Tag Archives: Bethesda

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2018

Well, here we are once again…the end of a year, and boy howdy has this been one strange, life-changing year. For those that don’t know, this past July I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. At the ripe age of…35. With no family history of this disease or long-showing symptoms. Yeah, it sucks, but I am still positive and fighting it like heck and even drawing a journal comic about my journey through this bastard of a disease so far.

Still, there’s been some good to enjoy as well. For instance, Melanie and I are engaged and getting married next year. Plus, because of my cancer, I’ve now met so many amazing and genuinely good people, people I would have never interacted with before this disease, and they have helped tremendously to make this battle not as scary as it should be. There is so much support out there, you just have to be willing to embrace it. That’s been hard for me, but also rewarding.

That said, this blog of mine is supposed to be all about videogames, not this super serious stuff–that’s not to say gaming isn’t serious; evidently it is now cool to play games, so says the almighty Ninja–so let’s get on with it…

I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature of mine starring pictures of dogs looking sad and sighing audibly for a while now. Don’t believe me? The proof is in the pudding…or rather the bulleted list below, dating all the way back to 2010, which somehow got featured on the WordPress home page and saw many, many comments. Never happened again since, but maybe this year it’ll get noticed. Anyways, here, go back in time and play the fun game of figuring out if I still haven’t played some of these yet:

Wow, wow, wow…that’s a lot of games I didn’t play then, and might still not have played now. Of course, the brand-spanking new list below is beyond complete, and here are a few other titles I would have liked to play this, but just didn’t find the time: Yoku’s Island Express, WarioWare Gold, Lost Sphear, Octopath Traveler, and The Swords of Ditto.

Okay, here we go.


10. Fallout 76

I pretty much knew right from its announcement at E3 2018 that Fallout 76 was not for me. Still, I held my breath and waited. As it turns out, this game is super not for me. I’m not against online-only games, but I come to the Fallout universe for its strange stories and eclectic characters, and it seems like Fallout 76 has none of that. Just audio recordings and NPC vendors and no V.A.T.S. combat. I get that some of the fun is you doing your own thing and maybe running into another player, which could be friendly or a new foe to fight off, but that doesn’t sound all that entertaining to me. A shame, as West Virginia seems like a cool place to explore shortly after the nukes went off. I’ll keep my eye on it, as Bethesda will probably continue to update it for a good while; here’s hoping they eventually add a campaign.

9. Donut County

Donut County, a wonderful name on its own, is about controlling a hole and filling it with stuff. The experience just seems super chill and silly. The hole gets bigger as you put more stuff into it, and you have to solve some puzzles along the way while dealing with a rude raccoon named BK. The game takes inspiration from Windosill and Katamari Damacy, so you know it has to be stellar. Shame on me. Deep, deep, dark shame on me. Evidently, the game just came out on Xbox One recently…so, no more excuses, I guess.

8. Minit

I own a copy of Minit. I got it fairly recently from the Humble Day of the Devs 2018 Bundle, which also contained a number of other sweet indie titles, such as Burly Men at Sea, RiME, and Hyper Light Drifter. It’s installed on my laptop via Steam. I just…haven’t had the time to sit down and play it, which, when you think about what this game is and how it was designed, is rather humorous. I hope to get to it real soon, but it’ll mostly likely be an early 2019 playthrough at this point. Look out for a future blog post with the ultra clever title of: I’m in it to win it with Minit.

7. Into the Breach

I’m usually not one for strategy games, but there is something cool about Into the Breach. I can’t decide if the cool thing is the game’s title, its general aesthetic, the different mech teams, or the way the battlefield is shown on a tilted angle. Either way, it seems both neat and tough, and I’m thinking this might be a great one to have on the Switch…y’know, next year, when I end up getting a Switch to mostly wait for whatever the new Animal Crossing thing is.

6. Unavowed

I’ve really fallen down on keeping up with the many point-and-click adventure games from Wadjet Eye Games. There was a time in my life where I was obsessed with these things, but then something major happened on the day of Resonance‘s release, and I was soured on just about everything that I enjoyed at that very moment. Since then, I still haven’t played Shardlight, Primordia, or Technobabylon, all of which I own copies of, but it sounds like Unavowed, the company’s latest release, is a good one to jump back into, with its multiple protagonists and ancient society dedicated to stopping evil. Here’s praying I get to it, along with others, somewhere in 2019.

5. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

I’m still bummed to heck and back that the Nintendo 3DS version never made it to the United States, as that is where I like to do most of my Dragon Questing these days, on a handheld device. Still, maybe that will change down the road with enough hooting and hollering. The game is pretty traditional and follows the perilous journey of a hunted Hero who must uncover the mystery of his fate with the aid of a charismatic cast of supporting characters. In short: it’s Dragon Quest, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Alas, I believe the game is currently only available on PlayStation 4 and Steam, and my laptop is most definitely not able to run such a beautiful beast. Boo to that.

4. Return of the Obra Dinn

I played a decent amount of 2013’s Papers, Please, but it was tough and challenging and often made me sad. The next game from Lucas Pope is called Return of the Obra Dinn, and it puts you firmly in the role of a detective. The crew and passengers of a fictional East India Company ghost ship have all mysteriously died, with the game’s objective being to discover how. The player must use a combination of deductive reasoning and a Memento Mortem stopwatch to return to the exact moment of each crew member’s death to determine the identity of the sixty crew members, how and where they died and, if killed by human hands, the name of their killer. Sounds freaking amazing; plus, the 1-bit monochromatic graphical style inspired by games on early Macintosh systems really gives the whole thing an eerie as funk feel.

3. God of War

I have a secret to reveal: I never finished the original God of War. I got real close, and by that I mean…I basically stopped at the final fight against Ares. I don’t recall if I found the whole thing too tough or just didn’t care to see Kratos end his rage-filled journey. Either way, that’s all the God of War I’ve ever played. Missed out on everything since that 2005 debut, but this new God of War seems to be striking a much more somber and serious tone, and that has my interest piqued for sure. I like the mechanic behind throwing your axe and then recalling it. Too bad this is only on PlayStation 4.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

I’m never going to play this. Also, I’ve still not played the original Red Dead Redemption. The cowboy life just isn’t for me, I guess. Unless you count things like SteamWorld Dig 2 and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. That said, this game sure is pretty, and I love all the attention you can put into Arthur’s look, from his outfit to facial hair to even how stinky he stays. It sounds like too much focus on animation priority really slows things down, but to each their own. Again, I’ll never know, because I’ll never play Red Dead Redemption 2.

1. Marvel’s Spider-Man

One of my favorite demo discs from back in the PlayStation 1 days contained a demo for…Spider-Man, an action-adventure game based on the comics that followed an original storyline and featured narration from the recently departed Stan Lee, rest in peace. I remember it being set on rooftops, and there was some swinging action, some punching of bad guys, and Black Cat was there too. It used the same engine from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, so it has this speedy vibe. I played it a whole bunch, and to me, then, it felt awesome being in control of the Spider-Man. Since then, a whole bunch of other Spider-Man games have come out, and not all of them have been winners. From the sound of things, the latest one from Insomniac gets it right, and truly makes swinging around New York City feel amazing. Alas, once again, not having a PlayStation 4 has cut me off from some solid gems; too bad I’m only planning to get a Nintendo Switch in 2019.

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Rolling dice never changes with Fallout: The Board Game

I am still surprised to this day that I did not fall head over heels in love with Fallout 4. I mean, I like it well enough, but the obsessive amount of exploring I did in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas never reared its pretty head in the same way, and I’ve tried going back to the campaign about finding my stolen son and defeating–or teaming up with–an army of synths several times now to see things from a different perspective, never really getting too far in and eventually petering out when something more interesting comes along to demand I play it. Still, if anything, Fallout 4 brought with it some fun side stuff that I enjoy more than the main gig, such as Fallout Shelter and Fallout: The Board Game; I’ve already talked about the former, and this post is most definitely about the latter.

Initially, I balked at Fallout: The Board Game‘s price tag. Sixty dollars plus tax sure seemed like a lot for…a board game, but maybe I’m still new to this cardboard, tiles, meeples-run world, considering I’ve looked around online and seen other games priced much higher than that. Still, that price is in line with a brand-new videogame release, and I don’t often get a lot of those. Well, regardless of all that, in March or April of this year–sorry, my chemo-drippy brain is fuzzy on the details–I entered V.A.T.S., selected a copy for a 100% lethal shot, and watched as Bloody Mess played out at the register. Er, I bought a copy. Sorry, sometimes I lose myself in both the world and language of Fallout.

Okay, time for the nitty-gritty. No, not that Gritty. Fallout: The Board Game is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Naturally, it’s based on the mega-popular series–well, maybe not Fallout 76 as it currently is–by Bethesda Softworks. There are multiple story scenarios to play through, and each is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginning, each player must explore the hidden map, fight off ferocious, irradiated enemies, and build up their survivor’s skills as they attempt to complete challenging quests and balance feuding factions within the game. To win, you must reach a specific amount of agenda influence points, and the number of influence points required for victory is dependent on how many players are participating.

Fallout: The Board Game is played in a series of rounds, with each player getting two actions on a turn. Different actions include moving, exploring new tiles, fighting enemies, questing and encountering, and resting. After all players finish their respective turn, the round ends with monsters activating and looking for wanderers to attack. Combat is handled with three custom dice. Every monster has vulnerable areas, represented by the V.A.T.S. icon, and players must roll to hit these specific areas. Having a weapon and matching S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats will grant re-rolls, along with other cards and perks. Defeating monsters grants XP and sometimes loot, but the monster doesn’t go away entirely, instead it retreats into a dormant stage to fight again another day.

Experience is handled through a pretty nifty leveling system attached to a tracker. Each point of experience will move a peg along the player’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. track, skipping over any empty spaces. Once it completes a circlet, the player gets to draw a new S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token to add to their stats. Duplicate tokens will instead grant a perk and single use abilities, and having certain S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens will affect combat encounters and mission quests. You also track your amount of radiation on this board, and if your HP every goes below the current radiation peg…your character perishes. The tracker also has slots for companions and inventory items.

There are quests. Lots of ’em. In fact, the base game comes with a 150-card deck of numbered missions to complete. When a player has an encounter, another player will read the card and options to them, but not the results. The player must then decide which option to choose without knowing the outcome. Alas, when playing solo, it can be difficult to not read the results as you do this to yourself, and I often based my decision on already knowing what goodies I got. Many quests will branch off into multiple cards after granting experience points or loot, and some will also reward you with influence points. Following an entire questline to its end is fun and just as satisfactory as in the videogames, but sometimes you have to juggle multiple quests, which can become overwhelming.

Phew. I know that is probably a lot to take in, and for me, it took several attempts at playing Fallout: The Board Game for most of that to sink in. I’m still not 100% certain how the shop works, but whatever. Also, the agenda points system isn’t great, especially in solo mode, but it’s how you win the game. Personally, I wish it wasn’t, as I have more fun doing quests and exploring unflipped tiles than trying to balance two factions or simply focusing on a single one only to betray it at the end if you suddenly see a way to get more agenda points with the other faction. It just doesn’t feel cohesive, but maybe it works better with more players fighting to gain these points first.

So far, I’ve only played solo, and it can be a lot to pay attention to. Each game has roughly taken me two to three hours to complete, and my first time having a go at it, most of that was dealing with the game’s initial setup. There’s a lot to set up, from the placement of tiles, to the shop, to your inventory, to the multiple quest decks, and so on. The game pieces look amazing, and I love the little enemy tokens. It’s pretty exciting to see things I barely glanced at in the videogames represented as useful cards here. I’ve occasionally also forgotten some rules and flubbed my way through a mission, and there was one mission card related to the alien mothership that simply broke my brain; I tried searching online for an explanation of what to do, but couldn’t find anything so I simply packed everything up and called it a day. The game is aesthetically cool, but not perfect in how it plays.

Oh, and I just became aware that there’s already an expansion available called New California. Right, and this gaming mat looks really neat and would certainly help me keep things more organized because I generally don’t know where to keep some of the decks and other items in relation to my health tracker and other cards…though its price tag is not immediately desirable considering it costs just as much as an entire game expansion. Hmm. Either way, I’ll keep having a go at Fallout: The Board Game in hopes that I can actually win it without getting a rule wrong or forgetting to do something vital. Y’know, like moving all the monsters towards me at the end of a round.

Captain B.J. Blazkowicz resolutely takes on the Nazis

I’ve got bad news: I know all the spoilery bits for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus already. That’s just one of the few sacrifices I had to make to listen to Giant Bomb‘s 2017 GOTY deliberations, along with knowing where things ultimately go in NierR:Automata, Yakuza 0, and Persona 5. Oh well. Thankfully, I was able to complete both Night in the Woods and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild just before the year came to a close. But considering that I’m only just now finishing up Wolfenstein: The New Order, here’s hoping I forget many details about the much-talked about sequel…whenever I get to it (my prediction: somewhere in late 2019).

I got Wolfenstein: The New Order, along with the follow-up/prequel Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, The Inner World, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, during Microsoft’s big Black Friday sale in that crazy year called 2017. Anyways, I’m trying to make a more conscious effort to the play the games I buy instead of letting them sit for months unattended, and so I recently loaded up Wolfenstein: The New Order, kept it on the default difficulty setting, and quickly got about putting Nazis in their place. It’s good fun, if surprisingly straightforward, both in terms of gameplay and plot.

I’ll do my best to provide a plot summary. Some three years after the destruction of the Black Sun portal, the Nazis deployed advanced technologies, which enabled them to turn the tide against the Allies. On July 16, 1946, at dawn, U.S. special forces operative Captain William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, accompanied by pilot Fergus Reid and Private Probst Wyatt III, took part in a massive Allied air raid against a fortress and weapons laboratory run by General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse. Unfortunately, the three of them were captured and brought to a human experimentation laboratory where Deathshead forced Blazkowicz to choose one of his companions to die–either Fergus or Wyatt. Afterwards, Blazkowicz escapes the laboratory, but suffers a critical head injury, rendering him unconscious and putting him in a coma for 14 years. He comes back to life in a psychiatric asylum in Poland, now determined more than ever to find his friends and blast apart some Nazi faces. Phew.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a first-person shooter that, at many times, asks to you to do things stealthily. There’s also cover-based shooting and entire sequences where you are exploring an area or solving some simple puzzles. I came at this as I do all first-person things–cautiously. Unfortunately, when the chaos kicks in and you are discovered, the best thing to do is keep moving and don’t stop firing. The game is pretty generous with armor, health, and ammo pick-ups, so, honestly, go nuts. However, when I got to Chapter 12: Gibraltar Bridge, I hit a serious snag, finding the difficulty–even on the normal setting–to be a bit much to overcome. I’m not alone in this. You are basically climbing up a broken bridge, at a serious disadvantage, with numerous enemies high above you and out of sight. After about ten or so attempts, I gave up and dropped the difficulty down to “Can I play, Daddy?”, which at first bothered me, but then I had a good time mowing down everyone in B.J.’s way without even giving a second thought to taking cover or needing more health.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Wolfenstein: The New Order is its perk system. Instead of collecting XP and leveling up your B.J.–keep it clean, kids–to spend skill points on perks, you earn upgrades by doing specific tasks. Kind of like in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where if you want to raise your blocking stats with a shield, start blocking with a shield more. These minor upgrades enhance Blazkowicz’s combat aptitude by increasing his maximum health, ammo count, and damage taken, which is all well and good, but you are playing on the easiest of difficulty levels this doesn’t matter much. Still, going after them is enjoyable, and I really had a good time sprint-sliding and killing Nazis to ultimately strengthen my skills at…well, killing Nazis. Also, you can totally take advantage of key checkpoints in certain levels to grind out some of the trickier perks, which I totally did.

So yeah, that’s Wolfenstein: The New Order. I’m currently playing clean-up on some of its collectibles and Achievements (none of them related to difficulty settings though), but I suspect after that I’ll move on to Wolfenstein: The Old Blood…soonish. Eh, maybe. I also need to finish Prey, and then I’d love to get into Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Eep, too many games.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #4 – Wolfenstein: The New Order

Select your timeline
And start killing Nazi scum
Orders from B.J.

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.

Let loose in Prey’s luxuriously haunting sci-fi playground

It truly is surprising to me that I didn’t fall for Fallout 4 as much as I initially imagined I would, considering the hours and thoughts I put into Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The game didn’t strike me the same way, and I’ve tried going back to it several times, only to get as far as rescuing Preston and his people and bringing them back to Sanctuary, before losing interest. Still, I love all things Fallout-related, like Fallout Shelter and cute little collectibles, and am super curious to see how the Fallout board game works, especially since it can be played solo, something I actively look for now in my tabletop games. However, this post isn’t actually about Fallout 4, it’s about Prey, the new hot thang from Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda in 2017, which is turning out to be the Fallout 4 game I wanted all along.

In Prey, the player controls Morgan Yu, either as a man or woman, exploring the space station Talos I, in orbit around Earth–Moon L2, where research into a hostile alien collective called the Typhon is underway. Unfortunately, because you know nothing can ever go right with doing science stuff in outer space, the Typhon escape confinement, and Morgan must use a variety of weapons and abilities derived from these nightmarish alien monsters to avoid getting killed while searching for a way to escape the station. It’s a haunting tale of loss and domination, told through environmental storytelling and revealing audio logs that bring to life many, many characters that are very much dead and destroyed. Or sometimes turned against you. Either way, the narrative is strong, believable.

Prey is a systems-driven adventure, playable in a number of ways. An immersive sim, if you will, in the same vein of BioShock and Dishonored, letting you make your way through levels and complete missions, but not enforcing the means by which you must get the job done. Which makes sense considering this is French developer Arkane’s bread and butter for the last eight-ish years. Still, the amount of freedom you have is almost unheard of, both in terms of playing style and exploration, especially once you get to the Talos I Lobby and have access to the no gravity area just outside its walls, which lets you travel just about anywhere you want on Talos I, so long as you’ve unlocked the right doors and can survive the trip. Early on, I suffered from choice anxiety and stuck to the main path, but I do plan to return and roam more freely next time.

Lucky for Yu–cue cymbal crash sound effect–the space station you are on was designed to also research and produce Neuromods, which go right into your eyeball to help make humans faster, stronger, and smarter. These are where you get your skill points from, to upgrade powers and unlock abilities, and you can find several around the environment, but what I found refreshing is, if you want and have the crafting resources to do so, you can make as many as you want through the Recylcer and Fabricator. It almost felt like cheating when I 3D-printed three of them in a single sitting (light spoiler detail: there will be a moment in the story where you can’t do this anymore for reasons, so strike while the iron is hot). My playstyle so far has been mostly human powers, like hacking and gaining more health from kits and food, with a light touch of aliens powers, specifically Mimic and Kinetic Blast. I like being able to repair broken turrets though they now see me as an alien threat since I’ve unlocked too many non-human perks. That was a neat surprise.

Life in Prey is harsh, tough. The might sound obvious when discussing a space station amuck with telekinetic and transforming monsters that want to eat your flesh and soul, but I thought I’d say it anyway, to justify to myself very soon that it is fine to dial down the difficulty setting. I’m currently playing on whatever the default it is, and I’m trying to play it like I would Fallout 4–stealthily, sneakily, avoiding as many fights as possible. Unfortunately, you will have to get your hands dirty eventually, and this is where I struggled with the combat. The guns don’t feel great, even after updating my silenced pistol a bunch, and they clearly want you to use the GLOO cannon to slow everything down and whack it with a wrench, but that’s easier said than done when the enemies move far more swiftly than you. Health and suit armor drops quickly, and resources, so far, are extremely limited. Occasionally, I’ve had to sneak by enemies through creative means, like throwing items for distraction or turning into a banana. Yup, you read that last part right.

I’m near the end of Morgan’s quest. Still, whenever I am done with Prey, whatever that means since I may be curious in a second playthrough on the easiest of difficulty settings to see what life is like with, say, only alien powers or doing my best to read every single e-mail I can find, I think I might need to revisit System Shock and give it a fairer shake than trying to play it when extremely sleepy during an Extra Life stream. Or System Shock 2. Or Dishonored. Or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Look, I have a lot of immersive sims on plate, so I better start feasting.

My E3 2017 wishlist because a boy can dream

It’s one of the best times of the year, with E3 kicking off this weekend, followed in a month by Awesome Games Done Quick. In short, time to watch a lot of livestreams. Either way, I’m always excited to hear about new developments in the industry, even if I ultimately never procure many of the new machines or play a majority of the big name games to come. It’s fun being in the know, and I love the nightly interview segments with a mix of industry peeps over at Giant Bomb. Still, I do have some desires for this year’s event, and they are as follows:

Borderlands 3

Look, it’s time. It’s beyond time. No one really got into Battleborn, so Gearbox needs to accept this and move on to the thing that retains a strong fanbase to this day–the Borderlands series. Specifically, the one where you collect a million guns and shoot them at cel-shaded enemies, not the one where you talk your way out of a bad situation into a worse scenario. I’ve been dipping my toes back into Borderlands 2 over the last few months, but a service built solely for these new consoles would be extra great, and I’d love to see something along the lines of Hitman contracts with new raid-like bosses to attack every few weeks instead of a lackluster DLC package.

Death Stranding

We already know this game exists, but I want more info on it. Especially since Mel and I have been working our way through Hannibal and I’m finding Mads Mikkelsen to be highly watchable as an unpredictable villain. I’m still curious if it’ll play like Metal Gear Solid 4 or be a completely different thing. I suspect Hideo Kojima really likes stealth action, so it’s a good bet, but he himself can be unpredictable. I don’t expect the narrative to be clear until the game is out and played through multiple times; I just want to know what the running around is like. Either way, tell us more.

The Elder Scrolls VI: Valenwood

Fallout 4 did not take hold of me and never let go. Instead, I played it, enjoyed a decent chunk of it, beat it, murdering a lot of people to my dismay, and have not really gone back to the thing. I’ve thought often about returning to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but that would require booting it up on my Xbox 360, and I don’t want to do that. I’d rather wait for the next installment. Which, maybe, might be set in Valenwood. I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine, but Bethesda is hosting its own press conference again this year, so maybe we’ll get some updates about what is next from their blockbuster high fantasy RPG time-eater. There’s probably going to be a Doom sequel too for those believing that lightning can strike twice in the same spot.

LEGO james bond

Rest in peace, Roger Moore, my favorite 007, but maybe we can bring you back to life in LEGO form. There are still plenty of LEGO games I haven’t gotten to play yet, but if this thing became a reality it would move right up to the top of my priority list. Traveler’s Tales could either do like they did with LEGO Harry Potter and split this across multiple games, or, if they loved us even just the littlest bit, put out a super compilation of Bond’s best and coolest movies for us to play through. These have everything a LEGO wants: colorful cast of characters, cool gadgets and gizmos, enhanced vehicles, and globe-trotting adventures.

Picontier

I don’t remember when this “slow living miniscape RPG” was announced, but it was some time back. Immediately, it reminded me of Stardew Valley and Rune Factory, which is great, and it was destined for the Nintendo 3DS. It’s also now coming out for the Nintendo Switch. When that is, I do not know, but I love the retro look, and having this kind of experience on the go is really appealing to me. Hopefully we’ll get some more concrete coverage during Nintendo’s streaming hours. Or it’ll just be a tiny tidbit hidden in some press release that goes out after their Nintendo Direct vid.

Suikoden VI

This is never going to happen. I know that, you know that, Konami knows that. But still, a boy can dream. Is it too much to ask for a game with an empty castle that one can fill up with people they meet along their way to stop an evil thing from becoming the ultimate evil thing? No, Dragon Age: Inquisition–you do not do the job well enough.

Right, right. What games are you looking forward to hearing more about at this year’s E3? Speak up and share your wishlist in the comments section. Be sure to include Suikoden VI and get it trending on social media.

Warning: enter Vault 713 at your own risk

fallout-shelter-29

I waited a long time to play Fallout Shelter; I probably should have kept waiting. This free-to-play mobile room manager from big ol’ Bethesda was revealed and released to the world–well, for iOS devices–in June 2015 during the company’s E3 press conference. It later came to Android devices in August 2015. It never came and never will come to those that use a Windows phone despite that making some degree of sense. You might not know anyone in that last category, but if you are reading these words and follow Grinding Down, you at least know one sad soul–me. Well, it recently made its debut on Xbox One (and PC).

Allow me to run down what you do in Fallout Shelter since there’s no story to follow, save for whatever adventures you create in your brain as you tap and drag and force people to breed with one another. Basically, you build and manage your own Vault as an overseer–a.k.a., the never-questioned ruler of this nuclear safe haven. You guide and direct your Vault’s inhabitants, keeping them happy through meeting their essential needs, such as power, food, and water. You can rescue dwellers from the wasteland and assign them to various resource-generating buildings in your Vault, using the SPECIAL statistics system from the other Fallout games to key you in on their strongest abilities. Your dwellers level up over time, increasing things like health points and how good they are at producing resources. The number of Vault dwellers can grow two ways: waiting for new survivors from the wasteland to arrive at your doorstep or by pairing a male and female dweller in a living quarters room to, after some time has passed, produce babies.

Some other things exist to mix up the waiting on rooms-on-timers gameplay. You can take a risk and “rush” a room to completion. If you’re successful, you’ll get the resources right away, as well as some bonus caps. However, if you fail it, badness arrives in the form of fires, radroaches, or attacks from raiders. There are challenges to be mindful of, such as equipping a dweller with a weapon or gathering up X amount of food, and completing these will earn you caps or lunchboxes, which hold randomized loot. Once you build the Overseer’s room, you can send your people out on quests to find better items (weapons, armor) and caps. Everything takes time, and that makes way more sense for the mobile versions, but after sending out three people to shoot some wild radroaches I found myself staring at a bunch of rooms that wouldn’t be ready for harvesting for at least ten minutes with nothing else to do. Fallout Shelter is a game of waiting, which is not what I want when I plop down on the couch to play something.

On the Xbox One, navigating around the Vault is done via the thumbsticks. This can be a finicky process, and I once accidentally spent caps on removing boulders after the cursor jumped too far from the room I really wanted to select and gather resources from. This wasn’t the worst because, yeah, eventually I planned to clear them rocks, but I wanted it to be my decision, on my schedule. You can zoom in closer to the rooms to see some funny if frivolous bits of dialogue from your dwellers. The majority of the game is driven via menus, and accessing them is thankfully pretty simple and easy to use with a controller. That all said, I’m not a huge fan of the combat; it’s basically hands-off and hope you get some good invisible dice rolls like you’re back battling cliff racers in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is frustrating to witness. Here’s a true scenario from my time in Vault 713: a teeny tiny radroach nearly depleted my level 14 dweller’s health as she missed shot after shot after shot with a decent hunting rifle. Blargh.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but it’s pivotal towards my future progress in Fallout Shelter, of which there probably won’t be any more, so here we go: my Xbox One is broken. Or perpetually breaking. One of those. Some time after Black Friday last year, something happened. My “pins” disappeared from the front dashboard with a message saying, “Sorry, we can’t show these right now.” Then I discovered that I could access the store tab, but nothing I clicked on would work. I could mash the “A” button to no effect. Same goes for a lot of the advertisement tiles on other pages, unless they were tied to the Internet Explorer app. I tried doing a hard shutdown, unplugging my router, resetting the WiFi connection, and checking for further updates. Nothing seems to work. I am not interested in a factory reset, and I’ve managed, for the most part, to survive. I can still access apps like Netflix and Twitch and download those Games with Gold freebies by logging in on my Xbox 360 and adding them to my account. Lifehack central, y’all.

However, the other night, after gathering enough food, water, and power to keep my people beaming with happiness, I saved and shut the game down. A message came up that said the game was trying to sync my save with the Cloud, and so I let it do its thing, not wanting to mess anything up. Which never seemed to finish. Five minutes went by, then ten. Then twenty. Then thirty. There’s no way a game the size of Fallout Shelter takes that long to sync save data that is probably as big as a Cheez-It crumb. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait much longer and simply closed the console down as it was. When I tried to load the game up the next day, it couldn’t find my save even though it is also on my console’s internal memory, and the screen that shows your three save slots just spins infinitely, unable to find anything. I can’t even start a new Vault. This happened over a week ago, and I still can’t access Vault 713. And I was one room away from unlocking the Achievement for building 25 rooms. Grrr.

I could probably download Fallout Shelter on PC and either start again or see if my save in the Cloud carries over. I could, but I won’t. I’d rather play the Dead Money DLC from Fallout: New Vegas again. Or test my luck out in the wasteland proper. I thought I’d be more bummed about this, but there are a zillion other pieces of digital entertainment available at my fingertips.