Back with a Bang (or rather a whimper)

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I LIVE

I DIE

I LIVE AGAIN

My WordPress dashboard tells me that I published the last post more than half a year ago, shortly after I bought my brand new, shining gaming rig. A very long period of silence followed. How to explain that? An abyss of confusion.

Playing on my old laptop gave me a very limited choice. Oldies or indies. Getting a PC more suitable for my favourite hobby made me think really hard about the concept of choice cost. Suddenly, a whole new galaxy was opened before me – and Steam sales certainly don’t help you to focus on a single target. Yeah, time to change my approach and avoid hoarding unfinished games in my library — which is, by the way, the most disgusting form of consumerism.

Mad Max

The best mediocre game I’ve ever played.

Sure, just like I mentioned in that post, all the reviews I’ve read before and during playing Mad Max were right. It’s flawed. A disappointment. And yet I consider it to be one of the best experiences in my lifetime of a vidya fan.

Sure, I can see the flaws mentioned by other reviewers. Gameplay is repetitive. There are no dialogue options and the text is scarce. Difficulty threshold is way too low and you ascend to the position of a wasteland demigod too soon. Maybe there are many other minor details which would make me criticise this game if I only were a professional reviewer?

Too bad I’m just myself. Someone who finds the weakest points of this game really appealing.

There is no such thing as repetitiveness when you’re impersonating Max Rockatansky in the middle of a wasteland. Everything, driving, fighting, exploration, is hypnotising — which would be hardly possible in another setting.

Verdun

Just a few heartbeats and shell explosions after I’ve entered my first battle, I meet a small team of professional and extremely polite German players who are ready to guide me, a complete Grünschnabel. Out of sudden, I have just found my regiment, the local equivalent of a standard multiplayer clan. The battle is finished and immediately after the new map loads, one of my new trench friends quotes a very gloomy German poem about dying in the trenches. Just a few seconds later I find myself lying on the bottom of a trench, covering from artillery barrage and looking at the uncanny depiction of a hole in human skull and a pulsating brain beneath it. Shivers.

Yeah, maybe I found a FPS shooter which I can enjoy playing online after all.

Goals for this month

Verdun: Reach player level 100

…and stop being such an embarrassment to my dear Kameraden. Seriously, some of them have reset their rank to plain zero since I’ve started playing the game in December.

Space Marine: win it for the Librarius

…finishing the game shouldn’t be a problem even on the hardest difficulty level. What really makes me excited is collecting the missing floating skulls – just because it made me leave the playthrough in the past. Funny, searching for them is far more frustrating than repeatedly dying after a close encounter with a Traitor Marine who still remembers the Heresy Era.

Sunless Sea: Finish it!

According to my Steam counter, it’s almost 700 hours spent on the Unterzee. No wonder I’m so lousy at finishing games. Besides, maybe Sunless Sky is still in development, but there is a fan-made spin-off to give a try to. Hurry up, Captain!

 

This Blog: Summaries.

Amazing! Extraordinary! I’ve actually managed to finish some games since the December. It’s only polite to write about it and feed my Just Finished category.

Constant Feature: Your weekly report

What I need is some discipline. Writing a report about my progress every week seems to be a good start. Of course, it should include noting down my thoughts and posting screenshots which are to brief or irrelevant to make an entire post. Since I do most of my playing on weekends, Monday is the best choice for such reports.

Daily Gamer: Look Me in the Eyes

From the Day One, this blog was supposed to be a personal sketchbook to capture my disorderly thoughts about games I was playing, so I didn’t care much about having a profile picture, but since I’ve started to comment other blogs, I think that it’s necessary to finally get one. Because sharing your precious commentary without showing your face would be just rude.

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Flight Officer Squarehead reporting for duty.

Who would think it would be so easy to find a proper photo? The first game that came to my mind was Apocalypse — a long forgotten helicopter shooter released in 1994. The screenshot above comes from the game’s loading screen and shows our hero, an unnamed pilot on a search-and-rescuse mission in the dark jungles of Majipoor. The sterotypical face of an über-masculine action movie hero, its old-school pixelation and the chiaroscuro effect fit my gaming taste perfectly.

What I didn’t expect was that now I feel a strong urge to replay Apocalypse on WinUAE. Well, I was planning to return to it anyway, so let’s add it to my special list of classics I’ve never managed to finish and launch the emulator.

Daily Gamer: Get a Job

While I keep writing posts about my (mis)adventures in Sunless Sea, I didn’t even bother to say something about its parent game Fallen London, even though I’m playing it almost every day since two years. It’s time to right the wrongs.

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There is poetry even in being a butcher.

There are myriad reasons to like Fallen London, so many that I could spend the rest of my life writing about them. This is one of them: as the protagonist imprisoned in the Neath, you can do the most horrible things without feeling too bad about them, all thanks to the irony and melancholy of the narrative — a welcome change after playing dozens of games where choosing the traditionally ‘evil’ path has absolutely no appeal to me (I’m looking at you, Bethesda Games!).

Daily Gamer: Long-Distance Captain

This Sunday, I’m celebrating. You may call me a Seasoned Zeewolf now.

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To be honest, I’m really surprised with myself. The main reason for creating this blog was an ugly flaw of character: it’s very difficult for me to finish a game. All too often, I abandon a playthrough not just because I’m bored or don’t enjoy it anymore, but rather because I lose my focus. After all, there are always so many new exciting titles on the horizon, and a few classics I’d like to return to. This is not the case with Sunless Sea, however, because it appears that I’ve finally found a game which was made just for me. Everything — lore, graphics, musics, mechanics, dialogue, characters — seems perfectly tailored to my taste.

When I think about it now, maybe I really should sit down for a while, have a moment of introspection, and write down all the reasons why Sunless Sea is my current Number One. Let’s hope that I’ll be able to make a whole post about it.

New Vegas: From Omaha Beach to Mojave Desert

One of the best things about F:NV is the variety of guns to buy and use on the skull of an unlucky Raider — especially with the Gun Runners’ Arsenal DLC. Now it seems that I’ve found a perfect weapon: the BATTLE RIFLE.

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Also known as the M1 Garand rifle.

There are so many reasons to love it that it’s too hard to name them all, but let’s try to sum it up one sentence: it has a soul. The fact that The Courier holds a weapon designed about 300 years before he was born, a weapon which saw the beaches of Normandy and mountains of Korea, makes me think about a young warrior who suddenly finds a sword which once belonged to a mythical hero of distant past – Roland, Siegfried and Achilles. The historical background somehow reflects in its appearance, because even on my extremely low-end laptop the M1 looks much more real than other weapons found in the game, especially those fancy plasma and laser toys.

Beside all that, the Garand is an old friend. I’ve encountered it in some other games and always enjoyed firing it, mainly because it’s a semi-automatic rifle. Maybe it’s just me, but a weapon which doesn’t have an automatic mode turns a firefight into hunting. Everytime I manage to put an enemy to the ground with a well-placed shot, there’s a moment of elation – something I don’t feel with energy weapons or assault rifles. ‘Happiness is a warm gun’, indeed.

Daily Gamer: Hook

Ooh, that’s why I’m easy

Easy like Sunday morning

Sometimes, I’m fed up with all those big fancy games which require me to understand complex mechanics and read whole paragraphs of sublime English prose (I’m looking at you, Failbetter Games!). Sometimes, all I need is simple and calm gameplay to cool down my mind after a day of work. Fortunately for me, it seems that there are more people thinking this way. Two of them, Maciej Targoni and Wojciech Wasiak, created Hook.

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This is how a proper opening screen should look like.

Basically, it reminds me of the mini-games encountered in large cRPG titles like System Shock or Skyrim. The goal on each level is to make the titular ‘hooks’ disappear. Each of them is connected to a power source by a wire and the player needs to guess the proper order, because two hooks touching each other means failure.

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The gameplay gradually gets more complicated with each stage having more elements and occassionally adding new mechanics. Of course, you don’t need to have a degree in advanced mathematics or be a cryptologist working for the CIA, but later levels require some patience and careful thinking.The real-life equivalent would be untangling my MP3 player headphones after taking them out of my pocket, although Hook is decidedly less frustrating than that.

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The current version has 50 levels and I think that everyone gifted with an average I.Q. can finish it in half an hour, but that’s not the point. Like a meal prepared by a master chef or a classical painting, it is meant to be savoured slowly. Who knows, maybe sometime in the future university textbooks will mention Hook as one of early examples of a video game becoming a true work of art?

The game is available on Steam for a very reasonable price.

Daily Gamer: Magical Sound Car

Another pleasant surprise I found in the RPS Freeloaders column. At first, I thought I’ll just play it for a couple of minutes to enjoy its 8-bit retro-graphics, but eventually I decided to stay longer. What’s so remarkable about Magical Sound Car? The game combines a hellish difficulty level and standard platforming pleasures including spikes, disappearing floor tiles, gravity flipping, etc., with some anti-frustration features which actually are working. Be it the cute chiptune made by our toy car when it’s speeding up, or the two uncannily friendly kids who seem to mock my efforts and encourage me to go further at the same time, all this stops me from rage-quitting and deleting the game into the oblivion. Which is a true miracle, given how an impatient person I am.

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All right, all right, I’m staying with you, little ones