Magic: the Addiction

So this finally happened Saturday after a little bit of an internal struggle.

Hi, my name is Ben and I’m an addict.  Well, not a drug addict anyway, more like a game addict.  I was first introduced to Magic: the Gathering way back in 1996-1997 when 4th Edition was the newest core set and players were first beginning to explore the continent of Jamuraa in the Mirage expansion.  I was hooked immediately on how the game was both simple and complex at the same time plus I loved the collectability and how each card had it’s own unique art.

I looked forward to playing it in the mornings at school with Jason and Candice and devising new strategies for my decks when what I was trying wasn’t working.  Once I graduated from high school and life happened, that all came to a screeching halt and my cards and decks were put in storage for two and a half thousand years.  Or at least that’s what it felt like when the game came back to my attention in full force in 2011.  In the years leading up to 2011, I still kept abreast of the game’s existence at my local game store, The Time Tunnel, but not with any sort of extensive research.

Back in the spring of 2011, right after I had broken up with my second boyfriend, my friend Ron had purchased a fairly large collection of Magic cards from a coworker of his.  At first, the thought of getting back into the game disgusted me.  I remembered having a lot of fights over rules and people cheating at school.  I didn’t want to get back into the game.  I forbid Ron from bringing his cards into the house because I knew I’d get sucked back in.

And boy did I ever :-\

One day, after much nagging and a moment of weakness, I helped Ron unload boxes upon boxes of cards into my kitchen.  I offered to help him sort them all out in an effort to have something to keep me occupied.  After unloading his collection, he left for work and I got started.  I opened one box and simply began trying to sort them all by color.  That’s when it hit me: none of the card designs were at all like I remembered them!  I slowed down and started to appreciate the stark contrast between what the cards looked like before and what they looked like now.  For example, I was used to land cards that looked like this:

But now they looked like this:

Huge change huh?  They introduced the huge mana symbol in the text box near the end of my high school career in a set called Unglued (I think) and I didn’t really care for it, I felt like the game was being dumbed down by doing that.  I was a bit disgusted when I found that, all these years later, that had become the standard for land cards.

I also noticed that the trademark font of each card’s title had been changed from the fancy script to more pedestrian (and more legible) typeface.  I didn’t mind the change so much as I’m sure trying to mass produce card sheets with that specific script was a pain on Wizard’s bank account.

Slowly over the rest of the week (I was off work I believe) I did nothing but sleep and sort cards.  I would spend hours sorting cards and reading the text boxes, my mind on fire with strategies, card combos and deck ideas galore.  I remember at the end of the first day of emptying boxes and sorting, Ron came back to my place after work to find stacks of cards scattered all over every inch of my kitchen table, counter top and I think a few on top of the dryer as well.  Upon the horror of hearing the screen door open, his entrance was met with a glower and me telling him “Don’t touch anything!” since I had several ideas for decks running through my head and stacked here and there around the room.  Showing him the madness of my genius, he quickly realized I knew what I was doing.  I was back in the game whether I wanted to be or not.

I had left the world of Dominaria when we were first exploring the continent of Jamuraa upon the deck of the ship The Weatherlight and I had returned in an age when Phyrexia threatened to spread beyond its boundaries and infect every inch of the multiverse with its plague.  I was also introduced to the concept of the Planeswalker cards and how they could quickly ruin someone’s day.  It was a good time to return to the world of Magic: the Gathering and picking the rules back up was like riding a bike, only they had undergone a bit of tweaking in my absence, some for the better and some still questionable (looking at you Protection From rules.)

The stuff dreams are made of

Over the course of 2011, we slowly got the rest of our gaming group back into the game.  Friday Night Magic wasn’t just a thing that happened at friendly local gaming stores, it happened at my house too.  We would eat, unwind from our collective work weeks and play Magic until all hours of the night.  Ron introduced me to a new local game store, The Dugout, where we would spend hours at a time looking through random cards week after week.  We would spend quite a bit of money on new trickery to use during games as well as more deck boxes and playmats.  Then in 2012 when I had the biggest breakup (and worst time) of my life, my interest in Magic started to falter.  It didn’t help that the 2013 Core Set wasn’t all that great either and subsequent sets of cards were so-so.  We still continued to play though my heart just wasn’t in it like it once was.  Then in 2013 we pretty much just stopped playing altogether by the end of the year.  People grew tired of each other, work schedules got changed, interest was lost.

I kept the faith for a while.  I kept up with new releases and tried to stay on top of the game’s already convoluted metaplot and would still read random cards on Gatherer, but even I have a breaking point it seems.  It was pretty much a 1-2 punch, first in the form of the disappointment that was the Battle for Zendikar / Oath of the Gatewatch block then the Shadows Over Innistrad / Eldritch Moon block.  Battle for Zendikar wasn’t as interesting or inspired as the original Zendikar block and the return to Innistrad was equally as uninspired as the new Zendikar block.  I was so done at this point.

The cards, for the longest time, have been sitting in my front room taking up valuable space that I could use for something else.  Then it occurred to me that Dugout buys people’s collections, so I figured I’d shoot them a message and see if there was any interest in buying what I didn’t want and now here I am $475 richer and with a little bit of free space in my house.

A few of my cards from the 90’s that I decided to keep

It felt a little liberating dropping off all those boxes.  All the anger over games that I lost, all the hurt feelings over games and rules, the relief of not having to keep up with the current sets (not that I ever played in Standard Legal tournaments anyway, except that one time for the release of Avacyn Restored because I was dying to find out what happened storywise), all of it was finally gone.  I still have a very small amount of cards though…

The one game variant that I loved the most next to Commander/EDH was Archenemy and I decided that I wanted to keep those decks and maybe a few of the other cards.  I definitely kept all the cards that I had back in the 90’s but anything after that had to go.  Do I have any hope that the group will get back together like before and weekly games will happen at my place?  Nope, not even a little bit.  But maybe, just maybe, someone someday will reignite my spark.

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October Horror Gaming 2017

So for the month of October, some online friends like to play horror themed games and this year, I decided to join in the horror.  So over the course of the month I played (and finished) the following:

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Soma.  This game still haunts me after all this time.  You can read my thoughts on the game here.

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Deliriant.  A rather disappointing first person game where you are walking through a house that’s rather unsettling.  The only oddities were the “moving” wallpaper and the hole in the wall that served as the exit to the house.  I was able to 100% the trophy list in one sitting.

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Dear Esther.  A very sad walking simulator where you’re a ship wrecked man alone on an island.  Not really a horror game per se (I thought it was, hence why I played it this month, plus I was told by a friend that it was very short) though the atmosphere is, at some points, a bit creepy.  Definitely worth playing with the commentary turned on.

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Among The Sleep.  A very boring “horror” game where you play a two year old kid who is running around in an Alice In Wonderland-esque nightmare world trying to find your mother.  I was bored most of the time since there was no real consequence for getting caught by the monsters in the game and also a bit aggravated by the collectibles since there’s no way to tell how many you have versus how many there are total.

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The Bunker.  A creepy game set in a cold war era nuclear bunker, this game is the first in a long time that I’ve seen that uses pre-rendered backgrounds where you have to click to direct your character to do what you want him to do.  It was definitely enjoyable for a night (finished in one sitting) and had a nice twist ending.

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The Town of Light.  The story of one woman’s harrowing journey in a 1930’s insane asylum.  The story was, at times, a bit more than I could stomach.  The story is based on actual events, which makes what happens even worse.  Most of the story is told through flashbacks and collectibles.  A walking simulator with a painful story to tell.

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Even though the plot to it has been spoiled for me over and over, I finally decided to come around to the game that arguably put Telltale on the map.  Despite knowing a few key plot points, the emotional impact of the game still hit hard at times.

 

Retro Reanimation, part 2

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It’s the summer of 1990something (I can’t remember to be honest) and I hadn’t spoken to one of my school “friends” all summer.  Every time he called, I’d hang up.  I don’t remember what it was he’d done to piss me off this particular time, he made me angry so often and treated me like crap there’s no telling what it was.  Finally, just before school started back in the fall, he caught me on the phone and before I could hang up on him he blurted out “I’ll give you my copy of Super Metroid just please talk to me!”  Against my better judgment, I went with it.

I had been obsessed with this game since I first saw it in Nintendo Power magazine, and I even had a copy of the official Nintendo Player’s Guide even before I had the game itself!  I would spend many hours of many nights guiding this so called friend through the game over the phone (almost like I was a game counselor.)  Finally, at long last, the game was mine and I started my journey through the sprawling complex of Zebes and the rest was history.  I would eventually even try the challenge from Nintendo Power and beat the game with as few items as possible to see how fast I could beat it.  I wish I still had that cartridge…

The next retro game I decided to tackle is, of course, Super Metroid.  I still find this Metroid game hard to beat among others in the series, even with its bad controls.  Simply put, I still think that this game is brilliantly done and the world is well crafted even after all these years.  Sure, it could have been a little easier with things like fast travel points (like the ones from Samus Returns) but ultimately that would detract from the fun of exploring Zebes.

Let me help you get to that Energy Tank says the strange turtle creature

It’s not a perfect game by any stretch.  Using the wall jump, even back then, was never my forte.  Recent Metroid games have made using this ability a little easier, but Super Metroid was where it started.  I remember just avoiding using wall jump in favor of Space Jump/Screw Attack instead.

Wall jump with these little guys – the Etecoons!

I remember struggling for hours trying to get the jumps timed just right, only to have a button press not register when I needed it to and falling all the way down the shaft to start again.  At least the other ability “taught” to you by one of the locals was easier to master.

Dachora and his super speed jump!

I was sorely missing Samus’ ability to run at super speeds throughout Metroid Returns.  It felt good to run and smash everything in my way again.

This fuckin’ place…

I was never a fan of having to explore Maridia.  The whole zone just gave me the creeps, and still does.  Maybe I just have a fear of being underwater?  Who knows.  Getting into Maridia was always a bit dramatic, but cool:

I always hated having to blow up this glass walkway, it looked so pretty.

While blowing up the glass was always sad for me, I have to admit that it looked really cool splintering apart like that.  I always had this ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I came to Maridia and I don’t know why.

Welcome to hell

Norfair – the next biggest zone after Maridia – was always a challenge to navigate due to the extreme heat in some rooms and the lava in others.  I always did enjoy the hypnotic, yet ominous, music that played while wandering the hellish passages deep below the surface of Zebes.

Reaching the section with Ridley was a little more confusing than I remember (I kept going in circles) but I ultimately found my way to the passage shaped like his head and the elevator with his claws.  Beating him was way easier than I remember too, I just used all my super missiles then my regular ones until he was done for.  Then I found this:

And then I knew that the end was near…

Back at the beginning of the game, in Brinstar, there’s this statue:

And once you defeat each of the 4 bosses that the statue is modeled after, it falls away revealing the entrance to the final area of the game, Tourian, and ultimately to Mother Brain herself.  I always did think this was a brilliant piece of game design.  I remember on my very first playthrough I’d come running back to this statue after I killed a boss and excitedly watch it turn from gold to lifeless gray.  My completion time for that go round was terrible too!

Tourian

I always like it when the end area of a game is next to where you start a game, I always think that’s so neat and this game is no exception to that.  The entrance to Tourian is right there at the beginning of the game, but you can’t get in until you defeat all of Mother Brain’s cronies.  One of the most memorable things about Tourian, however, is still this moment:

When the baby Metroid that you came to rescue attacks and drains you of all your health but 1 point.  Definitely one of the better gotcha! moments in gaming.  Once that heart attack inducing moment was over, it was time for the final showdown with the head bitch in charge herself.

I liked how this moment was a nice homage to where you fought her in the first game:

Just like old times

Once you break her glass jar this time around and pump a few missiles into her, the next great gotcha! moment happens when she attaches herself to an ugly, horrific looking body:

The awful wailing sound she makes still annoys me.  Once you shoot her with enough missiles, she hits you with her eye beam nearly killing you.  I always did think that sucked.  Then, once she starts to attack you with the eye beam a third time:

Not so fast bitch!

My not so little friend to the rescue!

Juice me!

I always was a little sad during this part of the fight when Mother Brain would regain composure and kill the Metroid, but the sadness was always quickly replaced with revenge when you’re given the Hyper Beam and you instantly beat Mother Brain down with it.  Once she’s gone, the fun begins:

RUN!

I always did enjoy this part of Super Metroid the most.  Being all powerful and having to run for your life was always so much fun for me.  Often when I’m in a hurry in real life or in other games, the music that plays during this sequence comes to mind.

Gotta stop and save my friends before leaving!  When I first read about this in the player’s guide, I didn’t think I’d have time to save them before getting to my own ship.

KABOOM!

That teeny tiny object leaving the explosion to the right is Dachora and the Etecoons on their ship.  I guess the Etecoons are a bit more intelligent than I gave them credit for.

Almost missed getting this screen shot, that’s why it’s so dark

Not bad for playing this game from memory eh?

I’m willing to bet, had I not read about the Mother Brain fight in the player’s guide, the emotional impact would have been a lot greater.

All in all, playing this again was a nice stroll down memory lane and definitely helped get all thoughts of Samus Returns out of my head.  Oh, and you remember my “friend” from the beginning of the story?  We ultimately parted ways not long after he gave me the game, so, as much as I love this game it’s forever tainted with memories of him.

So We Did Prestige Nightfall…

Destiny, part 26

So tonight, I got one step closer to the Destiny 2 platinum.  Since the release of the game, we’ve had struggle after struggle trying to complete a Nightfall because the modifiers have rarely been in our favor and this week our modifiers were Attrition (health and shields only regenerate after picking up healing pools from defeated enemies) and Timewarp: Killing Time (killing enemies adds time to the clock) so I convinced the clan to give it a try seeing as these modifiers are easy to work with.  They agreed and we gave it a try and were successful.  So successful in fact that now everyone in the clan has Rat King except maybe 2 people.

So then I decided to be bold considering our successes and suggest trying this particular Nightfall on Prestige difficulty.  It took a little arm twisting but eventually we gave it a try and we met failure after failure.  We kept getting to the final boss (the Strike in question was Inverted Spire) with 3 minutes to spare and kept losing by fractions of a few seconds because of failure to control adds in the last room or general mistakes along the way (I kept missing jumps in the opening area again and again but now I’m getting to the point where I can damn near make the run without having to stop and compensate.)

Tonight, however, lit a fire under Derrick’s ass.  After 2 attempts where we nearly killed Atheon’s wanna be replacement and not winning by mere seconds, Derrick and myself were determined to keep going until we were victorious.  A few minutes ago, we met victory face to face, but it was bittersweet.  We had hoped that we would get better gear or maybe another Engram from Hawthorne.  Nope, this was what we got:

Look how fabulous I am…

An Aura.  All the gear I got, and I mean all of it, was less than what I already had.  Oh, and we got a stupid fucking Emblem too that tracks how many Nightfalls you’ve completed but for some reason mine only says 1 even though I’ve completed it about 5 or 6 times this week.  Someone suggested that it’s probably counting the number of Prestige Nightfalls that I’ve completed, as though I’d be dumb enough to ever put myself through that kind of fucking misery again.  I literally wasted what free time I had tonight trying to get better gear for myself and my friends and that stupid Aura was all we got.  And an Emblem.  Oh, and even though the Faction Rally is over, one of my loot drops was a Future War Cult token.  Thanks RNGeezus, I fucking hate you too.

Oh, and the worst part is, after all that bullshit and misery that we went through, we don’t even get to keep the AuraIt disappears at weekly reset!  So now, I get to parade around the social spaces (and probably Crucible too, not that I’m going to bother finding out) showing off the fact that my e-penis is fucking huge to all the other scrubs that haven’t completed Prestige Nightfall yet.  But you know what?  They don’t really give a shit because they’re doing actual, useful, constructive things with their time like raiding or playing Iron Banner.

But at least I got my stupid trophy so that’s something, right?

It might be time for a nice, loooooong hiatus from Destiny 2.

What I’m Playing, part 23

Soma

Please note that this entire post is going to be a spoiler for the game.  Thanks!

So for the month of October, I decided to join other gamers in playing horror themed games for the month and I decided to start with Soma.  At first I had no idea what to make of this game since only 2 of my online friends had played it and they both loved it.  And now that I’ve been posting that I’m playing it, other gamers on my friends list have taken note, so it must be a good game, right?

Something’s Not Right

At first, I was really bored with the game.  The protagonist, Simon (who sounds a lot like Daemon Hatfield from IGN), wakes up in his apartment after a weird dream to a phone call about coming to the doctor for a brain scan.  The tutorial area (Simon’s apartment) teaches the awkward controls on opening and closing doors with the analog sticks and how to pick things up and how to run.  Fairly basic stuff, though I can tell a lot about Simon from his surroundings: he loves to read since he has books all over the place and his eating habits are terrible since there’s fast food containers all over the place.  I also liked that you could read emails on his computer and send the daft that he’d written.  Then there was the strange/awkward phone call while he was on the subway with his coworker and I started to wonder if I hadn’t sent the email, would that conversation have been different?

All of this, so far, was interesting but I’m still bored.  And then…

Then I finally get to the hospital for the scan and have to solve a simple puzzle to get to the back room where the doctor and the chair are waiting for me.  I sit down, listen to a bit of dialogue between Simon and the doctor and everything goes black and I wake up somewhere else…

Um, ok Soma, you officially have my attention.  What the FUCK is going on?  At this point I’m so absolutely confused that I keep playing and hoping that answers come soon.  Is this one of those games where they don’t show you the big evil horror, you’re just hunted by it through out the game?  Or is the evil thing there, I just haven’t met it yet?  I would soon find out.

After discovering a bit more context from objects in the game through what I assume is some sort of psychic ability and learning that I must avoid/hide from the white light creatures, I finally press onward and am greeted with the first big reveal:  I am in some place that’s under water!  Definitely getting a Bioshock vibe from it all now that I know this.  I make my way a bit further and find (after a bit of crawling) a poor robotic like creature trying to stay alive.  I talk to it to try to glean as much information as I can and when that fails, I unplug it from the computer it’s attached to out of spite.  Presto!  That restored the power and now I’m in contact with a woman named Catherine who tells me to get to the control center in the domed room upstairs.  The sound quality is a bit jumbled so I have to turn on subtitles in order to understand what’s being said by anyone.  I go on my merry way without a second thought…until I get to the next room.

After falling down from the catwalk, it occurs to me that I am suddenly not alone anymore and the next reveal happens: I can see a monster!  And I can hear the monster!  I quickly crouch and slowly and silently follow it around the room, feverishly trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I spot the stairs in the back of the room.  I wait until it gets far enough away and I run up the stairs, burning myself with steam and close the hatch behind me.  Safe at last!  I wander around this new area and find the corpse of some poor soul who didn’t make it, a few locked doors, a wall map, a locked computer and a robot that’s complaining about being in pain and needing help.  I wander around for a bit and by this time I’m exhausted from the events of the day so I decide to call it a night.  All in all I’m still a bit bored and on the verge of just passing on the game entirely because I’m just not getting it plus I’m filled with nothing but confusion about how the game started versus where I am now.  Maybe sleeping on it will help, we’ll see.

The Next Night

So I decide to return to this bizarre underwater world and give the game a second chance after all.  I make the pain robot scream a few times by cutting off the power and cutting it back on then I find the passcode for the terminal on the body in the hall.  I punch it in and unlock the storage closet and the power supply and I see the note attached that says flip it at your own risk, so I did.  That’s when the ‘oh shit’ moment happens and the monster from before comes up the stairs and is now wandering around where I’m trying to hide.  After clenching real hard, I make a run (well, a crouched hustle) for the terminal and power up the control center up stairs where I need to get to so I can talk to Catherine again.  I dash up the stairs after several long minutes studying the monster and it’s walking pattern and close the hatch behind me.  Safe again!  Catherine and I converse for a bit when all hell breaks loose and the dome breaks and the room begins to flood.

At this point I think 2 things:  1) I really fucked this up and I’m going to die and I’m going to have to reload my save and start over again and 2) hopefully after I die I wake up back in Toronto and this fucking nightmare is over with for now because I need a serious break from this discomfort.  No such luck on either part as I suddenly am alive and breathing underwater.  What the fuck (again)?  I climb out of the ruins of the comm area and find myself on the sea floor.  I run around outside, avoiding a crazy robot that wants my fluid (or whatever it was, I didn’t stick around, I just ran) and find a way back into the building.  And suddenly I have a flashlight?  What the hell?  Why wasn’t I shown this sooner?  Are they being serious right now or are the developers poking fun at horror games?  Whatever is going on I just ignore it and press on to the shuttles.  I crawl around for a bit, leery of the idea of using the flashlight at all (after all I might as well be sporting a giant KILL ME sign in the dark) but I keep searching and I find this:

What the fuck is that?  Whatever it is, it’s keeping her alive.  And more importantly, yay another human being!  I was beginning to think I was the only one in the whole damn game.  After talking to her a few times, I reluctantly unplug her machine from the power supply so I can get the shuttle working again.  I feel really bad about doing that, but I press on anyway.  I board the shuttle and hope that it gets me to Catherine without a hitch, but I’ve played enough horror games to know that this isn’t going to end well.  I board the shuttle and I’m treated to an in-flight movie about what the hell is going on.

The Big Reveal

Holy shit!  So after the video, the shuttle of course crashes in a fiery heap and I’m left to tread along on foot.  I run to the end of the tunnel where another of these weird flower sphincter things is and this time, much to my horror, instead of simply sticking my finger in it (which is still questionable and gross) my character sticks his whole fist in it!  What the shit?!?!  Ugh, ok, that was a bit more than I was expecting.  I go back to the door and make my way back out into the ocean, run from some more of these weird robots and find the area where Catherine is.  But once I’m inside things go bad really fast.  She screams at something to leave her alone and my fight or flight instincts kick in and she warns me not to look at it as I’m running toward the room she’s in.  Uuuuuhhhhhhh…..ok, what the hell is THAT?  I look at it briefly then turn away thinking that as long as I don’t look at it (like Catherine SAID), nothing’s gonna happen, right?  Nope.  Whatever that thing was pulverizes me and disappears.  I’m thinking ‘game over’ and Soma is thinking ‘GOTCHA!’ as Simon comes to in the room with Catherine, albeit a bit worse for wear.

That’s when things start to get very real, very quickly.

It turns out that Catherine is another robot that thinks she’s a human.  And she (and the computer in the next room) reveals what the hell is going on:  we developed a technology to launch satellites into orbit from under water so as not to have to rely on fuel anymore.  Then, a comet hits the Earth fucking everything up and the only way to save humanity is to digitize their brains and place them in a satellite called The Ark and launch it.  Only, much to their horror, The Ark hasn’t been launched yet, it’s still on Earth.  I wasn’t really surprised by that, though I did have my doubts when I was doing the searches.  The little searching mini game was neat and easy to figure out once I understood that the scan went longer the closer I got to the target square.  After finding out that I’m now responsible for launching The Ark and getting Catherine (and somehow myself) on board and the fact that Catherine is now in my Omnitool, I decide that’s a good place to stop for the night because that’s a lot of shit to decompress, not to mention drudging up the old ‘what does it mean to be human’ thoughts again.

Night Three

Nothing matters at this point except launching The Ark.  After staring at the start screen for several long minutes trying to psych myself up for the task at hand, I return to this waking nightmare.

I exit the building where I found Catherine, try to use a small submarine that’s nearby only to find that it’s not functional.  I follow some lights on the sea floor and realize that I’m being hunted by that thing that attacked me earlier.  I run into the ruins of a ship – The Curie – and crawl through it to the other side.  I think I’m safe and then BAM! that thing appears for a split second and scares the shit out of me.  God damnit, this is not cool anymore.

I’m inside the ship but there’s one of those fucking things in here.  I’m panicking.  As it approaches I quickly look away hoping that it will save me from whatever is about to happen.  To my surprise it works!  It goes way out of sight…but where?  I’m still getting the static distortion as though it’s near, but I can’t see it.  I hide in a side room, hoping it will pass me by and it opened the fucking doorWhat the shit!  I look away again and it disappears.  I don’t know how long I can keep this up so I need to find that other submarine and quickly!  After an uncomfortable walk through the ship to the engine room and ripping out the black tentacles from the engine, I run like hell back to the sub from that monster (I died the first time because I didn’t understand what was going on.)  Catherine launched my sub and we crashed and now I don’t know where I am.  There’s some robot talking to himself and I found a door into a building.  I go inside and there’s blood everywhere.  This is all beginning to feel so hopeless.

Where am I?

Theta

I have reached Theta after an uneventful but emotionally uncomfortable zeppelin ride.  I’m coming to the realization (both in and out of game) that I’m not human – I’ve been a robot all along!  I land and proceed to the building in front of me, but first I have a very depressing conversation with a robot named Robin.  It’s becoming very heavy, this weight, this personal horror.  I stopped the game and bury my face in my hands for a minute.  This is when I could use the comfort of your hand on my back, but you’re not here.  I have to go on, I must go on.

So the mystery of how I got here is revealed at last: Simon died at the beginning and his brain scans were used as a template for an A.I. development kit.  The last bit of hope I had for getting back to that other reality is now gone.  This has all become spectacularly insane.

I’ve rebooted the router in the server room below.  Sheer terror.  Whatever that thing was that was wandering around walked close to me several times but didn’t see me in the darkness.  I went back to Catherine’s lab to get the cipher for the submarine and had an irritating time trying to trick Brandon Wan into giving me the information.  Once that was over I had the option of erasing the data or just shutting down the simulation.  Neither of them felt like comfortable choices to make, so I just shut it down.  I’ve killed people in games before, but this…totally erasing someone’s existence or just turning it off…I don’t know how to put this emotion into words.  I don’t like it.

I failed to get the sub and now I’m being hunted in a lab.  I managed to get the chip to unlock the elevator but I have to avoid the creature that’s here.  It’s attacked me twice but I’ve survived.  My pulse is racing.  The elevator has crashed.  I’m so dead.  I managed to escape the monster through some dark tunnels and rooms.  I found myself in what I assume are sewage tunnels.  When I pulled the lever to open the door, I was surprised to see the monster had found me.  I started to run only to be flushed out some pipes into the sea.  I live, for now.

Omicron – Night Four

I find I am no longer able to read the black boxes of the dead.  Have I lost the ability somehow (due to damage to my body?) or has it just run its course.  I keep seeing what I assume are subliminal messages when I’m reading terminals.  Is my body damaged or am I going crazy?  Or is it something else?  I’m trying to find parts to repair a power suit so I can get to The Ark.

It’s gotten to the point that I can’t bear to watch my character heal himself.

Existential crisis moment.  Panic attack.  I managed to get the items needed to repair the power suit to make the transfer to the new body.  But it didn’t work out like Simon – or I – planned.  Instead of a complete transfer to the new body, Simon is still in the old one too.

After an argument with Catherine, a panic attack and the realization that I’d be condemning the old me to stay in this hell forever and all alone…I made the choice:

What have I done?!?!  What.  Have.  I.  Done?!?!  I’ve lived with this scenario, this living nightmare, in my mind for years of being forced to take someone off life support and give them a humane death instead of selfishly keeping them alive.  And now that it’s happened…

I stood there and watched as the old me slowly stopped breathing.  I picked up Catherine and left.

I get on the elevator and listen to some very heavy thoughts between the two of them about life and death.  Simon mentioned what was the point of going on because everyone was gone.  I’ve often lived with that fear.  That someday everyone I know would be gone and I’d be all alone.  Uncared for, unwanted, alone.  I felt the brush of this terror years ago in my youth when my parents had died.  There was so much said between them in that moment, and I have a lot to say on all those subjects, but words fail me at the moment.  I am at a complete loss.  I have to fix the elevator.

That was a terrifying run from the elevator across the ocean floor to the front door of site Tau.

Site Tau – Night Five

After last night’s events, I stopped to decompress and compose myself.

I’ve just met the last living human on Earth, and I don’t even remember her name.  She’s hanging on by a thread and has given me The Ark.  I did the humane thing and put her out of her misery.

Sarah was her name.  I stayed with her until she took her last breath.

I’m so angry right now that this thing that keeps appearing and talking to me doesn’t scare me anymore.  I want to punch it in the face.

Whatever – or who ever – this thing is has now led me to Alpha and to the heart of he WAU (the substance that’s been controlling all the monsters I’ve had to run from in the game but it’s also been healing me when I needed it.)  It’s telling me to poison the WAU and kill it but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but there’s no other choice.

It ate my hand and then killed the creature that’s led me here.  I ran from it and now I’m at Phi.  I’ve got The Ark loaded into what looks like a giant bullet and I’ve found Catherine’s human body; her remains.

The Ark is loaded, I’m about to fire it into space.  I’m filled with dread that this isn’t going to work and that all this will have been for nothing.  I’m also filled with anxiety that I might save humanity.  I have to keep going.

I was left behind.  I launched The Ark but I was left behind.  In that moment, I was filled with despair.  The same despair that I felt when my parents died and left me behind, when Tyler died, when Jeff died, when Max died.  I was left behind.

After the end credits, I was greeted with Ark Simon’s awakening in a cave.  I ran and ran until I came upon Catherine standing on the shores of a lake with a massive structure in the background.  The lie of the afterlife never looked so beautiful.

I am greeted with one final shot of the satellite  – The Ark – orbiting the ruined, dead Earth.  I feel like it’s more of a high tech casket than anything else.  The real Simon died hundreds of years ago, yet he’s still alive in the room down below on the planet, and alive in The Ark.  But is it really him?

I feel devastated inside, yet glad that this nightmare has finally come to its bitter end.

Final Verdict

The concepts presented in this game – what does it mean to be human?  How do we know if we’re alive? – aren’t anything new or original.  These ideas have been explored by games before and by some of my favorite TV shows (Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse to name a few.)  The way Soma presents these is, however, a bit more terrifying than others, and ultimately leaves me with a sense of something lost or something that I just don’t have the answer to.

I am filled with more thoughts and emotions about the events in this game than I have words for.

I often think about mortality and immortality, about copying my consciousness into a machine and having “myself” live on like that, but is it really living?  Would it be living?  And immortality…would I really want it?  No.  The fact that you only have so much time on Earth is what makes it so precious, so fleeting.  I would never want immortality, I couldn’t bear the thought of watching the people that I love wither away and die while I stayed healthy and fit (not that I haven’t watched people I love die, but that’s another story for another time.)  There are so many people that I never want to live without, but I know that one day I’ll have to face that nightmare again.

Inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras / omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremem: grata superveniet quae non sperabitur hora.

Amid the hope and worry, the fear and anger / believe that each day which breaks is your last: the unhoped for hour will be a welcome surprise.

What I’m Playing, part 22

Fragments of Him

Fragments of Him is a beautiful, four part story about a man named Will and his relationships with his boyfriend Harry, his friend Sarah and his grandmother Mary.  Each part of the story is filled with a lot of harsh, bitter truths about love, loss and forgiveness that I won’t spoil here.  I just think it’s a game that you owe to yourself to play.  Just make sure that you have a box of tissues handy.

I do have some commentary on a couple of the stories, particularly the grandmother and his boyfriend.

His grandmother is, of course, old fashioned and doesn’t understand or agree with who Will is.  Her reaction when she discovers that he’s gay is negative, but not overly so.  Not in comparison to some other stories (both fiction and non) that I’ve heard.  When someone that’s close to you finds out you’re gay and has such a negative reaction to the point where they cut you out of their life or they say something negative…that sort of thing is hard to hear, and it hurts.  I’ll never understand, for the rest of my life, why people feel like they have failed as a parent if their kid turns out to be gay.  I’ll never understand why it has to matter so much either.

As far his boyfriend’s story, speaking from personal experience, they really hit the nail on the head.  When someone that’s been a part of your life for so long is suddenly gone, nothing matters anymore.  At least not at first.  When Harry starts to remove everything in their apartment, I knew what he was feeling.  I did the same thing after my mother died.  I had all this stuff that she had bought me over the years, but I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore, so I got rid of it.  Material possessions can never replace someone.  You learn to go on without them, but it takes time to heal.  How much time depends on the person.  You pick up the pieces and continue on with the fight, no matter how much it hurts at first.  You get used to the pain until it eventually stops hurting.

Final Verdict

I very much enjoyed this game and completed it from beginning to end in one sitting.  I like the monochromatic art style and the minimal glowing effect that shows around objects in the game that keep the story flowing.  The play controls are very simple and the music and writing are both beautiful.  This was very much a perfect rainy day game, and a good reminder that love is worth having even if it’s for a short while.

Retro Reanimation, part 1

Been on something of a retro gaming kick lately thanks to someone’s birthday gift to me, so I thought I’d start a new series on my blog and lay out my thoughts about these old games and how I feel about them in this day and age.  So without further adieu…

Super_Mario_World_Logo

I wouldn’t get a console of any kind until my freshman year of high school, and what I asked for was a Super Nintendo.  I told my mom that’s all I really wanted and I nagged and begged and did whatever it took.  Finally, it all paid off and after years of nothing but an original battery sucking Game Boy and the occasional weekend and my sister’s trashy trailer playing rented games on their barely hanging on for dear life NES, I was the proud owner of an SNES.  I remember that Christmas fondly.  I would often sneak into the basement where mom kept all the wrapped presents looking for mine.  The speculation running around in my head as to what it was or could be underneath the paper often annoyed me to the point that I would take a kitchen knife to the tape holding it together and take a peek at what I was getting.

On one of our usual shopping trips to Walmart to pick up this or that, my mother never had a problem finding me as I was usually glued to the SNES demo unit in electronics trying my hand at whatever was on offer and more often than not getting yelled at by her that it was time to go.  This particular Christmas when we were there, I remember pointing at the SNES box that had A Link To The Past packed in and asking for it as my gift that year.  She finally realized how much it meant to me and relented and got it for me.  Being the industrious snoop that I was back then, I couldn’t wait until Christmas and would sneak into the basement on tiptoes (it was an old house that made a lot of noise so I learned how to sneak quietly) and find the SNES shaped wrapped gift and work my mojo on the tape with said kitchen knife.

Ah the sweet taste of victory at finally having an SNES of my own.  I would nightly (after finding out that I was getting one) sneak the box into the bedroom and hook it up to the TV after mom was in bed and start my journey into the world of Hyrule.  I kept the instruction manual out of the box (back when games came with such things) and devoured it from cover to cover, determined to be a member of the triple zero club at school.  But I digress as this first Retro Reanimation post is going to be about my most recent visit to the glory days of Nintendo, Super Mario World.

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve gotten older and more skilled at gaming, or if this game was this short back then and I was just too dumb to notice.  I’ve managed to complete the game – getting all 96 gates – in a matter of hours.

Apologies for the shitty picture quality, I don’t have the proper equipment for screen captures from a 3DS.

I like to come back to old games like this every now and then as sort of a gaming palate cleanser.  After completing the mediocrity that was Metroid: Samus Returns, I wanted something fun but in a sense bite sized before I dove into my next big game.  I amazed myself at just how much of this game I remembered after not having played it in years.  I remembered where each and every keyhole was and where the secret exits were to every level that had them (that Cheese Bridge secret exit to Soda Lake can still suck it!)  I connected all the stars on Star Road…

Ta-da!

…and then found myself here…

Fuck my life

And then I remembered why I hated the Special area.  Two reasons:  1) they’re very frustrating and 2) once you do finish them, the main map turns that sickly brown and green color and is much less vibrant than before.  I was and still am proud of my accomplishment, don’t get me wrong, I just wish that the game designers hadn’t made that choice.

My other issue while playing this game, is that now that we have Super Mario Maker I couldn’t help but want to plagiarize the crap out of this game since it’s so full of good levels.  Instead of just copying levels from the game wholesale, I took a few notes here and there and will have to give things a try in the future.  Over the course of a few hours at work (it was a very slow day) I was greeted with victory:

I sat and sort of paid attention to the credits as they rolled by, only then to be met with many pictures of enemies from the game that are sadly nowhere to be found in Super Mario Maker, but I hope that if there were ever to be a sequel that some (or all of) these enemies make the cut:

Enemies M.I.A. in Super Mario Maker

I think it’s a glaring oversight that none of the Koopa Kids are anywhere to be found in Mario Maker.

I enjoy making some of my Mario fantasy levels come to life, but the realization of just how many enemies were missing from the Super Mario World palette was as depressing as finding out there were no art assets from Super Mario Bros 2!  But that’s a post for another time.  Super Mario World still remains one of the best SNES games in my personal lineup.  Even after all these years it’s still loads of fun to see how high of a score you can get or to take to the skies with the cape and simply fly over the entire level if you want.  I’ll be enjoying this game for years to come or any time I want to relive the best Christmas I ever had.