A friend of mine once commented that it was impossible to play games with me because I rarely stuck to any one game for long.
I’d find something new and fascinating, play it for a couple hours, wax rhapsodic about it to anyone who would listen, beg and cajole for interested parties to join in, and… apparently… if said people ever did jump in, I’d be off running to another game in the next few days, while they were still getting their feet wet and figuring out the old game.
(Now, I did think this was a little unfair, because I’m perfectly game to -reverse- directions and play whatever game that required the multiplayer, or be company as needed… even if it was now several games down my list of “currently playing.”
Ultimately, I think the mismatch was more that the friend and I liked different styles of games. And said friend was more the ‘mastery’ sort of player, who liked to focus on one game at a time – often something I had already sampled in my whirlwind couple of days tour and decided wasn’t really to my taste, so ‘generalist’ me promptly dumped it in favor of something else.)
Then there was the extended period of time where I proved the comment wrong by becoming glued to Guild Wars 2 for the better part of 6-8 years, even if unhealthily so for the last couple of them with the relationship having gotten as rocky as it had, between raids, company troubles and network issues.
But of course said friend is an old friend, and old habits die hard.
Without the socio-contractual obligation of multiplayer games to lock me temporally in place, I’m free and unfettered to zip at will around singleplayer games. And boy, can I zip and zoom.
This makes blogging about games hard.
Possibly even harder than trying to catch me interested in a game for enough time to join in, learn and play alongside.
See, the issue is that if I’m interested in a game, I’m probably going to be playing it, as much as I can, for every waking hour. Blogging time? Ha! I could be -in- the game right now.
Then once I stop being interested in a game, it’s not very exciting to blog about now, is it? And there’s that other shinier game that took my attention away from the first game.
Story of my December, really.
At first, there was Hollow Knight.
I’d bounced off the game once. Platformers are not a favorite genre of mine. I am mostly neutral – I can play them, I will obligingly try 10-20 times for difficult jumps but you may dream on if you think I’m doing 50-100 repeat speedrun trials for mastery sorts of challenges. But mere neutral feelings are hard to hold one’s attention for long if there are more favorite, shinier toys lying around.
The game felt a little too big and complex for me to deal with at the time. Come the end of last year though, what with the story of the real world and all, and I was ready for a Death’s Stranding, a Souls-like wander through ghostly desolate lonely environments.
I absolutely got that with Hollow Knight and its atmosphere, with a side of bug mixed with ghostly spirit.
I went pretty deep into it for a week or two, 19 odd hours, suddenly thrilled by the depth and complexity of the world map, which unfolded like one of those oldschool Final Fantasy affairs, revealing a continent, a WORLD, with ZONES full of potential.
I suppose Metroidvania players will be shaking their heads at this. “Yes, that’s what the word Metroidvania MEANS.”
Me, I’m not a platformer player though. I’ve played neither Metroid or Castlevania (beyond a few rooms in some long ago Game Boy cartridge whose name I can no longer recall.)
Dealing with the scope of the levels required a very particular state of mind. A willingness to get sucked down the worm hole and slowly learn and explore all of its nooks and crannies. Absolutely no other distractions that might detract from the mastery of the map, its items, its bosses, its entirety.
My last achievement in Hollow Knight was dated Dec 9, 2020.
Guess what launched on Dec 10.
Yep, a big Cyberpunk distraction.
I’ve already oozed plenty of opinions on Cyberpunk 2077 in three separate blog posts, so enough said about that.
10 days later, on Dec 20, I reached the Legend of The Afterlife achievement of max Street Cred (so sayeth Steam).
It’s not as glorious as it sounds. It just means that I was in that part of the game where I was patiently visiting every marker on the map, uncovering and doing side quests, and gotten into a less new, more repetitive kind of gameplay loop. Still comfortable. Still immersive. (Ditto the crashes were still a mite annoying.)
I wasn’t ready to be -done- with Cyberpunk. So I was avoiding triggering the main quest and rushing toward an ending. Nor was my system really ready to be -playing- Cyberpunk properly – minimally, Windows 10 sounded like a good idea and maximally, a brand spanking new graphics card with a new computer everything to go along with it.
The supply chain and economics were mostly laughing at that second part, so yeah. Kinda left in limbo.
(Though as of writing this post, I see a new hotfix has dropped today, so maybe I might check it out again soon.)
In the midst of this waffling, Christmas sales waltz right along, and I’m thinking, “Eh, this year, of all years, I definitely deserve to treat myself with stuff I was putting off. Just to be grateful for being alive and being able to still afford such luxuries.”
Before you know it, I’d racked up a collection of assorted games on sale for ~$36 USD, some of which I’ve yet to get around to. What else is new?
- Morphblade – not tried
- Heat Signature – not tried
- It’s a Wipe! – amusing indie that lets you manage an oldschool-feeling MMO raid group by yourself, complete with spammy, scrolling text. Bit primitive and clunky, but is what it is on the cover.
- NEO Impossible Bosses – same idea as above, except with RTS/DOTA controls, and impossibly hard bosses with different raid phases and all. Given that my grasp of RTS controls is about as skillful as a first-time FPS player managing mouselook and keyboard, this moved the difficulty level from “Impossible” to “Inconceivable / Died Repeatedly to Tutorial Boss.” 18 minutes and as many deaths later, I finally gave up. Refunded.
- Mini Healer – yet another spin off with the same idea, except you play the MMO healer keeping your four character party alive against ever more difficult bosses. Best gameplay loop of the lot; captures the action of combat casting and juggling heals over time, instant heals, buff/debuff/dispels, group movement, boss phases, etc. while still simplifying it enough that a single player can manage and find it fun. Recommended.
- Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition – not tried (I’m sure it’s lovely. Stop screaming already.)
- D&D Lords of Waterdeep – have the iPad version, so I knew what to expect, just wanted it on PC to overheat the iPad less. Basically port of the board game. Worker placement, collect resources, spend it on quests, accrue points, sabotage other players in an attempt to earn the most points. Mix of randomness and strategy, I just like the setting and theme.
- DOOM – not tried (yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll get around to it. Some day.)
- West of Loathing – not tried
I -was- going to give West of Loathing a spin next, as I’d really missed Kingdom of Loathing and have been pining away for its standalone sister game for several years. (Just you wait, it’ll show up in a bundle now that I own it.)
Except that I got really really antsy staring at the Hades banner on the Steam store every time I logged in.
It is an EXCELLENT game. Everybody says so. It looks like polished perfection. It has that glossy cel shaded Supergiant aesthetic.
It was nowhere near my usual rule of 75% off for Steam games, nor even 50% off for stuff I know I will play immediately.
Then again, it is a low priced indie game, so the -absolute- value is not exactly prohibitive. The Steam regional price at 20% off put it at around $17 odd SGD, which is around $13 USD, so that’s already very reasonable and quite a bargain…
… BUT it’s not at the discount that I -swore- I’d stick to for most games. It’s the only way I control my Steam purchases and my predilection to amass the most ridiculous Steam games library of all time.
By the way, not interrupting the argument between you two parts of the same brain, but did you know that you can also find Hades on the Nintendo Switch store? It’s also on the Sales and Deal page, but not as cheap, of course. It’s $19.99 USD. Guess Nintendo has to take their cut, and there’s that whole non-regional pricing thing. But you know, just sayin’.
The Nintendo store is not the Steam store. Your sales discount rule doesn’t hold there. We acknowledge that console games are pricier. Do you think we might ever want to play Hades in a portable format? Like on your bed or sofa? It’s an action game. Maybe gamepad controls are better than keyboard/mouse?
But we -are- better at keyboard/mouse controls than gamepad controls… so I dunno… And $19.99 USD is undeniably objectively more expensive than $13 USD.
But then it’ll be portable! And if Hades ever turns up in a bundle, you won’t curse and swear and you’ll ALSO get it on Steam eventually.
Hmm… Hang on, did we ever check whether Hades supports super ultra-widescreen? We always have that spectre to deal with on PC.
Hrm. I dunno. Let me google and find out… Funny, there’s not that much mention of yea or nay. Maybe it doesn’t? But wait, there’s some bits here that says there is some kind of widescreen support. Maybe?
But is it super-ultra widescreen support? Some games are okay with the 2560×1080 resolution, but we have that chonkingly ridiculous 3840 x 1080 that we still very much like, but is admittedly quite nonstandard for some games to cope with.
Oh, oh wait. Oh. Apparently Hades copes with widescreens by putting these decorative skull pillars on either side of the screen where the black bars are…
… WHHHAAAAAT. Are you SERIOUS?!?!
I mean, I guess it’s not so bad on 2560×1080. It’s kind of pretty… if a bit distracting. How about this Redditor who has a 3440×1440 screen?
A BIT? We have a 3840 x 1080. We’re going to have the WIDEST chonkiest decorative skull pillars (admittedly, the art is pretty, but it doesn’t mean I want to look at them forever), and about 50% of the screen actually moving at any one time. There’ll be more skull pillar than actual game.
We could play on Windowed mode?
Give me the browser. Let’s go to the Nintendo Switch Store. $19.99 it is. It’ll be portable. It’ll blow up to our monitor resolution without skull pillars and just plain non-distracting black bars. Done.
And that was the longwinded story of how my brain persuaded my brain to buy myself Hades for Christmas.
Suffice to say the PC didn’t get very much use for the next week or two.
Hades is exactly as excellent and polished as they say.
As long as you’re okay with, or won’t freak out over action style combat in the vein of Bastion or Cat Quest, you will very much like Hades. It has self-contained endless replayability down to an iterated science.
It took me 49 attempts to finally reach victory point #1 and escape the Underworld, and surface from my intense love affair with the entire game. The core combat, the atmosphere, the elegance of its roguelike mechanics and loops that unveil that aphrodisiac of game content – story progression – by also losing and dying, not just saving it as a drip fed reward for victorious gameplay.
Apparently, one has to escape the Underworld ten times to maybe exhaust the entire main story. Let alone the side stories. Not to mention, there’s the item / weapon / skill / decoration unlocks. And set-your-own-difficulty challenges. Plenty of gameplay left. Possibly the most worthwhile $19.99 ever spent game-wise.
Absolutely no regrets. Highly recommended.
That landmark day of victory was the 9th of January. Surfacing from the depths of the Underworld back to the land of the living, that is.
For some inexplicable reason, I started to think about Path of Exile.
One Google later, I learned that my internal alarm clock was surprisingly, frighteningly accurate. Heist League, which I’d skipped, was ending. The new Ritual League was beginning on Jan 15.
Perfect timing. One week or so of build research, plotting and planning, and we would be off to the races. (That’s only a metaphor. I play super relaxed SSF.)
One week later, we are back in the early maps endgame, tinkering along at a comfortably slow and steady pace. It’s getting dangerously close to that stage of “fun, comfortable, still good to play, but maybe there’s something even more interesting on the horizon?”
We’ll see. There’s always a shinier, newer, distracting game at some point.
Without anyone to reel me in or anchor me down, I have the attention span of a kitten. That’s where the “wandering worlds” part of the blog byline comes from. Proud to give it full rein.