11 votes

What games have you been playing, and what's your opinion on them?

What have you been playing lately? Discussion about video games and board games are both welcome. Please don't just make a list of titles, give some thoughts about the game(s) as well.

14 comments

  1. Akir
    Link
    So quite a while ago, I was doing a playthrough of gay VNs, and I mentioned that there was one more game I had to play to make the 'collection' complete. I finally got around to it last weekend...
    • Exemplary

    So quite a while ago, I was doing a playthrough of gay VNs, and I mentioned that there was one more game I had to play to make the 'collection' complete. I finally got around to it last weekend with Adastra.

    Boy did that throw me through a curveball.

    The thing about Adastra is that it starts off with a kind of goofy dumb concept, but it's clear that the writer wouldn't have been happy if it was just another dumb porn VN. Oddly enough, that leads to something of a problem for it; while it's relative chastity works fine within the context (and in fact, having the main character willing to have sex with any of the characters at all is something of a stretch because you play as a human being among aliens - but if you're not here for this fantasy element, you've got much bigger problems with your interpretation), you spend the entirety of the game surrounded by characters who even when fully clothed are showing off their torsos and are also very commonly in their underwear or completely nude. You can't romance any of the other characters, which makes the one you do romance feel somewhat forced given that the inciting incident for the story is that that one romancable character, Amacus, has kidnapped you and essentially shipwrecks you on his planet moon.

    That being said, there's plenty about Adastra that is to be praised. The Author, Howly, did a great job in creating an enriched and interesting world. I particularly like the concept of a godlike yet explicitly imperfect "parent" species, which also is used as a Science Fiction explanation why all these species are so similar - they're all "child" species that came from their DNA, as well as a source of fantastical "parental technology" that is functionally identical to magic.

    Beyond anything, the real meat in Adastra is the work put into the characters, their personalities, their motivations, and how those aspects are put into action. The player character is a bit player in a political drama, and while most of that drama is kept aside for the first act, by the second act each of the players start to show their cards, alliances shift, and your understanding of their motivations become more nuanced and interesting. While the political system is extremely simple, the way the game is played is actually fairly complex. Alexios is a particularly great example; he first appears as if he's a great friend who will be a co-conspirator, but by the end he actually reveals himself to be one of the most complex, seemingly contradictory character of them all; your player character actively wonders at the end how he hasn't been executed for the things he gets away with.

    Littered throughout the story, though, are little pieces of gold. There are these little bits that clearly have things to say about real life. The political issues of Adastra clearly are reflective of how things work in our world right now. Wolven society is so entrenched in inequality that even the people who are trying to solve the problem are hesitant to acknowledge them out loud. One of the more relevant societal problems they have is that open homosexuality is frowned upon, even though the game itself seems to run on gay porn logic - there's literally only one character who isn't depicted or implied to have had sex with men, and there is a public role that seems to exist specifically to allow royalty to have male lovers. It's almost like Howly is trying to say something there.

    While I found the ending of Adastra to be very fulfilling, it's also just a bit disappointing. A lot of problems at the end get fixed by an almost literal deus ex machina. But if Howly succeeded in making you fall in love with Amicus, then it will provide you with some very tender moments. I began to read this series of VNs specifically with hope that I would find one where there's a sex scene that's more than just a tool for self-gratification, and honestly, Adastra is the one that I think gets closest to it.

    Even though I found the ending to be very satisfying, I still have to conclude that Adastra is a very imperfect work of art. It's constantly marred by how it doesn't seem to entirely commit to one vision; if it's a romance game, it's far too long and complex. And if it's a character driven political space opera, there's too many thirsty distractions. And the most painful part of that is that I feel that with a bit of effort it could have actually pulled it all off. If you were given the option of romancing all of the characters, you would have been able to explore their personalities and politics to an even greater degree.

    But no matter what problems I have with Adastra, I cannot deny that my heart wants to see more works like it. Between this and Echo, Howly has one specific thing that makes his works truely amazing, and that's the sincerity with which he describes his world. Our world is saturated with straight romances written from the perspective of either genders, and the truth of the matter is that gay relationships do have some fundamental differences from straight relationships; we don't live in a world of true equality, and we probably never will. And the thing that makes Howly's work so powerful is how he brings up those things casually without saying "hey, this is a gay thing" - it's hard to describe how that sense of authenticity and realness makes you connect with the work. And when you realize exactly how rare this kind of realness is, it leaves you with a sense of loneliness that actually hurts. It's a hunger you've been ignoring for so long that it just became a part of your reality.

    While I have criticized his two completed works for not having enough sex, in reality I'm kind of grateful for it, because while sex is an important part of being gay (or even just being alive for that mater), it's far from the only thing that's important. And in that respect, I think I actually found something much more valuable than what I was originally looking for. And in that respect, all of those imperfections I found just make Adastra all the more perfect in spite of them.

    9 votes
  2. [2]
    bkimmel
    Link
    TMNT: Shredder's Revenge Been years since I played a beat-em-up but this one is undeniably superbly balanced, clever and fun. It's made me think back to other 2.5d beat-em-ups I enjoyed in the...

    TMNT: Shredder's Revenge
    Been years since I played a beat-em-up but this one is undeniably superbly balanced, clever and fun. It's made me think back to other 2.5d beat-em-ups I enjoyed in the days of arcades like D&D Tower of Doom/Mystara, Simpsons, etc.

    6 votes
    1. hook
      Link Parent
      If you're looking for one that is mechanically superb and has fighting-game-style combos, despite its first visual impression, Fight'n Rage is an absolute masterpiece.

      If you're looking for one that is mechanically superb and has fighting-game-style combos, despite its first visual impression, Fight'n Rage is an absolute masterpiece.

      4 votes
  3. kfwyre
    Link
    Save Room I picked this up on Steam for pennies during the summer sale. It’s a great hidden gem. The game is a grid-based puzzle game based on the inventory management from Resident Evil 4....

    Save Room

    I picked this up on Steam for pennies during the summer sale. It’s a great hidden gem.

    The game is a grid-based puzzle game based on the inventory management from Resident Evil 4. Weapons, ammo, and items all take up a certain number of grid spaces and have certain configurations, and it’s on you to fit them all into the designated inventory space. It took me about 2 hours to beat and has a native Linux build. It’s easily worth the $3 asking price and a steal at the 50 or so cents I got it for.


    Raft

    I started this up with my husband and some friends. It’s a co-op survival game where you build a raft and go from island to island. We’ve ended up with a nice division of labor. I don’t particularly love planning and building the raft, for example, but I will gather resources like nobody’s business, so I can harvest a whole island’s worth of materials and come back to a fully renovated raft that the others took care of in my absence.

    There are a few quality of life things that I’d like to see added (if components are in our storage, please let us craft things without having to move them to our inventory!), but other than that it’s been very enjoyable.

    I’ll also say that the game has been great exposure therapy for my mild-to-middling thalassophobia. I wouldn’t say it’s completely gone, but my sense of dread from peering into underwater depths has lessened over time.


    Valheim

    Coordinating multiplayer with our friends means we don’t get to play Raft as much as we’d like because lining up everyone’s schedule is tough, so my husband and I picked up this to scratch the survival itch ourselves when our friends are busy.

    We’ve been playing just the two of us and it’s great. Again, he builds, and I hunt and gather, so I’ll come home with dinner to, say, a whole new second floor and new pet boars. Despite it being a “survival” game, it feels charmingly domestic — like we’re role-playing some wilderness couple in The Sims.


    Cloudpunk

    I have mixed feelings about this.

    The atmosphere and environment were stellar, and I loved that the game was fully voiced. It also ran perfectly on the Steam Deck, which wins major points with me.

    That said, if I weren’t on summer break with time to fill, I doubt I would have finished this. The game’s runtime is padded with a lot of repetitive downtime — especially if, like me, you can’t just leave collectibles lying around.

    I actually think they could make one major change that would help that aspect: much of the game is driving around while listening to dialogue. But when walking, you’re stuck watching your character standing there talking to someone for the full conversation. Given how many times this happens and that the conversations always happen in the proximity of nearby collectibles, they could simply let you explore and gather while the conversation is going, much like they let you drive. It would pick up the pace of the game considerably and make getting the collectibles less of a chore.

    Also, for those wondering why I didn’t just ignore the collectibles, it’s because a lot of them are tied to different story and world-building vignettes. You could skip over them and just do the main plot line, but Cloudpunk isn’t so much a cohesive story as it is a composite of different snapshots, so you lose out on a bunch of those if you ignore the collectibles.


    Buck Up and Drive!

    This is a sort of modern twist on an old-school arcade racer. It’s a score attack endless runner that’s intentionally over the top (your car can grind on rails and attack other cars by doing quarter-circle fighting-game-style inputs). Fun for the occasional quick run on the Steam deck.

    I wouldn’t even really mention the game here as it’s not one of the more substantive things I’ve been playing, but I have a particular fondness for it because devs pulled a decently funny stunt. As you’re driving there are various billboards on the side of the road, and occasionally you’ll see a rainbow flag or trans flag on them. The dev, anticipating that some people would be unhappy with this, put an “LGBT Toggle” in the options. When you toggle it, however, instead of getting rid of the flags, it instead changes every billboard to be a rainbow or trans flag.

    I’m not one to take pleasure in “they mad”-style stuff, but I will admit to getting some smirks after reading comments from people who requested bugfixes for the toggle — or couldn’t handle the fact that the billboards are there in the first place.

    6 votes
  4. [2]
    skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm currently playing Wildermyth, because Steam had a sale and both Polygon and Rock, Paper, Shotgun gave it great reviews, specifically praising the semi-procedural storytelling. It's very...

    I'm currently playing Wildermyth, because Steam had a sale and both Polygon and Rock, Paper, Shotgun gave it great reviews, specifically praising the semi-procedural storytelling.

    It's very upfront about being an automation of D&D style game mechanics, like a dungeon master might use in a tabletop role playing game. Your characters have character sheets. Weapons have stats. The monsters have cards, which are shown to you before they appear in combat. There is an irregular grid that your characters and the monsters move on. You take turns. When your characters move, there is an animation showing them hopping to the new location, like you would move a game piece in a board game. The combat arena is sort of rendered in 3D (you can move the camera), but the player, monsters, and scenery objects are all rendered as flat billboards.

    The combat is quite decent, with a nice set of rules for using interesting tactics. Magic works via "interfusion" with objects in the scenery, which gives your wizard spells that come from that object. If I still played tabletop role playing games, I think this would be a nice rule system to use?

    A couple of days in, I think what reviewers must have meant by storytelling is the character interaction, because the actual story is extremely conventional so far. There are cut scenes in the style of a comic strip, with decent dialog, but the story they tell consists of the sort of competent but fairly forgettable random fantasy RPG encounters that a good dungeon master might come up with.

    I'm somewhat disappointed at how much it adheres to role-playing conventions. I would have liked more interesting worldbuilding, rather than the world mostly being a generic setting to motivate monster encounters. (Meanwhile I'm rereading Dune, which strikes me as real storytelling.)

    But maybe I'm just overly jaded. I could see younger players who are fairly new to role playing games getting into this game. It's better than the computer role playing games I grew up with.

    5 votes
    1. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Having played the game myself, when people talk about its amazing storytelling they're not usually referring to the campaigns' plots (which are rather generic, as you said), or your party's...

      I think what reviewers must have meant by storytelling is the character interaction

      Having played the game myself, when people talk about its amazing storytelling they're not usually referring to the campaigns' plots (which are rather generic, as you said), or your party's character interactions, per se. They're typically referring to the game's procedural/emergent storytelling elements. And those really only start to unfold once your characters begin encountering the various life-changing random events, get seriously wounded, maimed or even die, become rivals with each other, fall in love and have kids, and especially once they retire and the next generation of heroes takes over for them in the longer campaigns.

      p.s. Unlike a lot of other RPGs Wildermyth is a game that you really shouldn't savescum in, and that IMO you should even consider playing on a high enough difficulty that you can't consistently succeed on every mission... since failures actually open up even more interesting events, and create way more emergent storytelling opportunities.

      7 votes
  5. Akir
    Link
    So this afternoon - as in a few hours ago - I decided to play Chrono Trigger. In spite of a personal promise to do a lot of exploring and not to rush through it, I already finished the first major...

    So this afternoon - as in a few hours ago - I decided to play Chrono Trigger. In spite of a personal promise to do a lot of exploring and not to rush through it, I already finished the first major story arch and am in the distant future for the first time.

    It’s been forever since I have finished it, but I’ve personally regarded it as a cursed game. I have started it many many times but something always happens to stop me. Playing on computer via emulation has usually ended up with deleted save files for various reasons. I had the PlayStation port and it got eaten by a dog. I was playing the Nintendo DS version on a flash cart but the MicroSD card failed on me.

    But this time I am playing it on a MiSTer, and that thing is magic in so many ways. I’m going to be playing the version of the game that was made directly by its creators, not a port, and the accuracy of FPGA reimplemented hardware is going to show me what it was like when it first came out, more or less.

    With that being said, I am surprised how a game this pretty has such poor animation. What animations are implemented look great, but there are so many instances when they use an animation that doesn’t quite fit the bill.

    5 votes
  6. [3]
    CALICO
    (edited )
    Link
    Elden Ring Friends got me to buy it when it was new, but I was really struggling—mostly to motivate myself to keep playing. I'd never played a Souls-type game before, and according to a friend I...

    Elden Ring

    Friends got me to buy it when it was new, but I was really struggling—mostly to motivate myself to keep playing. I'd never played a Souls-type game before, and according to a friend I was playing it wrong (much to their amusement). For the most part, I was running around the map absolutely confused at what my purpose was. I couldn't figure quite how to progress through the story, and I remain unsure quite what the story is (though my friend promises I'll get a clearer idea of what's going on [they say the story is rather sparse overall?] as I progress from where I am).
    The real lack of helpful guidance from NPCs, or any quality of objective tracker, had me pulling out my hair more than anything else. Other than being pointed in a vague direction with the goal 'become Elden Lord', I was completely lost. Eventually I got bored.

    Since I was a child I've been fairly anti-walkthrough, but I've found it necessary with this one. About a week ago I picked it back up & started to reference this Game Progress Route so I can stop running around frustrated & aimless. While I try to keep it minimal—trying to just look at the listed goals per region—it still feels like cheating. But now I have a checklist of things I need to do before I can do other things.

    I defeated Godrick last night—rather overleveled by this point; but now I'm able to enjoy my time more thoroughly. I feel like I can explore, without being forced to wander. Now I can just be pissed off at some of the bullshit combat instead.

    I'm enjoying things much more, and I'm interested to see what the rest of the game is like.


    Outside of online shooters or strategy games, it really tends to require a strong story & interesting characterization to keep me interested in a game. I've dropped more than a few games once I've decided the story went bad, or disrespected the canon of a previous title (e.g. Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, Halo). This is probably a core piece of my struggle trying to care about Elden Ring, before I went to google for help.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      Wes
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      From loves to tell stories in indirect ways. Elden Ring has a massive story; far more in depth than any of their previous titles, but it's rarely given to you in lore dumps. It's told in the...

      From loves to tell stories in indirect ways. Elden Ring has a massive story; far more in depth than any of their previous titles, but it's rarely given to you in lore dumps. It's told in the environments, the item descriptions, and the personal journeys of the characters you meet. To better understand characters, pay special attention to their names, insignias, and even accents, as these help hint at relationships.

      Without giving anything away, I'll drop some provocative questions as to the bigger picture stuff.

      Questions
      1. What relationship do these demigods have to Marika, and to each other? Are there alliances or enemies among the royal family?
      2. Who are those that "live in death"? Why are they opposed by the Golden Order?
      3. Why might some oppose the Golden Order even though they appear "blessed"?
      4. What is the Greater Will, and what is its relationship to the Two Fingers?
      5. The Lands Between has been sundered by war. What exactly were they fighting over?
      6. Is there something unseen just beyond the veil?

      I hope you enjoy the game!

      5 votes
      1. TheRtRevKaiser
        Link Parent
        Item descriptions are a pretty major source of lore. It reminds me of playing Destiny.

        Item descriptions are a pretty major source of lore. It reminds me of playing Destiny.

        3 votes
  7. [2]
    UntouchedWagons
    Link
    I've been playing Timespinner, a Metroidvania game that has a time manipulation mechanic. I've never played a metroidvania game before. The game has an easy mode where you can't die as far I can...

    I've been playing Timespinner, a Metroidvania game that has a time manipulation mechanic. I've never played a metroidvania game before. The game has an easy mode where you can't die as far I can tell which is good for me because I would have died a thousand times in the ~3 hours I've put in so far. There's characters that give you quests but they're not distinctive from other NPCs so I'll talk to one, go to another screen and come back and talk to them not realizing I just talked to them. There's no quest log either and I've had to look up walkthroughs numerous times to figure out where I'm supposed to be going.

    4 votes
    1. hook
      Link Parent
      I haven't played it (yet), but apparently it is more Castlevania than Metroid in it that its world is not as branched out and lacks shortcuts / sequence breaks. Just some context w.r.t. others in...

      I haven't played it (yet), but apparently it is more Castlevania than Metroid in it that its world is not as branched out and lacks shortcuts / sequence breaks.

      Just some context w.r.t. others in the genre.

      A great resource: https://metroidvaniareview.com/2018/11/09/timespinner/

      1 vote
  8. JCPhoenix
    Link
    Back to playing The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. It's a Phoenix Wright game. I believe I'm nearly halfway through it. I've written about it before here, the game sometimes being a bit to...

    Back to playing The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. It's a Phoenix Wright game. I believe I'm nearly halfway through it. I've written about it before here, the game sometimes being a bit to verbose, even for what's essentially a visual novel. But overall, it's fun and lighthearted. Enjoying playing it again.

    Not really playing yet, but keeping an eye on: Last Oasis. Early access apocalyptic Survival-ish and MMO-ish game. I love and hate this game, which means I love it. But the development has been less than stellar over the last year 2yrs or so. 4 "seasons" of playtests and I feel like it's gotten progressively worse. However, the devblogs started coming out again in preparation for Season 5 and the direction they're taking the game this time around seems promising. They're leaning more into the MMO elements, which I think is the right call. Very much reminds me of Eve Online, which is probably one of my favorite non-consensual PVP games. We shall see though. Survival + MMO is a difficult combination, because some part of their main differentiators are kinda antithetical. Survival games tend to have short runs (ie play for a week, then all progress is completely wiped and everyone starts over), while MMOs obviously never wipe, due to the time investments. MMOs tend to value community, even if competitive, while survival games can be toxic PVP slaughterfests. So yeah, we shall see.

    3 votes
  9. grahamiam
    Link
    Across the Obelisk is a Slay the Spire clone - it has four characters you control instead of one, it has more carry over from run to run, and it has multiplayer (but the mp is just grouping your...

    Across the Obelisk is a Slay the Spire clone - it has four characters you control instead of one, it has more carry over from run to run, and it has multiplayer (but the mp is just grouping your chars with theirs in a same size party and controlling your chars). It's got some good ideas, and the right amount of complication (maybe a little bloated), but it is way too slow. Each monster casts 1-4 spells, each character casts 2-6 spells per round, and the fights last forever, making it really boring. There's also very little variation between runs. I don't have a lot of faith in them improving it, though, and maybe this is dumb on my part, but many of its spell names copied verbatim from WoW, which makes me think the devs are pretty lazy.

    2 votes