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    1. May 2024 Backlog Burner: Week 4 Discussion

      Week 4 has begun! This is the last full week of the Backlog Burner. There are only ten days left in May! Post your current bingo cards. Continue updating us on your games! If you did not...

      Week 4 has begun!

      This is the last full week of the Backlog Burner. There are only ten days left in May!

      Post your current bingo cards.
      Continue updating us on your games!

      If you did not participate in previous weeks but want to start this week, that's fine!
      Reminder: playing bingo is OPTIONAL.

      Quick links:


      Week 3 Recap

      8 participants moved 16 games out of their backlogs!
      There were 0 bingo wins (but we are SO close!).

      • 2 participants played free choice
      • 4 participants played standard bingo cards
      • 2 participants played bingo golf

      One participant played a game they had been putting off for 14 years!

      Thus far, a total of 49 games have been played for the May 2024 Backlog Burner.

      Week 3 Game List:

      Week 2 Recap

      Week 2 Recap

      10 participants moved 18 games out of their backlogs!
      There were 0 bingo wins.

      • 1 participant played free choice
      • 7 participants played standard bingo cards
      • 2 participants played bingo golf

      Thus far, a total of 33 games have been played for the May 2024 Backlog Burner.

      Week 2 Game List:

      Week 1 Recap

      Week 1 Recap

      10 participants played 10 bingo cards and moved 15 games out of their backlogs!
      There were 0 bingo wins.

      Game list:

      5 votes
    2. Save Point: A game deal roundup for the week of May 19

      Add awesome game deals to this topic as they come up over the course of the week! Alternately, ask about a given game deal if you want the community’s opinions: e.g. “What games from this bundle...

      Add awesome game deals to this topic as they come up over the course of the week!

      Alternately, ask about a given game deal if you want the community’s opinions: e.g. “What games from this bundle are most worth my attention?”

      Rules:

      • No grey market sales
      • No affiliate links

      If posting a sale, it is strongly encouraged that you share why you think the available game/games are worthwhile.


      All previous Save Point topics

      If you don’t want to see threads in this series, add save point to your personal tag filters.

      9 votes
    3. May 2024 Backlog Burner: Week 3 Discussion

      Week 3 has begun! Post your current bingo cards. Continue updating us on your games! If you did not participate in previous weeks but want to start this week, that's fine! Reminder: playing bingo...

      Week 3 has begun!

      Post your current bingo cards.
      Continue updating us on your games!

      If you did not participate in previous weeks but want to start this week, that's fine!
      Reminder: playing bingo is OPTIONAL.

      Quick links:


      Week 2 Recap

      10 participants moved 18 games out of their backlogs!
      There were 0 bingo wins.

      • 1 participant played free choice
      • 7 participants played standard bingo cards
      • 2 participants played bingo golf

      Thus far, a total of 33 games have been played for the May 2024 Backlog Burner.

      Week 2 Game List:


      Week 1 Recap

      Week 1 Recap

      10 participants played 10 bingo cards and moved 15 games out of their backlogs!
      There were 0 bingo wins.

      Game list:

      13 votes
    4. Save Point: A game deal roundup for the week of May 12

      Add awesome game deals to this topic as they come up over the course of the week! Alternately, ask about a given game deal if you want the community’s opinions: e.g. “What games from this bundle...

      Add awesome game deals to this topic as they come up over the course of the week!

      Alternately, ask about a given game deal if you want the community’s opinions: e.g. “What games from this bundle are most worth my attention?”

      Rules:

      • No grey market sales
      • No affiliate links

      If posting a sale, it is strongly encouraged that you share why you think the available game/games are worthwhile.


      All previous Save Point topics

      If you don’t want to see threads in this series, add save point to your personal tag filters.

      12 votes
    5. Any Kult players?

      I have never played a tabletop RPG before, but was absolutely fascinated with this Kult playthrough that the YouTube algorithm decided to show me for some reason. I watched the whole thing! The...

      I have never played a tabletop RPG before, but was absolutely fascinated with this Kult playthrough that the YouTube algorithm decided to show me for some reason. I watched the whole thing! The "gnostic" backdrop the lore has is spellbinding.

      It's hard to gauge its popularity just from YouTube videos, but I'm curious to know if anyone on Tildes has played it, and if so, what your experiences have been. And do you know of any TTRPGs that are similar? Vampire the Masquerade, maybe? My friend group isn't into this sort of thing at all, but maybe I can persuade them...

      (In case you manage to miss the copious warnings at the start of that video, Kult's themes are quite graphic. Fair warning!)

      6 votes
    6. May 2024 Backlog Burner: Week 2 Discussion

      Week 2 has begun! Post your current bingo cards. Continue updating us on your games! If you did not participate in Week 1 but want to start this week, that's fine! Reminder: playing bingo is...

      Week 2 has begun!

      Post your current bingo cards.
      Continue updating us on your games!

      If you did not participate in Week 1 but want to start this week, that's fine!
      Reminder: playing bingo is OPTIONAL.

      Quick links:


      Week 1 Recap

      10 participants played 10 bingo cards and moved 15 games out of their backlogs!
      There were 0 bingo wins.

      Game list:

      17 votes
    7. Homeworld 3 review from someone who treasures HW as perhaps the best game in 25 years (w/ minor spoilers)

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I almost need a "thumb sideways" button but I can't give this game a thumbs up.

      Why should you listen to me?

      For background, I beta tested Homeworld for Relic back in '98-99. I've played every single PC Homeworld game. I've sunk hundreds of hours into playing vanilla Homeworld, Complex, and Every. Single. Star Trek mod that anyone has ever made for Homeworld and Homeworld: Remastered.

      That's to say: I adore love Homeworld/Homeworld 2. Over 25 years of PC gaming, they may be my all-time favorite games period!

      Of course, I bought the "Fleet Command" edition. In truth, I did it to encourage the developers to keep pumping out more Homeworld.

      Alas, the only thing I want right now is a complete and amazing mod toolkit so that this game can quickly become the substitute and successor for the original.

      A little history: Homeworld (and Remastered) thrived with its mod community. The original game was not designed for modding. Yet so many intrepid individuals out there struggled their way through cracking the binary format(s?) of the game. And, at least, as I understand it, some of the game behavior is scripted in Lua, a less common but publicly available programming language. Just go look at the Workshop for Homeworld: Remastered. The number of different total conversion mods out there is staggering. The love put into so many of those mods is utterly mind-blowing!

      In a nutshell, HW:3 plays a lot like Homeworld (the original) but, if anything, dumbed-down
      significantly from the original but with 2024 visuals--except for the cut-scenes that oddly look rendered using vintage 2000 technology. The game mechanics lack the depth of any of the HW sequels. The campaign is linear and, at times, glitchy (I'm looking at you, asteroid mission and you, the one cut-scene where some of the lines repeat causing me to wonder if I'm suffering auditory hallucinations or if their QA missed something like that).

      The gameplay is not particularly innovative or deep. The default pace of combat itself tends to be faster than previous Homeworlds. Though, in single player, you can change the game speed. However, the default speed can be overwhelming compared to previous Homeworld games, which can make multiplayer frustrating.

      For fans, while it should not be surprising It's not Homeworld: Complex (or EVO), I expected to see more of the depth, introduced by HW:C and HW:2, For instance, there are no subsystems on ships; you can't target engines or weapons. Ships either blow up or they don't. There's no defense field frigates and no cloak generators.

      My hope is that the mods (Star Trek or The Expanse, anyone?) will make this game shine. But right now? Unless you're a true super-hardcore Homeworld fan, who needs their Homeworld story fix, you should hold off.

      On the plus side: it doesn't crash as often as a NASCAR driver like Helldivers 2 or the original Homeworld, for that matter.

      Ultimately, I'm disappointed that Homeworld 3 plays like a dumbed-down version of Homeworld 1. I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, what with game studios increasingly desperate to get that larger market share which means appealing to a broader audience. But that means that if you long for the depth of Homeworld 2 or Complex, you're waiting for mods.

      The modding tools aren't out yet.

      And, so, thumbs down.

      16 votes
    8. Revisiting the GBA Castlevania Games (Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow)

      click here for mood music for this post Sometime recently I got it into my head that I wanted to go back and replay all of the so-called "Igavania" games in the Castlevania series - the three on...

      click here for mood music for this post

      Sometime recently I got it into my head that I wanted to go back and replay all of the so-called "Igavania" games in the Castlevania series - the three on Gameboy Advance, the three on Nintendo DS, and, of course, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on PSX. I played through most of these back when I was a teenager and liked them, but haven't touched them since. Metroidvania games are a dime-a-dozen these days but I haven't found anything else that scratches the itch of exploration-meets-RPG-elements-meets-gothic-aesthetics.

      Well except Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, I guess. That game was pretty good.

      I decided to begin with the GBA trilogy since Circle of the Moon is the first Igavania I ever played and the one I have not played in the longest. I pieced through the whole trilogy in release order over a few weeks; here are some stray thoughts from the experience:

      Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

      • The graphics in this game have aged beautifully. It's the only of the GBA & DS games that - to my knowledge - doesn't heavily re-use sprites from Symphony of the Nights, and as a result it has an aesthetic cohesion a step above any of the following games. Circle of the Moon is infamous for being way too dark on the original, non-backlit GBA screen (I had to use a wormlight back in the day to be able to see it), but with that limitation irrelevant on modern hardware it has a clean, moody aesthetic that's just solid.
      • Overall, the game feels very much like "classic Castlevania stuff, remixed." That's certainly true of the music, which is primarily (very good) remixes of classic Castlevania tunes with just a few (very good) original compositions. This applies to the gameplay too, which is classic (you only get a whip, the upgrades are very standard stuff) but with a big new twist thrown in:
      • The DSS system. Throughout the game you can collect 20 cards, divided into two categories, and by equpiping two at once you can utilize your magic meter to activate one of 100 DSS effects. Some are straightforward stat boosts, some offer reprieve like healing or invulnerability, and others offer really fun magic, weapon, and transformation effects. It's a joy to try out the combinations every time you get a new card, and they help give the game a lot of space for exploring your personal play style.
      • Did I mention that the whip feels really good? The whip feels really good. The sound effect and animation are really satisfying.
      • Circle of the Moon has some rough quirks that keep it from being a 10 out of 10, though. DSS cards, for instance, are locked behind random drops by enemies, some with absurdly low drop rates. If you just play through the game normally, without consulting a guide on specific drops or farming cards, there's a decent chance you'll pick up <50% of the cards before you finish the game. I get that you don't want to give the keys of the kingdom to the player right away, but why on earth would you build an awesome, fun game mechanic, and then set it up so players won't see most of it without extremely un-fun farming and grinding? Thankfully a "Magician" mode that gives you access to all of them straight away opens up after you finish the game once, but not everyone will make it that far or want to go back for a second playthrough.
      • The difficulty is also allllll over the place. As a teen I got stuck forever at the twin-headed dragons, and going back as an adult ... yeah, I got stuck again. I had to look up strategies, go hunt down a specific sub-weapon (the cross, which is very overpowered in this game), grind a few more levels, and steal away to an alcove of the battle arena to a specific spot where the dragons can't touch you to abuse the DSS healing power. The dragons are the most egregious example but they're far from the only one; there are several points where the game switches from hard-but-fair to ha-ha-eat-shit-stupid. It seems like the designers fully expected the players to use and abuse DSS, especially the healing abilities, because there's no way someone played through this and thought "yeah that's a smooth difficulty curve."
      • Special shout out to the optional battle arena. Yes, it's optional, but the difficulty of this 17 room gauntlet is truly hilarious. I was only able to beat it - near the end of the game, at a high level, with the best equipment available - by abusing save states and playing the last half of it in slow motion (the wonders of emulation). And it still took me over an hour!
      • There are also some design decisions that are just strange. Your character, Nathan Graves, begins with an excruciatingly slow walk speed and a unwieldy jump that's almost vertical. Within the first 15 minutes of the game you pick up a character upgrade to be able to run - i.e. move at a normal speed - but you have to double tap a direction on the d-pad to activate it. So now you have to spend the next 6-8 hours of your playthrough double-tapping a direction any time you want to move just to move at a normal speed. Why? Very strange.
      • There's also a whole area of block pushing puzzles. They're not too difficult, but is this really what Castlevania needed? 20 minutes of slowly pushing boxes?
      • I've read that Circle of the Moon was made by a different team, with a different director, than the rest of the "Igavanias." You definitely get that sense when playing it, that it's just a bit different, and it really endeared me to the game. It has its issues, but most of those can be smoothed out with modern backlit screens, save states, and online wiki guides. Overall it was a joy to revisit, probably an 8 or 9 out of 10 in my book.
      • I also highly recommend Jeremy Parish's retrospective look at Circle of the Moon

      Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

      • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is what you get when you learn mostly the wrong lessons from the feedback the previous game received. I played this one back in the day and but lost interest and never finished it. I now see why.
      • I'll start with the good. The character movement feels better; we finally have a normal run speed and the shoulder buttons can be used for left and right dashes that are very satisfying to use. Together they give this game a much faster pace than Circle of the Moon. The jump is weirdly floaty but you get used to it.
      • The graphics have also seen a big improvement in a technical sense. The sprites are larger and more impressive - especially on bosses - though this is also the beginning of heavily re-using sprites from Symphony of the Night. You'll definitely recognize some old favorites if you played that game.
      • Honestly, though, that's where the improvements end.
      • The art direction has taken a big step back. Konami heard that Circle of the Moon was too dark and now as a result we've got Harmony of Dissonance, a game so insanely bright and chock full of garish psychedelic color choices that not only did it completely remove the moodiness of the first game, it led me, for the first time in my life, to download and install a romhack. Maybe on the original, unlit GBA screen these choices looked good, but on modern displays it feels like Castlevania by way of a Big Top Circus. And then if that wasn't enough the game adds an extra bright outline around your character at all times. Good grief.
      • The music has also taken a humongous step back. Supposedly more of the GBA's processing power was used up by the graphics so the sound had to be deprioritized. But even putting aside the big step down in fidelity most of these compositions - save the main theme and one or two others - are not memorable, hummable, or fun to listen to. They're just ... there. There, with bad sound quality.
      • All of this would be excusable if the gameplay were tremendous, but again we've learned the wrong lessons and gone backwards.
      • DSS has been removed, and there's nothing nearly as interesting to take its place.
      • ...but they decided to leave in block pushing. WHY?!
      • The rocky difficulty of Circle of the Moon is gone, and now the game is far too easy. I beat almost every boss in this game on my first try, which is definitely not true of either of the other two GBA Castlevania games. The fun movement options have a side effect of making the game even easier, since you can quickly dart around the screen dodging things.
      • The level design is poor, with endless, unmemorable hallways and generally boring layouts. Plus the entire first half of the game is basically linear
      • Then the cherry on top is that halfway through the game reveals that there are two parallel castles, and it sends you on an excruciating fetch quest across both of them. So you get two identical castles of boring level design, middling music, recycled bosses, and the most tedious backtracking I've done in years.
      • There are so many aspects of the game design that just feel sort of busted. Once you're 10 levels above an enemy they only grant you 1 EXP for each kill, so there is truly no upside to all of the tedious backtracking you're forced to do. There are shops in the game, but they all have weird requirements you have to meet to spawn them, and even once you do there's barely anything interesting to buy.
      • This game is a chore, and is the only one I would not recommend. It's not "bad," necessarily - I'd give it a 5/10 - but I had to consult guides so many times to figure out where in which castle I needed to go, and I was downright relieved when it was over.

      Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

      • It feels like this is where the team at Konami finally found their groove. Aria of Sorrow is a very good game.
      • The graphics are still brighter than Circle of the Moon's moody look, but the color choices are dialed back to a sensible, tasteful level. No more wild acid circus backgrounds, and no more bright outlines around characters!
      • The music has taken a big step up, with tons of memorable tunes.
      • The character control has finally found a nice middle ground between Circle of the Moon's stiffness and Harmony of Dissonance's hyperfast floatiness. Instead of left and right dashes letting you zip around the map there's just a backdash, which is a sensible compromise that allows for lots of maneuverability in combat.
      • The level design is a huge, huge step up from Harmony of Dissonance, and is probably better than Circle of the Moon's. Aria of Sorrow does a great job at giving compelling reasons to backtrack with interesting ability unlocks and thoughtfully placed warp zones and area connections.
      • The difficulty curve is pretty smooth throughout, except maybe the boss fight with Death - but I found that one an interesting challenge, rather than a brick wall. This is still an easier game than Circle of the Moon, but not a total pushover.
      • We've finally got a system to rival DSS: souls that you can gather from enemies and then equip for all sorts of passive and active effects. It's still luck based, but you'll get enough of a variety of souls through normal play for it to not be too bothersome. There are lots of interesting souls, but I missed the "combination" aspect of DSS, of experimenting between combining different cards and seeing what they do together. Here we've just got basically three slots for three types of souls - passives, abilities, and attacks. This is a totally fine way to do it, but it means that one or two of those slots are always just going to be the same one or two souls that give you whatever stat boost you need and whatever ability you rely on the most.
      • There are a few more interesting abilities that tie into the exploration as well. When you start the game you can't sink into water and explore, you merely float at the top. Before you even get that ability, though, you get the ability to walk on top of water as if it's a hard surface, opening up interesting level design gimmicks. Later on you can both sink or stand on top depending on what you have equipped.
      • The downside is this does mean too much time in menus switching between the same 3 or 4 souls over and over again - at least until you get flight abilities that let you skip a lot of the navigational tedium. One wonders why they couldn't have made things like on top of water / in water contextual abilities (maybe you land on the water, but then press down to sink into it?) instead of requiring players to unequip the ability they want to use 95% of the time, equip a water navigation soul for one room, then open the menu again to switch back.
      • At least we don't have any huge block puzzle rooms any more! The environmental puzzles that do exist are far more interesting.
      • Instead of the whip of the previous two games there are several classes of weapons the main character, Soma, can equip, including swords, axes, and even a handgun (which seemed pretty useless in my time with it). The variety is neat, but I have to say none of the weapons felt as good to use as the satisfying whip of Circle of the Moon, with its supremely meaty sound effects. I didn't expect to, but I found myself missing the straightforward, satisfyng combat of Circle of the Moon.
      • And that's sort of my feeling on the game as a whole. It is a very good game, at least as good as Circle of the Moon, and it doesn't have nearly as many strange friction points as CoTM. It's an 8 or 9 out of 10, for sure. But for me, specifically, something about Aria of Sorrow sort of came and went for me, like it was much smoother than CoTM but didn't leave me with as many memorable moments. I'm not sure how to describe it, so I'll chalk it up to personal insanity.

      Oh also all three of these games have a story. Does anyone care about the stories in Castlevania games? I skim the character dialogue while quickly clicking through it and that's pretty much it.

      I've now moved on to the DS games, and am loving revisiting Dawn of Sorrow so far - my favorite from back in my teenage years. I'm very interested to revisit Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia, which I don't remember as clearly, and Symphony of the Night, which I remember loving...and then loathing the inverted castle. Still, it's been >10 years, so who knows how things will hit these days.

      Has anyone else played (or replayed) these Castlevania games recently? What were your thoughts?

      18 votes