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That makes four for 2016

February 8, 2016

This is almost starting to become a habit.

GravityRushPlat

Mind you, I have been sticking to platinum trophies for games that (a) I quite like and that (b) are on the easy side.  There are a ton of games that have straight-up insane trophies, and I will be leaving those lie.

Because the Remastered version of Gravity Rush came with all the Vita DLC content, I still have a few – probably four or so – story missions to knock out before putting this on the shelf.  Still, this is a pretty good feeling, both because (a) it’s a pretty neat game and I’ve really enjoyed playing it on the big screen and (b) because the PS4 has actually been getting some decent use of late.  I pre-ordered the thing roughly 5 minutes after the Big E3 reveal, but it spent most of its first couple of years waiting for games to play on it.

 

A Long And Vaguely-Formed Rant About Video Game Accessibility

February 8, 2016

I ran into an interesting article over the weekend, in which the author talks about wanting to play Skyrim but being held back by the controls.

It struck a chord with me, because I had many of the same problems when I tried to come back to console gaming in the mid 2000s, and it’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable.

The vast majority of games these days take their control schemes from earlier games in the same genre or from the same console, which is a great boon if you’re familiar with those earlier games. It means that someone who has played any of the Halo titles can pick up the majority of first person shooters and probably play them without a ton of  tutorial required. The leftmost button will be “reload”, top button “switch weapons”, bottom “jump”, the right trigger will shoot whatever weapon you’re holding, and those controls will probably get you through the entire game if you’re playing on a lower difficulty setting. The other buttons are seldom as universal, but at the worst you are learning half a controller, not the entire thing.

It took me a VERY long time to figure this out, because I didn’t play any of the Halo games until 2007, when Halo 3 came out, and then I played through the entire trilogy over the course of a few weeks. I didn’t realize that I was being taught how to control other games in the process until I went back to games that I had previously put aside as impossibly hard.

It took me a few more years to realize that there were quite a few other standard control schemes, though it’s harder for me to pin down the genesis of some of them. The near-universal third-person action scheme of “leftmost and top are light and heavy attacks, rightmost button is a ranged attack, bottom button is an evade or jump” probably came from a PS2 title, but I didn’t start to realize it was a THING until I followed up a Ninja Gaiden Sigma binge with a play-through of Remember Me and realized they used the same basic controls. I’m likewise not sure exactly where WASD+Mouselook came from as a standard for PC gaming, but getting used to it took a lot of trial and error.

Anyway, nine years after my little epiphany, I feel pretty confident in my ability to adjust to whatever control scheme a game throws at me these days, and my new hurdle is learning “progression philosophies”, particularly with open-world games where you’re given a fair degree of freedom in how you get from opening logo to ending credits.

For example, I’m playing “Gravity Rush Remastered”, a PS4 game that is a remake of a Vita game I finished a couple of years back, and I’m having a much easier time on this play-through. Some of the boss fights on the Vita were absolutely grueling tests of endurance, and I particularly wasn’t looking forward to the final boss, which comes with a countdown timer of the “when this hits zero, you lose” variety, but I barely noticed the boss fights on the PS4 version, and the last boss took its final dirt nap with more than half of the clock remaining.

It turns out that what made the game so much more difficult the first time was my habit of avoiding challenge missions, which unlock as you play through the game’s main story but which can be completely ignored. I didn’t do any of them when I played the game on the Vita, electing instead to stick to story missions, and it turns out that this was exactly the wrong way to go about things. Even very poor showings in the challenge missions mean that your character is showered with the currency you use to purchase upgrades, and you wind up being hilariously overpowered after a few of them.

The irony of “challenge” missions making the game easier should be lost on nobody.

Of course, I know NOW to do the challenge missions because I had great success playing the side missions in Rise of the Tomb Raider, and I did a ton of messing around in Rise of the Tomb Raider because doing side content in Skyrim was so rewarding, and it took Disney Infinity’s playsets to really bring home the difference between required story missions and optional side missions, and all of those are games that I played in the last 12 months. Considering how long “open-world” has been a THING, I took a long time to catch on to how it’s supposed to work.

And, to be fair, I’m not 100% sure I understand Disney Infinity.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this rant, so it might be best if I make some vague comments here about gosh wouldn’t it be nice if more developers put in proper how-to-navigate-in-3D-space tutorials and then kind of stopped abruptly.

The Shotgun Was Better This Time

February 2, 2016

One of my few complaints about the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot was that the shotgun seemed pretty terrible. It’s a silly thing to get worked up about, but I like it when video game shotguns pack some OOOOMPH, and that one just didn’t have enough oooomph.

The shotgun in Rise of the Tomb Raider brings ALL the oooomph, and you can eventually take a perk that lets you shoot incendiary rounds. I’m not sure if real-world shotguns have the option to load ammo that lets you set things on fire, but Mossberg should get right on that if they haven’t already.

There’s obviously a ton more to the game – lots of clambering around on vertical surfaces, a very Tomb Raider plot of the sort that starts off in the realm of the plausible and takes a hard turn into the supernatural near the end, nine “challenge tombs” that serve the narrative that you are actually an archaeologist and not just a mass murderer, a wonderful array of gadgets designed to encourage revisiting earlier story areas as your traversal abilities expand, a regrettable tendency towards writing run-on sentences… but trust me on the shotgun part.

According to Steam, I’ve played ROTTR for 42 hours, starting last Thursday evening, so that’s 42 hours over five days. I finished the main story, went back for all of the collectibles, bought the “Baba Yaga” DLC, finished the DLC story, hunted down all of the DLC collectibles, and even mucked around some in the game’s “Expeditions” mode, where you replay levels for score. I don’t usually buy games day one – I typically wait for the inevitable $20 price point on Steam – but getting that much out of a game makes me not regret it too badly. I lucked into a 25% off deal on the preorder, anyway, so even with the DLC I’m still under MSRP.

Considering that, in December, I was standing in a Best Buy holding an Xbone bundle and desperately trying to justify it to myself, I think I did pretty well to hold off for the PC release.

Sadly for PS4 owners, this one is still stuck in exclusivity deal hell until the end of 2016, at which point it probably will get lost in the holiday release barrage. I do hope that Squeeenix made enough money off Microsoft to justify further sequels, because I doubt the overall sales are going to do the trick.

OK, that’s enough Lara for now

February 1, 2016

rottr100

I did need to resort to a guide once I started working on hunting down the dozen or so documents and relics that I’d missed, and for help with the challenges in a couple of zones.  I couldn’t find a decent Lost City guide, however, so I wound up spending a good few hours on the challenges and collectibles there.

 

I guess there’s a DLC campaign?  Oh dear.

 

A Quick Thought on Rise Of The Tomb Raider

January 30, 2016

I had the following error message pop-up on me this evening:

rottr crash

And I thought, huh, I guess I have been playing for a while, so that sort of error isn’t that weird, how long HAVE I been playing anyway?

It turned out that I’d been playing for twelve straight hours without even really noticing, hunting deer and looking for challenge tombs and doing optional missions and occasionally advancing the story.

I don’t think I’ve gotten this sucked into a single player game since, maybe, Skyrim?  It’s so dang good.

Also, benefit of playing on launch weekend while most people are still focusing on the story mode, I got to cheese my way to the top of a leaderboard.  I will almost certainly be dethroned as of tomorrow, but for now this makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

rottr leaderboard

A second benefit:

rottr achievement

My only achievement ever with a 0% global completion rate, so it’s something that less than 0.1% of players have, um, bothered to do.

That sounded a lot cooler in my head.

Anyway, good times all around. :)

 

I Probably Shouldn’t Call This My “Diva Cup”

January 26, 2016

diva_plat

For a guy who claims to be above all that silly trophy nonsense, I certainly do seem to be spending a lot of time going for Platinum trophies in my Vita games this month.

In this case, it’s a side effect of a new policy.

Put simply, I’m not allowing myself to buy any games unless I am going to start them immediately, I finished Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate a couple of days ago, and I’ve pre-ordered Rise Of The Tomb Raider.  That comes out Thursday,  I wanted something to fill the gap, and going back to Project Diva f seemed like a good gap filler.

When I stopped playing, back in March, it was because I’d finished all of the songs on Hard mode with a rating of Great or better.  That got me a pretty mediocre 30% of the game’s trophies, because very few of them are actually about playing the rhythm game portion of the game.  The vast majority of them are related to grinding up Diva Points – the game’s currency – and buying items from the in-game store to give to the Vocaloids to make them like me better so that I could buy new stuff from the in-game store to…

Yeah.

Anyway, I reasoned that the act of grinding currency was justifiable as “actually playing the game”, so I did quite a lot of that, and it was going pretty slowly, so I started using some of the challenge items.  These do things like start you off with half health on a stage and prevent you from regaining health (that one is good for a 2x earned Diva Points) multiplier, or ones that make it so that any notes that aren’t perfectly timed actually hurt you (4x multiplier).

Much to my chagrin, I discovered that the absolute best song for grinding Diva Points on – because I could reliably get a perfect rating on it – was the single solo song by the pretty-boy Vocaloid.

diva_kaito

Hi, Kaito.

I saw a lot of Kaito.  I didn’t do ALL of my grinding on his song, because I desperately needed variety, but I did play it a lot.  This particular screenshot was when I was only using a 3x multiplier item – when I used 4x, it was good for rougly 43200 DP.

You need about 3 million DP to buy everything.

It took a lot of grinding, but eventually I owned all of the outfits, and furniture, and room themes and other nonsense.

In addition to getting Diva Points, I needed to make all of the Vocaloids love me, and there are a few ways to go about this.  You can play games with them, pet them on the head, give them musical instruments, or feed them.

I stuffed Miku with so many cupcakes that she should have looked like a highly-sugared version of one of the more gruesome murders from “Seven”.

diva_cupcakes

PACK IT IN, MIKU, THERE’S ANOTHER TWENTY COMING.

…ahem…

Anyway, eventually all the characters loved me and we had cake together and I got a shiny new trophy.

The End

PS: I won’t be doing this for f2.  That game is just as nuts about needing to buy stuff and build friendships with the characters, but it also halved the rate at which you gain Diva Points AND introduced cooldowns to how often you can force-feed the Vocaloids.  If the internet is to be trusted, it’s a good sixty hours of tedium, and I’m already not too fond of that particular entry in the series.

Hail Hydra

January 24, 2016

wo3uboxFinished Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate today – well, technically, I finished Warriors Orochi 3, because the “Ultimate” version added a bunch of chapters that take place after the ending credits – but I’m good with the story ending where it did.

I feel entirely unsuited to judge how good it was as a musou game, or even just as a game in general.  I bought it because, after finishing the two Ninja Gaiden Sigma games, I wanted more time with that cast of characters without buying Ninja Gaiden 3, because I am given to understand that Ninja Gaiden 3 is not so much the good.

With that criteria, it succeeded admirably.  Sure, there were some weird moments where the game would switch to a cutscene and I’d be wondering what was up with the three guys (the main characters, theoretically) at center stage, but those were momentary breaks between action sequences.

If I hadn’t been playing as characters that I knew, I don’t think I’d have done very well in sticking with this.   Some of the character designs were pretty neat, and I am guessing that the series has a high percentage of women fans considering all the bishounen on offer, so that’s a nice nod towards equality from Tecmo, and the environments were great fun to run around in, but it’s the third entry in a series that itself is a mash-up of two separate series that I’m completely unfamiliar with, so all of the dramatic “AND NOW THIS GUY SHOWS UP” moments were, um, not very dramatic.  Put simply, the bits of the story revolving around beating the Hydra were much more interesting than the bits revolving around going back in time to pluck random guys out of battles they were supposed to have died in, and I think I was supposed to think of it the other way around

Even the time travel stuff did have the occasional good moment – as an example, I’m pretty sure that I was accidentally responsible for the unification of Japan, and that looks good on a resume.

I suspect that Koei-Tecmo really expected you to have played the original release and to be importing a save from that, because you don’t get a single story-related trophy during the course of the main game.  I wound up collecting two almost incidental trophies during the 25-odd hours I played.

I’m not likely to go hunting down the older games in the series, but I feel like I at least dipped my toe into an unfamiliar genre, and that’s a good feeling.

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