Category Archives: xbox one

State of Decay 2, the categorical and harsh suffer sim

I never played the original State of Decay, but I really wanted to. On paper, it sounded challenging, but rewarding, putting you firmly into that fantastic scenario we all ponder now and again, thanks to so much post-apocalyptic media in our lives: how would you survive in a world gone to shit? I know I personally wouldn’t last long due to my lack of cardio and upper-body strength, but I’d hope I could contribute to a community in other ways. Either by organizing our rations and inventory or even just making sure people knew what goals needed to be accomplished and by when. Still, eventually, I’d be zombie food. Or even a zombie myself.

So far, for my little community in State of Decay 2, despite things going pretty poorly from time to time, no one has died (editor’s note: I wrote this sentence almost three months ago, but as of mid-September I have had a member die out in the field trying to take on an infestation by himself, insert sad face here). I take great pride in this because there’s been some seriously close calls. However, Choe, our resident nurse, got frustrated with the lack of medicine and eventually left the group. Otherwise, I’ve been able to keep people somewhat satisfied, even if morale is constantly bouncing between stable and poor and nobody wants to be on latrine duty.

It’s not one hundred percent fun to play, and I constantly feel like I’m just treading water and making very little progress. The area around my tiny community is mostly cleared out of zombies, but keeping my group of people healthy and happy is a constant task that never seems to churn out great results. Basically, I pick a spot on the map to investigate, take a friend with me, use our only car which is damaged and low on gas, go kill a few zombies, and discover, if at most, a few items to bring back, but mostly an empty shack or house. Rucksacks are the most important thing to find, but they are few and far between, so I’ve been relying mostly on calling in special drops to pick up…which feels a little like cheating sometimes.

Fast forward to now-ish, and I basically haven’t played the game in a few months…for specific reasons. Well, I noticed that a new piece of DLC came out recently called Daybreak, and it is part of the season pass which I guess I purchased at some point. It’s a brand-new game mode for State of Decay 2 completely separate from your base community. Basically, it’s a re-playable co-op “zombie siege” experience, something akin to Horde mode in Gears of War 4. You and up to three teammates play as elite Red Talon soldiers, armed with potent high-end weaponry. Working together, you must defend a fortified position where a technician needs time to repair a critical satellite relay. You’ll have to survive seven waves of increasingly difficult swarms of zombies, including the brand new blood plague juggernaut, with the ultimate goal being keeping the technician alive. Do that, and you win.

Between each wave, you can run out into the woods to pick up more ammo, weapons, and wall repair kits from CLEO drops. You only have two minutes though to grab what you can before a new wave deploys upon your small fortress. What I really like about playing Daybreak is that you earn weapons–melee, guns, and tossed explosives–to use in both further attempts at the DLC, but also in the main State of Decay 2 mode. You can even earn the opportunity to recruit a Red Talon soldier into your base community. I’ve attempted keeping the technician alive twice now–first time, we were successful, and the second time, he got killed in the final wave. Either way, it’s a pretty fun mode that, thanks to you earning new gear and being able to bring it back to your main game mode, feels more connected than it probably needed to be, even if it feels a little repetitive.

I do look forward to playing more, but a part of me now just wants to unlock all the best gear and weapons first in Daybreak and then start a new community over, especially since I just lost Mike who was suppose to become my group’s leader. At some point, I’ll have to avenge his death, take back all his good gear, and focus on someone else to take the lead, but even the thought of that currently doesn’t fill me with excitement. In the end, that’s kind of what State of Decay 2 is, a game I both want to play and stay far away from because it is draining. I now know why people refer to it as a suffer sim…you do it to yourself, really.

Advertisements

2018 Game Review Haiku, #38 – Korgan (Prologue)

Impending evil
Use three characters to fight
First bite free, don’t eat

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.

Life never really finds a way in LEGO Jurassic World

It used to feel good to hit 100.0% completion in these sundry LEGO games. It was a victory well-earned, through being meticulous and dedicated and clever. You go back into levels you already played, now with a crew of varying abilities and skills, and you’d do things you were unable to prior, truly experiencing everything the level had to offer. Alas, the last few LEGO games I’ve played, specifically LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, have turned it into a real chore. I’m saddened to say that LEGO Jurassic World is also now a part of this troublesome family, and methinks this just may be the way all future LEGO games go, so allow me to predict now that I will greatly enjoy my first few hours with LEGO The Incredibles, but will be busted by the end of it. Sigh.

You may recall that I actually already played through LEGO Jurassic World some years back. Well, that was the Nintendo 3DS version, and I found it…underwhelming. A part of me hoped that its bigger console version would remedy some of the issues I had with it on handheld, and it does, but that still doesn’t mean it’s the best of the bunch and not without its own set of problems. Mel and I played it together, and that’s always fun, but the grind after completing all the levels to get every last red brick, gold brick, piece of amber, minikit, dinosaur, worker in peril, vehicle, character, and photograph is beginning to wear on my mind.

LEGO Jurassic World, despite its name, covers the first four films in the series, with each movie getting a handful of levels–roughly about 5 or 6–as well as its own minihub area to run around on and dig up collectibles. These levels are bigger and better than the 3DS version, but there’s still too many sections involving running non-stop toward the screen as a dinosaur chases from behind, and these sections are even more frustrating if you miss a collectible. Other than those, the big moments in each movie are tackled and play out, more or less, as one might expect. Traveller’s Tales still infects the narrative with its kooky humor–they love bananas and pigs–but a lot of the dialogue is taken from the movie and its quality is noticeably poor, to the point that I’d rather have this take go back to the silent pantomimed style of earlier LEGO games.

My biggest issue, early on, with LEGO Jurassic World revolved around its hub world maps and how the developers never tell you that you need to interact with a computer terminal to open up fast-traveling waypoints. For a while, I just couldn’t travel to a map area quickly, and my only solution was to load up a level and then save and exit from it, which meant sitting through several loading screens just to pop up on my island of choice. You could say I goofed a bit on that, but the blame could also go on the developers as I don’t recall other LEGO games requiring this. Also, there are multiple layers to each map that you constantly have to click through to exit back to the main game. Not really ideal, when all I wanted to do was drop on a pin on the nearest red brick.

Y’know, a lot of people like to muse about future or potential LEGO games–myself included–and I’m coming to realize that not everything can fit the mold. For instance, I’ve seen a lot of clamoring for things like LEGO Jaws and LEGO James Bond. The problem is that, often times, there’s just not enough excitement there to warrant games in these franchises. For instance, say there was a LEGO Jaws, you would get a handful of named and well-liked characters to play as, but then you’d have to spend all your time unlocking upwards of 50 no-namers like Ben Gardner or Harry Meadows, and their abilities, unlike superheroes, would be beyond bland, like interviewing witnesses or using fishing rods. That happened here in LEGO Jurassic World, wherein I mostly played as only the main characters from the films via the top two rows of the character select screen and touched nobody else except for Mr. DNA and a dinosaur when a puzzle required it…because nobody else seemed all that exciting to control, and there’s next to no experimenting.

If you are nostalgic for things adjacent to Jurassic Park, I wouldn’t recommend this. If anything, watch the films again. I have recently and can continue to put them high up on a pedestal, beacons of fun storytelling and lovable characters. Sure, you don’t get to bounce around as an ultra cute and tiny velociraptor, but that’s probably the only noteworthy difference between the films and the games. Heck, go back and play Jurassic Park on the SNES if you want something super engaging and full of tension though, in my heart of hearts, I know that those first-person sections do not hold up.

Korgan’s an uninspired dungeon-crawler, but easy 1,000 Gamerscore

There are a lot of free games floating around like tiny desperate dust motes up in the digital entertainment industry’s night sky these days. Many more than a couple years ago. Some are good, some are great, and many are bad, hastily put together and thrown into the wild in hopes of earning money or a fanbase or anything at all. I’ve been able to get a lot of mileage out of many of these freebies; for instance, according to my Xbox app, I put about 58 hours total into Fallout Shelter. Other free adventures that I continue to poke and prod at include Gems of War, Fortnite, and Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle. Alas, Korgan is not one of the good ones, sitting nearly at the bottom of the barrel, with its only saving grace being that it has a relatively easy number of Achievements to pop, if that is something you care about.

Korgan is an episodic dungeon-crawler from Codestalkers, and you can play the prologue chapter for free, which takes maybe two to three hours to get through, depending on how thorough you want to be. I recall zero details about the plot of this stock fantasy-driven adventure, but I’m sure it involves some sort of ancient evil or shadow group trying to spread chaos and monsters across the world, leaving it up to a trio of do-gooders to set things right. You can freely switch between these three heroes to face enemies or obstacles; the titular Korgan is an up-close dwarven warrior that uses axes and mallets for damage. As for Sedine and Meldie, well…I’m too annoyed at the game to look up much more, so one of them is a floating mage-lady, and the other is a hat-wearing hunter that uses a bow and arrow. I’ll let you decide who gets what name, even though it doesn’t matter one lick.

Naturally, each character has their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and you could combine attacks together for more damage, such as freezing as enemy with the mage and switching to the axe-wielding hero for extra damage…except I never felt the need to do this. You can skate by on using one character until his or her health is almost gone, and then switch to the next one. If one character loses all of his or health, it’s not the worst thing in the world–you are zipped back to the start of the level, but most of your progress has been saved, meaning death has no real consequence besides it now taking you longer to uninstall Korgan after getting through the prologue.

The game and gameplay is barbarously boring, almost to the point that I have nothing to say of it. It’s generic hack-and-loot, with paint-by-the-number quests that culminate in droll boss fights that, for some reason, were set to auto-record on the Xbox One. The subpar elements of Korgan that truly stand out to me are around its design and UI decisions. For instance, the developers thought that clicking in the right stick and holding it for upwards of 15 seconds would be perfect for actions like reading text on monuments, searching areas for clues, and destroying traps. It’s slow and not fun on one’s hand, and I eventually avoided doing it if I could. Hitting the Y button switches between your three characters, but it’s also the button to hit for looting all items as opposed to selecting them one by one, and since I never got the impression there was an inventory limit I looted each and every piece of gear I could fine…but sometimes, instead of looting, I’d accidentally switch to someone else.

Here’s something else I didn’t grok, but maybe I was half-asleep. Each of the three characters share a single XP bar that fills up as you complete side quests, break down traps, and kill enemies. However, as far as I can tell, only the character you are actively controlling at the time when the XP bar hits the max amount levels up and gets a skill point to spend. Because of this, though I did use all three characters, I ended up putting the most points into the mage’s spells and found her to thus be the most effective when it came to dealing damage. Except some enemies were immune to her attacks, and that sucked because Korgan and the other one were not as leveled as the mage. It also didn’t help that the UI for inventory and equipping potions, armor, and weapons was clunky and confusing. That said, the skill tree upgrades are as bland as unbuttered bread, and you never truly feel like the character is growing in strength or power.

Look, you might like Korgan. It might very well be your first taste of a dungeon crawler with gear to pick up. And if you do, that’s great, because the first nibble is free, and there’s more content coming. I believe you can jump right into chapter one if you are champing at the bit. However, I found the slow combat, poor controls, and uninteresting progression and loot to be too underwhelming, and I just don’t care about anything now. In fact, I’m going to continue living life believing that all three heroes fell down a dark crevasse and got swallowed up by the earth, never to be seen or heard from again. Oh well.

To escape Subject 13, Franklin Fargo must defeat Minesweeper

I purchased Subject 13 recently during Xbox’s Spring Sale for a couple of reasons: 1) it was cheap, coming it at a mighty low $2.80 2) it was billed as a traditional point-and click adventure game and 3) the graphics, from the few screenshots I saw, made it look pretty and mysterious and something akin to Myst, wherein there’s an island and puzzles to solve. I finished it off the other night feeling frustrated and dissatisfied, especially as I stubbornly felt the need to see it through, and I would not recommend it to anyone if, like me, the above reasons seem initially intriguing.

Subject 13 comes to us from French video game designer Paul Cuisset, though I’ll be honest and did not immediately recognize his name or work. Shame on me, as a fellow Paul. Evidently, he was the lead designer of Delphine Software International and the creator of Flashback, which is listed in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling French game of all time. That’s cool and all, but I’ve never played it and was way more jazzed to learn that he had a hand in making 1994’s mega-hit Shaq Fu, of which one day I’ll tell a story about. Still, the man has clearly been in the business for a while, and there have been some ups and downs; one of the more recent ups was Subject 13‘s successful Kickstarter back in 2014, which helped bring the game to phones, PC, and consoles.

Right, let’s get to it. Subject 13 opens up rather dramatically with a man named Franklin Fargo–no, really, that’s his first name and last name put together–attempting to off himself by driving his car into a river. However, as he begins to drown beneath the water, something happens and he is magically transported into an abandoned research facility. Here, a strange, disembodied robotic voice encourages him to use his special noggin to solve puzzles and make his way out of the compound. All righty then. Oh, and the robotic voice also refers Franklin as Subject 13 and refuses to answer many questions so right away you know something is fishy. It’s a decent bit of science fiction storytelling though it’s both predictable and under-delivered, with most of the details tucked away in hidden audio logs.

The gameplay is pretty straightforward stuff for adventure games, with Franklin exploring a small area or number of areas, picking up commonplace items, examining them up close, and using them either individually or combining them with others to solve puzzles, the majority of which are based around logic. Don’t be surprised to find yourself dealing with combination locks and slide puzzles and doing a bit of math on the side. It’s not The Witness, but few games are. I truly didn’t mind the puzzles, even if they never felt like they were natural in the world and clearly stuck out as something to do to slow progress, but a couple were extremely obtuse and resulted in me looking up solutions online to keep my momentum going.

Oh, and let me touch upon the final section of the game. Spoilers incoming…even though I kind of dropped a big one in this blog post’s title. After all your exploring and puzzle solving and chasing after holographic women, the only way out for Franklin Fargo…is through a game of Minesweeper. Now, it doesn’t immediately look like Minesweeper because of, y’know, copyright issues, but it’s the same idea nonetheless. And honestly, I’m not too bummed about this, because I enjoy a round or two or three of Minesweeper, but it shouldn’t be used as a final, climactic showdown. Don’t think too hard about the fact that this ancient device is guarding itself via a firewall based on Minesweeper. Also, there’s an Achievement tied to beating this part in under twenty, but the clunky look and nature of the beast means you need to play it slowly or start over again, and it’s the only Achievement I didn’t get for the game…so boo-hoo to that.

Here’s the hard truth–Subject 13 lacks polish and modern, friendly mechanics. It wasn’t designed to have them, but it needs them. I understand that this wants to call back to an era of gaming where adventuring was a little more imperceptive and up to the player to truly figure out, but some of that was left behind for a reason, to make the experience more inviting. For instance, moving the main character around is absolutely terrible, with Franklin strutting forward like a goalless gorilla, unable to make it up some steps or around a corner unless he approaches them from a very specific angle. A more traditional point-and-click interface would have worked better, especially when you often have to walk from one side of the screen to another, and it takes just long enough to have me reaching for me phone to check my email or the weather for tomorrow. Some items are extremely well hidden and, with no internal monologue from Franklin, I never even knew I was supposed to be looking for a bucket. Lastly, while the UI for your inventory is neat-looking, it never made it easy to pick up an item and compare it to another or, if you selected the wrong one, deselect it and try again; I felt like I was always fighting against the system.

I’m not all angry ogre, so here’s what I liked about Subject 13. The soundtrack is subtle and New Age-y, relies on futuristic synth-heavy tracks, but also enough soft sounds to lull you into a moody yet pleasantly relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t get in the way of exploring and solving puzzles. For testimonies, the game’s audio log collectibles, you can always see how many you have found in the chapter percentage-wise, as well as total, which I appreciated as I wanted to get them all in one go. Lastly, instead of “continue” the game uses “carry on” in its menu options, and that is so adorable I’m over here making large cat eyes and nodding enthusiastically.

I bought another game alongside Subject 13 during this sale, namely Anoxemia, and though it is not exactly the same type of game, I’m hoping I enjoy it much more than this, whenever it is that I get around to playing it. See, I’m not always good at immediately jumping into my purchases, though I did on this one and am unhappy. Or maybe I need to give Flashback a good swing–the original, not the 2013 remake version.

SUPERHOT’s time only moves forward with the player

We’re a few months into 2018, or twenty-great-teen as the kids are callin’ it, and I’m finally cool enough to play SUPERHOT. Y’know, that mega indie hit from…well, it originated as an entry in the 2013 7 Day FPS Challenge, but was a full release on consoles and PC in 2016. Strangely, right now, the game is everywhere you look–it was a freebie for March’s Gaming with Gold on the Xbox One, which is how I acquired it, it was a freebie last month for Twitch Prime’s new Free Games with Prime program, and it’s currently one of the games bundled in Humble Indie Bundle 19. My lordy-loo. I guess there is just no avoiding it at this point. After all, SUPERHOT only moves when you do.

Okay, some setup, of which I will absolutely nail down the mechanics of this game, but not its narrative. SUPERHOT is an independent first-person shooter developed and published by the appropriately named SUPERHOT Team. The game mostly follows traditional first-person shooter mechanics, with you trying to take out enemies shooting bullets at you. The twist to all this is that time within the game only progresses when the player moves. Remember when Neo in The Matrix used bullet time to his advantage? It’s like that, but always. This often creates unique opportunities for the player to assess their situation and respond appropriately, turning each gunfight into one massive, slow-crawling puzzle wherein you’ll dodge a bullet, punch a dude, grab his gun out of the air, and shoot him in the face with it before a second goes by.

Now SUPERHOT‘s story…exists on several metanarrative levels. First, the player plays a fictionalized version of themselves sitting in front of a computer receiving DOS prompts, getting a message from their friend who offers them a supposedly leaked copy of a new game called superhot.exe, claiming that the only way to access it is with a crack. Second, launching the game immediately thrusts the player into a series of seemingly unconnected puzzle-combat rooms via different points of view, all based around killing hostile red dudes via the cool time slowdown method, after which the game glitches out and disconnects. After this crash, the player’s friend sends an updated version of the .exe file, which is apparently a new version of the game that fixes the “glitches,” and you go further down the rabbit hole, doing as the large, blocky text on-screen says because…that’s what a good videogame player does. Look, it’s something of a connective tissue, and that’s fine, but story is not at all the reason I’m playing SUPERHOT, nor what I will ultimately remember about it five years from now.

Visually, the developers got lucky. The game is presented in a minimalist art style, with enemies in ruby red and weapons in stark black, in contrast to the otherwise white and gray environment, which has the effect of everything popping before your eyes, especially those red bullet trails. I suspect this look was picked because it was quick and easy to implement during its days as a jam baby, but it really works great to boil SUPERHOT down to its essentials–an area, enemies, and all your tools to kill them quickly seen. When you shoot a red guy, he explodes into a bunch of polygons, like a window breaking, and it’s super satisfying to both see and hear. Once you successfully survive a level, the game replays all your actions like a mini action movie trailer, and you can save and edit the replay into GIFs and such, if that’s your thing (it’s not mine). Oh, and one can’t forget the classic bit of the booming “Super, hot!” voiceover that loops after you’ve obliterated every red dude in your way.

I enjoyed playing SUPERHOT; the playing of it was enjoyable. I didn’t really understand a lot of stuff around the edges or what story it was trying to tell, but that didn’t diminish the fun I had from slowly dodging an incoming bullet, throwing my empty pistol into the face of a red dude, catching the shotgun that they tossed upwards, and unleashing a spray of bullets in their direction, all within the blink of an eye. Every room was a puzzle, open to interpretation, and I played a few challenge levels and endless mode after the credits rolled, but it lacked something the frenetic, bouncy campaign had, nor did it do anything new. I’m glad I got to finally play SUPERHOT, and if you’ve not yet…well, it’s time to stop time, get yourself a copy, and start slowly making your way to the complete and total domination of red dudes.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #23 – SUPERHOT

SUPER HOT, SUPER
HOT, SUPER HOT, SUPER HOT
SUPER HOT, SUPER

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.