Backlog


February ended up being a really terrible month for actually getting blog posts written. In fact, this might be the first “real” piece of content I’ve done all month. For that, I apologize. Part of that is that real life got a bit in the way, and while it’s still a bit crazy, things will hopefully calm down a bit. Even with that, though, I did manage to make some progress on my actual gaming backlog.

Besides the ever-present WoW shenanigans (which have been surprisingly entertaining and will get their own post at some point), I managed to take on a few additional games that have been sitting around. So, see? I was still creating content! Here’s the quick rundown:

Bastion

The Kid

The month started out with me finishing up Bastion. What a great game. I said most of what I needed to last time around – the game is gorgeous, the mechanics are interesting and varied, and the voice-over hook is completely fantastic. I’m not sure why I didn’t get around to this before, and I’m definitely regretting it.

Going through on my first playthrough took about 8 hours, and while doing so I tried to pick off as many of the random achievements as I could. The in-game shrine where you get bonuses for doing things like “shoot through three enemies with one bow shot” was a really creative way of bringing those challenges into the game. I often enjoy picking off those kinds of mini-challenges, and having them presented in a way that does not require me to dig through the achievement menus just makes me that much more aware of them. In the end, I did not get all of them, but I can definitely see myself going back and completing that in the future.

The game has a New Game+ mode, where you apparently start with all of the weapons and upgrades from your normal game unlocked and everything is just harder. That seems like it would be a good thing to shoot for, eventually, too! Besides that, there is an interesting in-game self-scaling mechanism where you can turn on the idols of various gods, and they all give the monsters some sort of boost, but with a compensatory XP or crystal (currency) drop rate buff. This turns out to be a really nice way to fine-tune the game for your playstyle and difficulty desires.

Overall, this was an excellent game, and I highly recommend it!

Guacamelee!

Next up on the list was Guacamelee! This one is part of the current Humble Bundle 11, and is a side-scrolling Metroidvania beatemup game. That’s a lot of big, compound words to say that you go around the Mexico-inspired world smashing baddies with your fists and sweet wrestling moves. There are literal Metroid-style power-ups that you get from a goat-man to help you on your quest to save the captured princess or whatever.

Juan the Luchador

From a story perspective, it’s fairly throwaway damsel-in-distress story with a bunch of potentially problematic elements. While I guess you can use costumes to change this, you are the burly, hairy-chested Juan, and set off on an adventure set in a Mexican town with a lot of Dia de los Muertos references and art. The key to your superpowers is a sweet, sweet Luchador mask, and along the way you do a lot of vaguely racist things like help the town grandma make the world’s largest enchilada.

With that caveat in mind, the gameplay is really fun. There are plenty of combos and fight chains to put together, and the action is tight. One of the mechanics in the back half of the game is a switch-between-worlds button that has been showing up in platformers recently, and it makes for some really intricate gaming. Sometimes an enemy will only be in one or the other world, so you’ll have to switch in the middle of combat to deal with them. Other times, it just becomes another timing element in some fairly difficult jumping puzzles. While these can obviously get frustrating for some people, I tend to enjoy them as long as the penalty for failure isn’t too large. In most cases, here, you only have to go back to a relatively recent checkpoint (in a few hidden bits this is less true), and practice over and over until you get the execution perfect. It’s super rewarding when you finally triumph over it and/or don’t press the shift button and turn the wall in front of you into spikes, knocking you out the air and falling ages to have to start the whole stupid thing over!

The few boss fights weren’t overly challenging, but they all had pretty unique flavor, and learning the patterns is something that makes sense.

Overall, I enjoyed myself! There is a lot of referential humor and I found myself wanting to listen to the in-game music more than something outside it. As long as you can get behind the caveats above, I’d recommend it to fans of the fighting platformer/Metroidvania genre. Took me about 8 hours, and I again did a lot of the side quests and challenges, although there are a lot to go back to. And gold medals to get!

The Ship

This probably deserves its own entire post, but it’s essentially a multiplayer stealth murder-on-a-cruise simulator. If that sound really strange, well that’s because it totally is. One of the oddest games I’ve played in a long time, but also a ton of fun to play with our co-op group. It’s $20 on Steam, which seems pretty high, but copies of the game end up coming with pay-it-forward friend invites. I think, for our group of ~8 people, we ended up only having to buy two copies. Everyone else got a gift copy that came from a gift copy, etc.

The general idea is that you drop into the body of a classy person on a 1920’s-esque cruise ship. Each person gets a randomly-assigned name as a target, and you have to go around identifying which person is which, looking for your quarry. Meanwhile, other people are doing the same, and someone is trying to kill you with any number of random weapons found around the boat. There are, of course, police officers and a number of NPCs wandering around that will point you out if you just wander around with a frying pan or whatever. In which case, you’ll go to cruise-jail for some amount of time. If you get killed, you have to start over with the identification process.

Oh, and also there are food meters and toilet meters and shower meters and boredom meters that you have to stave off over time. Like I said, very odd.

Perhaps a video would help! Here is a clip from our session, as recorded by Corr for the Totally Legit YouTube page:

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It’s the end of the month, and therefore time to update on the ongoing Backlog Project! I first talked about this in early December, but I am trying to spend my gaming time working through a sizable backlog (Steam and otherwise). So the first thing I did was to figure out which games I was currently in the middle of, and try to knock a couple of them off.

Well, over the last week or so, I managed to finish Serious Sam 3: BFE. This was my first entry into the series, and I think I bought it in a Steam-sale-infused fit of madness after having seen a few people playing it on Twitch. It looked like a very old-school style shooter with waves and waves and waves of enemies and lots of giant explosive guns. And it mostly was! It was also fairly difficult in parts, to the point where I ended up micro-managing my save games to get past particularly hard areas that had like 5 of these giant minotaur dudes and roughly infinity undead bulls.

GOOD LORD IT IS HUGE

GOOD LORD IT IS HUGE

So, yeah, the actual game was pretty enjoyable as far as shooters go. I haven’t played this style of FPS in ages – everything that I’ve played recently seems to either be more tactical (Far Cry, Crysis), cover-based (Gears of War), or multiplayer-focused. Borderlands is the closest thing I’ve played, and the RPG/quest elements of that make it somewhat different.

On the other hand, the writing and voice acting is really, really, really bad. I mean, I fully believe that this was made as something of a parody of itself – in the way that everyone wanted Duke Nukem to be – and it’s hard to see it any other way (I mean, you set charges and blow the shit out of Ancient Wonders of the World, for god’s sake!), but even so, it’s just hard for me to get behind an over-the-top brotastic asshole of a character. I’d just rather play something else like Borderlands where that character is the insane hilariously-douchey bad guy, and the characters that I am playing are dumb in other ways.

That and I basically had no idea what was going on or why all these screaming headless dudes were running at me with bombs in their hands. Or what the ancient alien devices I was activating were meant to do. Or why I called main bad dude’s kid on my cell phone and got taunted about getting “mooned”. Silly, sure! And even kind of funny! But it just felt like a bunch of disjointed one-liners. Maybe that’s the point, or maybe I’d have appreciated them more if I’d played the other games. I didn’t, though, so whatever.

All in all, I think the relatively mixed Metacritic reviews are about right, for me. It did scratch a particular old-school wave-based shooter itch, though, so that’s saying something!

What Next?

Next up is Bastion! I think I bought this game on Xbox Live when it first came out, but I never got around to playing it. Sometime since the, I picked it up on Steam (probably in a Humble Bundle), and since it ties in with some other projects, I figured I’d play it there. Well, I’m now a few hours in, and it is awesome. I am even appropriately annoyed at myself for not having played it before!

I love the art style, and the float-up ground is interesting, but what I really like is just the atmosphere. The ongoing narration is really incredible – there even seems to be specific dialogue for really random stuff that I end up doing – and adds a level of immersion that you don’t usually get in these kinds of games. Plus, the various weapons/powers and customization is nice – different loadouts really feel different!

So, yeah, I don’t think that game will end up lasting very long against my assault. And then? Well, who knows. There are a lot of options!

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Over the weekend, I got to start checking off a few things from my “What to do in 2014 gaming” list. I have now completed all of the MoP raid instances on LFR (a low bar, I admit), as well as cleared the first three bosses in Siege of Orgrimmar with an all-guild Flex group. That second is no small feat given the general difficulty in getting any of the Cats together for an MMO over the past few years. We had a couple friends that were well-geared, but also people who were pretty fresh to level 90, and we managed to power our way through Norushen over a couple hours of fun.

The difficulty level for our group is just about dead on. It’s not like LFR where you can literally not know what is going on in a fight and still come out on top (generally speaking, at least). And, yes, I know this to be true because I was the bad that spent the whole time DPSing the wrong bosses or standing in the fire – and, sadly, still doing better damage and dying than half the group. But, in Flex, you do have to know what is going on, the void zones will kill you, and you have to do at least reasonable DPS. Or, at least, it seems that way so far. And even if it these early bosses stop providing any sort of challenge, there are 14 total bosses, so we can just keep getting better at it in our 2-3 hours per week group and add 1-2 new bosses each week, giving us a few months to get it all down. That seems just about perfect!

The other half of the checklist is a combination backlog and multiplayer game update. On Sunday, several of us got together to play Guns of Icarus Online. Not to be confused with Guns of Icarus (which was apparently the pre-Kickstarter single-player predecessor game), which unfortunately caught at least one of our group out. However, for the six of us that managed to get together, the game turned out to be a blast! It is a team-based airship combat game, with some number of airships on each side (we picked 2 v 2) and 4 people per ship (AIs can fill in each role but pilot). You pick a role for your character (pilot/sailor?, engineer, gunner) which gives you a set of options, choose whether you want to wear a TOTALLY SWEET SCARF or be lame and just use the default face, and head out into the skies to blow each other up.

Piloting a blimp into battle

We could have used a few more people because I don’t think the AIs were particularly great about gunning/repairing appropriately, but it turned out to be really awesome. After about an hour and a half of trying to figure out what the hell was going on, the Hindenburg and Mytanic managed to leverage their quick early lead to defeat the Goldfish and Not a Goldfish! It was a narrow victory, but that’s what counts in the skies.

There’s something about having to really work as a team in a squad-based PvP game that totally hits the right buttons for me. Plus, it looks and feels really unique. I have no idea what it would be like to jump into a random public game, and I’m not entirely sure I’d do it without at least a full ship crew the first time, but I hope that I get the chance to play this some more. There are lots of hats and glasses and outfits to unlock, and somewhat less interestingly (dressing up my dude is awesome), more ships, too. Including something that looks like it belongs in the Cloud City of Bespin.

I’d definitely recommend it. And if you want to see more, you can see Corr’s stream of it either on the Twitch channel or shortly on our YouTube channel. Enjoy, and I hope to see you in the definitely-not-explosive skies!

 

Yeah, just chillin'

 

 

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2014 Gaming Resolutions


Posted By on Jan 07, 2014 | 0 comments

Happy New Year, everyone! This is coming a bit late, but I was on vacation, and this is my first post. So, whatever. You guys should take what you can get.

I guess everyone is talking about SteamOS and the Steam Boxes that have been announced at CES this week. I have a bunch to say about it, too, but mostly I’m still struggling to figure out why I would want one. So I’m going to think about it a bit more and see if anything that other people have said strikes a chord with me. So far, though, it’s mostly just making me want to build a micro-ATX machine for my next PC.

Instead, I am going to talk about resolutions. And, since this is a gaming blog, I’m going to focus on my personal gaming-related resolutions for the year. Lots of times, I come up with something really specific, like “complete X games that I start!” or “Play through all the Dragon Age games (including Inquisition) with a single storyline!” or something like that. Those are all fine and dandy, but it’s really easy to fail when you get your resolutions too specific. So, instead, this year, I’m doing something a little broader. And where I am getting specific, I’m doing so with either a larger goal in mind, or with some room to fall back and still be relatively successful. So, here are my generic resolutions, in list form!

Be a more active blogger!

I guess this isn’t strictly a gaming resolution, but it’s definitely important to me! This is one of those places where putting a strict number of posts or something can lead to falling behind, which leads to a feeling of failure, which leads to failing even more. At least, that’s how things tend to go for me. So I’m going with a slightly more nebulous goal here. That said, I would like to be a more active member of the blogging community – both in terms of posting (ideally, a couple times a week) and reading/responding. This probably means that I ought to get more involved on Twitter (@ThatAngryDwarf) or G+ or whatever. I’ll give it a shot, maybe by using a list!

Work on the Backlog!

This is my major gaming-specific resolution. I’ve been working on a way to systematically attack my backlog for a while, now, and I started with a recent post and a Listmas list. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do it, but my plan involves a) getting some other people to also take on a similar challenge – for companionship and slight competition, b) actively tracking both what exists in the backlog AND what I am playing/completing, and c) trying not to buy tons more random games until my list is either more manageable – or with the conscious decision to PLAY them shortly after I purchase.

Hopefully, the tracking of the games can turn this whole thing into a bit of an achievement hunt. I’m usually pretty good about working off of a to-do list, so having something to look at and check-off will hopefully help! I’m also going to define pretty reasonable goals for what constitutes “completion” – almost certainly no 100% achievos required sorts of things for me. I don’t really tend to play that way, anyway, but I think it’s important to limit the scope of a game so that you feel like you’re getting through it. If I then also want to go back and do achievement runs or whatever, I can add those as a separate task on my list.

I’ll also be making periodic blog posts about my attempts, in an effort to both keep myself honest and progressing and hopefully to inspire other people to make their way through their collections!

Play more Co-op games!

This goal is always on my list, and I realize that many times when I’m playing an MMO, it sort of vaguely counts for this. But what I really want to do is get through my list of games that require co-op. Games like Monaco and Magicka (okay this doesn’t require it, but it’s certainly more fun) and Alien Swarm and Guns of Icarus Online. Luckily, I do have a couple of other people who are looking to do this, as well, and we are attempting to set up a regular “co-op night”, at least every other week for a few hours. Here’s hoping it works out, because co-op games are great!

I’d like to get more couch co-op going, too, but generally, my life has conspired against making this happen. Usually when I am getting together with friends, we are doing more “adult” activities, like actually talking about our lives since we haven’t seen each other for a while. That, or we’re playing a board game/D&D. Which is totally fine and awesome. It just doesn’t help me finish Castle Crashers or Scott Pilgrim or Gears of War coop.

Make additional gaming-related content!

Streaming seems to be the big thing these days. The new consoles even make it easy to do (sort of). I’ve done a bit, and what I have done I’ve mostly enjoyed, but I think that in order to really be successful at it, you need to be on a consistent schedule. And I really am not. I don’t know that I’m going to be willing to commit to scheduled streaming, either, so maybe a better goal is to “make some video content.” This can take the form of recorded streaming-style sessions, Let’s Plays, Magic draft/sealed videos, or something else. Hopefully, I can do at least once a month. Which isn’t really that many, but is more than I do now!


So there you have it. The gaming-related things that I’m hoping to accomplish in 2014. What are your goals and resolutions? Care to join me on my backlog cleanout quest?

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As a follow-up to my post on my gaming backlog, I figured I’d put together a list of the top 5 games in my current backlog for day 2 of Listmas 2013. Of course, my backlog is deep enough that I had lots more games than that, so I’ve split it up into “normal” games and indie games. The lines are always a little blurry to me, so if I get one wrong don’t yell at me. Or do. Whatever.

Top 5 Backlogged Games

  1. Beyond: Two Souls – I don’t care what anyone says, I loved Heavy Rain, and I am really excited to try this one out. I just expect that it will eat an entire weekend, so I need to have the time to devote to it. That’s why I put it at the top of my “when I finish games I’ve started” list.
  2. Assassin’s Creed (various) – I’m midway through AC:Brotherhood, and Ezio is awesome. I really want to see the rest of his story, and even though I’ve heard hushed rumblings of discontent with AC3 and AC:PIRATES, the core platformy/stabby gameplay is still fun to me. Plus, lots of people still love them, so I’ll judge for myself.
  3. The Last of Us – I started this briefly, but I think I will need to start it over from the beginning. It won lots of awards, and I really like everything else by Naughty Dog that I’ve played, so I’m looking forward to it.
  4. Dishonored – I picked this up in the Fall Steam Sale, and I’ve been meaning to get to it eventually. I like the idea that you can be stealthy, non-stealthy, and various things in between. Plus, the world seems pretty awesome to me.
  5. Saints Row 3 (and IV) – Every bit of these that I have watched or played has been awesome. But they are open-world enough that they are daunting to jump into. I aim to change that.

Top 5 Backlogged Indie Games

  1. Bastion – Rave reviews from everywhere, I’ve just never actually gotten around to it. It’s up near the top of my “what I am planning to play” list.
  2. The Walking Dead Season 1 – I’ve made it through 3 of 5 episodes, but it’s really, really stressful. I love the gameplay and the writing is great! But I am weak to the horror. Even this relatively low-level horror. So it takes some concerted effort. I will do it, though, and then I will play Season 2, which just came out.
  3. FEZ – I played this a bit at a friend’s house when it first came out, and have been sitting on a copy forever. I think I even have a copy on Steam now, too. Probably from a Humble Bundle. These things happen, but it always seemed like a lot of fun.
  4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – Everything about this looked great, except the timing. I missed out on it when it released, but I still definitely want to play it!
  5. Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage – Okay, yeah, I have no idea what is going on here. But Secret Santa gave it to me, and, well, it looks and sounds hilarious. So I’m adding it to the list.

As usual, there are a number of other games that I want to play – Borderlands 2 DLCs sit unused, Mirror’s Edge has been sitting around for ages, my Fallout: New Vegas playthrough needs some love, LIMBO, Spelunky, and Trine are all indie games that I want to play. Plus, some older, hidden ones like Alan Wake, Mafia II, and a number of shooters from over the years. SO MANY GAMES.

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What’s in YOUR Backlog?


Posted By on Dec 13, 2013 | 2 comments

Vikings, that's what!

The other day, I mentioned how there were still a few games sitting next to my consoles that I wanted to play but that I haven’t touched for one reason or another, and it got me to thinking. Huge mistake, I know, but I went for it anyway. How is it possible that I’ve let myself get this backed up? How will I ever catch up? Do I even want to?

I know that I am absolutely not alone in this, but sometimes the extent of my backlog is pretty intimidating. This is especially true when I know I have some quality gaming time coming up (Extra-Life was a good example of this), or whenever a hot new release comes out, or whenever there is a Steam Sale (MORE GAMES FOR THE GAMES GODS). And, well, there are just a lot more opportunities to buy games than there are to play them.

I mean, have a look at my Steam library. There are a ton of games in there that I haven’t gotten around to playing – games that have either come highly recommended, or I am looking forward to, or both – but where do I start? Do I start with the indie games (Limbo, Bastion, Fez, Spelunky)? Do I finish off the games I’ve started but haven’t finished (AC:Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas, SR3, Serious Sam 3)? Or do I just start with something fresh, hoping that it grips me in a way that pushes me through to the end? Where do the random endless/non-story games go (FTL, random racing game, any multiplayer shooter)?

And then, of course, there are the console games where I actually have to go to a different room (sometimes this is a bonus!). Or, god forbid, the time-and-library-killing demons known as an MMOs. And, as much as I love MMOs, I definitely think that they are a huge part of the reason I’m as deep into this mess as I am. MMOs make a great “default” game – something that is just really easy to sit down at and spend either a few minutes or a few hours on without thinking too hard. Sure, you still have to figure out which character/race/faction/whatever to play, but at that point you’re already committed to a game, which is a big step in getting through a backlog! Or, even worse, what if I want to replay an older game for <insert various totally reasonable reasons here>.

Well, I think what I need to do is to just start dropping games into buckets and then prioritize each of those buckets. Then if I’m like, “I want to just screw around and play something mindless”, I can pick the game at the top of that list (currently, it tends to be DIRT 2 or Serious Sam 3, depending on my mood) and go for it. If I want to play an MMO, that’s cool, I’ll do that. But if I just want to play something then I should really start defaulting it to whatever the current “backlog” game is. That, of course, takes discipline. But I think it would be worth it! I could even consider uninstalling everything not on my immediate/short term list, but that’s so sad…

Anyway, lists! These will clearly change, especially after people tell me how much I need to play game X over game Y or whatever. But at least they can serve as a starting point.

MMO List: Warcraft (this one is easy, since it’s the only one I’m playing right now)

Primary Non-MMO List: Serious Sam 3: BFE, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Bastion, Beyond: Two Souls

Random Filler: Hearthstone, Magic Online (look, it’s not going away, I might as well acknowledge that)

Driving Filler: DIRT 2, DIRT 3

Streaming: Dark Souls, Fallout: New Vegas

That’s a pretty short list, I guess. But you know what it does? It gives me direction and is therefore a good place to start. It also gives me a reward (Beyond: Two Souls) for playing through a few games that I have either started (SS, AC:B) or have been putting off. The Streaming category is actually a sort-of-separate list because I have been meaning to start up a semi-regular stream, and I think both of the games listed should be interesting one to have the shared experience of streaming. I expect to be particularly terrible at Dark Souls. Or maybe not! But probably.

How do you guys approach these things? Is your backlog as large as mine (not every game in Steam is a backlog game, but the point is clear)? Do you have any methods to track your backlog or figure out what games are next? Let me know, because I could sure use the help!

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