I’m in between games right now. I haven’t played Sekiro in several days, and I haven’t really had the wherewithal to pick up something else. I’ve been dealing with a cold/sinus issues, and it’s really wiped me out. I end up playing solitaire because that’s about what my mind can deal with right now. It’s also what happens after I play a FromSoft game. I get so drained by it, I have no desire to try anything else. I will say, I’m watching footage of the closed alpha for Nioh 2, and it looks really dope. I bailed on the original game halfway through even though I thought it was a good game for two reasons. One, I hated that if you left a level, you had to start it over the next time you went back. My MO if I’m getting my ass kicked by a boss is to go farm up shit (like Elixirs, the healing drinks, which is another issue in itself. I hate farming for healing items or buying them). The easiest way to do that is to go back to an earlier area in order not to have to use heals to get through it. If I did that, though, then I’d have to do the whole level up to the boss I was currently fighting again. Doing that for the last boss I fought was not something I wanted to do at all. I ended up farming on that level using Onmyo Magic for free heals (hey, it’s been ages since I’ve played. That’s the best I can remember) and tapping out when I actually had to use a heal. It wasn’t optimal, but it did work. I resented not being able to choose to go back to an earlier level, though. I really, really, really hope they make that change for Nioh 2. I did notice that they simplified some of the names of the level ups. Onmyo to Magic, for instance. I don’t have an issue with this because while I’m a big fan of obscurity, I’m also a big fan of not wasting souls. Or amrita, as I think it’s called in Nioh. But! There is a rolling cat ball in the Nioh 2 closed alpha demo, so I’m in!
There are two games I have my eye on that are actually in my pile of shame. One is Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope. I have talked about this game before and I’ll talk more about it later because I will be mentioning Papers, Please, the seminal game by Pope. It’s one of my favorite games of all time, which is why I’ll talk about it later. The second game is Unavowed, which is an adventure mystery demon game. It sounds right up my alley, and I am desperately looking for an adventure mystery game I can sink my teeth into. I’ve tried several, and this is made by the highly-respected Wadjet Eye Games. They are revered in the genre, which is part of the problem. I hated the Blackwell series they did, and it’s one of the gold standards of the genre. I had to use a walkthrough to get past the first chapter of whichever game I tried. I think I tried two–I have almost all of them because hope springs eternal and they were cheap and I’m an idiot. My biggest gripe about adventure games is that their logic is not logical. They have certain events you need to do in a certain order, and it’s not intuitive at all. I mean, it probably seemed that way as they were dreaming them up, but in retrospect, they aren’t at all. Maybe if I’ve played a million of them, the logic will be immediately apparent, but it wasn’t as I was playing them. I resorted to using the walkthrough for the rest of the Blackwell game I played. I’m hoping against hope that they’ve upped their game concerning logic, but given how much people swoon over their games, I fear they consider it a feature and not a bug.
Right. So let’s talk about what I’m looking for when I game. It’s a difficult question to answer because there isn’t one genre that I like. That’s not surprising for me, but it’s frustrating. The first ‘hardcore’ game I ever played* was Torchlight, suggested to me by Ian. I was immediately drawn to it for the pettiest of reasons. I could play as a woman, and she looked Asian if I squinted. I didn’t know what to expect, and to my surprise, I had a blast running through the dungeons and killing all the things. I loved the constant influx of weapons, and it was a nice, gentle game as my first hardcore experience. I devoured the game, and I adored the Vanquisher, my chosen protagonist. The loot loop was addictive, and it was never too frustrating. I loved having a pet I could send back to town to sell stuff AND who could fight for me without danger of dying, and I liked fishing. This game had heart, and it was so damn charming. It also sold me on gaming in general, and I jumped in with both feet. I will say that I’m in the minority in that I like the first game better than the second one. I felt way too OP by the end of the second game, and I don’t care about multiplayer.
Most of the games I really liked have been ones I’ve played in the past few years. I think it’s because when I first started gaming, I was just trying things out to see what I liked and what I didn’t. I soon knew what I didn’t want in a game, but it was harder for me to pinpoint what it was I wanted. The Sexy Brutale was a game that was on my radar but barely, and then I watched Jim Sterling’s video on it. He loved it, and I was immediately intrigued. I was waiting for it to go on sale because I’m so goddamn cheap, but I bought it right after watching Sterling’s video. It’s a difficult game to describe because it’s not really like anything else. It’s an adventure game, yeah, but you have to do more than just talk endlessly to a parade of different characters. In addition, I found myself stuck because I was overthinking things in the tradition of classic adventure games. The logic in this game is pretty straightforward, and I did have to consult a walkthrough a few times, but it wasn’t bad at all. The game has you experiencing the same day over and over so you can figure out how a certain cataclysmic event happened in which several people die. You can play with time, and that’s the one conceit of the game. You try to save each person, one a day, and it’s great, but also heartbreaking because they’re just going to die again the next day, anyway. I didn’t expect to be moved by this game, but I was. What did I like best about it? It didn’t try to do too much, and what it did, it did very well. I liked the graphics a lot, and I loved the soundtrack. I’m not normally one to notice music, but I really dug it in this game. I also liked that the devs had a vision, and they stuck to it. It’s the best mystery game I’ve played, and I would love it if they came up with another one.
In a wildly different genre, I played the hell out of Cook, Serve, Delicious. Both the original and the sequel, but especially the original. I played casual games for years before picking up hardcore games, and I enjoyed time management games and cooking sims. I heard a couple reviewers really hype up CSD, and I decided to give it a go. It was supposed to be really difficult, but I felt up to the challenge. I bought it, installed it, and was immediately obsessed with it. Yes, it’s challenging and sometimes very stressful, but it was also engrossing. Trying to take care of all clients and chores in a distressingly short amount of time hit that dopamine-releasing area of my brain. Add to that the fact that I only accepted perfect days, and, well, it’s safe to say that I spent a lot of time playing that game. A lot. The emails that I could read when I wasn’t working were a hoot. The dating part was…mixed. Funny on the one hand, but just added stress on the other. What I liked about this game was that I had to keep moving all the time, and I had to be completely engaged. There were goals to meet, and the worst parts were when I had finished all the goals of each stage/star, I still had to play out several more days. That was tedious, and it was fixed, somewhat, in the sequel. The sequel took a long time to be released, and I despaired that it would ever come out. It was only one guy, however, so I was well aware that it would take time. When it came out, I played the hell out of it and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it just didn’t have the same click with my brain as did the original.
Night in the Woods in one of my favorite games of all time, if not the favorite. I delayed playing it for quite some time for several reasons. One, the cheap thing. Two, from what little I knew about it, it would be perfect for me. A female black cat who was sarcastic, snarky, and dealing with mental health issues was the main protagonist. How much more like me could it get? Why was that a deterrent? Because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype. How could any game be exactly what I wanted it to be? When I finally started it, I was filled with trepidation because I wanted so much for it to be good. I already dug the main character, Mae, and the graphics. How would the game itself hold up? Would I love it once I was done with it? Well, not the first time I finished it. I really liked it and was glad I played it, and it had it’s heart-warming/wrenching moments, but I didn’t LOVE it. Then I saw a video by Errant Signal about why you should play the game twice, and I noticed a bunch of places he had gotten to that I hadn’t even seen. Intrigued, I went back and played it again. And a third time. By the time I was done with my third playthrough, I was completely in love with the game–and it broke my heart.
The overall mystery is just meh, and it works better as a metaphor for the dying Rust Belt town the game is set in–Possum Springs. The gameplay is sparse and really not the point of the game. What is the point? To meet the occupants of Possum Springs and really get to know them. You can talk to them a little or you can talk to them a lot, and how much you talk to them affects a certain scene near the end of the game. It also affects who becomes your bestie, which changes the end of the game as well. The biggest example of how getting to know a character can change the way you view them is Germ Warfare. He’s a crow or raven who hangs out with Gregg (GREGG RULZ OK), and my initial impression of him was that he’s just this weird emo kid who’s a bit shifty. During my subsequent playthroughs, I learned a lot more about him, and I grew to really care about him.
Look. I have written three posts about this amazing game. Here is the first one, and you can search through my archives if you want to read them all. I could gush on and on about this game, and I’m thinking about playing it one more time for one specific reason, but for now, I’ll restrict myself to why I adore the game. The extra-short version is that it’s real. The characters are immensely relatable, the way the events unfold is great, and the fact that you have to play multiple times to get everything out of the game is well done. I also like that you can see as much or as little as you want on any given playthrough and you’ll have a complete story at the end of the game, but if you put in more time, your story is better fleshed-out than if you just zip through everything. Also, the soundtrack is incredible. I bought it, and I have never bought a soundtrack to a game before.
This is running long as usual, and I haven’t even touched my favorite developer of all time, FromSoft. I’ll cut this short for now and return to write another post soon.
*Well, Ms. Pac-man and Time Crisis II, but that was ages ago. So first hardcore game in my current life.