7 January – 13 january 2019 what video games are you playing this week videogamegeek

The weak point of the game is definitely combat. The first thing I noticed is that the camera is pretty bad for a 3rd person combat game. It pulls in way too close to the character you are controlling, which means that anything that’s not right in front of you is completely invisible. Combine this with the fact that most combat is against 5+ enemies, and it’s impossible to see many attacks coming at you.

Even worse is that in the case that you are facing only one enemy, the game doesn’t do a good job of telegraphing enemy attacks or attack patterns. This makes most boss battles a matter of spending the first two minutes as far away from the boss as possible, trying to figure out what few safe attack opportunities you might have.

Keeping some distance from enemies is useful, but all of the characters need to be in melee range to keep generating MP and "Zing", so you’ll have to get within melee distance at some point.

You get two defensive options, blocking and dodging. I rarely block because you still take lots of damage (on hard mode), and the attacks that you really want to block wind up knocking you down anyways, so dodging is pretty well always the better option. Dodging is difficult to do well due to the issue that attack patterns aren’t that clear.

Many enemy attacks can take off about half your health (on hard mode), and so the first time you encounter an enemy and you don’t know what its attacks are, there’s a decent chance you’ll have at least one party member dropped to 0. Healing items cost 1000GP, and after playing for nearly ten hours I have about 5000GP in my coffers. That means that using one of these items is always a net loss, since boss battles will never yield that much GP. If all of your party members are wiped out, then you need to reload your most recent save, so be sure to SAVE OFTEN since there are no autosaves. (I did encounter one fight where I was given the option to try again, but this is the exception rather than the rule, and if you find that you are underleveled then the only option is the load a save).

Despite that, I’m still going to keep playing, though I’m knocking the difficulty down to Normal (which really should be labelled "easy"; just mashing the attack button will get you through any battle). I like the aesthetic, the world is interesting and filled with neat character designs, the base building game seems neat so far. The story can be a bit of a slog since so few of the scenes are fully voice acted. I’ve definitely been spoiled by games with lots of voice acting in them as it lets you enjoy the scene rather than focusing on the bottom third of the screen where the text is.

This may seem like a strange comparison, but the learning curve in this game, and the feeling of hidden depth and myriad quirks of player control, reminds me of Metal Gear. RDR2 faces some criticism for flouting so-called "quality of life" expectations, but I’m betting the developers were more afraid that an arcade-y, do-whatever interface would kill a fuller, slow-burn immersion in the world.

We’ll see how it all shakes out in the end, but after some brief growing pains, I’m pretty positive about the game. Barely scratched the surface in terms of content, preferring to play Arthur Morgan as a kind of stoic enigma. Long stretches of hunting, occasional appearances at the poker tables, camping in the middle of nowhere sipping on pot of coffee with my horse Moonlight resting to the side.

I’m only in Chapter 2, and I’ve got a medium-scoped Varmint Rifle and Springfield rifle for hunting. Put a fair amount of money into upgrading weapons/holsters/bandoliers, and dumped some cash on Dutch’s ledger, mostly so nobody minds if I disappear for days at a time. I got the crafting recipe for poison arrows and used those to take down a 3-star Elk and 3-star Bison in one shot each.

Also intriguing: the bar for ‘self-defense’ is higher than average for a videogame. If someone outright tries to steal your horse, you can blast them out of the saddle with your double-barrel shotgun without any implication of wrongdoing, but it’s much trickier to intervene in situations and still come out seeming like the good guy all the time.

I’m mostly playing Dark Souls III. It’s good. But wow, the first boss was challenging. In some respects, this game feels like it’s designed to puncture any illusions I have about my skill at games, and if so, well… mission accomplished, I guess. I fought my first knight (I’m assuming more will follow) and, wow, that happened quite a few times before I eventually beat the guy. I was initially going to lure him into the dragon’s fire, but I figured I need to learn how to actually fight him, so I worked on that for a while. I think I was more lucky than good, though, when I finally brought him low. Not a fan, for sure. Since then, I’ve just been exploring the area around the second bonfire on the Wall, getting the hang of fighting knife- and halberd-wielding hollows.

There’s a lot of choice in the game, and I don’t really understand what I’m choosing between a lot of the time. I started as a Mercenary, and have been boosting my HP and Stamina when I level up almost exclusively (mostly stamina – I hate not being able to do what I want, and I spend a lot of time wanting to roll and attack). I’m sticking with the starting twin swords for now, infusing them with a Fire Gem and boosting them to +1. I’ve got a feel for the timing of their attack animations and am generally happy with them. …I don’t really know how to compare armour or weapons, so maybe I should be doing other stuff – no idea. Anyways, despite the fact that the game seems to mostly be about failing badly, I’m having a good time.

For this session, played for a day and a half. We last left off at Mastery lv88, 20K away from lv89 (for reference each normal game gets you about 50K of XP, assuming you win, do the bonus objectives for 2K of XP, and get max bonuses like Random map and hardest difficulty level). My goal was to get to (Mastery) lv90*, since that’s the point you get the maximum 90 pts of mastery to allocate. Even though I was in the "home stretch", I still purchased $10 into their next War Chest event to get me +50% XP boost**. So 14 games instead of 22 games to reach lv90. After that, you’re at "Ascension levels" where your quest to lv1000 is mostly bragging rights, with some "intangibles" like bonus decals, sprays, some skins, and achievements unlocked. Got to lv91 for a bonus target spray.

At this point, I decided to move on to a new commander. "Variety is the spice of life". In this case, Zagara, the Brood mother (for a story reference, check out the cutscenes on YouTube for Sc2: Heart Of The Swarm campaign). She ramps up VERY quickly, but is not as good in long/prolonged engagements. So basically, the exact opposite of the of the commanders I’ve been playing for years (Swann and Karax).

** Purchased Simulant Zerg building skins. Last time, I purchased the "fancy one" for Terran units, but it was too late to purchase the ones for Zerg units. I have the chance to do that now, but at $20 (and that’s AFTER taking 50% off the original price)! I’m a sc2 fan, but not THAT much of one. OTOH, as noted above, I happily spent $15 on other stuff.

The story of the Camen of the Bramble continues. Of my four pirate prisoners, one was killed in an escape attempt because I neglected to disable the turrets while recapturing him, and one was killed after going berserk and breaking down the cell door because the mace-wielding colonist I sent after him apparently didn’t understand that he was just supposed to be disabled, not have his head smashed in. The other two survived their interment and have now been recruited.

I had another psychic ship crash-land. Conveniently, it came down in the river right outside of my fortifications, and in range of my turrets. That made it pretty easy to take out, but there was an annoying centipede that took up a position of cover behind the ship and couldn’t be hit except by my minigunner until the ship itself was destroyed. The only serious injury was Nicole, one of my melee fighters, who lost an arm to a charge lance shot. As luck would have it, I had a caravan return literally during the fight with an Archotech Arm, so that was quickly replaced. Now I just need to find a replacement lung for the one she was already missing.