Recently, I found and started listening to audiobooks of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, the LotR audiobooks were taken off of youtube and maybe I should just subscribe to spotify, but I don’t like commitment so I’m sticking with Youtube, but anyway, I bring that up because I didn’t realize that hobbits aren’t considered full on adults until they hit age 33. I just hit the age of 33 this month myself, so maybe I’ll finally start to feel like an adult finally. I’ve spent this past month playing a few demos, playing a lot more DC Comics based games than I realized, and getting back into drawing. That’s not what I’m here to embarrass myself with though, I’m here to talk about this list of games here;
(I've done a bunch of other drawings, but they're all NSFW and they're all on Deviantart)
Goodness if I haven’t played a lot of demos this month! Balan Wonderworld is one of the most difficult for me to talk about because I exclusively want to refer to it as “Balan Wonderland” which flows so much more nicely off of my tongue than “Wonderworld”. As for the game itself though, I didn’t bother with it for too long. The opening cinematic was nice to watch, and there are 2 of them depending on whether you’re playing as the boy or girl, but the game itself is just rough to play. The player movement speed (for the girl at least) seems really slow, and inputs seem a little delayed. Platforms that seem like I can jump onto are either slightly too high, or the player character can’t quite jump high enough to reach more than I expected.
Some early platforming challenges look absurdly simple to compensate for this and all I can think of are how characters like Banjo, Mario, Yooka, and even Hat-Girl can make it through the first stage of Balan without effort. I wouldn’t think platforming would be so heavily emphasized considering how poorly it’s implemented, but all 4 face buttons on the Xbox controller are dedicated to jumping so I feel like I’m getting mixed messages from the game. Transformation is introduced fairly early, and this augments platforming and combat, but for the most part the only thing I remember about it is how it looks like the character just puts on a bland looking fur suit. I wasn’t having a good time with this demo, and I didn’t finish playing through the content it showcases. Playing Balan Wonderworld felt slow, the level design seemed really dated, and the enemies were completely impotent.
(Wow...This was terrible!)
The Disjunciton demo sold me on the concept of a metal gear style game playing out in a cyberpunk setting, but playing as a dork really sold me. Disjunction was also that rare demo that made me excited to play the eventual full release. The gameplay is clearly inspired by Metal Gear Solid, but while I played it I was also reminded of Gunpoint. From a safe starting point you need to sneak around restricted areas, usually to steal a specific item or access a terminal, then get out. Like Metal Gear enemies have a clearly visible line of sight, and the option to sneak by or permanently take care of guards and drones. I didn’t really absorb the plot other than noting that the world seems to be a not-too-distant future with shades of cyberpunk. That’s not what drew me to Disjunction though, I just wanted to play an MGS-like and the demo was more or less that. I’m ready for more!
(I gotta say, I don't recall how or if this applies to the game...)
I didn’t realize my copy of Batman: Arkham Origins was missing the DLC until I had beaten the game and the only new costume I could use was the Noel one. I don’t like that I can only use the Arkham costume in origins from the beginning, especially after Knight let me play in the 1989 suit from the beginning. Between that and the flow of combat infrequently breaking because the game forgets to have Batman target an enemy, it’s easy for me to say this is the worst of the four Arkham games. That being said though, the Arkham games are like Dark Souls in that even the worst in the series is an excellent game overall. Gotham City isn’t as big in this game as Knight, and I’m positive that the bridge separates the two larger land masses to act as a loading buffer point.
I don’t recall how it measures up compared to Arkham City, and I probably won’t be playing that until after I play Asylum again. For the most part I liked the story, but I think there’s a little bit too much of a gap between Origins and Asylum to introduce a proto-Titan drug. I also wish there was more emphasis on the assassin hunt. Once Bane is introduced the plot pivots from (my understanding of) Year One to more of a Knightfall thing when frankly I think Knightfall is too big of a story to have been shoehorned in the later chapters of Origins. The resolution with Bane was set up nicely despite how convenient it was. Overall though, as I said, even the worst Arkham game is better than the best of certain other franchises and I greatly enjoyed my time replaying it this month.
(Vengence. The Night. Or is it The Knight...?)
I don’t remember if I owned or rented Singularity a decade ago, but I know I played through it once upon a time. This month I installed it onto my PC and played through a couple of hours of it, but I just couldn’t be bothered to play it through to the end again. The shooting isn’t bad, neither is the exploration or puzzle solving, but by the time I started time hopping and got the item that ages and de-ages objects, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be playing Titanfall 2 again.
I was looking forward to Warhammer 40K: Dakka Squadron but the demo, like so many other recent demos, made me second-guess myself. I’m not the biggest 40K fan and I don’t really talk to the gatekeepers or fans in general so I’m not sure what would make me one, but I’m a vehement fan of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for the original Xbox. In screenshots and trailers, Dakka-Dakka looks a whole lot like Crimson Skies, with the main difference being that you play as an Ork from the 40K series. Now obviously the demo can’t showcase all of the content of the full game, for all I know there will be large levels with zeppelins for me to shoot down, but the stages I played in the demo were cramped canyons that strongly discouraged me from leaving the small combat zones.
Controlling the plane I chose seemed strange too; it seems like rather than moving the plane in real time, I was dragging it along as though it were a kit at the end of a line. I didn’t have a firm sense that I was totally in control. Small levels and questionable control aside, I like dogfighting and blowing up structures. There aren’t enough structures to destroy, and given the last gen color scheme of the settings and destructible buildings (ie: brown, grey, and dirt-orange with the occasional red stripe), I had trouble picking things out at a glance while I flew around. I’m kind of conflicted about this game and I never expected to get it on day one. I haven’t taken it off of my wishlist either, and I’m still excited to see in depth reviews of Dakka once it’s launched to determine whether I want to get it when it’s either cheap sooner, or really cheap later.
(Red planes fly faster)
The demo for Gloomwood was one of those rare demos that made me want to check out the full game. The object of the demo is to get into a tower, but the streets of not-Dunwall are being patrolled by very hostile, cloaked figures. The name of the game is stealth and resource management. It’s possible to dispatch the men patrolling the streets of not-Yarnham by hitting them once in the back with your trusty sword cane, shooting them twice with the pistol, or once with the shotgun. The later options will likely draw the attention of other guards or monsters, and ammo was really difficult to come by, so I always felt discouraged from trying a more gun-focused approach to conflict resolution.
Gloomwood’s presentation and some trailers initially made me think it would be more action oriented, but after playing the demo it definitely plays more like a survival horror type of game. Like I said previously, ammunition is difficult to come by and it’s difficult to take enemies down if they’re aware of you. The atmosphere is really dark and foreboding, with an interesting post-industrial aesthetic.Just when I thought the Gloomhaven demo would be nothing but cobbled streets and breaking into guard houses, but then there was a sewer segment which featured fast moving monsters. I think that’s the point where my interest peaked: in all of the trailers I had seen previously, I don’t recall there being a hint of sewer monsters, but now I’m curious about what other monsters are waiting in the wings. I’ve had a really hard time finding demos that I liked, and the Gloomwood demo definitely has me anticipating the upcoming game.
(This one is really promising)
This month I booted up Injustice and Injustice 2, and wound up playing them both for a lot longer than I would usually play any 1v1 fighting game. It helps that between both games I can play as just about all of the New Teen Titans (still no Changeling or Donna Troy Neversoft, c’mon). I started with, and spent more time playing, Injustice 2. I haven’t touched the story mode, instead I played through the tutorials and did a bunch of single fights. I specifically went for a handful of achievements, but for the most part I had a good time knocking around various DC characters as the Blue Beetle, Starfire, or the TMNT. What I didn’t like about Injustice 2 though, and what made me want to play the first game again, was how costumes worked. That is, there aren’t costumes in Injustice 2 but there are heads, bodies, arms, legs, color palettes, and sometimes character skins that you can change in a completely different menu and set as a loadout.
(One day the world will heal, and on that day there will be a true-to-his-character Lobo movie)
I like how a few of these were unlocked from the start, like Black Lightning being a skin for Raiden and John Stewart being a skin for Hal Jordan. What I don’t like is how many of them are locked behind one of the four in-game currencies you earn by playing, or can just buy in bulk as a DLC. One of the achievements in Injustice 2 is to land a scene transition strike on all Batman villains, while playing as Batman, in the Arkham Asylum stage. It can be fairly easy to accomplish, but to complete it I’ll need to unlock the Mr. Freeze skin for Captain Cold. It costs 6,000 of the premium currency to unlock that skin, and after over 8 and a quarter hours of gameplay I’m currently at about 2,200 of that currency. It’s not a big deal, it’s just kind of annoying. Injustice the first lets you swap character costumes without dealing with an extra menu, premium currencies, etc. The worst thing I can say about extra costumes in Injustice is that the DLC characters don’t have them.
In terms of gameplay, both Injustices play virtually identically. Select a hero or villain from the pages of DC comics (or the token Mortal Kombat DLC character, or Hellboy, or the TMNT), and fight against another one. Injustice has more stages to choose from, Injustice 2 has more characters to choose from, but combat is made up of combos, special moves, throws, super-special moves, and environmental interaction. Both games had great training modes, so even someone like me who’s terrible at 1v1 fighting games can get to a level where I can reliably execute 3-to-5 hit combos fairly reliably. In a way the 2 Injustice games remind me of Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I know I want to get into superhero fights, and the determining factor that made me choose one over the other is whether I wanted to play as Gorilla Grodd or Lobo, Blue Beetle or General Zod, Donatello or Raven. They’re really solid games, and I’m hoping a third one launches soon.
("Krypton had its chance" says a person who definitely isn't Superman)
The Room 2 isn’t at all related to Tommy Wiseau, rather it’s the second in a series of puzzle games. From what I remember of the first game, you’re locked in a room with an object that broke down into more complicated objects as you solved the puzzles of the previous objects. In The Room 2, you’re locked in a room and must solve a series of puzzles which will cause a door to materialize and take you to another locked room in another, completely different, setting. It’s a little bit difficult to explain, mainly because of how simple the premise is; you find and use items to solve the puzzles presented to you. A lot of the time careful observation is required to find important items, learn the purpose of some items, manipulating those items to allow them to function, etc. Like in the original, the puzzle set-pieces you need to interact with look fantastic, as do the items you find and interact with. In a lot of ways The Room 2 and its predecessor are just these small digital playsets that aren’t exactly challenging and the stakes are low, but it’s entertaining to mess around with for a while.
(I'm starting to get Rusty Lake vibes from these games)
I don’t remember when I did it, it was probably this past month, but I know I played a few minutes of the Bravely Default 2 demo. I’m not talking about it like the other games in my list because I absolutely hated it. The very beginning is standard; your character is floating in void, you name the character, God tells you to get started but then the demo starts in the middle of an overworld map with a full party of named characters in the middle of a trek. I was expecting the beginning of the game, plot set-up, character set-up, exposition, motivation, world building, but none of it was there, and what that tells me is Square Enix has no faith in the world they’ve made or the characters who populate it. I got into a couple of fights, I entered the nearby oasis town, I talked to a few NPCs, but I couldn’t find a narrative thread to pick up at all and soon just gave it up. What the Hell is even going on with the Bravely series? The first one was fantastic up until the end of the game where it plays out like Endless 8. Bravely Second was a game I haven’t played yet, but seems to be alright. Shouldn’t this new game be called Bravely Third or Bravely Default 3? I’m sure with the right context the plot isn’t terrible, but I have no interest in giving Bravely Switch a chance right now based on how it was presented in the demo.
Oh hey, it’s March! I straight-up don’t know what’s coming out this month. The Nintendo Direct, Final Fantasy VII-R stream, and Pokemon Direct were great commercials for games coming out later this year, but that’s then. I don’t see myself pre-ordering any of the newly announced games but I’m probably going to break my day-1 rule when Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl launch. I have a ton of games in my backlog to check out, and a couple of demos left that I could look into. Tune in next month when I’ll gush about Arkham Asylum, bitch about the Outriders demo, and feature no new doodles!