present there killed me numerous times but that wasn’t so here. Unlike with the Soulsbourne games, I’m playing this one blind. I have no idea how deep I am, and I’m sure I’ll come across something that really kicks my ass. I’m going to be playing more of this into December for sure.
Blasphemous has something in common with The Outer Worlds, and it’s that I picked both games up during major seasonal sales. While I waited for The Outer Worlds to install itself onto my PS4 I played the demo for New Super Lucky’s Tale, which was also on sale during this time of festive capitalism. I played the demo on the Nintendo Switch, and I was immediately impressed by the presentation of the story. I wasn’t expecting an animation style that was 2D since I knew that Super Lucky’s Tale is a 3D game. My expectations weren’t especially high or low for this one: I knew of it when it was an Xbone exclusive, but I recall the most often repeated thing said about it when it was first released were lamentations that it was exclusive to Microsoft’s hate-machine. Lucky’s New Tale Super is a lot simpler than I expected it to be: There’s no dedicated run button, no triple-jumping or wall hopping, but you can dive into the ground in a charming way. You attack enemies with a charming tail-whip and the level in the demo challenges you to find three easily found golem heads so you can access a bridge. I was fairly engaged by the Lucky demo, but it was so short that I don’t think it showcased much of anything. Bosses are implied, but you don’t get to experience one so they could be anything from puzzle-platforming challenges to simple head-bop affairs. I don’t know if triple-jumping or wall-running will be unlocked later on, or even if ability unlocks are a thing in this game since all that I got to experience was running around a simple level collecting pages of a magical book. I guess if I want more of that kind of thing I could go back and try to 100% Yooka-Laylee…
The Outer Worlds took a couple of hours to install onto my PS4, and once it was ready for me to play it I was annoyed by how long the load times were, and how bad the texture pop-in was. The Outer Worlds really doesn’t seem like it’s optimized for consoles at all, but maybe it’s my fault for not playing on a PS4-Pro or by giving in to Epic or Windows and their games storefronts on the PC. I didn’t plan on playing The Outer Worlds at all this month; I wanted to make my character, and maybe get a feel for the controls, but then I was hit by some fairly effective slapstick comedy, enjoyable gunplay, and writing that’s left me wanting more. The premise goes a little something like this: You are [insert character here], and after being in cryosleep for seven decades you’ve been woken up by a Doc Brown type person who tells you to find a rare resource so that everyone else who was frozen with you can be brought back to life from their unexpectedly lengthy cryosleep. Unfortunately, your contact on Terra-II is killed during your arrival so you’re going to need to get a ship, and resources on your own. One of the resources you need to collect is a power supply for your ship, but to collect it, you’ll need to doom one of two towns by redirecting its power supply away and to the other of the two towns. It seems I could have just murdered everybody, but I would have still needed to divert power one way or the other to actually get the power core thingy. Once you have it, and install it into your ship’s core, you go into space! That’s about where I left off though and frankly, that was a really brief summary of what I’ve done in the four or five hours I’ve spent playing The Outer Worlds. There was a lot of me murdering marauders with a space machete, murdering robots with a space assault rifle, and me looking forward to learning more about this Father Maxy guy. I know he doesn’t speak French, and I know he’s hanging out on my ship.
(You're basically playing as this guy's Marty...Morty...)
It’s almost time to take a look back and take stock of 2019. Almost, but first there’s one more month to get through and possibly even one more month to catch up on the games that launched in 2019! As I write this, the Steam Autumn Sale is still going on, I grabbed another game on the same day I picked up The Outer Worlds that I haven’t mentioned yet, and I have a ton of games in my backlog. Of course, I could always just forget about my backlog and play Halo Reach for a majority of the month and pretend it’s 2010 again.