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.

13 comments

  1. TheJorro
    (edited )
    Link
    I've been playing Doom 2016. I didn't mean to be, but the game is a vortex. It's such a perfect confluence of classic FPS gameplay but with modern art and design, and utterly singular in its...

    I've been playing Doom 2016. I didn't mean to be, but the game is a vortex.

    It's such a perfect confluence of classic FPS gameplay but with modern art and design, and utterly singular in its purpose. It's hard to think of a game so focused without the list being filled with small, experimental indie titles. For a big budget AAA title is a little bit surprising, especially after following up Doom 3, but it's very welcome. Doom 2016 is all about killing demons, as many as possible, and as fast as possible. It is a game about doing violence without any guilt.

    There's no skirting around what the game is. You are the Doomguy, now styled as the Doomslayer, and you kill the hell out of hordes of demons. That's it, and that's all it pretends to be. There's no ambiguity about it, everything the game tells you reinforces this to the point of elegance in its simplicity. When you begin, gorgeous first-person canned animations set the stage with Doomguy smashing out of his strange tomb/coffin, immediately ripping apart demons, and smashing data consoles out of his way for daring to slow him down with frivolity such as plot or exposition. The first thing you see in the game proper, after the tutorial, is an open Martian landscape in the way that Oblivion and Fallout 3 first opened up to reveal with all that majesty and splendor, before a shotgun pops up into your view and the Doomguy cocks it, ready to go. You drop down and then begins 12-16 hours of pulse-raising, screaming carnage.

    And what joyous screaming carnage it is. Fast, frenetic, non-stop arena action, separated by moments of exploration and platforming. A focus on mobility throughout keeps it fast and relentless as you don't get a moment to breathe in the middle of the action, instead putting the onus on you to create your own favourable firefights. Swapping through ten different weapons, and then mods on top of them, as you blast through an arena leaves little room to catch your breath or even your thoughts. The levels are designed to reinforce this, each arena offering its own twist on how you may want to path yourself through, which powerups you get access to, and even what combat strategies you'll employ for the enemy variety of that particular fight.

    Then there's the music. Oh boy, the music. The soundtrack in this game really is something else. I'm not much of a metal person in daily listening but Mitch Gordon did an amazing job with this. Usually metal in games is so... blah. I don't know if it's generic but it usually feels like generic chugging guitars and double kicks playing to a predictable tempo and rhythm. But Doom 2016's music is some of the best out there because it doesn't sound like generic heavy metal. It's fast, hard, uses strange rhythms, and makes use of sounds like distortion, feedback, electrical currents, and the theremin to great effect of a magic sci-fi space base gone to hell. It is loud, pounding, and fast. It takes over the entire soundscape and your mind by grabbing attention and then not letting you go.

    And it's damn effective. While playing, I had this conversation with my girlfriend:

    Her: Can you turn that down? I'm sorry but whoever is getting tortured in that game sounds really awful and I don't think I can take much of it.
    Me: That's not screaming, that's the music.
    Her: What? I guess the lyrics or singing is just too much for me.
    Me: There aren't any lyrics either, haha.
    Her: Then what the hell are you playing? It sounds like someone's screaming!
    Me: DOOM.
    Her: Ohhhhhh. Okay, that makes sense, please turn it down.

    She said she had never heard anyone make use of the theremin like this and, upon some thinking, neither could I. Usually it's there to make eerie noises, but to act as a sort of a digital screaming with music? Brilliant, really. When that kicks on in the middle of a firefight, it really kicks the adrenaline level up a notch.

    Even someone who wasn't playing, couldn't see the screen, and had no idea what else was going on found themselves being absorbed by the music and launched into headspace of, well, hellishness. It's not often that a game's soundtrack contains the character of the game in itself, and it's a hell of a lot less common for it to be something other than orchestral or, you know, quieter instrumentals/singing. There's an excellent GDC talk about the making of the music, I recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in how music is made. I found it a very easy to understand and accessible presentation about a subject I don't have the first clue about.

    Every part of Doom 2016 contributes to the sole purpose of shooting the hell of of demons. What little plot there is simply acts as a backdrop to do it. Everyone else in the story (all, like, two NPCs you meet) wants to slow you down, consider what you're doing, think about the possibilities of leveraging hell and the demons. But the Doomslayer is very clear about what his motivation and worldview about demons and hell from the first few moments of the game: nah. They're demons from hell, end of story.

    Instead, it's a tight 12 to 16 hours of sprawling, maze-lite levels that see you running, jumping, climbing, dropping, and blowing up your way through. Everything drives you into a sort of tunnel-vision, moving forward to keep the destruction going. There's a demon in your way, there's ammo and health there too, the music is driving you to keep going faster and faster. Even the art design helps, bouncing between generic looking sci-fi bases and Hell itself, with Heavy Metal-esque organic architecture and caverns—somehow none of it feels generic either, there's a distinct Doom style to it all. You're rarely ever confused about where to go or what the path forward is, the game is designed to keep you moving and running forward, ripping and tearing.

    The language the game makes use of is worth noting, I think. Rip and tear, render flesh from their bones, crush their skulls. I'm pretty sure one of the animations literally involves ripping limbs off and beating a demon to death with it. The focus of the game makes it clear what it's aiming for. Between the art, the music, the levels, and the overall attitude of the Doomguy in this world, it's all about being in a berserker rage against demons. Everything is a distant second to destroying them, including thinking about what you're doing. I don't think this would have worked in any other context—this game is dead simple. Hell demons are bad, and hold no good possibilities for humanity. They don't have any other purpose except to destroy and violate humanity anyway, and we see so many results of that in the game and the world. There's no arguing with them, no empathizing, no negotiating. It's the simple struggle of us versus them. So there's no ambiguity here, there's only the one response: rip and tear. Rend flesh from their bones. No matter what the only two NPCs in the game say, both of whom are clearly in over their heads and evil by trying to join or control Hell.

    The game's focus on killing as much as possible has the interesting effect of being less gross about gore than other games because of this drive to meet a singular purpose. When you perform gory acts, it's simply a means to an end. It doesn't feel gratuitous so much as it feels like the best way to move on as quick as possible. It's not like, say, Mortal Kombat where acts of extreme gore and violence are done in slow-motion just so you can enjoy the cruelty your fighter enacts on the other fighter. It doesn't even feel as gratuitous as a GTA game, where you can sit next to someone you kill and enjoy the consequences of panic, pleas for help, and paramedics trying to revive the victim play out. Half the time, I had to take a step back and think about what the gory Glory Kill I performed even was, because it happened so fast I didn't register the act and I was already thinking about where to look next to get the next demon.

    Doom 2016 makes it all so simple and clear. As a result, it's a game without much by way of pretense. It's self-referential and self-aware about it as well, coming from the understanding that Doom 3 gave when people found it was too slow and too much of a departure from what made Doom 1 and 2 so iconic. The Doomguy is now the Doomslayer, a figure of religious mythology and fear among the demons themselves. You are their demon, and they are afraid of you. The constantly bigger and scarier enemies that come after you are because they know they woke you up, and are afraid of what that means for them. And, again, it's religious for them. You're not simply an entity, you're a figure of legend among them simply for how effectively violent and cruel you are to demons. Demons!

    It's a great set up to basically be the monster, in a game all about destroying monsters with all the prejudice of a genocidal maniac because, really, there's no way to be worse than demons that are literally feasting on human flesh. It's a game that says "come here and do violence, but in a way you won't feel bad about".

    Honestly, it feels a little weird to talk about a game so highly only to praise its call to come and do violence. It reminds me a little of trying to explain what it is about Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, a book that is all about violence as well. Violence is usually a bad thing, to the point where it's inherently a caveat or a caution if something is violent. For it to be used as a theme is extremely precarious—most things fall into schlock or exploitation. Doom 2016 strikes me instead as daring, embracing it fully to the point of being honest and interesting about its drive to explore it. When else can you have the feeling of being in a berserker rage without the sobering reality of the consequences of it? In an era when people are always trying to explore the nuances of the grey area, to learn more about opposing sides, and when games are trying to explore doing less violence in general, Doom 2016 feels unique and honest in its drive to explore and make use of it. It announces what it is loudly from the start, and reinforces it constantly throughout, while reminding you all along that it is simple, dumb, instinctive fun.

    8 votes
  2. somewaffles
    Link
    Replaying Final Fantasy 7 in anticipation for the remake with the Remako Mod and some other minor graphics / audio mods. It's really cool what they were able to achieve with some of the...

    Replaying Final Fantasy 7 in anticipation for the remake with the Remako Mod and some other minor graphics / audio mods. It's really cool what they were able to achieve with some of the pre-rendered backgrounds using neural networks. Results vary, but I turned the mod off for a bit and some areas are night and day.

    As far as the game itself, if you're into turn based combat (I'm not and I still enjoy it probably due to nostalgia), I think it still holds up. The materia system is still fun to mess around with. The one huge flaw that ages the game beyond the graphics is the exploration portions, most noticeably on the world map. You are given very little in terms of direction which can be stupid frustrating at times even though this is probably my 5th full run through of the game. There are countless areas on the world map that are just complete dead ends, that end up requiring a handful of random encounters to get through.

    Regardless, it has for sure gotten me PUMPED for the remake. I couldn't control myself and watched all the leaked gameplay last week. My biggest concern was that they wouldn't be able to capture the goofiness of the original correctly. One thing that I did not remember was how its not a game that takes itself seriously most of the time, and I think that is what gave the game its charm. From what I could tell from the leak, they were able to capture that decently, so I'm still on that hype train.

    6 votes
  3. rkcr
    Link
    In general I only buy games when I intend to play them immediately, but in a moment of weakness I bought two extra games during the Steam summer sale last year. This week I made up for it by...

    In general I only buy games when I intend to play them immediately, but in a moment of weakness I bought two extra games during the Steam summer sale last year. This week I made up for it by actually playing one of them: SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech.

    I'm not that far in, but I'm enjoying it a lot more than Slay the Spire. StS felt too random and haphazard; I did not want to try to cobble together a strategy from whatever the RNG gave me on a particular run, I wanted to try specific strategies. SteamWorld Quest is a lot better for that purpose, as the cards you unlock are preset for each chapter.

    I heard it was on the easier side, so I went in on the hardest difficulty, and that's presented a decent challenge. The combat system is not that complex (so far), but it's interesting enough. The writing is passable, too.

    5 votes
  4. mat
    Link
    Sum total of my gaming this week is playing Goat Simulator for about ten minutes and it was rubbish. I spent more time downloading it than I did playing it. I'd like a new game to get my teeth...

    Sum total of my gaming this week is playing Goat Simulator for about ten minutes and it was rubbish. I spent more time downloading it than I did playing it.

    I'd like a new game to get my teeth into but I'm not sure (a) what sort of thing I fancy playing right now (b) whether I have any money to spare on fun stuff this month.

    On the board game front I was given Dixit for christmas and am hoping to get a game of that going this weekend. People say it's similar to Mysterium which is one of my all-time favourite games.

    4 votes
  5. sky_Pharaoh
    Link
    After playing one of them 5 years ago, dropping it, and rediscovering the series towards the end of last year, I've been deeply in love with the Yakuza series. So far I've beaten Zero, Kiwami, and...

    After playing one of them 5 years ago, dropping it, and rediscovering the series towards the end of last year, I've been deeply in love with the Yakuza series. So far I've beaten Zero, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2, and they're honestly some of the best games I've played. Such well written characters, combined with a good soundtrack, great plots, and super fun, well fleshed out gameplay. I'm patiently waiting for the remastered collection to release next month so I play the rest of the series.

    4 votes
  6. [4]
    FishFingus
    Link
    War Thunder. I'm not very good at it, so I only really log in to get the daily bonus and maybe noodle around in a custom game against bots. For all its problems, it's the only tank game I've found...

    War Thunder. I'm not very good at it, so I only really log in to get the daily bonus and maybe noodle around in a custom game against bots. For all its problems, it's the only tank game I've found that has satisfying movement and damage mechanics. I just wish they'd continue to polish up the sounds and old vehicle models, and add more interesting early vehicles. I'd love to see some more KVs and Shermans...and not as event-only premiums.

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      Litmus2336
      Link Parent
      War Thunder is the best tank game, but it's so grindy I find myself constantly leaving :( What line do you play? AB/RB/SB*? *They got rid of sim, didn't they?

      War Thunder is the best tank game, but it's so grindy I find myself constantly leaving :(

      What line do you play? AB/RB/SB*?

      *They got rid of sim, didn't they?

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        FishFingus
        Link Parent
        I don't know what's been happening with the game modes - I really do just noodle about in bot games. Well, they've added a wave mode called Assault, but that's all I know.

        I don't know what's been happening with the game modes - I really do just noodle about in bot games. Well, they've added a wave mode called Assault, but that's all I know.

        1. Litmus2336
          Link Parent
          Ok, well that's cool! I got 100+ hours of fun before the grind got to me, so I can't complain.

          Ok, well that's cool! I got 100+ hours of fun before the grind got to me, so I can't complain.

  7. [3]
    kfwyre
    Link
    I did next to no gaming this week, as AGDQ took up the time I would normally spend playing. As such, I'm still where I left off with Shenmue. I'm hoping to pick it back up this week, but I'm...

    I did next to no gaming this week, as AGDQ took up the time I would normally spend playing. As such, I'm still where I left off with Shenmue. I'm hoping to pick it back up this week, but I'm unusually busy, so it might have to wait until the weekend.

    Instead, I'll mention something I forgot to talk about in my last post: Superliminal

    The game is an "evening-size" game, and I played through it in two sittings (not in the same evening, however). For the unfamiliar, it's a first-person puzzle game where you play with perspective. The main mechanic of the game is that you can adjust objects' size by making them look bigger or smaller, and then using that to get to where you need to go.

    The game felt like an attempt at Portal meets The Stanley Parable, though it doesn't reach the level of either of those, in my opinion. The game felt like it had a neat idea and it wasn't entirely sure what to do with it. Many of the puzzles using the actual game mechanic were perfunctory, and the narrative wasn't super well-executed in my opinion.

    Spoilers

    Despite finding the story tepid, I will say that I liked the message of the ending. The game gets didactic, but it did so in a way that felt enriching rather than lecture-y.

    I also liked some of the little details in the game along the way. In fact, my favorite part of the game was the hotel portion where each hallway is a different perspective trick. I also liked, in the horror section, how they create suspense using benign setpieces. At one point in a darkened hallway you see what appears to be the head of a person through a window on a door (quite surprising and unsettling, as up to this point there have been no people in the game at all). Turns out it's just a familiar chess piece. The same goes for a stack of boxes that say DIE DIE DIE -- until you approach and you see that they are boxes of DIET SODA.

    I felt these were clever touches that did well to reinforce the theme of the game.

    It wasn't a terrible game, and I'm glad that I played it, I just felt like it didn't rise far enough past "tech demo" for me to really get into it and excited by it.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      grahamiam
      Link Parent
      Have you played The Talos Principle? Curious how you'd compare it, based on your description of Superliminal.

      Have you played The Talos Principle? Curious how you'd compare it, based on your description of Superliminal.

      2 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        I absolutely loved The Talos Principle. One of my all-time favorite games. Whereas Superliminal felt like a glorified tech-demo based off of a single idea, The Talos Principle feels like a...

        I absolutely loved The Talos Principle. One of my all-time favorite games. Whereas Superliminal felt like a glorified tech-demo based off of a single idea, The Talos Principle feels like a fully-realized interpretation of an entire idea, if that makes sense.

        2 votes
  8. 888
    Link
    I picked up a Sega Genesis Mini over the holidays and recently installed Project Lunar on it. Being playing Revenge of Shinobi, Altered Beast, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage which still hold up....

    I picked up a Sega Genesis Mini over the holidays and recently installed Project Lunar on it. Being playing Revenge of Shinobi, Altered Beast, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage which still hold up.

    Have to admit a lot of the games that blew me away as a kid didn’t age well though, and now aren’t much fun. RPGs from that era especially seem like huge grinds.