The Den: April – November 2020

Well over half-way through the year Lockdown gives me a lot of free time, and putting off writing this post just makes it longer. Here’s the highlights of what I’ve been playing and some other thoughts. And I’ve changed the title formatting to reflect the fact that this blog post has been in the works for way too long.

DOOM Eternal

DOOM Eternal is a bit of a mixed bag. I think DOOM 2016 has better pacing and better story. But Eternal is a lot more visceral, the levels are large and really push you to your limits mentally. Furthermore, they’re chocked full of collectables, my favourite of which being floppy discs that unlock cheat codes, and unlock the original DOOM games on an in-game terminal.

I like the game, but it’s an exhausting game. Unfortunately, I don’t have much more to say about it.

You can watch my whole playthrough here.

Ghost Of Tsushima

To start, this game is really pretty. The strong art style, colouring, particle effects, and general attention to detail; make this one Hell of a game to look at.

I took way too many screenshots of this game. My respect to the art team.

Story-wise, I can’t say it really did much for me. The main character is OK, and all the other characters definitely have their moments; but I wouldn’t say it really stuck out. Jin’s uncle and his whole “Honourable Samurai” shtick, although makes sense, gets rather tiresome to listen to. The game also doesn’t really punish or reward you for doing less than honourable acts of warfare. Because of that, there’s no branching to the narrative like there is in the InFAMOUS games, which does limit the replayability a bit. The ending is a bit weak too.

Combat is nowhere near as good as something like Sekiro or Nioh. It’s a lot like the original Assassin’s Creed. No lock-on and very limited main weapon variety, but it does have throwable sub-weapons like kunai and sticky bombs. Additionally, you unlock stances that are effective against certain enemies. To be honest, it’s very annoying. Much like Sekiro, it’s very parry based; but with a lot less skill required. I would also say that Sekiro’s sub-weapons were a lot more varied and provided different approaches to certain fights, plus a lot of them were hidden.

But to end on a highlight, a lot of customisation and collectables for armour and sword skins. I appreciate that it’s not a bunch of bullshit microtransactions.

One more thing, very easy Platinum trophy.

You can watch my whole playthrough here. It’s a pretty long playthrough though.

Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

This game does not hold up, gameplay-wise. Story-wise, it’s still somewhat entertaining. It’s spends a lot of time having you running around the whole map for what is essentially busy work and and dumps all the tools you need to skip all that near the end.

But the reason I dislike a lot of it, is that it feels extremely self-indulgent in its time wasting. You can’t skip or speed through animations, random encounters suck ass, and the ATB system is still the worst possible battle system. The controls aren’t great either, but it is a PS1 game. The overworld map screen doesn’t list the actual town names, so I had to refer to a guide while playing it.

And just as one final point, while fighting the final boss; just before the last phase, the second phase did an attack that put my whole party on 1HP. This led to me spending a good 5 minutes just trying to revive all my party members while the last phase of the final boss did his ultimate attack, which was a 3 minute cutscene, over and over. Even after getting all the party members back to normal health, I think I still saw that attack animation at least half a dozen times.

Control: Ultimate Edition

This game has great premise, completely let down by most of the character writing and acting being terrible. Furthermore, a lot of the story is hidden behind a vast array of collectables.

Exploring the Bureau is actually fairly entertaining in its own right, provided of course that the constant enemy spawns that can gank you don’t get on your nerves. Or the terrible map screen. Or the Dark Souls style checkpointing.

That said, the game does contain some interesting visual elements and gameplay segments. The Ashtray Maze comes to mind.

Just to end on a highlight, Dr. Dariling and the janitor Ahti are the most interesting characters in the game. If there was a something I would seriously change about the story, it would be to focus it more on those two.

You can watch my full playthrough here.

War Remains: Dan Carlin Presents an Immersive Memory & Kokoka VR

These are a couple of short VR experiences based on the first and second World Wars respectively. War Remains has some great sound effects and Dan Carlin’s commentary is fairly novel, but there’s not really much to it content wise.

Kokoka offers something a bit more expansive and provides interviews with veterans and actual interactivity. However, it suffers badly from tracking problems and recentring the headset is impossible.

Binary Domain

This is a very underrated game from the developers of the Yakuza series. When you originally see it, you’d be forgiven for calling it a generic cover shooter.

Now it doesn’t have a ton of hidden depth or anything, but it does some neat things in regards to enemy AI and friendship with your teammates. Throw in some very entertaining set pieces and some pretty fun characterisation; it becomes a game worthy of someone’s time. It’s fairly cheap these days, so maybe give it a go.

Just don’t use the voice command stuff. It doesn’t work.

You can watch the full playthrough here.

Borderlands 3

I didn’t think it was possible to have worse writing than Borderlands 2, but here we are. This game really is the quintessential example of why having too much voice acting is just as bad, if not worse, than having too little. Characters just never shut up. There’s a part about 2 dozen hours in where you explore a ship that has an AI in it, and you go there with another AI. The whole fucking time, they argue like a divorced couple, and it’s as annoying as it sounds. Plus a fuck load of memes.

Another problem is that for a game centred around getting “sick loot”, you get fuck all. I think I only got a handful of rare guns that I never got rid off because the rest of the arsenal was just so uninteresting. I wouldn’t pick this up until it was really, really cheap.

Oculus Home & SteamVR with Oculus Quest

I’ve been borrowing my brother’s Oculus Quest on occasion to check out some VR stuff. I bought an Oculus Quest, used off eBay. Oculus Link is far from perfect, but it is a relatively simple process for the most part, although I can imagine some tech illiterate people having real issues getting it up and running (My brother nearly bricked his PC trying).

Oculus Link boots directly into Oculus Home, a little VR hub where you can live out your fantasies of being an interior decorator. One neat thing about it is that I can project windows from my desktop on to in-game displays. Unfortunately the low resolution of the Quest makes watching stuff like that a less than optimal viewing experience.

After booting into Oculus Home, I could then boot into Steam VR, where I could have much the same experience of “pimping my crib”.

The layering of having the base Quest OS below and Oculus Link/Home layer, which is again below the Steam VR layer; leads to some confusing moments of input issues. Not all games have Oculus specific controls, so I end up accidently pressing into Oculus Home or bring up the Steam VR menu because both centre buttons of the controllers bring up each. Fun.

And just as a last point, there’s not really much to play. And what games I do have, I would still be more comfortable playing on a normal display.

I really want to play Half-Life Alyx though, but I’m waiting for a sale. It went on sale while this post was being written and will come up later.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2

Finally, a good Tony Hawk game after God knows how long. That said, Holy Christ I am rusty as Hell with this game. Even setting up basic combos seems impossible to me.

I kinda hope they re-do Underground or make a new game in that vein. I much prefer not being under a time limit and having a bit more freedom tackling goals.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Time travelling high schoolers who pilot mechs and fight giant robots in tower defence style missions. It’s mostly a VN, but the tower defence stuff can be pretty fun. Especially when you unlock Missile Rain and the framerate tanks.

I’m not gonna say too much about the story, but you should definitely give it a look.

Alan Wake

Alan Wake has been on my radar for several years now. I started it ages ago but recently decided to restart the playthrough. Finally getting past the opening sequence and seeing the rest of the game certainly clarifies why people like this game as much as they do.

But before I get to that, the combat sucks. Shining a light on people is one thing, but it also acts as an off-centre aiming reticule, which is terrible. You also end up in a lot of situations where you get stun-locked to death in close quarter situations. So now that the worst part of the game is dealt with; the story is interesting.

Wake often monologues about his life as a writer, his fears and mistakes he’s made, and how much he loves his wife. Seeing him react to the surrealism of the world to the point of almost normalising the events that unfold add to the weirdness of it all. The collectables are story pages that describe what is going on in the game as written from the perspective of Wake’s novels. Unfortunately I didn’t read too much of them, but it’s a neat idea.

Additionally there are TVs throughout the world that display episodes of the fictional show called “Night Springs”, which have some fairly fascinating stories. Really adds to the overall atmosphere, which this game is abundant in.

Finally, shit loads of product placement. Pretty funny, pretty dumb.

You can watch the full playthrough here.

428 Shibuya Scramble

Visual Novels are something I go to every once in a while because they tend to be longer than I usually like. 428 Shibuya Scramble has been in my backlog for quite a while, and I finally got around to it.

I love it. The stupidity and silliness on display, along with some of the most entertaining characters I’ve seen; it was an absolute joy to go through.

Now VNs aren’t known for being extremely interactive, but they can be very divergent. 428 takes that in a very interesting direction where you control multiple characters on a timeline, and the choices you make not only affect the character you’re playing as, but also the other character’s stories within that time frame. The goal is to line up all the choices correctly so that everyone can progress. But even with that, there are a few multiple endings.

My favourite characters are probably Yanagishita (Pictured below) and a taxi driver that is prominent in Minorikawa’s story. Their reactions and appearances are easily the most entertaining parts of the game.

Once you finish the main game, a couple of side stories unlock. One of which is a prequel for a character that gets referenced quite a bit, which in turn got an anime which acts as a sequel to 428.

Anyway, if you like VNs, check this out.

You can watch the full playthrough here.

MURDERED: Soul Suspect

This is one of those games that I end up enjoying even though it’s not particularly groundbreaking. When it originally game out, most people disregarded it. I can see why, it’s not terribly high budget.

That said; being a ghost, walking through walls, possessing cats, and causing electronics to go haywire; is genuinely inspired.

The story also had me second guessing a few times about who the real villain was, and it’s rare for a game to trip me up on that.

Do check it out if you have an afternoon or two to kill.

You can watch the full playthrough here.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2

The Force Unleashed 1 was an OK game with a lot of interesting tech powering it. Furthermore, the story was fairly decent.

Force Unleashed 2 is hot garbage that should be avoided at all costs.

First of all, it starts off in 30FPS unless you patch it out.

The controls occasionally just shit themselves and barely function properly. The gameplay fairs a bit better when it works, but can also be largely repetitive. The boss fights are God awful though.

The story isn’t a saving grace from what I played of it. The voice acting is underwhelming, and the characters from the last game just come off as arseholes now.

Don’t play it. Just don’t.

Half-Life: Alyx

I’m not addicted to stims, I swear.

After 13 years, we finally have a new Half-Life game. Problem; it’s exclusive to VR. Thankfully in the process of writing this alarmingly long blog post, I was able to borrow and eventually purchase an Oculus Quest headset.

So how is the game? In short; the best VR game currently available, but not necessarily the best Half-Life game, and certainly not the second coming of Christ.

The game focuses a lot of the pseudo-horror elements from Half-Life; lots of dark, claustrophobic environments filled with Headcrabs and zombies. That’s fine, but it is a little draining at times as someone who really doesn’t like being in dark spaces filled with things trying to kill you. Once you get out into more open combat areas, I started having a bit more fun and played with the AI a bit more. The combine are a tiny bit more of a threat this time as they can flank you, use shields, and send out Manhacks. But VR allows for the use of a few more tactics such as shooting around cover or throwing random objects at them.

The additional interactivity as led to some weird meta-challenges that I made for myself, including carrying around a bucket full of health stims through a whole level, as pictured above.

Not to spoil too much of the game, I’ll just make a few final slightly more negative points; the start of the game is kinda slow. Getting your first few guns isn’t too bad, but it takes a few hours before you engage with the Combine in anyway, and in that time, you’re mostly fighting Headcrabs in less than comforting environments.

There’s only three guns in the game; a pistol, a one-handed shotgun, and an SMG. Each have their own upgrades (Including a grenade launcher), but it’s no crossbow. The lack of precision weapons isn’t completely surprising, but at the same time, several of the enemies require precise aiming. Mods may add some interesting solutions to that.

To be quite frank, I’ve had this game on my mind since I finished it. Doesn’t help that they added the developer commentary during my last couple of play sessions. So I will be coming back to this game at some point.

This sure looks familiar.

I do really wish the Quest had better tracking though.

You can watch my full playthrough here.

Other Games Played

Resident Evil 3 (Remake)

Not a horror game, not as good as RE2; but I had a good time playing it. It was well paced, even if short.

Halo 2 (MCC)

I know people really like the multiplayer for this, but the single player is pretty shit. But it is a better port than the Vista version.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

I thought this game has campaign co-op, it did not. And the best part of the game is the beginning, because near the end of that game it starts dragging a whole lot and the combat feels monotonous.

And yes, I have played Yakuza 7 / Yakuza: Like A Dragon and Sakuna: Of Rice & Ruin; however, you’ll have to wait till the new year before I talk about them.

Anime

Uzaki-chan

That DEKAI sure is SUGOI. The anime is alright, the voice acting is pretty spot on. It does contain what seems to be an ad for the Tottori prefecture. Anime studios got to make money somewhere I guess.

Great Pretender

This is one of the best anime of the year. Globe-trotting con-men out-playing other scumbag con-men. The writing is great, the voice acting is great, the visuals are very abstract and interesting; check it out. It’s completely worth your time.

Kakushigoto

This one is about a manga author creating manga in secret from his young daughter so that she doesn’t become ruined from the degeneracy that he writes in his ecchi series and some indecent photos of himself that get published in the magazine. The original manga is created by Koji Kumeta, who made one of my other favourite manga turned anime; Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei. I think the anime did an excellent job.

Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!

Another anime about making anime. But this time from the animators behind shows like Tatami Galaxy and Kaiba. This show definitely goes out of its way to show off the creator’s influences and obsessions. The small details are abundant, and there are more references than even I can understand (Although a lot of it is very old anime). A lot of love for the medium in this show.

Nami yo Kiitekure

Very underrated show this one. It focuses on a woman who’s ramblings make it on to one of Sapporo’s public radio shows, and after a short series of events, she becomes a late-night radio show host. This show is a Goddamn riot at times.

And We’re Done

This blog post took from October to December to write. A fair amount happened in that time, including a game jam, and my purchase of an Oculus Quest. But being the lazy git that I am, instead of re-writing the whole damn thing, I’ve just made strikeout edits. But to your benefit, you’ll still be able to read my original thoughts.

The next Den post will be in the new year with my Top 10s of the year. See you then.

ADMAN

About Adam Lutton

Game Designer / Programmer
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