Game Log 4: Development Hell [July 2017 - ?????]

This will be a list of games I play from now on and some thoughts about them. The closer to the top a game is, the more recently I played it.

If a game is on this list it means I'm either finished with it or that I've at least played enough to feel comfortable deciding on a rating.

Currently I'm using a simple rad (▲), bad (▼), and all right (◄►) scale. Deciding on more specific ratings can be pretty agonizing, and I'm tired of it. I'll also be trying a more compact review format that might get me to actually write something about games I play. ↻ Indicates a replay.

Backburner: Dragon Age: Inquisition [PS4]; Radiant Historia [NDS]; Valkyrie Profile [PSX]

Games played not on the site:

▲ Cat Bird! [iOS] 9/14/17

▲ The Legend of Zelda: The Missing Link [N64]

List items

  • ▲ [3DS] 11/15/20

  • ▲ [GB] 10/8/20

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/12/20

  • ▲ [PC] 8/3/20

  • ▲ [PC] 7/10/20

  • ▲ [iOS] 6/24/20

  • ▲ [PC] 5/24/20

  • ▲ [GEN] 5/23/20

  • ↻ ▲ Director's Cut [PSX] 4/20/20

  • ▲ [PC] 3/29/20

  • ▼ [PS4] 3/19/20

  • ↻ ▲ [NES] 2/16/20

  • ↻ ▲ [NES] 2/12/20

  • ◄► [PC] 1/5/20

  • ▲ [PC] 1/4/20

  • ▲ [PC] 1/1/20

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/30/19

  • ▲ [PS4] 10/26/19

  • ▲ [PC] 10/13/19

  • ▲ [PC] 10/5/19

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/24/19

  • ▲ [GBA] 9/9/19

  • ▲ [PC] 8/21/19

  • ▲ [PC] 8/14/19

  • ▲ [PC] 8/14/19

  • ▲ [PC] 8/5/19

  • ▲ [WS] 7/21/19

  • ▼ [SNES] 7/16/19

  • ▲ [SNES] 7/14/19

  • ▲ [GBA] 7/13/19

  • ▲ [TGCD] 7/6/19

  • ↻ ▲ [GB] 6/27/19

  • ↻ ▲ [GBC] 6/15/19

    Hell yeah.

  • ▲ [NES] 6/11/19

  • ▲ [3DS] 5/24/19

  • ▲ [PS4] 4/8/19

  • ▲ [PS4] 3/18/19

  • ▲ [PS4] 2/4/19

  • ▲ [PS4] 12/9/18

  • ▲ [iOS] 12/8/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 12/4/18

  • ▲ [PC] 12/2/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/27/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/16/18

  • ▲ [PC] 11/2/18

  • ▲ [PC] 10/28/18

  • ▲ [PC] 10/21/18

  • ▼ [PS4] 10/13/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 10/3/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/21/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/9/18

  • ▲ Redux [PS4] 8/28/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 8/24/18

  • ◄► [PS4] 8/4/18

    What a difficult one. Count me among the people who bought No Man's Sky at launch and was immediately disappointed and put off by it. I think the timer on my old save was around 45 minutes. Just constant shouting resource meters, total misery. So here we are, amidst all the buzz about the NEXT update, with me hesitantly giving it another chance after telling myself I would never bother downloading the game again.

    And it's...... better. I was able to get a foothold in this universe and figure out the various tech and upgrade systems, get a better ship, make some alien friends. And most importantly I felt like continuing to play, that even if some things were kind of annoying or obtuse it was worth persevering because I was having a good time all told. Even the total hell planets populated with Cthulus and impossible to survive acid rain storms every 45 seconds were kind of novel, just to see how bad things can get. Landing on this beautiful ocean planet that only had a few tiny specks of islands across its entire massive surface sticks with me. Even as a then-experienced traveler I was awestruck by the visual.

    The actual narrative part of the game gives some nice insight into the universe and was overall enjoyable, but there are multiple stretches of forced basebuilding that got tedious. In general the game kind of weirdly wants you to not keep much on-hand and keep moving forward to recoup resources, while at the same time demanding large stores of elements or very specific items for the storyline. You will sell or trash some item because you need the space and then find the game asking for it for a quest immediately and you'll just be dying for a regular ass big storage chest like all games have.

    And Atlas. I was a devoted servant of Atlas. I roleplayed this as a regular person, not a protagonist. Introduced to this godlike force, the powerful orb that seems to run the universe, the one with secret rooms on board literally every space station, I gave in. The orb demands submission and when faced with something that exudes such power, something that's both amazingly technological and ethereal, I was overcome. I made the various special orbs it desired and went to different Atlas stations, until I reached the end. And nothing happened. No Man's Sky isn't a game you "beat" per se but I figured I was cruising to a bad ending of some sort. Multiple times I'd chosen to submit to the withering power of the orb, to give myself over to something bigger than myself even though it was clearly a corrupted, diseased thing. I needed to be devoured by the Atlas, the final punishment for my foolish acceptance of its power, or made into a demigod as a reward for my loyalty. Instead I got nothing. No resolution.

    No resolution is a good descriptor for where I am now. It appears I'm an infinite number of jumps away from the "galactic center" the game is directing me towards, but I feel like I've seen basically all the biomes or various combinations of things a planet can have. I've finished the Artemis main storyline and Atlas has failed to destroy me. I had a lot of fun getting to this point, but now I feel unfulfilled, like I have nothing left to do but the game thinks otherwise. Not saying we need to see credits or something, but I feel like my journey was just…. going until I got bored. Not a great arc. At least my feelings are complex this time.

  • ▼ [PC] 7/19/18

  • ◄► [PS4] 7/13/18

  • ◄► [PC] 7/11/18

  • ▲ [PC] 7/6/18

  • ◄► Burial at Sea: Episode 1 [PS4] 6/27/18

    ▲ Burial at Sea: Episode 2 [PS4] 6/28/18

  • ▲ BioShock 2: Minerva's Den DLC [PS4] 6/27/18

  • ◄► [PS4] 6/26/18

  • ▲ Remastered [PS4] 6/7/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 6/6/18

  • ◄► [3DS] 4/18/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 3/5/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 2/1/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 1/30/18

  • ▼ [PS4] 1/28/18

    Killing nazis is all well and good, but it's not fun or satisfying to play.

  • ▲ [PC] 1/22/18

  • ◄► [PS4] 1/21/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 1/16/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 1/14/18

  • ◄► [PS4] 1/12/18

  • ▲ [PS4] 1/3/18

  • ◄► [PS4] 1/3/18

  • ▲ [PC] 1/3/18

    There's a lot here about dislocation. You go from high school to college, suddenly knowing no one and struggling to make friends. You go back home, desperately seeking some sense of belonging again, except you can't get back what you had. People have changed, and even if they haven't there's the judgment of being the loser dropout that casts a shadow over everything. The people who never even had a chance to go to college aren't very sympathetic about you not being able to handle it. You're a lonely kid crushed under a weight you didn't expect, walking a path you didn't even choose, just doing "what you're supposed to do." But other people would also love to walk that path and can't help but think you're immature for squandering it. And Mae is immature, if you can blame her for that, although I don't know that alters the mental strain aspect of this.

    It's also about the broken pact. About living in a world of decline. How all the jobs that used to buy you a house now get you an apartment with a roommate and maybe, barely, health insurance. It's about the decaying husks of factories from before all the jobs went overseas and the crumbling public works projects from back when we thought the government could do things. All around you are examples of the economic trends and why you're fucked, and why it's hard to be invested in following the usual paths or even know what you're doing.

    But it's only kind of about those things. They're just aspects of your life in a place: Possum Springs. You see these childhood landmarks and restaurants and stores that probably didn't mean a lot to you back then but feel monumental now, all filled with sentimentality. You see friends that feel distant, but you come to realize some of those connections can be re-established if you survive the awkwardness. It's a place with its own history where you get to know most every person, and eventually checking in with even the most minor of characters feels absolutely essential. I was itching for even the smallest developments with these people. And there's some darkness to the town, like seemingly all small towns, a bit of mythology and legend.

    I didn't grow up in a place like this, but I feel like most of the anxieties are pretty universal, as far as being a young person in the world these days and what happens in that stage of your life, or can happen. Even the most specific parts, the Midwestern mining town focus, is a common enough American story that I understand the devastation and slow erosion of the place. The specificity, though, does come through and that's what makes it feel authentic. It's part of why I love stuff like Stephen King's small town Maine stories. The characters and sense of place just seep through. The game is honest about the state of the town, but it also adores it. It knows things could be much worse, and this is the place with the people and places Mae loves. Even if things can't be the same as before, it's still special.

    Anyway, ACAB and also my friends are good.

  • ▲ [3DS] 12/28/17

  • ◄► [PS4] 12/25/17

    I appreciate a lot of this game. The audio design with the voices being alternatingly helpful, encouraging, cruel, doubtful, spiteful, both serves gameplay function to give you clues and just really puts you into the mind of Senua. And I think all the self-doubt is relatable to anyone, psychosis aside. I enjoy the Norse myths and the general aesthetic. It's gorgeous with nice atmosphere. The combat is both stressful and generous, in that any time you get hits on an enemy you recover health. So you can turn around a fight in an instant, but you're also pretty fragile. I had some very intense, good fights.

    Some things just kind of irk me. You can end up very tediously exploring a space looking for the one last rune you need to open the gate, just back and forth, back and forth, until you find the exact right spot or angle. Narratively, I'd say this game would ideally work on two levels: the allegory for psychosis and also something that stands up literally, that this is actually happening. But sometimes the dialogue really makes it work on only the first one. The way people talk is sometimes in basically the exact parlance we use today to discuss mental illness, and when that veneer of playing through a myth slides away and it's basically just the writer educating you, I would be really taken out of it.

    Maybe I'm being mean. This is definitely an incredibly sincere thing so I hate to do that. Anyway I still liked it.

  • ◄► Not A Hero DLC [PS4] 12/24/17

    ▲ End of Zoe DLC [PS4] 12/24/17

    Not A Hero is okay. You explore a pretty a small section of the mine as Chris then fight a boss. Not bad at all and I enjoy that boulder-puncher Redfield still has a hell of a right hook. It's just not that memorable overall.

    End of Zoe, though, now we're talking. You play as Swamp Uncle who only fights with his fists and punches the SHIT out of those mold monsters. He also does a powerbomb. It's completely goofy, but it's a different flavor from the rest of the game and puts a nice bow on the narrative.

  • ▲ [PC] 12/19/17

  • ▲ [PC] 12/16/17

  • ▲ [PS4] 12/14/17

  • ▲ [PC] 12/6/17

  • ▲ [PC] 12/5/17

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/29/17

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/28/17

  • ▲ [iOS] 11/26/17

  • ▲ [PC] 11/26/17

  • ◄► [PS4] 11/17/17

  • ▲ [PC] 11/14/17

  • ▲ [PS4] 10/30/17

    It's at this point I realize my last three games logged here are all published by Bethesda. Hell of a year.

    I'm somewhat of an apologist for the first game. I do like it. It was janky in a lot of ways and had some bad ideas, like invisible enemies. It just wasn't put together particularly well, but the surreal imagery of it was strong and some of the mechanical choices were the kind of things I dig. Setting an enemy on fire with a match, if you could knock it down, would be an instant kill instead of wasting multiple bullets. Two enemies knocked down close to each other will both burn. If one enemy runs across a burning one they'll die too, so you end of paying attention to positioning. There’s the crossbow bolt crafting where different bolts do different things and each is useful given the particular situation.

    One thing I only realized recently, though, is how leaning into the surreal so heavily hurt the first game structurally. It’s great imagery and I love it, but basically at the end of every level you pass out and wake up somewhere totally different, massive transitions all the time with no clear goal other than to get to the end of the level because it’s what’s in front of you. I think that would work in a shorter game, but when you spend a full 20 hours or whatever with a thing, you need some feeling of progression toward a main goal. Your partners who you run into sometimes also don’t get a chance to show character or have you invest in them, at least until the DLC where you get some insight into one. The game doesn’t really let you invest in what’s going aside from “that was the neat” when a giant blood monster appears or whatever.

    2 has a lot of improvements but I think that’s a huge one. The plot is much more personal for Sebastian. You meet NPCs who you can talk to and learn a bit about, get a sense of personality, and they provide you with legitimate help over the course of the game, not just one random shootout. There’s a lot of surreal imagery, but you can still learn the layout of a map, methodically loot all the buildings, do a sidequest for a bud. It walks the line great. Crazy shit is happening but you’re grounded. You understand your overall goal and the steps toward it, even as reality struggles to hold itself together. It makes it a lot easier to invest in the plot and characters and not just treat it as a spectacle.

    The fire instant-kill mechanic is gone, but now you can stomp a downed enemy to immediately put it away. And with that, let’s talk Silent Hill 2. I saw a thread online saying it’s the successor to SH2, which felt really bizarre to me, considering Evil Within 1 certainly wasn’t that. Now that I’ve played it… I see it. You’re a dude going to a strange place, seeking family you thought was lost. The world is kind of static but shifts weirdly and reflects your psyche and inner demons. You get the feeling whoever wrote this game actually cared and was trying for something within the traditional survival horror framework. You also down enemies then stomp them to finish them off, the most Silent Hill thing imaginable.

    I played on Nightmare, which is the hardest available from the outset because I heard people say the balance of it is like an old school survival horror game and I’d agree. It’s not cruel, at least if you poke around and do some side stuff like I did. You’ll never be pitifully whacking at a boss with a knife since you ran out of shit. You’ll always have enough if you’re careful, but careful may involve just loading up the last autosave when you miss three shotgun blasts in a row like an idiot and redoing the encounter. That’s how I like to play these kinds of games, but I messed around on other difficulties and they give you more leeway without turning the game into a joke. It’s a good balance. I do enjoy the feeling that every round matters, personally, that I can’t just blow all my ammo on chumps and expect to get by.

    I’m glad I have the experience of the first game. It’s referenced a lot, both in the main plot and on the side, and you sort of have a visual shorthand for some of the imagery and ideas of the game going in. It’s not necessary to enjoy it at all, but it’s nice. It’s still messy, certain encounters, although I feel like I could say that of literally any horror game I’ve ever played. The balance of vulnerability vs fun can be a struggle, but all I can say is this game comes off as special to me. I’m sad it sold so poorly and this is definitely the end for The Evil Within, but it’s a good note to go out on.

  • ▲ [PS4] 10/20/17

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/21/17

    Boy, this is an interesting one. It's a clear successor to BioShock, but it's better than that game. The combat is a good deal less monotonous than BioShock, I think just because of your relative fragility and limited resources so it matters how encounters go. The environment design also makes your ability choices matter a great deal, with the capability to lift major obstacles or hack through the highest security giving the game an interesting feel, like you're short-circuiting the intended route. But, of course, those are intended options. I, seemingly, cheesed my way through an early part to get a large neuromod supply, but nothing I did was outside of the ruleset laid out by the game. I felt like I had discovered a deserved shortcut.

    There's a jank to it. I feel like if the quicksave option didn't exist to get me through some encounters I would be less happy with it. And there's the Skyrim problem of there just being so many logs or books to read that I eventually stopped caring, even after initially trying to be a good Lore Student. It's probably a little too long.

    So what I'm saying is it has the problems of a lot of AAA games, but it also feels ambitious. The zero grav parts are some of the most effectively disorienting stuff I've played in a game. They give you the tools to reground yourself but it showcases the weirdness of space. They try to solve the mental image problem of your dude chowing down on trashcan apple cores by having stuff in the trash be actual garbage, but reward you for digging around because trash is recyclable into proper materials. The difference in experiences you can have based on your skill tree and approach feels a lot stronger than the usual "your choices matter" game. It's a game made by people who revere System Shock 2 and that ilk and have ideas about how that genre can proceed.

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/18/17

  • ◄► The Assignment, The Consequence, and The Executioner DLC [PS4] 8/17/17

    The Kidman DLCs are pretty good. The shadowy boss agent that oversees you and constantly asserts his dominance over you is well done. For most of them you're unarmed, sneaking by or solving puzzles, which avoids some of the combat frustration from the main game. That does also mean, though, that the overall mechanical toolkit is smaller and eventually shining a light on things to make them change isn't as novel as it once was. Still, a pretty enjoyable return to the game for me.

    The Executioner is just kind of a weird, not very fun side mode. It's clear they thought they had the new Pyramid Head and that playing as him would somehow be a draw but nah.

  • ▲ [PC] 8/3/17

  • ▲ [PS4] 7/25/17

  • ▲ [NES] 7/13/17