It’s a miserably hot time of year, and even if it wasn’t in my best interest to do so I wouldn’t be leaving the house. I do want to simulate the feeling of being able to walk around outside without spontaneously combusting though, and that’s part of the reason my July list looks the way it does. I feel like I complain about hot weather a lot, but the sad reality is that I can’t afford to move to Alaska yet and until that day I’m going to spend 10 months out of the year complaining about how much I hate the heat. Sorry, let’s all just cool down and take a moment to appreciate my list;
(I've never been able to draw vehicles...)
I should probably give another chance to Space Hulk: Deathwing. I only put about 2 hours into it and I didn’t feel like I had a decent grasp on how character progression worked, and I essentially got stuck before making too much progress in the first stage. I only really played in single player, and it’s unclear if I need to play MP to gain levels and unlock buffs or boosts for my space marines. As for the game itself, I liked how powerful I felt up until I was overwhelmed. Not having to worry about ammo and just focusing on mowing down hordes and hordes of enemies was fairly satisfying. I didn’t care too much to use melee, but I did like how it was integrated into the exploration. I quickly learned that most doors could be punched down, and exploring the derelict ship was fairly interesting. I don’t dislike Space Hulk: Deathwing, I just felt a bit frustrated after a while and wanted to focus on other games this month.
(This is a really cool game, I was just in the wrong headspace for it this month)
Grand Theft Auto IV is probably my favorite entry in the series. Of course I have massive nostalgic attachment to the PS2 trilogy, and I had some fun with GTAV when I played it however long ago, but I just think the series peaked with the fourth game...or San Andreas, but I like the story and characters in IV more than San Andreas and indeed, I haven’t actually finished San Andreas. This past month I put over 30 hours into GTAIV, but I couldn’t actually finish it because of a fairly well known, yet unpatched, bug that makes it impossible to finish the final mission. Even before then, the later missions (specifically, missions that I had to run for Jimmy Pegorino) didn’t seem to run all that well or otherwise gave me difficulties.
For my playthrough of GTAIV, I played Niko in a way that I thought would be true to the character: he’s singularly focused on finding the 2 people who betrayed him during the war in his home country. So whenever I would get a call from my cousin or one of the various criminal buddies I would usually deny their invitation to go bowling or play darts or whatever. The only time I did go on a friendly outing was when Niko met Katie McReary, but even then I only did that twice. I mostly just stuck with doing jobs for the various criminals Roman would associate me with. I didn’t really like the tailing missions, and there were a few chase missions where you can’t really do anything until after a seemingly arbitrary distance has been reached.
My favorite missions were the more organic shooter or chase missions. It’s fairly simple to tell when a chase is scripted: if there are suddenly large vehicles weaving in and out of traffic I would sigh and get ready to follow rather than actively pursue. I prefer the missions where I’m allowed to shoot out my target’s tires, and flip them off of a highway. Even footchases can potentially be scripted. One of the glitches I encountered during the final mission of the game saw Jim Pegorino getting stuck on a door. I was able to catch him up and unload a couple of clips worth of ammo into him before he disappeared and reappeared several feet away and back on track. In spite of the gameplay glitches, GTAIV is my favorite in the series. The story is really mature, and I noticed a lot of the NPCs looking like a possible mirror for Niko himself. Depending on how you choose to deal with certain people, you could be seen as a ruthless psychotic like Faustin, a lying snake like Dimitri, someone who lost himself to vice utterly like Darko Brevic, or someone who found a new lease on life like Bernie Crane. I might not have been able to finish Grand Theft Auto IV, but I had a great time with it this month.
(I still haven't played any of the DLC add-ons. Not yet)
King’s Quest is one of two Steam games I’ve perfected according to the platform. All that really means is that I’ve unlocked all of the Steam achievements, but that wasn’t my main motivator for playing through King’s Quest this past month.Two months ago, I started playing and made it through the first 2 chapters. Last month, I played the third chapter, and this month I finished up the game and went through a partial second playthrough. King’s Quest is divided into 5 chapters, each one telling stories of key adventures throughout King Graham’s life. Chapter 4 begins with the King and his Queen (whichever of the 2 Princesses you chose in Chapter 3) mourning the loss of their firstborn son. It’s fine though, he was just kidnapped by the evil Wizard Manannan and is returned 18 years later. From there Chapter 4 is a road-trip and familiar bonding exercise via the medium of puzzle solving. Chapter 5 takes place much later and recounts the tale of Graham’s final adventure, and final confrontation with the evil Manannan, once again through the medium of puzzle solving!
There are characters from earlier chapters who I wish hadn’t been dropped in later chapters, but the stories being told and the character interactions that are present in chapters 4 and 5 were really effective to me. King Graham was really endearing, and the way his grandchildren acted seemed realistic even when it wasn’t specifically endearing. The puzzles are usually straightforward, but there were a couple that stumped me for a bit. The end of King’s Quest implied that a sequel could happen, but it’s been four years and since Sierra is owned by Activision/Blizzard I can see them being unwilling to spend money on a moderately successful game when they own so many properties that are guaranteed to make a lot of money back. Still though, I have my fingers crossed for another King’s Quest in future, and maybe a similar revival of Space Quest.
(I can't believe Life is Strange is as big as it is, but nobody talks about this game...)
I don’t shop through the Microsoft Store, despite its prominent spot on my taskbar, but I do like to check it from time to time, just to see if Rare Remix is there or not. It never is, and neither is my favorite dead Xbox exclusive racing game Project Gotham Racing, so I chose to download the demo of Forza Horizon 4 to see if this was worth killing the Project Gotham series. The short answer is no; I’m not spending money on Forza, I still miss Project Gotham, but I see the appeal now. The presentation of the early portion of the demo is a vertical slice of gameplay that quickly cycles you through several kinds of races. You essentially get about a minute of street racing, a minute of street racing again, but with more of an emphasis on slow speed and tight turns, and a minute of off-road racing in a dirt buggy.
After these vignettes I was taken to a screen asking me to buy the game, where I said ‘no’ and the demo essentially said “Oh...well, okay then, here play some more of the game”.This surprised me, since I had hit a very predictable end point for the demo but since the thing continued on I stuck around to see where it would go. The story of the game is set during some insufferably festival populated by insufferable, too-cool-for-school racing types who treated me like I was some kind of Mary Sue. I was given a car, talked at about how great racing is, and told to enjoy myself. I was let loose in an open world where a handful of missions were waiting for me and for the most part they were fairly standard races. Nothing really stuck out to me as being standout exemplars in the motor racing genre, nor did I see anything that made me furrow my brow and swear off the genre. After a few races I was given a special stunt mission though, where all I had to do was turn one corner and drive off of a ramp. That was probably the most disappointing mission I drove through, but it wasn’t necessarily bad. It wasn’t good either, and I still can’t believe Microsoft axed Project Gotham for this bland, toothless, series.
(Too cool for school, but so very bland)
Door Kickers: Action Squad is a fun and easy-to-get-into 2D shooter in which you play as one of several SWAT team members. New chapters and levels open up based on the number of stars you gain in the available levels, and since I played solo I was able to fairly reliably achieve the maximum number of points per level completed. The stars you earn by completing levels can be used to buy new equipment, personal buffs for specific characters, universal buffs that apply to all playable characters, and equipment that you can take into missions with you. The score that you earn is tied to how many hostages you save in the missions that have them, but other than that it seemed like no matter how I performed I would get a top score.
I assume if I played multiplayer, losing a team member might have negatively affected my score, but I’m strictly a single-player type of person. For the most part I stuck with the Assaulter rather than the other character types. I played a bit as the breecher, but I didn’t feel as in-control with the shotgun. I also played a couple of missions as the Off-Duty guy but he was too glass-cannon for me. It was fairly easy, even with armor and use of health packs, to lose a lot of life or just die outright if more than one enemy noticed me. Going from a death into a new round is pretty quick though, so there was never enough downtime between attempts to really frustrate me. I haven’t finished Door Kickers, but I can see myself going through all of the levels eventually.
(You finally got me guys. You finally got me to play Siege)
Wreckfest is exactly what I look for in a racing game. There are multiple series of increasingly more difficult and prestigious event races that can earn you currency and EXP, as you level up you’ll be eligible to purchase better parts and better cars to install those parts into. If you’re stuck on an event though, or if you want to just blow off some steam, there’s nothing at all stopping you from setting up a race on a figure eight track with 28 school busses and 60 laps which will inevitably lead to every racer, and you, destroying their vehicle before lap 35. You still get money and EXP for these wacky races that you set up yourself, and it’s that kind of thing that’s essential in any good racing game.
I realize it’s important to be the best like no one ever was, and the game recognizes that I gain just as much experience in a structured, regulated, demolition-in-a-mud-pit event as I would in a personally crafted lawnmower endurance race. All of the vehicles are completely destructible at multiple points, which would be weird if that wasn’t the case. Heavy damage in certain areas of a vehicle can affect performance such as maximum speed, acceleration, turn radius, and whether or not your car is on fire (which I understand is bad). Wreckfest is exactly my kind of racing game: anarchic, fast paced, quick to get into, no overarching plot or insufferable cast of young people with their horrible indie-music. Just me, a school bus, and a lawn mower.
(I love it, but Wreckfest doesn't seem to realize that it's a video game. It should be contemplative or winkingly self-aware, not objectively great)
I didn’t even put an hour into Strafe, and while I can’t say I can pinpoint when I realized my opinion wasn’t going to change, but I just couldn’t get into this one. I like the aesthetic, but procedurally generated level design just confused me more than anything else. With Strafe I would have rather the levels been uniformly designed, because the procedural generation just didn’t vary the level designs in any significant way. I went through about 4 runs of the first level and during 2 of the 4 runs that first level was the same. As for the shooting, it wasn’t bad at all. You can either choose one of three guns or choose nothing because you’re a Chad and you’re going to fist things. The starting guns didn’t really feel too powerful though; the shotgun was fine but the machine gun and railgun just didn’t seem very effective to me. I had the most fun going in without choosing any of those weapons though, because you can find a wrench early on, and it’s really satisfying to use. Not so satisfying that I felt compelled to play Strafe for more than 45 minutes this month though.
I haven’t finished Prey yet and I have some weird mixed feelings about it anyway. On the one hand, I don’t really like the combat all that much. The aliens you fight, a race called the Typhon, are pretty interesting. The small ones can take the form of small, unobtrusive objects like stools, coffee cups, etc, and just about everything hits hard enough that it’s easy to lose a lot of health quickly. It almost feels like Prey wanted to be a survival horror, but there are means to replenish your stock of ammo and health items far more easily than in usual survival horror games. The weapons, the ones that are effective damage dealers, seem limited to a pistol, a shotgun, a wrench, an EMP grenade, and a laser that I’m having trouble using in the best of times.
The combat in Prey just isn’t all that fun for me, but that’s nothing compared to the plot which was spoiled for me and which I consider to be absolutely pointless for reasons I don’t really want to get into. The main factor that kept me playing, and indeed, kept me feeling positive about Prey in general, is the exploration. There are some doors that you straight-up can’t open without a keycard, but most other locked doors can be subverted in other ways. You can usually find passcodes to unlock doors in audio logs or written on notes. Sometimes you’ll be able to find a window just waiting to be smashed out. It’s possible to make a “staircase” by using your glue gun on the wall and climb over a door or barrier.
My favorite thing though has been using the NERF Crossbow to open doors. The first time I used-Crossbow-on-door, it was because I noticed that emergency release buttons are impressed when you use the “use” key on them, so I tried shooting the button with my pistol...then I tried again with the crossbow and it worked! There was another instance where I successfully used a PC that was about a meter away from me by shooting the screen with those foam darts to open the locked Security Station door. Exploration and interactions with the objects found in the station Talos 1 has been my main motivator for continuing to play Prey, and if I end up finishing it, that’ll probably be why. Prey reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid 2: I just don’t care about the actual game part of the game, or the story, or the characters (who are also irrelevant for reasons), but interacting with the world has been enough to get me through about 11 hours of gameplay.
(It's fun to play until it's not)
It took about 2 hours to install Star Wars: The Old Republic and I’m considering re-installing it. I uninstalled it after the first hour of actually playing. I hate playing MMOs: they’re all the same game. You swing your foam bat or shoot your “gun” until the monsters around you hit 0 HP. There’s no feedback as you hit them other than the floating numbers. You can get them to 0 faster by tapping your numpad and waiting for your abilities to become available again. This game, Destiny 2, WoW, Borderlands, Final Fantasy XII, Xenoblade Chronicles, they’re all the same exact game and I hate playing them.
I uninstalled The Old Republic very soon after my character got stuck in the world geometry on Korriban and I couldn’t get her out. The reason I’m considering re-installing it though is because of the story. I don’t recall any other Star Wars game that can let you play as a light-side aligned Sith or dark-side aligned Jedi. I watched the entire Sith Inquisitor campaign (well, the cutscenes) on youtube because the concept of that but played as a Light Side Force user intrigued me in a huge way. I’ve played terrible games for the sake of a good story before, and I might just grit my teeth and bare it for this one.
(I hate it as a game, but the narratives have me morbidly curious)
I started playing Assassin’s Creed Unity last month, and I continued playing around with it this month. A majority of my enjoyment for Unity comes from the simple joy of wandering around 18th Century Paris and stopping street crimes for surprisingly good cash. I haven’t touched any of the multiplayer content, but I’m trying to get through the main missions so I can buy the better health, weapon, and stealth abilities. When it comes to weapons, I already feel like I’m hitting a wall. I don’t have the most expensive sword yet, but I have enough equipment that I’m considered a level 4 character out of 5 levels and I don’t think I’m too far into the story. The last plot mission I've done so far was the second one of sequence 7.
I’m still interested in the relationship between Arno and Elise, but I haven’t been following the whole plot too closely. I’m a bit more concerned with trying to figure out the Nostradamus Enigmas and finding all of the chests scattered throughout the city. In a way Unity has become my unwind game for the past month. It’s something I can put on and wander around in for an hour or two without even bothering with any of the missions. I’ve also had a lot of fun recently with my Phantom hood and coat jumping onto people from high places, even if I can’t un-alive people with a magical lasso. I’m probably going to play around while dressed as the Man in the Iron Mask once I unlock that costume, but I kind of wish there were some references to The Count of Monte Cristo...well, there was that chapter where you’re imprisoned...nevermind.
(This is a really, really good game. And I'm tired of pretending it's not)
I hate summer, and while I’m glad July is over and there’s only one more month of Summer ahead...well, there’s still one more month of Summer ahead, and I hate it! I went on a short walk this afternoon and it wasn’t as hot as it has been, but where I live this time of year is also very humid so even though the temperature was a little less terrible, the clinging moisture was its own Hell. Oh well, that’s just more of a reason for me to stay indoors and play video games. There isn’t much coming out that I’m interested in this August: Battletoads has a release date, but other than that I don’t even know if there are any high profile games expected for this year aside from Cyberpunk. I think Control and The Outer Worlds will be launching on Steam within the next month or two, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for those. If all else fails, I can always take a break from gaming and binge DS9. Until next time though, stay cool.