Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Winter Sale & 2018 Goals

So how has your Steam Winter Sale gone this year? My wishlist is… quite a bit lighter than it was going in. In my defense, I only bought two games this sale: Planet Coaster and SOMA.

Many of the other great titles I got were Christmas gifts from friends. Thank you!!

I’ve been really excited about my new game list, and I’ve put a bunch of time into gaming over this 4-day weekend! I have lots to blog about… but first, I wanted to take a moment to note my new Steam goals for 2018.

New Statistics

The first thing I want to note is that the Steam Calculator has just changed how they display statistics this past week. It puts the numbers in a slightly more positive light… but it still takes some getting used to.

Previously, the site would tell you “you haven’t played this percent of games”. For me, this percent was something like 53%. I was trying to make this number lower.

Now, the site tells you “you have played this percent of games.” It tells me that I’ve played 47% of games… and now I want to make this number higher.

gamesplayed
It’s still pretty bad.

Yeah, it means the same thing. Like I said, it’s a more positive spin… you want to increase our number instead of decreasing it.

My goal for 2018 is to get this metric above 50%. I’d really love to shoot for 60% this year. I’m not sure how viable that is. It depends on how many new games I get.

Playing Those Games

I honestly haven’t bought a lot of new Steam games this year, compared to the past. But every game I’ve bought this year, I’ve played for at least a little while. 

This excludes some games, such as stuff I bought in bundles that I never activated, or stuff that came from old bundles that I just recently activated. I also tried to play all my gifted games, but I don’t think I’m going to achieve that before the new year.

So my express goal for 2018 is that if I buy a Steam game, I play it. Like, preferably right when I buy it.

No more picking a bunch of games on sale and just stashing them away untouched. This is also good to do because there’s limitations on return time… So it’s better to go ahead and try a new game than to leave it sitting in your library only to find it’s a dud way past return time.

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I’m also cutting back on bundles as much as possible. I still have a bunch of Humble Bundle games I need to sort through — either giving away the keys I don’t want or finally activating them. I really don’t need to keep buying more. A number of keys I get now days are duplicates anyhow.

So, those are my steam goals as I roll into a new year. Let’s not even talk about the growing backlog I have on my Switch… or on GoG…

Ahem.

How’s your Steam Winter sale going? Pick up anything interesting?

 

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Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Towns

Game:  Towns
Time: 12 mins

You look at my time played. You ask, “How can you write a review about a game you’ve only played for 12 minutes, Wren?”

My answer is: “Sometimes, you just know in the first 12 minutes.”

Here’s the thing. I adore simulation and city builder games. I’m not the best at them, but I will sit and happily be amused by them for hours on end. I’ve actually owned this game for quite a while and had it installed, the icon sitting on my desktop for months. I read the mixed reviews and thought, “I’m sure it can’t be that bad.”

Well… sometimes the reviews are right.

townsabandoned

What Is It?

Towns describes itself as this:

The game brings a fresh new take on the city building/management genre by introducing many RPG features. In Towns you manage a settlement on top of an active dungeon. Instead of playing the hero who delves deep into the dungeon, how about playing the town that houses and caters to the hero’s needs?

Now this sounds like a really cool idea. I don’t know how close this version of the game gets to reaching that description, because the graphics, UI and gameplay turned me off in the first 12 minutes. I hate to be down on someone else’s hard work, but I’m going to be honest in this write-up.

I am not a graphics snob. I will play a pixel game just the same as a beautiful 3D rendered game. Some of my favorite games of all time are cutesy, retro pixel type games. And while I won’t say the graphics in Towns were terrible, the whole package together just accents how clunky the game is.

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So, look at this. The UI is a major sticking point for me. You have buttons on both sides and the bottom that fold out into menus that obscure your playing screen from every direction. This, on top of the graphic design, quickly dropped me back in the early 90s before streamlining your UI was a thing.

And boy, was it complex to navigate. Not in a good way.

My biggest complaint was that when you instructed something to happen, you never knew if the game actually registered it. For instance, the tutorial asked me to build up the walls of that unfinished house in that screenshot up there.

I’d click to place the wall and nothing would happen. I’d click again. Nothing would happen. Then, eventually, after clicking multiple times, one of the villagers would come and place the wall. After going through this several times, block by block, it felt like a huge waste of my time to jump through hoops to do something that should have been easy to accomplish.

I’d hate to see what would happen if you tried something more complex. When it told me I needed to build scaffolding for the next level of walls, that’s when I gave up.

Add to that the fact that the game works in several layers. Not sure how to describe this… Basically, there’s a ground layer, then as you scroll your mouse wheel back, you go a block higher, then a block higher, then a block higher. So, I’m guessing in order to build walls taller, you have to make sure you’re on the right layer.

This looks something like this:

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See how the area is mostly grayed out? That indicates it’s on the layer below the one you’re targeting. In fact, it goes as far as to tell you that you’re targeting “air” itself.

selectair

No… just no. Why is this even a thing?

So, ultimately? I’ve spent more time writing this post about why you shouldn’t play this game than I did actually playing the game. Sometimes, gamer instincts just tell you.

And while Towns is currently in the Steam Sale…

townssale

…I don’t know that I could recommend it even for less than $4… I think there are plenty of other games at this price point that would be much more enjoyable, and are currently being supported/developed.

But, I mean, if you’re hardcore into town building, maybe you’ll like it?

Recommended:

no

I don’t pay your sub. Do what you want to do. 😉

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge, Uncategorized

Steam Challenge: Corporate Lifestyle Simulator

Game: Corporate Lifestyle Simulator
Time: 30 mins

I don’t even remember where I got this game. It might have been a freebie. It might have been part of a bundle. I shoved it under the “clear” category in my Steam Library, which indicates I intended to fire it up for a few minutes, play a little bit, and remove it, all in the name of getting a sub-par game off my “unplayed” Steam library list.

That’s actually not what happened at all.

I’m not much into arcade shooters, but I fired this game up and it had me laughing long enough to play through the whole first section. There’s even a bit of a storyline that goes with it, though a funny and messed up storyline.

What Is It?

Corporate Lifestyle Simulator describes itself as:

Battle your way through corporate architecture and brain dead, buzzword-spewing, middle managers using office supplies as weapons to work through your Jungian shadow issues…

Fight back against the forces of tyranny and liberate your fellow coworkers from the oppressive evil that dominates them…

Smash ALL THE THINGS!

And… that pretty much covers it.

You can never quite tell if it’s a zombie apocalypse or if Big Brother Corporation finally consumed one too many souls, leaving the managers brain-eating zombies. And that’s just fine. Part of the joke and appeal of the game is that you’re an office worker fighting off these managers as they groan things like “Synergy” and “On My Radar” and “Core Competency” as they shuffle along.

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You pick up weapons from every day things around the office, and help rescue your co-workers, who fight along side you as you move from stage to stage. Each stage allows you to bust up just about everything in the office… which feels real good after a long day at the office.

Sometimes, there are specific things you have to do to clear a stage, and those are generally mapped out at the beginning. Like there was one that asked you to not destroy too many items in the office. That one was hard. 🙂

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There are funny little cutscene story pieces, which are super easy to skip (as I discovered) between the stages. These don’t last long and are somewhat roughly voice acted… but I almost wonder if that’s on purpose.

Also, there are boss fights.

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Oh, and when you die, you get often funny but inappropriately attributed quotes to famous writers/people.

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Also, the music was pretty jammin’.

So… uh… do I recommend it?

It really depends on if you enjoy this kind of game. For $4.99, it’s a “cute” little shooter/bash-em-up with a good sense of humor. Definitely a good way to take your stress out after a hard day at the office.

Chances are, you can pick this up as part of a bundle somewhere down the line, however. You might already have it, in fact. If you do, and you need a little diversion, give it a whirl.

Recommend:

question
Maybe

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Portal Knights

Game: Portal Knights
Time: 9.3 hours

Portal Knights is a game I’ve been keeping my eye on since early access. I thought about getting it for the Switch when it released, but seeing it priced at $30 on Nintendo… and $11 on Steam with the Fall Sale… it was a no-brainer to get it on Steam. Plus, I was able to nudge Syn into playing with me, which has made it a lot more fun.

What Is It?

Portal Knighs describes itself as:

Leave the familiar world behind and step into the fantastic unknown with Portal Knights, a cooperative 3D sandbox action-RPG! Level up your character and craft powerful gear to defeat your enemies in real-time tactical combat. Explore dozens of randomly-generated islands and restore peace to a world torn apart by The Fracture.

This honestly doesn’t tell you that much.

The best way I can describe it is… it’s a more on-rails, user-friendly Minecraft-type sandbox game. It’s got some of the mining, crafting and building elements that Minecraft has. But the world and creatures have a more cartoony (and slightly less blocky) aesthetic to it. There are really some very lovely locations to visit.

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There’s also strong RPG elements – levels, spells, gear, loot, and skill trees. That sort of thing. The game only offers three classes, however, and customization isn’t that deep. But, you can choose a different skill tree build at any time, and swap between the weapons your class can use at will, which I like.

The world is made up of randomly generated islands. You reach these by finding and building out portals between them. Once you’ve visited an island, you can fast-travel to it using the world map at any time.

This is super useful for gathering particular resources, since these appear to be located based on the islands themselves. The map info actually tells you what you can find on each island. So, if you’re looking for copper ore, for example, just check the island info until you find one with what you need.

I also like that you can portal back to the starting point of any island at any time. So you never need to worry about digging yourself into a place you can’t get out of.

The only problem that I have with the island setup is that they’re just not very deep. So, you’ll be digging along, and suddenly you uncover open sky under you!! Please don’t dig straight down, ever…

You can earn plenty of fluff in this game, too. Dungeons sometimes have cosmetic pets, and there’s a slot for cosmetic outfits — some of which you find recipes to craft yourself. In the picture below, that tunic is cosmetic gear I picked up for Tai.

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Co-Op and Multiple Universes

The best part of Portal Knights is the four-player co-op and the way you roll up new universes. It is very, very flexible.

For example… You can create a character and a solo universe to play on your own. But then, when your friends are online, you can hop into their world with the same character. Or they can hop into yours.

Everything you’ve earned, and all the inventory currently on your character comes with you, no matter which world you visit. Anything you leave in chests in those worlds stay there, too.

So, Syn was hosting our main world, where we have been building up a little farmhouse in the starter hub. But then I rolled up a personal world, so I could drop down some chests and deposit pets and things that I want to keep, but don’t want to leave on her hosted world.

If you have more than one character, they can all use that same world for adventuring and storage as well! I was really impressed at how this was implemented!

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There isn’t much of a story to this game, though I didn’t really expect one given the nature of Minecraft type sandboxes. There’s some fragmented quests that talk about the Fracture that created the islands you’re visiting. There’s also bosses that you fight, though we haven’t reached any of those yet.

But the pull of finding a portal and exploring a new world on each island is enough to give direction to players who have trouble with a fully open-world sandbox environment. I noticed that even locations you visited before sometimes have randomly generating special events popping up, as well. So, it’s good to keep your eye on the map as you explore to see what’s going on in the world.

Do I recommend this game? 

For folks who want a cute sandbox explorer/builder that offers some direction, this might be for them. However, if you’re used to the complexity and depth of something like Minecraft, this game may be too shallow. It just all depends on what you enjoy.

But if you can pick it up on a Steam sale, it’s been worth the $11 for me. So…

yes Yes!

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Doki Doki Literature Club

Game: Doki Doki Literature Club (Free!)
Time: 4.1 hours (+time spent on YouTube watching alternate endings and Streamers scaring themselves silly)

Doki Doki Literature Club is a psychological horror game pretending to be a cute, cheerful visual novel dating sim. Well, actually, it doesn’t even pretend… you have to agree to a disclaimer before you play the game:

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I went into this game fully aware it was a horror game, but without any details about the story itself. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone (seriously, go into this one blind if you’re going to play it), so this post will be a mostly spoiler-less review (with the exceptions of a few warnings at the end).

Last week, in a post, I said:

This week, I’m also slowly playing through Doki Doki Literature Club… which is a free visual novel I wanted to try just because people have said it’s downright disturbing. I guess I haven’t gotten to the disturbing part yet. I’ll keep you posted!

So, yeah, here it is.

Late Friday night, I decided to make a midnight snack. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to keep going in DDLC since I didn’t feel like playing something more intense so late at night.

M̱̫i͏̱̲͕̺̟ͅͅst͚̙ͅa̻̪̫̦k̩̼̘̘̙e̝͝s̤̝͍̜̪ w͕̤e̻͕͙̺r̭e ͉̟̳͚m̩͖̖̩a̶d̸͉̠̪̼̣͎e̹̲̞̠̝̲ͅ.͏͙̯

Half an hour later, I was so creeped out I had to shut the game off and take comfort with a purring cat on my lap. Even then, I went to sleep with the lights on. I beat the game the next day (I didn’t get the best ending — I looked it up on YouTube because I refused to play it again), and the freaking theme song is still in my head three days later.

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While there’s not so much a plot, so to speak, the concept and originality of this game just blew me away. I didn’t even get the good ending, but man… what an experience. Props to the dev.

Th̜͈͇̝̳̤i̝s͎ ̛̲̯̙g͖̣̪̙̭͠a͚̠̪͍ͅm͎̺̺̙̹̜͞e͓̖̬̞͢ ̥̯̥̩̝̙i̗̮͕̟͉̥͘s ͉̦̤̲̺h͜a̰ùn͍͓̞̻t͜in̳͚̻̦̣̤̦g̯̱ ̺me̱̱.̘̦̭͈̞̖ ̦̜̦I͉͉̱͟ ̡͔͓͎̠h̟̹͎͍͎o̡̩͉̘p̬̮͈̪̜̀e̶̮͈̰̘͖ ͚̖̥̯w̥͖ri͓̟̮̜̟ṭ͙̱͚̘̳͓i͞ng̀ ̴̼a҉b͎o̴u̘̥͟t̨̰̝͍̦̳̙̫ ̝i̩͓̞̰̟̗t̡͙̫̻ ̳w̫̬͎͠i͜l̦̲ḻ ͎̘͓͞m̥̞̠̩̥͇͍á̯k̟̪̰e̞ ̱͠i̦̦̰t̞͚̟̜͘ͅ ̮̗̯͘g̣͚̩̜ơ̹̰ ̣̣͎̠͝ąw̴̲͇a̘͕̯͞y̶̬̙̰̦͔̖̟.̮̪̲̯̹̹͞ ̝͇̱̖̜͖̜

Granted, your mileage may vary. I like horror. But standard jump scares and zombie stuff doesn’t bother me much. I get a quick scare and it’s over.

Psychological horror on the other hand — you know, when fear is generated by good use of tension, suspense and disarming sound/visuals — that will get me so badly every time. Creepy things. Subtle and out of the norm, building over time. That’s when your own imagination amplifies your internal fear and expectations.

T͍h̟̹͎͉͕͍̙͝a̮t͇̜̹̖ ̹͍̮͍͓͈̳͝s̘̼͍t͍͕̭͖ͅa̙̜̼͡y̻s̬͍͎͍͇ ̴͖̘̤̙w̖̜̪͚̜i̦̤̩̩͍t̗̝̝h͈̼̮͖̜̭͔ ̞͚̮̪͉m͏͉e̞̱̟̞͕̣.͇͙̭͘ͅ ̣̯͖̩̘

This game built suspense and expectations very well. It’s slow to get rolling, but for a good reason.

The first hour and a half or so, it establishes a baseline of “normalcy” so you can identify when the game turns everything you thought you knew inside out. Once the switch is flipped, you can’t go back. You can only go deeper down the rabbit hole.

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So if you’re playing this game and it doesn’t feel like it’s getting anywhere, stick with it. Pay attention, even to what seems like just a normal dating sim. Details are important.

This game goes very deep. Check out the wiki for Easter eggs once you’ve finish it. And do yourself a favor – either play for the good ending (it’s not obvious how to get this) or watch the good ending on YouTube. You’ll feel better about it if you do.

I’m going to recommend this game to people who enjoy this kind horror or want to see how a well-crafted game can break genre and gaming conventions. It’s a free game, though you can support the dev by purchasing the DLC fan pack if you decide to.

However, I want to put some serious warnings along with my recommendation.

Warnings

If you are strongly emotionally effected by topics like depression, self-harm, or suicide, or you’re just easily disturbed, please do not play this game.

Spoilerish warning: Know that this game will write and manipulate files on your computer. I wasn’t aware of this before I played it, and I know some people feel strongly against this. I will say that this was harmless (it only manipulated files — mostly .txt, .chr and image files — within its Steam game folder), and it was part of the game play that you were aware of it happening. (Oh man, was it creepy.)

Recommended:

yes Yes – but please take all the warnings and disclaimers seriously.

J͔͑̓̄̄͊͋ͭu̷̟̘͍̐͛ͣͯ͒͛̃s̲̯͉̝͔͓̭̈ͭt̵̺͎̣͛ ̲͇̯̬ͣ͐M̑̆ö͔̣̠̘̲͈͓́̂̈́ṋ͕̺͙̙̾͝ͅi͔̋͂̓ͫ̽̚k̞͍̹̳̞͐͒̄̎ͤ̂̀aͧ͂͆͊̇ͭ.̖̙̝̼̝͈̞̈̌͆̍̃͋̎͠ ̥̐̽͐ͫ̓̑̕

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Back to the Future: Ep 1 – It’s About Time

Game: Back to the Future: Ep 1 – It’s About Time
Time Played: 3.5 hours

So far, I’ve made good on my goal to try out a new Steam game every week this month. I put this one to a vote, and Back to the Future: The Game turned out to be the choice. I warned that if this was picked, I’d play through the entire series of 5 episodes to stay consistent with the game’s story. So, that’s what I’ve been doing.

The only other Telltale series I’ve ever played is The Walking Dead. It’s actually the series that turned me on to Telltale games, and one I enjoyed quite a bit. Since that was my entry point to their story-based games, it’s hard not to compare Back to the Future to The Walking Dead, especially considering they were released within a mere 2 years of each other.

What Is It?

If you’ve ever played a Telltale game, you already know what to expect from Back to the Future. If you haven’t, consider it a story-based point-and-click adventure game with a few mild thinking puzzles. Paint that with a solid coat of Back to the Future references and characters, and you’ve got a good idea what this series is like.

Now, while I grew up during a time when Back to the Future was a brand new thing, and I knew several people who were big fans of the movies, I was never a crazy fan myself. I appreciated the movies and understood the appeal. But it wasn’t actually until the whole “Back to the Future Day” in October of 2015 that I sat down and watched Part 2 and Part 3 for the first time. Oops?

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Anyhow, if you are interested in this game for the Back to the Future vibe, you won’t be disappointed. The game does a pretty great job in the writing department and in portraying the iconic characters the way you’d expect. Some reviews noted that the game almost feels like a continuation of where the movies left off, and I wouldn’t argue against that.

Impressions

Again, it’s hard to not compare this to The Walking Dead, which feels like a baseline for Telltale games now days. That’s not to say Back to the Future is bad, but the first Episode is not quite as polished as The Walking Dead game experience.

The UI is a bit clunky and something you’d see in a much more dated game than 2010. And, for some reason, it kept forcing my monitors (both of them) into a significantly lower resolution every time I played. These weren’t game-breakers, but did color the experience.

While the voice acting and writing were top-notch, the stylistic graphics bothered me a bit. The graphics weren’t bad, they were just… different. They went with these big, expressive CG versions of the characters, and sometimes it felt as if I was playing a claymation cartoon. For some reason, the lip syncing animations really liked to focus on showing the characters’ teeth. (I don’t know why that’s a detail I noticed…)

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I suppose given the source material and goofy tone of the game, this wasn’t out of place. But I can’t help but wonder what the game would have felt like in a more streamlined comic-booky style, like they presented with The Walking Dead. Maybe as I play this series longer, the style they chose will grow on me.

While I did enjoy the story and the puzzles, sometimes I felt certain scenarios dragged on longer than they really needed to. Due to the wonky UI, I’d forgotten that the game had an inventory system halfway through it, which got me hung up on one of the puzzles.

There was, thankfully, a Hint feature that was really only helpful to tell you the answers. The game tried to offer subtle, logical suggestions for hints, but I’d usually already figured out that much of the puzzle by the time I was turning to the Hint feature for help.

I groaned anytime I had to make Marty cross the town square, which, given the nature of one of the scenarios, happened often. The game prompted me to use mouse and keyboard to make him run, but it either didn’t work in my game or I fail at gaming, because I never managed to get him to move above a slow, crawling walk.

On the other hand, there were some very inventive scenarios, especially closer to the end of the game. I felt like they were finally getting into the flow of things just as the first Episode came to an end. They’ve certainly earned my anticipation towards Episode 2, which I’ve installed for this week’s Steam Challenge.

Recommended?

yes

If you enjoy Back to the Future, good old-fashioned point-click story games, and don’t mind slightly dated visuals, you’ll probably enjoy this!

Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Poll: Choose My Steam Challenge – Nov Week 2

So, as I reported earlier this week, one of my goals is to try a new Steam game from my backlog each week. I had a suggestion from Dahakha’s comment on this week’s review of Oxenfree: Why not let you guys choose my game for next week!

This is a great idea! I spend so much time trying to make up my mind “what to play” when I do this, so now, I can put that in someone else’s hands. Also, this will help keep me accountable — I’ll be more likely to stick to my goal if other people had some input in it.

Note: The Steam Challenge doesn’t mean I’ll finish the game, but that I’ll try it out and play it until I get my fill. There may be a few exceptions to this, which I’ll note below.

Game List References