rambling

Here There Be Games

Hey everybody, it’s Monday-night-going-on-Tuesday-morning (read: past 11 PM) where I am and I figure it’s time to let you know what I’ve been playing.

Rambling Through and About the Post-apocalypse

The Fallout 4 Survival Mode adventures have continued, and it’s weird to say, but my time in the wasteland has gotten easier. As though scrounging for resources and investing in capable settlements and supply chains actually makes survival easier … whoa. Long story short, that’s what I devoted a whole bunch of time to – I built up every settlement I could so my folks had adequate food, water, shelter, and defenses. Then I assigned one poor bastard from each settlement to be a caravan guide. This means they travel from their home settlement to another one, and back again, carrying supplies to and from each place. In game terms, that means I have more stuff to work with at each settlement, so I’m always ready to make deadlier weapons, stronger armor, and more efficient defenses no matter where I go.

With this strong foundation in place, and a buttload of levels under my belt, my character has become … pretty awesome. I almost feel like I’ve reached the point where I’ve trivialized the game, despite the constant upkeep that Survival Mode requires. I still need to sleep, eat, and drink water, while I watch for illnesses, but now I have so many bullets and so much money that I don’t want for anything. I can sneak into almost any place and take out whole groups before they notice me. Did I have to plan this in advance? Well of course, and a good plan tends to stop most problems in their tracks, or at least get around those problems; I knew I’d have to sneak around to stay alive, so I invested in stealth skills and quiet weapons and armor. I also invested in crafting skills to ensure I could build the strongest fucking guns in the wasteland. A silenced Gauss rifle that hits like a miniature bullet train? Yeah, that’ll fuck most adversaries up in the most gruesome ways.

My point is, I had to slog to get here. While I almost feel guilty when I clear entire raider encampments and kill ferocious deathclaws with ease, I also have to remind myself that if I mess up and get caught, I’m probably dead. All that fancy armor doesn’t count for shit when even just one or two assailants find me – a few well-placed bullets and I’m gone, too. So it’s only fair. Me against most people in the wastes. I’ve still got to complete the main story, and there’s one more DLC storyline to experience, and after those are over … I might put the game down for a while. Maybe even for good. It’s really fun, and strangely enjoyable, but it still leans really hard into combat. Every skill is like “Kill enemies better” or “Hit enemies harder.” Not a ton of non-combat utility, is what I’m trying to say. And for a role-playing game, that’s a huge hindrance. If I want to play a smooth-talking brainiac who talks his way out of most situations, I’ll have a bad time. Bullets are the key to many doors in the world of Fallout 4. And while I’m having a good time, I’d like to play a game with more nuanced choices.

(Quick aside: thank the makers that Cyberpunk 2077 releases in, like, ten days. I dunno if I’ll buy it immediately, but I get the feeling it’ll offer me the nuanced choices I want.)

Anyway, Fallout 4 is almost done. There are other games, though! Don’t gasp so loud, readers; I have some kind of attention problem, and I’m usually playing two or three games at the same time. Here are quick stories for two more of them.

Killing Demons is a Joy

First, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Yep, it’s the first video game I ever Kickstarted years ago. It released, it was great, but I opted in for the Nintendo Switch version. Anyone who knows about Bloodstained is probably groaning right now, but for those who aren’t into the niche stuff I’m into, the Nintendo Switch version of Bloodstained was notoriously slow and buggy when it released. I sat through ridiculously long loading screens. The game froze at random moments. Did it kill the game? No, I still enjoyed it. But I still wondered how a smoother experience would feel.

So I bought the Steam version when it was on sale a few months ago. I’ve only had a gaming PC for about a year now, but it’s already changed my habits in funny ways. As in, I predominantly play on the PC now. I love Nintendo, and only a Nintendo console will let me play new Nintendo games, but for the most part, I’m playing on PC right now. Anyway, what this means for Bloodstained is that I replayed it with smooth animations and fast load times. Then they released a new character out of the blue, and I had to play again as this character. She’s actually a boss in the original story, and she makes the game go by hella fast. Her upgrades are streamlined and you have no equipment for her, so it’s a relatively fast gaming experience – you traverse the castle, you level up, you find new abilities, and you kill the fuck out of bosses. It only took a handful of hours to finish this playthrough, and it was satisfying how smooth it was. I talked about choice earlier in regards to role-playing games, but Bloodstained walks the weird line between action-adventure platformer and role-playing game. You normally level up and choose equipment and spells, and that can make for varied experiences, but there’s something nice about a straight-up action experience, no role-playing chaser or caveat.

The Blasphemy of Too Many Paragraphs

Bloodstained isn’t where the action stops, oh no. Though I feel I may have overstayed my welcome by now, I still want to touch on Blasphemous real quick. Oh yeah, Blasphemous. The Metroidvania a niche group of folks has been talking about for like a year now. I read that it’s brutal. I read that it’s philosophical. I should have gotten the big titular hint that it’s religious, but I sorta thought it might be an offhand title, like, “Haha, religious folks don’t usually like violent video games – aren’t games all just blasphemous?” Hoo, was I wrong. This game explores old-school Catholicism in a literally bloody and brilliant way.

I don’t wanna spoil the story or anything, but I will say that guilt, penance, and pain play big parts in the narrative. (BIG CAVEAT: I am not Catholic, and I don’t actually know much about the Catholic faith. I apologize if I get any big ideas and/or details wrong.) The idea that we are all flawed, and by acknowledging our faults and then punishing ourselves for them may we gain some kind of forgiveness, seems to be the driving force behind the game, its world, and its characters. It’s a game that addresses real world religion and ideas in a fictional world with fictional struggles. Yet its philosophies may be carried to the real world; I suspect this has something to do with the developers of the game having experience with Catholicism, but I can’t confirm that. I haven’t looked into them. I believe they’re from Spain, but please don’t quote me on that. Perhaps I’ll do a deep dive into these cool game makers, ’cause Blasphemous is a blast (Blastphemous?!) and it only gets better as I play it.

Some Kinda Conclusion

As funny as it sounds, and as long as this post has become, I actually have more to say. Yet my big problem of late is my wordiness. So I’m trying to cut myself short. I will say this: games are obviously a big part of my free time, and there’s at least one more I’ve put time into lately. It’s a big one. It’s a fun one. It’s fucking great, and it’s one that many folks have some experience with. But I’ll save it for next time. Happy social distancing to all of you!

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