Video Game Mechanics That Need to Go – Quick Time Events

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Rushing into a bunker, I found myself surprised by a soldier wielding a knife. I quickly think, “Gotta press the square button just right to defend myself.”

Oh no, I failed!

Quick time events, like the one from Call of Duty: WWII above, need to go. There has to be a better way to create player tension than mashing a button/performing a swipe of the joystick perfectly.

Press Start – Call of Duty: WWII

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Call of Duty: World War II opens against the backdrop of the D-Day invasion.

As the Higgins boat ramp drops into the water, your fellow soldiers are mowed down where they stand. Blood and bullets are flying everywhere! We’ve all seen this moment in history play out in such movies as Saving Private Ryan and even video games such as Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. For some reason though, Call of Duty: WWII makes this moment in time different. There is a human angle present, in a Call of Duty game, that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Advancing up the beach, I died over and over again. Somewhere between 10-20 times, I was killed by German bullets. The game kept telling me to crouch, which I did, but I failed to realize that the game wanted me on my belly to avoid enemy fire. Once I figured out that I could run and then hit the deck, I was good to go. But in all of my dying, I got thinking about the soldiers who didn’t make it that day.

By the end of my part in the D-Day assault, my character is told that he did a good job. He survived. And then the camera pans down to the blood on his hands.

My only complaint with Call of Duty: WWII so far is that I am finding it hard to tell my squad mates a part. Underneath helmets, characters unintentionally become “Random White Dude #1”, “Random White Dude #2 with Glasses”, and so on. I am hoping that as I continue to play, that I’ll be able to tell the guys a part. Onward and forward!

Press Start – Destiny 2: Forsaken

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While on a mission with Cayde-6, you experience a mission gone sideways. Things happen. Serious stuff guys! Friends mourn the loss of their friend… and the universe moves on. But not you. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Thankfully, you are geared up against the cold blackness of space. It’s time to lock-and-load, my friends. Vengeance is the players, says Destiny 2: Forsaken.

Death of Cayde-6
Death of Cayde-6
Death of Cayde-6
Deal with the Devil
Deal with the Devil
Our Heroes
The Journey Begins

After reading so many good reviews, I finally picked up Destiny 2: Forsaken. I’ve sunk a few hours into the game already. Forsaken reminds me of why I like Bungie games:

  • Solid Controls
  • Cinematics
  • Huge Set Pieces

I am enjoying what I’ve played so far. More thoughts to come; more thoughts on the topic of revenge and the Christian.

How about you? Have you played through the Destiny 2: Forsaken campaign? What did you think?

Distracted Gaming

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I don’t know about you, but I have been all over the place with video games as of late. Bouncing between:

  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  • SteamWorld Heist
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
  • Wolfenstein II – The New Colossus
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I’ll race through a cup in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and then play a level or two in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Following that up with a couple hours of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and then a level of SteamWorld Heist. I feel like a kid at a buffet who keeps dashing between food items… and deep down I know that I just want to get a single plate of corn fritters (deep-fried cream-corn goodness).

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Wolfenstein II – The New Colossus, and Horizon Zero Dawn all equal games that require time to get into the games head-space; time to feel out the game’s rhythms and core gameplay loop. I have found myself attracted lately to games that can be played in quick bursts. Racing a cup (4 races) in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes 10-15 minutes, count me in! Destroying Wyatt in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (more likely the other way around), I’m there!

Gets me thinking about the larger list of games I have laying around, waiting to be continued. Games such as:

  • God of War – I played for a few hours and liked what I played.
  • Anthem – Picked up for $5. Played the first mission. It’s okay.
  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – Have sunk at least 10 hours into.
  • Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Have sunk 15-20 hours into the game only to realize I need to stop and level up a bunch to progress.
  • Diablo III Ultimate Evil Edition – Wyatt and I have played towards the end of the second act and then quit. This game is dark, ya’ll! Even worse, boring?
  • Hollow Knight – Have put in some time on this game… I keep getting lost… but I love the atmosphere.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest – Same as Hollow Knight, I get lost which equals frustration.

So many games… so many worlds… so many play styles… so many experiences waiting to be had. But, right now, I keep gravitating towards the games that allow me the maximum amount of gameplay for my time. I’m not looking for deep video game experiences. But I would love to settle down with a plate of corn fritters soon.. and maybe Ni No Kuni II… and Destiny 2: Forsaken… does it end?

How about you, do you ever feel like you are bouncing from one game experience to the next?

A Decade of Video Games – Games I Have Completed Since 2010

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Dem Mond!

I am in no way organized when it comes to cataloging which games I own let alone those I have completed. Below is my attempt to create a list of games released within the last decade that I have finished:

  1. ABZÛ
  2. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  3. Assassin’s Creed Revelations
  4. Batman: The Telltale Series (Season 1)
  5. Bioshock Infinite
  6. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
  7. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
  8. Detroit: Become Human
  9. Destiny
  10. Destiny: The Taken King (expansion)
  11. Destiny 2
  12. Donut County
  13. Final Fantasy XV
  14. Firewatch
  15. Fire Emblem: Awakening
  16. Florence
  17. Inside
  18. Journey
  19. King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember (Episode 1)
  20. Kirby Star Allies
  21. Mass Effect 2
  22. Mazurka – A Ghost in Italy
  23. Minecraft: Story Mode (Season 1)
  24. Monument Valley
  25. Oxenfree
  26. Pokémon Y
  27. Race the Sun
  28. Rise of the Tomb Raider
  29. Sayonara Wild Hearts
  30. Spider-Man
  31. SteamWorld Dig
  32. SteamWorld Dig 2
  33. Super Mario Odyssey
  34. Tales from the Borderlands (all episodes)
  35. That Dragon, Cancer
  36. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
  37. The Final Station
  38. The Last of Us Remastered
  39. The Last of Us: Left Behind (DLC)
  40. Titanfall 2
  41. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
  42. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  43. Virginia
  44. West of Loathing
  45. What Remains of Edith Finch
  46. Wolfenstein: The New Order

Now, to pick my game of the decade.

The Anthem Begins

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Walking into GameStop this past Saturday, Wyatt and I headed to the counter.

Store Clerk: Hi, how can I help you?”

Me: “Hi, I’d like a copy of Anthem. I’d prefer the Anthem Legion of Dawn Edition. You know, the one that is $5 right now.”

Store Clerk: “Sorry, all we have are copies of regular Anthem. You can buy all 60 of them if you’d like.”

Me: “Nah, I’m good with one copy.”

Then, making small talk:

Me: “I’ve heard a lot about how bad Anthem is. I figured $5 was a good price point to experience it.”

Store Clerk: Mumbles something about the game. Almost as if he is bitter about the Anthem experience as a whole. If I were to guess, I’d say that he spent $60 at the game’s launch. I haven’t played enough to say that I’d be mad too… but store clerk’s bitterness was harsh.

.: First Thoughts :.

I think I found Destiny’s long lost brother! Anthem, at least story-wise, uses the same type of Mad Libs storytelling. Except where Destiny would talk about the “darkness” and the “Speaker”, Anthem talks about a cataclysm called the “Heart of Rage” and the evil (?) “Doctor Harken”.

Anthem excels at:

  • Unique Level Design. Due to the flight mechanics, Anthem’s levels have a vertical design to them. One moment you can be soaring up onto a ledge; the next moment flying down into a cave.
  • Flight. The flight mechanics in Anthem are liberating. I. AM. IRON MAN. I love what flight adds to the game.
  • Shooting. Shooting in third person feels great. You can tell BioWare has learned quite a bit since Mass Effect.

Things Anthem needs to learn her brother Destiny:

  • Load Times. For real. Destiny hides its loading through hyperspace screens where your character/ship is “traveling” somewhere. I don’t mind watching my cool looking ship barrel through hyperspace. On the other hand, load times in Anthem equal a progress bar at the top of a static splash screen, with hints displayed at the bottom of the screen. I hate the way loading is handled and how long loading takes (maybe 3-4 minutes).

.: Just Keep Flying :.

Wyatt and I have loved what we have played so far. I’m sure we’ll dive back into the game soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Have you played Anthem? What did you think?

From Across the Net – “The Siren Song of Gaming Music”

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My friend Joe, over at the Raving Luhn, wrote a piece titled The Siren Song of Gaming Music. At the end of the article, he asks, “What are your favorite video game soundtracks?” For me, I’m going to cheat and mention a single track: Florence + The Machine’s rendition of Stand By Me, at the beginning of Final Fantasy XV (starts at 1:00 mark). So good!

How about you?

From Across the Net – “The Cast of Wolfenstein: The New Order”

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A RavingLuhn flashback from 2017. Good thoughts here:

It is true that the characters I’ve just described fit the cookie cutter character stereotypes found in many war stories. What may be surprising is that none of them feel that way; they all feel completely genuine. Part of the reason for this is The New Order’s approach to storytelling. We’re not forced through a segment of exposition and backstory explaining why we should care about anyone. Instead, we’re shown how their personalities respond to the situations they’re in. Fergus knows there’s a job to do, but he still spares a moment to tell his squad mate to look after a wound. Wyatt refers to everyone as “sir” in an respectful tone of voice, even when he’s scared out of his wits. Even BJ will whisper some of his thoughts and motivations during quiet moments in the game. Amazingly, his soft-spoken demeanor doesn’t seem at odds with is proficiency for killing Nazis. By themselves, none of these elements would work. By all rights, none of them should work. But somehow, all the different elements work together to create one of the most memorable casts in gaming.

You can read more here

Spider-Man

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Marvel's Spider-Man

Spider-Man is a game I kept waiting to see fail. And yet, every story beat pushed the game to new heights. Had my wife and son not been sitting with me, when I finished the game, I think I would have cried. May’s talk with Peter, at the end, almost did me in. One of those moments, as a parent, where you know you have done a good job raising your kid.

Can’t wait to pick up the DLC and continue Spidey’s adventures!

Developer Insomniac wisely chose to focus the game not on Peter’s romantic pursuits but more on the qualities that enable us to relate to Peter Parker.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

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You ever play something that just hits you wrong?

My wife and I are in the process of adoption. Don’t Nod Entertainment’s The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit reminded me of our foster/adoption training classes. A chunk of the stuff that parents get their kids taken away for = present in this game. As is:

  • The parent who is trying and failing to succeed/live life.
  • The kid who is alone, even though the parent is physically present (drunk/passed out), and has to take care of himself.

The superhero story veneer and child-lens softens the blow of what is a super depressing and potentially abusive situation. I’m thankful the game didn’t last long. Sad that kids have to deal with stuff like this when all they crave is stability and love.

Snowman showdown.

Never know what is going on inside a home.

Outside of his drinking, the dad in this story clearly cares. Check out the treehouse!

Because.

Never quite figured out what happened to the mom.

Seriously, I’m good.

Wolfenstein: New Order

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Some things are not meant to be.

Wolfenstein: New Order is a game that shouldn’t work at all… and yet somehow does. The rah-rah bro shooter moments mixed with alternative history and horror elements gel together into a gross yet beautiful game. I love the storytelling and the brave ending developer MachineGames put together. I almost cried at the ending of this game… almost.

Saying goodbye.

Cause I’m happy.

This was so messed up.

That moment when you know that your friends and loved ones are safe.

End Credits.

Crazy Drivers, Waiting, and Space Gunplay Ballet

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As we head into Fall, the time is changing. When my alarm goes off at 6:30am, the sky is dark. Walking in the morning, with Tabitha, now requires a flashlight to warn drivers of our presence.

Every time we go out and walk, Tabitha and I are amazed at how fast people drive on our street. Even on the side streets around our house, people use them as raceways. Whenever we hear a car come up behind us, we step to the side of the road, silently hoping that we don’t get hit from behind–at least I’m thinking… please don’t hit me!–.

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Our adoption caseworker let us know, about two weeks ago, that she had put us in for a child. The due date for all caseworkers to submit their interest was this past Friday (9/13). Total wait and see. Excited though.

Spent a good chunk of Saturday with Tabitha. We had a nice lunch date and then went clothes shopping afterwards. Our time alone was much needed. Thankful for family who live close by who are willing to watch him.

Secrets.

Sunday we went to church. Got a good nap in after (splitting headache). Tab and Wyatt went to a birthday party in the afternoon. I stayed home and shot Nazi’s in Wolfenstein: New Order.

Earth

Lunar landscape

Dem Mond!

Speaking of Wolfenstein, I made it to the Nazi base on the Moon (because of course that is where they’d keep nuclear launch codes). There came a point where I had to make my way from one lunar module to another. This required a space walk. So there I am, all I can hear is my own breathing. Attack drones come out of nowhere! The music swells, I fire my weapon repeatedly, complete silence outside my spacesuit. There is something majestic about fighting in the vacuum of space. Listening to your own breathing as you dispatch enemies with precision. Space gunplay ballet.

Sweet lighting

I eventually made it off the Moon with my life and crash-landed back on Earth. Ah, London.

London Nautica

My work week has been a bit odd so far. I am in this period where I never know what I am going to be doing the next day. Drives me nuts. How about you, how is your week going? You playing/watching/reading anything that is blowing you away? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Kissing

Happy Tuesday!

Detroit: Become Human

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My wife and I recently finished playing through Detroit: Become Human together. By the time the credits rolled:

  • Markus died.
  • North died.
  • Alice died.
  • Luthor died.
  • Hank lived.
  • Connor might as well be dead.
  • Kara made it across the finish line, alone.
  • Alice’s abusive father was given closure.

Decisions, slight choice variations, gave us a super sad ending. Our ending was so bad, that as the credits rolled, Tabitha and I were on Youtube watching other endings. I’m not sure I have ever done that for any other game.

Director David Cage likes to swing for the fences with his games. In Detroit: Become Human, I think he finally pieced together a coherent world with an unrelenting storyline. A story that grabbed my wife and I from the beginning… and didn’t let go. Detroit was the perfect summer game.

— Welcome to Spoiler Country —

I loved:

  1. The feeling of real consequence.
  2. The branching choice paths/story variations.
  3. Playing through the game with my wife. Our late night conversations about the story.
  4. Alice being given closure when her abusive dad shows up at the bus terminal (no, I didn’t kill him in the beginning).
  5. Kara making it to freedom.

Hillary Clinton is President in Detroit: Become Human

I disliked:

  1. The language. I felt like the f-word was used as emotional shorthand.
  2. How much I was made to dislike humanity. Humans are gross pigs! Only towards the end of the game were one or two humans given a chance to shine.
  3. Markus dying. I should have retreated from the police versus sacrificing Markus. Markus held Jericho together; he was the glue. Without Markus, the option for peace was removed and violence became the end game with new leader North.
  4. Connor dying.
  5. Alice dying. The foreshadowing that the river crossing into Canada being treacherous was true. Bullets kill androids too.

Freedom. Equality. The end of slavery for androids everywhere. In the closing moments of Detroit: Become Human, I was presented with two choices:

  • Suicide – In Detroit’s case, this equaled one last defiant act of freedom.
  • Slavery – Become a puppet leader, to an evil corporation, used to control the newly freed androids.

After spending hours with Connor, I struggled with these two choices. There was no way I was going to choose suicide… so I forever imprisoned Connor to his corporate masters. Tabitha looked at me, “Bryan!” I immediately wished I could go back and change that choice. Death was a better decision than eternal slavery. Instead, I let my human emotions enslave a person and a people. So much for all their blue blood spilled.

Press Start – What Remains of Edith Finch

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Developer Giant Sparrow’s What Remains of Edith Finch has been on my radar for quite sometime. Thankfully, one of the PlayStation Plus games this month happens to be the above said title. So I fired up the game for the first time tonight. Enjoy my opening photo safari below.

So much lovely detail.

How curious…

Built by Sven.

Sirius Black once had a family tree…

More photos to come, I’m sure, as I continue to play.