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.
There is a freshly dug graveyard here in Seattle and therein lies the source of rotting plastic and uneasy goodbyes to unfinished stories, characters, and button prompts. I’ve taken some drastic steps to clear my video game shelves of unrequited love by installing an app on my iPhone named Decluttr. This is not an advertisement, just to be clear. Upon scanning old Playstation 4 games that I finished, didn’t like, or would never likely play I’ve cleared them out of my life and received about a hundred and fifty bucks in return. How much did they give me for an unopened copy of Mass Effect: Andromeda? $2.18 and they wouldn’t even take Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Am I missing out in not following through with games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, yes I surely am. But as I take steps to refresh and clear my head of things I will never get around to finishing, I am becoming mentally free of the fear of missing out.
I didn’t buy Spider-Man on impulse, and I’m able to wait for Shadow of the Tomb Raider to go on sale with a ‘complete edition’ within a year, all Square Enix games do. Spider-Man is clearly just Assassin’s Creed streamlined with traversal options and easier fetch quests, and I can do much better than to support the Marvel Comics/Disney licensing empire. Tomb Raider is harder to avoid but as I sold my copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider I remembered how bad the last third of that game was and how much I hate Lara Croft as a character, no matter how sweet the original reboot game was. In purchasing Dragon’s Crown Pro, Dragon Quest XI, and Vampyr there is little chance I’ll have time for anything else in 2018. There is literally nothing on my Amazon wish list. I ripped through a lot of smaller games across these last couple of months and now mid-September finds me knee deep in experiences that are a bit more my style, although I am learning that my patience for JRPG games is drying up as I age. But hey, first the things I’ve finished and reviewed.
I don’t have a ton left to say about this 2D Souls-like game beyond the review and previous Backlog entry. It was a fun enough experience but the bugs on Playstation 4 made it a rough slog to get through and my playthrough wasn’t a very long or involved experience. Uneven difficulty, a meaningless plot, and constant performance issues made for a crap time with a pretty game. I would absolutely recommend buying it on PC if you have to have it; Death’s Gambit isn’t a processor heavy program and there are far fewer bugs on the PC version due to patches coming quicker and easier. Wouldn’t recommend the game personally but I know that few things will kill the curiosity of a Dark Souls fan.
> Death’s Gambit 100% Complete
I rarely continue to think about a video game beyond finishing it. This is most often because game endings are their worst aspect. I have however found myself thinking about Owlboy beyond my review. Not so much the symbolism I’d pulled from it in my interpretation but rather how pretty it was and how I’d like to play it again just to see all of the secret areas I’d missed. It was a fun enough game though I felt like I could have used one more extended act before being rushed into that bland final area with the frustrating platforming.
>Owlboy 100% Complete
Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition
This space is basically going to serve as the review for Darksiders II. Although I finished this game and spent a lot of time beating it I would rather not waste my time putting a lot of effort composing a review for a game that was almost entirely mediocre, much less a port of the game that is ugly and done without any care. Darksiders as a series was off to a good start with that first game’s weighty last-gen combat, striking comic book designs, and a 3D Zelda-like design. The world was small but the areas were polished over and the flow of the experience made reasonable sense with minimal backtracking. Sure, it felt empty but the game had something special about it and being a giant sword wielding idiot was fun enough. In contrast Darksiders II was a mush of even more ideas cherry-picked from popular games that felt entirely separate from the first game in the series.
If you combined Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and it’s shoddy close quarters combat and creative platforming puzzles with a grayed out version of the original Darksiders game, tossed in a very small-scale loot and upgrade system with an artificially connected set of dungeons within a bland and walled off canyon-style open world you’d have approximated the scope of Darksiders II. Not only is the game ugly shades of gray and brown but it controls like garbage, runs at 30 frames per second, and crashed at least once every 3-4 gameplay session. The platforming sections are often clever, even moreso than the first game, but this is the only redeeming aspect of the ~26 hour game. A waypoint tells you where to go, you puzzle through and fight a mediocre boss fight then move on to the next waypoint. The arc of this game could not be more bland.
So the short version of my experience with the Darksiders series ends with an easy declaration that I will not buy the third game in the series unless it is free or under $5. I have no trust for online video reviewers or large video game websites and rare is the day where I feel hype has lead me to a great game for full price. I would suggest to anyone curious about the series that these games basically suck ass; They are mediocre garbage titles with wildly varying budgets (and skill levels) at the helm. The trilogy’s story is not interesting or involved enough to warrant completion as Darksiders II literally amounts to “I want to help my brother War!” and 4-5 people are like “Ok, but go kill these 5-6 bosses for me and I’ll tell you what you already know or open a door to the next guy.” The fact that I didn’t think it was worth it to write a full review should hint that my score was very low for this game.
>Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition 100% Complete
SteamWorld Dig II
It took a while to get back to this game but it seems like I dropped it when things were just starting to get good. After getting the fire pickaxe, grappling hook, and jetpack abilities the sequel to SteamWorld Dig finally feels like an entirely different game. I’m not sure how long the game actually is, and I am not being a completionist, but I can safely assume that shutting down the three earthquake causing devices across the world will lead me towards the final act/area of the game. I’m still only picking this game up once or twice a week, usually when I have an hour or less to work with. It is pretty damn easy to get back into the swing of it’s gameplay (a mix of Dig Dug and Metroidvania). Not sure if it’ll get a review but so far I don’t see why not.
>SteamWorld Dig II ~60% Complete
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
The eleventh core entry in the thirty year history of the much heralded, ultra-traditional Japanese role-playing game series Dragon Quest series is essentially a Super Nintendo game with current generation graphics and voice acting. This starts with terrible, chiming midi music imitating an orchestra and stretches to the old system of dedicated save points and a slow, grind-heavy experience necessary to see all of the sights in the game. That shouldn’t suggest that it looks old fashioned at all in fact it out polishes Ni No Kuni II in terms of look and style, which is somewhat disturbing considering that Level-5 really revived the series with this art style back in 2004. Reintroducing the popular US and European markets to the franchise was greatly helped by Level-5’s high quality standards and cel-shaded graphics. So, without starting to review the album before I’ve really breached it I will say that it should be no surprise that I am planning on spending at least a hundred hours with it’s childish, corny, storybook medieval world. Why? It is the game I’ve wanted to play since I finished, and reviewed Dragon Quest VIII back in 2009. Granted I was four years late to that party and it has still been a decade long wait.
I spent 90 hours playing that last game and this informs why I’m able to consider playing this Dragon Quest game instead of taking on Ni No Kuni II and Persona 5. I know that this game will stay an even course as I slowly chip away at it’s bulk. The trouble I’m admittedly having is that for all of the embarrassing coverage I’ve seen for this game between Game Informer, Kotaku, and the usual shouting ex-tweaker love fest from Happy Console Gamer it really isn’t as charming as they all suggest. The dialogue is molasses slow and the voice acting is so fucking Saturday morning cartoon-assed that I have had to skip through most of it. In giving such hype to the world building, dialogue and character development all of the hype-men pimping Dragon Quest XI forget to mention that their perspective is absolutely that of an anime fan. *spitting wildly* I do not watch anime. I might put on Record of Lodoss War once in a while, or try to watch Pop Team Epic to break up the monotony of serial Netflix binges, but I am allergic to the sort of shallow muppet faced dogshit that most folks enjoy. Anyhow, the fact that it’s story is a bad children’s anime aside I look forward to more time spent with Dragon Quest.
>Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age ~10% Complete
Although I had a false start with this game one evening and made some uninformed decisions before restarting entirely, I am almost ready to proclaim it as one of my favorite games of the year even having not really played a sliver of it. Why? Maybe I’m just that edgy and love Vampyr‘s poetic storytelling and Dishonored-esque setting. The game’s setting is so brutally dark and desperate that it quickly becomes gory and terrifying to a point that is almost more cartoonish than Bloodborne. It is a game devoid of pointless open world mechanics or rote acts and DONTNOD emphasize that all decision have weight, you must live with the consequences of your actions. That said there is an excellent third person combat system in the game that quickly delivers the sort of flow and finesse that Souls-like players will like, and this comes next to a complex system of experience based on killing and harvesting folks.
The more you know folks the more their blood is worth. You might not want to kill anyone but the game will inevitably be ‘easier’, or in some ways much harder, if you go overboard with more killing. It is a beautiful dark Sherlock Holmes-esque setting that I am probably overselling considering I’ve not had a ton of time with it yet. So far I am very enthusiastic about it and glad that I picked this game to suit my tastes rather than the tired Spider-Man and Tomb Raider crap that’d just have bored me. It will be a nice diversion from the corny, saccharine world of Dragon Quest, but I do worry that this game will take my attention away from others.
Vampyr ~4 hours
That is basically everything from these last couple of weeks. I spent a bit of time trying out Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir and decided to toss that back on the shelf for now and see if I can’t plow through Dragon’s Crown Pro instead. I’ve also gotten Mafia III for free last month, along with Destiny 2, both of which I am interested in at least trying. I am quietly eyeballing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Hitman 2 but no buy-now-boners yet. Again 2018 is basically over for me in terms of game purchases outside of smaller releases I might have missed as I have no interest in Red Dead Redemption 2 or that shit looking Fallout MMORPG.
Also worth mentioning is I’ve received a PC point-and-click adventure game Captain Disaster in: Death Has a Million Stomping Boots by CaptainD and TheBitPriest which I’ll be playing for review additionally, at least when I remember to sit down with it. It is an old school adventure akin to classic LucasArts games with some of the spirit and humor of Space Quest informing it’s style. I’m already stuck on the first puzzle, so here’s hoping I do not have to resort to a walk-through. Will have more impressions once I’ve made some progress. I really appreciate being sent a copy for review and hope more independent game makers follow suit in the future.
BACKLOG: Unfinished titles, in order of importance. % progress noted.
- Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4) ~10 hours
- SteamWorld Dig II (PS4) ~60%
- Vampyr (PS4) 5%
- Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4) 5%
- Captain Disaster in: Death has a Million Stomping Boots (PC)
- Dishonored 2 (PS4) 5-10%
- Persona 5 (PS4) 10%
- 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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