I loved Advance Wars back in the day.
The thrill of high speed downhill bike riding combined with the danger of wiping out at anytime. Sounds fantastic! Hoping this game comes to console at some point.
For more, check out Lonely Mountains on Kickstarter.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed while playing Move or Die with Jeremy Smith. Give it a watch/listen.
Picked up Blizzard’s Overwatch this weekend. Great game to pass-n-play with Wyatt.
Speaking of, we played a bunch tonight. Here is Wyatt’s first Play of the Game (he did good):
And here is mine:
I won’t ever forget the first time Wyatt and I came across an alien creature in No Man’s Sky. I wanted nothing more than to feed the creature and be friends. Wyatt had other plans. Once he got a hold of the controller, he blasted the creature with a death ray. ZAP! Moments later, the creature was gone.
The other alien animals around us started to run. We had blood on our hands.
“Why did you do that!?!”
Wyatt giggled, surprised that I was so angry at him for blasting the creature.
Quit Game? Yes, please.
No matter what type of game developer Hello Games promised to deliver, No Man’s Sky was a dream waiting to implode. Early trailers hinted at space travel that would allow the player to:
- See a planet
- Fly down to said planet’s surface
- Land / Explore gorgeous environments brimming with life
- Take off
- Do it all over again
A blackhole of expectations soon formed in the gaming sphere. Hype morphed No Man’s Sky into the second coming of space simulators. The greatest space exploration game ever made.
Expectations are savage beasts. Release day revealed No Man’s Sky to be a survival game with heavy resource collecting. Disappointed gamers didn’t know what they were playing on their TV screens. Hello Games had failed gamers, everywhere, or so the Internet said.
50 First Dates
After our initial creature disaster, Wyatt and I stayed away from No Man’s Sky for months. In the meantime, Hello Games continued to release patches for the game. One of the patches added a Creative Mode. MineCraft is all about Creative Mode, No Man’s Sky should be just as fun, right?
Creative Mode presented us with options to build any of the game’s units. We first built a space base with twisting and turning corridors. There was no logic to our design, we were having fun. After we tired of base building, we discovered that we could build vehicles. Oh yeah! We drove the various rovers as hard as we could, launching them off of cliffs and trying to blow them up. The Creative Mode was fun while it lasted.
Months passed. 9 months to be exact. I heard about the Atlas Rises update changing the game for the better. Wyatt and I popped the disc in once again. Outside of prompts telling the player what to do next and a text log story, not much had changed. The core pacing is still the same. Which means the pacing is slow. Travel, whether on foot or in a ship, takes too long. The sprint feature exhausts too quickly. If space is this boring, I can see why the United States hasn’t returned to the Moon in decades.
- Exploring the planets.
- Flying around in the spaceship.
- Shooting the asteroids in outer space.
- Trying to get the plutonium, other minerals, and stuff.
- In Creative Mode: That I could drive around in vehicles.
My friend Josh has viking funerals, for games, all the time. He’ll delete the game from his hard drive and then remove the game from his house. I’m there. In fact, I’ve already gotten rid of the game.
In the end, I applaud Hello Games for embracing such a massive and ambitious concept for their first game. All the bones of a good game are present. But Hello Games shot for the Moon with No Man’s Sky and missed. Here is hoping that they learn to let go and try new things. Game patches do not always make perfect.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles opens with mystery. After years of being away from your island home, you are returning. Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, are all non-issues. As you sail near the island, your boat is struck by lightning. And then, a spirit named Aaerie appears…
“WHAT IS THAT!? That’s scary.” – Wyatt, age 8
You are then tasked with removing the Murk, the bad stuff, that has infected the land.
Cast onto the rocks of the island of Gemea, you wake up wet and cold. You venture forward, knowing you must head yonder.
Yonder excels at encouraging the player to keep moving forward. See that mountain over there? Let’s go explore it! The core exploration is fantastic, as the world feels alive and begging for adventure. Wyatt and I found ourselves tromping all over the place. Minutes would span into hours. And in a first for us, Yonder caused us to fight over who was playing. An achievement for developer Prideful Sloth.
We love running around and exploring. But we dislike the Pokémon collecting, lite farm simulator, and generic MMO quest system.
Nothing like Pokémon Collecting
To defeat the Murk, you, the player, need to collect Sprites. Think Pokémon-like creatures who enjoy playing hide-n-seek. Some Sprites are captured by simply finding them. Tag. You’re it! Other Sprites require small quests of appeasement, a “I’ll join your quest if you give me 5 wood”, sort of thing. The Sprites are cute. However, they do not add special powers or unique interactions to the game. I feel like this was a missed opportunity. As they exist, Sprites are content gatekeepers. Want to destroy the Murk in this area? Sorry, you need to collect 5 more Sprites.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
Early in the game, you come across a farm with broken fences. You are immediately tasked with bringing the old place back to life. Once done, you discover that this is no farm but a ranch. A place to hold animals, who poop, a lot. Yonder allows the building of various animal pens by collecting materials. That’s about it. While I wasn’t expecting a Stardew Valley experience, Yonder left me wanting more.
The Compass is Broken
As Aaerie tasks you with clearing up the Murk, she gives you a Celestial Compass to give you your bearings. The compass shoots a beam of light to the quest giver for whichever quest you are on. The big problem, for Wyatt and I, is that the compass only points at the original quest giver. The compass does not update location based on where the player is in the quest. As it stands, the compass is a broken tool we’d love to see fixed.
Which leads me to talk about the quest system. The quest system comes across as padding or filler. There is nothing meaningful in having to collect x-amount of wood for an individual. Modern quest design has pushed past the “kill ten rats” mindset. Yonder tries to wrap this generic design around meaningful stories. For example, the one quest that sticks out to me is one where we helped a lady grow a beard. This required us to go to a specific pond at night. Collect a certain type of fish (Side Note: The fishing mechanic is spot on). Prepare the correct concoction, etc. A silly but unique quest. I wish more of the game’s quests were as memorable.
- I like running around and exploring.
- I like being friends with the animals.
- It feels like playing a Link game with no monsters or weapons.
- The day and night cycle is too fast (but I think that’s their point).
- I don’t understand the story or what is going on.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles failed to grab Wyatt and I. This is not to say that the game is bad. Yonder is a good game that is perfect for playing with children in the room. For us though, we needed a reason to keep coming back. Depth to either the farming system or to collecting Sprites would have done this. If you are looking for a game to play with your family that encourages exploration, Yonder is the game for you. Prepare for many hours of walking, map reading, and feeding all the animals. As your in-game pockets fill with items collected, perhaps Yonder will grab you more than it did Wyatt and I.
*Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was reviewed using a code provided by developer Prideful Sloth.