When Hype Kills

The newest trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 released this week. Leading to increased talks around the internet about its potential to be one of the greatest games of all time. Hype for the game is sky high and for good reason. It does look good. At least from what I’ve seen. I still haven’t seen the latest trailer. There’s a good reason for that.

Hype is a wonderful thing. The feeling of getting giddy over the upcoming release of a new title in any medium can put anyone into a strange child-like wonder. But it does have its limits and we’ve all been burned by hype in the past. Sometimes hype has a detrimental effect on how the end product is received.

Let’s go back to 2016, and the release of No Man’s Sky. This game was highly anticipated at release. Hello Games had promised a universe teeming with life, but could only deliver a speck of what was promised. No Man’s Sky was panned by critics and players alike for its repetitive gameplay, boring procedurally generated planets and missing features. No Man’s Sky and Hello Games fell victim to the hype beast.

Of course, you could say the impossible promises made by Sean Murray of Hello Games is what killed the launch of No Man’s Sky and to an extent you’d be right. Those promises are what created the hype. But I believe that hype is what really did it in.

I think about it this way. If No Man’s Sky was released without the media attention. Without the appearance on the Late Night show. Without the internet building a gargantuan hypeball. It would have been a neat little experiment in procedural generation; a simple indie game among many. Of course this doesn’t come with the glory that the hype beast can bring, but it doesn’t come with the infamy either.

No Man’s Sky does have a happy ending at least. Last I heard, Hello Games really knocked it out of the park with their response to criticisms and turned No Man’s Sky into something worthy of praise. But it does come as a cautionary tale, at least for me. I try not to hype myself up for things. Cautious optimism is my mantra. I try to avoid watching too much promotional material or let the thing occupy too much space in my mind. That way, a game, a movie or a book will at least meet my expectations. I hate having my expectations crushed.

I hope Cyperpunk 2077 will live up to the hype. It certainly has a lot.

The Epilogue of Red Dead 2 is Too Hard

[Warning: Complete Spoilers Ahead]

 

I never played Red Dead Redemption and I’ve never had the attachment to John Marston that other people have had. And while I wasn’t completely disappointed to end up playing as John Marston during the epilogue, it did make me somewhat sad.

I knew Arthur’s fate almost from the beginning. I didn’t know the details of course, but I knew he either had to die or leave the gang, and leaving just didn’t seem like something Arthur would do. Rockstar isn’t a developer that likes twists. Surprises aren’t their forte, so, apart from the tuberculosis diagnosis, most of the Red Dead 2 storyline is pretty straight forward. Who didn’t see Micah Bell as the rat that he is from the beginning?

Where Rockstar shines is in their ability to write believable and charismatic characters. Both Arthur Morgan and John Marston have their fair share of character development throughout Red Dead 2. Much to the dismay of many Marston fanboys, John wasn’t always a family man and all round good guy. And Arthur, who begins as a blank slate, quickly develops into, in my opinion, one of Rockstar’s best characters.

I played as Arthur Morgan for 50+ hours and came to love his character. I watched as he changed from a loyal, albeit outspoken, enforcer for Dutch, to a more compassionate and wiser man. I was floored at his death, even if I saw it coming. No doubt, taking over as John Marston, after Arthur went to great lengths to help him escape, was supposed to be a hopeful thing. During the epilogue you follow Marston as he tries to better himself, and put his old world behind him. He becomes a ranch hand in an attempt to do honest work, but even then he struggles with that. In an attempt to stop Abigail from leaving him, he buys a ranch of his own by taking out a loan, something old Marston would have never done.

I tried to play the epilogue slow. I had rushed the end of the story out of a desire to see it through, and now I felt I had made a mistake doing that. After building up his ranch, I travelled with Marston a bit, as I had with Arthur. The intention was to finish the side missions I had left undone as a sort of tribute to Arthur. But the whole thing just made me sad. Marston just isn’t as good as Arthur. His character isn’t quite as witty or charismatic. Even in the journal, Marston doesn’t draw as well as Arthur. And Marston has a distinct style. I tried to smarten John up. Dress him sort of like how I did Arthur, but the game seemed to go to great lengths to force him back into his iconic outfit.

Every time I did anything in the world with Marston, I was reminded that I could have done it better with Arthur. Every time Marston scribbled in Arthur’s journal I thought, I wish I did this with Arthur. I discovered the fallen meteorite as Marston, and was bummed that I hadn’t gone that way with Arthur. So I ended up pushing through to the finish, as I had during the end of the main story, leaving all the extra missions undone. It’s kind of fitting I think. Often when we die we leave things undone, it’s inevitable. Maybe it’s better than John gets on with his own life in the end, instead of trying to finish someone else’s.

 

Parts of Red Dead Redemption 2 Left Me Frustrated

[Caution: Potentially Minor Spoilers]

 

The realism in Red Dead Redemption 2 is staggering. Everything about its world is meticulously crafted. It breathes life unlike any other game before it. With Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar have created a masterpiece of open world gameplay. I found myself spending hours just roaming the countryside, meandering from place to place, occasionally arriving in a tavern, having a drink and a round of poker. I moved at a leisurely pace, being totally unconcerned with how long it took me to get to my next story mission. The lack of easy fast travel meant I was forced to explore the world, and I truly enjoyed it.

I spent most of Chapter II as far away from Horseshoe Outlook as I could be. I roamed up through the Grizzlies in the north and hunted a legendary wolf. I had been to Wapiti Reservation, Annesburg and Saint Denis before the story took me to them. I had spent more time living the life within the game than I had actually progressing the story, and it was magical. RDR2 gave me the feeling of being apart of a world more so than any other video game I’ve played before. Rockstar are the kings of detail, and the slow pace meant that I had all the time in the world to appreciate it.

Night and Day – the two customised revolvers I use more than any other weapon.

And therein lies the problem.

As you might expect from a AAA game in 2018, RDR2 has a story. A very long, behemoth of a story that dwarfs even other long winded AAA stories. And at first, as Arthur and the Van der Linde Gang try to navigate their way through a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to them, the meandering nature of the game works. It follows the natural order of things. At Horseshoe Outlook your sole task is to find ways for the gang to make money. There’s no plan, no single objective, so it makes sense that you would take your time finding things to do. It makes sense that Arthur would do jobs for strangers and go hunting and fishing and playing poker in a tavern until the crack of dawn. But as things begin to escalate, and the story most certainly does, this style of gameplay, this slow pace, starts to make less thematic sense. As the law begins to close in on the Van der Linde Gang, and they are forced to move camp at increasingly smaller intervals, the story missions ramp up in their intensity, but the gameplay underpinning it stays at the same slow pace. The same meandering country stroll. With the only fast travel options available to you being the map at camp, (which only allows you to travel away, not back), and the stagecoaches and trains (which both only travel to and from towns), and the missions nearing the end of the game becoming more spread out, you often find yourself having to travel long distances by horse, slowing the pacing to a crawl. Nearing the end of the game, as the Pinkertons push ever closer to the gang and put the pressure on, it makes very little sense that Arthur would be wasting his time gathering up a bunch of fake circus animals for a man in drag.

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A mission for Sadie Adler dumped me out half a map away from my next objective.

This is the heart of the issue, because pacing is important. As the story ramps up and the stakes are raised, the pacing should start to speed up as well. I’m aware that taking away freedom in an open world game is a cardinal sin for gamers, but having missions dump you in the middle of nowhere, when the next one is halfway across the map, breaks the intensity that the later missions are trying so hard to achieve. I found it increasingly frustrating that, in my efforts to keep the story moving at a pace I felt it should move, I was constantly hampered by the way the game is designed. Having to trudge on back to camp after yet another shootout with scores of enemies to do the next mission, only to be spat out again to repeat the process, just made me want to turn the console off. It’s because of this I’m still yet to actually finish the game, as the story seems to drag on and I became far too frustrated to continue. And that’s the saddest thing, because the story is compelling. I want to experience the end. I want so much to push through and finish it because spending so long around this merry band of outlaws has made me attached to their fate. I want to see them through, in the same way that Arthur, as he grapples with his own doubts about Dutch and the gang, still wants to make sure they all get out alive. Rockstar have fostered such an amazing sense of comradery within the characters of the gang that I also feel invested in their survival. Rockstar are telling a great story with RDR2, it’s a shame that the underlying gameplay tries so hard to pull the wind out of its sails. Or, ah, the air out of its lungs as it were…

Secret in Story – Review

I enjoy games that come up with unique mechanics and attempt to blend story with gameplay in unique ways. There is a risk in experimenting with style that I admire in the indie scene and the game I’m looking at today is definitely taking that risk.

Secret in Story, developed by Luo Zhi En and published by Heroes Productions is a point and click visual novel, for lack of a better descriptor. It tells its story through pictures flashed at you and, following clues that the game gives you throughout, you must click the correct object to advance the story. This can be something as simple as clicking the alarm clock that is ringing, to remembering what the protagonist had been drawing a couple scenes earlier and clicking that.

Secret in Story uses sketchbook style drawings to convey its story, which is effective in conveying the succinct story it’s trying to tell. The piano that accompanies the game is a nice and calming, which is essential, because the game might have gotten infuriating otherwise.

The central mechanic of Secret in Story is the player having to click the right object in a time limit in order to advance the story. Often it takes multiple tries to get something right, and failure means you have to start again from the beginning. Ultimately Secret in Story is a memory game, and it has one jarring flaw, RNG. Parts of the game are randomised. There’s a pattern, I’m sure of it, but I didn’t care enough about the story to learn it. Often times I would resort to randomly clicking until something happened (this ups your click count and loses you some score at the end of the game, but in a narrative based game is the score really important?). One particular scene, where you have to find your phone hidden behind one of the many objects between two scenes that don’t give you much time to search was particularly frustrating. Randomising scenes doesn’t help anyone in a memory game and I found myself getting frustrated more than challenged.

As far as the story goes, it’s all told without dialogue, and that’s admirable. It tells a story about lost love (at least as far as I could tell), but it loses some of its edge because of the main mechanic. Because I had to focus so hard on what to click next, I often never paid attention to the picture as a whole, and thus missed chunks of story. With no real twists or turns I found myself not caring all that much about the characters and who they were and I kinda wish I did.

Ultimately Secret in Story is an enjoyable little game that will pass some time and won’t break the bank. The visuals are beautiful and the story, while nothing new, is conveyed effectively. Once you’ve finished the story you probably won’t want to go back, but considering its price, a one off go is just fine.

3.1/5

Battle Royale Games Aren’t Living Up to Their Potential

Brace yourselves, because I’m about to talk about a genre of game I haven’t even played. I’m also going to be pretty critical of said genre, and offer ways I believe would improve the genre and turn them into games I might actually want to play in future.

Battle Royale games have become ridiculously popular lately. For those who don’t know, the Battle Royale is a genre of video game that borrows its main idea from films like Battle Royale (duh) and The Hunger Games. Players are dropped, often by air, into a vast map of open fields dotted with houses. When they drop, they have no supplies. Players must scavenge the map for weapons and armor to equip themselves, in order to stand a chance against the other players in the map. Last man, or in some cases, last team, standing wins.

It sounds like a brilliant idea, and its popularity is understandable. Even when I first watched Hunger Games I thought it might make a solid game (yes Battle Royale fanboys I understand it came first, shut the fuck up about it). The latest iteration of the genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is, as of this writing, sitting at number one on the top selling list on Steam. I haven’t played it, and after watching many Youtube videos and listening to some criticisms from a certain person (not famous, a friend of mine) whose opinion I regard quite highly, I won’t be playing it. But the idea for this little post came out of that conversation I had.

You see, my main critique of these games comes from the map design. By necessity, the maps of Battle Royale games are massive. It gives the players the time they need to gather their supplies before they meet and kill each other. But they’re also often incredibly boring, consisting of mostly rolling fields, dotted with trees and hills and the occasional clusters of houses. The sheer size of the maps (or often, map) in these games is often a point of pride for the developers, because it seems like gamers as a group have developed this idea that bigger is better. But it’s not. Massive maps don’t help gameplay, they hinder it. Almost every gameplay I’ve seen has been people running around alone for half an hour, only to be shot from across an open field and die. The only wins I’ve actually seen are from people who never encountered anyone until the very end, where they killed the last guy in a quick and boring firefight to win.

Now I’m sure there are other stories of much more exciting wins. I know a few people who would love to jump to the defense of this genre, but I’m not writing this post to shit on the it. In fact, I actually think it has great potential, it just needs the devs to stop being lazy and actually put some imagination into it. So I have some ideas that might improve any new games that prop up in this genre. I believe these ideas would lead to a broader, more fun experience.

 

Make the maps smaller and denser.

Big maps aren’t applaudable because they’re big. I think games media have somehow conditioned people into believing this with the size comparison charts of all the GTA games, and various other series’ maps. The general consensus seems to be ‘bigger is better’, but I don’t believe that’s true in the slightest.

Making the maps of battle royale games tighter and slightly smaller (it wouldn’t need to be too much smaller honestly), with more buildings, perhaps even a city, would discourage camping of open areas, and offer cover from those who do inevitably camp.  A tighter, city styled map would make for more intense experience and could eliminate the need to forcibly push players together through the closing ring mechanic.

 

Add some lore.

Lore is wonderful. It doesn’t have to be central to the game, but nice placement of lore makes all the difference. Take Warframe for example. That space ninja grind-fest has the potential to be the most boring thing ever after a while, but they’ve kept a lot of players hooked and playing just based on some very tiny lore hints. Like seriously tiny lore hints. It literally has a single page on its fan made wiki. Like two fucking paragraphs of lore is all it has but it makes the game all that much better.

Why are these people being flown to this island? Why are they forced to kill each other? Is it entertainment? Population control? Like I get that it’s just a game, but a little lore goes a long way. After all, Battle Royale and the Hunger Games aren’t interesting because of the central event, but rather the circumstances surrounding it.

 

Give them some character for God’s sake.

Jesus H. Christ if I have to see another one of these games where you play as baby’s first character model I’m gonna kill myself. I get it, you want to focus on the mechanics. You want to shit out microtransactions to make dat cash money. You want to do the least amount of work and still end up on the top of the Steam best sellers list. But you shouldn’t settle for generic. Add some flair, some panache. A lot of this can come from my previous point of adding lore. Is your game set in a post apocalyptic society that somehow still has working planes and dumps their criminal scum on an island to kill each other. Is it some sort of future blood sport where people watch others kill each other for the lulz? Either way, there are opportunities to pour some life into your games. Add some in-universe advertising if its a blood sport. Make the buildings more ruin like and run down if it’s post-apocalypse. Just give your world some thought so it feels less like an Arma mod and more like an actual standalone game.

 

For real, it’s really not too hard to delve into your imagination for the last two recommendations. The hardest part about them is the map design, which is a seriously difficult thing to get right. Map design is a goddamn art and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, map design isn’t taking rolling hills and plonking down clusters of buildings at random intervals. That shit is lazy as fuck and you can do better.

I know I know, ‘if you can do better why don’t YOU make a game?’ We all know that ol chestnut. So I’ll tell you what. I can’t shit out games because I don’t know how to code, that’s not my expertise. But what I can do, is shit out a game concept right here in this post.

 

The year is 2100. The divide between rich and poor has increased dramatically, unemployment is high, crime has skyrocketed. The prison population is increasing exponentially and there is no more room. That’s where the Death Games come in. Prisoners are chosen at random to compete in the newest craze to sweep the nation. They are locked together in an enclosed, themed arena filled with weapons. They must fight to be the last man standing. The winner gains his freedom. As the Death Games gained popularity, corporate sponsors took notice and began sponsoring arenas, prisoners and even entire prisons for the Death Games.

You see that? It’s pretty fucking cliche, but at least it’s better than, ‘a bunch of soldiers duke it out because…’. This scenario also adds the opportunity to stretch map design skills by having different arena themes. Some could be buildings, some could be forested areas, some could be cities. The corporate angle adds opportunities to plug your game full of satire ads that play on the silliness of the games world. There’s so much more potential for a game that has even the most minimal of lores. Just with some simple effort establishing a lore for your game would give it such a wider range of artistic design. Now obviously I don’t develop games. If I did I probably wouldn’t be writing this barely functioning blog. But I feel like my ideas aren’t too far-fetched. I look at games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and the DayZ standalone and I just see missed opportunities. I see such great potential bogged down by lazy devs with little imagination. I would love to see a game in this genre really give it a good go, and make a game I might actually want to play.

 

Also as cliche as that little blurb I did is. If you wanna make it you gotta totally hire me to be the loremaster or something. I need the cash bruh.

I’m Playing Final Fantasy VI Again

Nostalgia tends to cloud our judgment. I am well aware of this fact so to test myself, I like to go back and play my top five favourite games to see if they hold up.

Final Fantasy VI isn’t just my favourite Final Fantasy, it’s my favourite game of all time. It has such a close place to in my heart that was almost scared to play it again. I bought the Android port a while ago and despite its terrible controls and strange, out of place, new sprites, I really enjoyed it. I think it speaks volumes about the quality of the base game when you can play a terrible port and still have fun.

But, like I did with the San Andreas post, I have to look at Final Fantasy VI with that same critical eye.

Does it hold up against the more recent Final Fantasy’s?

Abso-fucking-lutely. After Final Fantasy X the series really did take a tumble down the shitter. Two of the numbered entries in the series are MMO’s, XII, while it was generally pretty good (I enjoyed it), didn’t reach the same standard as previous titles, and let’s not get into the bullshit that was XIII and all of it’s forced spinoffs.  And while XV is a solid game, and a step in the right direction for the series, it still couldn’t capture the magic that came from the pre-Enix days.

Comparatively, Final Fantasy VI still has brilliant characters, great environments, a magic system that, to this day, is one of my favourite systems, and the very best villain in all of Gamerdom (who the fuck is Sephiroth?). If I have to be critical, I would say some of the dialogue is a little dated. As a fan of subtle exposition, Final Fantasy VI does break some of my own personal rules surrounding character dialogue.

Also, as someone who hates grind, Final Fantasy VI does have its grindy moments. Funnily enough though, it’s definitely not as bad as I remember it. In fact, I must have been shit at games when I was a kid, because I remember this shit being way harder. Now I’m not one to bitch about games being too easy, in fact, I really enjoy easy games. I play them for fun generally, and I love Final Fantasy VI for it’s story and atmosphere more than the gameplay itself.

So after awhile of playing, I can confidently say that Final Fantasy VI is still my absolute favourite game. Though I still haven’t finished it, because eventually the terrible controls of the Android port got to me. Recently though, I bought it again on Steam (Summer Sale ftw) and I’m going to have another crack at it. Maybe for Youtube or something. No promises there, I’m not so good at keeping up with Youtube series.

I Recently Replayed GTA: San Andreas and I Don’t Think it Holds Up

I’m constantly aware of the effect nostalgia has on our perception of a game. We remember the games of our childhoods through a rose tinted lens and sometimes it skews our perspectives of modern games.

Four of my top five games are from my childhood. I say four out of five because, very recently, I had an old game that I loved (and still love) bumped off the list to make way for one of its sequels. Now of course you’ve read the title of this post already (if you haven’t then why the fuck are you even here?), and you know exactly what I’m talking about. Before you start frothing at the mouth and try to burn me at the stake for crimes against Gamerdom, let me explain.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, until recently, was my favourite GTA. When I first managed to get my hands on it (late, because I wasn’t a wealthy child), I fell in love. I couldn’t tell you the amount of hours I have invested in that game, I really couldn’t. For a long time, even during the Xbox 360 and PS3 era, I only had my PS2 for games, and San Andreas was a game I constantly went back to. I write about this love mostly to soften the blow and stay the crowd.

Recently I had the idea to play some of the games on my top five list again, to see how well they held up. I had already played Hitman: Blood Money (Yes), and Final Fantasy VI (Fuck yes), and I was on such a roll that I decided that San Andreas would be next. I didn’t play it on my PS2, because I’ve actually lost that copy somehow so I decided to play it on PC.

At first load, while the graphics weren’t what is on display in GTA 5 (of course), they were fine. I know some people probably expected me to rail on that shit. I’m not that petty. Rockstar worked with the limitations they had at the time and actually made a damn good looking game, considering the circumstances. However, in line with the graphics, the actual design of the city is lackluster. If you take a step back and really pay attention, San Andreas doesn’t look much like a city at all. I mean, it does, if you’ve only seen a city inside a video game. It’s a video game city, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but if we ignore graphics, and based our comparisons solely on design, GTA 5 absolutely comes out on top.

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The story still holds up well. While a little campy at times, it is the same scathing satire that Rockstar has refined over the years. Characters like the Truth and OG Loc provide just as good comic relief in San Andreas as Lamar or Jimmy do in GTA 5. Where the game fails. Where it produces a lot more frustration than fun, are its controls.

I played with a controller, as I always have with GTA games. I even play GTA: Online with a controller (with occasional switches to mouse and keyboard if I need some precision shooting). And after a few tweaks in controls, including remapping the acceleration and the brakes to the triggers, things were looking up. But everything about San Andreas is clunky. The shooting is frustrating at best, especially from a car. The camera controls like shit, and more than once I’ve found myself having to car jump because the cars are more fragile than my grandfather’s hip. Now I know some would say this adds to the difficulty. I’ve seen no end of comments bitching about the player’s ability to flip cars back over in GTA 5 being unrealistic and pandering, but since when was GTA supposed to be realistic? It’s also not realistic to wake up in front of a hospital shortly after going down in a blaze of glory, being shredded by a hail of bullets because you accidently ran over a cop.

Now I love GTA: SA, I really do. I still love it. I will forever regard it as a classic in gaming. But I went into San Andreas with a mindset that I would be critical. I went in looking to compare GTA 5 with SA and as much as it pains me to say it, GTA 5 came out on top. Five still has the great satire story that Rockstar is famous for. The attention to detail in Los Santos is superb and makes the city come alive, and the gameplay is polished and fun. It’s everything I love in a game, and a Grand Theft Auto, and that’s why it bumped San Andreas off my top five list.

Fez Was Boring

If you’ve followed the indie video game scene at any point, you’ve probably heard about the puzzle-platformer Fez. Created by Phil Fish, it was one of the subjects of the 2012 film Indie Game: The Movie. Like many people, it was this film that made me aware of the existence of Fez. I never really thought too much of the concept at the time. In fact, I had a much greater interest in the precision-platformer Super Meat Boy. It just seemed like a much more interesting game. Chock full of cartoon gore and potential controller breaking rage. It was like a gamer’s wet dream. I hadn’t given Fez much thought until it was released.

Fez was met with critical acclaim. It won multiple awards and was generally regarded as an indie success story. Reviewers heaped on the praise and you could practically see Phil Fish’s head ballooning to ridiculous proportions. So when I had the opportunity to buy it from the Xbox Arcade store, I took it, thinking I would be in for a treat.

It was the most boring game I have ever played.

It starts off good. You play an adorable little dude wearing a red fez. You jump around a gorgeous world that is a mixture of 2D and 3D. It is well designed, pretty, and definitely has charm. But that charm wears off after about half an hour.

Maybe it’s because I have the patience of a middle aged soccer mum waiting for her morning coffee or maybe it’s because I like my games to have something else to do besides collecting shit, but there was no fucking way I was going to finish that game. Once you’d mastered the main mechanic, and gotten used to the platforming, that was pretty much it. No progression, no upping the ante. I understand that, at the time, people were chomping at the bit for something fresh, but come the fuck on. I imagine Phil Fish sitting in his living room, playing Assassin’s Creed, putting in his hundredth hour of searching for those bullshit flags and thinking, ‘What if there was a game that was just this? Fucking genius Phil!’

You know what? I get it. Plenty of people loved it. I thought it had its charm, it just didn’t hold it. Unlike other indie gems, like Limbo or, more recently, The Stanley Parable, Fez stayed flat. There were no ups and downs. There was nothing to make me feel for the character or the world. The environments didn’t differ enough to remain interesting and without any form of progression of mechanics, there was nothing for me to look forward to.

Video games are narratives, even when they don’t have a story. They lead the player through highs and lows. Quite frankly, the central mechanic of Fez wasn’t enough to keep it interesting. It needed a whole lot more, and it failed to give it. 

My Summer Car: The Great Derailer

I have a confession to make. I’ve been somewhat derailed this week. I barely played two hours of Tomb Raider before I came across a game that swept me off my feet. It’s a strange one, of the simulator variety, but it stands out from the crowd in that it simulates a summer in Finland in 1995.

My Summer Car is a strange concept. A survival game set in the Finnish countryside, you are a young man spending his summer building a car. But you can’t just build a car, you have to live too. You need to contend with hunger, thirst, fatigue — you even have to contend with your bladder (thankfully your bowels are left out of the equation, not sure for how long though). And finally, by default (it is an option that can be turned off) My Summer Car is a permadeath game. For those unsavvy with the term, permadeath means that when you die the game deletes your save, forcing you to start over from scratch.

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My first (and only) death so far. When stopped at the police checkpoint, be sure to watch out for speeding cars on the road. The crazy fuckers will hit you.

In order to upgrade the Satsuma you need money. Thankfully you are in possession of a septic pumper truck and a pile of wood that can be chopped into firewood. You get calls from people asking you to pump their septic tanks for money, and you get calls from a guy wanting to buy firewood. With the money you do what any teenager who has just reached age of majority does, you buy a whole bunch of ready to eat meals and beer so you can get drunk while working on your car.

While My Summer Car sounds like a game that wouldn’t be enjoyable (who wants to pump people’s shit?) it has a surprisingly addictive nature to it. Building the Satsuma is a challenge in itself, and for someone who knows very little about cars it’s been a learning experience. I can’t account for its accuracy, but the car, and the way the parts interact with each other, seem to be pretty spot on. The tuning is in depth and with the promise of more updates down the line it can only get better.

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The Gifu septic pumper truck. It’s a beast on six wheels. 

Furthermore My Summer Car has character, from Teimo, the shopkeeper who mumbles in Finnish when you’re in his store, to the drunk guy that calls you at two in the morning to give him a ride home, this game feels like it’s brimming with life, even if there really isn’t that many people around. And nothing quite beats the elation when you start the Satsuma for the first time (and the dread when, although it’s running, it won’t move).

Hopefully I’ll be back on track over the next week, but I can’t make any promises. Pokemon Sun and Moon came out today. As of writing this my copy still hasn’t arrived. Tomb Raider might have to wait for another week.

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Looks good, runs like shit, a teenagers car if I ever saw one.

 

Finish Them: Tomb Raider (2013)

Tomb Raider (2013) is an action-adventure game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It is a reboot of the former Tomb Raider titles and deals with Lara Croft’s revised origin story.

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High fidelity Lara

Not only a reboot in story, but also a reboot in gameplay. The little I’ve played of this game (about 2 hours according to Steam) was an entirely different experience to any of the previous Tomb Raider games I’ve played. It was also a better experience. I haven’t played many Tomb Raider games. I once played a demo of the original when I was very young, and a demo of another (I’m not sure what that one was). I was give Angel of Darkness as a birthday present once and at the time I enjoyed it because I didn’t know any better (though I never finished it. A habit I’ve never quite grown out of). I also ended up playing Legend and actually did enjoy (and finish) that one. Recently, when I played Angel of Darkness again, I was struck by how terrible the controls were. Tank controls in a game where you’re expected to climb shit is generally a terrible idea, and the way she moved was the most clunky shit ever. At least the reboot had a shift in gameplay that meant I wasn’t pulling my hair out just trying to jump a gap.

Tomb Raider follows explorer Lara Croft before she became the renowned archaeologist she will eventually be known as. Shipwrecked while searching for a mysterious island from history, Lara must learn to survive and solve the puzzle of the island or risk never making it out.

This should be a good experience. It’s a game that I’ve been meaning to finish (like most) and since this is the first story oriented game I’m playing this series I’m hoping to have some good insights.