Weekly: It’s Snowing In Mojave

This was supposed to be the post when I officially announce the beginning of the Winter Gaming Season. Then I would ramble how much I like spending long dark evenings with video games, make a promise to finally write a list of games which are most suitable for this part of the year. After all, it finally arrived last week and now its glorious snow everywhere and northern darkness is embracing us. So, it’s the right time to play Skyrim again and post a picture of my new character, right?

I’m sorry, it’s not going to happen yet. I’m still stuck in the desert.

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That’s right, New Vegas is just too good to abandon it now just because my favourite season has started. Last week, most of my gaming time was wandering from one settlement to another and looking for Wanted posters. The funny thing is that the third and final part of New Vegas Bounties takes the player to a new location which just happens to be a snowy mountain valley. What’s wrong with playing New Vegas in December when it looks like lo-fi Skyrim?

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Of course, the season will eventually begin and what would be better than celebrating it by the best winter game ever. I return to Transarctica almost every winter, but this time it has to be done right. No cheats, no walk-throughs, and I will play a properly installed HD0 version — which will require some tinkering with the WinUAE, something I’ve always hated.

Goals, goals, goals: Install Transarctica. Spend at least one hour writing that My Best Winter Games post.

 

 

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Weekly: Flying with Fasces

Strange things are happening. For the first time since years, my trusted Logitech Attack 3 stick is sitting on my desktop. All because I wanted to fly for the losing side of World War 2.

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Usually, I avoid playing online like the plague, but I’m always ready to make an exception if the multiplayer game is unique enough. This is why I spent a considerable amount of time crawling under fire in Verdun. For the same reason, more than a year ago I installed War Thunder on my PC, just because there were a few Italian planes to develop in the German tech tree. Now the Italians are back as a separate faction with a recent patch and I just can’t resist to play it again. At the first glance it’s more than promising and I’m planning to play it for a while to discover more advanced planes and bonuses like historical camouflage. Let’s just hope they add more tanks soon, because now the game focuses on Regia Aeronautica.

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Meanwhile in Nevada, I’m hiding inside a ruined camper while a band of raiders is trying to shoot me into pieces. Somehow, their guns are powerful enough to finish my Courier in three shots despite him wearing a Power Armor. What’s even worse, I’m at the dead end of a deep canyon and there’s no retreat. Oh well, nobody said that being a bounty hunter in New Vegas was easy.

It’s hardly surprising that all three parts of New Vegas Bounties are so popular on Nexus. They have everything you’d want from fan-made content: professional voice acting, interesting characters, new unique weapons and sudden plot twists. The mod makes an extensive use of scripted events — which has led me to the current situation when I’m a sitting duck under heavy fire and no means of escape. It tells something that, even though I’m an impatient person, I’m continuously trying to survive the ambush after dying more than ten times. I will definitely have to write more about this mod when I finish it.

Goals for this week: Finish another draft and publish it here with screens.

Just Finished: Another World

My back is broken, I can’t feel my legs and I will probably never find a way back home, but at least my only friend in this another world is here, and we’re riding towards the sunset on the back of a huge flying lizard. See you in the next episode.

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By a lucky coincidence, I played the original Another World at the same time as when I discovered the joys of reading classic SF books. The thing is that some of the old editions available at my school’s library had those fantastic illustrations made by masters like Frank Frazetta and others. Well, sometimes their art was too fantastic — I swear that I was too afraid to open my copy of Burroughs’ Princess of Mars — but it certainly helped me to appreciate the incredible vision of an alien reality in Eric Chahi‘s masterpiece.

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Too bad that I lacked the skill and resolve for fair play and used codes to skip some, let’s say, problematic sections, but as a kid I didn’t care about it. Now it’s time to return and do it the proper way.

First of all, playing the 25th anniversary edition made me understand why people on Steam and elsewhere keep complaining about remastered editions. In case of Another World, you don’t get much, just hi-res graphics and soundtrack. There’s no audio commentary from the maker, no concept art, no new levels. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though, because I shamelessly pirated the Amiga original so it was the right thing to pay the money without any additional benefits.

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What are my thoughts after I finally finished the right way? Human memory is a fickle thing, but this might have been the first mature game in my life. In this case ‘mature’ means an ambition to reach beyond, transgress the borders and make a video game something more than just pure leisure.

One example of this revolutionary approach is Buddy, the NPC companion with whom you try to escape captivity. Being a native to this another world, he has a different set of skills and is able to operate alien technology, but also to fight the baddies hand-to-hand – something that our eggheaded protagonist isn’t capable to do. What’s even better, sometimes our former cell-mate acts in a different dimension, for example escaping pursuit right in front of the virtual camera while the hero moves in the background. A very interesting and unique approach whis reminds the player that this 2D game has an actual third dimension.

Of course, being almost two decades, I cannot ignore the game’s flaws now. First of all, there’s little interaction with the environment and virtually no dialogue at all. The combat mechanics, although surprisingly exciting, are too simplistic – a cover system like in Alcatraz or Blackthorne would make it much more interesting. Finally, my standard complaint is that it’s far too short, but it’s understandable given the technical limitations of home computers at the time Another World was released.

Still, does it all even matter when we’re talking about a work of a genius. Maybe one day I’ll make my personal shrine, a shelf with physical copies of the greatest games I’ve ever played. Another World will certainly be among them.

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Weekly: Family Matters

The greatest advantage of owning an Early Access version of a game is watching it slowly grow like a plant in your garden, and being pleasantly surprised every time you log into your Steam account and see that new content is ready for downloading.

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To new patch for Sunless Skies adds a few important things like item storage or character creator, but the Legacy system seems to be most important. I’ve always liked the roguelite idea of inheriting talents and worldly possessions from previous Captains in Sunless Sea, not only because it made plaing in permadeath mode a tad easier, but also because it gave the game an additional depth. There was something appealing in thinking not just about reaching one of the game’s ending, but also leaving something for the future generations. However, this time inheriting works in a different way since you’re not required to have a child in-game and you don’t just get stat bonuses, but instead create a new character with the experience level the previous one had before they met their end. This sounds more like reincarnation than inheritance and I’m really curious whether it will have some implications when the game is further expanded.

 

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For God, Emperor and Country (official promo image from Steam)

 

Not all is quiet on the Eastern Front! Another Early Access game I’d really like to play is Tannenberg, recently released by the makers of my favourite multiplayer FPS Verdun. Basically, it’s just an add-on to the main game which takes the players to a new theatre, Central and Eastern Europe, and adds the not-so-mighty Russian Army as a playable faction. Beside new weapons, uniforms and maps, there’s a new game mode too which supposedly reflects the less static type of warfare which was common in the East. Sure, I’m more than eager to give it a try and write about it in a First Hour post, but…

…let’s face the truth, I’m a bad, casual player, mainly because Verdun was my first online shooter since the times of the original Counterstrike. To put it simply, I’ve played it only sporadically for the last few months because I was just too embarraseed by my poor performance. Still, the perspective of visiting war-torn Eastern Europe and fighting for the Tsar is so tempting… Oh, the hard choices we vidya fans have to make 😉

Goals: Finish one draft and publish it before Monday.

Weekly: Sunday Beast

Sometimes, Sunday playing means embracing childhood nostalgia. This time the wonderful WinUAE emulator took me back to one of my favourite platformers.

Shadow of the Beast III was the first part of the series I played in my childhood and the only one I keep returning to. This is one of the rare cases when going back to my early Amiga years doesn’t end as a disappointment. I think everyone who has ever had the pleasure to play a Psygnosis game will admit that they were experts in turning visuals and sfx into magic. Personally, I think that they reached the peak of Amiga’s possibilities, but maybe I’m just blinded with nostalgia. After all, the Weird Owl Team was far from mastery in terms of pure gameplay — there are two different puzzles in the game which have always stopped me from finishing it, simply because they’re ridiculously unfair. It doesn’t matter, because I’m still hopelessly in love with the third Beast and I’ll give it another chance. Maybe a miracle will happen and I’ll be able to add it to my Just Finished collection.

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Leaving the Sierra Madre casino after a prolonged stay made me realise that the strongest point of this game is it’s open world. There is nothing better than just travelling on foot between locations and admiring the cruel beauty of the Mojave desert. Especially when you can play hide-and-seek with a mutated lizard and dispose of it with one precise shot. Yeah, New Vegas would be a lot worse without old rugged bolt-action guns.

Weekly Quest: nothing big this time, just remember to write down something interesting for the next episode every day.

Weekly: Playing In The Name Of

Who would think that you can spend a lazy Sunday afternoon playing in a pious way? Monks and Mystics, a Crusader Kings II add-on, makes it possible. So here I am, listening to Gregorian chant and accompanying my ruler in his spiritual journey.

The 13th century Iceland isn’t the most exciting place in the world of Christendom. All right, some time ago a friendly host of Norwegian crusaders paid us a visit after one of our rulers gave up to his self-destructive urges and declared this (petty) kingdom to be a stronghold of the heretic Fratelli sect. Fortunately, after a few crushing defeats suffered by his army he came to his mind and decided to renounce his exotic beliefs. The Norse tourists left us without saying a word.

Another time, the half of the Iceland decided that a vulgar and watered-down version of Gnosticism is just what they needed. Tells something about crazy things people do when they’re bored. The French Templar knights summoned by the king put an end to this folly in no time.

So, what can you do when you’re a ruler of a literally insular kingdom consisting of two provinces, what can you do to kill the time? Foreign invasions don’t happen unless provoked, the people usually love their ruler more than he deserves, and ‘court intrigue’ sounds outlandish because the Royal House and its retainers are all a happy family.

Fortunately, we have the Downloadable Content. Monks and Mystics lets the player join four societies which, in case of Christian rulers, are the Dominican and Benedictine, the Hermetics, and finally a literal cult od devil worshippers. Dabbling into alchemy and astrology would be interesting, but it requires high Learning skill and Iceland has never been known for having scholars as rulers (at least not in this timeline). Since I’ve always preferred to play the good guys, Satanic worship has no appeal to me at all — besides, all those cannibalistic feasts are a terrible mess — so donning the sackcloth habit remains the only option.

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Playing with my ruler as a pious lay brother is a surprisingly uplifting experience. It involves missions given to you by the head of the order, usually meaning that you have to go into seclusion to fast, pray and meditate on the Word of God, but you also participate in events like a pilgrimage to a holy site containing a precious relic. The reward systems is interesting, because gaining a higher rank gives you the power to cure a courtier or family member from a certain vice or even teach them virtue, which, as I suppose, reflects some of the quiet power such religious societies had in the medieval period. Of course, someone could point out that this vision is too idealistic and ignores the historical fact that monastic orders had direct political power too, and that some convents were literal nests of debauchery, but I’m not going to complain about that. Monks&Mystics may not be complex enough, but at least it avoids presentism, anti-medieval bias and the tired Dung Ages cliché, which is enough for me.

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After all, nobody in the game pretends that monks are infallible

Since I tried to play the DLC with a Catholic ruler, I’m really curious how it works out for other religions. Can I become a Sufi mystic as a Shia leader? What option do Buddhists or Hindus have? Maybe I’ll try those options out and write about it next week.

 

Monthly: November Blood

Just writing a note to myself like the good emperor Marcvs Avrelivs.

Well, maybe October wasn’t that bad, because at least I was able to keep my Weekly post schedule, but it’s still far from enough. So just let make me a to-do-list and hope I can make at least 50% of the plan.

First, I’ll need to finally start publishing Just Finished posts. There are a few games that I completed some time ago and it feels like a burden that I didn’t even mention them here.

  • The Final Station
  • Firewatch
  • Another World

The next step should be finishing the current playthroughs, especially when I’ve left them at the embarrassing ‘too lazy to beat the final boss’ stage.

  • Sunless Sea
  • Space Marine
  • Völgarr the Viking

Finally, there are games I should write about even if, technically, they can’t be finished, but I’ve played them for long that I have a word or two to say about them.

  • Verdun
  • Jalopy

On a side note, I really need to change my way of playing. Less focus on getting achievements and finishing it on the hardest difficulty level, a more playful approach and maybe some experimenting with playing style, classes, custom challenges, etc. We’ll see what happens.