Tag Archives: difficulty

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – In Space We Brawl

This won’t be a long post, I promise.

In Space We Brawl is a twin-stick shooter that clearly wants you to play locally with a bunch of buddies next to you on the couch. I have no such buddies, nor enough PlayStation 3 controllers to do such a thing, which is why I was also quick to remove things like Atomic Ninjas and Starwhal. Local multiplayer matches allow for up to four players, and you can even put together teams. There are more than 150 combinations of weapons, such as laser cannons, plasma swords, flame launchers, and guided missiles, and ships to try out. Each map is full of obstacles to also avoid too, such as asteroids and black holes.

I first did a few of the “challenges,” which are more or less tutorials. The writing around these is snarky and somewhat aggressive, like when the game congratulates me on being able to use my thumbs to move the ship around. Gee, thanks. I’m not a big fan of being made fun of when trying to have fun playing a game, and I’ve seen this type of snark too often lately. It’s becoming exhausting, if I’m being honest, and it just feels lazy overall.

You can add bots and adjust their difficulty to your matches if you don’t have anyone else to play with, which I did. I left them on “medium” difficulty and found myself exploding every few seconds. I also didn’t find the shooting very satisfactory or even effective, but maybe I attached the worst gun in the game or something. Either way, I didn’t have a good time, and so that was it for me and In Space We Brawl.

Remember, in space, no one can hear you uninstalling a game from your PlayStation 3.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Another World

Another World is an adventuring classic. At least, it seems so. It’s also known as Out of This World in North America and Outer World in Japan, which has only confused me for years because I always thought those were different, unique games…or parts in a series. Nope, they are one in the same. For those that don’t know, Another World released in 1991, and it’s a highly cinematic action-adventure platforming game designed by Éric Chahi and published by Delphine Software. The narrative involves Lester, a young scientist who, as a result of an experiment gone wrong, finds himself on a dangerous alien world where he is forced to fight for his survival.

Here’s some things I just learned about Another World, after giving it a few goes on the PlayStation 3 via the Another World – 20th Anniversary Edition version, which us PlayStation Plus users got for free this past September. It was developed by Chahi alone over a period of about two years, with help only on the soundtrack from Jean-François Freitas. Chahi developed his own game engine, completing all the game’s art and animations in vector form to reduce memory use, with some use of rotoscoping to help plan out character movements. Both narrative-wise and gameplay-wise, he wanted the game to be told with little to no language or user-interface elements. The game was originally developed for the Amiga and Atari ST, but has since been widely ported to other contemporary systems, including home and portable consoles and mobile devices…which is how I am playing it some now twenty-plus years later after always being curious about the legendary beast.

Still, I couldn’t get too far in this one, especially once it became necessary to fire guns at enemies and dodge incoming bullets while also creating shields to block said projectiles. I did okay kicking and jumping over the weird alien worms that fall from the ceiling, as well as running away from the dark-black hulk that chases you at the start of Another World. After that…everything just needed to be too precise for me to figure out. Plus, once you died, which always only took one wrong move or hit, you had to do the whole “rock the cage” bit again, and then try to hit your marks perfectly or be evaporated before you even knew what hit you.

Well…I just watched a full playthrough on YouTube (with no commentary), with a run-time of just over thirty minutes, which includes multiple deaths and restarts. Yeah, I don’t think I would ever have figured some of this stuff out. There are walls you can blast open to let you into new areas, but I don’t see how you’d be aware of them at all as they don’t stand out and the game itself never tells you what you can or cannot do. In one way, that’s freeing and awesome; in another, completely frustrating. There’s a whole section set in a cavern that is blowing my tiny little mind. I get that adventure games are all about exploring and trying your options out until they run bone dry, but again, with no text or inventory system…it’s seemingly impossible to know what is possible in a strange world like this. Also, all your actions require repetition to perfect.

I’ll give credit where credit is certainly due. It looks like Chahi created one fantastic sidekick more than twenty years ago, an alien being who communicated only through gestures and a small lexicon of syllabic barks and encouragements. I think its name is Buddy, but don’t put my feet to the fire on that. I’d place it next to similar strong standouts like Agro, Vivi, and Yoshi. Another World absolutely wrings every ounce of its low-detail scenery, flipping between perspectives and just overall presenting a world unknown to anyone. It’s strangeness is what kept me watching, wanting to see where it all went…which, to be honest, I didn’t fully follow, but I greatly enjoyed the journey from a distance.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

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.

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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #123 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – The Bright Lord

Use Celebrimbor
To brand your way to Sauron
Difficulty spike

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Covert Front will test your endurance with its traps and trickery

gd covert front final thoughts

You might have noticed an influx of haikus as of late about Covert Front, an episodic point-and-click adventure series from Mateusz Skutnik and Karol Konwerski that began back in July 2007, and that’s because I’ve been playing a lot of Covert Front. See, that first puzzle was easy, almost to the point of idiotic. It’s possibly done on purpose, to ease you into things and make you believe that you can do this. That you are a super sleuth of steel. However, eventually things ramp up both in difficulty and red herrings, and you will concede to not knowing what to do next. I won’t hide the fact that I looked up a lot of answers online, but only to help put me a few steps ahead. Y’know, until I got stuck again.

Covert Front takes place in 1904, but an alternate history 1904. The sort where where a technological revolution in the previous century resulted in a premature World War I. During this conflict, a bunch of specialists from varying fields held a secretive conference in Berlin called “Knowledge for Victory,” and, shockingly, almost a hundred of these specialists vanished afterwards. You play as a spy agent code-named Kara who is investigating the disappearance of General Karl von Toten, and this adventure will see you traveling from shady location to shadier location, unearthing clues and tracking your target down.

As a point-and-click adventure series, you’ll do a lot of pointing and clicking. That’s obvious. You won’t do too much combining of items from your inventory, and using items on in-game environment items requires precision. If you want to unscrew those screws, you need to use the item directly on them, not just in the general vicinity. A lot of the puzzles require thinking and memorization, like entering passwords or knowing exactly what labeled drawer to search in the library. One might be able to brute force these puzzles, but not all of them, which is where a lot of roadblocks lay, especially for the far more obtuse sections, like that dream-esque sequence involving Toten’s magic typewriter.

There’s definitely a lot of pixel hunting too at work here, not just for items, but for additional scenes, as sometimes clicking in just the right spot will reveal a whole new area to explore. Yeah, I’m looking at you, pipe along the side of the house by the airplane. I do wish these weren’t as difficult to discover as it feels a little too unfair, something I also ran into in Skutnik’s Where is 2016? game. Also, red herrings galore. You’ll walk into a scene and immediately see a handful of common day items that are typically picked up in other adventure games and used to open doors and such, but they aren’t interactive here, no matter how many times you click or concoct some reason X item in your inventory should work with it. By the fourth episode, I got used to this and simply ignored a lot of stuff, but it was difficult to do so in the beginning.

One of the nicer aspects of playing a game series that took several years to complete back to back is that I can really see how it improved, both technically and visually, from episode to episode, of which there are four. Covert Front‘s graphics don’t really change all that much, but do become more detailed and stylish, and the cutscenes ramp up the camera angles and action. On occasion, Kara’s model looks strangely odd, with lengthy arms and a neck that stretches a little too far to the sky, and this changes from game to game. Voice acting gets added to give Kara more depth, but never to the point that I actually knew her or felt anything for her. She’s just a vehicle to get things done, and yes, she gets things done, but I’d have been okay with her failing too.

Still, I came away from the Covert Front series enjoying the ride, but feeling pretty dumb. Maybe the brain-teasers in it are just not for me and my simpler solving skills…or maybe the games themselves are unnecessarily difficult. I did find Episode 4 “The Spark of Life” to be the easiest of the bunch, with me resorting to looking nothing up online, so maybe Skutnik took some similar criticism to heart by then and tweaked the puzzles accordingly. There are a couple of series from him that I want to try out, like Submachine and Mr. Mothball, but not just yet. My mind needs a nap.

The highs and lows of playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution a second time

Clearly, I forgot to buy an intelligence-at-reading-menu-options augmentation while playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution for a second time on its hardest difficulty. Because I got through it, struggling in a several sections, but otherwise racking up Praxis Points and bullets for my silenced Machine Pistol with ease and blasting down anybody that got in the way. Because I beat it using a mix of stealth and sniping  and straight up shooting and watched the credits roll and waited patiently for that bloop that would confirm I did it, that I mastered a game on its most straining setting, from beginning to end. But it never popped. The one for viewing all the different endings did though. Confused, I went back to my last save to check my option settings, and there I discovered that no, in fact, I was playing on medium difficulty…the whole time.

::frustratingly funny facepalm::

But man, it sure felt like a harder difficulty than that.

If you’ll recall, my first playthrough of Adam Jensen’s journey to living a new life and stopping…whatever did not go smoothly. With a battle plan of full-on stealth, I struggled to take down two of the three main bosses, sadly learned that I goofed up a non-lethal playthrough by rewiring a robot to kill enemy guards, and then ran into a nasty door glitch. I decided long ago that I’d play it all again, this time throwing quietness to the wind and shooting down dudes when it seemed like a quicker and simpler solution. The actual doing of this took longer than I expected, but we’re in the dry season currently for exciting videogames, and so I found some time recently over the last two weekends to plug away at this.

It went much easier the second time around, as well as quicker. I no longer had to wait and watch a guard until he turned his body ever so slightly to slip by him; this time around, I merely poked my head out, aimed with a silenced weapon, and dinged him in his dome. Sometimes I’d drag the body away. Sometimes I wouldn’t. Fearless, this Jensen he be. The boss battles were a snap thanks to Typhoon ammo and a ton of augmentations I missed the first time around, and I only had a hard time in certain rooms full of dudes where ammo was scarce and enemy count was high. It did seem like Jensen lost health super fast until I upgraded his skin perks, and that’s probably why I felt like I was playing on the hardest difficulty the whole time. Hacking emails and doors is still a strangely fun minigame, if a bit daunting at first. Towards the end though you’re breaking into level 5 rooms and emails like a pro, which does feel rewarding in its own way.

Anyways, here’s a few of the Achievements I unlocked on my second go in Deus Ex: Human Revolution that I’m pretty pleased with, especially considering that I’m probably never going back for a third time:


Deus Ex Machina (50G): Experience all the different endings that Deus Ex: Human Revolution has to offer.


Good Soul (15G): Against all odds, you saved Faridah Malik’s life.


Lucky Guess (10G): Next time, Jacob better use a more complex code to arm his bombs.

I only wish that I had been able to get either one of the really hard Achievements (beat the game with no kills, beat the game on its hardest difficulty, or beat the game without setting off an alarm) to show off my mad Deus Ex skills. I guess all I’m doing now is showing my lack of ’em. But you won’t tell anyone, right? ::tosses a gas grenade:: Right?