Tag Archives: simulation

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Port Royale 3

I knew going into Port Royale 3 that this wasn’t a game for me, and, surprise surprise, it’s totally not a game for me. Except, on paper, it sounds a lot like many of the board games I’ve been getting into lately, what with its numerous systems and decisions to make, various paths to follow. Almost like a deck-builder. I mean, there is a board game with a similar name to this, but it’s not one to one. Either way, I gave it a shot, but was ultimately forced to walk the plank. Yarrr.

Here’s the lowdown on how all this starts in Port Royale 3. You’re in the Caribbean during the turbulent 17th century. The mighty kingdoms of Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands are fighting over the colonies. As an up-and-coming young sea captain, your only goal is to become the most powerful man in the New World. Seems reasonable to me. Well, to achieve that goal, you first have to choose one of the two available campaigns–Adventurer or Trader. I went with…the trader route, because, even when I was playing Civilization V, I steered clear of fighting with other territories and focused mostly on being a peaceful person that just liked to earn a few coins now and then.

If you go the way of the Adventurer, you’ll lead an unforgiving campaign for the conquest of the seas, which involves a lot of invasion, piracy, bounty hunting, and raiding. Basically, you’re a pirate, and you need to do whatever it takes to build your own empire in the Caribbean. The Trader’s path is, on the opposite, mostly about developing your riches and economic power. To become the most powerful Trader of the New World, you will need to create trade routes, build industries, and develop the economy of the colonies. There’s also a Free Play mode, where you can mix both of those methods in any way you want, letting you create your own unique tale of plundering and selling goods.

So, I sailed around the Caribbean a bit, going from place to place, such as Santiago and Tortuga, purchasing goods for low prices and selling them elsewhere for higher prices. Y’know, making an earning. Sugar and rum were very popular choices, as was wood. Always gotta get that wood. Reminds me of how important it is in Catan; during one game, I traded almost everything I had, including my precious sheep, for a single piece of wood, but it was worth it, as it helped me build one more road, giving me the Longest Road victory point. Anyways, I diverge…mostly because I don’t know what else to say about Port Royale 3.

Port Royale 3‘s soundtrack is actually quite nice, and I know this because I had the game on pause a lot while typing up this blog post. It was composed by Dag Winderlich and Tobias Adler and features a lot of frantic drumming and seagulls crying out in the background, and that might sound nightmarish to some of y’all, but it’s really not. As someone who grew up near the beach, it’s familiar.

Look, I’m sure if I took the time to truly dig into all the menus and various options at play, Port Royale 3 would offer me a ton of things to do and plan for, but it just didn’t hook me from the start. It begins slow, thankfully, but even still, I don’t know what half the menu options mean, even after ranking up, and I’d rather play something like The Sims 4 or Zoo Tycoon to get my simulation fix. Oh well. Guess the pirate life is not for me.

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 – Hustle Kings

As a young lad growing up in Smithville, NJ, I lived just down the road from our local community swimming pool and clubhouse. No, really, I could walk there in about five minutes tops, and there was a path behind a neighbor’s house that lead through a stretch of woods that I became quickly familiar with once I had a bicycle and a job at the ice cream parlor appropriately named Scoops. I’d often go to the clubhouse by myself and play pool; hey, it’s easier to play pool solo than it is ping pong. And for those that don’t know, pool is a cue sports played on a table with six pockets along the rails, into which balls are deposited. There are many variations to try, but I’m most comfortable playing eight-ball or nine-ball or just failing hard at trick shots.

Moving on, Hustle Kings is a pool game, and, based on what I learned from the training events section, a rather complicated one…if you want it to be. The game features lush, photo-realistic visuals and 3D gameplay to ensure that a digital game of pool feels just like the real thing, minus the smoky environment and stench of beer-drenched college-goers. When you’re ready, you can even test your skills against fellow fans and wannabe hustlers via online multiplayer matches. Or maybe not, anymore, as I was glancing at a Trophy guide and noticed that servers for the PlayStation 3 version are no longer functioning. Biggest shrug ever.

Some of the things you can do to enhance your pool game other than just hit the cue ball with your stick is putting backspin on it or honing your shot for the best angle or learning how to curve around a specific ball to hit another one into the pocket. It’s a lot of setting up your shot and then hoping everything works out okay; there’s several different camera views to help with this minutiae. I played a couple of free play games and did almost none of this and had a decent time still popping billiard balls into pockets, all while avoiding the eight ball until the very end. I will admit to using the hone shot option a lot because, just like in Peggle, it’s good to know how the ball will move from this singular action.

I honestly don’t have too much to say about Hustle Kings; it’s probably fine, and if you are a big pool fan, you’ll love how intricate your shots can become. For me, it’s too much, and now I’m trying to find this old Flash-based pool game I used to play online while avoiding work at an office gig back in the heydays. This is, not surprisingly, an impossible task, as there are countless online pool games you can play, and many of them all look the same. If you know any late 1990s/early 2000s online pool games that might be what I’m talking about, hit it up in the comments below.

Hustle Kings, side pocket, don’t chicken bone this cinch. Yes, I totally looked up a list of pool terms.

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.

Every day is “Demo Day” in House Flip with Chip and Jo

I never used to watch any of the many home renovation shows that are constantly playing on the television channel HGTV at every hour of the day, but then I met Melanie. She turned me on to a number of these shows, such as Love It or List It–I’m always rooting for David, though he seems to lose more often to Hilary, the queen of staging–Property Brothers, and, more related to today’s post, Fixer Upper. I really like the dynamic between Chip and Joanna Gaines; one is more serious, the other a loving goofball, and they pair off nicely when fixing up less-than-stellar homes and taking care of a swath of kids and farm animals.

Well, on a whim, after uninstalling Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery off my phone, I decided to download a game called…House Flip with Chip and Jo, developed by fun-gi and free for all to enjoy. Obviously, there are timers everywhere, and that means special currency–in this case, hearts and elbow grease–so there’s always the opportunity to spend real money on microtransactions, but the game is pretty good about not putting it directly in your face all the time and providing other ways to acquire hearts simply by playing the game. Gee, what a novel concept. My suggestion though is to save up enough hearts to buy a third construction worker, as it will help you do more actions each time you log in.

House Flip with Chip and Jo is naturally all about flipping houses. Chip and Joanna Gaines need your help to explore the world of renovation and design. You’ll assist them to renovate and decorate with a variety of construction and staging skills, discover new houses and architecture, and learn how to buy low and sell high in the cutthroat realm of real estate. You’ll do this in a number of locations, starting with Waco, TX, and then moving on to Kansas City, MO. There are other cities on the map yet to be unlocked, but it looks like you’ll be doing a bit of globe-trotting, moving from Phoenix to Salt Lake City to Seattle and so on. I mean, eventually, Texas is going to run out of homes to flip.

All you really do in House Flip with Chip and Jo is tap, and that’s fine. Most phone games are all tapping. However, when I start a timer to begin staging a bedroom or painting the walls in the bathroom, it’s nice to know that I can either return whenever I want to complete that mission, unlike in games in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery; those punish you if you don’t came back ASAP. Once you purchase a house and finish fixing up all its problems, as well as staging it just right in various themes, such as Mid-Century Modern or French, you can put it on the market and watch the bids come in. Sometimes you might want to reject an offer if you aren’t making a profit, and you can speed up additional offers by spending hearts. I do wish you could flip more than one home at a time in each location, but I get that that’s not realistically feasible for Chip and Jo to do, even in digital form.

However, I do have one major issue with House Flip with Chip and Jo, and it has to do with the in-game depiction of Chip. Look, I know the man has gone through several looks, but the one below just seems oddly off. Like a wax museum statue or something. Just not quite there. Though fun-gi did nail his blindingly white grin; don’t believe me, then check out this quickly Photoshopped image below that I have prepared for y’all:

I kid, I kid. Honestly, I’m having a good time with House Flip with Chip and Jo, and it’s the perfect game to check in on a few times throughout the day, start a bunch of new timers, and watch progress inch forward. I do wonder if I’ll grow tired of doing the same actions as more cities unlock or if there will be new sets of challenges to pursue. Either way, these houses need flipping, and I am the flipper. Well, timer tapper, really.

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.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #14 – Robin

Three days, Robin’s life
With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Manage your dear time

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.

Unlock achievements in THOR.N, a dystopian job simulator

It’s no secret that I both like Achievements and completely understand how empty and hollow of a concept they are. That’s okay, I guess. To me, they exist as extra goals, things to try to do in a game to squeeze every little bit of life out of it before moving on to the next piece of digital entertainment. You might not get much within the game for collecting all the shiny doodads, but your Gamerscore will certainly grow. I’m scared to say that a society driven by things like Achievements might be interesting to see, and I suspect that those with fancier phones than I probably already have apps that reward you for doing mundane, menial tasks like eating breakfast, putting on pants, and taking your first steps of the day.

Well, THOR.N is a game kind of about that. In it, you wake up on your eighteenth birthday. This is a momentous day because now you can begin your true journey to citizenship. An excited and large, jelly baby-esque head attached to the wall tells you all this and even provides you with your first birthday present–50 credits. Woo. After this, your bedroom door is unlocked, and you can go into the next room to discover…a bunch of workstations. You must now begin working towards your citizenship by crafting uniforms, rations, and munitions. You gain credits for each job completed, which you can spend to buy another workstation or upgrade any that you’ve already unlocked. Each time you purchase an upgrade, you earn a skill point, which then adds to your citizenship level. Eventually, you can make the process automatic and watch the credits tick up with minimal effort on your part.

THOR.N is a clicker in disguise. The jobs you complete at the workstations are extremely simple, almost perfunctory. You click the button on the left, wait for the meter to fill, click the button in the middle, wait for the meter to fill, and then click the button on the right…yup, you guessed it, wait for the meter to fill. Still, it’s strangely satisfying to watch the process happen, and once the upgrades get big enough you won’t even need to touch the machine to get your credits. As all of this happens, you are growing your citizenship level and watching Achievement-like messages pop up on the screen to congratulate you on your merits. Which, ultimately, are not worth celebrating. I suspect that’s the point, highlighting your work as something greater than it is when, just by listening, you know there are many others out there doing exactly the same actions as you, all for the greater good, some of which make it, and some of which do not.

I like a lot of the story bits that THOR.N keeps to the side and doesn’t shine a light on. Clearly, this is a dystopian future. Despite the cheer, chipper voice of your robot overlord, something must have gone wrong to get to this place in society. There are “No Entry” signs emblazoned on the glass doors that lead to the outside world–if such a place even exists, as Prey taught me–and information terminals constantly show you how well other citizens are performing. The apartment is small, but full of details, like art and papers on the walls. Also, the ominous robot voice congratulating you on all your achievements occasionally sounds aggressive, with some bits even feeling like thinly veiled threats. At one point, I returned to my bedroom and tried to access the computer screen in there only to get firmly reprimanded and told never to touch that screen again. I never did. Once you reach a certain citizenship level, a new door unlocks, and you can proceed through it…only to suddenly finish the experience.

While the ending is both abrupt and unclear, I enjoyed THOR.N, especially its aesthetic, as well as when all three workstations were operating at full capacity and my credits were skyrocketing. It’s just so dang satisfying when everything is operating smoothly and efficiently, and I don’t know what that says about me. Of the few Humble Originals from the Humble Monthly Trove I’ve tried so far, all of which were once free but no longer are, I found this similar to how I felt after completing Hitchhiker: First Ride–good, not 100% sure I grokked everything that went down, and interested to know more. I’ll have to be a good citizen and keep my eyes open for whatever Advect Productions puts out next.

A batch of anticipated games for the year 2018

When you search the Internet for the keyword of “2018,” you get a lot of pictures of that number in big, bold font or images of cars. Hmm. However, when I look forward into this new year, I see only videogames. Eh, that’s not true. Totally not true. There’s a bunch of other things to see, related to life and love and liberty, but this Grinding Down blog of mine, creeping into its ninth year in action, despite the random dips into other topics, is mostly focused on digital entertainment, and so it is all eyes locked hard on the adventures I’m most interested in playing in two thousand great-teen. Oh, and I’m sure to have copious 2017 titles to catch up on as well, as well as ones from years past (I just started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order and, uh, StarTropics), dating all the way back to the birth of this very planet.

Naturally, we don’t know every single game coming out in 2018 just yet, but here’s a number of ’em that certainly have my attention.

Mineko’s Night Market

Mineko’s Night Market, an indie adventure from Meowza Games, is the first title from the young, two-person indie studio. The adventure title stars Mineko, a girl who takes on a job as a vendor in a weekly marketplace. With responsibilities ranging from collecting resources, crafting items to sell, participating in local events, and befriending customers around town, the game sounds like a much fuzzier take on Stardew Valley and Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. Plus, that art style is to die for.

Release date: sometime in 2018

Staxel

Staxel is a sandbox farming game. Yup, I guess I can officially say that, after dumping hours into Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher, I like farming games. Well, so long as they aren’t too serious and actually about watching a crop grow from seed to final product over the course of several weeks. This one features voxel-based graphics, which are always cool. Remember Voxatron Alpha? Well, I do. Anyways, the general goal is to tend to your farm and work on the village by yourself. Or you can enlist the aid of your friends via online multiplayer to turn it into a thriving farmstead! I wonder if this will ultimately beat Stardew Valley to the multiplayer aspect and whether it’ll be the better experience. Time will tell.

Release date: January 2018

Ooblets

In the words of Glumberland, the game’s developer, “Ooblets is a farming, town life, and creature collection game inspired by Pokémon, Harvest Moon, and Animal Crossing. Manage your farm, grow and train your ooblets, run a shop, explore strange lands, battle wild ooblets and other ooblet trainers, and unlock the mysteries of Oob.” Yeah, that sounds great to me, and it also looks super-duper adorable, so I’m more than simply all in on this.

Release date: Sometime in 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2

Look, I like to poke fun at myself by constantly mentioning that I haven’t played the first Red Dead Redemption still, years after missing out on it during its year of release, so I might as well give up on that dream and place all my bets on the forthcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. I enjoyed a good amount of Grand Theft Auto V, but didn’t linger too long in the online multiplayer aspect, and I have to imagine that Rockstar will be implementing a number of features from that into this violent world of cowboys and the American frontier. I should probably also watch Westworld at some point. Just sayin’.

Release date: sometime in 2018

State of Decay 2

Much like the previous entry on this list, I also missed out on the original experience. That’s okay. From everything I gathered, State of Decay was cool, but somewhat flawed–technically and gameplay-wise–and so with this sequel now having some time to fester, I’m hopeful for a more focused, polished take on making ends meet in the zombie apocalypse. Also, all of this PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds of late is ultimately preparing me for survival among both the living and the dead. Or undead, if you want to get specific.

Release date: sometime in 2018

The Lord of the Rings LCG

I played so much Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, an out-of-print collectible card game produced by Decipher, back in the early 2000s, and I miss it greatly. I miss the game, and I miss the crew I hung out with that played the game, and I miss that it, along with something called Magic: The Gathering, was always there to fill in the gaps, to kill time, to make memories. That said, Lord of the Rings LCG is not the same thing as that now forgotten friend, but it is an upcoming, free single-player and cooperative multiplayer card game based on one of my favorite things ever. It’s already on my Steam wishlist and going for the market dominated by the likes of Hearthstone.

Release date: Early 2018

Long Gone Days

Please do not confuse this with Days Gone, that open-world action-adventure game where you play as some generic-looking dude trying to survive in a world overrun by really fast, mindless, feral creatures that want to do you great harm. No thank you. Instead, Long Gone Days is a 2D modern-day character-driven RPG that combines elements from visual novels, shooters, and dystopian fiction. You play as Rourke, a soldier from an underground unrecognized country named “The Core”, after he’s deployed to a mission in Kaliningrad, Russia. There, he discovers the truth about the operation and decides to desert. It’s written, developed, and illustrated by Camila Gormaz, and I think it looks particularly neat.

Release date: February 2018

The Swords of Ditto

Here’s the quick summary: The Swords of Ditto is a compact action RPG that creates a unique adventure for each new hero of legend in the relentless fight against the evil Mormo. Uh-huh. The game’s core mechanic involves the legacy of the game’s playable heroes, kind of like in Rogue Legacy, and that’s all well and good, but I’m honestly coming to this for its art and animation over anything else.

Release date: sometime in 2018

Legendary Gary

Speaking of slick-looking art and animation, take a look at Legendary Gary. The titular character is evidently a mess, and he’s trying to become a better person. Gary spends his evenings playing Legend of the Spear, a fantasy adventure game in which the hero and his friends journey through strange lands and engage in hand-to-hand combat deadly creatures. Naturally, these battles take place on a hexagonal grid, and on each turn, all fighters act simultaneously. This means you must decide what action each member of your party will perform. Sounds like the game is split between this type of gameplay and dealing with Gary’s normal, everyday life. Also, Evan Rogers, the game’s developer, is a Giant Bomb fan, and that’s plain cool, duder.

Release date: early 2018

Knights and Bikes

Knights and Bikes, from Foam Sword and the second one on this being published by Double Fine (I’ll let you figure out which is the other one yourself), is a hand-painted action-adventure set on a British island in the 1980s. You’ll play as Nessa and Demelza, tough imaginative girls who are exploring the island in a Goonies-inspired fashion. Heeey, youuu guysss. Looks like the adventure will see them riding their bikes right into danger, seeking treasure, and solving ancient mysteries.

Release date: TBA

There you go, a whole batch. I fully expect more to pop up unexpectedly over the year because, alas, I can’t know about every single game coming into existence at any given moment.

What titles are you most looking forward to in the coming year? Speak up about ’em in great detail in the comments section below. Fill me in on the ones I’m not calling out. Share and enjoy.