BACKLOG 01/04/19: Last year’s leftovers, Immortal: Unchained, and Odyssey anew.

BACKLOG is a “whenever the fuck I feel like it” video game blog feature focusing on how I’m progressing through games, old and new, that are stuck in my ‘to do’ bin. Here I’ll generally update my progress in any and all games I’ve touched in the past month. This includes updates on reviews I’m writing, games I’m looking forward to, thoughts I’ve had, and things I’ve purchased.

With two consumer holidays and a birthday behind us I was able to find reasonable deals on several games I’d wanted from 2018 alongside a couple of gifts from loved ones. Out of sheer anxiety for the wealth of choices I had accumulated, I of course downloaded a 2015 game and played that instead until I could figure out what I’d like to jump back into. This is a sure hell for a person in need of escapism, to be faced with too many choices and an inability to commit to an experience. Though I do not have this problem with music, where I’ve got a listening schedule (with breathing room) set up a week in advance, it surely manifests when choosing video games, movies, and television. Why? These are so rarely redeeming experiences that I just don’t fucking care to finish 90% of what I touch.

Brief respite from Hell via a long running oral sex joke.

It started to dawn on me these last two months that video games are no longer representing a challenge of skill, or any real problem solving, anymore based on my purchases. Open world story based games filled with busy work and narratives worthy of the worst network TV have become a serious wealth of boredom that makes porridge of my tired, late-evening mind. The peak of this unhappy status came with the completion of Dragon Quest XI, a game I will review soon. I don’t feel like I played it, I merely reorganized a few things in the menus and pointed the character towards the boss fights, of which there were not a great deal of. With some pointless obligation to finish what I start clouding my enjoyment of my ‘free’ time, I began venturing out into two social avenues that offered balance: Local co-op trivia (Jackbox Games Pack Vol.1 and 5, Trivial Pursuit) and my old stomping grounds (read: addiction) of DOTA 2. This was redemption in two ways. First, a college education has made me very good at multiple choice questions and training in critical thinking has created a super-soldier within an idiots body. Here I sit trapped in this hus… Eh, I mean second I can now note that I have matured out of any competitive shit-baggery in terms of multiplayer online games. The addiction to DOTA 2 of years past came from the rush of joining shit-talk and negativity in the face of surmounting defeat. Now I am finally able to casually play a MOBA and just enjoy it for an hour whenever I feel like it.

It has been two months since I attempted any sort of BACKLOG writing and it strikes me how I revert to video games so automatically when Winter hits the pacific northwest every year. There is little to do outside so a mixture of plant based inebriation and video games has me slouching and intensely bored with the options I have for entertainment. Where I was driven most of the year when my Top 10 games of the year went up, I was non-committal towards any content I fired up. There are a few major oversights, at least considering my major use of the Playstation 4 that folks have made VERY clear: Marvel’s Spiderman and Red Dead Redemption II. I get it, they are what everyone has been talking about for a couple of months but what the fuck do I care when I cover it or write about it? I don’t fucking like Spiderman to begin with and paying full price for RDR2 makes no sense considering I have never, ever finished a Rockstar game. But before you get the impression that I am some video game debutante scoffing at mid-to-high grade interactive art consider that I bought several trash ‘AAA’ games over the holiday break. If you read any of the stuff I had to say about Assassin’s Creed: Origins, the sheer saltiness of that nonsense, you might get a kick out of some of these stupid choices.

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Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018, PS4)

So, the latest Assassin’s Creed game went on sale for half price (minus DLC pass, etc. PSN: $29.99) and of course I bought it. Why? I know that I really reached a personal limit to mundane tasks and ridiculously shit storytelling with Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017) but building up that character and being able to do anything I wanted by the end of that game is still a fond memory. Odyssey‘s ancient Greek period setting is very much in line with my own personal interests in terms of history, far more than ancient Egypt at least so this was ultimately the deciding factor in purchasing it and playing it. It is an incredibly different game from Origins in several aspects; The character progression is a far slower build up into power and you are more or less forced out of its -incredible- and enormous map thanks to character level gating. As with Origins you cannot proceed into an era far when you are even 4-5 levels under requirements because you will die in 1-2 hits and your damage output will be a complete joke. This is not intuitive, I will often cheese and pick away at tough enemies in open world games because it offers a great boost of experience or otherwise expensive items. The combat is sluggish and wonky at first because, like The Witcher III or Dark Souls, this is truly an action RPG that requires you to work for your speed, agility, defense, and equipment capability. Truth be told I am actually really enjoying the gameplay, including the ship battles which I wasn’t big on for Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, a game I never completed. A fantasy action RPG set in ancient Greece that will take well over 40-50 hours to complete? Sure, I’ve completed 5% the map in ten hours and hey I’ll check back in when I’m closer to a 30%, guarantee I’ll be furious and hating life. If you’d like to see about two hours of gameplay a stream archive is available on YouTube [CLICK/TAP HERE to watch].

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Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (2018, PS4)

No doubt I had fun with the stupid fuckin’ heartfelt kiddie anime Pokemon garbage that was Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2013) and in fact I came close to getting the platinum trophy on the damn thing. Yes, enjoying anime inspired Japanese RPG games is entirely embarrassing outside of those that offer true artistic value (Persona 5, for example) but their trappings are so devolved and worthless that I never finish them anymore. I think coming directly off of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2018) actually primed me to enjoy Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom even more because it does everything that the Dragon Quest series has always avoided. The first Ni No Kuni game was a culmination of what Level-5 had done with their work on games like White Knight Chronicles and various Dragon Quest entries, from crafting to puzzle solving and using ‘avatars’ or captured monsters to fight for you. This time you’re in control of party members and can switch between them during real-time action combat where dodges actually dodge and hits can miss. I’m not that far into it, just a couple of dungeons and some map exploration, but I am already finding great charm in both the presentation and the design of the main quest. No, it doesn’t have the Studio Ghibli animation or the great voice acting but then again… it doesn’t force you to sit through anime cliches and bad voice acting at all. The combat is fun, the story isn’t in a rush to shove me through areas, and exploration abilities/spells have already allowed a good amount of fun exploration. I have so much more to say about this game but most of that stems from my time with Dragon Quest XI and I’ll save that for the full review of that game. To think that two sessions of this game would take me from hating JRPGs to enjoying them again either indicates a confused and reactive attitude towards games, or a pretty remarkable experience so far.

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Immortal: Unchained (2018, PS4)

If you’ve followed my reviews and video game writing over the past two years you might’ve already assumed that the Souls-like action RPG game I’ve picked up and played will ultimately become the main focus of my efforts until it is finished. Yes, this formula still works and yeah this is one hundred percent just Dark Souls with guns, there is no way around that comparison and it is all designed exactly in that way. This is not a big budget ultra-backed ‘AAA’ experience and it surely has performance issues on consoles. The frame rate hitches, draw-in effects are often slow even on a PS4 Pro and the game itself is a muddy silver color with stiff animations that seem pulled straight from Elex, and the character turning radius is about as floaty. None of that matters at all because I had such a blast playing through the first two bosses in this game. The first was a simple fight of attrition in terms of just blasting out as much ammo as possible before running away. The second boss fight was with a seemingly thrashed Gundam-looking thing that truly required skill, reflexes and memorization to beat. I streamed the fight, and eventual conquest, on YouTube [CLICK/TAP HERE to watch the stream archive] the quality might be fishy as I was having ISP issues at the time. Good fun so far, I will prioritize a couple of other things for the time being but I think this type of game is best enjoyed without a different control scheme to switch between as it operates entirely different from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018, PS4)

What pulls me back into Tomb Raider for a third time is perhaps the same reason a lot of folks decided to skip out on it: Shadow of the Tomb Raider was handed over to a different studio (Eidos Montreal) with Crystal Dynamics expanding into a new secondary studio and focusing on creating an Marvel’s The Avengers game in the meantime. I have ultimately chosen to buy every Eidos Montreal developed game because they impressed me with their revival of Deus Ex with Human Revolution and it’s sequel Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Sure, these two studios more or less developed everything together since formation but, developers have indicated that this entry was handed more fully over to Eidos Montreal. I know all of that might as well have dropped out of an idiot YouTuber’s mouth but honestly having played all of their games you can definitely tell the difference when either studio leads a project. I -hated- Rise of the Tomb Raider and finishing that game was a stupid, worthless chore that I regret. Granted I did not buy this sequel because of the studio running it, that is just a good enough reason to give it a chance when it is half-price, which it was over the holiday break (PSN $29.99). So far the game is entirely the same as the last two in terms of movement but it definitely gives off a similar vibe as the second game. That is unfortunate because the first game from this Tomb Raider reboot trilogy was genuinely fun throughout with a narrative aimed at earned tense moments; By contrast even the opening moments of this game, which I streamed and posted to YouTube [CLICK/TAP HERE to watch], offer incredibly predictable points of tension and ‘just barely’ escapes from death that often feel ripped straight from that awful 2012 apocalypse porn movie. I am feeling a strong preference for other games in the meantime but this is a game that I will undoubtedly complete despite the horrendous characterization of Lara Croft as she becomes even more of an incorrigible bitch with no regard for human life.

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Transformers: Devastation (2015, PS4)

Although I did buy a physical copy of this game when it was released it was one of many games left behind as I exited a previous personal relationship. As such, I didn’t pick it back up until 2017 when it was given away as a free game for Playstation Plus members. I played two chapters of this game to begin with and nothing about it clicked at all, maybe I was just really stoned back in 2015 when I first picked it up but it felt like Bayonetta with a Hasbro licensed skin over it and I couldn’t get the dodge to really land properly. I am legitimately better at third person action games since having spent countless hours completing these sorts of games and as such I just randomly re-downloaded this game and breezed through its early chapters again. Mastering the dodge and upgrading weapons should be enough to complete the game although I have heard the later boss fights do get frustrating if you only master one character. I have no great affinity for Transformers, sure I watched the OVA as a kid and had some of the toys but I was more into Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the height of that kind of 80’s-90’s cheese-ball branded cartoon garbage. More importantly than my personal anecdotes is the actual gameplay and it is very bare bones combat and level design from Platinum Games, a pure focus on combat mechanics and the cartoon art style left the non-Transformer world design lacking. I figure this game will allow me to decide if I am ready to move onto Nier: Automata and Devil May Cry 5 when they surface, an educated guess says “Probably not.” based on past decision making but I’ll stick with this game for now.

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Yoku’s Island Express (2018, PC/PS4)

Pinball is an old holdover from my days hanging out in pizza places, bowling alleys, and shitty 90’s arcades from grades K-12 where I have nostalgia and muscle memory for some machines there are few reasons to return to it. Sure, I remember the Christmas where my brother and I were sour as hell for asking for Sonic Spinball when it came out and there are few digital pinball options that are satisfying at all but a few years ago a game called Rollers of the Realm (2014, PC) kinda had me itching for a better version of its treatment of pinball mechanics within a narrative story. Yoku’s Island Express takes a similar approach but dresses a sort of ‘open world’ pinball adventure game with some light platforming mechanics. I understand these are both very low rated games that are charming at first and then indisputably bad by the time you finish them but I have no interest in using the status quo as a gauge for what I might personally enjoy. Yes, it does seem like they used Little Big Planet 3 physics in creating a pinball adventure game but there is some fun to be found in the progressive pinball challenges and myriad secrets I’ve found in the first couple of hours of gameplay so far. This is the sort of game I pick up and play when I have less than an hour to play something.

That is about it for now, these games will keep me busy well into March or so. I am eyeballing a few 2019 games but nothing in the very near future beyond Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. If Ori and the Will of the Wisps, The Surge 2, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Indivisible, Ghost of Tsushima, Nioh 2, and The Last of Us Part 2 all release in 2019 it will be an incredible year for my own tastes but, I could be surprised either way. I guarantee some of those will not release and the trend is for delays in the AAA space but, they are all things I am anticipating. I have some passing interest in Anthem, Devil May Cry 5 and the remake of Resident Evil 2 but I have little to no faith in Capcom and BioWare projects when I look back at the last decade of games. What games are you looking forward to? Any multi-player games I might be into?

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

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018, PS4) ~8-9 hours
  • Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (2018, PS4) ~4-5 hours
  • Immortal: Unchained (2018, PS4) ~4-5 hours
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018, PS4) ~3 hours
  • Transformers: Devastation (2014, PS4) Chapter 4
  • Dragon’s Crown Pro (2018, PS4) 0%
  • Yoku’s Island Express (2018, PC) 5%
  • Darkest Dungeon: Ancestral Edition (2018, PS4)
  • Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (2017, PS4) 5%
  • Captain Disaster in: Death has a Million Stomping Boots (PC)
  • Dishonored 2 (PS4) 5-10%
  • Persona 5 (2017, PS4) 10%
  • 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%
  • Mad Max
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC) 0% (restarting)

 

 

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