BACKLOG is a “whenever the fuck I feel like it” blog feature focusing on how I’m progressing through video games, old and new, that are stuck in my backlog. Here I’ll generally update my progress in any and all games I’ve touched in the past 2-4 weeks. This includes updates on reviews I’m writing, games I’m looking forward to, thoughts I’ve had, and things I’ve purchased.
The major side-effect of avoiding major video game coverage and media and relying on Let’s Plays and Twitch streamers to figure out if I want to buy a game is that most of these outlets won’t say anything negative about the games they play. I’m not sure if I prefer going onto sites like Polygon and Giant Bomb and having to listen to them gripe over social politics instead, but at least some of those pundits (most of them are no longer journalists) will suggest waiting to buy a game once it is patched, or they’ll temper expectations versus hype and marketing. Despite my best efforts to stay current and follow new releases I’m finding more and more reason to sit on new releases and wait up to two years to buy new video games. Why? Because for the last decade they commonly ship and sell unfinished products with very little resources devoted to testing and quality control.
There is seemingly no way to subvert the frustration of these unfinished, shoddy products due to the ultimately required always online status of all major consoles and PC platforms like Steam. Your brand new game is broken upon release? No problem! How about a series of huge downloads during it’s first week of release? A day one 15 gigabyte patch? Sure, that’s normal! You have the bandwidth for our quality control issues eh? The only game I have played this year that wasn’t incessantly patched to the point of intrusion was God of War, a game that limited it’s ambitions so that it would be polished and problem free from the get-go. The last three weeks of semi-regular video game playing have been a frustrating mess of glitches, bugs, and forum diving in hopes of finishing the products I’ve paid for. There are, after all, no refunds on the console I choose to play on.
I’ve griped about anti-consumer practices before and largely avoided ranting about it since. The solution? I’ve unplugged from Steam, Twitch, and YouTube‘s gaming nonsense and will almost entirely focus on only playing single player videogames that I can verify aren’t fuckin’ broken before I pay for them. I know, I’m not always the most keen consumer when it comes to video games as I enjoy the hype but that part of me fucked off this month. Anyhow, emo anime boi rant aside, the broken games I played were fun.
I had one job this month and about $20 to get it done and all I had to do was choose between Chasm, Dead Cells, and Death’s Gambit. I chose wrong in picking Death’s Gambit to buy first because it is a buggy, glitching mess of a game. The sure thing would have been Dead Cells as that game has been in beta for a long time and they’ve got it running like a well-oiled machine by all accounts. Developers White Rabbit have been working on Death’s Gambit for quite some time but their quality assurance team did not take enough care in their Playstation 4 Pro testing; I encountered several game breaking bugs along the way with forced restarts and crashes encountered apparently caused by running my PS4 Pro on a 4K HDR television with Boost Mode on. For a week I couldn’t progress the game’s story due to two areas (Garde Tum, Thalamus boss fight) that crashed the game unless I switched off Boost Mode and played in 1080p. I know this seems like a small issue if you’re a savvy PC gamer but I can just imagine thousands of PS4 Pro owners playing this game and resigning themselves to waiting for a patch that will fix the issue. Is this acceptable? It sure fucking isn’t. The game was obviously rushed.
Well, goddamn it’s a great game when it works. If you thought Salt & Sanctuary looked like a weird goth-Muppet kid’s game you’ll like the Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia-meets-Hyper Light Drifter pixel art of Death’s Gambit. The combat feels fluid, the controls are precise, and the difficulty is tuned to just the right fairness that Dark Souls and hand-held Castlevania series fans will appreciate. It really is a beautiful game that uses sepia tones and contrasting vibrant primary colors as you progress. I’m quite far through the game’s story and a full review isn’t far off. I figure I’ll do most of my bitching about bugs and glitches here, to give a head’s up why the score will be lower than expected and make room for more talk about it’s general mechanics and gameplay. I expect the products I pay for to work, there is no reality where this doesn’t affect my score of the game. Video games are not only interactive art but they are marvels of programming and project management, this counts towards their appraisal even if they finally fix and finish the game a month after release. If you’re curious what the opening hours of the game are like for a Mage class [CLICK/TAP HERE] to watch me stumble through the game for a couple hours.
> Death’s Gambit ~80% Complete
Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition
Maybe it is the smoke from burning forests in the air or I’ve let my console overheat too often but this stupid fucking Darksiders sequel I’ve been plugging away at for 20+ hours has been crashing too. After I cleaned up my console and made sure it won’t overheat it turns out chatting with a few forum goers revealed this was a common set of bugs for this ‘definitive edition’ of the game released in 2015. You can [CLICK/TAP HERE] to watch a short video of a bug that started to occur after getting a ‘soul split’ ability and you’ll notice that enemies won’t attack me until I split into two: They can’t target me, and I can’t hit them. Some just spin in circles. Outside of a few glitches, and several resets, the game is good about auto-saving progress. I have had the expected moderate amount of fun with it so far. The dungeons are increasingly repetitive and the boss fights are nothing special. I can safely say that the twenty hours I spent with the first Darksiders game were better presented but only slightly less clever. A number of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time style elements have made the platforming and maze-like puzzle aspects of Darksiders II far more fun than expected. I’ll stick with it as I’m quite far in the game.
> Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition ~75% Complete
Oddly enough I have no particular gripes with my playthrough of Owlboy so far. Not only is the game bug and glitch free but it has presented a consistent and gradual increase in difficulty. I am only playing the game once a week and taking my time looking for secret areas and backtracking here and there. The most recent section, which comes after a large city is destroyed, involves a perilous maze of darkness-shrouded creatures and thorns. The increasing complexity of the corridors that make up dungeons in Owlboy teach a simple rule that took me a while to catch up with: If you’re dying, move along quickly. In figuring my way through egg spitting monsters, exploding birds, and complete darkness I feel like I’ve hit upon the peak of difficulty for the game but I could be wrong yet. I wanted to mention how beautiful the cut-scenes are as their detail and subtle animation really do provide a worthy reward for progressing in the game.
The story is inherently Japanese in it’s inspiration as it’s post-apocalyptic civilization can’t help but dig up a more advanced past and warn of the dangers of civilizations that doomed themselves when advancing too quickly. This along with a few Demon’s Crest style mechanics and exceptional pixel art helps Owlboy seem more like a Super Nintendo game than many similar games In recent memory. I’m not particularly blown away by the game so far but it has been a great juxtaposition with the cheap, lower tier buggy garbage I’ve been playing otherwise.
That is about it. I’ve decided to buy Hyper Light Drifter as soon as I finish one of the three games I’m playing and get to work on that game. I’ve decided not to buy Chasm but there is a small chance I’ll opt for Dead Cells or Hitman 2 on a whim. Otherwise I’m pretty set on Vampyr, Dragon Quest, Mega Man 11 and Tomb Raider being my last major purchases of 2018. So if I do a video game list for 2018 it’ll be a pretty short one. I’ll not likely have a ton of extra video game time coming up as I’ll be starting different work hours towards the end of the year; The only real effect that’ll have on BACKLOG will see entries go into what I call JRPG sleep mode (where I try to finish JRPGs) for a few months until games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Days Gone, and Rage 2 are closing in. I’ve also cut several games on my backlog, which now serves as a ‘need to finish’ list.
BACKLOG: Unfinished titles, in order of importance. % progress noted.
- Death’s Gambit (PS4) ~80%
- Owlboy (PS4) ~50%
- Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition (PS4) ~75%
- SteamWorld Dig II (PS4) ~30%
- Dishonored 2 (PS4) 5-10%
- Persona 5 (PS4) 10%
- Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4) 0%
- Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PS4) 1% [Tutorial]
- Dragon’s Crown Pro (PS4) 0%
- The Surge: A Walk in the Park DLC (PS4) 0%
- Tales of Zestiria (PS4) ~1% (in first town across bridge)
- Thief (PS4) 5%
- Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4) 0%
- The Technomancer (PS4) ~5% finished introduction
- Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4) 0%
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4) 60%
- Metro: Last Light (PS4) 0%
- Mad Max
- Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC) 0% (restarting)
- Mafia III (PS4)
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