I haven’t been playing very many video games lately. Sure, I got sucked into Fallout 4 for about 40 hours, but then a whole lot of nothing. It’s time to break out of that. It’s time to actually play a few of the (very) many games that are lying untouched in my library.
4 in February is a yearly event, started by (the now defunct) Joystiq, challenging people to complete four unplayed video games during the month of February. The idea isn’t to go buy four new games, but to make it through four that you already have, but haven’t gotten around to.
With that in mind, it’s time to tackle a little of my backlog. Here’s my 4 in February.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Conveniently, Rise of the Tomb Raider makes its way onto PC on January 28th, just a few days before the start of February. Given just how much I love the Tomb Raider reboot (I’ve played through it twice), it’s no surprise that I want this one on my list to beat in February.
It’ll be very nice to look at as well – this Christmas I upgraded my PC with a new GTX 970, and that’s the card for the recommended spec!
That wasn’t quite as long as I expected. It only took about 12 hours to complete, and I powered through it in just 3 days. I streamed the whole thing – check out the recordings to the left!
Just Cause 2
Just Cause 3 just came out, but I think I’m going to wait for that to go on a better sale. In the meantime, Just Cause 2 is languishing in my Steam library, not even 2 hours played. I don’t remember much from the brief time I’ve already spent with the game, just that I think it was fun, and that it sure looks like it’ll be a lot more fun when I dedicate a proper amount of time to it.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People
Remember that great website HomestarRunner.com? The one that’s showing signs of coming back to life? Well, back in 2008 they partnered with Telltale Games to make a series of point-and-click adventures! This was back before Telltale’s games were basically just dialog trees and tough moral choices – they were legit point-and-clicks. I did play most of the first episode at one point, but there’s no way I remember how to do it at this point. It’s broken into 5 episodes, so I think I’ll just play one all the way through each night till I finish it.
This is actually a sequel to the studio’s previous game Ben There, Dan That, but I won’t play that one first unless I’m making really good time on the others during the month. It’s an absurd comedy point-and-click adventure game, but most importantly it’s kinda short. It’s only about 6 hours long according to user submissions at How Long to Beat. With two big AAA games in my lineup this month, I’ll need a shorter one to serve as a palate cleanser.
So there it is. The four games I’ll be trying to tackle in February. I think I have a good mix, even though two of them are point-and-click adventures. I’ve got a little snack-sized game, an episodic game with easy stopping points, a sandbox mayhem generator, and an epic action adventure. I’ll probably be streaming my time with these games when I can on my Twitch channel (or maybe YouTube instead). We’ll see how I did on March 1st!
Unfortunately Alan Wake’s frame rate just crashed and burned when I tried to stream it, so I don’t have video. Here’s the launch trailer for the game though:
It’s really quite a shame I couldn’t stream it, because Alan Wake is one of the most intense and cinematic games I’ve ever played. The premise is this: you are a writer in the midst of a writer’s block. You and your wife are visiting a small town in Washington for a vacation, but she mysteriously disappears and you begin finding a manuscript you don’t remember writing that is coming to life around you.
There are people trying to kill you. They are ordinary, except they’ve been taken by darkness and you have to use your flashlight to break the darkness before you can harm them. The combat feels good. Supposedly the combat adjusts to your skill level, and it certainly felt that way. I’ve died a few times, but it never felt too difficult, and changing my tactics has allowed me to continue.
The game is billed as “A Psychological Action Thriller” and it certainly delivers. There are some jump scare moments, but sometimes the most scary part of the game is simply the anticipation of what will be coming. In a brilliant move, sometimes you’ll find manuscript pages describing something that will happen in the future, and that makes it all the more intense when you know you’re almost to that moment!
There are a number of cutscenes in the game, but they aren’t the only cinematic part of the game. The whole thing just feels like you’re playing a movie. This is a refreshing experience, though after playing it I’m a little unhappy at how dark my room is when I’m asleep. And that certainly says something!
In my continuing quest to make it through my Steam library, I played the first episode of Jurassic Park: The Game (and probably a third or so of episode two). What did I think? Well, it’s pretty fun to make fun of the game a bit while playing it! Just watch below!
In all seriousness though, the game is little more than short dialog trees and lots of quick-time events. The game is QTE crazy! Telltale Games (the developer) is known for making point-and-click adventure games, but I don’t know if I would consider this to be an adventure game. It’s more of a “press the buttons when it tells you to or you die” game. There are some puzzles, but they aren’t really that good. They’re pretty easy and because everything you can interact with on the screen is clearly marked there’s no real challenge. I only got stuck a couple of times, and that’s because I wasn’t expecting to be asked to solve a puzzle; I thought I would just find the right thing to select to advance the story.
As far as the story goes, it mostly coincides with the movie. A stupid (dino-bait) man and a tough woman who seems to want more than just the money are the “plan B” to Nedry’s “plan A” to get dino embryos off the island. Of course, the guy ends up dead, and the woman get a mysterious bite. It’s up to one of the Jurassic Park veterinarians and his visiting daughter to save her. You end up in a few familiar places, like the visitor’s center, and they make references to the movie for the sake of making the references. The story isn’t terrible, it’s just not good and it feels a little like fan service. Just do your own thing! You don’t need to reference lines from the movie just for the sake of it!
Long story short, if you like pressing buttons on a controller this is a great game! If you like interaction and good game design, pass.
First things first, Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is a mouthful to say. Seriously. It is not an easy name to just type a million times, so I’m going to abbreviate it to Rain-Slick 3. Second things second, here’s my gameplay session from yesterday (spoiler alert: I enjoyed it):
Rain-Slick 3 is a retro-styled (SNES-era) RPG starring an alternate universe version of Tycho and Gabe from Penny Arcade. The world it’s set in seems to be somewhat Lovecraftian, but you don’t need to worry about the mythology of it all: just kill some freaky monsters.
I didn’t like Avadon when I played it on Monday, but I liked Rain-Slick 3. So what’s the difference? For one, the interface is easier to navigate. It’s a less complex game and so you don’t have to go through tons of screens and stats to figure things out. Mainly though, it doesn’t take itself seriously. Toward the end of my gameplay session I was fighting mutated hobos. The first area of the game has you fight mime pirates. Humor in a game goes a long way with me, and Rain-Slick 3 had enough to keep me interested.
It’s also fairly fast paced. There are tons of creatures to slay, and when one battle is done you can just go into the next one because all health is restored after each fight. That makes and unbelievably huge difference: it keeps the game flowing. You can just go from battle to battle and kill everything without worrying if you need to use a potion or something. This is literally my favorite thing about the game and it’s an incredible idea. This alone is enough to keep me playing this game. I would expect to see me do some more streams of it in the not-too-distant future.
I actually was having more fun with the game than I thought I would. The combat was simple to get the hang of and was fun. The problem is that the game doesn’t allow you to get to the combat. I know that RPGs tend to be about the story, and there were some intriguing bits in there, but I’d like to think that video games as a whole, and even classic-style RPGs, have moved beyond these outdated forms of storytelling that Avadon is using. You can tell the story without walls of text. You can integrate the action and the story together. As is, I only had two large battles in the two hours I played (and those wouldn’t be considered large by most games’ standards).
I guess the problem I had with the game was pacing. There are too many boring bits. I know I mostly just did the initial tutorial phase, but even the pacing of that was terrible.
The other major issue I have is UI and usability. The UI is ugly and outdated, and needs to join the modern era. RPGs have a lot going on, but there must be a better way to present the controls and information on the screen. Really, its interface is pretty standard for RPGs (you see a very similar control scheme with WoW or Torchlight 2), but that doesn’t make it a good thing. Also, that cursor is atrociously ugly.
I think I might enjoy Avadon if I had the 50+ hours it would probably take to complete this game, but I just don’t have that kind of time. I would rather play something a little faster-paced.
It’s only about a week before I go back to school, but I still have a massive Steam library of games that I haven’t played yet (though that’s been true of my Steam library the entire time I’ve had a Steam account!).
That’s why, every day this week, I’ll be playing a game I haven’t played before every single day! I’ll be trying to include genres that I don’t usually play either because I want to branch out a bit. And just to make sure I give each game a fair shot, I’ll be playing each game for a minimum of 2 hours.
Perhaps best described as an old-school RPG, this is a game I’m hoping will surprise me. I’m not a huge RPG fan, especially the old-school kind. They’re awfully slow, and I tend to want to overthink when playing an RPG with all those stats and equipment slots. This is mainly why I’ve got the two hour minimum.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3
Here’s another RPG, but with a little more modern twist. It aims to be old-school, but it’s got a funny slant, instead of being all “steeped in mythology.” So I think I’ll enjoy this one a little more.
Jurassic Park (Telltale Games)
I first sat down and watched Jurassic Park (the movie) all the way through a few months ago while it was in its theatrical 3D re-release. It sold me. Great movie (short on plot, but big on fun). I’ve heard some… not-so-nice things about Telltale Games’ adventure game based on the franchise. I haven’t played it, so I guess I’ll find out if it’s as boring as people say it is.
Alan Wake (subject to my computer’s awfulness)
Alan Wake looks like it’s pretty awesome. Moody and atmospheric, I’m just hoping my computer will be up to the task of playing it and streaming it at the same time (spoiler alert: the graphics setting will be on “really really low”).
Retro City Rampage
Friday is a time to just shoot things up. And that’s what I’m going to do. Mayhem! 80s references that will go above my head because I was born in ’89! Stopping the evil good guys! I hoping this one will be a blast!
Each day after I’m done playing, I’ll try to pull out a few highlights and write up some thoughts about the game.
Here’s to making that Steam library more worth the money!
Pile of Shame is about finally getting the value out of my Steam library. It's way too large, with way too many unplayed games. I'm giving each one a fair shot: 2 hours to impress me and move on to Finish It!, or to languish forever in my list of uninstalled games.
Each stream of the show is live impressions with little or no prior knowledge of the game. Each version posted here distills those two hours down into a short time that will help you decide if the game is worth your time or not.
Pile of Shame airs on my Twitch channel Mondays and Thursdays at 8pm Pacific. Recorded versions are available 24-48 hours after the live stream.
About the Show
Finish It! is about playing games that are worth it. The games from Pile of Shame that are worth playing graduate to this show.
Each stream of the show is just me playing the game, trying to get to the end of the main story (or any DLCs I might have).
Pile of Shame airs on my Twitch channel Tuesdays and Fridays at 8pm Pacific. Recorded versions are available 24-48 hours after the live stream.