BACKLOG: 1/17/2018 Bored by The Fractured but Whole, fuck Dying Light, Technomancer jank, and loving Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

BACKLOG is a bi-weekly (every two weeks) update column on how I’m progressing through “old” games that have been stuck in my ‘backlog of unfinished games’. Here I’ll generally update my progress in any and all games I’ve touched in the past two weeks, updates on reviews I’m writing, games I’m looking forward to, thoughts I’ve had, and things I’ve purchased. 

South Park: The Stick of Truth

I finished The Stick of Truth almost two weeks ago and I haven’t thought about the game for a second since apart from a few frustrating I left out of my admittedly lazy review. The tutorial where Randy teaches you a “sneaky squeaker” fart attack in the bathroom of the Community Center is easily one of the most frustrating tutorials ever put into a video game. It took me 5 minutes of re-watching him sneak fart at me to learn it. You have to let the fart touch the ground before you trigger it and I had no idea what was going on. It isn’t that I was frustrated doing it, but they make you re-watch the minute long example of him farting every single time you mess up. It took me at least 20 tries to figure out what the tutorial was trying to tell me. Oh, yeah farts are magic spells in that game, and serve a similar function in the sequel. When you’re in the sewer Butters says “Oh man, it sure smells like strong magic down here.” so that’s good.

My review was kind of lazy because the game not only has well enough coverage out there over the past four years but it generally left me just wanting to buzz through and finish it fast. I did not want to be completionist and make all 120 friends or collect all the Chinpokomon for no real reward other than prolonged frustration and a possible replay of the game. I’ve hit a bit of a wall about halfway through the sequel, which I’ll talk about a bit more in this column. I will never play either game more than once.

> South Park: The Stick of Truth (PS4) 100%

Dying Light: Enhanced Edition

Even though I had spent a considerable amount of time with Dying Light at the end of December, Elex was more compelling and I began to fall off of it quickly. To regain some ground in the game I turned on the game’s online mode and allowed others to join my game and help. I spent about five hours in co-op modes and exploring the city more until I hit a wall with my ability to finish a quest. I simply couldn’t jump up to get to a ledge and my co-op partner could. For whatever reason I basically rage quit out of the game and put it down for a week. When I picked it up I was in a safe zone at night and decided to head back to the starting building and I quickly learned about the nightmare enemies that come out at night. At first I was really excited by the thrill of freaking out about getting killed by them and running home. It was awesome.

But hey, I quickly learned how to exploit the safe zone for kills and agility points by drawing ‘nightmare’ enemies to the edge. By zoning in and out and swatting them against a spiked barrel I could easily kill them. I netted a cool $2000 bucks and thought to myself “Damn, this game is cool.” before I found that I could basically only buy a hammer with that amount of money. The game really wasn’t paying out for the time I spent with it. It just isn’t my jam right now. I’m shelving it and possibly reselling it. It absolutely improves upon the original Dead Island formula in every way but I need to get away from it’s frustratingly slow progress and weird difficulty curve.

> Dying Light: Enhanced Edition (PS4) 10% Shelved!

South Park: The Fractured but Whole

Well, when I started The Fractured but Whole I immediately noticed that it is a far more streamlined product. The battle system is simple to understand, tactically better and more challenging but somehow less satisfying than the Paper Mario style of the first one. Battles in the game are often scripted and linear as in the previous game but with fewer funny moments. Fighting Randy at different levels of drunk (beer drunk, wine drunk) is funny, and beating up strippers was OK, I guess. It just feels like the game is having more fun with it’s humor than I am.

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Heh.

Farts in this game the can be used to bend time, which I found to be a very lame mechanic. I have ultimately decided to take back what I said about ‘making South Park more of a game’, it was perhaps better simply being a casual adventure game surrounded by the series’ humor and references. My issues with this newer game is that it pulls humor from seasons I haven’t watched and it seems bent on being it’s own thing rather than following episode plot lines. So, I’m a bit lost and not finding much of it funny or all that entertaining. Having to repeat the stripper boss fight three times due to instant-kill circumstances sort of amplified how boring this game might be during replays. I’ll plug on with it and finish the game, I’m at least halfway through it, but I don’t think there will be a ton to talk about in the review.

> South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PS4) 50%

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

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Elex left me with a gaping open-world hole in my mind and instead of returning to that game for another several hours to finish more Playstation trophies, I decided I either have to double-down on either Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag or Batman: Arkham Knight if I want to fire up my available open-world games. Well, I couldn’t get into Batman right now and I’d just bought Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I decided that I’d just get a taste of Origins before I tackled my backlog games instead… but it made such an exceptional first impression in its first village Siwa. I’ve played a ton of Assassin’s Creed games, hell my first smartphone game was the port of the GBA game that featured Altair from the first game. I still think that Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II are excellent games despite several flaws in their stealth and combat mechanics.

Brotherhood was good, but the Ezio plot lost my interest a bit and Revelations was a weird mess both graphically and plot-wise. I skipped Assassin’s Creed III because I was fed up with the game’s shitty online elements, gated DLC bullshit, and decided I could skip out on the series. Sure, I bought Black Flag for the PS4 and Rogue for the PS3 and ever finished them, but I ignored Unity and Syndicate along with the several side-stories they’ve pumped out since. They are big, open world games that offer a lot of gameplay and story and typically sell well enough that a year later you can buy the game with all DLC for less than half the price of the original retail. I just wasn’t about to get sucked into another shitty Assassin’s Creed game until Origins. In fact, it is an excellent game.

Well, I’m about 20 hours into Origins so I’ll avoid reviewing it until I’ve finished the game but I will say that everything about the combat systems, movement, rewards for exploration and hunting feels fantastic. The world is vibrant and addictive to explore. Origin’s ultimately feels like a great refinement on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and builds on that open world concept as if the continent of Egypt was an ocean itself. My favorite moment was diving into the lake next to Siwa and finding shipwrecked loot. I know that Black Flag had done this previous, but movement is never a struggle in this game and the extended underwater breath-holding made for a lot of fun exploration for the sake of it. It feels like they’ve ironed out the weird “sticky” feeling of Assassin’s Creed climbing (also a huge problem in Infamous games) for the most part now that most things are climbable and can be scaled. It is still Assassin’s Creed even if everything is streamlined, but I enjoy the new combat mechanics above all else. I’m level 22 at 20 hours in the game and have spent very little time on the main story, having just gotten my hidden blade. Most of my time has been exploration, hunting, and side-questing.

> Assassin’s Creed: Origins (PS4) 20 hours ~20%

The Technomancer

I knew what to expect from a Spiders developed RPG because I’ve played a few of their games in the past, specifically Bound By Flame and parts of Mars: War Logs. The Technomancer is similarly buggy with initially odd controls and the camera is too close. Combat is difficult, movement is slow and imprecise. The setting and challenge reminded me too much of Elex at first but the world here is very different. It certainly feels like a game designed for PC control options, with the joystick targeting being incredible loose. After a few hours in the tutorial and re-starting some encounters I’m starting to feel better in combat now that I’ve upgraded weapons and skills a bit. Learning the mechanics of combat, using technomancer skills is rewarding. I’m tentatively having fun with it so far but I’ve read that the technomancer class has issues because many enemies have electricity defense built in later in the game and the class ends up being fairly weak. It is concerning because I’ve already been at a disadvantage in combat the entire time.

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Great Mantis boss fight. First large boss fight that ends the ‘tutorial’.

The first large boss I fought, a huge praying mantis sort of thing, is what sold me on continuing on with the game. Even if those types of encounters are few and far between it was a relatively exciting strategical fight where I could test out the game’s AI a bit more. It is certainly going to be a frustrating game to finish, where I’ll have to save scum and tread carefully for most all of it but I’m interested to get into the companion system and see if the storytelling becomes more compelling. So far the voice acting and story are stiff and cryptic. I’m looking forward to more of this game, though it is taking a backseat to Assassin’s Creed: Origins a bit.

> The Technomancer (PS4) ~5%

Killzone: Shadow Fall

Killzone 2 is easily one of my favorite single-player and multi-player FPS for a console because it felt weighty, the AI was tactical and the game’s missions and story were still of an age where Call of Duty plot garbage and cinematics hadn’t infiltrated every FPS at that point. Killzone 3 was garbage in most of the single-player levels but the multi-player was an intensely fun continuation of the class-based multi-player of the previous game. The maps are typically incredible in those games, especially Killzone 2‘s nearly Battlefield sized maps that would contrast well with the corridor shooting of smaller maps when doing long playlist sessions. I’ve never been able to finish the single player for Killzone: Shadow Fall because it does exactly what every vapid Call of Duty-clone plot does anymore.

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The parts where you’re floating around in space reminded me of floating around the outside of the space station in Prey. Prey is so much better than this game…

The game barely feels like Killzone and the echo drone might be fun to use, but the actual missions are all basically easy-ass Destiny quests. Run to a spot, let the drone see the computer, go somewhere else, do it again, then call in a drop ship to get out. I hit a sort of breaking point with the first real large scale fight in the game at the end of Chapter 7, a section where you’re defending against the game’s most massive swarm of Helghast and it sent me up a wall.  It wasn’t the difficulty of the fight that had me deciding to give up on the game and to stop playing, but the drone mechanics. Having to shock shielded enemies with the drone when I needed it for cover and alternating between drone powers was frustratingly ineffective while also shooting. The team that was there to help me wasn’t helping me and I decided that I would rather not finish Shadow Fall’s weak storyline. The fact was that I would have skipped every cut-scene in the game if I could, but they hide loading screens behind them. I just don’t give a shit about Killzone anymore and while the multi-player is still very fun I’m glad they’ve refocused onto Horizon instead of making more of this trash.

>Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4) 75% Will not finish. 

Eh, that’s mostly it. I haven’t been playing PC games because I’ve been writing too much and I’m not in the mood to have my self-esteem crushed by Civ 6 or DOTA 2 at the moment. I continue to refuse to play PUBG or buy a Nintendo Switch, but I have been recording a bunch of Sega Genesis gameplay videos while conceiving a small project pertaining to the music of the system. Might amount to nothing, not sure yet. Otherwise I’m just going to be playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins until Kingdom Come releases in February. If I finish early I might get sucked into other stuff but either way this is a slow year for new AAA video games I’m interested in, so I’ll likely finish a ton of backlog stuff in 2018. I’ve recently bought Battle Chasers: Nightwar, so we’ll see if that gets fired up this month or not. Thinking of dropping a lot of the games on my backlog and just investing in some new ones, blind buys or recommendations from others.

BACKLOG: 50 unfinished titles, in order of importance. % progress noted.

  1. Assassin’s Creed: Origins (PS4) ~20%
  2. South Park: Fractured But Whole (PS4) 50%
  3. The Technomancer (PS4) ~5% finished introduction
  4. Persona 5 (PS4) 10%
  5. Dishonored 2 (PS4) 0%
  6. Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PS4) [pre-ordered]
  7. Tales of Zestiria (PS4)  ~1% (in first town across bridge)
  8. Arcania (PS4) 0%
  9. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4) 0%
  10. Thief  (PS4) 5%
  11. Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4) 0%
  12. Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4) 0%
  13. Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4) 0%
  14. Batman: Arkham City (PS4) 3%
  15. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (PS4) 0% tutorial
  16. Divinity: Original Sin (PC) 0% (restarting)
  17. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4) 60%
  18. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4) 10%
  19. Hitman: Absolution (PC) 0%
  20. Pillars of Eternity (PS4) 1% Tutorial
  21. FEZ (PC) 20%
  22. Metro 2033 (PS4) 0%
  23. Metro: Last Light (PS4) 0%
  24. Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC) 0% (restarting)
  25. The Witcher: Enhanced Edition  (PC) 0% (third restart…)
  26. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC) 0% post-tutorial
  27. Dragon Age: Inquisition  (PS4) 0% tutorial
  28. Dust: An Elysian Tale (PS4) 0%
  29. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (PS3) 0% waiting for PS4 remaster
  30. Bioshock 2 (PC) 0%
  31. Metal Gear Solid 2 HD (PS3) 15%
  32. Guacamelee! (PS3/PS4) 0% (restarting on PS4)
  33. Prototype 2 (PS3) 0%

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