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.

Looking Forward

Yesterday, I said ‘goodbye’ to 2017 by writing a post about the best game I played last year. Now, the time has become to welcome give the new year a proper welcome. What’s better than doing it by making a little LIST?

Let’s start with the simple part and draw a proper backlog of games I haven’t finished yet. Of course, the minimum to count it as finished is reaching at least one ending and publishing a proper Just Finished post.

In no particular order:

Eisenhorn: Xenos

Gunpoint

Sunless Sea (nope, 700 hours wasn’t enough)

WH40k: Space Marine

Rain World

Skyrim

Volgarr The Viking

GTA V

Fallout New Vegas (of course)

Verdun (it’s a multiplayer FPS so I’ll just get level 100 of experience and quit)

Jalopy

Mad Max

Firewatch

The Final Station

That’s it. Maybe I should start with the last two games because I’ve essentially finished them already and all that remains is writing damn end posts to get rid of them.

Then there are some games, mostly classics, I’m planning to try out – some of them already waiting in the limbo which is my Steam library.

Half-Life 2

System Shock

1979 Revolution: Black Friday

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Portal

Max Payne 3

This War Of Mine

Wings! Remastered Edition

LIMBO

So much for the list. My most important goal, however, is to completely change my attitude as a player, just as I mentioned in one of the Creative Christmas posts. I seriously need it to become less competitive, focused on score and achievements, and more reflective, enjoying the plot, characters, mechanics, visuals, and so on. Hopefully, the new approach will allow me to appreciate and enjoy games more, maybe take a new, broader perspective, and therefore become a better player. Quite exciting and so much to look forward to in the new year.

 

 

Creative Christmas: Looking Back

Kim’s festive challenge ends today. The final task she gave to her faithful followers was:

You wake up the following morning, hungover but happy – you have an entire day of gaming ahead of you. You start thinking back over the video games you played during 2017; what was your game of the year?

Well, this is not a hard question.

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That’s right, 2017 was the year when I played Fallout New Vegas for the first time. A classic. A masterpiece. A monument to human creativity and imagination. This isn’t only my opinion because NV remains popular even 7 years after its release; I constantly see discussions and memes about the game on various social media platforms and new mods keep appearing almost every day.

There are so many reasons why I love New Vegas that I should make a separate post to list them all – and it would be a very long post – so just let me name two of them. First, it’s the post-apocalyptic desert setting which makes wandering through the Mojave a wonderfully relaxing experience, especially when I’m able to play heavy stoner or psychedelic rock as a custom soundtrack. Second, the modding community has been able to add tonnes of high-quality content. Just trying to find and play the best mods will probably take me another year and I’m so happy about it.

That’s it! The Creative Christmas is over. Now I would like to say it loud: Thank you very much, Kim! Your competition was an excellent idea and a very interesting experience. If you ever start a similar thing in the coming year, please let me know and I will gladly join you!

Creative Christmas: Things To Do In 2018

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On the last day of the year 2017, Kim asks the penultimate question in her Creative Christmas challenge:

Midnight eventually rolls around, which means it’s now time to pick a New Year gaming resolution to see you through the next 12 months. What’s your choice for 2018?

The answer to this one is very easy.

Make Playing Vidya Fun Again

The most important reflection on my gaming behaviour in the past year is that I treat games too seriously. All too often I’m obsessed with finishing every task or quest, finding all secrets, getting all Steam achievements, playing at the highest difficulty level, etc. Eventually, what was supposed to be a pleasant hobby turns into a chore and I become bitter and disappointed. No more! Now I’m planning to simply enjoy games and take a more relaxed approach. Which leads to the second resolution…

Expand Your Horizons

There are so many classic titles I have never touched due to the reasons described above. Now when I’m about to change my approach, I will finally have more time to install and play some games which have been waiting in my library forever, like Half-Life 2. Hopefully, this will help me become a wiser gamer and blogger.

Appreciate Your Fellow Bloggers

With shame, I must admit that I’m bad at being mutuals with other blogs. Too many times I just skim through a post and click the Like button without adding any meaningful commentary or advice. But I promise I will change that and become your Best Blogging Friend ever!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Creative Christmas: Memories, Treasured Memories

Better late than never. I joined the Later Levels’ Christmas collaboration literally in the last possible moment. Kim had this excellent to run a writing marathon about Christmas and video games. Twelve days, twelve different questions. The one for today is:

You’re wrapping presents while listening to cheesy festive tunes, and start to reminisce about holidays past. What’s your favourite Christmas gaming memory?

My memory is a real Christmas miracle: a story about finding a copy of a game which was virtually impossible to buy in my country. I played the demo version of Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall for many happy hours and you can imagine how I felt when I learned that I would not be able to get the full game just because nobody sold it in Poland. Then, just a few days before the Christmas, I found a box with the tormented King Lysandus on the cover in a small computer store located near my home town’s main bus station.  When I think about it now, it seems almost impossible, but someone owning a tiny business in a poor Eastern European mining town was actually bold enough to have the game shipped from Britain.

Daggerfall Lutris
Source: lutris.net

Since my parents have always been rather reluctant to buy video games as gifts, I had to spend my entire pocket money to get it. And then I was sitting in my quiet. warm room on Christmas, with heavy snowfall outside, and directing the steps of my player character through the snowy streets of the titular city. With the wonderful winter tune playing from the speakers and perfect quietness inside me.

Every year, I feel the temptation to relieve this experience. Every year, the fear of disappointment stops me from installing Daggerfall again. There is no way back into the childhood but hey, at least we still have the memories.

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.

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.

Avantgarde: The New Wave of Soviet Dubstep

In my first post about Soviet City I mentioned that there’s a painful dissonance between the game’s general theme and gameplay, and it’s soundtrack, at least to a person who understands Polish and the historical context behind the speech samples used in the game music. A folk song from the Kurpie region performed by an old lady, or the voice of a classic Polish poet reciting one of his work shouldn’t be used as a background for a game which protagonist is a ruthless official ruling a grimdark Soviet dystopia. Fortunately, Dawid Hallmann, the man behind the SC soundtrack, is of the same opinion and has recently started working on new dedicated music. The first song was published by him on YouTube today.

As the artist himself writes in a commentary below the clip, he’s curious if they’ll like the new song in the Russian embassy. Considering the reaction of Russian gamers on YT and Steam, I think they won’t be exactly happy about the change, but I think it’s a great improvement and hopefully we’ll see more of it soon.