Thursday, February 4, 2016

Witness The Turn

I'm at a pivot point.

I finally finished Knights of the Old Republic, as a Jedi Revan. I even managed to win Bastila back to the light side after she had been turned by Darth Malak while in his hands. Malak was killed, undone by his own hubris and the weaknesses of the dark side in the end. Isn't that always the way? It felt good to finally conclude the business between myself and this game after such a long time. I'm really looking forward to the Obsidian Studios-developed sequel which I'll play at some point.

For backlog diligence this week, I tried out Rage, the id Software shooter from 2011. Megatextures. It's got a great look, technically, and if it weren't for Borderlands already doing something similar, and more recently Mad Max itself entering gaming, Rage would also have a niche, artistically. Which would be nice, because mechanically there is nothing special about this game from the first couple of hours. It's by id, so the shooting is solid. There's also ATV and buggy driving, which seems fine, and faux-open world trappings and light RPG systems. I had a decent time in the first few missions, but I see no reason to play more, what with all the other potentially and actually better games at my fingertips.

A while back I played through Warhammer 40:000 Kill Team on PS3. It was not great by any means, but the PC version was very cheap recently so I picked it up on Steam for another go at greater fidelity. It's a very stupid game, and roughly made, like a bad old arcade game or something from the PS1 or N64 generation. I wanted to kill a few moments with it, though, so there you have it.

I'm keeping at The Witness, as well. I've activated two lasers, for what that's worth. One was in and under the desert, and the other the colored glass greenhouse elevator area. I wish I had some idea of what I'm supposed to do at the vaguely Asian temple area, with the diamond shaped puzzles on the garden wall, or the glass puzzle near the harbor with the twin lines. I did the apples-in-the-trees puzzle set last night, and I guess I'll roam the island for some more low hanging fruit when next I load up the game.

And I'm still leaning toward some Dawn of War II: Retribution soon.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hit and Miss

Sometimes even good games can miss the mark for us personally, for whatever reason.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has never really clicked with me, despite how plainly well designed and executed everything about it is. I certainly admire the game, and enjoy sessions of it, but it's one I have to make myself play. Even some of the best games require pushing through at times, but for whatever reason XCOM is always an uphill battle for me. I reached a mission last week that requires me to board an alien ship, and came across my first of the floating disc aliens, which promptly ended the runs of my entire squad. Now I am left with a bunch of rookies to face the same gauntlet, and I fear for the future of the XCOM initiative, and the world.

I checked out Payday: The Heist (yes, even though Payday 2 has been out for years at this point) as my P game for my mini backlog project. It was surprisingly fun playing alone with bots filling out the rest of my crew. I did the bank robbery heist, and thought seriously about going back to play more, probably trying the street battle scenario a la Heat, but then decided that was OK, I'd actually had enough. I should check out the sequel sometime.

This weekend saw some real leaps of progress in KOTOR. I started out just having arrived on Kashyyyk looking for the third piece of the star map, progressed through that and the scenario that followed which involved escaping Darth Malak's starship and the grand revelation that I was Darth Revan (before my turn as the light side boy scout I am now playing), and finally through the Korriban section of the game and acquiring the final piece of the map to the Stellar Forge. I think I must be pretty close to the end, now. Bastila is apparently being held by Malak, who is apparently also on the way to the Stellar Forge for some reason. I've heard Bastila can be turned to the dark side, but I'm unaware of whether it is a certainty or not. Perhaps it depends on what path the player character has taken. I'm squeaky clean, since for the most part the dark side options to me seem a little too moustache-twirling for me to roll with in this game. I've read that KOTOR II deals much more in shades of gray. I may play a bit more of a conflicted character in that game when the time comes.

Another very well done game that I'm not sure is really doing it for me is The Witness. I've never been the biggest fan of puzzles for puzzles' sake, but I do like a nice immersive world with enigmas spread about, and the game definitely has that. I'm not sure what portion of the puzzles I've done thus far, but I'd guess it's somewhere around 20%, probably. I've been wandering from place to place, abandoning areas as soon as they get a little too head-scratchingly obtuse. It's a neat game, to be sure, and I'll certainly keep plugging away at it, I just don't know if I'll ever figure it all out. I don't even know the totality of what there is to figure out, at this point.

For the next week or so, I'm really looking forward to finishing KOTOR. I'm not sure where to go from there, but perhaps back to Dawn of War II?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reading Ramp-Up

I haven't really written a book round-up post since finishing Moby Dick last year. It's mostly been Horus Heresy stuff since:

Fear To Tread - The story of the Blood Angels legion being led into a trap early in the heresy timeline. Sanguinius' sons are attacked by previously unknown daemon forces from the warp in an attempt to remove them from the greater battle soon to happen elsewhere. This one was alright. It's always good fun to read about a legion without much background in the story thus far. Not incredibly memorable, though.

Shadows of Treachery - a collection of novellas and short stories mostly about the Imperial Fists and Night Lords legions. Very entertaining, especially the ones featuring Curze.

Angel Exterminatus - Fulgrim leads Perturabo into the Eye of Terror, attempting to kill him as an offering to Slaanesh. Perturabo escapes, but Fulgrim is still able to attain his daemon form, and the Emperor's Children vanish. The Iron Warriors go deeper into the warp maelstrom. I really enjoyed this one. It was good to learn something about Perturabo and his legion, and to see Fulgrim reach his apotheosis.

Betrayer - Lorgar and Angron rampage across Ultramar feeding the warp storms that isolate it and the Ultramarines from the greater heresy. I'm only about halfway through this one, but am really, really liking it. I had no idea the World Eaters could be fleshed out so compellingly, and it's so good to have Argel Tal and Lorgar back after the events of The First Heretic.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions - NOT a Horus Heresy novel, though some of the worlds it describes do seem pretty dystopic. It's an interesting blend of 1880's Britain social satire and geometric thought experiments. It was pretty short, and a nice palate cleanser between a couple of the aforementioned romps.

Focus Leads to Completion, Completion Leads to Progress

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - Someone slandered the revered name of this game recently, claiming another, more recent game could be better. I checked, and no, no game is better.

Rocket League - Had a quick game the other day, scored a goal. Very fun!

Orion: Dino Beatdown/Dino Horde/Prelude - Dumb Sci-Fi Battlefield-like with universally hostile dinosaurs in the environments. Seemed alright, but few players were on the servers, and the production values just aren't where they need to be in a game like this.

KOTOR update - This is where I've been spending most of my gaming time. I must be around a third or more of the way in, now. I am probably getting near the end of the Manaan section, the first planet I am visiting on my quest for the Star Map. There are three others after this one, and probably one or two more endgame locations to hit after that. I still lack two companions, the fan favorite HK-47 being one, the other unknown to me. Unless it's potentially Malak? I'm definitely enjoying this game. I believe I'm further in now than I ever managed to get before, but I don't recall exactly where it was I left off, previously.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Roleplaying in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

I've been on a real Elder Scrolls kick lately. I've mentioned previously spending some time with Skyrim and Morrowind lately; the latter has given me the slip once again, I'm here to report. Or maybe I'd just rather spend time with its younger, prettier, and more friendly cousins. I think I'll get back around to Skyrim eventually, for the long haul, but in the throes of my recent fascination with the series, I had to check out Daggerfall, the only one of the games I had not played.

It didn't go over so well. I had a better time playing Arena for a short while, as a matter of fact. That's partly on me, though. I didn't RTFM like I knew I should have, and so I completely missed the fact you can look up and down in the game world, and also easily rebind keys. These follies as well as the game's inherent bugginess--my first character spawned knee-deep in the floor, unable to ascend stairs--put me off it sooner than was probably merited. That's OK, though. I have a history of coming back around to this series.

Last, and probably least, I picked up The Elder Scrolls Online in the recent Steam sale. Never was a game less necessary, but that said, there is something compulsive to it's playability. I liken it to junk food, the type of air-injected, sodium-laced carbohydrate empty calorie crap we all know is no good, but can't keep ourselves form engaging with all the same. It's all too easy to just jump right in and grind out some mindless quests and experience points in a bland, non-challenging setting and circumstance, as compared to challenging myself to progress in something requiring thought. I have an Orc Templar who is level 7 or 8, focused on heavy armor and two-handed weapons and healing skills. I guess I'm trying to be a tank, if I ever happen to play with other humans in this game. Since it's subscription-free, I guess that's not entirely implausible.

Jumping into our space ship and engaging our FTL drive, let's get galactic. I'm circling back around to Elite: Dangerous. I've had some podcast listening time free lately, and I still have a long way left to traverse back to inhabited space to unload this wealth of exploration data I've been carrying. I'll have been away so long the game will have shifted around me in my absence. I hope this data is still worth something. There's a new arcade mode to the game called CQC, which they somehow reconcile with your in-galaxy persona via your pilot ranking. I may check that mode out in the next week.

Finally, back to roleplaying, but remaining in the space variety, I'm playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic again. I've never made it more than maybe a third of the way into the game thanks to bugs and attrition, but this attempt is going well, so far.

I'm playing a light side Revan (of course I know the twist), though I have made a mistake or two, most notably proceeding with breaking the law in order to duel to the death with Bendak Starkiller. I was under the impression that killing him was OK, as it was to fulfill a government ordered bounty, but I got dark side points anyway, either due to participating in bloodsport to accomplish the end, or simply for the fact I killed him in cold blood--though wouldn't a hot blooded kill also be giving into the dark side? If killing itself is of the dark side, then why don't I suffer a penalty for all the trash mobs I take down wandering the world? Is it because they are hostile to me before I am to them? Perhaps that's the rationale. Either way, Bendak's blaster is apparently the best in the game, so I'm proceeding with this mistake as part of my character's background. After all, it's the least of black marks in his history.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Wrap-Up GOTY and BOTY

Twenty-fifteen. It was a heck of a year for video games. Here are my picks, the absolute cream of the crop.

My Game of the Year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Honorable Mention: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

There were a number of other great games this year, such as Fallout 4, Invisible, Inc., Her Story, and more, many more, I haven't even played. Games as a hobby just keeps getting better.

Past years:
2014: Elite: Dangerous/The Banner Saga
2013: Spelunky/Hearthstone
2012: Dota 2/Diablo III
2011: The Witcher 2/SpaceChem
2010: Mass Effect 2/Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
2009: Demon's Souls/Red Faction: Guerilla
2008: Metal Gear Solid 4/Gears of War 2
2007: BioShock/Halo 3

Backlog-wise, I added fewer by far titles to my list than in any other recent year, having (probably) shrunken the list along the right side of this web page over the last year, at least by a few titles.

I didn't complete a whole hell of a lot of games this year, rather focusing on discrete goals within a smaller pool of at times very large games. Here is my list of 26 accomplishments, in reverse chronological order:

Game of Thrones (Episode 6)
Fallout 4 (Institute)
Game of Thrones (Episode 5)
Game of Thrones (Episode 4)
Game of Thrones (Episode 3)
Game of Thrones (Episode 2)
Game of Thrones (Episode 1)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Chapter 2)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Chapter 1)
The Taken King (Destiny)
House of Wolves (Destiny)
The Dark Below (Destiny)
Old World Blues (Fallout: New Vegas)
Dead Money (Fallout: New Vegas)
Her Story
Lonesome Road (Fallout: New Vegas)
The Price of Neutrality (The Witcher)
Monk to 70 (Diablo III)
Side Effects (The Witcher)
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China
Damn Those Swamps! (The Witcher)
Crusader to 70 (Diablo III)
Assassin's Creed Rogue
Warcraft III (Humans)
Witch Doctor to 70 (Diablo III)

Past years' totals:

I have a prospective list of 2016 plays worked up, in a post below. We'll see how that plays out, of course. I have already played some Skyrim and KOTOR, for what that's worth.

Reading-wise, 2015 was a pretty dismal year. I spent nine or ten months not reading Moby Dick before finally buckling down and getting through it, and enjoying it, after all. Otherwise it was just a year of Warhammer 40K fiction, mostly Horus Heresy books. The list:

Deathwatch: Xenos Hunters
Moby Dick; or The White While
Fear to Tread
Shadows of Treachery

I'll finish Angel Exterminatus (another Horus Heresy novel) soon, and then go for something a little more... literate, I suppose is the word. My 2016 reading goal is merely to feel better at the end of the year about what I read than I do this year.

Book of the Year: Moby Dick
Honorable Mention: Shadows of Treachery

Monday, December 21, 2015

RPG Bingo Bango Bongo

I'm not sure what it is about me and ricocheting between roleplaying games at the moment, but I'm having a good time.

I got to thinking about Morrowind for some reason, perhaps in reflection about the recent bouts of Skyrim and Arena I've played. It's always been the one that got away from me. I've taken multiple runs at it, but something always causes them to be aborted. Most recently, on a modded install, I got a good way down the Thieves' Guild quest line before something caused the install to be corrupted, which I guess took the save files with it.

This time, I'm playing vanilla, without even having hacked the resolution. There's something pure about doing so. I created a Redguard Knight, and I'm roleplaying appropriately chivalrously, so far down the main story path. I would love to complete the game at some point, but who knows if that will ever happen?

UnderRail, a post-apocalyptic roleplaying game--one heavily influenced by the first couple of Fallout games--just recently came out of Early Access on Steam. I bit, firstly out of genuine interest, and secondly as a gag to talk about it in place of another game with a similar sounding title on the Game Bytes podcast.

It feels like a not-that-distant cousin of Fallout. It has a very similar isometric point of view, combat uses the same turn-based action point system, and much of the game is presented in a similar fashion. I'm not far enough in to really speak for the writing, but the setup seems interesting thus far. That I'd describe as Metro 2033. So, Fallout 1/2 mechanics and play meet Metro's setting, though it's not apparent where on Earth (if it is Earth) the game is set, at least to this point.

The one very interesting innovation I've seen so far is in it's optional (you can choose a more traditional variant at the game's outset) experience system, called the oddity experience system. Under these rules, experience points are awarded not for combat, but for discovering odd artifacts and effects throughout the world. I only need 4 xp to level up to level 2, and I have three now, one from completing an early quest and two from finding interesting objects in seemingly random locations. Both objects were written documents providing further background on the world's factions, which is also an interesting choice. It seems like a cool idea with potential to heighten the roleplaying experience.

Monday, December 14, 2015

First Half of December 2015 in Play

Skyrim is on the list I made for 2016. Something about it drew me in very rapidly after having finished up Fallout 4. I think I was done with the latter for now, but not completely done with the way it plays, generally.

I thought I'd dip back in just to get a refresher on where my character was and what the game felt like, and I decided to stick around for a while. I'm currently playing it with a mind to explore the Skyrim civil war from both sides, and with a restriction on fast travel. I'm walking from place to place doing random side quests, trying to get a feel for the lay of the land. Previously, I had built my character to focus on archery, heavy armor, and sneaking. I'm mostly keeping to that, but subbed out the heavy armor for light. I also have a nice two-handed weapon and some light magic for added utility. As a Nord, and being fond of role playing, I'm thinking I may side with Ulfric Stormcloak to pull Skyrim out from under the thumb of the Imperials, but I do want to visit the Imperial stronghold to find out what they're all about before committing.

Curiosity got the better of me this weekend, and I also spent a good deal of time installing and making playable the first Elder Scrolls game, Arena. It's taken a lot of research and tweaking on DosBOX, but I've got it in a satisfactorily playable state now, and I'm getting a feel for the genesis of the series. It seems like a very, very large game, even greater in breadth than the later games, though much more shallow. Out in the overworld, I'm not clear whether it's possible to walk from city to city across all of Tamriel, or the fast travel system is required. I'm thinking it may be the latter, because I began the game on The Summerset Isle, and the first major plot quest has me headed to Hammerfell.

These are the major realms of the world of The Elder Scrolls, which later games are restricted to only one of: Morrowind (actually just the island of Vvardenfell within the greater province), Cyrodiil, and Skyrim. The second game in the series, Daggerfall, is, I believe, set across two of the provinces, Hammerfell and High Rock. It's interesting to me that this series has been so faithful to its initial world concept, created over 20 years ago, now. Many of the city names on the map of Skyrim in the game of the same name are the same as the cities on the map of the province of Skyrim in Arena. The shape of the geographic area is the same, and the cities are right where they were back in 1994. That is the sort of thing that I really appreciate, kind of like the Metal Gear series' long faithfulness to its own canon. I am probably not going to complete Arena or anything, but I do want to play around within it some more before I'm satisfied with having checked it out.

Elsewhere, I just barely popped back in on Mass Effect and STALKER: Clear Sky, so little it's barely worth mentioning them other than to say that they are on my mind.

The other thing I had been meaning to do and finally got around to was to check out Invisible, Inc. This is a very cool tactical stealth game. It's turn-based and plays kind of like an X-Com or Final Fantasy/Ogre Tactics game, but with the emphasis being on avoiding detection and combat as much as possible. I'm not sure combat is really even possible beyond using a taser to neutralize guards for a few turns. There is a strategic layer to the game as well, much more in line with X-Com than anything else I can think of. I really like what I've played so far, but I think I'll have to force myself into continuing, just like X-Com itself. I've just been in a different headspace lately, I guess. I'd like to orient myself more toward strategy games, though, as I've outlined, so I'll have to commit to giving it more time alongside continuing my roleplaying games.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2016 Prospective Play

I want to compile a short list of games as high-priority to play in the coming year. There are a great number of games still on my backlog, and I want to check out as many of those as time allows, but there are a few key titles I especially need to play, and I will attempt to list those here.

I think it needs to be a short list, ten or fewer. I thought about twelve, one a month, but realistically I think the number actually addressed will be between five and ten. There are a couple of genres I specifically want to catch up on, so I may go heavy on the strategy and role playing in 2016.

Some of these will be games I have currently in progress, and some altogether new. Expansions are considered implicit in the base title.

Here's a first draft:
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Dawn of War II: Retribution
Warcraft III
StarCraft II
Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes II
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
The Walking Dead Season 2
Mass Effect 3
The Witcher 3
Wasteland 2
Baldur's Gate II
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age Origins

OK, I over shot 10 a little, but I don't think that's bad considering the overwhelming size of my backlog. Of course this is a list comprising potentially hundreds of hours of play, so who knows how viable it is. Right now it's more like a long-term road map than anything. Many of these would be mutually exclusive of any of the others, with the way I play games.

Here's a little more realistic take, with strikethrough representing games further down the priority/requisite chain:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Dawn of War II: Retribution
Warcraft III
StarCraft II
Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes II
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
The Walking Dead Season 2
Mass Effect 3
The Witcher 3
Wasteland 2
Baldur's Gate II
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age Origins

That brings me down to 13. I don't know that I can really refine it that much more, but considering how many of these are currently in progress or relatively short (Walking Dead), I consider this list workable. Mass Effect 3 and The Witcher 3 are already in my rotation and soon to be returning for GOTY consideration, too.

So here's what I'm left with at the moment for my 2016 Prospectus, ranked roughly by current desire to play:

Mass Effect 3
The Witcher 3
The Walking Dead Season 2
Dawn of War II: Retribution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Warcraft III
StarCraft II
Dragon Age II
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Wasteland 2
Baldur's Gate II

With luck, maybe I'll knock five of these off the list in the coming year. This is, of course, completely discounting any 2016 releases, though there's not much on the horizon I am that interested in. I'll have to update this little list at the beginning of January.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Enough of the Commonwealth

That was pretty quick, really. I blew through the main quest line of Fallout 4, in the end siding with the Institute, wiping out both the Railroad and Brotherhood of Steel to cement their control over the Commonwealth. I didn't really feel the need to roam around poking at the non-essential locations and things, having played a whole lot of 3D Fallout over the last couple of years. I did really enjoy the play of the game, and I think it is nicer overall to play than 3 or New Vegas in terms of feel, even though the differences are not huge. The one aspect I'm still not completely sure how I feel about, even after 50 hours, is the new skill point and perk system. It always felt like the perk points were too few and far between to merely increment a core attribute or the effectiveness of a perk I already possessed.

I'm putting it aside after my first play through, planning to come back to it at a later date for another go-round with a different character build and taking a different path through the main quest. The idea is to play this game more in the way I played Oblivion, using several different characters to go through each of the game's guilds and major quest lines. Yes, you never max anything out on any one character, but the game does always feel fresh that way, and you don't get any of that weirdness associated with being both the leader of these guys and the leader of these other guys, too.

I've also finished up Telltale's Game of Thrones game, which I felt really improved as the episodes went on. I wasn't completely sold on it at first, but by the end of the series I was really into it. There will be more coming, they've revealed, and I'm sure I'll partake.

I got a chance to play Rocket League at a friend's house over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and just like everyone's been raving for the last several months, it's a lot of fun. I picked it up in the Steam sale, the only game I did buy, after selling a bunch of trading cards and TF2/Dota 2 items. I'll have to slot it into my non-RPG, non-Strategy slot, those being the two genres I really want to focus on playing more of in the near to mid- term.

Speaking of role playing, I have decided it is finally time to get back to Mass Effect 3 and wrap up the Reaper war and Shepard's saga. It's been long enough that the EA resentment has faded, and the desire to wrap up a loose end has been brought back to the fore. I feel like I am only about 30-40% into the game, at this point, so it may be a while yet.

I have also made it a point to check out Invisible, Inc. before the end of the year. I'll need to get that in soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Post Nukes, A Roleplaying Game

After a very extended time, I have finally moved on from MGSV: The Phantom Pain. In the end I completed all 50 missions, over 100 side ops, all of the dispatch missions, and 10 FOB invasions, as well as stole someone's nuke, developed my own, and decommissioned both.

Winding down MGSV not only took me to the release of Fallout 4, but even a couple of days into that game's period. Fallout is what I'm focusing on now. I'll have to go into more depth on it later, but my initial impressions are that it is more of the same as Fallout 3, with some nice improvements. It feels more like 3, the prior Bethesda Fallout, than New Vegas, which was very much an Obsidian game, clad though it was in Bethesda's clothing.

I'm alright with this duality in the series. These two halves also neatly exist on opposite sides of the former United States. There does seem to be a feel to the East and West Coast Fallout games, which makes good sense lore-wise, as well.

I've been progressing through Telltale's Game of Thrones adventure/roleplaying game, too, and liking it more with each episode. Parts 3 and 4 felt like the series hitting its stride, and I am excited to wrap up the final couple in the next two weeks. I've been playing one a week with Jeremy and LeGrande from the Game Bytes podcast.

I haven't been too concerned with the game backlog in a while. My only real projection into the future at this point is playing more Fallout 4 and finishing out GoT. After that I may go back to dipping into a backlog game weekly, or maybe I'll finally play The Walking Dead season 2, or maybe something completely different will happen. Who can say?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I'm coming off my Metal Gear high, for one of the last times, probably. MGSV has been an incredible time. Every time I fly into or out of a mission area, I can't help but think about how much I love the game. I've done damn near everything there is to do in the game now, at least once, anyway. There are still a lot of Side Ops undone and even about 5 of the optionally difficult Main Ops, though, so there is still a lot of meat on the bone if I ever want to come back to it later on. The main thing I want to do before putting it aside is to build a nuclear weapon. I just need to wait on materials to be processed at my FOB and be transferred over to Mother Base to give the order. It also takes 30 hours real time for the development of the bomb, so I have a few more days' checking in and running of FOB missions to carry out.

The FOB invasions are the toughest part of the game, I think. You have no buddy to spot enemies on these missions, and you are in areas that are much more confined and difficult to sneak through as compared to the rest of the game, with nowhere to run when the shit hits the fan, and it will, thanks to the presence of security cameras, laser grids, drones, and the large numbers guards patrolling many rival FOBs. This is hardcore mode for MGSV. It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't lose your complete deployment cost and suffer a huge hit to your ranking every time you fail an invasion, but thems the breaks. I think I'm something like 7/16 as far as successes and attempts, as of now.

As I wind down The Phantom Pain, I find myself wanting to go back to Ground Zeroes to see how Camp Omega feels now that I am so much more familiar with the game. There's actually a lot more left to do in that game than I ever got around to, as well.

I began Telltale's Game of Thrones series kind of on a whim, kind of because it will slot in nicely before Fallout 4's release, and partly to talk about on the Game Bytes podcast. I'm toward the beginning of the second episode, and kind of lukewarm on it. Story wise, it's fine. I just really dislike the interactive bits of these games. QTEs and perfunctory pointing and clicking are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to game mechanics, and if it weren't for the licenses and stories of Telltale's games, I don't think I would ever touch them. I really liked The Walking Dead season one, but never because of how great it felt to play. It never did. Nevertheless, here I am.

Something made me go back to revisit, however briefly, Shin Megami Tensei IV recently. I may actually play it even more, since I have a peculiar turn-based JRPG combat itch, which I guess stems from the Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle mobile game I've (still) been playing.

Also on the DBZ front, I let curiosity get the better of me and bought Dragon Ball Z Extreme Butoden for the 3DS. It's a 2D fighter by Arc System Works with a lot of Dragon Ball characters in various canonical and non-canonical situations and battles. It's crap in terms of the connective tissue of the package (no production values, terse hackneyed storytelling), but the core fighting and animation is kind of neat and cool looking, I suppose. Mia seems to think it's OK, at least.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Becoming Legend

I've reached the end of the story content in The Phantom Pain, and now I know what it means to "Become Legend," perhaps not in the way Bungie's Destiny marketing suggests, but still. There is a final plot twist in TPP that is a dramatic re-framing of everything that has gone before since Venom Snake's awakening in the Cyprus hospital. It didn't sit right with me immediately, but after ruminating on it some, I think it's alright. Kojima was basically able to have his cake and eat it too in that he was able to show what Big Boss was up to and what was going through his head in the decade leading up to the first Outer Heaven uprising, and not do so at the same time. He was able to write himself out of a corner (when and how does Big Boss become the bad guy) by adding another dimension to the story. 'When you view it from this angle, there is no corner!'

If there's never another MGS game, I guess that will be fine by me. It's been an amazing series. TPP is a hell of a game. On its own merits it is one of the best games of the year, and an excellent send off for Kojima Productions and Metal Gear. Konami may produce more Metal Gear games, but I wouldn't count on them being as special as the Kojima-directed ones to date. There's substantial doubt that Konami will be producing much of anything beyond small-scale mobile type stuff from here on out, though.

I continue to play TPP. There are still a number of things I want to do in the single player portion of the game, then there is the pseudo-multiplayer FOB invasion stuff, and at some point Metal Gear Online will be released, as well. I'd like to 100% the game, but that may require S-ranks on all missions, and I'm not sure I'm down for that. I wonder if there are plans to support the game with DLC. I would certainly like to chase down one or two loose ends left dangling after the plot wrap-up.

I'm also still playing Destiny. Lately I've been mainly jumping in and playing a few matches of crucible. The Iron Banner is going on now, and I'm trying to get to the point where I can get a shader or emblem or something from that, in addition to random gear drops. It's something to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Whale

After nearly a year of reading it off and on, mostly off, I finally finished Moby Dick. I liked it, for the most part. Some of the in-depth biological descriptions of whales lost me a bit, but the episodes the story is constructed of were pretty entertaining, and believe it or not I did not actually know how the book ended before reading it.

Granted, drawing the reading out over 10 months didn't help my understanding or memory of all the events within, but a quick read of the Wikipedia page of the book helped to job my memory and let me get a grip on the entirety of the story and structure of the book.

My slow pace reading Moby Dick shouldn't reflect on the book's capacity to be enjoyed, but rather on how busy I have been with other concerns this year, and how entertained I have been in other arenas lately. I'm looking forward to getting back into reading in a bigger way soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The War Grind

Playing through The Phantom Pain at a very reasonable pace really puts me in the mindset of a longtime private military corporation boss. Taking things relatively slowly gives a sense of what a long period of this type of operation might do to a character, the time it fills and how it functions as a segue from one time in their life to another. This is the real exploration of TPP, after all, filling in a crucial missing link in Big Boss's character evolution. As I progress through the missions and side ops I am slowly building up Diamond Dogs' presence in the market and on the battlefield, but also in the minds of allies, foes, and rivals. I sometimes hear two guards speaking to one another about the rumors that Big Boss has been seen in the area, that he's back after what the CIA and the US did to his former outfit, and that he's pissed. There are fears their outfit may one day be up against the legendary soldier and his own.

Evolving my own play style over weeks and many different missions and emergent situations also lets me further inhabit the role of a veteran operative. Sometimes everything goes sideways and you have no choice but to go loud in a big, brutal way. I try my best not to kill my fellow soldiers, even when we are at odds, but the mission must come first. I feel like this is true to Big Boss's character as spelled out by canonical cut scenes throughout the series. The Boss would much rather win you to his side through his charisma and ideology than put a bullet through you. The last plot-critical mission I did involved a troop of child soldiers. The contract was to kill them, and Miller would have had it done that way. Not Big Boss, though. He'd bring them back to base and at least attempt to give them something more approximating a pleasant childhood than they would get in the war-ravaged country they are native to. And that's what we did.

Destiny recently updated to 2.0 and it's primary "Year Two" release, The Taken King, is out. I've been re-acquainting myself with the game for a couple of weeks, now. Because of an improved campaign experience, a streamlined faction reward system, and more total content available to the lone wolf, I think it's in a better place than it was a year ago, but my core complaints are still valid. I find it simply absurd and arrogant and purposefully obstructive as a design practice to artificially limit what content is available to players the way Bungie does by denying matchmaking for certain content. More thoughts on TTK later.