Weekly: Absolutely Barbaric!

Tasting three different flavours of post-apocalypse.

Maybe it’s 2017, but from time to time fond memories still bring me back to the Newgrounds. This time I’m revisiting Barbarium, a humorous take on heroic fantasy themes and post-apocalyptic setting. This 2D platformer begins with our hero, a half-naked muscular savage wielding a sword and a laser blaster, pushing through a scorched wasteland to reach remnants of a modern city. Then he wanders among ruins slaying mutants, releasing bikini-clad babes from shackles and gulping beer, guided by cryptic advice from archetypal crazy old Chinese savants. The visuals won’t earn it any prize, but the game sure is fun.

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Recently, I have begun my final approach to The Final Train. I’m doing it to refresh my memory because the game certainly deserves a longer Just Finished post on this blog. If you haven’t played it, the story may seem trivial and full of clichés (zombies, alien invasion, giant robot, etc.), but playing just for a few hours reveals a certain depth. This is my favourite approach to horror games: subtlety and quiet dread instead of gore and shock value.

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Even if I’m still stuck in Sierra Madre, it’s not so bad because I learned how to enjoy the game again. All thanks to the wonderful piece of technology called the Holorifle. Typically for me, I barely used and used the Police Pistol to decapitate the Ghosts, saving the energetic weapon for That One Special Moment (which usually never comes and you’re left with a shiny new weapon and lots of ammo), but I changed my approach. Dodging spears and gas bombs thrown by the revenants while blasting their heads with two shots each feels great. Another reminder to play in a more relaxed and, well, crazy way.

Goals: Nothing specific. Just drag through the mud.

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Weekly: Men Among the Ruins

Stealing from the evil Old World and giving it to the poor. Then going for a slow walk through a burning forest.

After a prolonged break, I got back to New Vegas and found my Courier in the same place where I had left him: slowly, painfully crawling through the killing cloud in the abandoned Sierra Madre casino. The reason it’s going so slow is, as always, my obsession with collecting all achievements, which includes snooping through each pile of trash in search of a special deck of cards. Note to myself: next time I should play NV in a more relaxed way.

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The main antagonist, Father Elijah, hardly counts as a villain in my book. Maybe I don’t know his full story yet, but he got my attention with one speech in which, essentially, he pictured breaking into the casino as a revenge against the corrupt Old World which destroyed itself and condemned its descendants to this existence full of misery. Speaking more generally, his determination to reach the goal, the ruthlesness, the weariness behind each word he speaks make him a very relatable character.

All right, Father, at this point I’m ready to forgive you everything, the exploding collar on my neck, poisonous gas and traps everywhere, finally the not exactly charming companions I’m stuck with. Let’s get into that fortress and claim what is rightfully ours.

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Firewatch seems to be the perfect game for the Autumn season. After all, if I understand it correctly, one of its main themes is the passing of things. The great fire will devour the forest just like the coming winter will take all the light and warmth. The people our protagonist loves so much will leave him too, just like the long Summer evenings have abandoned me. At least, in the so-called real-life I can always hope for a new dawn and coming of spring, but after watching the ending I doubt there will be renewal and rebirth for the game’s anti-hero. Actually, I began to despise him for his weakness and passivity, but maybe I’ll write more about it next time.

What is really great about playing it for the second time, I can finally stop following the conversations and focus on the visual side. This time, the goal is to take some screenshots which capture the essence of the game and make a gallery post. We’ll see how it works out.

Monthly: Burnout

New month, new hope, new struggle. There’s a couple of games I’m very close to finishing but, as always when I reach the final stage, it’s hard to find motivation.

Sometimes I imagine playing a game is similar to sailing ocean. It’s all fun and danger on the way, but eventually you must reach you destination, right? That’s why this month my main goal will be to finish the three games I abandoned.

Space Marine – alright, maybe I finished it two times on highest difficulty, but it’s not enough until I get all single-player achievements. After all, it’s a WH40k game and I treat playing it (almost literally) religiously.

Volgarr the Viking – there’s just one boss between me and Valhalla, and I really want to see that rainbow bridge; besides, Heimdall is an old buddy of mine from the Amiga days.

Sunless Sea – 700 hours of playing seems to be more than enough, and I really want to focus on Sunless Skies.

But wait, just watching the end credits rolling on my screen is not enough. I’m a serious blogger, after all. Let’s mark the secondary target: publish at least two texts about the games I already finished. The said posts are still dwelling in form of sketches in my blog’s little pocket limbo and it’s time to give them salvation.

And then there’s the question of aesthetics. Let’s be honest, my little WordPress corner looks simply ugly. This time I should find a nice skin for it, hopefully matching the blog’s theme.

New Vegas: Via Crucis

Imagine a scene Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western: a man dragging a corpse along a road in the middle of a post-apocalyptic desert. A woman clad in power armour walks at his side, chattering about weather, food and the last Deathclaw they shot together. A sudden cut and you can see a sweating face of the man — who’s clearly in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Next scene: the couple and their mutilated baggage meet a military patrol under the wall of a civilian airport, which clearly had been turned into a military stronghold. The man gives the troopers a begging look while the carcass, wearing the same uniform as they are wearing, drags him down to the ground. The armed men pretend that he isn’t there. After a prolonged silence, he sighs and begins to walk away while his female companion stays back and enjoys a casual chat with the troopers.

The unfortunate couple (or trio, depending on how you look at it) is assaulted by a pack of ragged bandits. The man quickly drops his burden and reaches for his weapon. After a brief shoot out, everything is quiet. The tormented corpse has a few more bullet holes and after-laser burnings.

The funeral party finally reaches the gates of the encampment. He points at th corpse, but the chief guard simply shakes his head. The man freezes, then frowns and finally drops his hands.

A few quick shots showing the protagonists going back exactly the same way. Finally they arrive at the ruined outpost where they had picked up the corpse in the first place. Near to it, there’s a couple of soldiers waiting behind a barricade. They receive the corpse and put it behind the sandbags. Some words are exchanged. The stranger and his steel-wearing companion slowly walk towards the sunset. A final shot at his face, eyes closed, lip corners dropping. Then a big THE END and credits.

To sum it up, it was one of the strangest and most enjoyable quests I’ve ever finished in the Fallout series.

The real story is somewhat bland: a female NCR soldier asks you to find the remains of her husband who had been kidnapped by some raiders. The task is simple: find the cluster of ruined buildings they are hiding in, shoot or stab them, disarm some mines, get the trooper’s remnants. The interesting part begins now, because it’s an unmarked quest so you don’t get a marker on your map and must know your destination. It gets even better when you realise that you can’t just pick up the corpse and add it to your equipment. Instead, you are forced to drag it behind you using the Hold button. No fast travel allowed, of course.

Maybe this will sound ridiculous, but after a moment of frustration I began to have fun with this bugged quest. This was the moment I really realised that New Vegas is a masterpiece.

Why?

It’s been more than three years. Maybe it’s time to answer the simple question: Why am I doing this?

This blog. What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing.

Or maybe it’s a bit more. The origins were humble: I created it to note down every game I managed to complete. And then I went down the slippery slope, because I thought that I may be a good idea to add a few screenshots which I found particularly memorable. Or beautiful, because such things are possible in the video games world.

Then I decided that images may be not enough. Why not turn it into my personal sketchbook where I would write down my thoughts and impressions? Capture the precious moments when video games seem to be more than just a waste of time.

What can you expect?

A very personal take on the games I play. I don’t write reviews, but I rather like to write down what I think about the game I’m currently playing.

Genres? Most likely, you will find platformers, especially the cinematic subgenre, and cRPGs here. The former because as an abandoned child of the Amiga age, I feel very comfortable in 2D surroundings. The latter because as a hopeless fan of fantasy and SF books (although a very picky one) I like to wear somebody else’s skin. Usually, I avoid multiplayer shooters and big strategy games, but if the WW2-era Italian Army appears there, I’ll probably play it and write about how I’m delighted was.

Indie and experimental games are another thing in my book. From time to time I will an intricate and intriguing little thing on that wonderful site or even the good ole Newgrounds, play for a while, and then share my experience.

Generally, there’s no single factor deciding which game I choose. It may be a well-recognised classic or an obscure and perhaps mediocre title which captures my attention. Maybe it’s the soundtrack, or the particular setting, or the visual style, or maybe the game is just so silly that I’m tempted to try it. Be prepared for surprises.

Needless to say, I love interaction, even if this blog is supposed to be written mainly for the purpose of introspection. Comments? Criticism? Jokes? Mockery even? All are welcome. And if you just happen to have your own vidya blog, chances are that you’ll win over a faithful follower.

Weekly: Pale Grey Sky

As much as I love Roman numerals, it’s time to become more creative and try to invent titles for my weekly reports.

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This may sound really weird, but I discovered that GTA V is becoming one of my designated Autumn games, just like it was with San Andreas. When the landscape behind my windows looks like the set of a Tarkovsky’s film, I find it comforting to immerse myself in the twisted landscape of California, and even the violent action and crazy cults don’t spoil the mood. Fortunately, I finally managed to overcome my unhealthy perfectionism and actually began to enjoy the game after I gave up my obsession of finishing every mission with Gold rating — which is quite stressful, time-consuming and simply boring.

(maybe I should write an entire post about playing in Autumn. just give me some time)

Big things are happening! I finally returned to strategy games after a very long break. Again, it was a Steam sale which tempted me into buying Crusader Kings 2. My first playthrough is staying on the safe side and I’m playing the ruler of Iceland. Since I’m isolated from invaders, it plays like a family drama, finding a proper spouse for my child and fending off jealous courtiers being my jarl’s main concerns.

Goals: since I have a dozen of unfinished sketches in my virtual WordPress drawer, it’s time to finish and publish them before October 1. Wish me luck.

Weekly (VI)

This week reminded me how important it is to appreciate classics, and also why I’m Against the Modern Gaming.

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Saturday was a wonderful nostalgia trip back into the Erich Chahi’s masterpiece. After having played the refreshed version of Another World, I cannot help but feel amazed. Sure enough, now I can see the game’s flaws which escaped me when I was a naive teenager and the 20th Anniversary edition doesn’t add too much to the original (hi-res graphics, of course, and adjustable difficulty setting), but Chahi’s vision and the realisation how far ahead of his times he was have convinced me again that Another World is a true masterpiece. The only flaw that I cannot overlook is its shortness — mere 63 minutes of playing and I’m near the ending. Maybe I should try to play the supposedly failed sequel, even if every review was decidedly negative. We’ll see.

On Sunday, I decided to experiment and try out Tom Clancy’s The Division which was temporarily made free to download by Steam. I didn’t read much about it and thus I didn’t expect much, but an open-world shooter set in the NYC turned into Sarajevo by a plague seemed to be a nice prospect. What was I even thinking?!

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Less than an hour of playing was enough to decide that I’m definitely not buying it. Don’t get me wrong, this is an AAA+ title definitely not made by amateurs but, as a fan of the Fallout and Stalker series, I will not waste another second on it. I don’t say it’s boring, since hiding behind trashed cars and shooting looters was quite exciting for a while, but the entire experience felt empty. Hollow. Soulless. The developers even managed to do the incredible and make the surroundings, properly littered and full of abandoned vehicles, look s t e r i l e like an old-fashioned theatre set. I don’t consider it wasted time, though, as it was an important lesson about carefully choosing your games, especially made by mainstream giants like Ubisoft.

Plans for this week? Just do something, I don’t know, maybe try to finish Sunless Sea. And don’t forget to write for posterity about it.