Category: the first few hours

Weekend Recap: Books, Debt, Pause

You ever have one of those weeks where you keep thinking that you have stuff to talk about, but then you start writing it down and none of it seems particularly interesting or important?  That’s where I was last week.  That’s sorta where I still am this week, but the day job is slow at the moment and I need to look busy.  So here we go.


I started reading “The Phantom Tollbooth” to my almost-five-year-old (!) son last week.  It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and it’s one of the two books that I’d been looking forward to reading to him pretty much since he was born – every once in a while he’ll ask me to read “The Monster At The End Of This Book”, but Grover doesn’t mean the same thing to him as it did to me.  In any event, we made it through a chapter and a half before he started losing interest, and rather than force it on him, I figure it’s probably best if we put it to the side, and then he can get back to it when he’s ready.


Speaking of books, I’ve been on a tear of late.  The last book I’d mentioned in these pages was Nick Harkaway’s “Gnomon”.  Since then, I finally finished Zachary Mason’s “Void Star” (interesting premise, though the writing is almost too flowery and obtuse), Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” (which is as magnificent as everyone says, and which I vastly preferred over “The Goldfinch”), and now I’m catching up on some early George Saunders work – “In Persuasion Nation”, which is brilliant, and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline”, which is equally brilliant.  I’d never particularly cared for short stories one way or the other – I generally always preferred getting sucked into a very very long novel rather than a short vignette – but what he does with the form is nothing short of revelatory.  And quite frankly, he’s a lot more sci-fi than most people tend to acknowledge – a lot of his stories read like Black Mirror episodes if they were allowed to be absurd, rather than just purely filled with technological dread.


I think I’d mentioned a few weeks back that the wife and I were determined to get back into our respective creative gears this year.  For me, this feels a bit more daunting than it should, because my laptop is running on fumes at this point and buying a new computer is just too goddamned much for me right now, what with credit card debt and the mortgage and car payments and day care and etc.  And yet, if I ever hope to make any money from making music, I need a new computer.  I did end up buying a new input box, but I’m so afraid of it not working that I haven’t yet attempted to hook it up.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.  Back in high school, I was writing music all day; I still have a notebook filled with at least 200+ songs with charts and lyrics and melodies and arrangements and such.  But I never recorded them, beyond sitting in front of a boombox and recording a sketch to show the band.  Eventually I bought a four-track, and that was also just used for sketches (and indeed I never had the proper means to mix them down, and so I ended up sending the mixes through my guitar amp and recording them with a hand-held dictaphone).  And so on and so forth.  The point being, I never needed to have professional equipment at home because there was always a band I could send this stuff to, and if we liked a song well enough to record it we’d just go into a studio and record it properly.  Now, of course, I don’t have a band, and I don’t have the money to pay for a studio (or to hire the musicians necessary to play this stuff), and so if I’m going to release this stuff I need to do it myself.  And so I need a new computer.  Anybody have a spare $2000 they’re not using so I can get an iMac?


If you’re looking for a good time on your mobile phone, you could do a lot worse than The Room: Old Sins.  The story is as obtuse is ever, but that’s hardly the point; this is the best game in the entire series, bar none, and it’s a pleasure to play through from start to finish.


Lastly:  I started playing Monster Hunter World this weekend, like most of the gaming world.  It’s my first foray into the franchise, and my understanding is that it’s the most accessible.  I can’t speak to that; I’m just coming to it as a newbie and hoping it makes sense.  Actually, let me rephrase that – I’m coming to it pretending I’m Geralt from the Witcher franchise, to the point where that’s what my character looks like.  I need to get out of that habit, of course, because the combat in Monster Hunter bears little to no relation to The Witcher, and that’s why I feel like I’m almost about to die quite often.

In any event, I finished the first 3 missions and am now at the point where I can explore without a time limit or without any particular objectives, and I think this is where I can see the game becoming quite awesome.

That being said, the game makes some puzzling design choices; the one that drives me the most insane is that you can’t truly pause the game.  While it’s true that this doesn’t always matter – like when you’re in the starting hub, or if you simply decline to press “A” during a cutscene – it most certainly matters if you’re in the middle of a quest.  My game-playing time is in the evening, after my son goes to bed, and I’m in the basement, two floors below him; if he needs something and my wife isn’t available – or if my dog needs something – or if I need a bathroom break or a snack – I’ve gotta put the controller down and deal with it, and not being able to pause means that meta-Geralt is most likely going to die.  Not being able to pause is a source of needless anxiety and I don’t know how to get around it.  (This is also why I never stuck with the Destiny franchise.)

The First 20 Minutes: Mass Effect Andromeda

I didn’t intend to start the new Mass Effect just yet.  The plan was to finish Horizon Zero Dawn, since I thought I was heading towards the finish, and then get to ME:A without feeling distracted.

But then I’d finally gotten HZD’s Shield Weaver armor, a set of armor so powerful it’s almost game-breaking, and decided that was as good a point as any to set HZD to the side and give ME:A a quick spin.

In the creative world, you can usually tell how someone is going to audition simply by how they walk into the room.  When it comes to new books by new (to me) authors, I tend to give the author a chapter or two – not just to see if the story is interesting, but to see how the author uses language to tell that story.  When I fire up my weekly Spotify Discovery playlist, I’ll give everything a very quick spin but if I’m not wowed immediately, I’ll skip ahead to the next track.  (I feel comfortable doing that if only because there have been tons of songs that do, in fact, wow me immediately.)

When it comes to games, it’s a little bit trickier.  I can forgive some technical jankiness here and there if the moment-to-moment gameplay experience is compelling, especially in big-budget AAA titles, if only because one expects those kinds of things to get patched.  Even the day-one disaster of Assassin’s Creed Unity got better, eventually, though that game had larger issues than simple glitches.

So, then:  I’d been doing my best to avoid any and all media concerning this new Mass Effect game, as I am a rabid ME junkie and wanted to go into this new game as unspoiled as possible.  But I am also a human being who uses the internet from time to time, and so it was inevitable that certain, er, wonkiness would come to light.

But, uh… holy shit, the first twenty minutes of ME:A are a bit of a mess.  Maybe it’s just the Xbox One version, but GODDAMN this game is janky as hell.  I’ve played the original trilogy all the way through, twice, and I know how the game is supposed to feel in my hands, and ME:A feels completely alien to me.  (To be fair, I have spent the last 30 hours playing HZD, which might affect this impression.)  But more to the point, it is super-janky, even in places where you wouldn’t expect the hardware to be taxed all that much.  Even the character customizer is kinda shitty.

I made it about 10-15 minutes into the first real planet-side mission before turning it off, somewhat in disgust.  Tutorial pop-ups would flicker on and off so quickly that it was impossible to read – I still don’t know how to engage with ammunition pickups; combat feels very stiff, even by Mass Effect standards; the scanning mechanic is not explained particularly well and it’s very unclear how it’s supposed to work, and while I might be picking up certain resources by scanning I don’t know what I’ve picked up or why (which isn’t helped AT ALL by the fact that the in-game computer system that would explain this stuff is necessarily disconnected for narrative purposes).

I’ve decided to stick to the original plan, which is to finish HZD and wait for ME:A’s day-0ne patch.  HZD is really good, you guys, I can’t emphasize that enough.  I know everyone’s playing Zelda or whatever, but still:  HZD is great.  If nothing else, it’s raised the third-person action/adventure/RPG bar rather high, and ME:A’s first 20 minutes fell way short.

The Next Few Hours: Horizon Zero Dawn

Current status:  Level 23.  15(?) hours in.  

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I am old and jaded.  So when I say that Horizon: Zero Dawn has left me slackjawed in awe, and exhilarated after taking down a gigantic robotic dinosaur, I’m not being hyperbolic.  I am legitimately impressed that I can feel transported by any game, let alone a brand-new IP from a developer whose previous efforts were never really my bag.

In my last post, my gut reactions and first impressions led me to compare HZD to Far Cry Primal and Uncharted.  Those comparisons still feel appropriate, but now that I’m a bit deeper into the game (though I should also note that I’m doing as much side stuff as possible, so I’m probably not as deep into the actual story as I could be), I’d extend that comparison to include Witcher 3 and maybe even a little Dragon Age Inquisition Mass Effect.

It’s not nearly as deep as those games, of course; the characters aren’t nearly as interesting, and the cities and towns you visit aren’t necessarily all that interesting beyond a first glance at their detailed architecture.  But they are structured similarly, at least in terms of the player’s relationship to the world, and certainly the amount of side stuff that you pick up along the main path creates a fair illusion of depth.

I don’t want to demean the accomplishments of HZD by reducing it to what it compares to, but it does serve as an effective shorthand in terms of letting you know just what it is you’re getting into here – post-apocalyptic third-person action RPG doesn’t quite do the trick.  And I’d also further note that all the games I’ve compared it to are games that I quite enjoy.

The game excels where it counts, is the important thing.  I am certainly very curious as to who our protagonist is and where she comes from, even if that’s more because of the narrative than because of her, specifically.  But more to the point, the game’s primary emphasis on hunting machines is excellent.  One would expect this from a developer known for its FPS franchise, but here the battles are as intense as anything I can remember.  After finally conquering a particularly grueling encounter yesterday, I literally stood up and shouted “YEAH!” I felt like I’d accomplished something.  These machines are motherfuckers, and even if I’m wildly overpowered compared to them I’m still wary, because one wrong move leads to instant death – especially if I’m not prepared.  And it’s very easy to not be prepared, which is why the gathering of materials is so incredibly crucial.  In nearly every modern game I can think of, I tend to go nuts when it comes to gathering materials and flowers and such, but I can’t think of many games where it’s absolutely vital in order to survive.  If I can’t craft a health potion, I’m fucked.

The 41-year-old father in me does wish that the game were a bit shorter, though I don’t mean to imply that the game feels padded.  It’s more that I just don’t have as much time as I’d like to be able to sink into this game; I only hope I can finish it before Mass Effect arrives in a few weeks.

Speaking of which:  I am not getting a Nintendo Switch, and thus I will not be playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  I can live with that.  As noted above, Mass Effect Andromeda is dropping shortly, and in the meantime I’m enjoying HZD far more than I ever expected to.  I almost feel bad for the developers; I worry that the game is getting swallowed up by Zelda’s massive presence.  To that end, I say – if you’re like me and didn’t get a Switch at launch, Horizon will more than suffice.

 

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The First Few Hours: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Current status:  6-8 hours in.  Level 11.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

I am not necessarily fond of reducing an original work of art to a comparison between two other, unrelated pieces of art, but I acknowledge that I do it from time to time.  If I were attempting to be a professional critic, I’m sure my editors would remind me to stop doing that.  I am not a professional critic, however, and so I feel like I can say something like Horizon: Zero Dawn feels like a combination of Uncharted and Far Cry Primal without too much trouble.  Because that’s almost exactly what it is.

In the Uncharted corner, you’ve got:  a technological tour-de-force (mostly), a third-person action/adventure, a character-driven narrative with lots of in-engine cutscenes.  There’s some high-quality traversal animation, though you spend most of your time killing things.

In the Far Cry Primal corner, you’ve got:  lots and lots of crafting, lots and lots of hunting, and an open world in a primitive setting (though there’s obviously something futuristic about it, too, what with the robotic animals all over the place and the ruins of a long-ago civilization that might as well be ours).  Also: lots and lots of side quests, and “towers” that, once ascended, open up larger parts of a very busy map.

Do I love it?  I don’t know yet.  I’ve spent but one day with it, and I’m still mulling it over.

I do know that for the last few weeks I’ve been feeling somewhat at a loss with my gaming time; I’ve mostly just been either tooling around with my backlog, or dipping my toes in the exquisitely silly Yakuza 0.  To that end, H:ZD is exactly the sort of big-budget AAA game that I’ve been longing to play; something that was carefully and meticulously crafted, something that was loved and cared for, something that has a lot of ambition but also a lot of heart.

Is it successful?  Yes and no, though I’m tempted to lean yes just because it’s so obviously well-intentioned.  It is somewhat jarring to see these primitive people wearing primitive clothing speaking very, very modern English in very, very modern American accents – one dude that I happened to meet almost has a hint of Bronx in him, which just feels weird.  But, to its credit, the cast of human characters is a lot more diverse than one is used to seeing in these sorts of AAA games; and while Aloy may not end up being as iconic as Lara Croft she’s certainly compelling in her own right, and I’m fully invested in solving the mystery behind her origin.

I should, at this point, mention that I’m playing H:ZD on an original PS4, on a non-HDR HDTV.  I mention this because H:ZD was one of the first big Sony exclusives that was meant to showcase the Pro and its HDR capabilities, and the presentation on my OG PS4 is… muted?  It’s not nearly as vibrant or as colorful as what I’ve seen in commercials and trailers, and while it’s rock-steady in terms of performance, I can’t help but feel that I’m not getting the full graphical experience.  I am not in any position to acquire a PS4 Pro and an HDR-capable HDTV, however, so I’m stuck with what I’ve got.  When I say I’m underwhelmed, I don’t mean to dismiss the game’s technological prowess; I only mean to imply that I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that the Pro version looks substantially more colorful, and in a game that’s so refreshingly free of the traditional brown/gray color scheme of modern games, I wish I had more access to it.

I should also mention that the game is tough.  I’ve died quite a few times already, even in areas where I thought I’d be over-leveled.  I suppose part of the issue is that you can’t simply rush into the thick of it and start killing everything in sight, even though you feel like you ought to; the game’s tutorial does stress the importance of stealthy approaches and careful planning, of course, but I often feel that I get killed by enemies that I simply didn’t see and had no way of seeing.  Other games do a better job of letting you know when something’s approaching off-screen, but here you just got walloped, and it doesn’t take all that much to get clobbered to death.  Again – I’m still in the early going, and I’m sure there’s better equipment and more effective weaponry out there for me to acquire.

I am compelled to continue, though, and so to that end the game’s got me hooked.  And I feel obligated to apologize to Night in the Woods, which I started over the weekend but didn’t quite get far enough into in order to keep me focused.

The First Few Hours: Deus Ex Mankind Divided

Current Status:  Let’s say about 5-6 hours.  I’ve done 3 or 4 main missions, 2-3 side missions.  I am attempting to play as stealthily and non-lethally as possible; in other words, I’m mostly just crawling through ducts.

I have some conflicting thoughts about  Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but first I need to provide some context.

I have vague memories of playing the first Deus Ex game on my roommate’s PC.  I know I finished it, because I remember using a walkthrough in order to see all the endings (I also remember printing the walkthrough out at work and having it be this absolutely gigantic document); I remember certain levels better than others (i.e., the Statue of Liberty); I mostly remember the feeling of intense intimidation.  Deus Ex was billed as “the thinking man’s shooter/RPG”, which to me really just meant that it was incredibly complicated to learn how to play; you couldn’t simply WASD your way through a level.  And I dimly recall hearing that there were multiple ways to approach each objective, though I’m pretty sure I just killed everybody I saw, because the stealth controls were complicated and I always got spotted without knowing why or how.

I played Invisible War on console, and made it about 2/3rds of the way through before getting stuck.  All I remember about that game were its obscenely long loading times (which felt very much at odds with the relative smallness of each new zone) and that I had a little bit more success playing stealthily, though – again – I got stuck towards the end because I was pinned between some massive robot enemies and I had almost nothing useful in my inventory that could help me get un-stuck.

I played and finished Human Revolution, and enjoyed it (for the most part).  I was glad to see the franchise revived and treated not simply as a cash cow, but as an attempt to modernize the gameplay and keep it relevant.  The ending(s) were junk and the boss fights were awful, but I did enjoy sneaking around.

So, then: I am coming to this new game with the casual familiarity of someone who’s played the previous games but can’t necessarily remember if there’s any relationship between JC Denton and Adam Jensen; who is aware of the storied history of the franchise (or, rather, the high regard of the first game) but who isn’t necessarily going into this one with high expectations; and mostly as someone who desperately needed a palate cleansing after the existential, solipsistic despair of No Man’s Sky.

To that end, I am of two minds regarding Mankind Divided at this early stage of the game:

I do not feel that it’s necessary to have played any other DE game in order to enjoy this one; but I also feel that it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary to have played at least one other DE game in order to know what’s possible in this one.

If I’m being honest, most of what I know about how to play this current DE is from my previous experience, coupled with what I’ve read in pre-release previews and final-release reviews about the game. The game itself is not particularly explicit in letting you know how much freedom you have.  The tutorial level is heavily combat-focused, and while it teaches you about non-lethal takedowns and certain stealth mechanics, it doesn’t necessarily do the best job of showing you that you can sneak through vents and bypass rooms of enemies entirely, and that it’s often more beneficial to do it that way.  More to the point, I get the sense that there’s an expectation of the player to already know this stuff, and that the tutorial is mostly there to acclimate you to the controls, rather than the game’s philosophy.

And I should also point out here that by the phrase “game’s philosophy” I’m talking about the thought process that guides each individual player through their own individual gameplay experience, rather than the game’s narrative.  Because as far as the story goes, I mean, whatever.  Mankind Divided‘s plot is convoluted and ridiculous and the main takeaway so far is that Jensen acts like he’s auditioning to be in a Kojima Metal Gear Solid game.*

Which is not to say that I’m not enjoying myself.  I’m making my own fun.  At this early stage in the game, I’m largely avoiding the main storyline and simply exploring this future vision of Prague, which reminds me an awful lot of Half-Life 2‘s City 17.  Any time I see a vent cover, I open it and sneak around just to see where it takes me, because invariably it leads me to a secret stash of something worthwhile and at the very least I get a few XP points.  Any time I see a locked door, regardless of where I am, I immediately hack the shit out of it or I start looking for an alternate route in, because there’s almost always an alternate route, whether it’s a structural weakness in an adjacent wall, or even just hopping out onto a window ledge and sneaking in that way (you will learn, if you choose to, that while people might have complicated locks on their doors, their windows are almost always unlocked).

The world is super janky in that regard.  Half a dozen people might be milling about in front of a coffee shop, and they do not react at all to me opening up a manhole cover and jumping into the sewer.  Then again, considering how many people hang out in the sewer, I guess they wouldn’t necessarily be surprised.  It is unclear why there are so many people hanging out in the sewer, for that matter – there’s obviously some sort of conflict going on that’s making the citizenry uneasy, but I’m not entirely sure why they’re hanging out belowground.

The only other thing I can offer is that… I kinda wish I was playing this on PS4.  I think I’d mentioned last week that I’m aiming to break 100K in Achievements by the end of the year, and so I’m choosing to play most of the rest of the year’s multi-console releases on the XB1 in order to make that happen.  The XB1 experience is largely OK, though there’s a bit of slowdown here and there and I know the PS4 version would look a bit crisper and cleaner.  (Facial animation and lip-syncing are awful, though, and I hear that’s the case across all three platforms.)  Nothing about the XB1 version makes it unplayable, of course; but it’s clear that it’s bringing up the rear in terms of smoothness and fidelity.

More to come later this week.


* I would ordinarily link here to my Unwinnable essay about MGSV, but I don’t think it’s online.  I’ll see what I can do about that.  In the meantime, it’s available in issue 70/71.

The (Possibly) Final Few Hours: No Man’s Sky

I very nearly beat No Man’s Sky last night, except for one stupid thing I did 20+ hours ago.

Let me back up for a sec, though.  Firstly, don’t necessarily take my completion time as an average: I was specifically on the Atlas questline, which supposedly gets you to the center much more quickly than the regular way; secondly, I did finally upgrade my warp drive, which makes a huge difference when it comes to warping – I was jumping 4-5 star systems at a time, rather than just 1.  And honestly, at this point, I kinda just want to wrap things up and see what happens; there’s not enough meat here to keep me satiated, and meanwhile there’s still that Witcher 3: Blood & Wine DLC I keep meaning to finish.

So, then:  if you were to look at any NMS guides right now, one of the first things they’ll tell you is don’t sell your Atlas Stones, no matter what – doesn’t matter if you need the inventory space OR the copious amounts of money.  As you might imagine, then, my particular problem is that when I started playing the game, this wasn’t common knowledge.  I needed money and saw that a Stone was selling for something absolutely absurd on the Galactic Trade market, and so I went for it.

You need 10 Atlas Stones to get the Atlas ending; I currently have 9.

I’m in a bit of a dilemma, in other words.  I don’t want to start over from scratch.  I’m not particularly interested in farming 2M units’ worth of materials in order to buy a Stone off the market – and I don’t even know if my current star system’s market is even selling them.  And I’m very reluctant to leave this system until I can resolve this situation, as I’m not sure if I’ll run into any more Atlas Waypoints – and I foolishly forgot to rename the system so that I could easily find it again if I got too far ahead.

So the way I see it, I’ve got two viable choices.  I can either use that item-duping glitch and get myself the 10th stone as soon as possible (i.e., before they patch it out), or… I sell all 9 stones and buy myself the sweetest ship I can find, and continue on my merry way through the galaxy… doing the exact same shit I’ve already been doing since I started.  I’m not necessarily in favor of using glitches and exploits, but in this specific case I can’t help but feel like it’s the right answer, since I didn’t know I was supposed to hold on to them when I first got one.  And, well… I’m starting to get a little bored.  I don’t really know what else there is for me to do beyond getting all my “Journey Milestones” up to level 10 – and as it currently stands, I’m mostly there on that score anyway.

I should also admit that I looked at the 10 Atlas Stones ending on YouTube – just because I needed to know if it was worth it.  I’m not going to spoil it here, but I will say this:  if the ending I saw is indeed the real ending (since it might’ve been filmed pre-Day One Patch), then HOLY SHIT what a colossally stupid waste of time this has been.

I don’t mean to sound so angry.  The game’s ambition is staggering to behold and I certainly don’t regret my purchase, even if I’m ultimately disappointed in my experience – the lethal combination of infinite monotony and incessant crashing would do that to anyone.  And I can certainly see Hello Games patching in a whole mess of interesting content down the line, and I’d be legitimately curious to see what they have to offer.  I’d love to see some hand-crafted planets with some new questlines; or, at least, some new variations in the planet-forming algorithms.  The game doesn’t take up that much space on my PS4, anyway, so it’s not like I’m going to delete it.

But I do wish that there was a bit more there, there.

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The Next Few Hours: No Man’s Sky

I’m in a weird place with respect to No Man’s Sky.  There’s been an ongoing critical discussion with respect to what NMS actually is, and how the reality of what NMS presents may or may not conflict with what people wanted NMS to be, and whether the hype that NMS generated was warranted (even if, from my point of view, the “hype” was mostly about people’s self-generated expectations based on the very vague statements that Hello Games was willing to impart), and that’s a fine discussion to have.  But the reality is that, well, I spent $60 on this thing and I’m trying to figure out how to have fun with it.

I am not terribly attracted to truly open sandboxes.  Minecraft, as the most obvious example, has never been my cup of tea; I was always the sort of kid who followed the build instructions that came with my Lego sets, and so I always felt a bit at sea without a guiding hand pointing me in some sort of direction. Even the Hitman franchise is somewhat impenetrable, if only because I never feel like I have enough of an opportunity to improvise before everything falls apart.

NMS is a bit more guided than I originally thought, though it wasn’t until I had a quasi-epiphany about how to play it that I figured it out.  We’ve always been told that our primary goal is to get to the center of the galaxy.  And I’ve read enough stuff online that strongly urges you to follow the Atlas questline in order to get there more quickly that I’ve opted to go that route (even though those Atlas stones are killing my ability to properly manage my inventory – would it be too much to ask for some sort of Village Chest analog, where I could safely store the stuff I wanted to keep and it would automatically be available at each space station?  I suspect, actually, that it might).

But even those two arrows are still a bit too open-ended – getting to the center of the galaxy could very well take years unless I pay proper attention to what I’m doing.  And so, to that end, I’ve decided that each play session will be devoted to accomplishing one specific task.  Last night I wanted to finally buy a new ship.  So first I decided to suck it up and fully discover each of this particular planet’s species, which netted me a cool 325,000.  I then mined the hell out of as much expensive shit as I could find (keeping the starred inventory items at the Galactic Trade Portals in the back of my mind), and eventually I happened to find a ship at a spaceport that (a) represented a decent inventory upgrade (22 slots, up from 19), (b) had better built-in upgrades than my current ship (more effective shields and cannons), and (c) hit my price range.  This took about 2 hours or so, and now I’m feeling like I accomplished something.

Tonight’s goal is to upgrade my warp drive, which means I need to farm certain specific elements and buy a Dynamic Resonator or whatever it’s called (I do have the recipe to craft it, but in terms of managing inventory space I’d rather just have it already so I can mine the other stuff).  And once I do that, I’ll be able to push a bit farther along each time I enter warp.

(I’ve read some hints as to how to get better versions of those Atlas Passes; I may try to do that, too, since apparently the v3 passes open up doors that contain warp materials.)

So I’ve managed to turn the unstructured chaos into something manageable and do-able, and so that’s something.  The problem is that I don’t know how much longer I’ll find it interesting.

The bummer with respect to such a gigantic universe as NMS is that I can’t really tell you about any exciting adventures I’ve had.  If I were to describe my average session, it would almost certainly sound a lot like yours.  There’s no real possibilities for emergent narratives to form, because there’s almost nothing to interact with.  The creatures all look a bit different but they don’t necessarily do anything particularly interesting; the sentinels either attack you or they ignore you; sometimes there will be space battles, but you won’t necessarily reap any rewards if you didn’t have any open inventory space on your ship before you got started.  Unlike The Witcher or the Elder Scrolls games, there’s not much of a reason to explore neat-looking caves, because aside from mining materials there’s nothing to find.  The algorithm that created this universe is certainly impressive, but nothing feels hand-crafted.

In a way, though, NMS also reminds me of what I’d hoped there’d be more of in Destiny, which had a much smaller universe that I only saw tiny portions of, and which provided almost no incentive to venture off the beaten path.  Perhaps it’s just because a lot of NMS’s UI feels like a straight-up clone.

I remain intrigued, and I suppose I’m glad there’s something of a lull in the release window at the moment.  I do not know if I’ll make to the end.