Author Topic: What digital games are you playing?  (Read 35349 times)

Jubal

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Re: What are you playing?
« Reply #60 on: March 01, 2023, 09:37:40 PM »
The mystery is revealed! :o
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Jubal

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Re: What are you playing?
« Reply #61 on: March 13, 2023, 09:25:50 PM »
So my most recent gaming foray was Windbound, which was 90% off on GOG so I got it. It has a premise that very much appeals to me - a sort of survival-adventure where you get to tootle around in a catamaran discovering islands, surviving, uncovering ancient myths, etc.

The problem is that the execution of the game is less than ideal. It's designed in a sort of roguelike, kick you back to the start manner - even in the easier mode, you get kicked back to the start of a level on death. But unlike a lot of roguelikes, the levels are intentionally a tricksy survival grind and take multiple hours to complete. Even this would not be a problem if the game didn't also have compulsory and very difficult boss fights which require a mastery of a combat system that can generously be described as janky.  Strike-and-roll combat is something I used to think I hated. I don't think that any more, because I genuinely got to the point of enjoying it in The Witcher 3 which nailed its execution (for me at least)... but I still think that strike-and-roll is difficult to get right, and Windbound does not in fact get it right. The strikes are pointed, so you need to line them up, but you can't zoom and the lack of camera control makes life very difficult. The "combat lock" is supposed to help you align with enemies but also turns your jump button into a dodge-roll button, which is deeply problematic when you actually want to jump to get away from creatures mid combat: the combat lock also does not lock on very well meaning you need to keep unsetting and resetting it, and suggestion tips keep annoyingly popping up even when you've dismissed them a bunch of times already.

If I could just save the game at my own pace and try the boss fights a few times by going back from a static save, the game would have been fine, but as it is I bounced, decided that for the time being I don't have the energy to push past the level three boss fight. It's a pity, because there's really quite a lot to like about Windbound other than that. I generally really like most of the creature designs, even if some of them are brutally annoying to fight, and the lore is fun. The look of the game is nice, too, and I like being able to customise your ship: I'd actually have liked to lean more into that part of the game.  The crafting system all works neatly and feels quite balanced.

There are a few other missed opportunities in Windbound. I think the way the core mechanics work, it's sort of leaning towards a survival-RPG thing, and adding a bit more of the RPG side and giving a bit more human lore at times would have been helpful. I'd have liked to see a bit more interactivity in the lore discoveries rather than them just being end of chapter rewards.

I might go back and finish it sometime, but I think for now I'd rather move on to something that's a bit better delivered rather than have the frustration of running through more or less the same bunch of islands on repeat. "Mastering" that messy a combat system doesn't seem like it's something I super want to do at the moment.
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Spritelady

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Re: What are you playing?
« Reply #62 on: July 21, 2023, 03:30:33 PM »
I've spent any free gaming time lately playing Tears of the Kingdom, which I have mostly positive feelings for, although there are definitely some elements of its design that I felt weren't as well optimised as they could be.

My main critique, without getting into details that others might find spoiler-y, is that the game felt as though it really hyped up the sky islands, both in the trailers and the initial tutorial area, and then I felt rather let down when I discovered how much actual content was on those islands relative to the surface of hyrule and the depths. Did anyone else find this?

Jubal

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #63 on: July 31, 2023, 09:56:55 AM »
I have, weirdly, never played a Zelda game. Should I do so? BotW/TotK have the sort of vibes that indicate I might like them, but I don't know if I actually would.

Anyhow, I've recently been enjoying some Dragon Age, which I commented on in too much depth in the relevant thread. Might do Pillars of Eternity 2: Dreadfire next, I think that or Pathfinder: Kingmaker are the obvious RPGs on my list. I think I'm definitely in a mood for narrative games lately, though sometimes tactical RPGs do disappoint me there and I'm sort of worried that after playing the Dragon Age Origins DLCs that's actually set the bar too high for a lot of standard tactical RPGs in terms of the character interactions and developments.
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Jubal

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #64 on: August 20, 2023, 04:38:34 PM »
Most recent game was Impossible Creatures, a 2003 RTS where the theme is that you make chimerical beasts and duke it out with them, with drawling 1930s henchmen, gyrocopters, and other mad science attributes key to its plot. There's a campaign and random single player maps, I only played the campaign and only half of that. This is partly because I don't enjoy RTSes very much, like most RTS games IC is heavily balanced towards a fast, punchy, well optimised playstyle and it also doesn't even have a way to lower the difficulty. I meanwhile would rather a much more casual game where I can turtle my way across the map much more happily, and I didn't get that from this. That said, there was a lot I earnestly enjoyed about the game and its sillinesses.

The good: Mixing creatures is fun! I would happily spend more time playing in the creature generator. Also the base part of the plot (excepting the yikes bits below) is actually good fun: American journalist laid off for getting too involved in fighting fascists in the Spanish Civil War goes to find his Russian scientist father in the south Pacific, turns out there's a mysterious powerful technology being secretly developed by a tycoon there that could change the world utterly, shenanigans ensue. I found the old-school graphics pretty endearing though I guess that might be my age. Also, you can make a porcupine with owl wings!

The bad: You can make a porcupine with owl wings but the game strongly pressures you not to use it. The gameplay, built with no way of giving yourself a gentler ride, is actually far too focused on trying to find optimised animal combinations rather than fun ones, which I feel kinda takes away from the experimental, silly spirit of the game. Things could have definitely had some better design to make more of the possible options play-viable rather than there being such a heavy optimisation metagame.

The yikes: Representation of indigenous people. Yes, it's riffing on mid C20th pulp tropes, but when literally all your characters who aren't white, in something set on pacific islands, are excitable pygmies babbling about sky witches, there may be a problem. Also, relatedly, the silly pulp plot of the campaign occasionally takes on wildly heavier material than it actually can support as a silly plot for a game about mad science. Most specifically, there's a part where it turns out one of the evil scientists has been literally killing the locals for human experimentation, and we mainly get this as a character development moment for the good-team scientist who unwittingly worked on the same project. That's some quite heavy theming for a game that's mostly about mutated wasp-rhinos, and it does not land well at all.
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Spritelady

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #65 on: August 22, 2023, 05:13:32 PM »
I have, weirdly, never played a Zelda game. Should I do so? BotW/TotK have the sort of vibes that indicate I might like them, but I don't know if I actually would.

I certainly think there's a strong possibility that you would! I quite enjoyed them, particularly that it was entirely possible to Embrace the Vibe of just wandering about exploring and picking mushrooms, which is what I spent a large amount of my time in both games doing. The fact that it doesn't push you to get involved in combat, and that there are usually ways to achieve your goals without engaging in a fight as you explore, I quite enjoyed.
That said, the main story beats do require significant Boss Fights, and it depends a bit on how you feel about that. I must admit I am generally rubbish at mastering the more complicated combat techniques, and so tended to operate on a 'wear the best armour, get the best gear, down an enhancing potion and then Just Whack It' approach to the whole thing. It worked? Indeed, I recently completed Tears of the Kingdom, and now plan to spend some time finding Korok seeds, to get the 100% completion rate.

I have also begun playing Baldur's Gate 3, which I am deeply enjoying and am incredible in awe of. Somehow it manages to be incredibly faithful to most of the best elements of DnD (that it is possible to translate into a computer game at any rate), while also improving on many of the mechanics to make them more interesting and enjoyable.
The complicated interactions between questlines/characters make any number of incredible different options available to someone playing through the game, and despite only being about halfway through the plot (I think!), I am in fact already planning a second playthrough, to try out some alternative options.

Jubal

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #66 on: August 22, 2023, 06:07:22 PM »
just wandering about exploring and picking mushrooms, which is what I spent a large amount of my time in both games doing
Ah, so the game has the same premise as Skyrim (from my perspective) then :p

I'm not sure how well I'd do the boss fights: I rarely have much tolerance for learning first person combat systems unless they're either very quick to do reruns of or they're really well designed. I guess I did it in Son of a Witch, Hades, and The Witcher 3, but I've definitely bounced on that problem in other games.

Will comment on BG3 in the Forgotten Realms Games thread!
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Jubal

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #67 on: October 04, 2023, 11:21:28 PM »
Recent post-BG3 update (I will post more BG3 details sometime soon) - I had a go at playing Pathfinder: Kingmaker, I'm 20hrs in and I'm stopping, which is really unusual for me but also, this game is something unique in its artistry, specifically that it is artisanally badly balanced. The look is fine, the plot is... okay, the mechanics are terrifyingly bad.

The combat is wildly variable - some fights I can sleepwalk, some fights are simply impossible at levels where you can easily encounter them, and there's very very little way to tell which shall be which. The random encounters are bizarre - I randomly came across four large water elementals in the wilderness, hanging out in a canyon (why? where is the sense of storytelling?), two would have been a fairly hefty challenge for my party, I just about managed to kill two and get the other two to the point where the end of the battle would be on a knife edge, and then the game spawned four more large water elementals at the edge of the map. The game also autosaves upon starting random encounters or various of its fights, meaning if you forgot to save, it's locked you in to whatever unwinnable thing it can throw at you.

There are some nice bits of the game, I actually like the different roles and micromanagement of camp functions, that's great. And I in theory like the event based realm management except the bits where some things randomly do time skips and you don't actually have all the people you need to run the basic functions of your kingdom and there's a lot of numbers and it's not clear what contributes to what and none of it makes a lot of sense. The plot of the first chapter is fine if fairly basic, I pretty much lost track of the plot after I got my own barony, there was some stuff with curses and trolls and the nymph but I wasn't sure what I was meant to be doing in what order between the very long map travels (which as noted could be very murderous) and the myriad possible events that seemed to be firing back at my capital, so I ended up sort of ignoring all that and trying to clear some dungeons to level up and get myself into a less embarrassing state, which was slowly sort of working but involved trial and error map exploration because some locations would randomly slaughter me very very fast and others barely broke a sweat. Also travel in Kingmaker is expensive because of the supplies requirement.

I think in short that I've never met a game that better simulated the failure state of a bad gaming table. The "GM" hates you as the player, and doesn't know how to balance combat, so neither your losses or your wins feel good and heroic because you have no idea if what you just faced was reflective of more than the game master's dubious grasp of the rulebook and indeed of reality. The consequence of this was the plot getting basically abandoned in favour of a party that mooched around trying to rob any dungeon they could find or sitting in a castle talking to random NPCs to see what happened. Bits of time randomly disappeared in time skips nobody understood, and the whole thing had various nominal time limits far too numerous to keep track of without breaking out some heavily modified planning software.

I still might go back and finish it sometime because I'm very stubborn about giving games a fair run and because I'd sort of like to see what happens to the characters, though I guess I could look up the latter. But right now this is not what my gaming brain wants to deal with, and I should get better at accepting that I don't have to and can just play something else. Soooo I guess I will.
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Jubal

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #68 on: October 25, 2023, 08:10:53 PM »
On the major RPGs front I've started playing Divinity: Original Sin. I'm enjoying it thus far, though I stopped for a week or so. It's definitely very zany hyper-high fantasy, and I think it sometimes leaves a bit to be desired in terms of giving you choice paralysis and signalling expected game order, but mostly it's very good. I'll write it up better when I'm finished.

Also this week I've played through Scribblenauts: Unlimited, which whilst not nearly as unlimited as its name implies was well worth picking up at sale price. It wasn't perhaps as good as it could have been for me, but the core mechanic of creating and using items from a really wide list is just a very good one.

The limits on it: Scribblenauts is obviously designed at a younger user base, though given that, some of the references needed for certain bits are really tricky - I was having to look a bunch of stuff up at times for the item achievements because there are some quite obscure USian terms and references used. Separating the secondary item-driven shard achievements so totally from the main game I think was an error, those should just have been added to relevant areas as things to do rather than making them a huge stack to work through at the end of the game. I'd also have really liked trickier core puzzles, most of which were e.g. "give this guy a weapon!" rather than making the item achievements which included "work out that you're meant to ring a bell to give a wingless bird wings possibly based on a 1940s US film reference" the hard bit. Some of the item combining is janky too (you have to combine bread and cheese for a "make grilled cheese" achievement which would be logical except that the game also includes grills, toast, etc and it's very easy to spend ages doing all this in the wrong order or with the wrong absolutely specific items). Sometimes the item specificity is awkward, such that you can waste frustrating time with items that are not quite the thing you need from the game's POV even if they would absolutely work (example: a "beater" doesnt exist, and you can't get the NPCs to hit a gong with a drumstick, stick, or club, it has to be a mallet).

The game is also hilariously American, in that you can absolutely get rocket launchers and nuclear missiles but there is no alcohol, at all, even when puzzles like embalming/pickling come up. And it's wildly white, there is hardly a non-white face in the entire thing to an extent that I, a very white person who's only lived in countries where white people are a supermajority of the population, found it really noticeable. So that's odd.

That said, the core gameplay mechanic is fun and if one wants a low brain puzzlefest then it's very worth playing through if you can get it cheap. Some puzzles like the prison  gauntlet are fun, generally coming up with silly answers to everything is also fun. I amused myself by having weird go-tos for things, so I'd use banana pie every time anyone needed food, and if someone wanted a weapon they were very much always getting an atlatl, and I was using as many mythical creatures as I could too. Some of the levels were especially notably fun - the volcano had an interesting little puzzle chain in, and taking out the space station by summoning an electric eel was a fun moment. I'd really like a more advanced version, but as that doesn't exist this one will do fine.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2023, 08:17:00 PM by Jubal »
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Jubal

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #69 on: November 07, 2023, 10:20:25 PM »
I finished Divinity: Original Sin!

It does what it says on the tin, there was divinity, there was a cod-Edenic narrative, and it was played in a way I didn't hate, which is actually very good going given how I generally feel about the overly apocalyptic nature of a lot of fantasy RPGs. I think the big thing with D:OS is that it is very much turning both the epic and fairytale bits of fantasy up to eleven: it's very pulpy and it's not trying to keep too straight a face about what it's doing. The fairytale bit is interesting too, it's a very "you can chat to all the animals and rescue a wishing well from fairyland" level of fantastic, which other games mostly don't quite jump into with both feet in the same way. So I appreciated that.

My player characters were alright. The game gives you a duo, mine were Mnemikre, a cautious but easy-going geomancer/crossbowman/hydrosophist who was the party's healer, secondary archer, and summoner as a fairly general all-rounder, and the rather sharper (both in wit and outlook) pure intelligence focused damage mage, Sarasande, who focused on witchcraft, aerotheurgy, and pyromancy. I'd suggest to anyone else trying to do a first run that this was a bad combination, and given the limited four-option companion range and their abilities I'd make one PC a true tank. This is especially important given that the rule for "game over" and having to reload last save is when both your PCs are downed, even if your companions are still tootling along quite happily.

The core game loop is good too. The different systems are generally well signalled, it's obvious what does what and the main gameplay being about elemental damages and resistances with various abilities to hit in with those and a set of basic status effects which have mostly-logical outcomes. I had a few annoyances like where enemies' idle animations would suddenly drop them out of the cursor at the last second leading me to walk a character somewhere I really didn't want them, but that didn't happen often, by and large the gameplay was fun. Charm is an immensely powerful spell given how the balance works, because you're rarely fighting swarm enemies: it's rare that there are many more than six or so enemies at a time except in a few boss battles, and often fewer, but they're relatively powerful, so generally the core tactics involved finding ways to "tie up" some enemies with charm, lightning stuns and summons (I never really had a true shield-tank in the party) whilst my archer and two-handed warrior, both companion characters, hacked away and dealt damage.

There are some downsides. I'd have enjoyed a more streamlined system for several bits, most obviously looting where there were sometimes tens of containers to check through per room which given I am a very impulsive check-every-container person is a good way to leave me stuck in actual hell. Also there's no obvious way of searching for particular item bonuses, so when you need to e.g. boost Loremaster working out how to do that is hard. Some skills are also much easier to boost than others, which isn't obvious at the start: so e.g. you never need Loremaster above 3 because getting a couple of +1 items for it is super easy and the hardest check is a 5. But skill-based abilities like, say, Geomancy you kind of want to pump up to five fairly efficiently and there's no equipment (at least none I found) that boosts those.

I also think the game was about 10-20 hours too long in my 83hr playthrough, and I didn't get round all of it and never got to doing lots of the crafting etc that I was kind of interested in playing with. The crafting part really needed a shared inventory pool accessible in lots of places in the Homestead including e.g. next to the forge. The other thing was the number of areas that could have been reduced in size quite significantly, or just been given less ambient damage effects, most of which made no tactical difference, just slowed you down while you waited around casting regeneration spells repeatedly. The run of goblin fights up to the mine entrance was one example - but a lot of areas in general could have done with one or two fewer combats.

Nonetheless, overall I think D:OS is very solid. I think it's at the better end of my pool of mid-range RPGs, I'm relatively unlikely to play it again but I think mechanically it's good fun (definitely beats out e.g. the Pillars games) and it has a gonzo charm which I think makes it stand out a bit as something that's a step pulpier and funnier than the standard RPG setting, which I enjoy.
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Spritelady

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #70 on: January 31, 2024, 10:14:57 AM »
I finally have time for a 2024 update on Spritelady's gaming experiences! I've actually played quite a few games so far this year, at least by my standards and in light of the fact that I also seem to have A Lot going on at any one time.

I started and quickly completed Wylde Flowers, a cute and cosy farming sim where you play as a witch and attempt to bridge the gap between the local coven and the townsfolk.
Mechanically, it's rather like Stardew Valley in many ways, but the focus of the game is almost completely different. There is no combat in WF the way that the mines allow for in SV, and the focus is almost entirely on befriending locals and advancing the main story (alongside many weird and wonderful side quests). You meet a fantastic array of people, from a range of backgrounds and with diverse personalities.
One of my favourite elements of the game is that all the recipes that you can learn to cook come from an incredible range of cuisines, most of which relate to the background of the villagers. I excitedly told my fiancé's mother that Bobotie (a South African recipe that she has made for us on more than one occasion) was craftable in the game. She told me she'd be rather more excited if I made it in the real world, alas(!), but it was still lovely to see so many countries represented in the game.
The diversity in the game generally is commendable in my opinion. It feels like they genuinely wanted to mix together a wonderful range of people and spent time developing them all, rather than simply throwing in a few 'minority' characters for the credit. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants a chill game with an interesting story and enjoys growing flowers  ;D

Other notable mentions on the gaming front include playing through the main campaign of Anno 1800, which I bought on sale and which is my first Anno game. I found it very enjoyable and hope to continue playing, possibly in Sandbox mode, at a later date.
I have also started, although not yet finished, Link's Awakening on Switch, which I was given for Christmas. I'm enjoying it, although it's clear that I did not game much as a child and thus am less au fait with the logic that permeates earlier games. That said, I'm having fun with the various mechanics and don't feel too awful when I inevitably die because I am dreadful at real-time combat.
Finally, I am in fact playing Palworld. Again, I'm enjoying it quite a lot (I quite deliberately put my settings on easy mode so that I didn't panic whenever I died) and a lot of it is quite cute. I am also coming to the conclusion that either I am a softie or my fiancé is a little bit psychotic, because I get quite upset if my Pals are sad or injured and devote a lot of time to petting them and being nice to them. My fiancé laughs whenever he butchers a Pal for its meat...

Jubal

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Re: What digital games are you playing?
« Reply #71 on: February 03, 2024, 12:29:53 PM »
Wylde Flowers sounds enjoyable :) I should maybe look at Palworld but it doesn't immediately appeal... I'm not sure if it's the aesthetic or what, but yeah, it doesn't land.

Speaking of things that didn't land, I played some games recently that I do not have good things to report about. The shorter was Age of Mythology Extended Edition's Tale of the Dragon, a campaign that made me realise I maybe don't like RTS gameplay, but which was also narratively a whole bunch of not much. It is literally never explained what the villain wants out of being a villain, and the campaign exists to intro the Chinese faction and doesn't really manage to make them seem terribly exciting or showcase anything that looks and feels particularly new.

And then in much bigger news, Divinity: Original Sin 2. I did not enjoy this as much as the other two Larian games I played: it lacked the gonzo charm I liked in DOS1, taking itself a bit more seriously to its overall detriment, but also lacked the actually enjoyable combat and really really good character work of BG3, so it somewhat fell between stools I think. Also, as an overall comment, the combat mechanics are miserable. The level scaling is overly strict despite the maps being designed to be open-world, and the physical/magical armour system where you can't apply vital status effects until you've burned through a character's armour means you have a weird double track of either speccing for physical or magical damage and not really utilising a mixed party.

For the most part the game is reasonably solid, the writing is fine though I can't think of many moments I felt wowed by, the tactical challenges are also fine and a

The plot starts getting convoluted by Act 3 and really lost me in Act 4, and I'm going to spoiler tag the rest but rant below:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

So... yeah. The ending just kinda left me cold I guess, which is a pity because I thought DOS1 and BG3 really stuck their landings quite well? I don't know if maybe I should just have had a different party, or if taking a different approach to the game (I went with being source-cautious and careful with people's souls then closed the veil at the end) would have been more rewarding. But I know it's lots of people's favourite game, and I'm kind of confused why it didn't hit right at all in my case.
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