Cyberpunk 2077: Serious Business

It’s been more than half a year since the release of Cyberpunk 2077 and people, at least in my personal online bubble, seem to be oddly quiet about it. Things were completely different in December with a literal storm of rage and disappointment which led to a huge blow to CDP Red’s reputation and market value. Most points of criticism were the same: the game being plagued by bugs and glitches, its abysmal performance on older generation consoles, the ridiculously bad AI behind the pedestrian and police behaviour, and so on. Some things have already been dealt with via several patches, but a lot remains to be improved, and we still haven’t even seen a glimpse of the promised DLC content.

In this post, I’m making an attempt to take a bit different angle and provide a very personal criticism of the game. A tongue-in-cheek approach, but not entirely.

Let me feed my cat

There’s that one small sidequest involving getting V their own pet in a city where most animals were annihilated due to an epidemic. The key item necessary to do it is cat food which you can use to lure the little furball. Now, it’s a rare item with only one guaranteed spawn location, but from time to time you can loot it from enemy corpses. Play long enough and your pockets will be filled with cat food, the problem is that there’s no way to feed your little friend. Immersion lost, heart broken.

Let me feed myself

Some people seem to think that food in Night City looks disgusting and Takemura insists that all local cuisine is simply heavily spiced crap, but I respectfully disagree. Most of the stuff looks tasty to me and I feel simply furious that my character can’t even touch it. Sure, you can buy some snacks here and there, but they’re just regular health items and there’s no eating animation at all. The only occasions when you actually see V stuffing themselves are rare fixed points in certain quests. I’ve always believed that eating and drinking is very important for immersion in cRPG games, so please, let me sit at the counter and get that sweet bowl of ramen into my augmented hands every time I want.

Let me sleep

This is Night City, not San Andreas, so buying a new apartment is out of question now matter how much you abuse that glitch with a space painting giving you infinite cash. Yes, you can get an access to a few new places to lay your head, but it requires finishing certain character quests and that may take lots of your time. Thanks to being a real challenge, it feels like a real achievement and can even be a bit heartwarming, after all, someone letting you feel yourself at home when youre in their home means they really trust you. Here comes the disappointment: the bunk in your new hideout is absolutely unclickable! Sure, you can you the Skip Time button, but it’s not the same as actually seeing V spread themselves across the bed.

Let me find a proper machine gun

This is one of my favourite power fantasies in this game: sneaking into the enemy territory, hacking a turret, ripping the big freakin’ gun like you were B.J. Blaskowitz himself and finally mowing down the gangoons around. What’s even better, you can then throw it into your car’s trunk and use it in another location. Sadly, there are several problems with this lovely piece of junk. To put it simply, it’s broken. I actually like that you can’t hide it in your pockets, it makes me feel like my V is holding a real huge MG in their hands, but you can’t reload when you run out of ammo and there’s no way to improve its stats, so its use is limited. Please, der CDP Red, I just want to have some mindless fun, Wolfenstein-style.
Bonus points if you could mount the MG on your car. Why only let Pam have all the machine gun fun?

Let me drive the biggest truck

‘Wheels on the truck go round and round,’ too bad that you can only watch. I understand why the game lets you drive a hover tank or a cool rusty train only once or twice, it’s supposed to feel special, but come on, where are the keys to the almighty Kavkaz? Russian trucks are my weak spot, they were a part of my childhood’s landscape, and this one looks really gorgeous. A real beast from the East, it even has the cool bear logo, but nobody has the keys! The closest think you get is are smaller versions of the vehicle, but everyone knows that the larger your truck, the cooler it is. Just imagine driving this behemoth through barricades or even the fortified southern border. And even having some almost-postapo missions where you could be a truck driver in a convoy cruising through the desert. Another lost chance.

That would be everything on my list. Like I said before, my approach to criticism wasn’t entirely serious, but I really wanted to point out that small things matter too. The criticism about bugs, mechanics, gameplay and inventory is all viable, but Cyberpunk ’77 was supposed to be a true masterpiece and it’s all those little touches and tiny details which make masterpieces so memorable — if you don’t believe me, play Red Dead Redemption 2. Fortunately, it really seems that the CDP Red crew hasn’t given up yet and new fixes are released more or less regularly, so it may turn out that this little wishlist won’t be necessary in the future. There is still hope for Night City.

First published on my PeakD blog. All pics taken by yours truly.

October: What is even happening

Darkness was growing for the entire month, not only because of autumn. For me, this ment going back to working from home, more isolation and dark mood. On the other hand, this may be a good moment to go back to my humble blog.

A few months ago, I became regular at a certain subreddit and it seems that I’ve become a Patient Gamer too. Now, I mostly stay away from new games, especially since my gaming rig needs several upgrades. Instead, I prefer to play honourable classics I’ve never touched before.

Usually, I pick a title to match the autumn gloom outside. For example, I finally heeded the Call of Pripyat which has been waiting in my GOG library for almost three years. Very quickly, I realised that I needed exactly this kind of experience, the Chernobyl darkness in all shades of grey, Russian voice acting with the dreaded Polish lektor (search it for your own responsibility) and the unique atmosphere of post-Soviet active pessimism I loved so much in the Metro series. The fight for survival in the marshes and bogs of Pripyat can be really satisfying when you finally drop the unhealthy ambition and overuse the quicksave button.

When it’s raining outside and our reality increasingly looks like a crossover between the noir and cyberpunk genres, it’s time to wear that trenchcoat and fedora again. Good Old Games surprises me again with Blade Runner on sale. I played it more than ten years ago, I recall enjoying it much… and that’s it, other memories are really blurry. It means that I didn’t think it was a masterpiece, but after playing for just a few years I don’t have much to complain about. Sure, it was obviously supposed to be cinema experience so the outdated visuals are a problem, just like the simplified mechanics and interface, but I’d still recommend the game to everyone who liked the original movie and similar aesthetics. The soundtrack is worth your time even without playing, thanks to the good old Frank Klepacki.

Let’s have more of the same. Just a week ago I bought LA Noire.

Here’s another cinematic game made by Rockstar which I kept ignoring for unknown reasons, just like the third installment of Max Payne series. I’ve always liked stories about bitter private eyes and already as a teenager I loved Chandler’s books, but I’ve never watched any film adaptations of his works. Funnily enough, my very first approach to the genre was an urban fantasy parody written by Mike Resnick, Stalking the Unicorn.

Now I’ve come to regret my lack of knowledge, because after finishing a few investigations I have the feeling that I can’t enjoy the game properly. Well, at least I find the visual aesthetics and atmosphere familiar. Everything, from Hollywood-style titles and the soundtrack to conversations and relationships between characters tells that the game is an almost perfect pastiche. Unlike forgettable interactive movies released in the 90s, like The Dame Was Loaded, it’s a creative application of Grand Theft Auto engine and mechanics in an adventure game. There are car chases and shootouts, sure, but more often you search the apartments of suspects and victims, examine crime scenes or pay friendly visits to the local morgue. And then there’s the key feature: interrogations. Now I understand why so many people were amazed by the way the game handles face expressions and even so many years later the end effect isn’t grotesque, as I feared before.

I didn’t expect that I would like the main protagonist this much. Meet Cole Phelps, a rookie detective, war hero, and the incarnation of the ideal 50s male, treated as a celebrity cop. Sadly, his personality somehow reminds me of that one nerdy kid nobody liked at school, but I feel like he’s going to change. At the current stage, I’ve just switched from catching petty criminals to a crime affair in the Hollywood circles and it’s already clear that Phelps is entering the concrete jungle and won’t leave unharmed.

My longstanding total New Vegas playthrough isn’t finished yet, to nobody’s surprise. My Second Courier was supposed to join either House or the NCR, but I surprised myself and suddenly felt the urge to conquer the Dam for Caesar again. This time, I managed to immerse myself into a fanatic legionary and sly frumentarius sneaking deep behind enemy lies and there was much dark joy in it. More importantly, I finally managed to finish two parts of the excellent New Vegas Bounties mod. There’s an additional pleasure here, finishing one bounty after another and watching the creator becoming better at writing and bold, surprising the player with his original ideas and creativity, but also his constantly improving writing style. Who don’t game mods get their own remakes, anyway? Just imagine if we had the Bounties as a separate game with a new engine, more voice actors and better graphics or location design. It could be better that the original New Vegas DLCs.

All right, I’ve already mentioned that I stay away from new releases, but it’s not entirely true. I still keep coming back to The New Order, a total modification for Hearts of Iron IV.

I’ve been struggling with it since the full release, playing week-long sessions, quitting, and then coming back. I’m a bit frustrated with managing huge armies or game-crippling bugs, it’s discouraging to run out of new events after playing a major faction for ten years (but the devs are already making the sequel), but I can’t stop playing The Last Days of Europe anyway. There’s too much fun with its solid writing which takes the events from the large-scale map to the human, sometimes even too human level. And then, there’s the simple fun of an average gamer: painting the map, winning political intrigue, and creating world superpowers against all odds. If anyone decided that Paradox big strategy games are not for him, I’d advise to have a closer look at the TNO mod. In some sense, it’s a wholly new experience.

So much about the past month. November was to bring us a real earthquake, Cyberpunk 2077 finally released. No surprises here, it got delayed again, but it doesn’t bother me anyway. I wouldn’t buy it right now, because I’m obviously reluctant to spend cash on trivial things like upgrading my PC. So I’ll just stay in my little corner and play older titles, but also follow the development of the New Order. The leaks from the devs tell us that the next update will involve Orwell’s 1984 happening in Black Africa and the Butcher of Prague introducing Germany to National Socialism 2.0. All grim and dark, really matching the times we live in.

Hearts of Iron IV: The New Order Mod

So it finally happened. Deep in the night, the first full version of Hearts of Iron IV: The New Order mod was released on Steam. As a sceptical and jaded person, I’m usually immune to the so-called hype, but I’ve been counting months, weeks and days to see this moment. Sadly, as it was to be suspected, the mod is still ridden with game-crippling bugs at this stage and I couldn’t manage to make any progress with my chosen factions. I’ll definitely have more to write when this issue gets solved, so this time I’ll just sum up my experience with playing the two demo versions released earlier this year and following the subreddit community.

Quite a few things are laughable in grim-dark visions of future presented in such works as the Wolfenstein series or The Man in the High Castle. For example, how is it possible that the evil Nazis have enough manpower to occupy half the world and suddenly don’t need all those Italians and Romanians as cannon fodder and police force? (at least in Panzer General II you were able to invade Bronx with your Romanian marines) What’s even less plausible, the final victory is indeed… final. The economy flourishes (or at least there are no signs of a crash incoming), the technological progress sends the first Aryan to the Moon, the machine of terror is omnipresent and works flawlessly, but ordinary German citizens live in peace and prosperity.

Fortunately, the development team behind The New Order: Last Days of Europe, a total conversion mod for Hearts of Iron IV, decided to take a different approach.

At first glance, it looks like another alt-history scenario with Nazis winning the war and ruling forever while a handful of brave resistance fighters tries to bring them down. However, you’ll quickly discover it’s not exactly the case. Sure enough, the Axis powers (not just Germany and Japan) managed to defeat their enemies and enjoyed the spoils of war for a while. Eventually, the walls of their shining fortresses began to crack. Germany quickly learned that you can’t base the economy on pillage, slavery, and spending all the money for humongous public projects. The economic disaster was followed by a massive Russian insurgency which managed to recover large parts of the former Soviet territory. Finally, the dreaded SS rebelled against Hitler’s government and Germany plunged into civil war. Other Axis countries aren’t faring much better, with the Iberian Union being crippled by its dysfunctional political system and Italy struggling to keep hold of it’s huge colonial empire.

When you start the game, it’s year 1962 and the wind of change brings the smell of imminent trouble. Sure, everything plays slowly at first, no matter which country you choose, you’ll probably focus on choosing internal policies, managing your budget and developing new technologies.

The Great Gibraltar Dam, or how to literally drown billions of Reichsmarks and ruin Iberian economy (a loading screen from the demo version)

Then the Man in Berlin dies. The Greater Germany turns into a few lesser Germanies, jumping at each other’s throats. The rest of the world quickly experiences the domino effect, facing internal crisis and new dangers from outside.

This is the main difference between the mod and vanilla HoiIV. Basically speaking, you’re playing an alternative Cold War simulator. Major players have tonnes of nuclear weapons and minor countries can get their own warheads if they’re ambitious and lucky enough. Nuclear annihilation of the entire planet is always dangerously close, so instead of the proverbial ‘map painting’, it’s all about proxy wars, revolutions and civil conflicts. Dealing with internal policies and reforms is very important, too, just as diplomacy and espionage, so it’s hardly surprising that TNO introduces several new mechanics.

The Great Game. Instead of an open conflict, Italy and Germany are trying to make Bulgaria a puppet country through subterfuge and black ops. Each turn, you’ll need to spend different types to resources to win enough points and not overshoot the bar.

In case of some factions, the devs decided to sacrifice all plausibility and make them, uhm, colourful. The first demo version set in Southern Caucasus includes a mad scientist using his NKVD goons to kidnap people for experimentation (apparently, he’s trying to grow test-tube über-soldiers and liberate Russia), but also a mad warlord, Oskar Dirlewanger, leading a rogue SS unit which turned into a wild bunch, raping and plundering in the countryside. Meanwhile, the full release adds such factions as the National Redemption Front, best summed-up as ‘Spanish Catholic ISIS’, or a group of Jewish partisans which plans to genocide all Germans and their collaborators in Eastern Europe (one of their focuses is literally named ‘Six Million Germans’). And then there’s Burgundy…

One shouldn’t forget about Reichskommissar Siegried Müller, the friendliest sociopath in video game history.

Another thing making this mod stand out is the quality and quantity of writing. Since it focuses on telling stories, there’s really lots and lots to read. What is really important, the perspective often switches from men and women on the top — politicians and generals — to those standing at the bottom of the ladder, be they German soldiers, Congolese slaves, Belgian mercenaries, or Russian bandits. Quite often you will see the consequences of your decisions through their eyes and I’m sure it will make you look at those numbers and unit icons on the screen a bit differently.

Now, I know I sound enthusiastic, but there are some serious issues with the current state of the mod. First, the UI is another example of a great idea gone… not so great. In theory, it was supposed to invoke Cold War aesthetics with its neon colours and vector images reminding of early computers. Sadly, the end effect is a strain to the eyes, even if it got somewhat improved in the full release. Let’s hope a new patch will add an option of returning to the vanilla design.

I praised the quality of writing just a paragraph above, and sure, it’s creative and enjoying enough, but after a while it becomes clear that the devs really need a qualified editor. Sure, it’s a matter of your preferences, but typos, flawed grammar errors, and poor choices of wording really spoiled the fun for me. But again, very just one week after the release and things may eventually get better. Hell, maybe I’ll do something crazy for once and sign up as an editor too, but I promise to post more about this wonderful mod. Meanwhile, I’m clicking the play button and getting back to live in the last days of Europe.

The Cruelest Month

…breeding lilacs out of dead land. That’s right, today marks exactly one month since my personal quarantine has started. Since we all know what happened and what is happening right now, there’s no point in writing another whiny introduction. Instead, here’s a few words about my personal month in the bibeo game world.

Even in the darkest hour, you can find pleasant surprises. Rejoice, for Niko Belić walks among us again! GTA 4 is my favourite part of the series, but despite repeated and desperate attempts, I’ve never been able to run my box CD on Windows 7. I’m always reluctant to pay for the same game twice and everything I had to go to was The Liberty City Stories. I really enjoyed the add-ons after purchasing them during the Steam sale last Christmas, then I finished both parts and was content with myself… then came the last Sunday of March and, to my confusion and elation, I discovered that my S-Library turned them into GTA IV: The Complete Edition. No extra charge required. Sure, I was a bit afraid to come back after so many years, but this is a game which matures like wine and even the dreaded City Rat hunting feels rewarding. Finally, after so many failures the time has come to reach the magic 100% rating.

The nostalgia doesn’t relent, and the sudden news about the remake of the early Command and Conquer games reminded me that the first part of Red Alert series still lingers on my personal Hall of Shame. I received the box edition from my parents as a teenager and failed to finish it, despite my attempts. Now the news reminded me that Red Alert One can be downloaded for free… Here comes the common cycle: search in duck2go, wait for a minute to downloaded, launch the installation file… shortly after, Tanya the ‘Professional Volunteer’ and her mates are rescuing Einstein, then our little band of brothers is digging trenches on the Polish-Czechoslovak border.

A few missions later and I come to the conclusion that this particular classic game is eternal. I can’t overlook its flaws, commanding large unit groups makes me furious and there’s some cringe to find in the FMV scenes, but the game still rewards us with much of joy. Its weaknesses aside, Red Alert still maintains its charm, especially the aesthetics starting from unit and building design and ending with the main menu. More than that, I got reminded that Frank Klepacki is a genius and the soundtrack still sounds flawless.

Another title I abandoned for months is Disco Elysium and finally I managed to get to the ending. Just as expected, my decision to use save-scumming for my first playthrough turned out to be a mistake. Sure enough, I finished almost every single side-quest, the crime mystery is solved, another bloody revolution postponed, and the protagonist didn’t get fired for being a miserable parody of a cop, hey, he’ll even work with Kim in the same unit, but… it came too easy, it doesn’t feel right, and in my next playthrough I won’t experience the wonder of discovering a superbly written world and plot. I knew I should’ve listened to reviewers and developers when they warned that it’s not your ordinary cRPG game.

DOOM DOOM WE ARE ALL DOOMED! Late to the party as always, I got the game on the Christmas Steam sale, played one or two levels, and sent it back into my library. See, the stars weren’t right and something didn’t click. Now, when D-Eternal finally got released, I decided for another approach and got sucked in straight into Hell for a couple of days. One thing is sure, the id soft crew could teach everyone else how to make proper remakes. They treat the classic stuff like real treasure, but still manage to take a more creative approach and the end product doesn’t feel stale. Let’s take the game arsenal as an example: all the iconic weapons from the first games have new, refreshed designs, but they still feel familiar–and glorious when used to spill demonic guts on the floor. What really surprised me, however, was the… platforming part of the game being as pleasant as the usual brütal slaughter. It’s like Super Mario in Hell, at times I felt jumping around and searching for collectibles more enjoyable than culling infernal legions, especially with the extremely helpful automap at hand. RIP AND TEAR!

‘Wait, that’s it?’, somebody could ask. Well, here comes the paradox: even though I spent the last month sitting in my four-cornered room, I didn’t commit more time to playing video games after doing my daily share of remote work. Somehow, lying on the couch and reading a book, or calling my friends and family seemed more appealing… Still, I really appreciate the instant access to games in times of isolation. Who knows, maybe I’ll even buy Plague Inc.

That’s it. Let’s go back to hunting flying plague rats hehe.

Skyrim Anniversary: Memories and Tales

Let me start with a simple statement: the Elder Scrolls series has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. It all began with the Daggerfall demo that I spent countless hours on, despite the very limited content. Then I was lucky enough to buy a legal copy of the full game even though it wasn’t sold in Poland and, obviously, I fell in love with it. I have many beautiful memories with Morrowind, too, and it still holds a place in my very personal Top Five cRPG Games list.

My relationship with Bethesda’s iconic saga is hardly a story of a faithful lover, though. When Oblivion was released, I was completely uninterested, and my attitude towards Skyrim was similar when it was released. I played it just a few months later on my brother’s PC, enjoyed it, but eventually dropped my first character. The second approach happened two years later and this time I got sucked into its magical world. Ten years, later it’s still one of my virtual refuges, a game I keep returning to on a regular basis in those moments when I feel I really need some escapism.

On this special day, the Tenth Skyrim Anniversary, I want to share some of my most precious Skyrim memories.


The sun also rises over Whiterun


I have started a new playthrough about a dozen times and the beginning has always felt underwhelming. After escaping certain death in the maw of a dragon, I usually went to Riverwood, did a few odd quests to earn some gold, and finally travelled to Whiterun. There is nothing special about the route until you finally emerge on a hill and look at the city. As I said, I did it many times, but my reaction to the sight is always the same: absolute amazement. The vast plain, the enormous fortress in the distance and the majestic mountain tops on the horizon are simply breathtaking.
No wonder the Nords love their homeland so much, and are ready to both kill and die for it.

A friend in need


If you ask me about my personal list of essential Skyrim mods, Frostfall will be the first name you hear. One of the things that really bothered me when I played my first character was the absolute lack of survival mechanics. Sure enough, the snowy mountains and forests looked convincing enough, but you could spend hours running naked in a snowstorm not lose a single health point. Fortunately, the Frostfall mod changed this and the northern first became truly deadly. After installing it, you really have to plan your travels and take care of fire, shelter and warm clothes, or else perish.


One event made me realise how good this mod really is. I was returning to Dawnstar from a long hunting trip when a smelly troll killed my horse. Murphy’s law worked as usual, so I suddenly fought myself caught by a blizzard without any firewood or shelter to find. The only option was to make a run to the town, and so I did. While my Dragonborn was about to enter an inn, almost dying from exposure, he collapsed literally a few steps from the entrance. Game over? No, luckily the modding team planned for this, too. So my hero woke up inside the same inn and a text prompt told me that that he was carried there by my favourite companion, Lydia. That was the moment I decided that I’ll never play Skyrim without Frostfall again. Full immersion, ladies and gentlemen.


The land of dark elves has a special place in my heart. After hundreds of hours I spent there during my Morrowind playthroughs, it just feels like home. When I finally started the Dragonborn DLC, the nostalgia was overwhelming. Here I was, standing on the shore and looking at the port of Raven Rock, with the Red Mountain smoking in the background. Then I entered the town and really felt like the prodigal son coming back home. Everything, from architecture to people’s clothes and armour reminded me of my old adventures as the Nerevarine. Then I suddenly remembered that I actually helped to build this place when playing the Solstheim DLC a decade ago — and I don’t mean in-game time. Sure enough, there are many things we can, and should, criticise Bethesda for, but how many developers are able to create fictional worlds that make gamers so emotional?

Skyrim’s last pagan

The peoples of Tamriel pray to all kinds of deities, be it the official Imperial pantheon or gods particular to one race. Some wayward souls turn to the Daedra, unfortunately. This man, however, doesn’t look so high up.
In a chance encounter, you can meet a farmer leading a crow covered with strange paintings. As it turns out, he intends to bring the poor animal to a giant living nearby, hoping that this sacrifice will keep the big guy from the rest of his herd, maybe even ensure that the giant will help to protect his homestead. And it’s not a mere business exchange, but something deeper, a ritual to fulfil an ancient pact. An alliance made not with the high and mighty gods, but with the land itself.
This is why I keep returning to Skyrim. It is a place full of mysticism and poetry that is discovered even in tiny events. This game puts a spell on you and makes you forget about your own world and life.

Very obviously, I have many similar memories about Skyrim, let’s finish now instead of turning this post into a novel. Well, I never have enough of Skyrim stories, so if you’re a fan of the game reading this, please share your own tales in the comments.

All screenshots were taken by me and only me. This is a slightly altered version of a post I published on my Steem blog.

The Long Dark Episode IV: Fury, Then Silence

CAUTION: I tried to avoid it, but there are minor spoilers below.

After a long delay caused by the naughty virus, the fourth episode of The Long Dark’s story mode is finally here. Before we have a closer look at it, let’s start with a short recap.

In the beginning, there was a group of vidya industry veterans forming their own studio to make something new without the oversight of their megacorp bosses. Their first child was The Long Dark, a first-person survival game set in a remote, frozen region of Canada called the Bear Island. The player has to learn and handle rather complex mechanics, fighting against deadly frost, wildlife, and the danger of starvation. To stave off death, it’s necessary to scavenge for tools and supplies, hunt, mend your clothes, and do everything to protect your character from the murderous cold. For years after the alpha version was released in 2014, the game offered only a sandbox open-world mode without any story or defined characters. After several major updates, however, a single-player story mode was announced and eventually released. First, it was just two episodes, then another one, and after three years of turbulent development, we are about to face Fury, Then Silence.

Meet Will Mackenzie, a self-employed licensed pilot. One gloomy night, he was surprised by a visit from his ex-wife, Astrid, who asked him for a favour: to fly her into the backwater community of the Bear Island and help her deliver a mysterious suitcase, supposedly containing a cure for a health crisis that had erupted there. While the couple was about to reach their destination, they encountered a mysterious storm that simply fried the electronics in their plane. Separated by the crash, they both found themselves forced to survive in the wilderness. After reaching a nearby town, Will quickly learned that electric power disappeared from the world due to an unspecified disaster, most likely the aforementioned storm with its eerie lights, and, what’s worse, most inhabitants fled after being attacked by escaped prison convicts. Still carrying his partner’s precious package, Will further explored the island until he reached a hydroelectric power plant. There, he learned that hungry wolves and blizzards are not the worst things that could happen to him.

The fourth episode starts with Will being tied up and dragged on a sled by a trio of former prison inmates. Their boss, Mathis, sees our pilot as a precious asset in a future attempt to escape the island. Being himself, Mckenzie makes an attempt to escape when the group is attacked by wolves but is quickly caught. After they reach the prison, it turns out that the entire security staff has been murdered except one person, the chief warden, who quickly explains the entire situation to Will. Apparently, Mathis is still keeping both of them alive because his son sits in a tightly secured solitary and it’s impossible to get him out when the power system isn’t working. Since the head villain has stolen Astrid’s suitcase and has a bunch of murderous thugs at his command, Mackenzie is forced to become his errand boy and scout outside the prison walls in order to find a way to open the solitary.

This is where the proper game begins. First, you have to break into the medical wing of the prison, surrounded by wolves, and recover some medicine for the injured warden. Then, you are ordered to explore more distant locations. Things get more complicated, and hopeful, when a new player enters the stage. A mysterious woman contacts you through a landline phone and tells you that she’s trying to stop Mathis. While she is able to mess with the prison’s internal systems from her hideout, she’s unable to do the legwork and you become a double agent, pretending to work for the prisoners but quietly sabotaging them.

The first problem you encounter is the lack of resources. The criminals took almost everything from you, leaving you with nothing but some pieces of clothing, so you’re starting from scratch just like in Episode One. The priority is to find decent clothes, basic tools, food and medicine, but also weapons. You will need the firepower because the area around the prison is crawling with wolves. Not just solitary ones, but entire timberwolf packs, too, already known from the previous episode. They are harder to get rid of than lone wolves due to the pack morale mechanics. When you encounter them, a blue bar appears at the bottom of the screen, indicating how scared they are. You can make them run away by shooting a gun or lighting a special (and rare) Marine Flare, but the newest episode gives you another way to avoid getting eaten. With some gunpowder and an empty can, it’s possible to make homebrewed flashbang grenades. If your aim is good enough, two should be enough to finish the job, saving your precious ammo.

Except for makeshift explosives, there’s little new in terms of gameplay mechanics or equipment. At a few times, you’ll have to deal with toxic fumes or smoke when exploring interiors, forcing you to run and frantically look for pockets of clean air unless you want to suffocate. Your mileage may vary, but it was a welcome change of pace for me. Besides that, there’s one stealth section when you have to hide in darkness and avoid searchlights, otherwise, poor Will gets an instant bullet in the head.

At one point you have to solve a puzzle to get further. Exploring a complex system of underground tunnels, you have to redirect steam pipes to open frozen doors and reach the heart of the facility. While it’s quite interesting and not too hard to solve, the task is a bit slow, requiring you to crawl through cramped tunnels, so my guess is that not everyone will like it.

The story itself is decently written, captivating, and filled with constant tension. Mathis makes a great villain. On the one hand, he shows to be intelligent, capable of long term-planning and even has a kind of dark charisma. On the other hand, he’s still a sadistic criminal who is barely capable to hold his temper. The voice actor does a great job here and the way the game engine depicts his wild grinning is genuinely scary. Jace is an interesting character, too, a believable strong woman type determined to stop the bad guys. The two lesser criminals you have to deal with when Matis isn’t around are little more than extras, but at least they provide some comical relief.

Fury, Then Silence didn’t bring any revolutionary changes to the basic gameplay, but that wasn’t its purpose. The new update has always been meant to continue the story, and it delivered. Moreover, the ending of Episode 4 looks very promising and I can’t wait to see what happens in the finale. Sadly, it seems that we won’t see it soon, as the dev team is occupied with releasing a major hotfix and adapting the new map to the sandbox mode. Not that it’s a problem for me or the majority of The Long Dark fans since you have to be very patient to play this game in the first place.

All screenshots taken by yours truly. This is a slightly altered of a post previously published on my PeakD blog.

Red Dead Redemption 2: Money, Bloody Money

Before I begin, here’s an important disclaimer: I’m really new at RDR2 Online. My little adventure began just two months ago and I’m taking things slowly, playing in a casual way and barely interacting with other players. As you can see, I’m hardly a veteran who could give you a deeper view about the changes brought by the newest update, Blood Money, but maybe a fresh look from a newbie can be valuable too.

During those two months, it seemed like the game was stagnant at its current stage. There was no new content added, just some club rewards to claim and, of course, new daily challenges. Meanwhile, the Blood Money update brings quite a lot to the table.

The whole story starts with a letter you receive and a trek to St. Louis. This time we’re not meeting our charming business partner, Mr Cripps, but a real made man! A gentleman with an Italian name and an obvious Italian accent wants to recruit our hero for some wetwork. As it turns out, he represents some serious people who turned old boring banditry into a professional business and hired some of our old acquaintances to create their own network. The gentlemen in question took a fully capitalist approach and began to issue their own currency called Capitale which, among other things, is rewarded to their faithful henchmen. Unfortunately for them, the mobsters have to deal with an unusual kind of inflation: some Capitale was stolen by minor criminal gangs and one of your tasks will be to get it back. This is just a means to an end, because the supreme goal is to thwart a wealthy senator who has been rather unpleasant to our

After the short briefing with our new boss (or maybe rather a capo?), we meet one of our trusted quest-givers and discover that there’s an entire list of new jobs to do. First of all, you can take simple single missions involving kidnapping or raiding a ranch. More interesting are the mission chains, each one consisting of three parts. Not only are they longer and more complex, but they have some short stories to tell with voiced dialogue. Nothing special, but it certainly makes the constant grinding a bit less tedious.

I used the word ‘grinding’ for a reason. You’ll want to play the same mission a few times because getting the Capitale isn’t that easy. While you always get rewarded with dollars and gold nuggets, the new currency is won through a careful search of corpses and your surroundings. If you’re really impatient, though, you can always buy it for gold at the local fence or win a whole bag of it in the new Quickshooting Club event.

After picking a single job, you’ll quickly find out that things are more complicated than the ordinary jobs you did for strangers in the pre-update version. For example, hijacking a stagecoach requires finding the information about its planned route first, so you have to go to a certain place, kill a bunch of people, and only then move to the place of ambush. Another obvious difference is the difficulty level. The enemies are more numerous, a bit better at shooting your ass off, and they often receive reinforcements. The sweet blood money will cost you some blood and sweat.

Mission chains are even more interesting. Each one is divided into three parts and plays like a short story with its own dialogue. Moreover, the gameplay is a little bit different from just shooting or galloping. When you take the Jeb Phelps contract, for example, you first have to rescue him from a prison wagon and then help him get his revenge on the town which betrayed him. To do this, you’ll need to drag a corpse of a slain lawman using your lasso, drop it in the middle of the town, then shoot the alarmed guards and also every single oil lamp you find, all this in order to terrorise the citizens. As you can see, it’s more complicated than just going to place X and killing number Y of people.

Let’s assume you’ve just finished a couple of missions and was lucky enough to get a hefty pile of Capitale. You won’t be spending it on fancy hats or platinum engravements on your revolver. The main purpose of this currency is to open the so-called Opportunities. They are a part of the storyline involving a certain senator whom your powerful employers want to neutralise. At the moment of writing this post, there are only two opportunities to choose from. In both cases, you’ll need to steal a precious gem that is being delivered to an exhibition hosted by the politician. The gameplay is more open than usual, as you can choose different approaches to your target. When the goal is to steal the gem from a train, you are given several options to distract the guards (including blowing up a whole ship full of fireworsk!) and get on board without them noticing you. In the other mission, you have to find your bounty in Annesburg and search a few areas for clues. In both cases, a stealthy approach is advisable, since the enemies definitely outnumber you.

If you’re a better player than me, though, and want something more challenging, remember that you can choose the difficulty level while selecting an Opportunity. The higher levels will cost you more Capitale, but presumably bring more rewards too.

No matter which mission you choose, you’ll want to be armed to the proverbial teeth. To make things go smooth, you can use another new feature and buy the Hired Gun Kit from the fence. This will get you a large supply of ammunition and healing items to be picked up at your camp or any post office. To be honest, I spent my gold mostly to get the new badass mask, though.

Just like I said at the start, I don’t feel as properly qualified to judge the new update. As a fresh arrival to RDR2 Online, I simply appreciate all the things it adds and new opportunities to get rewards, as well as some life-quality improvements (you can choose between the standard pre-update missions now). The best part for me, however, is that the story is still being developed which gives an incentive to return to the game and see more. All in all, things look rather promising and the Rockstar team will give us more surprises in the future.

November: From Nevada to Shanghai

Most of the month felt like an everlasting Groundhog day. I keep going back to my unfinished playthroughs or those games I haven’t played for a long time. Finally, I said the final goodbye to Mad Max and achieved 100% completion. Hunting the last remaining achievements was like playing Russian roulette with the almighty RNG but thanks to helpful people providing online walkthroughs I managed to do them all without getting too frustrated. Actually, it was fun enough to start New Game+. All I wanted to do was to unlock the iconic leather jacket from the movie, but I spent a few hours spreading mayhem in the desert. Even though I dropped the game, it was enough to remind me why I’ve always had it for one of the best cinematic gaming experiences in history.

Found waiting in my Steam library: Wings! One day I felt the sudden need for simple shooting, and since I bought the remastered version without even installing it just because of childhood nostalgia… Sadly, it soon turned out that I’m dealing with a low-budget grab for cash. The developers stopped at refreshing the graphics (which still look like a cheap mobile game) and the soundtrack. Everything else looks almost the same as in the original game and, what’s worse, there’s no content from the enhanced GameBoy Advanced edition. Which doesn’t change the fact that Wings! remains a true classic.

Let nobody think I don’t go beyond vintage games, though. This time I finally installed the alpha version of Chinatown Detective Agency. Simply speaking, this point-and-click adventure featuring some cyberpunk trappings is still scheduled for release in 2021, but the early version looks quite promising. We’re impersonating a private eye living in futuristic Shanghai who, after dropping her cop career, starts her own enterprise. There’s nothing too surprising so far, the first job comes from a shady megacorp looking for defecting personnel, then she’s flying around the world trying to give antique postmarks back to museums in their countries of origins (yeah, I know how this sounds), finally there’s an investigation on corruption in the big business and government. One unique mechanics wants us to look for real-world trivia knowledge (where do you find exotic trees in Shanghai), but the gameplay is very simplified, the visuals inconsistent and voice actors more often than not can’t handle their roles, sometimes sounding outright grotesque. Despite its early flaws, I spent a pleasant our visiting Shanghai and so far I’m decided to give the devs another chance. After all, it’s just a very early demo release, so let’s hope the full version will be well-developed.

To nobody’s surprise, I’m still stuck in New Vegas. This time I finally finished the third and final part of the excellent New Vegas Bounties mod. The Courier travels to a distant snowy valley and a town of outlaws. His main goal is to catch the main villain of the entire trilogy. It’s quite amazing what a single but talented modder can do with a tiny team of supporters. They managed to deliver solid Western movie experience with juicy dialogue, original characters and story, even though the lack of resources caused the game to suffer from many bugs. Despite this, when the final shootout was finished, I felt genuinely sad that there would be no fourth part of the story. The man behind the project has abandoned his unfinished NV mods several years ago, but luckily for me, there are still some of his works to try. This means that I’ll be probably walking in Courier’s shoes for some more time.

Now it’s December and I’ve heard rumors that the best game of the decade gets it release third time this year. Since I’ve stopped caring about all the hype, I’ll just go back to the usual. The plan is mainly to put more time into the New Order mod after it got an important update a few weeks ago. No more games I’m looking forward to, maybe I’ll return to the province of Skyrim since we’ve already had the first snowy day this year. And if a true winter comes, it would be a good time to play The Long Dark for the first time.

Life and death in June

The month began with cold days reminding me of early spring and ended with tropical heat—monsoon-like storms changing into burning sun in an instant. As usual, this kind of weather behind the window (or upon my poor skull) made me think about infinite deserts and primal forests…

Achievement hunting intensifies.

…so I finally installed Vietnam’65 after leaving it untouched for almost a year. To tell the truth, I feel old enough to get tired quickly with most strategy games, especially when they’re demanding like Crusader Kings 2 or the Civilisation sub-genre. Luckily enough, this game makes thinks quite simple and relaxing. To put it in short, it’s a counter-insurgency simulator. There will be no decisive battles, you don’t get to napalm any villages, but you’re rather playing an armchair army bureaucrat. Most of the playtime is spent on planning patrol routing, deciding where to put the forward observation base, and making sure the brave GI’s down there get their pork’n’beans and newest Playboy issues right on time. Graphics are simple but functional, the soundtrack barely exists, but I still experience the infamous ‘one more turn’ syndrome when playing this game, mainly thanks to the simplicity of rules and unpredictability of each playthrough. Besides, there’s a pretty uniform to hang with shiny trinkets, it’s a cheap move but has worked on me since the times of Gunship 2000.

Ain’t no senator’s son.

As always, being a nostalgic Amiga veteran, I go back to a classic game from that age each month. This time, I decided to stick with my run-through-the-jungle mood and launched the 1993 game Apocalypse (don’t confuse it with the aborted Playstation title starring the Die Hard Man). Now, I realise that the game is rightfully forgotten, but I feel the urge to return to it each summer. Maybe it’s the gloomy intro with great 16-bit chiptune score, maybe the green-and-tan pixel jungle mosaic in the background… I swear, if I met the devs, I’d tell them they helped to shape my taste for video game visuals when I was a kid. Too bad they also designed the game as Nintendo hard and I’ve long abandoned any hope to beat Apocalypse without cheating, but I keep returning to it for short, casual sessions.

No gods. One master.

‘Patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish for nuclear winter’. Just like the other Bethesda game starring one Dragonborn, my first Fallout New Vegas has been a neverending story for years. Now, I’m finally about to enter the endgame and, before my Courier becomes the Liberator and Autocrat of New Vegas as intended, I decided to try out an alternative path – right towards the command tent of Caesar himself. Let’s call it the discreet charm of active nihilism. It turns out that acting deep behind enemy lines as Vulpes I.’s junior frumentarius is really engaging and reveals some really good design decisions taken by the devs. Open fight with NCR’s good-two-shoes is satisfying too (the chainsaw!), just as the succesful assasination of a certain president. At last, the bull’s standard is flying over the Mojave. If this sounds too dare, I promise to reload the game and recreate the Ides of March.

Totally not an ominous title in July 2020.

I always appreciate the paradoxes happening in my life. Recently, I have become fan of the interactive novel genre thanks to Hearts of Iron IV. Sure, I stopped playing the vanilla version after a short while, popular mods like Kaiserreich didn’t interest me at all, but then, all out of sudden, the New Order arrived. To put it briefly, it is an alternative history mod set in a world where the Axis powers won the Second World War. Luckily, unlike morbid fantasies like The Wolfenstein series, this time the dreaded victory of Ultimate Level led to a (probably) more realistic outcome with the victorious powers slowly rotting and eventually collapsing. The Thousand Years is hit by a dramatic economic collapse, the peoples of the defeated Soviet Union don’t waste their time and rise up to liberate (or reconquere, to be more accurate) a part of former USSR territory, finally, the man with funny moustache dies and his potential successors jump at each other’s throats.

A killing smile.

After the somewhat prolonged development, we finally know the date of the first full release, 21 July. Before it happens, you can still play the two demo versions. The first one, confusingly named Old World Blues, takes us to a long trip right into the wreckage of the Soviet Union where a psychopathic Nazi raider, a mad scientist, and a bunch of hapless anarchists fight for dominance. The other beta version, Don’t Surf, changes the theatre of war from the Ural Mountains to the jungles and deserts of Africa. The sub-Saharan Africa is mostly occupied by three German quasi-governments which are busy with themselves – that is, with enslaving and exploiting the native population. When the Vaterland finally falls apart, they are left alone and almost immediately get into a conflict with the last bastion of (relative) democracy in Africa, the South Africa Republic supported by the USA. Why did I mention interactive novels? The development decided to focus on the narrative rather than the proverbial map-painting typical for grand strategy games. Unusually, you don’t just read about politicians and generals, but also rank-and-file soldiers, settlers and slave, which makes the experience far more entertaining – and chilling. I’ve enjoyed all the paragraphs of text so far, even when it was obvious that the devs lacked a skilled general editor who’d take care of all the typos, grammar errors, and stylistic mistakes. While I’ve been staying away from ‘big’ strategy games for a long time, here I can finally find the motivation to git gud in order to read another in-game event. Better than another Netflix show, I’m telling you.

Now, it’s July, so what I’m up to? In the recent days, I switched between the Nazi-ruled Africe and Liberty. Yes, I’m still trying to run a complete playthrough of GTA IV, leaving Niko Belić behind me, riding with Johnny Kibbutz’s boys and getting acquainted with Gay Tony. The only gaming event I’m looking forward is the release of New Order mentioned above. Hey, maybe I’ll even do something fully childish and take a few days off to play as much as I can.

Entering October

It’s been exactly five months since my last post and no, I’m still not done with my Ultimate Skyrim Run. First, I had to finish a side job which consumed most of my free time and every molecule of my personal energy, and then… I simply got distracted by other games. So, here’s a short summary of what I was busy with before October 1.

Looking back

When working at said project, I decided that Skyrim was too taxing to actually let me relax. Instead, I decided to buy something with a relatively simple gameplay, literal prolefeed, and my choice was Sleeping Dogs. As it happens, I watched a YT playthrough almost immediately after it got released, decided that it was a nice GTA clone, and forgot about it.

When I finally got it on Steam, I expected a quick and cheap amusement for a couple of evenings. What I got instead… all achievements and 135 hours of playing on my Steam counter. In fact, I liked this game even more than any part of the GTA series I’ve played before. There’s no wonder that Sleeping Dogs is a cult game for some fans and I’m anxiously waiting for a possible sequel – and the film adaptation.

And then the cops arrived. I liked the free alpha and beta versions of Police Stories so much that I finished the three levels multiple times and even wrote about the experience, but now the full game is finally available. The plot and writing are disappointing, to say at least, but it’s still a great fun with 18 missions to finish and a whole new arsenal of equipment. The devs expanded the range of possible behaviour of enemies and hostages which makes each approach to a level unpredicatable and exciting. I’ll definitely write a full review when I’m finished with the campaign.

That’s right, I’m still busy with sailing the Sunless Skies. Without permadeath and a more gracious difficulty system, it’s not as slow as the prequel, but so far I managed to get only one of the Ambitions. And yet again, the quality of writing makes me feel simply dumb.

Busy or not, I still didn’t abandon my Dragonborn. When I’m writing these words, he’s spending a wonderful vacation on the isle of Solstheim after defeating a terrible evil and taming a dragon. I’m really enjoying the experience of visiting a place I explored more than a decade ago in Morrowind and tasting the different shades of nostalgia. Still, I’ll have to leave it soon, go back to the mainland and finish the main story, because at this point playing Skyrim feels more and more like a chore. Besides, I still have the other parts of my personal Unholy Bethesda Trinity to beat.

Looking forward and smiling

Nothing has changed and my backlog is still so bloated that I hardly feel any need to try new games, but I’m still hopelessly waiting for Metro: Exodus to be released from the exclusive title jail. If it doesn’t happen, my resolve may finally break and I’ll buy it on Epic Store.

Obviously, my plan is to keep this blog running after another long hiatus, so stay tuned in and cheers!