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danielkempster

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Great write-up Arbitrary, I really enjoyed reading this. Congrats on nabbing that PS5. I'm hoping to take the plunge on one further down the line this year, when they're slightly less comparable to gold dust.

I think FF7R is the only overlap on our lists, which isn't surprising given both my attachment to the original and my propensity to gravitate towards older releases. My relationship with that game is very complicated, and based on the ending I sense it will continue to be as subsequent parts are released. They nailed the combat (which I assumed they would) and they nailed the characters (which I assumed they wouldn't, so that was a very pleasant surprise), but that ending... On one level, I am seriously impressed with the balls on the dev team to even suggest breaking away from the source material so radically. On another level, that apparent willingness to divert future instalments from the critical path has me thinking they don't fully understand what made the original great in the first place. I'm happy for it to exist as something supplementary to FFVII, I just kinda wish it had some subtitle other than "Remake".

DOOM Eternal is on my to-play list, but I've found myself putting it off on account of all the testimonies that paint it as markedly inferior to its predecessor. I was considering replaying DOOM 2016 before jumping into Eternal to re-familiarise myself with that style of shooter, since most people seem to be saying Eternal is a significant leap in difficulty over 2016, but I'm now worried that coming into Eternal hot off of 2016 might make it feel even more disappointing than if I went in blind. It's a logic puzzle I hope to find the answer to over the course of 2021.

Seeing it top so many people's end-of-year lists confirms that I really need to check out Hades at some point. The fact it's only on Switch and PC is irking me somewhat as I'd quite like to have it on PS4 to maintain parity with all my other Supergiant games, but I'm not sure what the likelihood is of it making its way to other consoles in the near-to-middle future.

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danielkempster

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Nice to see a year-end write-up from you Cam. I always enjoy reading things you've written, and this was no exception.

There's next to no overlap on our list of played games this year. I think Animal Crossings: New Horizons is the only title we both played, and much like you I bounced off it pretty quickly. Alice is still playing it almost daily and loving it though. To each their own, I suppose. I spotted you also played Untitled Goose Game, which is sitting near the top of my backlog and I hope to get around to some time in 2021 (along with about fifty other games, of course). I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on that, if you have any, since there's nothing against it on your list.

Those are some interesting picks for Album of the Year. I have to admit I haven't given Pray for It much of my time, and I feel guilty about that - even more so now you've rated it so highly. I'll try to remedy that in the coming weeks. As for Sorry, I tried really hard to get into 925 and I just couldn't. There are a handful of songs on it that I really like, specifically Perfect, Heather and Ode to Boy. Most of the album has this really unsettling, almost dissonant vibe to it though, which makes me feel really uneasy when I listen to it. I get that's probably a deliberate stylistic decision on the band's part, and I admire them for pursuing it so ardently, but it's just not for me. Alice and I put together our top twenty albums from this year earlier this week. The show went out live today, and should be up on Mixcloud in the next day or two (read: as soon as I can be bothered to pull the archive from the station's back up drive).

Wishing you and yours all the best for 2021. Take care and stay safe.

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danielkempster

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@zombiepie: I originally played and beat the first two Dead Space games on 14" standard definition CRT TVs, and aside from the text logs being almost impossible to read, I actually found the games to be very playable, often directly on account of its diegetic HUD elements. Things like the differing shapes and changing colours of the health and stasis bars (as mentioned in the OP) and the distinct icons used for inventory items like med packs and ammo pick-ups were far more legible on an SD screen than the myriad tiny letters, numbers and icons that make up the UI in a game like Skyrim, for instance (which was, incidentally, the game that forced me to finally upgrade to an HD display).

Great write-up, @gamer_152. Interestingly enough I've just started replaying Dead Space as part of a drive to revisit some spooky games through October in the run-up to Halloween. It's my first revisit since I originally beat the game in 2009 and it holds up astoundingly well, thanks in no small part to that additional layer of immersion afforded by the diegetic UI. One of my personal favourite implementations of it is the way the game justifies presenting things like video logs and the inventory and map menus as holograms in front of Isaac's character model through the presence of a little projector built into the chest of his engineering suit. This in turn serves both the gameplay and atmosphere by allowing time to pass uninterrupted and creating a feeling of unease while interacting with that stuff, unlike in something like Resident Evil 4 where the action pauses whenever Leon opens his storage case.

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danielkempster

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@arbitrarywater: Thanks, duder. Things are okay here. I work in healthcare in what is essentially a pharmacy environment, so I'm not exactly on the front lines treating sick patients, but I'm still having face-to-face contact with a lot of people on a daily basis. It's stressful and not doing my mental health any favours, but I'm coping as best I can. I hope you're doing okay too. Well done on your contribution to the Community Endurance Run this year. And your latest blog hasn't escaped my attention, either - I have it bookmarked to read later this week.

@mikachops:Thanks so much for your considered reply. There's a lot to unpack and I'll do my best to respond to everything you've said.

I'm inclined to agree with your assessment of the game's slum environments. Artistically they are without a doubt its lowest point (from what I've seen thus far, anyway). At the other end of the spectrum you have environments like the opening Mako reactor, which evokes the spirit of the original wonderfully with near-perfect recreations and exquisitely matched colour palettes. It's definitely a mixed bag, and the slums feel like they drew the shortest straw in terms of developer attention and artistic direction.

While I stand by my opinion that the corridors between the larger environments help to reinforce the feeling that Midgar is one huge place, there's merit to your statement that there's nothing particularly interesting to see or do in most of those corridors. I say most, because my mind jumps immediately to the sequence late in Chapter 8 when Cloud and Aerith try to bypass Wall Market and end up travelling along the old highway from the collapsed Sector 6 plate. That felt to me like a good tribute to the "fractured highway" screen from FFVII, while also contextualising it in a way that I'm not sure the original game ever did. It would be incredible if Remake had done things on that level with more of the city's connective tissue. I guess in that respect the original's pre-rendered environments have the upper hand by only having to portray the most interesting parts of the city, leaving it up to the mind of the player to fill in the routes between the screens.

I've not had a chance to play further since posting this blog, but I'll be sure to return and share some thoughts on this mid-game climax (which I'm assuming is the collapse of the Sector 7 plate?). Until then, I will stand by my statement that being able to see the plates above Cloud and co. in the slum portions of the game reinforces a feeling of oppression in a way that wasn't available to the original FFVII due to technical limitations. Even if, as you say, those views aren't necessarily of the highest visual quality.

I thought about touching on the NPCs in the original blog post but figured I'd already gone on long enough. But boy, they are certainly one of the game's most immersion-breaking aspects. We're supposed to believe these people live in abject poverty, but every other individual I meet is sporting immaculately styled hair, or fancy glasses, or some other piece of Nomura-esque character design, shattering the impression these people are struggling. I think one of the lasting advantages of FFVII's blocky, colourful character designs is that the lack of specific detail makes it easier for the player to project an aesthetic onto them. I look at NPCs that litter the original game's slums and my mind interprets those blocks of colour as ragged, cobbled-together outfits. The level of graphical fidelity in FFVII Remake means you can't do that, and what you're left with is a cast of characters who don't look like they belong in the environments they've been dropped into. And don't get me started on those facial animations... Yeesh.

Again, a massive thanks for taking the time to both read and reply. I'll try and make a point of penning a few more words when I reach the end of Remake.

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danielkempster

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@rorie: I hope you're able to see its good points if you do choose to give it a little more of your time. I could actually see it lending itself well to playing in lockdown, since the smaller world, fewer collectibles and effortless traversal make the game feel less overwhelming than a lot of other open world games out there. God knows there's enough other stuff to feel overwhelmed by right now.

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danielkempster

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@arbitrarywater: I eagerly await your upcoming blog on the Kingdom Hearts series. Having played through the entire franchise this year (save the games converted into cutscene movies on the HD collections), I'm keen to get opinions from others on both the individual games and the franchise as a whole.

I also think Nitro-Fueled steps up the difficulty compared to the original CTR. The Normal difficulty feels like CTR's Hard difficulty, with Nitro-Fueled's Hard taking it a step up. I initially started playing on Hard as something of a CTR veteran, but quickly bumped it back down to normal after failing to win about fifteen straight races on Crash Cove. I suspect they had to account for the way they've re-balanced drift-boosting and the blue fire mechanic. In the last month or so I've returned to Hard, and I'm not sure whether I've just gotten better or they've nerfed the difficulty with a patch, but it feels much more manageable to me now. And yes, some of the people online are obscenely good. I'm not convinced the skill-based matchmaking is 100% functional, since there always seems to be one person who finishes the race 30+ seconds ahead of anyone else.

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danielkempster

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@sparky_buzzsaw: I'd definitely recommend checking out the final season of The Walking Dead. As I said in the blog, it's the strongest series since the first in my opinion. It's a real shame that everything at Telltale went to shit, because those are some talented, passionate devs who deserved more than being criminally mismanaged and laid off. I hope as many of them as possible came out of it well and are working on exciting stuff as we speak.

Regarding Oddworld, Soulstorm is going to be a retelling of Abe's Exoddus, which is a direct sequel to Abe's Oddysee, so it may not be the best springboard for jumping into the series. The New 'n' Tasty remake is often on sale and well worth checking out even at its usual sale price, in my opinion. Failing that, Stranger's Wrath is absolutely fine to play as a stand-alone title, and is one of my favourite games of all time. I'd say either of those makes a great starting point for players new to Oddworld.

CTR Nitro-Fueled is fantastic, but man is the online a disappointment. Lobbies seem to be attached to specific players rather than being independent instances, meaning if the host drops, everyone gets kicked out back to matchmaking. There's also not much to do besides single races or battles. It would be nice to have the option to run four-race cups like in the offline Arcade mode, to see our historic stats for online races, or mix things up with different rulesets (players have been clamouring for a "no items" option for months now). Heck, it took them three or four months post-launch to add skill-based matchmaking. But hey, as long as the microtransactions are fully-featured and functional, I suspect that's all Activision cares about.

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danielkempster

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Great write-up Sparky. I always look forward to your year-end round-ups, and your blogs in general come to think of it, because they're guaranteed to be enjoyable reads. With choice lines like "2019 sucked shit out of a tin shit can with a shit straw" Just off the opening paragraph, this did not disappoint.

Your comments on Assassin's Creed Odyssey make me feel like I should maybe give Origins a fair shake, but I made a promise to myself after playing Assassin's Creed III last year that I was done with open-world Ubisoft games. I just feel like those games weren't respecting my time enough to earn any more of it.

I picked up Life Is Strange 2 in a PlayStation Store sale a couple of months back. Alice and I really enjoyed the first game and are planning to tackle Before the Storm in the near future, so I'm confident we'll follow it up with the second game eventually. Glad to hear you enjoyed it, even if it didn't quite hit the same highs for you as its predecessors did.

Happy New Year to you buddy. Here's to a better 2020.

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danielkempster

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A quick update on this! First of all, thanks to everyone who has donated thus far. We're a little less than twenty-four hours away from the start of the stream and I'm already over halfway towards my target. You guys are awesome.

I'm posting this update to say that the scheduling for the stream will be changing slightly. Due to not sleeping well for the last couple of nights, I'm scheduling a break in the stream to let me get some much-needed shut-eye.

I'll still be starting my stream at 15:00 BST on Saturday and will play for nine hours uninterrupted, but I'll be taking a six-hour break from 00:00 to 06:00 BST on Sunday. I'll then resume for a second uninterrupted fifteen-hour stream from 06:00 to 21:00 BST on Sunday. This means I'll still be streaming for a total of twenty-four hours over the weekend, but in a way that is less likely to compromise my health.

To those of you who've already donated, I hope this change doesn't leave you feeling cheated in any way. My personal feeling on the matter is that it's better for me to schedule this break and still be able to deliver the stream, than to attempt to follow the original plan and end up crashing out completely. Since the Zero EXP aspect of this playthrough is the main draw, I feel that the challenge aspect of the stream is a higher priority than the endurance aspect anyway.

I hope you can see why I've decided to make these changes and that you agree with the reasons behind them. Please do drop in on the livestream if you can - it would be great to have some people to chat to while I "keyblade-heart-darkness" my way through this crazy challenge.

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danielkempster

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Definitely going to give this a listen tonight. I've actually just finished my own playthrough of The Zodiac Age so the game will be nice and fresh in my mind while I get acquainted with your thoughts.