Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Was In The Fjäll (And Survived)!

I survived a week in the mountains! And my son survived a week at grandpas. Everything went fine, like I knew it would. And the trek was every bit of horribly awesome that I knew it would be. I did learn some new things about myself as well, and that's always cool.

Funny thing is, I had probably stressed more about actually getting to the trek with all the things I needed way more than how I would deal with the actual trecking. I figured, once I was there things would work out, as long as I remembered to bring everything! This meant a 8 hour train ride with a 3 year old, backpack, two duffel bags and pram. Everything went fine though, as the only real issue is getting in and out of the train with all that stuff. Here's a riddle for you - do I leave the 3 year old alone/unsupervised in the train or alone/unsupervised on the platform while I unload bags and pram? Unsupervised because there were a thousand other people getting on and off the train at the same time, so a small child was impossible to keep in eyesight. I had spoken very sternly to him about the importance to listen to me, especially since he's in a phase where he loves just running off. This, and remembering to bring all the gear I needed, were probably the two things that worried me the most. But fortunately, most of the time there will be at least someone who takes pity on you so I got some help dealing with the bags while I dealt with the kid. The trip went just fine.

We walked the red line

I got up to Abisko on the Sunday and met up with my mom and her boyfriend who were going to guide the group. Basically the first thing they tell me is that we're going to have to completely repack my bag. Partly because the weather was turning out to be significantly better than expected, and partly because I had packed some needless crap like a deck of cards. I had to leave some clothes (and food, more about that shortly) and other nicknacks behind and the bag still weighed in at 18kg, which for comparison is roughly a third of my body weight. "No problem" I thought. That's what the son weighs and I carry him around all the time. Well, turns out I was wrong about that.

I slept in a 6-people dorm room, but fortunately no one else was there so I got it all for myself. We started walking the day after, and eventhough we were going to be a group of ten people, me and three others (one of which was my mom) did an early start because one guy had twisted his ankle and wasn't sure he could walk at all. We figured if we started walking before everyone else we could walk slower. Everything went fine and we made it to our planned campsite without a hitch.

I was completely ruined though. My feet were in agony. Did I mention I have never done proper trecking before in my life, and especially not while carrying any kind of equipment weighing anywhere near 18kg? Probably in my previous post. Fortunately exhaustion is all it was, no blisters or breaks and after some pain killers the aches soon went away. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes didn't.

I think I also mentioned in my previous post that the week before had been very rainy and cold, and in fact the entire season had been unusually rainy and cold. Hence us being told to bring warm clothes. Then suddenly, pretty much exactly the day we start walking, that part of Sweden gets the warmest and nicest weather of the entire country. I was sweating so much. This also meant that the mosquitoes started hatching and because it had been so rainy and cold before everything and everywhere was nice and moist for them to thrive. I knew there were going to be a lot of mosquitoes, but I couldn't fathom just how many and how big they were. OH LAWD THE MOSQUITOES! Throughout the week they were easily one of the biggest nuisances and drawbacks of the entire trip. I got bitten probably about 30-40 times a day and had some sort of reaction to them which made my legs look like I had gotten some modern version of the bubonic plague. I would show pictures but honestly, it's too unappetizing. The only positive thing I can say about that whole ordeal that fortunately it didn't itch very much. Or maybe I was in too much pain from the walking to notice.

Truly though, the body ache was fine. I was prepared to be tired and in pain and I was. In fact, I was a lot less tired than I thought I would be. Overall it wasn't particularly strenouous, but definitely demanding. Eventhough Kungsleden, King's Road, as it's called is one of the most trecked parts of the Fjäll it's still no walk in the park. You constantly have to keep track of where your feet are so as to not misstep and some of the ascending bits were extremely exhausting. Other than that I was happily surprised that I didn't find it more straining. And like I mentioned I learned some other interesting things as well.

For instance, getting dirty and not being able to clean myself properly was probably the worst part of the trip. It even beat out on the mosquitoes (which to be fair could be handled fairly well with repellant and clever covering-up). I only had two sets of clothes with me. One for walking and one for camping. Mom had warned me that the walking clothes would get sweaty and gross but I thought I wouldn't be too bothered. I was. Eventhough you try cleaning as much as possible you still have to slip into the dirty clothing as soon as you start walking again so you just never feel clean. Bathing in the lakes is near impossible due to the extremely cold temperatures. The water all comes pretty much directly from melted snow, so it's only around 10 degrees, if that. Just washing your hands in it hurts (it's very pleasant to drink though). I am definitely no clean-freak, so this bothered me a lot more than I thought it would. Maybe it just takes some getting used to.

Secondly, I thought I would get ravenously hungry from all the extra excercise. This didn't happen at all. I had pretty much the same appetite, and mom had instructed me to bring high-calorie food to make sure I got the energy I needed without putting more food in my tummy. It makes sense really, my stomach doesn't get bigger just because I use more energy, I just need more energy.

Speaking of food, I will promote dry-freezed food as some of the most convenient and tastiest food I have ever eaten. If it wasn't so expensive I'd have it for lunch at work every day. Just pour in hot water, stir and wait and presto - delicious meal. It beats the microwave-food we have in Sweden by a mile. The fact that all the other food I had brought turned out to be pretty boring and a disappointment might have led to me loving these meals even more. I had planned to have müsli for breakfast and lunch and dry-freeze food only for dinner (because like I said, it's expensive as hell). That müsli really turned out to be a dud though. Firstly I got sick of it on the first day. Secondly, I had brought about 2 kg too much of it (because I had anticipated I would eat so much more than I did). On the fourth day of walking I poured out about a kilo, and I also left almost a kilo behind to begin with. I had prepared 14 "portion sized" bags, I left 4 behind even before we started walking, I poured out 5 halfways through the treck and I still had two bags left at the end of the walk. The "portions" I had prepared turned out to be about three times too big. That was probably my biggest mistake of the trip, fortunately probably my only real one. For a first time I am ok with that.

Would I do it again? I remember thinking, while walking and sweating and swatting mosquitoes, that "hell no!". Not because I didn't have fun, I had almost nothing but fun. The group was great, the scenery was great, I got to spend time with my mom and I do love to be out and about. Right at that moment it just felt like I wouldn't do it that way. I kept thinking, that if all I do is walk all day, when am I going to spend time just enjoying all the beauty I am being surrounded by? But after a while I realized that walking has to be part of the fun for you, and if it isn't then well... you're going to have a bad time. I think one week was a bit excessive for me. Not in terms of effort, but in terms of convenience. I wasn't ready to be without a shower and clean clothes for that long (using the outdoors as a toilet worked fine however /tmi). I can see myself doing shorter 2-3 day trips or maybe renting a cabin somewhere and do daytrips from there though.

All in all it was definitely the awesome experience I had hoped it would be and I am especially happy that none of the things I had worried about became a problem. I am really looking forward to bringing my son and boyfriend on a trip like this (albeit a lot more kiddie friendly). Speaking of kiddie friendly, we did meet a lot of people who had brought their kids along which I think is awesome as long as you're properly prepared. The most hardcore one of all though was about halfway through our trip and several kilometers from the closest cabin - we had just set up tent for the day, it was mid-afternoon, when a guy walks past us. He's carrying a toddler, about 1 year old, on his back, he's holding a girl, maybe 7 years old, in his hand, and has a boy of about 10 years running behind them. I was quite concerned for them seeing them walk off in the distance, and I hope they did ok. That was a guy who really wanted to go on a hike and didn't let three little children stop him, cool.

So that's that done, back to video gaming!

Friday, July 14, 2017

I'm Going To The Fjäll!

Here is something unrelated to gaming for a change. Or is it? Let's call it real-life open world. Or sandboxing maybe. In essence, I'm going hiking. And not just your around-the-corner-neighbourhood-forest-hiking (in Sweden we have plenty of those) but a week long, set-up-your-own-damn-tent-and-kitchen, shit-in-a-hole-in-the-ground-like-you're-on-Survivor kind of hiking, in the Swedish Fjäll, aka northern mountain ranges. If you wonder what that looks like, it's a whole lot of nothing, which is really cool if you're into that. I'm not not into that, so it'll be interesting to experience.

Just me, myself and the lemmings.

I have, save once as a 8-9 year old, never even been to the Fjäll, nor done any significant kind of hiking. When I was around 9 I remember going there with my parents and then 5-year old brother, and I remember doing a lot of walking and liking it, but how much hiking can it really have been with two kids in tow? I don't recall us tenting for instance, I'm pretty sure we had rented a cabin and did day-excursions from there. So this is on a whole 'nother level and eventhough I love being in the forest I haven't tented since I was a teenager either (let's pretend that wasn't 15 years ago).

How did I get into this mess? Well, my mother loves hiking and seems to spend more time in her tent than at home, especially during her vacation. She loves it so much in fact she recently decided to become a Fjäll Hiking Leader with her SO, ie someone who leads other people into the wilderness (and hopefully also get them living out of there). They mentioned they were going to lead a group of people at the end of July and I sort of mentioned it would've been fun to be there. Mom obviously said I could come too. Well then! Why back down now? The fact that I have literally no experience? The fact that I have literally no gear? No, why let those pesky things be a problem, right? Right?!

It probably won't be this green...

I got really into the idea but at first it looked like we wouldn't have someone to babysit my son, as my SO was still working. Fortunately my dad and his SO came to the rescue and offered to be with him for the week I'm gone. Unfortunately they live 9 hours away by train. Fortunately it's on the way I am heading up north anyway (which is 18 hours away by train). Unfortunately that means spending 9 hours on a train with a 3-year old. Fortunately he's really into the Gameboy. I also actually swapped to a 22gb internet plan (from 3gb) for my phone just so I would have enough Youtube to entertain him with on the train.

Mom said I could borrow a lot of gear from her, so for instance tent and kitchen were sorted from the get-go. I still had to invest a couple of hundred euros into clothes and food but what the heck (apparently I'm made of money now) (I'm really not btw). Finding the right kind of clothes and food was a bit tricky, especially when you've never done it before. I felt very lucky to be able to phone my mom with every question I had, like "do I need to bring a bra?" (If you want), "Do I need to bring soap?" (No, just wet wipes will do), "are these the right kind pants/shoes I need?" (No, no, no). Finding the right pants took three tries and finding the right shoes took two tries. Thanks a lot to the outdoor-store for their patience with my fumbling.

Part of Kebnekaise

So the plan at the moment is for me to take a 9 hour train ride up north to where my dad lives, mind you I'm going to deal with all the luggage I need for my trip and for my 3-year old, while also dealing with a 3-year old. Then leave my son there and continue up north on another 9 hour train ride up to someplace called Abisko, which is about as far north in Sweden as you can get. From there we're hiking down south over a week to a place called Nikkaluokta from which I will be able to get a car ride back to where my dad lives. We'll pass Swedens highest mountain Kebnekaise too, but I don't think we're going up there. I hope. Oh, and apparently the weather is particularly shitty this year with a lot of snow still lying around so I am picturing an Arctic Expedition basically. I know what happened to Robert Falcon Scott.

Add to this that not only have I never been on anything close to a week-long trip outdoors, I have also never been anywhere close to away from my son for that long. The longest we've been separated has been when I still had my 25-hour workshifts. Eventhough I think it'll be hard on me, I know I can tough it out knowing I will get to see him soon again. But I am of course worried how my son will handle it. With no prior experience there is no way of telling. Because we live 9 hours apart, he doesn't get to meet my dad and his SO very often (grandpa and grandma), but I know he likes them. They live in the countryside with forest and lake right next to the house, so there will be loads of fun things for him to do. I hope time will fly fast for him and that he will have a blast. I have no idea what reception is going to be like, but I guess very patchy, so I won't be able to keep much contact. I'm sure he'll be fine though.

Question is, will I?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

My Top 5 Fallout Fails

I am slowly but suredly making my way through the Fallout series. After getting through 1, 2 and 3 (can't remember if I played much of Tactics) I don't have much further to go now as I am currently playing Fallout New Vegas and having quite a good time. In fact I have had a good time the entire time, and the best thing is that I couldn't even say which game I prefer as I think for all their similiarities, they offer quite different experiences. The first one is fairly short and tight-knit compared to the other ones but still very enjoyable. The second one expands on pretty much everything the first one did right and offers the freedom that would return in the later instalments. I can't remember anything about Tactics, but I am sure that was fun too. I had a blast with Fallout 3 but looking back I realize I only played it for 35 hours before finishing it and feeling I was done with it. I played Skyrim for twice as long and I didn't even particularly like that game. Maybe some parts to Fallout 3 were a bit repetetive, had you seen one Metro station you had pretty much seen them all but overall I would definitely recommend the game.

Literally the first thing that happens when I started up Fallout NV however was my friend telling me he didn't like it. What the actual F, dude? I guess it's alright though because our tastes differ so much I can pretty much tell I am going to enjoy something when he says he doesn't. So far that has definitely been true, I only had a slow spell somewhere 10 hours into the game but I blame that on the fact that I chose to do a quest I wasn't high enough level to do. I can't say yet whether I prefer Fallout 3 or NV, but I think NV will last me longer because I am getting very close to those 35 gamehours and I don't think I am anywhere close to the end. That might be because I have all the DLC to play as well, but still.

Either way, having played almost every Fallout game there is (and I bought Fallout 4 in the Steam Sale) I have recognized that I've played them all pretty similarly. Overall that is not an issue, you find something that works you'll stick to it. The problem is when it doesn't work and I don't learn from it but make the same mistake over and over. Here are Five things I've noticed I mess up every time I play a Fallout-game.

5. Shit a Brick When Ghouls Breath Down My Neck
I wouldn't call any Fallout game particularly creepy, eventhough there are segments that can be a bit scary I guess. But if there is anything remotely jump-scare inducing, it would be the ghouls. This is definitely more of an issue in the later first-person games, as in the isometric top-down view of the first three games you rarely get surprised enough by anything to make you jump. In Fallout 3 and NV however, the ghouls are probably the only thing that have made me jump a couple of times. 

You can hear them breathing heavily from a far, but they still have a tendency to come up right behind me without me noticing, how?!. I turn around and hit V.A.T.S in panic because there is this ugly zombie-looking thing right in my face, and this happens way too often. Fortunately ghouls aren't very difficult so even though they can make me jump every now and then, they don't instill true fear in me like a pack of Deathclaws can...

They aint pretty.

4. Sneak, Damn It!
Although I loved Thief and Deus Ex, I often choose to play the spray-and-pray way when I can. Problem is, I often end up regretting this decision because the sneaky way can be so much more fun. I know sneaking around and getting critical strikes in Fallout is what I really want to do down the road, but for some reason I always forget about it in the beginning hours of gaming and once I get to that point in the game I've spent too many points on other things for it to be possible anymore. So when I burst out of my Vault my first instinct is always to go guns-a-blazing but by the time I've done my fill of shooting I always end up wishing I had put more points into Sneak instead. Once you've tried every weapon on every enemy you start wishing you could either avoid them completely or kill them faster.

3. Where Was That Again?
The Fallout games are full of quirky, fun and interesting people and places. Some are more useful than others, and sometimes you come across things you don't have use for at the time but you know you will further on. In fact, this happens all the time. You run into someone who sells a really nice weapon or armor, but you don't have the caps for it yet. Or a safe that requires just a bit more lockpicking than I am capable of at that moment. So I move on and think to myself "I'll get back there later". Do I ever? No. I always forget where these things are, so the only way I can get to them is if I happen to come across them again by accident. But why would I? These are places I have already visited on the map, so I tend to go into areas that are undiscovered. Sometimes a quest will make me backtrack to an old area, but otherwise those safes will continue to be unlocked and those weapons will continue to be unbought (by me). 

Currently in Fallout NV I came across a doctor who offered to augment my body (Deus Ex style). This was useful but very expensive but I decided I'd come back to it once I had the caps. I have the caps, but I have no idea where this doctor was. I have been looking in what I thought were the obvious places but nothing yet. I know I could just Google it... but that would hurt my pride. I probably will in the end though.

And then looking for things I run into these...

2. No Need To Walk
This one is partially connected to the previous one. I don't why it is, but I often forget that Fallout 3 and NV allow you to fast travel. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the case in the first two games (can't remember about Tactics), so I guess somehow it has been ingrained into me that if I want to go somewhere, it has to be by foot rather by fancy-schmancy ultra-conventient fast-travel. It took me several hours into Fallout NV before I remembered I could fast-travel. By that point I had already needlessly trecked, on foot, back and forth from a couple of quest objectives. I say needlessly, because once you have travelled a distance and cleared it from enemies, there is almost no reason to travel it by foot again. Nothing will happen, except maybe the occasional random spawn of a Legion-group, trying to kill me.

And because I forget I can fast-travel I am even less inclined to backtrack to old areas when I don't absolutely have to. I could technically just fast-travel all over my map to all those places I have visited to find that doctor that could augment me. But I forget.

Marcus from Fallout 2 did a cameo in NV too!

1. Hoarder
I do this in every game and it irritates me in every game. I save everything and in Fallout especially I want to keep every possible weapon just in case. Different guns are often good against different kinds of enemies too, for instance I found that the really annoying Cazadoras were pretty easy to handle with a 10mm Submachine Gun, but I wouldn't use that weapon on anything else. But that means carrying that around just in case I run into those bastards. I prefer shooting human enemies with hunting rifles, and ghouls with the hunting shotgun. I haven't found anything that works well against the Deathclaws yet though...

Because of this my inventory is always right on the edge of what I can carry. This means that whenever I find something else I want to pick up I have to find room for it or run around encumbered (and you really don't want to do that). And this means I probably spend way more time micromanaging my inventory than I should be. 

I do this in every game too! Me and the bf were playing the Witcher, and he used the bank space whereas I just ran with full bags all the time. I did the same in WoW.

I am just way too lazy to give my inventory much thought. I pick things up and solve the problem when it arises rather plan for it ahead, although in the end that ends up being a lot more work. Not only that but sometimes my on-the-fly decisions turn out to be pretty bad, throwing away something I actually wanted to keep. Then of course, I completely forget where it was I had put it...

At least I have one more chance in Fallout 4 to make things right.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Secret of Monkey Island Nostalgia

The bf had been in a bit of a gaming slump lately, relating to the fact that he is a massive (and I mean super massive) Dark Souls fan but lacks the means in which to play the third installment. His computer is not good enough simply, and the PS4 version wasn't worthy apparently (DS is to be enjoyed only on the highest of settings, or something like that). So anyway, as it had started to bother me to see him fall into his usual rut of watching yet another clip from some DBZ episode for the 500th time, I started suggesting games for him. Pretty much anything retro, as other than DS the bf isn't particularly interested in modern gaming. Even then he shunned all of my suggestions, because he is a very, very picky man. Nothing was good enough. Then, for some reason, his interest seemed piqued with Secret of Monkey Island. In a way it made sense, he has some small interest in point and click adventure games and had previously played Grim Fandango (which he didn't like) and Day of the Tentacle (which he thought was ok). So Secret of Monkey Island should be a good idea then, seeing as it is a classic in the genre. I was thrilled. I am a big fan of SoMI and was looking forward to seeing the bfs reaction to it. I should have known better.

Those new graphics though... *shudder*

As he started playing it, and I had told him that for the love of all that is holy to play it with the original graphical settings rather than the remade ones, I pretty soon noticed that something was amiss. He was clicking around, doing the things, trying to half-heartedly solve the puzzles, meeting all the funny and whacky characters that inhabit Melee Island and just so obviously, clear as day, not feeling it. What?! He didn't enjoy SoMI? How is that even possible?

True enough, eventhough he did complete it, he proclaimed he didn't understand what the "fuzz" was all about. I didn't know what to say. How do you explain the "fuzz" about Monkey Island? It's just there!

The "combat" suited my pacifist child-self perfectly.

Like I said, I love SoMI. I don't remember when or where I first played it and I probably didn't get very far that time as I probably was quite young. But I have replayed it a couple of times since and also some of the sequels (possibly even all the sequels come to think of it, yes even the Tales of Monkey Island one) and it holds a very fuzzy (!), warm spot in my heart. I fell in love with that perpetually dusked island way back and it's always been one of my favorite examples of a game with a very good "feeling". The mood of the game is just right and even through the crude but beautiful pixels it manages to instill the sense of being an actual place with actual (albeit a bit crazy) people (and monsters). I believed in Monkey Island. Somehow it's like an actual place to me without actually feeling like a real place, but I know that probably makes no sense. And whenever I think of it I think of it more of a place to revisit than a game to replay. Maybe like a really vivid dream? I don't know very many games that give me this feeling, World of Warcraft used to be that but has with its many new expansions that I haven't taken part in lost some of that nostalgia for me. Thief definitely gave me some of that feeling, but was a bit too creepy and stressful to give me a pure happy sensation (still love that game though). Some old movies can give me that feeling, movies you watched a hundred times as a kid and you wished really existed.


I'm not even sure I would have patience with most of the puzzles in SoMI nowadays (and eventhough you'd think I remember most of them, that is never the case). Actually, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't. But of course it's not about the puzzles, the puzzles are just the reason to introduce you to settings and people that will stick in your memory. To me Monkey Island was always just the island. Sure there is the troll by the bridge, the circus guys, the red herring, the dogs, the guy in that store who walks all the way to the Sword Master over and over... But somehow what really stuck in my memory was just being on that island, on that endless night where everything was nice and calm and I could just chill out.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Omikron: The Nomad Soul - Unfinished Playthrough Review

After what is probably a year of trying to get through it, I decided to uninstall Omikron: The Nomad Soul. And what really bugs me about it is that I can't really put my finger on why I couldn't get into it.
There are plenty of games otherwise that I enjoy well enough, but I just know that I will never be able to beat them for one reason or other - most often the reason being that it's just too damn difficult. For instance I loved Faster Than Light and played it countless hours but I still ever only managed to beat it on easy (and I am pretty damn proud at that). I could've played it still today, and probably will play it again in the future, but I just had to recognize that eventhough it was still fun there were also other games I wanted to try out (oh, so many) and I simply needed to make room. For FTL it was not goodbye however, simply auf wiedesehen. I am also currently playing Crypt of the Necrodancer and having great fun with it but I can also tell already that I will never be able to beat that game - I've made it halfway through world two at the moment and damn those dragons get me every time! I am still far from giving up on that one however, thanks in large to the über-awesome OST, so you never know - miracles to happen.

Just your typical bar.

That was not the issue with Omikron however. I don't know what the issue with Omikron was! Just a bit of background here, it was originally released in 1999 (a great year for PC gaming - Age of Empires 2, System Shock 2 and Planescape Torment were also released this year, to name a few!) by Quantic Dream, you know the people who later did Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls? Yeah, this was their first game.
It really had everything going for it to sweep me off my feet. It was from the time period of PC gaming that I love, it has the fugly graphics that I love. The story is pretty good and the characters are interesting enough. I didn't even think the controls and gameplay mechanics were overly difficult, once I finally got them working anyway (turns out Omikron doesn't particularly like it when you have a controller installed but that took me way long to figure out). The controls were far from perfect, for instance why would you have two completely different control schemes depending on if you're swimming or walking? That nearly had me drowning way too many times. But that is something I come to expect from that time period, I've played plenty of games from that time to know that back then people just invented their own way of doing it, WASD was barely a thing yet. So with each game you try out, part of the fun is trying to figure out how to move around at all. And like I said, it wasn't overly bad in Omikron, but pretty standard tank-controls with easy to understand trigger-keys.

You can tell it's David Bowie, right?

And the gameplay, well - many of the gameplay aspects were actually quite good. They had the regular mode, but then in some parts of the game it turns into some style of shooter (and again, different controls) but all of these were well designed enough to add rather than subtract from the whole. It spiced things up and never became frustrating. The "hail-a-taxi"-feature was great, making sure you could always get to quest-points you needed to go to, or had already visited. This made sure you never got lost and confused. Ok, scratch that - I was plenty confused. Some of the puzzles were quite tricky and I definitely had to employ walkthroughs to get through them. Even when I knew exactly what I had to do, I wasn't standing in the exact right place or talking to the right people in the right order to get it to work. And I would've never been able to figure out I needed to take over the guards body to escape from the prison, I didn't even know I had that ability! But again, it's the style of the times and that in combination with my, quite frankly, abysmal puzzle-solving skills is just a hotbed for frustration on my part. I don't blame the game for that though, the information was there if you knew where to look (or had the patience to keep looking).

It didn't crash or bug on me even once either (not counting when I first started playing it and couldn't get the controls to work), unlike games like KOTOR. KOTOR I had to stop playing after I realized I had spent more time troubleshooting bugs and crashes than I had spent time actually playing it. After a critical bug saw me having to replay hours of the game (I had chosen the wrong dialogue option way back, not triggering an event to happen) I decided enough was enough. No such trouble with Omikron, it ran smoothly.

The cab is the best.
And yet, it just never was... fun enough. But like I said, I can't explain why. Somehow the the whole ended up just not being as good as the parts of it. I could appreciate each element of the game on their own (especially the part where David Bowie has a pretty big part in it) but it just didn't manage to come together in a way that kept me around.

I can't say it's a bad game though, because it really isn't. The whole idea that it's not actually a game and you as a "player" is actually sucked into the world of Omikron to save it from some sort of demon is actually a really fun and interesting one. Maybe I just got stuck too often. If I have to resort to a walkthrough too much, I'm not really playing the game anyway, am I? I might as well just watch a LP of it, because that is basically what I am doing anyway. So, that is what I might just do. But finish this game, I will not.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Witcher - Thoughts and Review

I don't know what I expected of The Witcher when I first started playing it. All I had really heard about it were good things and I had seen a tiny bit of gameplay. The bf had played a bit of the intro but fresh off from playing Dark Souls he pretty much disliked anything that wasn't like that, so I knew his opinion was probably not much to go by. Having just played Dragon Age: Origins myself, which I had also hear very good things about but never really got into, and Mass Effect, another game with good reviews that I thought was ok but nothing special (though fun enough to at least play through unlike DA:O) I guess my hopes for TW were both high and low. Low because I had been disappointed by the previous so-called gret games I had tried that didn't particularly tickle my fancy, but also high in that I was hoping that TW could finally prove that hadn't just become too jaded to enjoy great storytelling games anymore.
The "problem" with storytelling games is that you need to give them the time and opportunity to let their story have an impact on you. If my incentive to play diminishes from supbar gameplay, then it doesn't really matter how great the story is, I won't feel engaged anyway. Although to be fair, with DA:O I had the opposite issue where a boring story removed from the somewhat fun gameplay.

TW caught me at once however with an interesting main character and a clear goal. There is danger in having a named character with a personality from the get-go, if the player doesn't sympathize with the character the whole game will feel uncomfortable to play (I more often have this issue with movies and series than games, but it's the same basis). TW however managed to strike a fine balance between the character Geralt and the player. Throughout the game Geralt will be himself, but the game also allows the player to express their opinions through the different story options that are given. Will you save the werewolf or kill it? Will you side with the Order or the Non-humans? The game did a great job in convincing me that Geralt could stand behind either of these options without ever making him seem insincere or out-of-character. That is not an easy balance to strike and I applaud the creators for making it work so well. The options you are given are rarely morally clear-cut but often feel like they're both equally right or wrong. As such it is up to you as a player to make the final decision and it was satisfying to see Geralt stand behind either option no matter what you chose. Geralt would always give a sensible explanation to why you would act the way you did. It also provided me with a lot of thoughts when I realized things I had chosen and stood behind at first, spiraled out of my control and suddenly I was in a situation I didn't want to be in anymore. But at that point I had made my bed.

I also realized that Demonicon, another game I had played before this and also Let's Played, had borrowed heavily from especially this aspect from TW. Demonicon, which is a simplistic game with a lot of flaws, but still entertaining, also presents the player with difficult choices and that was one of the elements I enjoyed the most from that game.

Probably the most annoying character in the game

The story was maybe not the most thrilling I have ever played through, but in a way that felt good. I wasn't cast as the savior of the lands (not yet at least, I can guess that might come in later games), but as a character part of a big whole going about my business. In that way it was similar to games like Fallout (the first one) where you set out to solve the problem of your own little world, while at the same time inhabiting a world full of other peoples problems. TW doesn't start you out in the shoes of someone entangled in political deceit and worldly problems, but cleverly steers you that way by setting Geralt on his own personal quest. I must say I really prefer that kind of storytelling. 

There were things in the game that irked me, though very few. The "conquest" style of bedding women felt a bit off to me, and even a bit off to the character of Geralt. Eventhough people kept telling me what womanizers the Witchers were, I never got that feeling from Geralt. More often it was the women that threw themselves at him and he just obliged. The fact that you can basically get into a steady relationship with Shani about halfway through the game made conquests after that point feel even more odd and I always avoided them when I could. And generally you can, which I was very greatful for. There were also some lose ends in the story, like Triss real motivations and whatever is wrong with Alvin - but I suspect and hope those storylines will be continued in the other games. I have no idea how faithful the game is to the books, although I intend to read them, but to me it felt like the whole womanizing thing was something that was shoehorned in to fit the source material.

This thingy was a bit of a pain

The gameplay also struck a good balance between being the right amount of complex, with a nice mix of magical and physical combat. At least it felt like it had a lot of potential, that didn't really come to full fruition in this game. For instance I found it a bit unfortunate that most magics didn't feel useful at all (I basically stuck with fire and stun magic throughout, only occasionally trying the other ones out) but maybe that was because of the difficulty setting. I played on normal which I felt was fairly easy most of the time - the only time I died repetetively was on the spider boss that put bleed on me. For some reason it took me a couple of deaths before I figured out that was what it was, so all the antivenom I had taken was for naught. Maybe on higher difficulties a great variety is needed in both alchemy usage and magic usage. I liked the system of strong-fast-group style and  it worked well enough to rarely become irritating. There were some enemies you grew fairly sick of fighting, especially the Drowners and Drowned Dead and before long I decided to just run away from them. The areas varied from fairly infuriating (the Swamp) to quite enjoyable (Vizima). I don't know how but I constantly got lost in the Swamp and I was thoroughly glad when I realized I didn't need to go back there anymore (you spend a considerable amount of time there however). 

The game is divided into different chapters and I felt the game only got better as it moved along. Of course this can just easily have been because the characters and settings are becoming more familiar to you and you are more invested in the story as you get further into the game. The ending I found somewhat confusing and not whole-heartedly satisfying (I am not talking about the cinematic ending, but the killing of the Wild Hunt) but this too is something I find might make more sense to me once I have played through the other games as well.

Overall I had great fun with The Witcher. I genuinely liked Geralt and he felt like someone with a realistic personality. He was stand-offish but not arrogant, he somehow managed to balance his lone-wolf attitude with empathy that I have rarely seen in other game-characters. Eventhough he clearly had personal issues he never made a big thing out of them but let the player think about it in their own time. I'm looking forward to spending more time with him.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Many months later...

Wow, hiatus much?! 

I turn around and suddenly it's been half a year since I last wrote something. But I'm still here and there is no special reason I haven't been writing anything. In fact, my life has been so terribly ordinary and mundane that that probably is the reason I haven't been writing anything yet this year. Every week I will ponder if I have anything special to say or talk about and so far 2017 I have come up empty handed. Not that I haven't been having fun, I make it sound like my life has been tragically boring - far from! But I am just doing ordinary every day stuff I don't considering interesting enough to spend time writing about.

I've also always wanted to avoid the rambly writing structure, in which I write whatever just comes to mind without a clear goal (a lot like this post actually). I've always wanted to make posts that at least aim to have a point and as of late I have just not had anything to make much of a point about (that isn't horribly political and that is something else I don't want this blog to be). Maybe I am going to have to contend and accept that rambly posts, that just chronicle my everyday/week doings, is what I have in me at the moment. And let's be fair, a lot of my posts have been that way already. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those kind of posts, in fact for blogging they probably make out the majority, it was just not the of writing I wanted to do.

But I love writing, and I still want to express myself however pointless my thoughts may be (to someone else, I'll always enjoy writing them down). Writing not only brings me enjoyment, it collects my thoughts and writing has always been my go-to thing whenever I've stressed over something or felt I needed some time to sort things out.

I don't think my posts ever came off as polished but some I actually gave a great deal of time and thought. Right now I feel like doing a lot more (even more!) relaxed style of writing - we'll see how that turns out.