As 2020 continues on so too does the global game of plague inc. we’re all being forced to play. Since we’re well and truly into Spring sales are starting to roll out online so my backlog has grown, and will continue to grow. Predictably, I’ve picked up some things that I’ve played before on older platforms. I’ve also tried to branch out a bit though and fill in some gaps where I’ve missed a game or two previously. For the most part though, I’ve spent a massive chunk of April playing 2 games. The others listed below are games that I only started recently.
(Not sure if I should doodle more, or doodle a lot more...)
I just keep going back to Scholar of the First Sin, but this time I don’t remember what drove me to boot it back up. I wanted to see if I could run straight up to the Dragon Slayer, but I didn’t have enough power to get past the aggressive Heide Knights or the red Dragon guarding the optional boss. The thing is, I feel like I was strong enough to have made it if the enemies weren’t all piled up on each other. I stopped playing after a couple of hours since I realized that I would eventually make it, but I wanted to get to and kill not-Ornstein in an hour or less.
Last month, I spent tens of hours hunting large monsters and Daemons in the world of Final Fantasy XV. This month, I spent dozens of hours doing the same thing but I also explored thoroughly and finishing the mystery map questline. I also focused on the main plot this month, and eventually finished the game. There are certain things I haven’t done during this playthrough that I didn’t do on my previous playthrough either, like the quest in the Vesperpool where you need to hunt a level 99 monster. I didn’t fight against Omega Weapon either, and I’m sure there are other optional bosses I haven’t fought.
I still have no idea what the hidden doors at the back of certain dungeons are for either. Something I did do on this playthrough though was play through the episodic DLC (except Ardyn, whose DLC I don’t own), and I focused on spending ability points on Magic. Ultimately, I think that was a mistake: Magic is high-impact from the very beginning, so after a while it felt like diminishing returns, especially for the amount of points I invested into that portion of the skill tree. The first time I played Final Fantasy XV, I remember loving the combat, the side quests, the mini-games, and the story.
I didn’t want to call it my favorite or even rank it in my top-5 since I generally feel really positively about whichever Final Fantasy I’m currently playing. After my second playthrough though, I feel much more confident when I say that XV is one of my favorites in the series, and definitely in my top 3 for this series.
(The ending made me cry again too)
Episode Ignis takes place during a massively important portion of FFXV’s plot that I probably shouldn’t talk too much about. You play as Ignis who must get to and save Noctis. Despite the desperation of the situation though, this DLC expands on the usual combat by adding in light territory management. The more areas you liberate from Imperial rule, the more treasure you’ll be able to find which won’t do much good during the first playthrough of this DLC. Combat is mostly the same here as in the base-game, but Ignis can only use daggers and a context-sensitive spear. The daggers are elementally infused with fire, ice, and lightning, but this actually plays out as one-on-one, group style, or teleport-ish types of knife play. Once you decide to make your way to Noctis, the gameplay shifts from knife-fighting to boating, but then back to knife fighting.
There are a couple of bosses to take on, context on what happens to Ignis and why he’s different from the train ride on, and even a ‘what if’ scenario that changes things up slightly. Nothing in the core game really changes, but the more you play Episode Ignis, the more you can buy and transfer over into the core game. Finishing this episode once gives you the Elemental Daggers, which was all I really wanted. I only played through Episode Ignis once, but I was able to see all of the endings because of the generous save system. It was definitely more interesting to me than Episode Gladiolus.
Episode Prompto is the only one of the three companion episodes that I didn’t play all the way through. The plot points presented here really flesh out Prompto, but it’s very familiar what they do with him. In fact, Prompto’s origins seem to be very similar to those of a certain Soldier from another Final Fantasy. Aranea Highwind makes a cameo and helps Prompto to not die, but she wasn’t enough to keep me invested in this episode. The main thing that kept me from wanting to play this part of the story is the gameplay itself: Episode Prompto is a third-person shooter but it’s using the same engine as the base game. Shooting is really inconsistent, and never feels like it has much impact at all, especially the starting pistol Prompto uses. Prompto has access to a knife from the start too, but using that feels even more awkward than the pistol. Other guns I’ve found in this DLC so far have been a machine gun, a sniper-rifle, a rocket-launcher, and grenades.
The starting pistol can focus on enemies, but there’s no way to aim like in other shooters. The sniper rifle and machine gun do have an aiming mode though, and landing head shots does critical damage. The rocket-launcher always does high levels of damage by default, and the grenades stun enemies, take a long time to explode, and just didn’t seem too useful if you want to directly kill enemies. After learning that Prompto is essentially Vincent, Sephiroth, and Cloud all in one person, there is an escape sequence that introduces a snowmobile and an open world with side quests. I didn’t see how open the world was, I didn’t see how many side quests there were, I was ready to pack it in.
The shooting was so dissatisfying to me that I just couldn’t keep going after escaping from the first Imperial lab. Similar plot points are brought up in the core game, and it’s nice to have some additional history on Prompto, but I don’t think I’m missing out on anything by not finishing this one. Episode Gladiolus was kind of bland, but this was just dissatisfying, almost like Borderlands.
Last October I played Dark Souls Remastered on the Switch, and it was the first time I played that game at all. I recorded all of the times specific bosses killed me, ran through the game a couple of times, and eventually put it away. Then it went on sale on PC and this past month I played it again for the first time in a few months. Funnily enough, my latest playthrough was very similar to my second or third: What I really wanted to do was side with Darkseeker Kaathe and see the alternate cutscene that plays when Sif recognizes you from the past. I didn’t do either of those, but I was able to beat Knight Artorias for the first time, save Solaire, see the true end of Seigmeyer’s story, resurrect Anastasia, and even fight bosses so far out of order that when I finally killed the Gargoyles I was able to kill them both in about five hits each.
I made a couple of mistakes during my playthrough too, like wasting resources by crafting the wrong weapons instead of doing some proper research to fully upgrade the ones I wound up using. I don’t see myself doing a new game+ run, but I’ll probably do a fresh playthrough again sooner rather than later.
(You won't survive the night without my help, hehehehe...)
NES Remix and NES Remix 2 are basically the same game. In fact, they were launched as a bundle on the 3DS but what I played this month were the digitally distributed versions on Wii U. I mainly played those for about a half-hour each to refresh myself on what they’re all about. Between the two games, there are about 30 NES games that are represented and about 120 remix challenges. Remix challenges take aspects of more than one game and mash them together, or have you run through a familiar challenge with an additional challenge tacked on, or ask you to go through a series of challenges across several very different games. Aside from the remixe challenges, there are game-specific challenges. For the most part, the game-centric challenges either focus on asking you to get a high score, reach a certain level, or complete certain challenges that you would otherwise have to do if you were just playing that game.
The Legend of Zelda challenges, for example, just boil down to playing through and beating the game. On the main menu of these games is a link that takes you to the eShop, where you can buy the full versions of the games shown in NES Remix and Remix 2 so I’m wondering if these games drove virtual console sales in any way. I like this concept, but I just don’t have as much love for the NES library as I do for the Super Nintendo or Gamecube libraries. I hope the Remix series continues eventually, and since so many people have access to NES and SNES Online through Switch, I’m sure there would be some demand for something like a SNES Remix or NES Megamix.
According to Steam, I played Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for about 47 minutes. The reality of that situation is a bit different though since things like menu navigation and unskippable cutscenes are counted as playtime. Like with Borderlands 2, I’m annoyed that I need to choose a character with a set loadout rather than making a loadout for myself since I really don’t feel a connection to any of the characters I could have chosen.
Unlike Borderlands 2, I don’t have to babysit a jabbering robot for the first hour. Sure, a Claptrap does make an appearance, but it dies quickly after and thus doesn’t wear out its welcome. The whole opening was pretty fine actually: it’s set on a space station that’s being invaded by an unknown military force who seem to think attacking me with NERF guns is a good idea. The boss I fought on the Station didn’t post much of a threat either, but it did take a bunch of shots to the face without flinching or taking critical damage. I had to shoot its backpack to do serious damage to it because that was more vulnerable than its exposed face. I liked this opening more than the Borderlands 2 opening, but I’m still feeling the same sense of boredom I felt then.
The shooting doesn’t feel impactful, and I didn’t take any damage so I never felt like I was in any danger. I couldn’t even collect anything from the dozens of chests littering the space station except for a few guns that were inferior to my starting loadout. What’s the point of a shooter-looter if the shooting is weak and I can’t collect things? Once I left the station and made it to the surface of an asteroid I did feel a sense of danger, but it came from rock dogs who looked like they got lost on their way to a PS2 game. Running backwards and unloading ammo into dog faces was definitely more engaging than killing faceless goons, but it still wasn’t fun yet and I uninstalled the game very soon after.
I’m still willing to admit that these games might be better if I play multiplayer, but I’m not ready or willing to do that at the moment. I haven’t had fun with any of the Borderlands games I’ve played, and I think I’m just done with the series unless I start dating someone who’s really into them, I dunno.
(Blah game, Blah franchise)
I think Strider 2014 was the first game that launched this past generation that I couldn’t get without either getting a better computer (I know), or getting one of the new consoles that weren’t made by Nintendo. It went on sale, I downloaded it, and now I question whether or not I’m going to finish it. My first issue, and the biggest one really, is that it’s a game that plays in 2D space but it forces me to use an analog stick to move when the D-Pad is right there, doing nothing else. I’m sure there’s a way to mod the controls but I only just thought of that as I write this. The next issue I have is how disorienting screen transitions can be: There are a lot of smooth transitions, but other times when you go from an open area into a small room or hallway everything will zoom in with no warning. It’s disorienting. Those are my major complaints, everything else is biscuits and gravy.
Strider 2014 is a Metroidvania style game that spreads itself across several large maps. I know I’ll be able to go back to the first map eventually, I can tell by the areas I couldn’t access without the jump-stomp. Strider Hiryu is incredibly fast, and even from the beginning of the game it only seems to take one or two swipes of his blade to kill enemies. Exploring the environment thoroughly reveals all kinds of hidden rooms, powerups, and even just health boosts. I was stuck on the first boss for a while before I realized that extra health was on the ceiling above me the whole time. As engaged as I am while I’m playing in the moment though, I’m having trouble wanting to get back into Strider. It’s a short game if the achievements are anything to go by, but something is keeping me from getting fully invested in it. It’s definitely better than the NES game, but that’s a very low bar which just about any game can step over.
I have returned to Castle Wolfenstein, but unfortunately I botched the operation and now there is a new order. I’ve played this game previously on the Playstation 3, but my current run is on PC where it’s buttery smooth and quite a lot prettier. I can still play ‘pop the texture’ if I turn too quickly, but that’s a very minor nitpick. Transitioning from peaceful areas, to stealth areas, to full-action sequences can happen suddenly and out of nowhere, but that’s also kind of a nitpick. Exploring a level, looking for loot and hidden areas only to accidentally make progress and lock myself out of said loot and collectibles has happened a few times, but again this is a nitpick. The most petty of all of my nitpicks is that I haven’t been able to refer to this game as Wolfenstein: The New One since about 2017 (2015 if you want to count Old Blood, which I certainly don’t). I have one more nitpick and it’s that I’m not seeing much of a point in the perk system outside of the perks that give you more health and armor. All of those things aside, I’m having a lot of fun just running around and murdering stormtroopers and their commanding officers in a consequence-free environment (except for that one time where there is a choice and a consequence but I always ever chose the same dude because hotwiring is cool).
I haven’t quite gone past where I was on my original playthrough, but I’m closing in on that part; the last major thing I did was liberate a Croatian labor camp. I haven’t been paying close attention to the plot, but I do like how compelling it is if you choose to engage with it. Reading about how World War 2 played out in this timeline is interesting, but I’m still not sure how exactly super-mold forms in concrete. I know that a certain big-bad isn’t going to be present in this game, but I like how it sets up the others. I’m probably going to finish The New Order in May, it’s a really great shooter and I’ve always felt like I’ve been missing out by not finishing it previously.
Halo: Combat Evolved is another shooter that I would have called great once upon a time, and it’s a game that I’ve played through multiple times over. It launched on Steam as part of the Master Chief Collection recently and I played through a bit of it, but I haven’t actually finished the campaign or played any of the multiplayer yet. This version of Combat Evolved looks like it’s based off of the Anniversary edition of the game. The graphics and character models were completely overhauled, as was the sound design, but it sounds like the voice samples are the same ones used in the original.
When this was first launched on the Xbox 360, it was possible to toggle between the new and original graphics, but this feature seems to be missing in the Steam version of the MCC (unless I just haven’t found that key yet). That’s just a nitpick though, I really like how everything looks in this version except maybe human character models. What really surprised me about this version of Combat Evolved is just how useful the assault rifle has been, and how it seems like the pistol was nerfed. In the original release, the pistol fired and loaded quickly while delivering lethal headshots to just about everybody. The lethality is still there, but swapping between weapons has been slowed down from what I remember, and loading the pistol seems to take forever now. Not long enough for enemy shields to regenerate, but long enough to make the pistol/ plasma pistol combo seem a whole lot less game breaking.
I mentioned before that I didn’t play through the whole Combat Evolved campaign, and that’s because I firmly believe that once The Flood are introduced the whole experience just takes a nosedive. This is completely subjective, but I hate dealing with The Flood. It’s not like they’re overly difficult to manage: explosives and rapid fire for the small ones, knock over the fat ones, literally disarm the attackers. I’m missing out on the final level (The Maw, I think) but Guilty Spark and The Library are absolute slogs for me, and the second to last level is just Assault on the Control Room again but in reverse and with those horrible zombies. Combat Evolved is an absolute classic, but I’ve had my fill of nostalgia for the time being. I’ll probably go back and finish it up sooner or later, but I’ve already played through this game so many times in the past that I would only really be doing it for the Steam achievements.
(It's good...not great, but still good)
Last month, I played enough of Molek-Syntex to unlock the mini game that a lot of Zachtronic games include as a sort of mental cooldown. In Molek-Syntex, it’s solitaire and every time I booted this game up it was just to play a few hands of the digital card game. It’s a very simple premise: a deck of cards is randomly split into several rows and the goal is to arrange these rows of cards into sequential order from the greatest value to the smallest. In this version, the order is T, K, D, V, then 10 through 6. The house rule allows you to misplace one card in order to work with others. So, you could put a 7 on top of a D to get to say, a K that you need to put onto a T. Before this, I never really cared to play Solitaire, and a major motivation for me was just to win 100 hands and earn that spicy 1.3% Steam achievement, but it’s definitely been a calming experience for me on days when I really needed to de-stress from a difficult work day or what have you. There isn’t too much to say about it, it’s Solitaire and it was a really nice and calming game.
As I write this, I can’t help but notice a massive sale happening on Steam and GOG. I don’t know if I’ll have more or less time to play, but I’m more than likely going to add onto the unholy mass that is my backlog. There are games from 2014 and 2015 that I’d like to refresh myself on, if not play through, as part of my decade project. There are current games like Streets of Rage 4, Animal Crossing the New One, and Trials of Mana R that I would love to spend some time with. Hopefully May will be a month where things start to get better for everyone. If nothing else, spring is in full swing and for a lot of people that’s a really good thing. I kinda envy the Australians who get to enjoy cooler weather than usual, but it’s probably still too damn hot for me.