ADMAN’s Den: January – June 2024

Even with Game Pass, the amount of new games I’m playing is pretty low compared to previous years. But I’m keeping myself busy with my horrendous backlog.

As usual, I write this post over a period of time, please excuse any weird changes in writing style.

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Another year, another Like A Dragon game. Although this is actually the third one I’ve played in the last 12 months, I think I could do with a break from the series for a bit. I do love these games, but Jesus Christ, Sega, let me breathe a bit.

Anyway, Ichiban and crew have found themselves in Hawaii after a whole bunch of nonsense involving VTubers, getting cancelled, Japan’s insane anti-Yakuza laws, and religious organisations. There they meet a slew of whacky characters, including Kiryu, who now joins the party and is also playable during the bits where you hang around Japan again.

I won’t prattle on about the story; quite frankly, it goes in some really stupid directions. Jumping the shark territory even. It’s definitely one of the weakest stories they’ve told. Which is a shame considering how good 7 (Yakuza: Like A Dragon) was. And Kiryu seems very out of character at times, but I suppose he’s getting old and getting tired of this shit.

Let’s talk about everything else the game has to offer.

Starting with the combat, they’ve added a positional element to it. You can now move the selected character during battle and line up your attacks in order to hit them into other enemies for maximum damage output. There’s also tag team special attacks you can do with your party members. And as a cherry on top, Kiryu can literally break the turn-based UI and just start wailing on people with real-time brawler combat. Plus, there’s a bunch of new jobs, and it’s much easier to swap around the skills, meaning there’s more reason to grind them all out and mix and match the skills.

It’s a huge improvement over the previous turn-based game. My only complaint is that it still doesn’t mark in the skill list which skills enemies are weak to, like Persona.

The usual side quest hell returns. Although, I must admit, it hasn’t been that interesting this time. A good chunk of it is spent on Kiryu reminiscing about things that happened in the previous games and catching up with people. Ichiban’s side of things repeats a lot of the stuff from his last game, including multiple encounters with a giant Roomba.

Sujimon are back, of course, but with a far more in-depth combat system, making it actually worth doing this time. Plus, there is a side story where you fight other Sujimon trainers around the Hawaii map.

There’s also Sujimon Snap, a Pokemon Snap rip-off where you hop on a tram and take pictures of degenerates doing silly things. I didn’t do it that often; it wasn’t that engaging.

The newest addition is Dondoko Island, which is yet another management game. This time you’re the owner of a small island holiday resort, starring these two children’s TV hosts.

Gachapin and Mukku

They’re being harassed by pirates who keep dumping trash everywhere, and one of your jobs is to clean that up. You then gather the materials from those, along with rocks, wood, fish, and insects, and then build new buildings that guests can visit.

It’s probably the most tedious and restrictive minigame they’ve made. The money you make is called Dondokobucks, and you can only convert about 6 million Dondokobucks into about $300,000. And that’s per day. So if you bank a crap tonne of fake money, you’ll have to spend multiple days to convert all of it. It’s a very boring process, and it seems to only exist to put the brakes on people trying to grind out cash. Believe me, you need money in this game.

As for the arcade games, well, there’s some new ones. SEGA BASS FISHING is the headliner for me personally. I do like a good fishing game. Other games include Spike Out, a third-person brawler, which I can’t say I like all that much, and Virtua Fighter 3tb. I didn’t play much VF this time around, unfortunately.


The loss of the Sega branding on the arcades still hurts me. It’s just not the same.

Well, to round off the minigame, there is, of course, karaoke. We now have a total party size of about 10, and each of them has at least 1 song; a lot of them have 2, and the two main characters have a few songs each as well. That’s a lot of music. My only complaint is the lack of “Pure Love In Kamurocho”. It even gets name-dropped while talking to Seonhee, which put my hopes up that maybe she’d do a duet with Kiryu. Alas, that is not the case. But there are still some great songs in there.

Plus, to top it all off, they finally added a music player to the game that you can listen to while walking around. Believe it or not, Zero actually did this first, but it was a Japan-only DLC. Alongside the fact that a lot of music was originally cut from that game when it came out in English.

That’s Infinite Wealth in a nutshell. I like it, but the series needs a kick up the arse a bit. Or at the very least, a long break.


Believe it or not, I’d never finished the original Half-Life. Hell, I never even played the original GoldSrc version. I played Half-Life: Source, the rebuild of it in the Source engine. But with the 20th anniversary of the game, Valve decided to update the original version of it, making it easier to run on modern systems, along with adding a whole bunch of fixes and features. This gave me an excuse to give the game another chance, and this time I finished it.

Despite some rough edges, it’s still fun overall. It’s definitely a lot harder than I remember, but I’ve also gotten very impatient with games these days; I tend to rush them. I’m not sure if that’s because I started streaming my playthroughs or not. Either way, there’s certainly a lot of things that instantly kill you. Which seems to be a common trend in older games. Player is doing something they shouldn’t? Murder them.

The amount of first-person platforming probably doesn’t help. It wouldn’t be worth complaining about if the character didn’t feel like they were on ice when moving. It makes those sections a lot more difficult than they need to be, and even pressing the walk button doesn’t really help that much. Plus, crouch jumping is mandatory in several places. Remember that shit? I don’t think it’s been a thing since the early Halo years.

And yes, Xen sucks. Jesus H. Christ, it is bloody terrible. The final boss is an utter pain.

And if you want to see this pain for yourself, you can watch my playthrough here.


Finally freed from the trash fire that is the Epic Games Store, I can finally play Sifu. A game where dying makes you older and weaker. It’s got some roguelike elements where you can upgrade your character during your run to get new attacks or better stats, and if you upgrade them enough during that one run, they become permanent and carry over to other runs.

Unfortunately, if you play on an easier difficulty like I did, you won’t ever get enough XP to unlock the permanent upgrades. But you won’t exactly need them either. Normal difficulty is an irritating experience. Healing isn’t much of an option, and your first time through a level is going to be long and harrowing. The idea is to have multiple playthroughs where you use items gained from previous runs to gain access to shortcuts. But I found it so frustrating that I knocked down the difficulty to easy with modifiers that heal you and age you down.

It greatly reduced the amount of time my playthrough took and was a better experience overall.

The combat itself is mostly fine. When you can land attacks and finishers, it looks satisfyingly brutal. But blocking is a coin flip as to whether or not it wants to work. A latter boss fight requires an understanding of parrying, and having it not work about a quarter of the time gets awfully frustrating. This is the Kuroki boss fight, by the way. A bloody terrible boss. They constantly use ranged attacks at you and fly around whenever you get in range to attack her. They’re an utter pain to fight if you don’t know what you’re doing on your first time through.

There’s two endings to the game; one of them you get normally, and the other one requires you to not kill the bosses but to spare them instead. The game gives no hint or explanation as to how you do that, so I had to look it up. But I got there in the end.

If you want to watch my playthrough, you can do so here.

Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

I haven’t gotten as much time with this game as I would have liked, so there will probably be a continuation of my thoughts in a future post.

But let me get to the point: this game is weird. It’s like a time capsule to a 2005 PS2 game, but with better graphics and better controls.

The main character, Jack, is obsessed with chaos. Sorry, let me write that correctly. CHAOS. His obsession with it leads to some of the funniest unintended hilarity in his dialogue. Whenever a character wants to have a monologue, he butts in and tells them to shut the hell up or get to the point. Whenever he meets someone, he demands to know where CHAOS is. It’s pretty great.

As for the gameplay, I would describe it as a Nioh-lite. It takes some of the combat ideas from Nioh and shoves them into Final Fantasy’s job system. Your characters can play as a mage, thief, samurai, and so on. It’s pretty neat. You also have allies with you most of the time, which helps draw attention away from bosses, making things a bit more manageable.

The combat itself works well, as should be expected from the Nioh developers. Level design is OK, with some light puzzles, some branching paths for hidden items, and so on.

My only gripe with it so far is that you don’t get more than 9 healing items, and resting at a checkpoint will only refill it to 5. This can make some of the bosses really difficult at times, especially later in the game.

I’ve still got a lot left to see, so watch this space.

Killer Is Dead

Grasshopper games, and Suda51 games in particular, can be an utter crapshoot in terms of whether or not the gameplay is going to be functional, let alone fun. Killer7 is janky but mostly functional; the No More Heroes games are arguably their best-playing games; and Travis Strikes Again is god-awful on every front. And Killer Is Dead is more on par with No More Heroes.

A basic combat system with combos, guard breaks, guards into parries, and perfect dodges. The last of which lets you wail on an enemy with a flurry of slashes. You have a robotic arm that can turn into a drill, among other tools, but I can’t remember if I used it much in combat at all. It’s fun for the most part; there’s a rough edge to it, but I finished the game without major issues in that regard.

The other part of the game is dates. The main character is a gigolo and goes on dates with multiple women who have their own personalities and tastes. You can get them gifts. And raising their affection high enough will reward you with a weapon.

Unfortunately, this is where the problems begin.

The game, by default, is limited to 30FPS. You can change some settings around to unlock it to 60Hz or higher, but it makes the game incredibly unstable. The UI is tied to FPS, so playing at 144Hz makes it several times more difficult to select menu items as they are sped up considerably.

On top of that, the game will crash a lot, whether you modify the framerate or not. But it is several orders of magnitude worse at higher framerates. Even to the point where the game would softlock in missions due to the script breaking or just outright crashes when starting or playing a level. For example, one of the dating missions would crash during the opening cutscene. And I ended up not bothering to play it until I had finished the main story and lowered the FPS back to 30.

As for the story, well, it’s a mess. Involving vampires, the undead, Moon people, and much more. If you’re the type of person who’s into Suda51’s specific brand of “weird shit”, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Here’s my playthrough of it.

I Expect You To Die 2

The original I Expect You To Die is a neat little puzzle room game. With a handful of different solutions and hidden gags to find, I enjoyed that quite a bit. The sequel is a bit disappointing.

One of the complaints I had with the original was that the puzzles could occasionally have some very obtuse solutions that, at face value, had no logical sense. And that’s something the sequel improves on. Generally speaking, you’ll look at an item, have a general sense of what it can do, and then spend a bit of time figuring out where the hell it is in the environment in which you use it.

But on the other side of the coin, it’s also easier because of it. Don’t get me wrong, the game is more than happy to kill you for screwing up, but generally speaking, I was screwing up less.

This means the levels are a lot shorter this time around. I often finished them in 10-15 minutes. They’re still fun levels despite that. Particularly the one where you’re managing the mechanics of a stage play.

My other complaint about the game is that it lacks subtitles, despite having them in the first game and also being present in the now-released third game. An oversight, perhaps? Either way, it’s a bit annoying seeing as my hearing continues to get worse and it’s becoming more and more difficult to hear people.

Overall, fun, but a bit lacking. You can watch my playthrough here.

Dragon’s Dogma 2

I love Dragon’s Dogma 1. It’s the most “11/10”, 7/10 game I’ve ever played. Which is to say that it is a very flawed game with some ideas that it absolutely nails. The combat and vocations specifically. Climbing monsters, setting them on fire, picking up and throwing things, it was really fun. It was a breath of fresh air for action RPGs for me. I had no interest in turn-based stuff at the time, and other action RPGs had combat as an afterthought. As you can probably guess, I really dislike Skyrim.

Now, 12 years later, Dragon’s Dogma finally has its sequel. Although there was an MMO at one point, but I’ll get back to that later.

Let’s start with my first impressions: the character creator is fairly in-depth, more expanded than Monster Hunter World, but in some ways a bit behind the original. Pawn personalities are directly linked to voices this time, and there’s a lot less variety. Same with the player character’s voice, although less of an issue as they never say anything.

As for physical customisation, it’s better in most ways, but still a bit too easy to make weird-looking creations. Although once you’ve packed on the armour, you don’t notice as much.

Once I got into the game, I very quickly noticed how badly it ran. And I upgraded my PC specifically for this game. I did lower the settings a lot, and that certainly helped a bit. But there’s a lot of stuttering, especially in towns. My understanding is that it’s mostly the AI that’s eating up the processing, and killing every NPC apparently greatly improves it.

It’s disappointing, but after a while and a few patches, it did somewhat improve. And overall, it didn’t detract from my willingness to continue.

And continue, I did. There is a lot of exploring to do. There are a good amount of nooks and crannies to find and plenty of chests filled with crap to eat your weight limit and bog you down. But it’s not just the open world that you can explore freely now; I can pretty much enter every interior in the game, in multiple towns. Which actually reminds me, there’s multiple towns now.

You still need to walk everywhere, but there are now things like oxcarts and overhead trolleys to help speed things up. Although they are still at the mercy of monster spawns, the trolley, in particular, has a habit of being preyed upon by the local griffin. Of course, if you want to avoid that altogether, you can still use Portcrystals placed throughout the world and Ferrystones to be instantly transported. That said, there is no Eternal Ferrystone like in Dark Arisen; they are consumable items again.

Escort quests are still a thing, unfortunately, but you can now pick up the subjects and use a Ferrystone to instantly teleport where you need to be. Although there are instances where you have to escort multiple characters and have to take the long way around.

Side quests overall are a lot more in-depth now. Often featuring cutscenes and even a few branching narratives. Hell, even once the game tells you the quest is over, you can often visit the characters again to get further details or even additional rewards. I was genuinely surprised by the effort put into them. The side quests from the first game were abundant and often pointless, again mostly padded out with side quests. So although there are fewer quests now, they are of much higher quality.

The main story has some interesting things in it, but kind of ends just as it starts to get semi-interesting. If you mainlined the story, you’d probably be disappointed by its length.

I mentioned monsters before. There are only a few new ones; most of the types from the first game return. Especially goblins. The rate at which monsters spawn is ridiculous. I can’t go 20 paces without encountering yet another group of goblins, and in some cases, ogres. It’s a slog, especially early on when you don’t have enough Portcrystals and Ferrystones to just teleport where you need to go. You do get some respite if you return to an area you’ve previously cleared out, but overall, it gets really tedious dealing with monsters constantly.

One of the complaints about the original game was that it only had a few dragons to fight on set spawns, with the exception of the post-game. This time around, there’s a lot more to fight. They still have set spawns, but there are many more of them. And you have to fight them this time, as the story requires it near the end of the game. They’re not particularly difficult to deal with if you have the right gear.

Watching monsters fighting each other is cool, but quite rare.

But you might want to avoid fighting them, as the developer’s had the wise idea to add a hidden mechanic to them: Dragonsplague. This shit can ruin your entire playthrough. It causes your pawn to misbehave and gives them a more sickly appearance, and then after a while, when you rest at an inn or your home, your pawn will go berserk and murder everyone in town. You can easily avoid this by killing your pawns by throwing them in water when you know they have it. The tricky thing is knowing when they have it. The game only tells you the first time one of your pawns catches it; if it happens again, you don’t get that warning. So you have to be vigilant around your pawns to see if they misbehave or start looking off.

To be fair, they did patch the game to make Dragonsplague happen less frequently but also increase the visual effect on the pawns. The glowing red eyes are usually a giveaway.

Getting on to the combat system in general, it’s much weightier than the original Dragon’s Dogma. I don’t know if I prefer it or not. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the combat a lot. I’m just struggling to figure out which one I liked more in terms of feel.

What I am annoyed with are the vocations. Although they did add some new ones, the overall number of vocations hasn’t increased. And there are actually fewer hybrid vocations. Plus, the ones that are there offer significantly limited weapon usability and a lot fewer skills.

For example, there is no Ranger class now. You can’t equip a bow and daggers at the same time with multiple skills for each weapon. You can either be a thief or an archer, with one weapon each and 4 customisable skills. Compare that to the original, where something like Ranger would let you have two weapons and 8 skills.

That said, there is the Warfarer vocation, which lets you switch weapons on the fly and assign any skill from class to it as long as you have them unlocked. Plus, if you unlock every class and then switch to Warfarer, you will gain XP for all of those classes even if you don’t use them. I personally used it to have both a bow and daggers. Unfortunately, I can only use three additional skills alongside the required one to switch weapons. So the class is basically useless.

Dragon’s Dogma Online had 11 vocations with even wilder skill sets, like Alchemist, which lets you punch people with massive gold fists, and a crap load of monsters. Very little of that has made it into Dragon’s Dogma 2. And that’s ultimately what is disappointing me. The cutback in skills, hybrid classes, and considerably less crazy vocations than Dragon’s Dogma Online really let me down.

Don’t get me wrong, the game is good, but we did not go to the moon.

Ender Lilies

I went into this game with high expectations. People were falling over themselves, saying how good of a Metroidvania this was. Well, I played it. And I wanted to like it, but it just kept getting worse.

It’s a difficult game, probably not as challenging as Hollow Knight, which is also a game I didn’t like that everyone else seemingly does, but the issue is that unlike most Metroidvanias, you don’t really get any stronger. You’re a glass cannon pretty much the whole way through. This is hammered in by the fact that your primary attack is unupgradable even half a dozen hours into the game, even after obtaining various key items that unlock multiple pathways.

Combat kind of reminds me of Hollow Knight, but you do have more attacks. You take damage very inconsistently and have no invulnerability frames that I can remember, so you can get absolutely riddled very quickly. And you will, as most of the enemies have ranged attacks while most of the player attacks are melee-only. Plus, you can only use those abilities a specific number of times because they’re limited. You get more when you rest at a checkpoint.

Getting back to health, the amount of damage you take is extremely variable. One attack might hit you for maybe 1/8 of your health bar, and then the same attack might hit you for 3/4 of it. It’s really annoying, as enemies can rinse you while you’re just trying to explore.

I’ll step away from the negativity for a bit to say that the art is really picturesque. There are some really great-looking backgrounds and some really well-done visual effects. The music is also pretty good, but it can sometimes be ill-fitting for areas where there’s a lot of combat.

Back to the critique and on to my last point: The map screen is awful. The map is broken up into areas with interconnected lines. Each area is just a square, with no detail telling you what that area looks like or how it’s laid out. It’s a pretty useless map screen that makes backtracking an utter pain, as I have to try and remember the layout of these areas while also trying not to die.

Overall, I’m really frustrated with it. I am doing a playthrough of it, but I have no idea if I’ll ever finish the game at the time of writing this.

Star Wars: Jedi Survivor

This game got lampooned on release for its performance and technical issues, particularly the PC version. There was apparently a lot of stuttering and crashing occurring for players who played it during that window. It ended up getting a reputation for being one of the worst PC ports of last year.

Well, it’s finally on Game Pass, more than a year later, so how is it?

In short, I haven’t had any major issues. Most of the problems I’ve had have been visual-related. Things like sparks being overly bright, flickering textures, broken animations, and occasionally characters missing bits of their bodies. And the game has only crashed twice on me.

I can see right through these Jawas

Performance is adequate. Most of the time I’m getting above 60FPS, but I do see drops and stutters semi-frequently. Especially going into newer areas. That said, it certainly seems to have improved compared to the footage I was seeing on release.

Well that ain’t right.

Animations, and particularly platforming, have been the most concerning issues. There is a substantial amount of jank to the game. I often find that I can bully my way into new areas or places I’m not allowed to be in yet. And often, normal platforming stuff would just break because Cal would refuse to wall run or grab onto ledges. Sometimes my input would get eaten, Cal wouldn’t double jump, and I’d fall to my death. Thank goodness for the accessibility feature that removes fall damage.

Even with these issues, exploring is still an entertaining experience. Even the smallest planets end up feeling dense thanks to all the pathways and hidden items thrown about. The ability to fast travel to different checkpoints and animal mounts makes backtracking through previous areas much easier too. The map screen could still be better; it’s a bit of a pain to navigate. But on the plus side, they now highlight where all the collectables are after interacting with various computer panels throughout the game.

Combat has been iterated on with more combat stances. So along with the single, twin, and dual-bladed movesets, there’s now a heavy moveset and a Lightsabre & Blaster combo moveset. I quite like the latter of those two and use it with the dual-bladed sabre. There’s a whole bunch of new enemy types, including battle droids and many more monsters.

There’s a bunch of hidden bosses around as well, some of which are sometimes unfairly difficult. Plus, a bunch of challenge rooms where they take those enemies and throw multiple of them at you. Although, by the time I get to those challenges, I’ve had my fair share of those enemies and know all their attacks and tells.

The hub area the game has is a lot more lively than the Mantis, featuring a host of characters, many of whom give you side quests or sell you cosmetic items. The more NPCs you meet, the more filled it gets. There’s also a DJ that plays a whole playlist of original songs.

There are a few mini-games. There’s a garden on the roof where you can grow a vast array of plants. And there’s a “Holotactics” table where you pit enemy units against other units and see who wins. There’s a handful of rewards you receive if you win those fights, so it’s worth doing.

As for the story, it’s a bit barebones. You spend the whole game looking for items that help take you to a place called “Tanalorr”. A hidden dimension that supposedly would act as a haven for Jedi. And there’s little else going on besides that. I don’t care that much about the characters. The writing in modern video games is awful, and characters talk too much in them, and it’s no different here.

You basically go to a place to find a thing, then go to another planet, find another thing, go back to the previous planet to find something else on a different path, and rinse and repeat. I don’t really care; I’m more focused on the gameplay. I’ve been playing it while listening to podcasts anyway.

Bury me with my Gonk droid.

The only annoying thing that does bother me about the story is all of the activities the characters reference that happened between the previous game and this one. Events that, quite frankly, sound far more entertaining than what I spend most of my time in the game doing. Honestly, whatever the hell happened in the time gap would have made for a more interesting game.

I’m enjoying my time with it, bugs and all. And I’m almost done with it. Hopefully, the ending is better than the previous game. The ending kinda blows.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2

After 8 years in development, Hellblade 2 came out. You probably didn’t even realise.

Anyway, it’s about 6 hours long. It’s slow as balls, mostly made up of walking sequences and cutscenes. When the combat does play into it, the segments last way longer than they need to. The combat is on par with the first game, but that’s not a particularly high bar. It’s still quite sluggish, and enemies take forever to kill unless you pop your slow-mo high damage mode.

The puzzles are somehow even more dumbed down than the first game, with the only real challenge being the lack of HUD. Even then, it’s virtually impossible to get stuck or lost.

At least the graphics are nice, but they’re insanely demanding. On my Ryzen 7 5800X3D and RTX 3060, I have to lower everything to the absolute minimum with DLSS just to maintain 60FPS. Unfortunately, the game is a hell of post-processing effects and letterboxing, which ruins the quality of the picture and makes it an eye sore to look at. But it still isn’t as bad as the first game.

It took me 6 hours to beat, and I can’t say I enjoyed the experience. It’s just really shallow. If you want to check it out, play it on Game Pass, or just watch my playthrough.

Return To Castle Wolfenstein

Due to being unable to progress further into the game Singularity and rage-quitting Ender Lilies, I decided to switch to this game instead.

Made by the same devs as Call Of Duty: United Offensive, albeit prior to that, Return To Castle Wolfenstein is a tough game to go back to.

First of all, you need to patch the game to support modern resolutions. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck playing it at 1024p at a 4:3 resolution. Other issues have more to do with the gameplay. Mandatory Stealth Sections are the biggest pain in the backside. There’s only 2 missions where stealth is required, but it’s a terrible experience. Enemies are overly sensitive to sound and also spot you from miles away. It doesn’t help that the first level of the two has very open areas that you can very easily get spotted in, and any alarm is an instant game over.

Furthermore, in that last level, if you get any kind of alert in the last area, you literally cannot finish the level because you need to keep the last guard alive, but if they’re alerted, the level end script cannot be activated. The second stealth level is a bit easier to deal with as there are more cover points and fewer open areas. Although there are still snipers and things to avoid, it is generally a better experience.

The next point is the gunplay itself. Damage and accuracy seem wildly inconsistent. The guns don’t have terribly tight groupings and often will not go where you’re shooting them. Enemies can be very bullet-spongy at times, particularly late into the game when you get the super soldiers. What’s more baffling is just how much more damage the enemies seem to do with the same guns you have. There’s a late-game weapon that shoots out arcs of lightning. In the player’s hands, it doesn’t kill opponents all that quickly. But when a super soldier uses it, your rear end is toast in record time. The FG42 is also a weird one. It does 10 points of health each hit, and considering the accuracy of enemies can vary wildly, you can sometimes enter a room and get instantly minced because there happened to be 2 or 3 guys in there with them, and their aim just happened to be set to God Tier mode.

On the subject of weapons, you don’t get a ton of variety early on. I spent most of the early levels with nothing but a MP40. To be fair, I didn’t need more than that, but it was disappointing. Once you get later in, you unlock things like flamethrowers, gatling guns, and the previously mentioned lightning weapon. Although only the gatling gun is even remotely effective at Nazi killing.

There’s also no shotgun in the PC version. Only the OG Xbox version has a shotgun in it. It is extremely disappointing considering id Software’s lineage.

Other than that, level design is OK. Some levels require a lot of backtracking to find the single items that you need to finish the level. There’s a good amount of secret and hidden rooms with goodies in them. There’s only a few levels that I really hated.

In conclusion, it’s tough to play these days, but it’s not completely awful. You can watch my playthrough here.

Other Stuff I Played:

Persona 3: Reload

For some inexplicable reason, they remade Persona 3. Specifically, they’re re-done to be more visually in line with something like Persona 5, especially the user interface. The menus and battle UI are very reminiscent of Persona 5. The music is still good; some of the new stuff is really good, but there are a few songs where I think the original is better. Plus, there are a few new battle mechanics and some new animations to go along with them. Unfortunately, I’m still very early into it (I haven’t even gotten to the first boss), so I don’t have much more to say other than that The Answer is a DLC episode. Which is a bit scummy.

Holo X Break

When I saw that the HoloCure devs were making a brawler, I thought it might be worth checking out. And although the visuals are on point, the gameplay is frustrating. It really isn’t a game you can play by yourself. The bosses are very difficult, and a lot of enemies use ranged attacks, which, if you’re soloing the game as a melee character, you’ll get really frustrated with it. I got to the last boss before giving up on it.

Warhammer 40K: Boltgun

Less of a DOOM clone and more of a Quake clone, possibly even taking ideas from Painkiller. It starts well but gets very tedious. Enemy variety isn’t great, the guns aren’t terribly fun to use, and then it removes your weapons every episode (Like DOOM, where episodes are multiple chapters). I tried to enjoy it, but got really bored with it.

Evil West

Cowboys hunting demons. It sounds like a great premise. And some of the visual designs are pretty cool. Unfortunately, the story fails to deliver on it, being pretty boring and quite frankly lacking some self-awareness or cheese. The gameplay is more God Hand than anything else, focusing heavily on melee combat but without tank controls. However, the controls are pretty messy, with a lot of directional button inputs and weird choices for inputs. That makes the combat a bit frustrating. One of the later bosses is especially crappy to try and fight, as it turns into a bullet hell while you try and slowly dodge all of it.

Manic Miners

I’ve been wanting to play Lego Rock Raiders again for years. And I’d given up all hope. And then one day, I stumbled across some discussion about it, and someone posted a link to something called “Manic Miners”. And guess what? It’s a full-blown remake of the game with a bunch of added features. And I’m loving it. It has some pacing issues (One of the tutorials took me nearly an hour before I really understood everything in it), and there isn’t quite as much automation as I’d like, requiring some more manual direction to units to do things over water or lava. But I’m sticking myself pretty deep into the campaign and really enjoying it.

Anime Corner:

Dungeon Meshi

This anime is really entertaining and surprisingly dark. It involves a party going into a dungeon to rescue one of their party members, but due to a lack of finances, they have to survive by eating the monsters in the dungeon. The elf character makes a lot of humorous faces. It’s the kind of anime that makes me think about how a game with similar mechanics would be, not just the food part, but also things like “Mana Sickness” and some other things later in the anime that I don’t want to spoil. There’s some things in here that I wish Dragon’s Dogma would steal, or maybe a new game with the ideas of both mashed up.

That’s everything. I wrote most of this post quite close to the June deadline; I’ve been quite busy as of late and put updating this post over time into the backburner. You might notice that there are a lot more videos associated with the games here. As part of my plans I made a while ago, I decided to start making more video content for the games I was playing, whether it be demos or the first parts of my playthroughs. It’s not really resulting in views in the way I’d hope, so I might change up the strategy a bit.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been playing. See you in January for the second half of the year and the usual Top 10 lists.


10/06/2024 – New Stream Graphics & CyberSurfer Update

There’s been quite a long gap since the last one of these. I’ve just been so busy with everything that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write one of these. Even while I write this, I have tabs open for scripts for at least two videos. Although one of them might appear in this post if I can finish it before this goes up.

With that said, here’s what I’ve been up to.

New Stream Graphics

I decided my stream graphics needed updating, but instead of just opening up Blender and going at it, I decided to spend some time designing my ideas before making them, which I think has led to a much better result than last time.

Let’s start with the game dev scene.

I’ve gone for a rustic-looking apartment looking over a cityscape. This scene has undergone a couple of reworks and changes since I originally made it. I’m showing its current state here.

Let’s start with the foreground first. There’s a desk with a decent wood material on it, a couple of props, a keyboard and mouse, and a mousepad. The keyboard and mouse models are not mine; I found those on the Internet. However, the textures are mine. It’s a plastic-like material with some grime added on top for believability. The mousepad is the camo pattern I like using, but with some additional texture on top.

There’s a picture of my dog on my desk, of course. And then there’s the two monitors. I made these myself, and they are, in fact, properly 16:9. They also use a plastic material, minus the grime. The screen is an LCD shader mixed with a Holdout shader. The Holdout shader allows the screen to be transparent when rendered, so I can put dynamic objects behind it like animated UI and such. I’ll get to that later.

There’s a brick texture behind the desk. I couldn’t make it as realistic as I would have liked, as it made my performance tank while navigating the scene, which was a real pain. Off to the left is glass, which slightly reflects the inside of the room but mostly just serves as a window to the outside.

Before I get to the outside, here’s the rest of the room you don’t see:

As you can see, there’s a couch and a couple of shelves, along with a carpet and ceiling. I had some ideas about reusing this room with different angles, but it’ll probably require more details if I want to do that.

Now, the outside of the room.

This is a procedural city made with geometry nodes. I followed a tutorial for this as I don’t really know what I’m doing with geo nodes yet. Either way, it’s better than what I was doing before with my shoddily made buildings. The scaling on the buildings is fairly inaccurate, and the glass warps the look of them a bit, but I’m willing to live with it.

Game Dev Cam Screen Example

Here’s the camera scene when all the UI is applied behind the rendered image. I’m pretty bad at making fake UI, but I think this looks OK for now. I might look into actually making a Windows Form application with custom graphics and using that instead. But considering the amount of changes this one scene has had since I made it, I think I’ll just live with it for now.

Overall, I like it, but I think there’s room for improvement. But at the same time, those improvements require me to further develop my own skill set. Plus, the lighting is a bit weird-looking, as the outside lighting doesn’t light up the room enough.

Moving on to the gaming scene now.

I designed this to look like a run-down arcade you might find in a failing shopping centre or motorway service station. Starting with the foreground again, there’s a table with a wood material on it and a brick material under it. The TV is actually the same as in my last layout, but with a Holdout shader on the screen mixed with a glossy shader over it to give it a proper look. There’s a plastic sign next to it with text that changes between scenes.

Behind all that is the rest of the arcade. The red camo material is used for the carpet, with some additional bits to make it look like carpet. And then there’s the cabinets themselves.

I just had to include a Rotaction cabinet, of course. SICKHACKS.root also makes a comeback, as Cybersurfer still doesn’t have an actual name. The other game is Tempo Catastrophe, a parody of the Time Crisis games, which seem to infest every single British arcade. And to top it off, a bog standard claw machine.

The latter of the two aren’t as highly detailed as they’re background objects, but they look decent enough in the final render.

Finally, on the back wall, there’s a text object with an emissive shader that I use as a sign, and an exit door that opens on the ending scene, which is a major light source as all the other lights are turned off.

I feel better about this scene than the game dev one. It’s come together quite well, although it did require a lot more effort with all the additional props needed. If I were going to change one thing, I would probably make it look more rundown, with some added rubbish thrown about. I’m also not too happy with the scaling of the room; it’s pretty bloody massive. Like a Megabowl arcade space, if any of you remember those.

I’m not sure how long these will last, but I think they’re pretty neat. The last layout was used for 2 years; let’s see if this lasts longer.

What’s Going On With CyberSurfer?

Last time I made a video and blog post about Cybersurfer, I mentioned that I was looking into a way to build tracks with the spline tool, and I got something working based on a video I found. Well, after a few months of tweaking and adding to it, hoping it would make it more powerful, I’ve realised that I am being an idiot about it.

The video covers this in more detail, and I would suggest you watch that, but I’ll go over some of the basic points.

Based on the video I found, I was able to make a track that follows the spline with the correct UVs and so on. I looked great. Then I started testing it by adding additional verticality and twisting it around. Like making loops and corkscrews.

This is where shortcomings in both my player code and the track generation became evident. Basically, whenever I would hit a bend on a loop, the player would jitter because of the lack of geometry. And when I hit corkscrews, I had the same issue, along with an additional bug where the player wouldn’t stick to the track in those sections.

Adding additional resolution was possible, but it added it to the whole track. Considering how long it’s intended to be, that might end up being too demanding. So I figured that the best solution would be to increase poly counts, but only in the specific parts where I needed it.

Alongside that, I still want things like tunnels and half-pipes in the level, sometimes going around corners. Again, I need extra geometry for that.

My solution was to subdivide the mesh, although along the width, not the length. I go over it in the video in more detail, but the long and short of it is that although I got the subdivision to work, it was an absolute mess. Furthermore, the idea of making tunnels with it is virtually impossible.

As the code got more complicated, trying to accommodate the idea of adding more vertices to it, it became more difficult to manipulate them.

In the end, I looked at all the code and decided that I needed to rethink it. Here’s a summary of what I’m going to try:

  • Change how I mark out which part of the track needs additional verts by using knot data instead.
  • Be able to add additional resolution along the length per section.
  • Append half-pipe sections onto the edges of the corners instead of manipulating the mesh.
  • Tunnels and other half-pipe sections might become separate pieces that are attached to the track.

Again, there’s more detail in the video, but this more or less covers everything.

The Godot Video

I finally got around to making a video about my experiences with Godot and the things I like and don’t like about it. I’m not an expert on game engines, so it comes from a place of just spewing out my opinions and thoughts in a very general way.

I’m less critical of Godot, although there are still plenty of things I don’t like. But I did find quite a few things I liked, including specific nodes and example-based documentation.

The video has done a lot better than I was expecting it to, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been fantastic. There are a lot of new things to look at and many things to improve on.

Am I going to use Godot again? Yes.

I have an idea for a project, but I haven’t really had the time to start designing it. But with all these videos out of the way, I should get some time soon. I’m not going to say anything about it until I start making a prototype.

Other Things

I have a new weapon asset. I’m calling it the “Czech 75”, which is a very legally distinct name for a pistol based on a real gun that a character from the anime Gunsmith Cats uses. This is in fact the same pistol from the 7DFPS game, although it has been modified a bit with better topology and several other improvements. And most importantly, it is now textured.

So, here’s a VR-ready pistol that you can put into your games. Enjoy.

In related news, the shotgun asset pack is now permanently discounted. I probably need to improve these ones as well at some point, but I can’t really be arsed. I have far too many things on the go right now.

But I am curious if there’s a demand for more weapons. I should also note that both of these were modelled and rigged by my friend and modified, animated, and textured by me. And half of the money from either of these goes to him. If I make more, I’ll likely have to do it on my own, which means I’ll have to learn more about the creation process. To be fair, as part of my Monday streams, I’m learning various aspects of Blender and trying to create things I haven’t before, which is helping me learn how to do stuff like this on my own instead of having to rely on others.

7DFPS is happening later in the year, so perhaps I’ll use that as an excuse for making more of this stuff.

Again, sorry for the large gap between this post and the last one. I have been very busy. And a new gaming roundup post is in the works, so look forward to that in the near future.