What I’m Playing, part 17

GAMES!

Since I’ve played quite a bit this weekend, I decided to cram all the things I’ve played into one post, so let’s get started:

Little Nightmares

This game is, so far, pretty eerie.  It’s like what would happen if Tim Burton decided to make a side scrolling video game.  So far I’m a huge fan of the art style (it looks like Nightmare Before Christmas) and how well the game plays, but I’m not a fan of how the game doesn’t tell you how to control the character.  I personally hate it when any game does that to be honest.  Don’t want me to play your game?  Don’t tell me the controls and that will be that.

RiME

Think The Witness meets Journey meets ICO in this graphically beautiful, yet somewhat frustrating, puzzler.  The number one rule about this game is that your perception of things is not what it appears at first.  The game is highly dependent on it’s visual and audio cues, making for a memorable experience if not a bit frustrating (in terms of not being able to jump high enough)

Blade & Bones

Imagine what it would be like if the Souls games and Rouge likes had a kid.  At least that’s the vibe I’m getting so far from Blade & Bones.  This is yet another game that does not explain controls to you in a good way, it took me several minutes and random button presses to figure out how to get in my inventory to change weapons (pro tip: it’s not even a button press, you have to click in the left thumb stick and go from there.  So annoying.)  The story is a bit cheesy, but lays out your objective in order to beat the game – find the 7 swords.  There’s a day/night cycle that you can manipulate which is cool.  Here’s where the Rogue like aspect comes into play: you start the game with 7 Purity and when you die you lose one.  After you re-spawn, you get a pop up that tells you that if you lose all your Purity, you lose your save file.  I can tell this is going to be a very frustrating game for me to try to complete.

Friday the 13th: The Game

Friday-The-13th-The-Game-Logo

Definitely a game better suited to playing with friends instead of a pick up group.  It’s both fun and a little scary at the same time since it’s so campy but it’s hugely entertaining and has a decent replay value, but those trophies…ugh.

 Killing Floor 2

Another game that’s a lot of fun and best with friends (and a full compliment of 6) I’m definitely looking forward to more nights of making fun of the French weapon vendor and being the only German guy in the Motorhead reunion tour.

Polarity:  Ultimate Edition

Managed to finish this one in one sitting!  It’s a satisfyingly short first person puzzle game that does collectibles the way I like:  there’s only 3 in each level and you can see them all in plain sight, you just have to figure out how to get to them.  The bare bones story here is that you’re a hacker working for a mysterious benefactor and the levels represent the computers that you’re hacking (similar to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s intense Breach mode, only without any stealth elements).  The only thing left for me to do in this game is get the co-op trophies and I’m finished!

Destiny 2

Destiny, part 16

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since the gameplay reveal of Destiny 2, and I figured it was time to put in my 2 cents on what we’ve seen so far.

I am freaking excited to play this game!

It was a little soul crushing to see the Tower in ruins, my home for the last 3 years, gone.  It was exciting to see the Vanguard in action;  Ikora blasting the Cabal ship with her Nova Bomb, Cayde firing the Golden Gun and Zavala using his Ward of Dawn to try to save everyone in the Vanguard room when the Cabal attack.

I’m excited to see what is (or was) in the north part of the Tower when I get my hands on the game and to explore what’s left of the Tower before we leave it behind.

IMG_2372

Definitely going to main one of these guys first!

I’m also excited to play the new classes and learn how their abilities work and interact with each other.  I’m a little bummed that Warlocks can’t self resurrect anymore, but I’ll trade it for being able to rain swords of fire from the air.  It’s definitely going to make things interesting trying to raid without the usual linchpins of self rezzing Warlocks, bubble Titans and tether Hunters.

I also can’t wait to explore the new planets and zones.  I’m happy that public events will have on screen timers now instead of having to rely on 3rd party apps that may or may not be accurate.  I’m looking forward to exploring the places and seeing what I can find.

Like this lovely place for example.

I’m happy that the director got a face lift and looks pretty snazzy now.

Slick!

And I’m so happy that we don’t have to go to orbit anymore to go to a new location.  We can just pick a new place and BAM! off we go.

A new raid, new strikes, new locations, new classes.  I can’t wait for September to get here.

In spite of all the negativity floating around the internet about the game, I can’t wait.  All the haters and trolls can suck it.  If they don’t like what they see then they can play something else (like the next Call of Dudebro)

IMG_2373

I can’t wait to play one of these guys either!

What I’m Listening To, part 9


The way these posts work is, I’m going to post the lyrics with my thoughts in between the lines like this.


Assemblage 23 – Skin

Identity sometimes seems fleeting
An ever-changing tapestry
But at it’s heart is the foundation
The very essence of our being


Do you know who you are inside?  I do.  Or at least most of the time I think I do.


Shed your skin
Cast off your chains
Feel the sun upon your face for once
And wash away the pain
Shed your skin
Be who you are
Unencumbered by the weight
Of hiding every little scar


Just be yourself, everyone else is taken.  Take everything that everyone expects you to be, their perceptions of you, and throw them out.  Be your own person, uninhibited, unbound, unchained.  Fly.


At times the self seems in transition
A mere projection on a screen
But what happens when you turn the lights on
And things are not as they once seemed?


Examining yourself, taking a good long hard look can be a difficult task.  But when a new piece of information comes along causing or forcing you to re-examine who you are, weather the storm until you find solid ground again, the journey will be worth it.


Shed your skin
Cast off your chains
Feel the sun upon your face for once
And wash away the pain
Shed your skin
Be who you are
Unencumbered by the weight
Of hiding every little scar

Who we are is always changing
A never-ending course of growth
But deep inside there is a pillar
Deep inside there is a soul


Or is there?


Shed your skin
Cast off your chains
Feel the sun upon your face for once
And wash away the pain
Shed your skin
Be who you are
Unencumbered by the weight
Of hiding every little scar

Life and Death, part 6

Ever text someone at just the worst possible time?

Yesterday, I asked my friend Alex if he’d like to get something for dinner before he went to work.  His response was something I didn’t expect.

I can’t, I have the girls until I have to leave for work because mom had to make an emergency trip to Canada to see aunt Yvette.  She has lung cancer and it has spread to both breasts and other parts of her body.  She’s opting for doctor assisted suicide at the end of the week.

Ouch.  Needless to say, he’s not taking this news well as after that he was more than a little upset at her decision.  Having witnessed firsthand what cancer does to a person, I feel like she is justified in her decision to end her life while she is still in full control of her faculties.  It’s what I would want were I in her place.  It’s what I will demand if I’m ever in that situation.

I still remember the daily living horror of watching my mother wither away while she had cancer.  Initially she was herself, only sick.  But as the last year of her life went on, the pain became unbearable and the sickness slowly eroded her humanity until what I was looking at from day to day was a husk, a shell of a human being, kept alive by drugs and our selfishness, our inability to let her go peacefully.  Had I had any say in the matter and any level of maturity (I was 17 when she died) I think I would have had that talk with my family about letting her go, whether they liked it or not.  I can still remember her last night at home.  I stood there with my father and watched helplessly as she went through her death throes and finally stopped breathing.  This is the personal hell I endure, that I live with from day to day.  Most of the time the flames don’t bother me, but today I feel their wrath.

My knee jerk reaction to Alex’s disdain for her decision to end her life was a simple question:  who would you be keeping her alive for, her or yourself?  It’s a painful question and not one with an easy answer to say the least but I think it’s one that everyone with a sick and dying relative should think about.

What I’m Playing, part 16

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record

This post is entirely about Sandbox Mode.  Story Mode may or may not be covered in a future post depending on if I feel like being bothered or annoyed by this game again.

So there was another publisher sale on PSN this week, this time for Capcom.  As usual, I browsed the sale and looked to see if anything was a must buy for me, but as is usually the case, everything that was on sale was something I already had – except Dead Rising 2: Off The Record.

From what I had seen previously about the game, it didn’t look like they had iterated much on the series (like some other franchises we know) so I figured a $10 price point was just about right since memories of the irritation from the first game still annoy me to this day.  More on that in a minute.

So for this weekend’s bite size gaming, I decided to give it a shot and right off the bat, I remembered why I haven’t been back to this series in years.

Rehash Rehash Rehash…

At the start, you are greeted with 2 options:  Story Mode (nope) and Sandbox Mode (oh hell yeah!) and since I didn’t feel like having every minute of my playing timed like in the first game, I went with sandbox mode.  I was greeted with a little older (and fatter) Frank West jumping out of a helicopter just like he did many years ago to take on the zombie horde.  And, just like many years ago, I was met with a janky camera and a character that controls like a tank and apparently doesn’t run (at least not that I have figured out from experimenting with the controls.  No wonder Frank got fat.)  I was also met with the age old task of saving your progress yourself, which I don’t have a problem with until I get careless and die and have to redo several minutes (sometimes hours) of gameplay.

Not off to a good start kids…

Our setting this time around is Fortune City, which if I remember correctly was the setting for Dead Rising 2 (I never did play it even though I have it.  I know, I’m a bad gamer.)  Once I got my bearings and was greeted with the tutorial on how challenges worked, I was off to start killing.  Challenges are marked as purple stars in the environment and the handy dandy map and are, of course, rated on a scale from bronze to silver to gold.  There are many Challenges to play, scattered all over the place, but they aren’t all immediately available, they must be unlocked by killing enough zombies and the amount you need to kill caries from Challenge to Challenge.  I think at the time of this writing, I’ve tried maybe 2 out of the ones that are available to me.  I’ve been having more fun just crafting the absurd weapons and seeing how many zombies I can kill with it until it breaks.  Another noticeable change in Sandbox Mode is that the survivors all are trying to kill you.  The first one I came across was a shotgun and bomb toting mailman that, after trying a handful of times to kill, I eventually just left him to die at the hands of the zombies.  I hope they found him tasty.  There was also the psycho bride with bad makeup, a James Bond wanna be and the crazy chef in the food court full of overweight zombie women in moo moos and hair curlers.

Other things that they rehashed from the other games were the stat boosting magazines that you could carry in your inventory and those oh so annoying to find PP Stickers.  It actually took me a long time to remember that I could photograph the enemies and environment for bonus experience points, I’m embarrassed to say.

Great, this shit again.

Also, Capcom decides to still punish players with a poor targeting system when it comes to guns, making them pretty much useless in the game.  I know, I get that the idea is to use items in the environment as weapons and craft the absurd weapons from things laying around in the shops and safe rooms, but it would be nice if players had the option to be a gun toting maniac at the end of the world if they wanted to be.

At the time of this writing I’m currently level 10 with a body count of 2,727 that has taken me about 8 or so hours to acquire, with a break for lunch in between sessions.  I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to platinum this game, but if I ever feel the itch to just kill zombies with silly weapons, I know where I’m going to turn.

  • Is platinum attainable?  Yes but you’ll need a co-op buddy
  • % of trophies at the time of writing according to PSN: 11%

Relationships, part 15

Family

So earlier today, myself and someone close to me were having a heart to heart about family and what that meant to both of us.  If you go to Google and ask it for a definition, you will of course get the traditional definition of ‘parents and children’ and ‘things that are appropriate for both parents and children’ but neither of us were speaking in these narrow terms.

At one point in the conversation, he says to me “I’m at the point where some of these new gay friends I’ve been making feel more like family than my actual family, know what I mean?”  I certainly knew exactly what he meant.  I was overcome with emotion at some of the thoughts I was having after I read his text and was also reminded what mom said to me one day during lunch.  She said that more often than not in her own experience, family wasn’t always someone that was blood.  Family was whoever was there when the chips were down and still had your back.  I agreed with her wholeheartedly.

To me, family is a lot more than a mom, a dad and children.  Family is who’s got your back.  Family is who helps you when you need it no matter what the cost is.  Family is who still loves you at the end of the day no matter what you’ve done or who you are.

After reading his text, I was reminded of one episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, season 5, where Roxxxy Andrews has her breakdown on stage.  Ru is wearing that weird green dress with one sleeve when she says to Roxxxy “We as gay people, we get to choose our family.”  I can’t even type that sentence without getting choked up.  I didn’t realize it until that moment, but that’s exactly what I’d done.  I had chosen my family since my own family didn’t really want anything to do with me anymore after my parents died.  Ru really hit the nail on the head and hit me right in the emotional breadbasket.  When I watch the show, it makes me feel better to know there are people out there that have gone through the same emotional stuff I have.  It makes me feel closer to the people on the show, hearing about their lives before they got on and what it’s been like for them.  I don’t just watch the show for the fashion and the cat fights, that stuff is just a bonus.  I choose who I let in my family.

We also spoke of having support when coming out.  That was another point at which I was awash with emotion.  I didn’t really have much in the way of support when I came out, at least it didn’t feel like support to me.  Some teasing and definitely some changes in attitude from everyone I knew.  In all the years I’ve talked to other gay men about their life experiences, it’s usually one of three scenarios: your biological family just straight up turns its collective back on you; your biological family already knows and they’re just waiting for you to tell them or your biological family doesn’t care and loves you anyway.  I try to be supportive when I hear that someone is coming out or is on the verge of making the announcement because I remember how alone I felt afterward, how I needed someone to just tell me things were going to be ok.  Support can make all the difference in the world.

Gay people, gay families, are more than just a label.  We’re people with hopes, dreams, fears, needs and wants just like everyone else.  We fear persecution and hatred, we need love and a place of peace to live in, we dream and hope for a better tomorrow and want our voices heard.  We tend to look out for each other more than our hetero counterparts do.  We know the struggle, the hardships we face, and we don’t want anyone else to fall victim to that.  I’d like to think that my chosen family can count on me, that I’m definitely the type that has your back when the chips are down. When it seems like the world is against you, I’ll be your sword and shield.  I’m not afraid to make more enemies, even if that means making an enemy out of a blood relation.

After all, there’s a reason we refer to each other as ‘family’

What I’m Playing, part 15

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

A bit of a departure from my usual PS4 gaming, I decided (with a bit of coaxing from a friend) to give Breath of the Wild a try.  I figured it was time to give my poor Wii U some love anyway since it’s been a while.  Beware of SPOILERS ahead if you want to go into the game with as little knowledge as possible.

Right off the bat, it is glaringly obvious that this is NOT a typical Zelda game.  The usual trappings are here (Link, Zelda, Ganon, Hyrule, etc) but its been packaged in a very different way.  This time instead of a linear, dungeon to dungeon, Metroidvania-esque adventure, we are treated to a very westernized Zelda, and since I’m still early in the game I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one.

Instead of the typical item and weapon gathering methods from the past (i.e. getting a new weapon or item from a dungeon and then doing a lot of backtracking to make use of it) this time around, we are given some of your traditional Zelda items (bombs and creating ice blocks) immediately in the starting zone of the game.  These are mitigated with an at times agonizingly long cool down, but they are useful tools none the less.  These are accessed through an in game item called a Sheikah Slate which looks suspiciously like a primitive smart phone or tablet.

Weapons this time around are far from the usual heroic type, instead we are able to steal them from enemies and can use them until they break.  Considering the ridiculous number of weapons I’ve gone through at this point, I can only hope that somewhere in the vast open world the Master Sword is waiting for me to find it as having to scrounge for weapons constantly is getting rather old.

Armor / clothing has been few and far between.  I’ve been in the same clothing since the start of the game until about an hour ago when I (finally) reached Zora’s Realm and got some really snazzy blue armor that lets me swim up waterfalls (without having to expend and stamina, thankfully).

Another departure from traditional Zelda games is the inclusion of aforementioned stamina.  You are given the ability from the beginning to climb ANY surface you like – rock faces, walls, trees – provided you don’t run out of stamina in the process.  If you do, you fall down to the nearest flat surface and must wait for the meter to refill before attempting to climb again, provided you live through the fall in the first place.  You can also vault in the direction that you are currently climbing, even side to side but at the cost of a sizable chunk of your stamina meter.  The side to side vaulting works surprisingly well and is something that I think other game developers should look at (*cough* Assassin’s Creed *cough*)  The inclusion of stamina has been to my detriment frequently throughout the game and one that I find highly irritating but I’m learning to cope.

Another departure is the method with which you gain more hearts.  Dotted across the land are Shrines.  Shrines are typically one room puzzles that must be solved in order to receive a Spirit Orb from the Shrine’s guardian.  After you collect 4 Spirit Orbs, you have the option to trade them in for either another Heart Container or a bit more Stamina.  So far in my playthrough I’m trying to keep it balanced, one heart, more stamina, one heart, and so on.  You can only trade the orbs in at statues of the goddess Hylia but so far, finding the statues hasn’t really been a problem.  The Shrines seem to litter the landscape and can be seen from quite some distance away as they stick out like a red/orange glowing sore thumb.  At the time of writing, I’ve found 13.

Something that’s been added to the game and that has been used ad nauseam in games as of late are towers that you must climb in order to uncover the map.  I don’t hate this feature, but it is becoming rather dull at this point since several other games have used it (Assassin’s Creed, Infamous: Second Son, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and I think Dying Light did it too.)

As far as traditional Zelda dungeons go, I’m not sure whether this game has any or not.  I know there are 4 “ancient beasts” that you must bring back to the side of good if you are to have any hope of defeating Ganon, and at the time of this writing I’m at the first one (I had to take a break from the game due to frustration so I decided to start writing about the game.  I guess you could say the first dungeon was the catalyst for this entry.)  I love how their idea of a map is actually a 3D wireframe of the beast with red spots indicating where the terminals you need to access are located in order to bring the beast back to the side of good.  I’ll write more on dungeons as things develop.

Another inclusion in this game that I really don’t like is the hot/cold meter next to your mini map.  It is possible for Link to freeze to death as I discovered several times in the starting area trying to get to a couple of the Shrines there.  I’m hoping this can be combated with gear later on in the game as I have yet to figure out how to cook food.  I’m not terribly happy that was included either; at this point with the number of games that have crafting in them I’m really glad that Google is a thing.  I do find it a little funny that I’m running around with shit tons of crafting supplies on my person but I constantly run out of room for weapons and constantly have pangs of guilt when I have to leave stuff behind.

Next to the mini map is also an indicator showing how much noise you’re making.  I do think that this was a good idea as I’m sure I’ll have need of it later on down the line.

Combat this time around has also been changed and I’m not sure that I like it.  It’s not your typical beat the shit out of enemies until they die fair, this time it does require a bit of skill / improvisation.  I’ve been killed by my own bombs more times than I care to admit while trying to use them to kill enemies that are chasing me.  You can lock on to your enemy and focus on them like in other games, using them as a sort of anchor while trying to dodge out of the way of their attacks.  You can also parry attacks with your shield and if you’re quick enough you can hit them with a power attack while they are stunned.  If not for trying to do this with the Wii U game pad I’m sure I’d be better at combat than I am.  For now I’m sticking with the beat the shit out of them until they die method and see how far I can get.

This game is BEAUTIFUL.  The art style of cell shading is always pleasing to me and I’m in awe when I look around at the world that they have created.  That being said, I do feel like the draw distance is limited by the Wii U’s hardware and I’m not sure that the Switch has this limitation.  I might eventually buy a Switch and this game and see for myself what the difference is.  The weather effects are also amazing as is the inclusion of a day/night cycle.  The only time I find weather to be an issue/nuisance is when trying to climb in the rain.  It’s neat that they added the detail that surfaces become slippery when it’s raining making climbing a bit more difficult, but it’s also another annoyance about the game to add to the growing list.  Another weather related detail is being struck by lightning.  If you are equipped with anything metal (and most of the weapons in the game are) and you’re outside during a thunderstorm you start to spark with electricity.  After a few seconds the sparks become a lot more frequent until you are finally killed instantly by a lightning bolt unless you can make it to cover.  Thus far I’ve been killed every time a storm happens, so when I see rain, instead of enjoying it like I would in any other game I try to find a campfire and wait until morning and hope the storm is gone by then so I can continue my quest.

Speaking of the environment and distance, you can use your in-game tablet as a sort of view finder to see what’s around you and mark it with a pin for you to investigate later.  The distance between where you’re standing and where the thing you want to get to is, is often quite deceiving.  More than once I’ve pinned something that I wanted to go investigate (usually a Shrine) only to find when I looked at the map that it’s actually a million miles away or in an adjacent zone.  I like that it’s a big open world for me to explore, but having to walk everywhere and especially over great distances gets tiresome.  There is travel by horse which I’ve not yet tried and there’s my favorite – gliding through the air on a rickety looking hang glider.  The only negative there is that you are constantly using stamina while gliding which I think is total bullshit since I’m not doing anything but holding on to the glider.  Grip meter from Shadow of the Colossus I guess?  That shit is why I never went back to that game and just might end up preventing me from finishing this one or making any significant progress.

So far my experience with Breath of the Wild has been quite a bit negative and a little positive, but since It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Zelda game I’m trying to enjoy myself as best I can.  I’ll write more on my journey as it unfolds, stay tuned.