Weekly: It’s Good To Be a Survivor

Damn, it feels like being alive again. For the past few months, I found little joy in playing video games, constantly skipping from one title to another and finding no satisfaction whatsoever.

 

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Maybe I’m just too old for this kind of hobby?

 

To my surprise, this changed after I finally got Fallout 4 downloaded to my disk.  To say that I enjoy it would be saying nothing, as I’m simply hypnotised by everything happening on the screen. So, maybe it’s the right time for little introspection. Let’s sit down and think about the reasons why I like Fallout 4 so much.

Survival of the Stealthiest

While the so-called Hardcore mode in Fallout New Vegas was a disappointment, adding only minor challenges to the gameplay, the Survival difficulty mode in F4 is something completely different. First of all, hunger, thirst and radiation are serious issues now and if you forget about them, the game punishes you by severe stats penalties. Even more importantly, even rank-and-file characters are deadly now — fitting for the highest difficulty setting — but so is the player character. If he’s careless enough, a bunch of angry Raiders can shoot him down in a few seconds, but since your basic damage is considerably higher than on lower difficulties, you can turn the tables by quietly climbing up a building or a hill and taking them out with well-placed sniper shots. Generally, sneaking is one of the most valuable skills now and I’m all happy about it.

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The most important element of the Survival mode is the strategic value of beds. Since manual saving and most autosaves are disabled, you can keep your progress only by sleeping for at least one hour. That’s why it’s very important to search your surroundings for a resting place when entering a hostile territory. After all, you don’t want to lose hours of progress due to an unlucky incident with a frag mine or a genocidal ghoul. Obviously, it’s very frustrating when it happens, but it makes exploration of the wastes even more exciting.

Meet the Vault Tinkerer

Remember picking through tonnes of useless trash in Fallout 3 and New Vegas in search of Stimpaks and ammunition? Now it’s over. With the new crafting system, even tin cans and broken clocks can be real treasures. After finding a proper workshop, you can customise your weapons, armour and even the Pipboy to make them lighter, sturdier, deadlier, or simply more fancy. Add enough modifications and your weapon’s or armour’s name becomes ridiculously long, but they thought about it too and you can give it another name.

 

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Maybe I’ll just call her Vera.

 

While most ingredients are common enough, some are quite rare and you’ll learn to value each piece of circuitry or nuclear material you find in the dirt. Things get even more complicated when you find out that you need the same resources to expand your settlements, but I left my settlers to their own devices so far, so let’s just leave it at that.

The Power of the Armour

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There’s been a huge change in the way the game treats Power Armour in comparison with the previous instalments. Now it’s not just a piece of (very heavy and expensive) clothing you wear but rather it behaves like an in-game vehicle. The Sole Survivor enters it using that funny hatch on its back and, just like a real car, it needs fuel, the Fusion Cores, which aren’t exactly cheap but still surprisingly easy to find. Beside standard modifications increasing damage resistance, it has some new options unavailable for other types of armour, like an enhanced HUD targetting enemies or special filters in the helmet which clean your food and drink from radiation. Another minor but nice thing is that your PC sounds really badass in conversations when speaking through his power helmet. In short, for the first time in the history of the Fallout series, they really made the Power Armour something special.

Well, that’s it. I’m sure I’ll have more to write about when I spend another dozen or two of hours of playing under my belt. Meanwhile, let’s get a cup of noodles from that crazy Japanese robot and then set sail for the ruins of Boston.

 

 

 

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Monthly: Moscow to Boston

The first months of 2018 were pretty monotonous. Radiation. Mutated dogs. Gas masks. Mutated mosquitoes. Digging through a pile of junk in search of spare parts. More mutants. In other words, I’ve been tasting two different types of post-apocalyptic fiction.

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The Metro series has been on my list since I watched a full Let’s Play YT video of the second game a few years ago. After all, a game made by a Russian and Ukrainian team always picks my interest and I really loved S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Now, not only I managed to buy both parts of the series for a very reasonable price on Steam but also bought the original novel written by Dmitry Glukhovsky. What a refreshing and interesting experience to read a chapter, close the book, launch the game and play the same part of the story (with slight alterations). Obviously, the game is far from perfection even in its revamped Redux version and there’s a lot of wasted potential due to the absolutely linear character of the plot, but I’ve enjoyed it so far.

Sadly, I had to interrupt my adventure in the depths of Moscow’s underground system. I blame you, Bethesda.

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For someone who’s been playing the series since the release of Fallout 1 in 1997, I was late to join the party. The steep price was one reason, the sad experience with freshly released Bethesda games being technical disasters was another. Most importantly, most reviews I was reading were far from favourable.  “It’s not a real Fallout game”, they said, “it’s too much an FPS and not much an RPG”. And, of course, the greatest accusation: “This is not New Vegas, so it sucks!”.

When Fallout 4 became available for a free weekend in early February, I was prepared to play it for a few hours, write down my impressions as a First Hour exercise, get bored, disappointed, and go back to Nevada. Well, I was wrong. After spending most of my weekend in the post-apocalyptic Boston, I finally paid for the game. The Fallout magic still works.

All right, the reviewers were right about one thing. It really isn’t New Vegas. I can understand that dedicated fans were disappointed by many changes, especially the ridiculous dialogue system (“yes/no/need more info/tell a stupid joke”), but the game is still more than decent. Especially when you go for the Survival mode which, unlike the previous installation, is seriously challenging and makes you doped on adrenaline every time you encounter a band of raiders or supermutants. Yeah, I’ll have to write more about it.

Just in case you played Fallout 4 before I did, I’d really appreciate hints about the DLC’s and interesting mods, since I’m still playing the vanilla version. Thanks!

Weekly: Nothing Changes On New Year’s Day

Do you have a song which makes your skin crawl? Do you feel a confusing mixture of emotions when listening to it? Here, let me share one of such songs with you.

All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you, night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

Under a blood-red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspaper says, says
Say it’s true, it’s true
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

“New Year’s Day” was written and recorded by the former rock rebels and current rock celebrities in U2 in 1983 as a commentary on the political and social situation in Poland after the introduction of martial law. Luckily, I was born too late to remember that period, but collective memory is a harsh mistress and the song still fills me with dread and sadness every time I hear it. Now, I have it stuck in my head because I decided to celebrate the first week of the new year by returning to Papers, Please.

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Winter in the glorious country of Arstotzka has the grey colour of armed concrete. I’m sitting in the inspector’s booth, scanning some innocent soul’s passport for the tiniest discrepancies and quietly wondering what is my worst fear: my superiors, the so-called resistance which keeps blowing my colleagues into tiny pieces, or simply not having enough money to feed my family. Suddenly, I discover that there’s a tiny typo in the passport. “Darżewski”, it says, while the ID tells me that he’s called “Durżewski”. With a silent sigh, I reach for the big red stamp. Entry denied. Sorry, my friend, you’re not coming in today. No, I don’t care about your wife waiting behind the barbed wire.

Perhaps this should be my greatest fear: that one day I will begin to think that this is okay and my life isn’t that bad.

When one of my Polish friends asked me to describe Papers, Please in one sentence, I answered: “It is a very wise game”. That’s right, Lucas Pope didn’t receive all the applause and rewards for simply making a satire on Eastern European communism. As simple as it may appear at the first sight, this game is incredibly profound and offers a unique experience, especially for someone living in the former Soviet Bloc. Actually, I finished it a few years ago, reaching most of the game endings, but when I saw it on the Steam sale in the last days of December, I simply couldn’t resist buying. Maybe I should write a longer post and explain why I consider it a masterpiece. Before that happen (and if it ever happens), I’m planning to revive my Soundtrack tag and make a list of songs which make playing games with dystopian theme more immersive. So, now I have a goal for this week.

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: Festive Dining with a Geiger Counter

The last few days were pretty busy, but now I’m finally back to the Creative Christmas competition hosted by Kim from the Later Levels blog. The task for today is…

It’s now time to head out to the kitchen to put on your oven gloves and start preparing Christmas dinner. It consists solely of video game food; what’s on the menu?

As someone who spends most of his time in Skyrim looking for bloody leeks to make that delicious soup, I feel that I’m the right person to answer this question. Still, the cuisine of the Nords seems to be a bit too obvious choice. Instead, I have a better idea.

Gamers of the world, rejoice! Hereby, I invite you to…

The Great Postapocalyptic Christmas Dinner

…which is to take place in my cosy underground bunker near the Great Khans‘ territory. Please do not disturb the cazadores.

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We’ll start with some appetisers, of course. Iguana on a stick? Here you go. Some squirrel bits? Be my guest. Or maybe you’re into classic pre-war food? One Blamco Mac’n’Cheese for you.

Now for the main course. Obviously, ordinary food like Squirrel Soup won’t do on this occasion. So what makes a dish so special and unique? Maybe rare ingredients? Then I have something for you.

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Sure, Hearty Soup sounds delicious. You better appreciate that Mole Rats are so hard to find and fresh carrots can only be obtained at the McCarran NCR base. It took me a long walk to get them and I almost got shot as a Legion sympathiser, but everything for my guests.

Like every self-respecting chef, I have this one recipe for a festive dinner. No, I didn’t invent it. Actually, I took it from the still warm corpse of a drug-crazy cannibal raider called Cook-Cook. Maybe he was a monster, but his taste was impeccable. No worries, my version of his (in)famous Fiend Stew includes brahmin meat which means that everyone leaves my little party alive.

Very well, we’re finished with our festive meal. Don’t pay attention to that radiation counter inside your Pip-Boy ticking, I swear it’s safe and even makes food more tasty! Now let’s celebrate with something liquid! There’s that nice saloon in the nearby Goodsprings and I’ve heard they’re going to be open all night long.

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I have this feeling that the morning after Christmas won’t be a pleasant one… Totally worth it!