We talk about that classic from our youths, Masters of the Universe, featuring a terrifyingly buff Dolph Lundgren, and admirably motivated Frank Langella, and a lot of apparently confused people doing their best to make something of this thing.
These posts are drifting further and further into the following week. This is ostensibly a post about the games I played last week, but hey, whatever. Here we are.
Not included: the game I’m currently gathering footage from for the next episode of History Respawned, and Civilization V, which I am currently running through a short playthrough for the streaming episodes of History Respawned. I guess I can say those don’t count, but really, are we ever not playing Civilization? Think about it.
Heroes of the Storm
I haven’t played as much as I would like this week, though this game is very much on the verge of me just writing “everyone assume I’m playing HotS, I won’t write about it every single time.” I’m actually a bit frustrated, because silly things like spending quality time with my wife have deprived me of the opportunity to keep at least one of those quest spots clear at the start of each day. I joke, but the truth is this is bothering me a little bit. Damn you, Blizzard.
I briefly thought I had gotten really good at Rocket League thanks to my son’s obsession with the game, but it turns out that I had read the rankings incorrectly and I am basically a little bit better than I thought I was. If you’re reading this and thinking about ranked play, I’ll say this: I’m as good as I could reasonably expect to be at this point having played a fair bit but remained casual throughout, I can pull off basic flying (I can’t change direction in flight) and I can hold my own in a game against a bunch of flying lunatics. I am in the bottom tier of ranked play. Hence the mistake of thinking I had gotten really good. Ah well.
I have only just started this game, but games like this are exactly why I love the Humble Monthly Bundle. It does make me worry a little bit that I should perhaps be supporting games like this (particularly adventure games) more directly with my wallet, but to be perfectly frank there’s no way I could gather the collection I am slowly amassing without the Humble Monthly Bundle.
Well, that’s not entirely true; I could, I just don’t. There’s a longer blog post in there somewhere, but the Humble Monthly Bundle is filling out my collection with games that I never quite buy but am thrilled to see in my collection once the bundle is announced. Broken Age is a great example; it’s controversial in some circles but I come to it months later with no baggage whatsoever and little expectation. I just want to see what the game does. I haven’t really had a chance to get into it yet but so far all the things that look great from the trailers are there: a lovely art style, an interesting world built for the player. Let’s see where it takes me next.
Satellite Reign is pretty great. You should probably play it.
Three Moves Ahead had a nice podcast episode about the game where Rob Zacny invited Austin Walker to come in and talk about it and they make some nice points about how this game functions as a cyberpunk game and the extent to which it does or does not follow up on Syndicate (1993). Their case is that, despite the promises implied in the game’s crowdfunding campaign, this game is not a revamped, rebooted, re-choose your own word Syndicate. I would agree with that, but I do feel that the game scratches my Syndicate itch a lot better than I anticipated.
Yet another contender for a longer post, my feelings for Syndicate are long-lasting and I have been waiting for years for a game to come along and become my new Syndicate. Or my old Syndicate. I’m not sure. I’m a bit confused. The actual, original Syndicate doesn’t really work according to these elevated expectations, so I’m very grateful for Satellite Reign. Not that this game works against those expectations either, failing to have the impact on my mid-30s brain the original had on my 12 year old one. That’s probably a good thing.
Damn this game.
I was, weirdly, turned off by the art style for this game for a long time. I say weirdly because it seems that was a draw for most people. I like the art style, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t something I saw myself wanting to spend a lot of time with. Here I am.
Don’t Starve is a no-brainer for my particular habits. I am often in a position where I can steal a twenty minute session before turning the computer off, and Don’t Starve is a great choice for that. I have a habit of taking those short session games and playing them for two hours instead of the game I spent two days waiting for a decent amount of time to play (hello again, Rocket League!). I have no compunction whatsoever about my hand being held to a certain extent, especially when I realize my hand isn’t being held at all, really. Finally, I enjoy building imaginary objects in an imaginary world.
This game works much better than I anticipated. The balance between tramping around gathering resources and avoiding danger is pretty good, and the advances needed for moving on to the next step of the technology tree are enticing until you achieve them and start yearning for the next one. I’ll have to see how it goes further on but I hear so many good things about this game. Most telling of all so far? I die (either stupidly or unfortunately) and more or less immediately start up a new game. Damn it.
No Else Heart.Break() this week. Don’t judge me. My character is at a party with a cool DJ and a girl he fancies. He’s doing just fine.
This week we discuss the mangled cut of Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra, a film that reacts to the crime wave of the 1970s and early 1980s US pretty aggressively. Aviator sunglasses, a toothpick hanging from the lip and a poorly explained violent serial killer: Cobra has it all.
A quick note: the gremlins got into our machines this week, and as a result we had some audio problems. I hope it isn’t too distracting; we decided to soldier on!
A bit late again this week (I actually intended to write this last Friday), but I was pretty busy. Unfortunately I wasn’t busy playing games, at least not for the most part.
Rockpapershotgun’s “The Sunday Papers” linked to my post on European Truck Simulator 2, which was very cool. The release of American Truck Simulator has been teasing me, but I might cheat and go back and play the previous game. As much as I enjoyed it, I really only scratched the surface. I, too, dream of building a trucking empire from Sheffield to Rotterdam.
The latest Humble Monthly Bundle came out and it was pretty good. I, yet again, already owned the “big” game (Alien: Isolation) but yet again I still feel comfortable I got a good deal out of the bundle. I’m going to stick with it despite already owning the next game they are advertising as the “big” one (Ark: Survival Evolved).
This month’s bundle was a very cool assortment of games that I am very happy to own but might never have bought by myself (Broken Age, Dropsy, Penarium, Titan Souls, Volume). Increasingly, that’s what this bundle does for me, it beefs up my collection in a way that bends it away from my own esoteric fusion of the occasional Triple A title, indie games and anything involving space. Broken Age and Titan Souls in particular make me happy, and Dropsy got a great write-up by Jennegatron on Haywire Magazine, so I’m pleased overall.
As has been typical with my Humble Monthly Bundles, I haven’t got into those games straight away though. Instead I’ve been playing…
Heroes of the Storm
At some point in my life I will write the post I want to write about HoTS being a fantastic dad game. Until then, I’ll stop myself from repeating all the reasons I like the game for fitting into my life; let me instead talk about how I’ve actually been enjoying the game. Like other MOBAs I prefer to play support but unlike other MOBAs I’m happy to try on a different role, especially if it brings me that sweet, sweet imaginary currency that I refuse to spend. My hoarding of said currency is getting a bit silly at this point but that won’t deter me. It may be that I have completely misunderstood, on a fundamental level, how this whole thing works and that I am now taking the in-game balance as a sign of my worth when it… well, when it really isn’t any such thing. As Ian Bogost pointed out on Twitter yesterday, repetition offers a clear paradox at the centre of what makes games tick. My little increasing balance is right on the edge of that paradox, I feel.
The paradox of games: repetition makes games time-consuming and wretched, but repetition is the fundamental aesthetic and pleasure of games.
— Ian Bogost (@ibogost) February 9, 2016
Or maybe I’m just caught between spending a small amount of my fake currency on an anthropomorphic bull with an electric guitar and a wizard.
I didn’t play a lot of this game this week! Much to my own surprise. Else Heart.Break() falls into the same problem so many games I like do: I really, really want to be able to put aside some time to just enjoy the game but that time doesn’t currently exist. I can play HoTS for half an hour or maybe an hour and turn it off to do the dishes but I want to not have to worry about any of that when I play this game. It’s the same problem you face when you can’t commit two hours of your evening to a film but you watch four hours’ worth of television episodes instead.
I’ll have to break it, because this game… I fell in love with it quite quickly. It does something very difficult, which is to appear effortless in its fluent lo-fi aesthetic and storytelling. Going to a bar and talking to a girl, being ignored in a coffee shop; it’s difficult to make these kinds of interactions compelling but this game manages it rather well. In part this is because the protagonist clearly has a mind of his own but it rather reticent in providing it, his shyness preparing a canvass on which the player can sketch what s/he wants but remaining salient enough to clearly affect what colors must be used. Thus the interaction with a girl named Pixie is charming and touching when it could so easily have been cloying or just plain silly. I haven’t played this game in days because I’m due to meet her and her friends for a party at 6pm the next day and I want to make sure I can see where this goes in one play session.
The game also does a fantastic job of teasing out what I already know to be the game’s core mechanic. Meanwhile I get to put floppy disks into old computers and generally enjoy the fetishization of my childhood with little to no shame.
This week we try to get to the root of Jupiter Ascending; there’s no answer to the riddle of how this film ended up so disappointing perhaps, but we can still talk about how disappointing it turned out to be. Does the film have a future as a cult favorite or is it doomed to go down in history as a huge misstep?