Saturday Summaries 2019-01-05: New Streamline Edition

Welcome to the newly condensed Saturday Summaries experience! For real, the older format was getting a little bloated and more frequently than not ate up most of my Saturday, or at least the part of it when the sun was up. From here on, I'm going to stick to a quickfire bulletpoint rundown of everything I've been writing, playing, and watching.

I will still write some elaborate pre-amble if an idea strikes me, but I also want to blog more and I think dedicating a small part of my weekend towards a new standalone piece is a better use of my time (and yours) than filling up these 3000-word doorstops and slapping "summaries" on the top like a cruel joke.

The first Indie Game of the Week for 2019 is this 2017 prequel to Life is Strange, the time-rewinding episodic adventure game from DONTNOD that was big on emotions and indie music and not particularly realistic teen dialogue. Before the Storm follows Chloe Price, Life is Strange's deuteragonist and determinant love interest, as a younger rapscallion navigating the choppy waters of adolescence, and the previously unseen Rachel Amber filling the Chloe role of the previous game as an instigator for mischief. It suffers a little without the time powers and some significant departures from the original voice cast, but retains the original's emotional beats and penchant for atmosphere. It's palatable enough, at least, and a sufficiently low-key way to start what will no doubt be a stressful new year.

Link here: Indie Game of the Week 101: Life is Strange: Before the Storm

  • GOTY 2017 (Adjusted)

Something I've been doing for a while now is extending all my old GOTY lists to include everything I've played since the year in question ended. Unless you cover this industry for a living or simply play a small amount of every new release before authoritatively deciding on how you feel about it, it's unlikely you'll see the full scope of the year's best hits without the benefit of a few extra years of catch-up gaming. I consider my original GOTY lists to be valid enough - I try to play at least ten new games of notable quality per annum - but the adjusted version is a far more accurate review. In addition to the newly minted GOTY 2017 (Adjusted), I've also reordered the rankings for 2016 and 2015 as well.

Link here: GOTY 2017 (Adjusted), GOTY 2016 (Adjusted), GOTY 2015 (Adjusted).

  • Hidden Object Puzzle Adventures

I capped off 2018 with a triple-threat update for the Rainy Days and Mundis feature I began at the start of that same year. My original goal with that feature was to play a number of HOPAs - a specific genre that combines hidden object scenes with more traditional point-and-click adventure gaming and standard Mensa puzzles - and record the similarities, of which there were many. I brought it back one last time to cover three HOPAs - Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden, Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood, and Grim Legends 3: The Dark City - so I could finish the year in much the same way I started, though the real honest truth was to boost my number of completed games that year to a nice round 100. Check it out to see what I discovered (or reiterated, as the case may be).

Link here: Rainy Days and Mundis New Year's Eve Special: Manic Mundis

Still working my way through the remaining content in VC4, despite finishing the story some time ago. The game has a hefty amount of post-game content by way of nine (well, twelve) "hard" skirmish maps which have a slightly higher difficulty level than the final map of the story mode. In particular, the enemy troops start at "paragon" level - the second promotion for the classes, though you don't get any extra abilities like you did with the first besides boosted stats - and give you some harsh victory conditions to achieve.

What I'm looking forward to more are the "challenge" skirmishes. These are three extra maps that play around with VC4's core rules and require total dominance at the game: the first of which revisits the Siegval Line - the game's closest equivalent to the Somme or the Normandy landings, which was a bloodbath for both sides - and greatly ramps up the damage for both you and the enemies for a bit more verisimilitude. VC4 has been something I've booted up once per day over the past few weeks just to complete a single map and a bit of upgrading before putting it to rest for whatever else is taking my time, and it's been working out great for that. Like a bit of daily mental exercise to keep my tactical acumen sharp. (Once I'm done with VC4, I might have an idea for what will replace it in that role too...)

Currently, my biggest time sponge is BioWare's latest (until Anthem comes out) space opera. Though Andromeda is certainly not without its problems, I'm still finding its role as a podcast game an effective one. The worlds of the game, though they are much more varied in terms of climate, generally feel like those planets in the first Mass Effect where you'd drop down in a Mako and spend hours driving up mountains while following nodes of interest on the map. Kind of mindless for the most part, but then that was what I was seeking. For now, at least.

What Mass Effect Andromeda could've done better was how it handles the resurrection of the Nexus - humanity's hub space station in this strange new galaxy - and your role in getting the Initiative back on track. You can pluck experts out of cold storage after acquiring enough resources, but they just provide a handle of useful passive effects. Likewise, the planet viability index is something that ostensibly makes the planet more feasible for human settlement, but it's really just about watching a percentage build up after completing side-quests and other minor tasks planetside: there's no big benefit for nailing 100%, besides a trophy and maybe some NPC somewhere wanting to high-five you. I'm sticking with it for now, but once I'm all caught up with my podcasting I'm hoping to put it behind me to focus on something a little more engaging.

  • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

I'm not sure when MI: Fallout will become available - I leave that to the whims of the movie streaming service I'm subscribed to - but I did want to be all caught up with the Mission: Impossible franchise for when it arrives. Like Fast & Furious, these movies have become dependable action flicks over the years, giving you mostly what you expect in unexpected new configurations. For instance, I didn't think my mild thalassaophobia was going to get a workout while watching Rogue Nation, but that sequence in the underwater cooling torus really had me on pins and needles. Otherwise, the movie had the cadence of a Bond movie - the connection between the two franchises made all the more explicit by how heavily the British MI6 featured, being both the source of the movie's love interest and its antagonist. Still as reliably entertaining as ever though.

  • AGDQ 2019

Finally, I just want to mention that AGDQ starts tomorrow - as of writing - and I've been scouring the event's schedule to see if the Giant Bomb Wiki could use some patching up here and there in preparation. If you're unaware, the streaming service Twitch - which regularly broadcasts the week-long event of playing games really fast for charity - uses the Giant Bomb Wiki API for its game information, and specifically requires it for those boxes above the video that tells you the currently played game. That usually means that we need both a page for it and some release data for it to draw from, otherwise you have a thousand people in the Twitch chat demanding to know what the current game is (though in recent times, the stream's overlay itself has that information somewhere).

I've taken it upon myself each year to make sure Twitch has all that, with the exception being memes/mods/hacks that occasionally crop up (this year has a number of Super Mario World "kaizo" hacks, for instance) that wouldn't qualify for a wiki page. It's a process that's not quite as gruelling as it sounds: though they usually play well over 100 games during an event, the vast majority of those have adequate pages already, especially if it's well known or has appeared in a previous GDQ. The problem cases are the obscurities that eccentric runners decide to highlight, or the forgotten schlock that appears during the recurring infamous "Awful Games Done Quick" block.

I find all this rapid wiki editing fun at least, and it gives me an excuse to pore over the schedule for anything I might want to watch over the coming week. Items of note include speedruns of Celeste and Hollow Knight (now that I've finally played them myself and don't need to worry about spoilers), the Mega Man X relay race, the Final Fantasy IV "Free Enterprise" randomizer, the Super Mario Sunshine "lockout bingo" contest, and - of course - the always-entertaining TASBot segment.

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