Weekend Recap: Order out of Chaos

The Game:  The Order: 1886
Current Status:  3-4 hours in, halfway through Chapter 9 (out of 16)

The conventional wisdom on The Order: 1886, as far as I can tell, is the following:

  • for a $60 game, it’s far too short and has no lasting value beyond the initial campaign
  • for a third-person cover shooter, it hardly reinvents the wheel, and the combat is bland and uninspired
  • it’s absolutely gorgeous, though the decision to force black bars on the top and bottom of the screen (to enhance the cinematic widescreen effect) means you see less of the world than you’d like
  • but still, holy shit, the game is gorgeous
  • there’s not much to do beyond shooting, and while there are lots of nooks and crannies off the very narrow path, there’s not as much hidden secret stuff as you’d expect, and the stuff that’s there isn’t particularly interesting or provides any tangible benefit to the player
  • given that Nikola Tesla is basically the game’s version of James Bond’s Q, you’d expect the weaponry to be a bit more diverse than it actually is
  • in any event, the weaponry you encounter in the world is not adequately explained (which is to say it’s not immediately apparent why you’d pick up one weapon as opposed to another when given the choice)
  • also:  lots and lots of QTEs, which are dumb

I can’t really argue with any of that; and yet I’m still finding myself enjoying the game quite a lot.

I think what we’ve got here is essentially an incredibly polished first draft.  The game’s world feels rich and deep, and the characters are acted quite remarkably well, even if the script is somewhat lacking in urgency and certain elements of the plot feel somewhat under-developed.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for finely delivered British accents that I’m allowing myself to gloss over the story’s shortcomings.

As to whether the game is worth $60 – well, I’m renting it, so I’m not feeling shortchanged.  But I think there’s something to be said about a game’s length in proportion to its intrinsic value.  Not all games need to be 100 hours long in order for me to feel like I got my money’s worth.  I loved Dragon Age Inquisition but there’s a fair amount of padding in that game, and once I finished the main story I lost any and all desire to finish my considerable amount of sidequests.  Meanwhile, I’ve played the considerably shorter Portal and Portal 2 more times than I can count, and I enjoy them every time I do.  Length isn’t the issue; it’s making sure that every moment feels as though it matters.

To that point, I don’t feel like my time is being wasted in The Order: 1886.  It’s not without some considerable problems, but I’m having more fun than I thought I would.  Maybe it’s the graphics whore in me, too – but goddamn, this game is spectacular to behold, even despite the fact that a lot of it is dark and dreary.  I would love to see Dishonored 2 run this well.  (It also reminds me a fair amount of last year’s ill-fated Thief reboot, for whatever that’s worth; games inspired by London in the late 1800s are apparently a thing now, but when they’re done well it’s quite breathtaking.)

The Year (So Far) In Games

A bunch of sites have been putting up “Best Games of the Half-Year” posts this week, and I was tempted to follow suit, but after looking at my Games Played spreadsheet I found myself wondering how I could spin Wolfenstein: The New Order and South Park: The Stick of Truth into 800 words; it’s just not happening.  Those are two surprisingly terrific games, and they’ll most likely end up in my year-end list, and you should play them if you haven’t already.  Beyond that, it’s a bit of a reach.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call the first half of 2014 a disappointment; I expected this transition period between last-gen and current-gen to be a little weird and underwhelming.  That being said, a lot of the year’s biggest-hyped games fell relatively flat for me.  I was certainly impressed with the tech in Infamous: Second Son, but I hardly gave it a second thought after easily getting to 100% completion.  Similarly, there are certainly quite a few things to like about Watch Dogs, but if I think about that game for more than 5 seconds I get irrationally angry.  And Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is what it is, I guess, though I haven’t felt compelled to pick it back up since I finished it the first time.

I could continue on in this vein – there’s plenty of bummers on my Games Played spreadsheet (*cough* Thief *cough* Mario Golf World Tour *cough*) – but I’d prefer to keep the rest of this somewhat positive.

Jazzpunk!  That’s a spicy meatball if there ever was one.

I enjoyed playing Tomb Raider again on the PS4 and my HDTV, although I suppose its retail success is partially to blame for the HD double-dips that are in our immediate future as we wait for the real next-gen stuff to appear, i.e.The Last of UsGTA VDiablo III, to name a few off the top of my head.  And I’m planning on at least renting all of those games, too, so I suppose I’m partially to blame as well.

Speaking of Diablo III, I suppose I should heap a little bit of praise on its Reaper of Souls DLC and the additional patching that game’s received in the year since I last turned it on; the DLC managed to suck another dozen hours of my life after I’d sworn I was finished with it forever, and the daily missions and objectives are an intriguing carrot that I still consider chasing after.

I really enjoyed Bravely Default right up until I realized that I was going to have to play the entire game a second time; and then I read some walkthroughs that revealed that I’d actually have to play the whole thing 3-4 times before getting to the final ending.  This will not do.

What else, what else… I’ve not yet had that much time to actually play anything in depth on my PS Vita, and yet I keep downloading free games on it.  I’m very happy to finally own it, though.  The port of Fez is great – I just love having it in portable form – and Luftrausers is excellent and I need to get back to it, and Olli Olli hurts my brain but is also really good.

I was also going to include my favorite bits of gaming journalism and criticism, but it’s a gigantic list so far, and it’s also full of rather depressing stories of how toxic this industry is.  Still, if you’d like to check it out, I’ve made it publicly available as a Google Doc.

This weekend I’ll be away with the family, so I’m not sure what gaming there’ll be.  I’m currently playing A Story About My Uncle, which is both exhilarating and frustrating, sometimes simultaneously; I’d like to try and finish it tonight, since I’m not taking my PC with me.  I picked up Civ Rev 2 for my iPhone this morning; it’s not quite as graphically interesting as the 360 version from a few years back, but it’s leaps and bounds better-looking than the previous iOS version, and the touch controls are a lot more intuitive.  I’m still way over my head most of the time, but such is life.  And I guess I’ll bring the Vita along, too, and maybe keep plugging away at Tearaway and also perhaps one of the 6 Final Fantasy games I’ve got on there.  (The voting was inconclusive.  I might go with 8 or 9, since I’ve never touched those before.)

Have a happy and safe 4th, everyone.

On Political Agendas and Bad Stomachs

[Note:  This post may get a bit rambly.  I’m on some new medications and they make me a little drowsy/loopy.]

From my friend Caro’s Tumblr:

An example of obliviousness: on a recent piece I wrote for work in which I praised a game for the monumental act of simply portraying a relationship between women who aren’t presented as sex objects and who matter as individuals, in and of themselves and because of what they mean to each other and not just in relation to a male figure, one commenter said that games should be something we do to escape from such political agendas.

The subtle irony here is that the act of being willfully ignorant and keeping one’s mind closed is also an agenda, whether that person wants to admit it or not.  I haven’t actually played the Last of Us DLC that Caro is referencing, but my understanding of it is simply what Caro says it is – the player isn’t beaten over the head with this relationship, it simply is, and it’s entirely possible that the commenter might not even have noticed it until it was pointed out to them.  Or, alternately, now that it has been pointed out, the   commenter will refuse to play it on some bizarre “principle”, and thus a new cycle of willful ignorance will begin.

Moreover, the idea that games shouldn’t be about anything beyond shooting things is profoundly sad to me.  Frankly, one of the reasons why I’ve been sour on games lately is precisely because of the amount of virtual murder I have to commit in order to have the story play out.  I like to rag on Uncharted, another of Naughty Dog’s franchises, specifically because of all the murder I have to commit; and yet in Bravely Default, I’ve probably killed at least twice as many monsters as I did in Uncharted 3 and I’m only a third of the way through it.

TANGENT:  Speaking of which, I’ve more or less given up on Bravely Default.  I can’t remember if I mentioned that or not, but whatever.  My worst fear did in fact come to light; after clearing the map and awakening all 4 crystals, an unexplained event “reset” the game world and now I have to do the whole goddamned thing again, and I really don’t care to anymore.  I had fun enough the first time around, but I’ve got better things to do than retrace my footsteps.

TANGENT:  And speaking of giving up on things, I sent back Thief this morning, after finishing the insane asylum mission last night.  Insane asylums are as obvious a trope as anything in videogames, but it’s doubly bizarre here because for the first 90% of the mission, you’re the only person in the building.  The game actually does create a palpable atmosphere of dread, except there’s nothing chasing you, and nobody’s looking for you, and so the tension eventually fades.  But then, at the end, the game pulls a series of left turns that render the narrative – which was already pretty obscure at this point – completely incoherent and dumb.  And then, also, I picked up a series of thirteen (13!) side jobs, literally all at the same time, which says about as much as one can say about the game’s sense of pacing.

Getting back to the topic of agendas:  as a straight white male, most games are written with me as their targeted audience (or someone like me, but much younger).  Except:  I have certain anxieties and physical setbacks that are hardly ever shown in games, or movies, or books.  Remember at the top of this post, where I said I was on some new medications?  Right, well:  I don’t talk about this much, for reasons that will soon become obvious, but I’ve been suffering from IBS for the last 14 years or so.  In recent years I’ve taken great strides at getting better – I’ve made radical changes to my diet, I’m on a custom-designed (and very expensive) vitamin supplement regimen, I’ve started going to therapy, I’ve started taking anti-anxiety medication (and that took a lot of convincing, too).  And now I’m taking new medication specifically for my GI tract, and I’m hoping that’ll help further straighten things out.

The point of all this is that while I’ve certainly gotten better over the last few years, I’m still not yet out of the woods, and this specific ailment has been a source of personal embarrassment for years.  (As well you might imagine; I have not actually had any accidents, but I’ve felt like one is imminent nearly every morning commute for the last dozen years.)  I’ve missed any number of social obligations because of this, and I’ve been reluctant to travel long distances because of this, and I’m mostly just grateful that my wife hasn’t left me because of this.

What does this have to do with videogames and agendas?  Well, how many videogame characters can you think of that have anxiety disorders?  Or bad stomachs?  I can think of only one, and even then I can’t remember in which game – possibly MGS4, possibly Bayonetta – some small side character whose intense gastric distress is used as a point of bizarre comic relief.  It might’ve been funny for most 13-year-old boys (or people who think public diarrhea is hilarious), but for me it felt like a kick in the balls.

Now, I understand perfectly well why videogames and films don’t often feature characters like this – people with this sort of condition have a hard time leaving the house (and, in my case, can further complicate social anxiety issues and eventually lead to mild agoraphobia), and so it is hard to make a game starring someone who can’t go out and save the world.  And on the rare occasion when characters like this do show up in films and games, they are, more often than not, punchlines (or, worse, punching bags).  And this sort of thing does not really help to improve my outlook.  It might inspire me to get healthier, but it’s inspiration borne from shame.

This is a long way of saying that when, in South Park: The Stick of Truth, an enemy casts a spell on you in battle that causes you to shit your pants, well, my heart breaks a little bit.

TANGENT:  I am around 6 and a half hours into South Park (probably about mid-way through Day Two), and I like it quite a lot.  Even though I’m not the world’s most rabid South Park fan, I still appreciate the game’s sense of humor, but I’m just as appreciative of the actual game design.  I love how approachable the systems are; I love how deep the modification systems can go (and that you can re-modify new weapons without losing the old ones).  Hell, I kinda just love wandering around the town and seeing what there is to see, picking up random side quests for no reason other than they’re there, and that there’s usually a decent comedic payoff at the end.  I love that you can use the environment to end a random battle before it even starts.  I love the game’s commentary on the ridiculousness and overuse of audio logs and Nazi zombies.  I especially love that tacos are the game’s version of revive potions.

In other news, it’s true that the big game this week is Titanfall, but as you’ve probably guessed this is not the place for discussion about that game; I don’t own an Xbox One and I don’t care about multiplayer shooters, no matter how good they might be.

TANGENT:  I am kinda surprised at how many of my 360 friends own an Xbox One; I am also a little surprised that they stayed Xbox-centric and didn’t migrate to the PS4.  I’m still not sure what it’s going to take to get me to buy one, to be honest; and I might as well admit that at this point, if I had to buy more game hardware, I’m most likely to get a Vita.

But the other big game this week is Dark Souls II, which is arriving later this week, and which I feel compelled to at least try, if only so that even if I can’t necessarily participate in the larger conversation, I can at least understand the gist of it.  I’ve had brief, 30-minute tastes of the previous 2 games – enough to get the general idea, and enough to know that I’d probably not get very far given my current time constraints – and while I still am intimidated by it (and while I’m still under similar time constraints), I’m also still intensely curious about it, and at least want to give it the ol’ college try.  My understanding is that the game has been made a bit more approachable for people like me, while still being brutally difficult and opaque, and so I’m willing to try to meet it halfway.

The Week That Was: South Park, Next-Gen Games, Sony, Health Insurance

I’ve been trying to work on some more thoughtful and reflective pieces for the site, but this week’s been bananas, and who in their right mind wants to read my navel-gazing when there’s some serious game business to discuss?

This week saw:

  1. the release of a South Park videogame that doesn’t suck;
  2. the announcement of Rocksteady’s long-awaited, next-gen only Batman game (with a Batmobile you can drive!);
  3. the release date (and some explanations for the delay) for Watch_Dogs (and do we really have to write it with that underscore thing?);
  4. the sudden departure of Sony’s Jack “Mic Drop” Tretton; and
  5. the heartbreaking news (and fundraising page) of Brendan Boyer, a champion of the indie scene.

1.  My rental copy of South Park showed up last night, and I played for around 45 minutes or so.  The biggest news is that this was the first time I’d turned on my 360 in maybe 3-4 months, and I suppose more than anything else I was pleased to see it’s still working.  As for the game itself – I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough of it to write a “First Few Hours” post just yet; I’m also not sure I’m the game’s intended audience.  I mean, I like South Park but I haven’t watched an episode in years, so there’s a strong possibility that a lot of the more referential material is going to sail right over my head.  That being said, it’s still really funny, and the RPG systems are surprisingly enjoyable, and I’m going to try to push through as much as I can.

1a.  Speaking of which, I may have reached the point in Thief where I stop giving a shit.  It’s not that it’s bad, but it is starting to get dull and tedious.  I’m doing some side missions where the objectives are on the complete opposite side of the City, and the map continues to be horrendous and irrelevant, and these side missions only seem to be doable if you go ahead and knock everybody out first.  I was trying to play as non-lethally as possible, but now I kinda just want to get it over with.  I’m not quite ready to give up on it, but I’m having a harder time staying engaged with it than I’d like.

2.  So, yeah – that Batman game looks terrific.  And I’m pleased to see it’s next-gen only, frankly.  If the rumored release date is correct (which I think is mid-October?), both consoles will have a rather healthy install base by then, and I’d be hard-pressed to find a new console owner who isn’t going to pick this up – this is already near the top of my own “most anticipated” list.  Keeping the game on the new platforms prevents the game’s vision from being diluted, and should ensure that it makes the most of the more powerful hardware.

3.  I’m trying to not read too much about Watch_Dogs, though sometimes I can’t help myself.  I’m mostly just glad to see they’ve entered the home stretch, and that they seem to be happy with it.  Of course, most AAA games at this stage of development are spoken in exceedingly positive PR-approved tones, so it’s unwise to take that stuff too seriously; and yet, well, look – this was the game that made everybody’s jaws drop when it was first announced, and it’s just exciting to know that we’ll all get our hands on it soon enough.

4.  I can’t possibly fathom a guess as to what Jack Tretton’s sudden resignation means; under his leadership (or, at least, his E3 keynote speeches) the PlayStation brand has come roaring all the way back from oblivion and they now appear to be sitting very comfortably in the driver’s seat, and I suppose one could argue that if you’re going to go, go out on top.  It’s just that the rest of Sony’s businesses seem to be flailing wildly to stay afloat, and one can only hope that the games division has a backup plan to keep riding this wave of momentum.

5.  The US healthcare situation is a goddamned travesty, and that’s all there is to it.  What’s happened to Brandon is a fucking disaster.  If you can support him, please do.

The Next Few Hours: Thief

It is much easier to describe what’s wrong with an OK game (or film, or book, or album) than what’s right.  Problems/mistakes are often very specific and universally recognizable, whereas positive traits can sometimes only be felt, and then only after a few hours of play.

To that end, let me at least start off this post by saying that I don’t actively hate Thief anymore.  My original list of problems still holds true, and I’ve been able to identify a bunch of new ones (which I will list below), but I’ve managed to become intrigued by what I’ve seen, and I must admit that I am enjoying the actual moment-to-moment gameplay quite a bit.  I’m still playing as non-lethally as I can – even avoiding takedowns whenever possible – and pulling off a mission without being spotted is quite a thrill.

Basically, if you can ignore the incoherent narrative, the bizarre design choices, the choppy voice acting, the strangeness of the City’s lack of any definable characteristics, and the juvenile, puerile titillation of the first half of the brothel mission (which is the mission I just finished), and you just concentrate on straight-up thievery and stealth, there’s some genuine fun to be had.

But it can be very, very hard to ignore all that other stuff.

[It occurs to me that some of the stuff I complain about below could be design choices that were in the original games, and that the developers felt obligated to keep for that reason.  I hope that’s the case, actually, instead of the alternative; but in any event, the fact remains that those original games came out a long, long time ago, and game design has evolved considerably since then, and some of these issues simply should not be there anymore.]

1.  Polygon’s Ben Kuchera recently wrote a great piece about checkpoints, and how difficult they are to properly design and implement.  Thief’s checkpoint system isn’t necessarily terrible, but it can be incredibly frustrating and/or annoying.  More to the point:  unlike, say, Tomb Raider (another Square Enix joint), which automatically saved every time you found a collectible item, Thief only saves under three conditions:  (1) you manually save, (2) you enter a new area, or (3) you hide in a closet without being in a combat state.  So if you’ve been cleaning up the town for a bit [see 1a below for more on this] and then accidentally get into a scuffle – and if you didn’t engage in one of those 3 conditions above – you will lose all of your progress since your last save if you end up dying.  As I said before, I’m trying to play non-lethally, and as such I’m deliberately not equipped to go toe-to-toe with anyone; if I get discovered, I more or less just give up and reload and try to figure out another approach.  But if I haven’t manually saved in the last 2o minutes, after scooping up a few hundred dollars worth of loot?  I’ve gotta do it all again.  Which sucks.  

1a.  Again, this isn’t necessarily that big a deal, BUT:  loot can be found anywhere, especially in places where it has absolutely no reason to be (i.e., coin purses in bird nests; golden ashtrays on raised wooden planks where no smoker would dare to loiter).   While this serves as a useful enticement for fully exploring the environment, it’s also without any logical sense whatsoever, and so it feels incredibly artificial and breaks any suspension of disbelief.  Another way to say it is that it doesn’t feel like I’m stealing so much as I am simply picking up litter.

2.  The map is useless.  If you find a hidden passageway the game will alert you that the map has been updated, but it literally doesn’t matter, because the map makes no sense.  It serves no useful function; it shows neither direction nor location, but rather a bunch of interconnected rectangles.  The game has an objective marker in your field of view anyway, and so all you need to do is head in that direction in any way you choose.  But if you find a hidden area and want to remember where it is?  Or if you want to go to a shop to resupply before going on a mission but can’t remember where the shop is located?  Too bad, there’s no ability to set a custom waypoint.

3.  Further to that last point, the game does not explicitly give you an opportunity to resupply yourself before a mission, which is insane.  I’d managed to scoop up a bunch of loot after the first mission, and I knew there were tools that I could now afford (specifically, the wirecutter) that I wanted to play with, and I sort of assumed that I’d find a vendor before heading to the brothel mission.  But aside from randomly stumbling across a vendor in a very out-of-the-way corner (who was only selling different kinds of arrows and basic supplies), I was not given a chance to buy the things I needed, and I didn’t know that the only place I could buy that stuff was in the complete opposite direction.  And once I figured it out, I still had to remember where the shop actually was, and the map – again – was utterly useless in that regard.

4.  This is less of a complaint and more of a bug, I think; I often stumble upon throwable objects (which come in handy if I need a pesky guard to go somewhere else), but the game will tell me that my inventory is full and that I can’t pick it up.  Except my inventory is not full, and whenever I need to throw something, the game tells me I have nothing to throw.  Does this mean that I can only carry a certain overall total of tools, and so if I’m carrying too many water arrows I can’t carry throwable bottles?  Or does this mean that the game is simply fucked up?  I can certainly carry infinite amounts of loot (which don’t weigh me down or make any noise, either)…

5.  I’m still very early, and I’ve not seen all there is to see.  But the brothel mission is so weird.  For starters, the brothel itself feels larger than the City that encloses it, and this is to say nothing of the second half of the mission (which feels substantially larger than the brothel that encloses it).  Then there’s the brothel itself, which features a lot of boobs and simulated screwing and a lot of dialogue that sounds as if it were written by overly horny 14-year-olds (who should absolutely NOT be playing this game, if only for this mission alone).  The mission also involves this weird hidden rune thing and a cipher that you use to crack it, except I don’t remember picking up the cipher in the first place, and in any event the controls you use to interact with it are backwards.  (Plus, there seems to be another bug; the game only starts identifying these runes as significant once you find a certain one.  I’d been staring at a different one first, for 5 full minutes, trying to figure out what it meant, before moving on and finding the one that “triggered” the cipher.)

You see what I mean?  This post is over 1200 words long and I spent at least 1000 of them describing the game’s problems, and only 200 or so saying I was having enough fun to stick with it.  Criticism is a tough business.

The First Few Hours: Thief

I played just over one hour of Thief last night; I finished the prologue, and then made my way to the clocktower (via the jewel store?).

Look, I know literally nothing about game design or programming or really anything about the game development process, and yet the things that are wrong with Thief leap off the screen almost immediately:

1.  Horrendous voice acting / even more horrendous voice casting.  This shouldn’t necessarily be at the top of the list as far as deal-breakers go, but JESUS CHRIST.  If you want to convince me of the reality of the world you’ve created – and if the world you’ve created is not a melting pot like modern New York City, but rather some medieval European town – try to make at least 50% of your townspeople sound like they’re from the same place.  And if, for some unknown reason, such a feat is not possible, try to not cast people who sound like they’re former cast members of Jersey Shore.

2.  Using the PS4 controller’s touchpad as the inventory screen.  The touchpad can be used for many things, I suppose – it is quite responsive – but the way they’ve designed the inventory management is so mind-boggling that it kinda makes me want to not use anything if I don’t absolutely have to.  My understanding is that the Xbox One version uses a radial menu system that makes some degree of intuitive sense; without seeing it in action, I can’t comment on it, but it must be better than what’s happening on the PS4.

3.  Unintentionally ugly character models.  Especially Garrett.  Thank goodness you don’t see his face all that much.  It’s not uncanny valley-bad; it’s just bad.

4.  If you must open your story with a well-worn trope of the brash young apprentice vs. the master, at least try to make at least one of the characters sympathetic.  Garrett is a whiny asshole, and the girl – I’ve forgotten her name already – is an even whinier asshole, and I was not in the last bit sorry when she died at the beginning of the prologue (if that is in fact what happened to her – considering how predictable the story is already, I’m sure there’s a good chance she’s not dead at all).

5.  Speaking of which, what the fuck happened between the prologue and the first chapter?   I’m willing to suspend my disbelief when necessary, but I literally have no idea what happened.  I’m hoping this gets explained soon.

As far as the rest of it… well, it’s not really all that terrible, which is what’s frustrating.  The comparisons to Dishonored are apt, though honestly I’d rather be playing Dishonored.  Since I’m here, though, the sneaking and thieving and hiding and such are all pretty good and satisfying to pull off.  I am determined to play as sneakily as possible, which includes not knocking anybody out if I can avoid it, and so cleaning out a jewelry store while a guard was patrolling the same room did feel pretty awesome.  Of course, the guard’s AI pattern was pretty easy to decipher, and so it wasn’t necessarily as tense as it could’ve been, but still – the act of thieving (in that particular scenario) was well executed.  So, there’s that.

Like I said the other day, I’m coming to this game with very low expectations; I never played the original games, and I was let down by the 2004 Xbox game.  I’m playing this mostly because I want to keep the dust off my PS4, and so I’m doing everything I can to keep myself interested and motivated.  It’s just… man.  It’s hard not to be disappointed when you can see the potential for greatness being overwhelmed by all the junk being poured on top of it.

weekend recap: bones

1.  The newly-announced Titanfall / Xbox One bundle sounds intriguing, it really does.  Except… I still kinda don’t give a shit about Titanfall.  Which is, of course, not Titanfall’s fault; my friends who were in the beta say it’s pretty awesome, and I’d expect nothing less.  It’s just that:  (a) I’m still not all that into multiplayer shooters, and (b) with each new major multi-platform release, comparisons between the PS4 and the XBO make it that much clearer that the PS4 is the better-performing console.  I’d get the XBO if there were a true killer app for it that specifically appeals to my tastes – and, indeed, that day may yet come – but for now, I’d rather keep that $500 in my savings account if I can.

2.  I was curious to try the Final Fantasy 14 beta over the weekend, but the installer kept crashing.  After spending 20 minutes signing up and creating passwords and squinting like mad to read the fine print (is there really no way to expand the internet within an app?), everything seemed like it was OK, but then the installer would conk out once it hit 20%.  It’s just as well, I suppose – I can’t really afford to get sunk into an MMO right now anyway.

3.  I continue to make progress in Bravely Default; my party is level 35 or so, my town is pretty much fully rebuilt, and the difficulty level is now starting to weave all over the place; dungeon mobs are still mostly one-turn kills, but bosses and “asterisk fights” are ludicrously hard.  It is not quite getting tedious, but I think that’s because I’m still only playing in short bursts.

4.  Reviews for the new Thief are all over the place; mostly negative, but some reviewers are willing to cut it some more slack than others.  Here’s the part where I tell you that I’m aware of, but never played, the original, highly regarded trilogy, and so my interest in this game is purely out of wanting something to play on the PS4.  I did play one Thief game a while ago – was it the the one on the original Xbox? – and it suffered from a lot of the same problems that Deus Ex II did, which makes sense since I think they were using the same engine.  And I wasn’t particularly good at it, though I think that’s because my experience with stealth games was largely influenced by Splinter Cell, and you really can’t play Thief like you’re Sam Fisher.  So I’m hoping that I can be a bit more patient with this one, if only so that I can not send it back after 10 minutes.

5.  Speaking of having (or not having) patience, here’s a funny story.  I rented Far Cry 2 when it first came out in 2008; played for 5 minutes, died in the very first shootout, and said “fuck it”; sent it back to Gamefly.  In the intervening years, Far Cry 2 has taken on this mythical “greatest game ever” status among certain critics and people I greatly admire, and there was always a little part of me that wondered if I gave up on it too quickly.  Fast forward to this past weekend, where Ubisoft had a massive Steam sale.  I looked up at one point and saw that Far Cry 2 was being sold for something like $2.49.  Picked it up immediately.  Loaded it up.  Died in the exact same first shootout, screen faded to black.

BUT THEN THE SCREEN FADED BACK UP AGAIN.  And a man was talking to me and the game was teaching me how to heal myself.

All this time, I’d thought I just sucked at Far Cry 2.  I never knew that you’re supposed to get knocked out in that first shootout.  I am an idiot.

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Today’s subject title is from the excellent self-titled album by The Forms.