I’ve played a bunch of demos this month, but not nearly as many as some of you. Maybe it’s just a “me” thing, but a lot of what I saw didn’t really jump out at me. Looking at my list, it seems like I played a lot of stuff this month. I did, there’s no denying that, but I didn’t spend a lot of time on much of anything really...well, I spent a lot of time on a couple of things. I should really be packing and unplugging things, and clearing out my closet...Here’s my list!
(I really got into Dagothwave for a minute there...)
I only put about 2 hours into Nocturne this month and I don’t seem to have done very much in that time. I once-punched Thor last month, and this month I think I spent more time grinding EXP and money items. A part of me wants to level up to the point where I can evolve a Lilim, but another part of me thinks it would be a better idea to just move on so I don’t accidentally lock myself out of being able to develop the magatama I haven’t found yet. I really need to get back into Nocturne. Maybe in a couple of weeks.
(I agree with the themes of this game, ie: When you see a God, punch it in the face)
Vermintide II reminds me a lot of Left 4 Dead 2, probably because it’s nearly the same game mechanically. A group of 4 heroes travel through a level occupied by hoards of weak enemies and every so often specialized enemies appear to hinder your progress, including enemies that spew poison, and pull party members away from the group. There’s more of an emphasis on melee combat in Vermintide though, and the whole thing is set in the Warhammer universe so instead of fighting zombies it’s rats...actually, I think there might be zombies too, but they’re the kind that can use melee weapons.
I’ve had a lot of good luck playing with random people too, which I wouldn’t expect in similar games to this one. The general gameplay is really engaging to me, but it stops dead between levels when it’s time to look at what new equipment I’ve found, what material I’ve got for crafting, and similar micromanagement things. It’s not a dealbreaker, but the time spent micromanaging adds up and I’d rather be fighting giant rats (which I happily get to). I’m definitely going to be playing more of this, especially since it seems like the achievements are based on hitting various levels and kill-milestones.
(Them filthy rodents are still comin' for your souls)
I booted up Dark Souls II for a moment or three this month. I thought about going back to my project of clearing out enemies until they despawn permanently but instead I ran over to The Duke’s Dear Freyja and whacked it to death. She’s not the worst boss in DS2, and I really like her implied lore, but a giant stompy spider is pretty cool on its own. I don’t really like that she can throw up laser blasts.
I played the 3 Halo games that matter this month. I’m not completely sure what inspired me to go back to these games, but I just had an itch of nostalgia that could only be scratched by going back and re-playing these campaigns. I also wanted to unlock some Steam achievements (currently at 175 out of 700 for the MCC...I started this month at 70). This is probably a nuclear take, but I don’t think I like this series. My favorite levels are the ones that don’t have Flood since I’m of the opinion that The Flood are the worst part of this trilogy, so just by that standard alone there are what, 21 Flood centric levels out of 34 across Halo 1-3? Of those there are a few that I really like, such as The Maw from CE and Halo from Halo 3, but those are the exception, and even then I like portions of those levels rather than the whole thing.
On the plus side, from a certain point of view, it’s possible to run past a lot of encounters throughout the trilogy. Some of the achievements even encourage that kind of response too given how strict some of the level par times are. Another nitpick I wasn’t anticipating was the shock of switching from the anniversary edition of Halo 2 to Halo 3. The visuals for Halo2 AE are absolutely fantastic, but Halo 3 just looks like an early Xbox 360 game. Granted, it’s running at a great frame rate on PC, but the difference between character models, backgrounds, etc is jarring. It’s been a few years since I’ve played Halo 2 or 3.
It was great to play a Halo that had boss fights, and it was great to play those 2 levels in Halo 3 where I could use Hornets. I’m just not sure when I’ll go back and try for a Heroic run, I don’t see myself doing Legendary or LASO runs, and to me Halo 4 doesn’t exist. I was gifted a copy of it years ago and I’m not putting my hand on that stove again.
(Well some of it is good, but what do I know I like SWAT)
There’s a lot that I can say about Hatred. I think I’m going to keep it to myself for now too, but I will say that I’m positive I can squeeze out several hours worth of text on its themes, message, and subtleties if I can make it past the military base.
I had some fun playing the Severed Steel demo, even though it kicked my ass. I’ve never played Superhot, but Severed Steel is what I understand Superhot to be, just prettier. The point of reference that I do have in common with this game is Hotline Miami, another game wherein you quickly run around an arena made of up several small rooms with the mission of destroying all opposition through gunfire, thrown items, and/or broken doors.
Unlike Hotline Miami, this is a first person shooter in a 3D world so it’s possible to get surrounded without realizing it. I should probably play this demo again now that I have a set of headphones with 7.1 but I’m not sure how much more effective that’ll make me at clearing these stages. There’s also wall running, double-jumping, and the ability to slow down time, but in spite of all these advantages most of the levels killed me multiple times before I was able to figure out enemy placements, habits, and my optimal strategies to use against them.
(Hurt. Me. More.)
I feel like I should like Painkiller and its remastered version, Hell & Damnation a lot more than I do. I don’t dislike Painkiller, but the unrelenting onslaught of big monsters just turns into white noise after a while. I think it might be overwhelming to me. I don’t see why it would though, I play Brutal Doom as a wind-down game. I guess I can blame a lack of familiarity and a slight unwillingness to dedicate time to really getting used to Painkiller. I don’t dislike this game, I just have trouble sticking with it, especially when there are demos to be played.
Dishonored is one of those games that I know I love, but then I get to that level. For me, that level is the flooded district, and I’m currently there now. The issue isn’t that it’s a poorly put together level, it’s just that I’m trying to do a pacifist run at the moment, and the flooded district is one of the more difficult pacifist levels. It’s definitely satisfying to wipe out a mob of several dozen skeletons and witches, but it’s not enough to keep me engaged once I’m overwhelmed, killed, and given a moment to take a breath and get my head out of the game for a moment. I know there are giant, interestingly designed bosses ahead of me, but I also know I have a massive backlog that I could be engaging with.
(This is some really good stuff)
I feel like I’ve played the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DX demo before, but maybe it was another Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game. I noticed it squatting on my Switch home page and decided to give it a look before deleting it. The personality quiz in the beginning is interesting, but since it let me choose who I wanted to play as anyway it seemed a little pointless. I chose to play as Totodile, but while I was in a cave that was populated with Voltorb it didn’t seem to matter that I used water based attacks against it. The combat in general didn’t really do a lot to engage me. Maybe it’s just because of the presentation. I would probably really like Mystery Dungeon as a tabletop game, but I just couldn’t connect with it as a video game.
(It looks pretty)
The There is no Light demo caught my eye because it looks like a 2D Souls kind of game, and it basically is that thing I just said. I don’t remember much of anything about it even though I played it a few days ago. I remember talking to people in a very Metro 203X style village, getting tired of doing that, and getting sneered at by a voice in my head once I left the settlement. That’s about all I remember of the demo though; I know there was combat and multiple weapons which attacked in different ways...I also remember being able to punch monsters to death, but that’s about it. I guess I was underwhelmed by There is no Light.
(I probably should have given this one more of a chance too)
The Unmetal demo basically sold me on the game. The question hanging over this one is, “What if Metal Gear was a comedy game” but it’s the kind of comedy that didn’t come from a comedy consultant like Sunset Overdrive or Watch_Dogs 2. The player character is a hyper-capable Snake Pliskin style character who, after crashing a helicopter, is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. The story is framed as him being debriefed and walking the events of the game through the person debriefing him, so your player character is also your somewhat unreliable narrator. It’s the kind of thing that I find funny, especially when you enter an area of the game map and your player character says, “I know this place had something in it, but I don’t remember what”, and suddenly you’re walking around a screen populated with a dozen massive blue question marks.
I don’t want to talk too much about the other things that made me laugh because spoiling jokes can be just as severe as spoiling plots, especially if the jokes are told poorly, and also because humor is really subjective. One person might consider a side quest wherein you give a POW a cigarette and a lighter only to receive a crumpled butt a waste of time, while another person might consider it a subversive and humorous side quest. I’m the second person in that hypothetical, and I’m going to stop now. I put UnMetal on my watch list and I’m looking forward to its release.
(I really liked this one)
I feel a little on the fence about Dread Templar after having played the demo. On the one hand, I like the level aesthetics, creature design, and sound design, but on the other hand I stopped playing because I got lost and was ready to move on to another demo. Thinking back on it, the most powerful memory that comes back to me from my time playing the game is how the swords have a secondary function whereby you can combine the two into one, throw them, then run around unarmed for about 5 seconds. I don’t remember the firearms having secondary fire options that worked like that, and can’t even remember if they had secondary fire options in general.
(It's really not that edgy, but it tries)
The Grime demo was a lot like the UnMetal demo in that I really, really liked it, and put the game on my watch list. Deep in a cave a singularity of rock forms a human-shaped homunculus whom you control throughout the demo. The game presents itself in a 2D style and the level design is very Metroid; an expanse of caverns that loop in on themself as you explore, filled with hostile creatures. The player creature can move in recognizable ways while also having access to a dash and back-dash from the beginning, but I didn’t find any weapons in the first quarter hour or so. Instead, enemy attacks are countered by an “absorb” function which, after absorbing enough of the same enemy, allows your character to take on attributes of the enemies whom you’ve absorbed.
The creatures in the demo seem similar to your player character: misshapen, somewhat humanoid, rock creatures who generally seem to impede your progress rather than aggressively trying to murder you which drew me into the world that little bit more. Even the boss at the end of the demo leaves you alone until you instigate a thrilling battle with it. While exploring the world you find and collect shards which are the currency/EXP of Grime and allow you, at save points, to augment (or grow) attributes of your character (Health, Force, Strength, Dexterity, and Resonance). The tone, progression, and stakes of Grime make me think of that other really popular JRPG series, Dark Souls, but the creatures don’t seem as grotesque, and the combat not as unforgiving. That doesn’t mean I breezed through this demo though; the boss at the end was able to crush me several times before I was able to destroy it.
(That's just the first boss, no biggie)
I hated The Rainbow Billy demo. My first impression of the game was really positive, it gave me Cuphead vibes but looking closer at the character models it reminded me more of when modern cartoons do episodes about either olden times or other properties. Think of something like those times South Park made fun of Family Guy and included scenes from that show, in that general style, or that time Arthur made fun of South Park and did a segment in that style. What I mean is, it doesn’t seem genuine. It’s like I’m watching a modern cartoon that’s doing a specific episode in an older style but with a color palette that wouldn’t have been possible however many decades ago.
The introductory area and mission is an effective means of presenting the systems that would likely show up in the rest of the game; talking to NPCs, engaging with the button-matching mini game that will become the core of the “combat”, collecting items, etc. It’s really approachable and charming, but there wasn’t a sense of challenge and it’s around this time that I realized this game is probably for a much younger audience. Later on in the demo there’s a combat encounter but instead of being aggressive it seems to be entirely dialog based where enemies are talked out of being hostile and eventually join you if you succeed at button matching and choosing the right conversation choices. It was during the combat encounter that I was starting to question who the target audience was for this game, because I don’t know that young children fully comprehend the levels of empathy that are being conveyed during the encounter conversations.
The tone didn’t seem to be talking down to or at me, the player character, but it reminded me very much of Steven Universe whereby the main character is capable of turning all hostile creatures into friends despite what should be impossible odds. I came away from Rainbow Billy knowing that this game absolutely isn’t for me. It seems like it might want to be given how its presentation is so evocative of Cuphead and Paper Mario, but the actual text and characters completely put me off. It’s kind of like DIsco Elysium but from the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
(I wonder how many times he's going to cry throughout the game...)
I kind of liked the first half of the Industria demo, but I couldn’t get into the action part. The intrigue being presented in the original made me want to know what was going on. Some late-Soviet disaster was striking at some facility or other, and exploring the place would have been really interesting. I liked the look of the place, and it caught my interest. After making it to the power core of the building though, there’s a fade to black, a message that I’ve been sent to a point later in the game, and suddenly I’m playing a really dull first person shooter.
The enemies seem to be robots and cyborgs, but they’re not really humanoid. It was alright, but I’ve played better first person shooters that feature more interesting creatures, in prettier environments, with weapons that offer better feedback. I played Singularity a while ago, and that was similar enough to this that I think I’ll just play that again if I want something like this...assuming that’s what Industria is going to be; Singularity again, but kind of not.
I didn’t really get the Death Trash demo. I played it for about 45 minutes, and it seemed straightforward enough, but I couldn’t really connect with it. The world is definitely interesting, and the mystery of what’s up with the player character is certainly interesting, but I was having a lot of trouble feeling any investment whatsoever. I like how the combat is real-time, and it seems like I can build a character in a lot of different ways, so maybe I just made a poor build? Then again, rebuilding a character wouldn’t really change the story or setting.
The Flesh Kraken is interesting, but the way it’s presented makes it seem like a normal thing. The wonder of the Flesh Kraken didn’t really hold for me, but maybe there are other interesting creatures like it also hidden throughout the world. Maybe once Death Trash is complete and it’s been talked about I’ll be more interested in giving it another chance. As it stands now though I feel really underwhelmed.
(It's not trash, and I'm willing to say, "It's not you, it's me")
Portal 2 really holds up! It also made me want to re-watch those lengthy best-of videos based on the Ricky Gervais podcast. I had also forgotten how easily it could be to get lost in this game. A vast majority of Portal 2 is straightforward, but there are a few segments where the game opens up, or where you’re presented with a new puzzle element, and it took me a while to wrap my head around what was being asked of me. Maybe I won’t wait another decade before I play Portal 2 again, but it was refreshing and ultimately really satisfying to make it through the more difficult puzzles of Portal 2. Even after having listened to the dialog more than several times, and knowing the more memetic lines, the writing and delivery of the dialog still made me laugh. I’m not sure what made me install and play through Portal 2 this month, but I’m glad I did. It was a fairly quick game to play through, entertaining, and satisfying.
(Out of Atlas, P-Body, and GLad0s I wonder who is Ricky, Steve, and Karl)
New month, new home, and there are still a few days to spend money I may or may not technically have to swell my Steam library. Once I have everything unpacked and my PC set up, even if it’s set up on boxes, I’ll be ready to really sink my teeth into...something. Maybe a high chaos run of Dishonored, unless something suddenly captures my attention for a few hundred hours. Oh, I just realized I haven’t played ODST in about a decade, maybe I should do that. Or I could mop up some low-effort achievement games, since I have a good chunk of those and seeing a 31% completion rating on my Steam profile page is really irking me. Oh crap, I need to pack up the Kitchen, and finish my room.