On Super-Heroes

It’s my firm belief that the true golden age of comic books was in the 1970s.  The fact that this roughly coincides with my own youth is of no import and this minor coincidence should be disregarded.

The 1970s were the years where comic book publishers started pushing back – ever so gently – against the Comics Code Authority and its stifling mandates on “appropriate” story elements, but before the industry dove head-first into the Massive Crossovers and Grim ‘n Gritty drama of the mid-to-late 1980s.

That isn’t to say there wasn’t some seriously messed-up stuff in the 1970s.

Let’s take Justice League of America #130, for example, published in May of 1976.

There aren’t a ton of stories from this time that really stuck with me, but this one has always hung around the back of my mind, probably because the visuals are so bizarre.  I recently found that it was available on Comixology, so I dropped the $1.99 for the sake of nostalgia.

The gist of it is that Hawkman has been working on a new teleporter and security system so that JLA members – and only JLA members – can quickly get to the Justice League Satellite, which was their headquarters from 1970 until 1985.  As he’s demonstrating it for The Flash, an alien just happens to sneak into the teleport chamber, and the result is that the two heroes and the alien get mixed into three bizarre looking amalgamations as they beam abort the satellite, after which the alien tries to steal the satellite for its own purposes.  There’s a satisfying fight or two, the heroes eventually uncover the alien’s weakness, and the heroes and alien get separated back into their proper bodies, just in time for JLA #131, in which “Superman, Flash, Hawkman, and Aquaman fall victim to an attack on New York City by intelligent bees”.  I am not making this up.

But before moving on to the intelligent bees, there’s just one last thing to take care of on the satellite.  This is a bit of the story that didn’t stand out as a kid but which is dark as all get out when read from an adult’s viewpoint:

Yes, Ollie, the latest member of the JLA is an alien.  It’s an expectant mother, in fact, something that Supes kind of stumbles over saying.  Apparently his weaknesses are Kryptonite, magic, and icky girl stuff.

So, as mentioned, this was published in 1976 and the JLA Satellite was eventually destroyed in 1985.  That means that, for nine years, the JLA held a pregnant alien captive, in an induced coma, because it made their computers work better.  The satellite was basically Space Guantanamo.

Katar explaining this isn’t that weird – I mean, let’s face it, this is a perfectly normal Hawkman solution to a problem.  I feel that one of the more liberal leaguers should definitely have spoken up at some point, though.

Posted in comics | 1 Comment

On Second Place

I have a long history of making poor tech choices. I’ve owned Laserdiscs and Minidiscs, Sega Saturns and NEC TurboDuos, an eee 701 netbook and a Windows Phone.

Let’s just say that I have a knack for picking the winning horse, then betting against it, and I’ve gotten to see how a lot of companies deal with failure.

NEC, for example, pulled completely out of the US gaming market, while Sega followed up the Saturn with the too-beautiful-to-live Dreamcast and Nintendo… well, Nintendo released a console so popular as to make people forget that the Wii U ever existed.

THE POINT IS, I’ve noticed a pattern with dying technology at the point where it hasn’t officially been 100% cancelled, but the manufacturer is still putting just a hair of effort into supporting it. In the case of the Saturn, this got us Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shining Force III; the Wii U gave us Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Splatoon and Breath of the Wild… all brilliant games but far too late to save the systems.

The reason this has been on my mind today is a report, from Electronic Arts, where they estimate the current total installed base of modern consoles. It’s a report that a lot of people are using to compare the PS4 to the Xbox One and declare the latter not long for the world. This month also marks the fifth anniversary of both console reveals, so it’s a good time to look back over those five years and see how things have gone.

It’s no shock to anyone that the PS4 has just been an absolute juggernaut since its unveiling. It was the cheaper AND the more powerful of the two at launch, with a laser focus on gaming that contrasted strongly with Microsoft’s bizarre notion that what people really wanted from a games console was cable TV integration and fantasy football.

Oh, and let’s not forget Microsoft’s weird messaging around used games, or the privacy hysteria that blew up over the always-listening Kinect, as quaint as that last seems in a world where Amazon ships millions of Alexa-enabled smart speakers every quarter.

Frankly, they earned the “Xbone” nickname before they had even shipped a single unit, and it pretty much landed with a wet flop. It didn’t help, either, that the prominent “Day One”-branded launch consoles and games lingered on shelves, making it obvious that it just wasn’t moving, or that exclusives seemed to keep winding up on other consoles or being canceled outright.

Things haven’t changed all that much, as far as console market share is concerned, since 2013. I eventually wound up owning an Xbox One S when Amazon put up a bundle at a price that was too good to ignore, but didn’t foresee much of a future for it except as a 4k Blu-Ray player.

But, here’s the odd thing. Both the PS4 and Xbox One are coming up on their fifth anniversary, and Sony has been absolutely killing it with exclusives – Bloodborne, Horizon, Nier, God of War, Nioh, the list goes on. By all rights, the Xbox One should be looking like the Saturn right about now, but… well, at least in the US and UK, it’s a perfectly viable platform to game on. If you want to come home from a hard day at work or school and sit down to a few rounds of Fortnite or Call of Duty or Overwatch, it has you covered, and it’s better-than-even odds that any new game announcement will be PS4/XB1/PC.

This is, in my admittedly somewhat anecdotal experience, unprecedented. Normally third-party support is the first thing you lose when sales start to dip, and it’s up to the console manufacturer to shoulder the burden of keeping new titles coming.

Furthermore, if you want the best versions of games, or the best controller, and don’t mind reaching a little deeper into your wallet, you almost certainly want an Xbox One X with an Elite controller over a PS4 Pro. Granted, Microsoft is benefiting heavily from the state of the graphics card market right now – nobody is denying that the absolute shiniest graphics are to be had on PC, but when you can’t find or afford a reasonable GPU… well, an all-in-one box looks awfully tempting.

The heavy push towards enhancing their current box to play games from older Xboxes seems to be paying off, as well. I’ve had a lot of my digital Xbox 360 games happily pop up in the “Ready to install” list as the backwards compatibility improves, and I’ve repurchased some of the original Xbox games that I couldn’t own digitally at the time.

I’m still waiting on Fatal Frame 1 & 2, though, and Gunvalkryie if we want to get extra crazy. I suspect pretty much everyone has a little list of games they would like to see show up some day.

More importantly, while nothing’s been said on the topic, this sort of commitment to legacy titles makes it seem a pretty safe bet that Microsoft will carry the backwards compatibility into future generations of the hardware. If an Xbox Two happens to show up in the next few years, there’s this weird sense of confidence that I’ll be able to keep moving my library of games forward – a good thing, considering how the first year or so of any console tends to go.

Basically, I’m just impressed at Microsoft’s stubborn refusal to cut their losses, and I’m looking forward to seeing that they do next.

Posted in videogames, Xbox One | 2 Comments

On Second Looks

Anyone unfortunate enough to follow this blog for any length of time has probably run into one or more of my frothing rants about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I’d been a big fan of the series since the first entry, and ACIV felt like a game designed by people who didn’t particularly LIKE the earlier games. It certainly seemed designed FOR people who didn’t like the earlier ones, as well – there is an awful lot of, oh, let’s call it Internet-gamer-hipsterism from people who will cheerfully talk about how ACIV is the only one that was any good.

So anyway, when I originally played it I got about 4 or 5 hours in, hated the experience, and stopped. I kept the disc because, well, it was a gift and I would have felt bad about selling it on.

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d gone back to AC2 to finish off the platinum trophy, and apart from taking a few minutes to get my head back into the control scheme, I am happy to report that it’s still a really fun game to run around in.

But, it got me thinking about the Assassin’s Creed series in general, and I had a bit of an epiphany: if people who DON’T like the AC series love ACIV, then maybe I would enjoy it if I went into it pretending that it was just another open-world action-adventure game.

It turns out that willfully ignoring the previous games I’d played in the AC series (seven, including portable spin-offs) was the key to actually enjoying ACIV. If you play it as a game about a random guy who really just wants to sail around, build a cool pirate ship, and kill a lot of Englishmen, it’s a lot of fun. As much as “Ubisoft towers” have become a much-maligned design feature, they make for a very satisfying gameplay loop for someone with a checklist mindset, and I do love me some checklists.

Also, since the various structures you have to climb around on are all fairly low-to-the-ground affairs, it serves as something of training wheels compared to the more grandiose architecture found in actual cities. I understand that the next game is set in Paris, which does have some actual BUILDINGS, so that should make for some more interesting parkour.

In addition, playing this game just after spending most of April drowning myself in Halo lore means that I now have a little more perspective on what a franchise looks like if it’s allowed to grow uncontrolled. If ACIV had demanded that people finish all five mainline games to understand what was going on, it would have meant asking people to play multiple 30-40 hour games just to get the two or three hours of metastory included in each one, and that borders on crazy talk. Having a main character who isn’t familiar with the game’s two warring factions or with the weird First Civilizations stuff means that all of this can be explained to the player again, getting them ready for future sequels.

So, I had a much more positive view this time around. It doesn’t mean that I love everything about ACIV, because I still found plenty to gripe about. The story segments tended to rely very heavily on “tail this guy without being seen until the story finally tells you you can kill him”, and the controls weren’t always up to the task of guiding Edward in and out of stealth and up and over buildings at the right times. The stealth missions where you were forced to tail someone on water didn’t suffer from the same control issues, thankfully, but were still somewhat marred by very slim margins of error at avoiding detection.

Also, fully upgrading your ship took a lot of grinding for materials and hunting down upgrade plans, and I couldn’t help but notice that both materials and upgrade plans were available for purchase in “Time-Saver Packs” for real-life money. That’s more than a little tacky for a $60 game.

Finally, the best way to earn money in ACIV is by playing a minigame where you build up a fleet of ships and then send them back and forth on trading missions. It’s fine in its own way, but it was a little pace-breaking to need to occasionally stop running around and stabbing the English so I could play with little toy boats for a few minutes. Ubisoft published an iOS and Android app so you could play this minigame while not at your console, and the app still works if you have it, but it’s been pulled from the Android app store completely and wasn’t ever updated to a 64-bit app on iOS – I was only able to use it because I have an old iPad that’s stuck on iOS 9.3.5. This isn’t unique to Black Flag, and isn’t NECESSARY to enjoy the game, but you are getting a slightly lessened experience because of this particular bit of software rot.

So, short version: While I still have plenty of things to complain about with ACIV, framing the game as a reboot / introductory game means that I’m able to see the positive aspects of it, and I am taking back some of the rather nasty thoughts I’ve had about this game. I’m sure that Ubisoft, being a multinational corporation that sells millions of games every year, will be happy to know that a random blogger has forgiven them.

Posted in PS4, videogames | 3 Comments

On Trying New Things

So, one side effect of playing an awful lot of Halo recently is that it got me curious what Bungie had been up to since Halo Reach.  That lead me to the local Gamestop’s 4-for-$10 bin to pick up a copy of Destiny, which I will try at some point so I can see how the single player campaign stacks up against the Master Chief saga.  Of course, I also had to pick three other games out of the same bin, and I had the crazy notion to try something COMPLETELY out of, and I pray you will forgive me here, completely out of left field.

Cue a purchase of Sony’s MLB The Show 15.

I’m not a huge sports fan in the sense of having a favorite team for each sport and dividing the year by which season we’re currently in, but I do enjoy watching baseball.  It’s a nice medium between the glacial pace of American football and the frenetic speed of basketball, which tends to remind me of a rather chaotic game of Pong played with five paddles to a side.

We will, for the sake of this discussion, completely forget that hockey exists as a sport.  I hold two passports, neither of them is Canadian, I am therefore not actually required to understand or care about winter sports.

I did have a Canadian friend try to explain the draw of curling to me once, and she summed it up as a sport where you get to do a lot of drinking while other teams are taking their turns.  That seemed like a fair explanation.

Anyway.  Baseball.  Meditative, but not sleep-inducing, and played in enough sheer volume that nobody really takes any individual game all that seriously and there’s generally some happening somewhere any day of the year between April and November.  The perfect sporting experience.

Mind you, the last baseball GAME I played was “Hardball”, on the Atari 8-bit.  While I like the sport, it’s not like I’ve gone out of my way to seek out digital representations of it during the last few decades.

Anyway, The Show has a single-player career mode called Road to the Show, where you start off as an amateur and try to make your way up through the minors and on to the roster of a Major League team.  The ’15 version is, of course, completely out of date with regards to modern player rosters, but that doesn’t particularly bother me.

Anyway, it sounded promising, so I added it to my stack of cheap games and brought it home.

When I played baseball in school, I always had a terrible time judging what pitches were actually safe to swing at and which I should let go by, and it turns out that I’m equally as bad at it when trying to do it with a virtual bat.  The “Road to the Show” starts off by having you play through three exhibition games, and I went 1-for-12 at the plate, with only slightly better performance on defense, and wound up being drafted 24th in the fifth round of the draft.

It doesn’t help at all that the game’s commentators seemed to take a sort of devilish glee in making light of my abject failure as a batter.  There IS such a thing as rubbing salt in the wounds.

So… short version, it was a cheap way to find out that maybe I should stick to spectating.  I mean, “The Show” is marketed as kind of a sim-heavy game, so it’s possible I’d do better with a version of the sport that was a little more arcade-style, but I’m not sure that such a thing even exists.

Posted in PS4, videogames | 2 Comments

On Procrastination

While I haven’t talked much about the series in a few years, I used to be quite the fan of the “Assassin’s Creed” games.  I had something of a break with the series after III, which was the point where Ubisoft decided to take this pretty impressive meta-plot they’d had running over the first five games in the series and throw it out, followed by making a game about pirates and slapping the Assassin’s Creed brand on it.

I understand that recent games in the series are a little closer to the original concept, and I keep meaning to check them out at some point, but every time I think about it I am reminded by how disappointing Black Flag was and then I don’t.

But, that aside, I wanted to talk about Assassin’s Creed II and something that has been vexing me for, oh, nearly 8 years now.

Back when I originally played AC2, in 2010, I got really into 100% finishing the villa and buying all of the gear and tracking down all of collectibles and doing optional stuff, and this culminated in spending most of an evening sitting on the couch with my wife, with her holding a map of feather locations, finding every single one of the bloody things.  This was extra fun because, well, I’d picked up a bunch of them during the course of the game up to that point, so we were never quite sure whether I wasn’t finding one because I’d already picked it up or whether I wasn’t finding one because we weren’t reading the map correctly.

At any rate, after finishing that particular scavenger hunt, I realized that I’d gotten what is widely considered the hardest trophy to get and that it couldn’t be too hard to actually get the platinum trophy.  This was something I hadn’t considered doing in any PS3 game up to that point, so it was a Big Decision.

Sadly, I then discovered that the game had a single missable trophy (“Fly Swatter”) tucked away in a non-repeatable mission, and that I’d already missed it.  So, I put my dreams of shiny trophies aside and didn’t actually get a platinum trophy in ANY Playstation game until 2016.  That was for Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit!, by the way.  I have no shame.

At some point, Ubisoft put out a DLC episode for Assassin’s Creed II, and they put a repeatable section into that DLC where you could actually get the trophy I’d missed.  A cynical person would say that they could have saved everyone a fair bit of time by just letting you pay $5 to have the Fly Swatter trophy unlock, but maybe someone thought that would be just a little TOO obvious.

Anyway.  I am a bit stubborn at times, so it took me quite a while before I broke down and bought that bit of DLC.  It was during a PSN sale, so at least I wasn’t spending full price just for the opportunity to go back and get one darn trophy.  This is how I justify things to myself, you see.

Then, of course, I didn’t actually get around to PLAYING the DLC until a couple of nights ago, when I’d finished up the Halo games and needed something different.

It turns out that going back to a game after 7 years can be a LITTLE tricky to get the hang of, but… well, eventually I managed to figure out the controls and finally cross that one nagging item off my never-ending to-do list.

So, well, it only took me seven years, seven months, and 4 days to get back to AC2… but I DID get around to it.  You know.  Eventually.  I can’t decide whether I should be proud of this or not, but I am at least satisfied.

As an aside, “An Old Friend Returns” may be the single most common “you beat the game!” trophy I’ve ever seen.  I look at the completion percentage for most games I play, and even really popular ones frequently have completion percentages in the 30% range.  People really loved them some Ezio.

 

Posted in ps3, videogames | 2 Comments

Halo Month, Part 7: I don’t know why you say Halo, I say goodbye.

Technically, I did not absorb EVERY piece of Halo-related media in the last three weeks. There are a few comics, a whole mess of audio logs and terminal records, and a couple of books I didn’t get around to.

That said, my most recent dive into the Halo lore – reading the “Shadow of Intent” and “Smoke and Shadow” novellas, playing “Halo Wars 2” and its DLC, and going back to read the four graphic novels that make up the “Escalation” comic series – was a hell of a binge and a good place to stop and call this experiment a success.

I had intended to skip the Halo comics, for the most part, since they didn’t seem to be particularly important… but it turns out that 343 decided to stick the plot that happened between Halo 4 and 5 into Escalation, including resolving the fate of Halo 4’s main antagonist, and it also ties into the original Halo Wars game, which looks like it will be a big part of upcoming events.

So, even if you ignore every other comic series, this one seems pretty essential. Also, you should read it before Halo 5, not after like I did.

Ignoring the fact that I read them out of sequence, I liked them a lot. They’re definitely not standalone affairs, and I continue to marvel at just how obtuse this series is if you’re not reading everything ever published for it, but I suppose that the intended audience for a Halo comic is someone who has probably at least played most of the Halo games and is looking for some content to fill the time between new entries.

Leaving the comics aside, I also read two short (and digital-only) novellas, the first being “Smoke and Shadow” which took kind of a look at a few average joes just trying to get by in the post-war universe and getting themselves wound up in a bigger mess.  It’s a good setup for a solid mystery/adventure, and a perspective that is a nice change from all of the “the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance!” high-stakes drama. It ended kind of prematurely, though, probably because it ties into Halo Wars, was released before Halo Wars 2, and couldn’t actually have a real ending without knowing where Halo Wars 2 was going to wind up. That’s a mark against it, but I will be looking forward to any sequels.

I also liked “Shadow of Intent”, even though it was yet another Elite novel. Your reaction to it will likely be directly proportional to how curious you were about what happened to that one Elite with the weird face in the Halo 2 cutscenes.

Finally, Halo Wars 2, which was yet another surprisingly-enjoyable spinoff game. Once I got it installed, anyway.

The first Halo Wars seemed to be very deliberately separated from the mainline games, and I expected that the sequel would likewise be happening in a place and time set well away from them. Instead, it takes a path that stretches credulity just a tiny bit to get it closer to the events of the numbered games, but… well, you know, that’s not really all that important. The thing I like about any RTS is the process of building up a massively-overpowered army and then using it to steamroller over the entire map, and Halo Wars 2 was just as good as the first game at scratching that particular itch. The fact that the end ties directly in to the end of Halo 5 as well (with one of the better “stuff just got real” moments) is just a bonus.

The base campaign is pretty short. I think you could probably blow through it in a day if you approached it in a businesslike fashion, and the two DLC campaigns are even shorter. I took about three nights to go through all of it. Now, I’m a big fan of shorter games, and got it for half price in the recent Spring sale, so I’m 100% happy with what I got for what I paid… but if you are paying full price this might be a tougher sell unless you’re interested in the multiplayer.

As an experiment, I even tried the gamepad controls for a level or two, and they weren’t bad.  This is definitely something you could play from a reclining position on the couch, if you were in the mood – I wound up going back to mouse & keyboard, which fit my tastes better, but I did miss the easier camera control of the more console-centric controls a little once I’d done so.

So, that makes 17 novels, 3 Novellas, 5 graphic novels, 4 movies and 11 games, just to be caught up for whatever Halo 6 turns out to be. At some point, they really need to figure out a way to bring the player up to speed on all of the different bits of the storyline, though I’m not sure how you’re going to do that without a “Thank you for purchasing Halo 6! Please watch this massive clip-show of a movie before you start!”

It looks like it will probably be bringing the crew of the ship from the two Halo Wars games in contact with the crew of the ship from Halo 5, and I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to that.

I also can’t deny that, as crazy as the prospect of doing a deep dive into all of the games and media tie-ins was, I enjoyed the experiment. It has me really tempted to do another play through the Mass Effect games, this time with all of the DLC installed. That was another series where the games just didn’t flow well at all, and I have to suspect that most of that was because I was just playing the vanilla versions.

Maybe I should take a little break before I do that, though.

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Halo Month, Part 6: Sweet Christmas

It’s an odd thing to realize, but of the 10 Xbox One games I’ve finished since owning the console, 8 of them have been remastered versions of games that were originally released for the Xbox or Xbox 360 – with the exceptions being ReCore and now Halo 5: Guardians.  It’s almost shocking how much prettier a game is when it was built ground-up for a modern console, and I was regularly gobsmacked – there’s a word I don’t get a lot of use out of – by just how gorgeous Halo 5 was.

Anyway, since the last Halo Month post, I watched the “Halo: The Fall of Reach” animation, which wasn’t terrific, and played through Halo 5’s single-player campaign in normal difficulty.  It was pretty good in a lot of places and a little weird in others, so let’s talk about all of the positive things.

I think I’ll start with the guns, because it’s a game where most of your interaction with the world comes in the sense that you are trying to put holes in the parts of it that are trying to put holes in you.  Some of the Halo games do not have very good guns, and even the best Halos have had one or two downright stinkers.

Halo 5 does have One Bad Gun.  I think it’s called a Plasma Caster or something? It basically shoots bouncy plasma grenades, which sounds way cooler than it actually is.  I did not like it, and I only used one once or twice during the campaign.

Every OTHER gun I picked up was really good.  Even the needler!  I have hated the needler in almost every Halo game up to this point, but the version in Halo 5 is actually….dare I say? FUN to use.

The enemies are also much less irritating bullet sponges in this outing.  Hunters are still, well, they’re Hunters and they take a ridiculous amount of damage to bring down, but I couldn’t help but notice that virtually every instance where a Hunter pair showed up came with a convenient Fuel Rod launcher or detachable turret just lying around somewhere nearby.

Halo 5 also has a much more familiar control scheme – something that probably rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way when it hit, come to think of it.  For the first time in the series, you aim down sights with the left trigger and fire with the right, and every gun seems to have an ADS mode.

Speaking of sights, by the way, considering my rant from the other day, I was happy to notice that the default human pistol DOES have sights, which makes sense – all of the various rifles tie into the armor HUD to provide a sight, but a pistol is a weapon of last resort, so it’s designed to be used without access to armor.  It’s a tiny detail that I liked a lot.

The Covenant Carbine ALSO has a flip-up reflex-style sight, which again makes sense because it’s mostly used by Jackals, who don’t generally wear armor.

Finally, the campaign was really compelling to play through – it felt like the game was over in no time at all, and it was quite difficult to stop halfway through so I could actually get some sleep, the first night I played it.  There are a couple of little “walk around and talk to people” levels that provide breathers, but outside of those it’s just really fast-paced and always pushing you forward to get to the next big thing blowing up.

So, negatives now.

First, I didn’t really expect to be spending so little time in Master Chief’s helmet.  At least two thirds of the game have you playing as Spartan Luke Cage with Spartan Rick Castle along for comic relief.  It made the segments where you play as John and his merry band of child soldiers stand out, however – they did a good job of showing the differences between Fireteam Osiris and Blue Team, so there’s just a whole different feel when playing one or the other, even though the general goal is the same. (Shoot things.  Try to avoid getting shot.  Get to the next big explosion.)

Second, man, Halo games have never really had boss fights before this, and this has the same boss fight repeated like three or four times.  It doesn’t ever get good, either, each one is pretty much a case of switching weapons to the Big Gun you picked up a few minutes back and have been saving, then blowing the Warden into small glowing pieces, in one case before he even had a chance to finish his megalomaniac speech about uh killing all humans or something.

Third, when I said in an earlier post that Halo 4 sure felt incomprehensible without having read all of the books, that just goes double for Halo 5.  It turns out that even the two books from this last batch that I really thought might be skippable – “New Blood” and “Hunters in the Dark” – are actually kind of important to knowing just who the characters in Fireteam Osiris are and why Gunnery Sergeant Buck from Halo 3: ODST is a Spartan now.  Real talk, if you want to enjoy Halo 5, you need to read at least a dozen books in addition to playing all of the previous games.

Oh, and it all ends with one heck of a cliffhanger and suddenly it is vitally important that you know – again, from the books – that Elites have never really liked AIs and thus Elite ships don’t HAVE shipboard AIs.  I suspect this is going to be a huge plot point in Halo 6.

In theory, I COULD stop Halo Month right here.  I’m caught up on all of the mainline games and most of the spin-offs.  That’s, like, 10 games this month!

But… I did buy Halo Wars 2 during the big Microsoft Spring Sale.  I should try to take that off the backlog right away instead of letting it hang around.

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