Monthly Archives: February 2018

You gotta swim to survive in Subnautica

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Subnautica from the Humble Freedom Bundle back in February of last year before they ran out of keys for it. However, I didn’t even install it until two weekends ago, kind of waiting for it to finish up treading water in Early Access and release as a full-as-full-gets-these-days game to play. This way I don’t know what has improved or changed or stayed the same, and all I see is a crashed spaceship and an endless amount of ocean to explore, same as you or your brother or your brother’s mother, most likely your mother too. Right…I’m ready to dive in, even if my lungs are not.

Subnautica begins with a bang. Well, more accurately–a crash. You have smash-landed on alien ocean world, and the only place to explore is down beneath the waves. In the distance is your spaceship, on fire and full of radiation, and though the game never explicitly says you should go back there, one feels the need to get inside it and see if there is anything salvageable, figure out where things went wrong. But first, you’ll need stuff, like food and water and gear, if you are to survive Subnautica‘s shallow coral reefs, treacherous deep-sea trenches, lava fields, and bio-luminescent underwater rivers. You’ll also need to manage your oxygen supply as you explore kelp forests, plateaus, reefs, and winding cave systems, and the water is teeming with life, both helpful and harmful. No one ever said swimming was easy.

So far, I’ve put about two hours and change into Subnautica and don’t have a whole lot to show for it. That’s okay. I’m in no rush, so long as I can continue to catch plenty of bladderfish and peeper to sustain myself and various meters. Actually, I have made some better oxygen tanks, fins to swim faster, a repair tool, and a radiation suit, but there’s plenty more to craft via the fabrication panel inside your still-floating escape pod and I haven’t really left the safety of the initial area.

Here’s the problem I am dealing with: I’m not certain exactly what I should be going after and why. I mean, like Minecraft, which is perhaps the only other “survive” style game I have an association with, the goals are sometimes up to you. Clearly, you want to survive as a general rule of thumb and keep your health, food, and thirst meters healthy and high, but after that…you decide. Maybe you also want to construct a better submersible craft to explore the ocean depths or are interested in cataloguing the various fish and underwater life you come across using your scanner to learn more. Ultimately, I do wish the breadcrumb trail was clearer as even a quest log of sorts would help; right now I feel like I’m stumbling my way to progress, and even that is coming about through mere happenstance and not any specific action I took. For instance, I knew that creating a repair tool was important because there were two things inside my escape pod that couldn’t be fixed without it, but then I struggled to find cave sulfur and had to look up a guide outside the game for it, which was frustrating.

Visually, Subnautica is delightful and terrifying. Granted, again, I’m still only in the starting area and suspect there is much more to come, but the variety of underwater alien life balances itself well between recognizable sea creatures and straight-up weirdness. Every new fish or piece of coral is a fun surprise, and you can generally tell whether something will bite you in the face or not. Exploring at night is extremely unnerving because, not surprisingly, it gets dark, and you only have a flashlight and flares early on. The game runs well enough on my laptop, with just a little pop-in here and there, and I’m thankful that you can play it with a controller too.

I recently tried to get ABZÛ running too on this new laptop of mine, but it seems like that one is real heavy on resources, even on the lowest settings I could find, and so I’ll just have to wait until I magically get a copy on Xbox One or something. Surprisingly, when you search the keyword “underwater” on Steam, you only get a handful of games covering this topic, and most of them are horror titles or VR experiences, which, look, I get. I’ve seen enough of Sir David Attenborough’s The Blue Planet to kind of know what lurks in the dark depths of our planet’s oceans. Still, I like exploring underwater areas in a more leisurely fashion, like with Treasures of the Deep, or the time my sister Bitsy brought home a copy of Endless Ocean: Blue World and played for a bit, and it was so relaxing–not boring–that I dozed off.

So I’m going to stick with Subnautica a bit more because it is definitely my speed, but also in hopes that it really opens itself up more and dangles some carrots before my face to keep me pushing forward for reasons. Besides, I’d really like to see one of those time capsules for myself that are all the topics of discussion these days.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #11 – Banyu Lintar Angin – Little Storm

Follow three siblings
Through rural Indonesia
Splendid, swell soundtrack

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #10 – Back to the Future: The Game

Doc’s life needs saving
Back to prior Hill Valley
Fun story, a cinch

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #9 – Sprout

Life as a small seed
Sprout into various plants
Become mighty oak

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

A new time-altering adventure for Marty McFly and Doc Brown

Funny enough, the day after I finished the last episode of Telltale’s Back to the Future: The GameBack to the Future Part III was on TV. I haven’t seen it or the other parts in several years now, probably not since reading Justin Peterson’s Very Near Mint and realizing there’s a bunch of Easter eggs in there related to Marty McFly’s journey through time. And if I’m cutting to the heart of the matter, the third film in the trilogy is the one that I like the least, with Part I and Part II being my favorites, in that order, because that’s generally how I like my trilogies, including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. I figured I’d get that out there in the open at the start of this post because…

Back to the Future: The Game is better than Back to the Future Part III. Don’t immediately call me a butthead. It’s also a thousand times better than Jurassic Park: The Game could ever imagine, but that’s not the hardest goalpost to hit in comparison to that pile of dino droppings. Right. Moving on.

Allow me to set up the plot, as best as I can: it’s been about six months since Marty McFly last saw Emmett “Doc” Brown, and the bank has decided to foreclose on Doc’s home. While helping sort through Doc’s possessions, Marty is surprised when the iconic time-traveling DeLorean appears outside of the house. Inside the ride is Einstein, Doc’s dog, as well as a tape recorder with a message from Doc explaining how the time machine would return to this present should Doc ever run into problems. Mm-hhm. Anyways, Einstein helps track down Edna Strickland, the elderly sister of Marty’s school principal and a former reporter for Hill Valley’s paper. At her home, Marty reads through her newspaper collection to discover that Doc had been jailed in 1931 and killed by Irving “Kid” Tannen, Biff Tannen’s father. With that knowledge firmly in hand, Marty and Einstein zip back to 1931 to prevent Doc’s death.

This new time-altering adventure spans five episodes–namely “It’s About Time”, “Get Tannen!”, “Citizen Brown”, “Double Visions”, and “Outatime”–multiple decades, and even copies of characters. Good guys become bad guys, bad guys become good guys, and even Marty ends up a little square (well, in Jennifer’s eyes). Bob Gale, who worked on the films, assisted Telltale Games by writing the game’s story, and it shows, feeling like a natural fit in terms of plot, pacing, humor, direction, and so on. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd also lend their likenesses, which helps greatly with immersion and feeling like you are really them wandering around Hill Valley, and Lloyd voices Doc. Alas, Fox was unable to voice Marty, but A.J. Locascio does a phenomenal job imitating him and his sarcastic quirks.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward and same-y across all the episodes. You play as Marty and explore a limited number of screens, examining objects, talking to people, and solving somewhat easy, mostly logic-based puzzles to progress the plot forward. Occasionally, there are some things you’ll need to do, such as choose a specific line of dialogue or visit an area first, in order to trigger an event that’s required to complete the puzzle, but it’s not always clear what that action is, which resulted in me brute-forcing my way through sections of the game, trying out everything. There’s an in-game hint system, and the more complex a puzzle, the more hints you can view, but I only used it once or twice by the end, and I never felt like I used my inventory as often as one generally does in an adventure game, with a lot of things just being carried around with no purpose, like that photo of Arther McFly. The whole affair is relatively simple, focusing more on nostalgia than challenge, and for some, that will be a deterrent.

In a critique certainly only related to my experience, I found going back to get some missed Achievements in Back to the Future: The Game extremely frustrating. You often had to replay the bulk of an entire episode for some of them, and you could only skip specific bits of dialogue, but not all, definitely no cutscenes. It also crashed a few times on me for seemingly no reason, and I spotted a few glitches here and there, which is fairly common with these adventure games, where animations are wonky and jittery.

In the end, I enjoyed Back to the Future: The Game, so long as I didn’t think too hard about all its time-twisting, paradox-defying derring-do. The puzzles never got too complex and there was sometimes too much reliance on lengthy cutscenes or conversations, as well as revisiting the same locations with minor changes, but the magic we all felt watching those original films pops up now and then, and that’s more than enough for me to push past some mediocre gameplay and eat up a story full of twists, turns, and treachery. If you are at all a fan of Marty McFly’s time travels, you’ll probably have a good time here, but point-and-click adventure gamers might not find enough challenge to keep their brain occupied. Still, if my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.