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Alan Stock

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Posts posted by Alan Stock

  1. Started listening to the official Last of Us podcast, definitely recommend it. They release a podcast after each TV episode where none other than Troy Baker asks Neil Drukkmann and Craig Mazin about the creation of that episode, and their decision making. I've listened to two so far and it's really interesting, and what's also great is Mazin is a massive fan of the game and it shows (hears?). The two of them really put a lot of thought into every aspect of the story and how and where it should deviate from the game, and it gives me high hopes for the show going forwards. I just wish the podcasts were longer!

     

    As for the show, I'm loving it and am completely fine with all of the deviations from the game so far (episode 3 spoiler:)

    Spoiler

    I was a bit bummed at not getting to meet Bill in the present interacting with Joel and Ellie, but considering what a good character story we got instead, I don't mind - and in the context of the rewrite it would have been even more depressing if he was still around being grumpy and having lost everything!

     

    Still not completely sold on Ellie/Ramsey yet (no shade on the actress, she seems pretty great) but she hasn't had much screen time to develop so far, and I have faith considering how well its been going.

     

    Also loving the flashbacks, I wonder if they will continue throughout. As long as it doesn't turn into The Lost of Us I'm all for them! 

  2. Like Wiper I couldn't put this on my list because despite enjoying it, I too have flatlined over 60 hours into the game. I've overdone it with big open world games and RPGs the last few years and Xeno 3 is just another example where fatigue eventually sank in and I don't feel an urge to go back and finish it (for context I am in the archipeligo area now). I probably should have beelined the main storyline instead of doing a lot of side content so in part it's my own fault. Part of the problem is that battles on the hard mode take ages - once you get access to chain attacks and the like, every fight can take minutes and boss fights even longer. Add to that the huge world and a lull in the story and it's just hard to go back to. It is a great game but I might recommend that people stick more to the main story than I did if you want to see it through.

  3. Indeed. What I find dissapointing about Callisto is that Dead Space brought so many new ideas and variety to the survival horror formula, but the Callisto leads (who worked on Dead Space) have instead come up with a very narrow vision and the only new twist is the melee combat. Clearly a bunch of the creative minds behind Dead Space weren't actually the leads, or the new Callisto team was too inexperienced or scope-constrained to add new wrinkles into the mix and instead just prove they can do a competant survival horror. Hopefully now they've proven that, the ideas can start to flow.

     

    But a big worry for this team has got to be the game's sales... which sadly was what saw the original demise of the Dead Space franchise as well. So will they be given the faith and budget to continue? I feel like they played it too safe and didn't differentiate Callisto as much as it needed to. And if they wanted to just mimick Dead Space they needed to make at least as good a game to sell Dead Space fans on Callisto as an alternitave. And as the remake is showing, its simply the better game.

     

    For me one thing that Dead Space really doesn't get enough credit for is how well balanced and engaging its exploration, upgrade and resource management is. The node and suit upgrade system is very compelling and really incentivises scouring every nook and cranny of the Ishimura. The level layouts see you using mini-hubs and clearing out little complexes whilst carefully managing your resources. The ammo and health balance is finely tuned where low resources is always an issue to worry about but you're rarely completely screwed. Dead Space does the survival part of survival horror very well and Callisto doesn't make it in that department.

     

    PS The audio logs having to be played in menu is indeed shit... but it doesn't really matter because they're all rubbish and only last about 15 seconds each. What really got my goat was sometimes the reward for a side-room would be literally just a shitty audio log, when you'd wasted a bunch of ammo and health to get to it.

  4. So finally got around to playing this. I was hoping for a gameplay patch but in the end I couldn't wait.

     

    Overall, it's a pretty decent survival horror with a mixed bag of pros and cons. Graphics are obviously stellar, with some amazing lighting. The story is as guff as you would imagine, although the performances are good. The sound is as you'd expect from a Dead Space riff, the problem not being so much the sounds themselves, but that they are so predictable in their useage - more on this later. I'll be comparing some things in Callisto to Dead Space because of the obvious commonality, and I think its interesting to see how that game's aged and lessons they've learned or not from it. But one thing I do want to commend with the sound is the 3D audio. Through earphones on the PS5 controller its incredibly well done.

     

    As for level design, the levels are very linear, the corridor criticism is valid. There are usually a few offshoots or alternate routes to explore so its not super egregious, but still it feels restrictive compared to Dead Space and Resi. What's really annoying is there is no indication of the primary route, they really could have a Ragnarok or Dead Space main mission line. So sometimes you'll accidentally progress and have to spend ages backtracking to find the side content you missed, or worse, get locked out of it altogether.

     

    Jacob's slow movement is nice for exploring and taking in the surroundings, but is frustratingly sluggish when climbing around vents, ladders, squeezing through cracks and the aforementioned backtracking. In some places you can't run, either arbitrairly or because there's biomass on the floor. It's pretty annoying especially if you're trying to run from an enemy. Exploring what is there is fun though, with some nice tucked away secrets and optional encounters to be found.

     

    The devisive combat I'm a bit torn with. From a survival horror standpoint its a brilliant idea, the first big survival horror I can think of that seamlessly combines melee and shooting. It really captures that desperation and avoids those awkward situations in other games where you're just standing there right next to a zombie trying to shoot it at point blank range. Its far from perfect here but its so much better than just having a single melee attack, and I really hope more horror games take inspiration from this. The close combat is a real slugfest with big meaty hits and camera shake, and it feels brutal and dangerous. In practice though its got issues which have already been discussed here and in reviews.

     

    I feel like one other problem with combat is that once you're in melee, you're often trapped due to how long enemies take to kill. You can't back off or run away without getting wrecked and so any other enemies around are either wailing on you or waiting in line for their turn to bash your skull in. One other big problem I had with melee was I simply am not very good at it. My brain's not good at parsing the direction of enemy swings to dodge, especially as they can be so fast and sometimes poorly telegraphed. The lighting can actually be your enemy here too, because the darkness or flickering lights can make it hard to see incoming attacks. I started on Hard and had to knock it down to Normal because you get killed in a few melee hits. I bumped it back up to Hard after a few chapters but suffered immensely for it in some of the melee sections and especially near the end of the game where I had almost no ammo. Funnily enough the bosses are much easier to deal with in melee with clearly telegraphed swings and more leeway on dodging direction. Of course the penalty for failing is instadeath so it keeps the tension high. I died so many times to Mr Platform!

     

    The gunplay is fine, though I miss the more impactful feeling Dead Space limb dismemberment and gun variety. It's chunky enough though. I was doing great for ammo until near the end of the game, when within a few hours you have multiple bullet sponge bosses to deal with. I had upgraded a number of my guns to max, but in the last hours never got to see the benefits because my ammo was so low! This is a punishment from playing on Hard but it was frustrating given how many resources I'd invested. Let me sell my upgrades please, then I could buy ammo instead! Unfortunately the gun swapping controls are abysmal and the UI for them is also terrible. It may fit the survival horror trope but it kind of breaks the tension in boss fights when you are dodging swipes whilst frantically mashing the d-pad trying to find which of your guns has ammo in them.

     

    The gravity weapon is pretty useless for flinging things, at least on Hard. It's too difficult to target objects to pick up when the combat is so fast. But its incredibly effective and satisfying to pick up enemies and instakill them on environmental hazards or just fling them off walkways. The game embraces this with giant fans and silly spiked walls all over the place, but I appreciated that as they got me through some otherwise near-impossible encounters. Unfortunately there's a bit of a problem in that its too easy to suck an enemy towards you instead of an object, or suck an enemy towards you and then promptly run out of gravity juice, which means you've just inadvertantly screwed yourself. 

     

    Balancing wise the game does a pretty good job overall with its resource hunting. Its a satisfying search/shop/upgrade loop even if its a bit annoying carting around items in the early game when your inventory is limited and the game so linear (no Resi item box here!). Resource drops from enemies are randomised or at least dynamic, which makes for some odd balance when you keep dying at one spot and sometimes hit the jackpot with ammo drops, or get screwed with credits or health top-ups. The upgrades are probably better and more impactful on Normal, because on Hard enemies are so beefy its hard to see the damage increases from them.

     

    Enemy designs are generic but they have good animation and a frantic energy to them. They aren't really scary. In fact for a supposed horror game, I didn't find Callisto scary at all. It is tense in places but nowhere near Dead Space's gut twisting anxiety. Dead Space was full of horror tropes and cliches to scare, raise tension and jumpscare but it did them very effectively. Here it just falls a bit flat. We've seen it too many times aready. The zombie running across a corridor ahead. The clanking of vents around you. The incredibly predictable jumpscares (I only got jumpscared twice in the game and both times it was from unexpected holograms popping up to deliver exposition!). The atmosphere is good, but not really that scary.

     

    The environments are jam packed with detail and feel really immersive. Although the setting is sci-fi, most of the game is in very industrial or grimy areas. Its a bit dissapointing to have such a cool setting but then have it full of brown and rusty generic prison, factories, concrete tunnels and hospitals we've seen in a million other horror games. Where it goes more sci-fi it immediately looks more interesting, with a few cool locations. I imagine they wanted to differentiate themselves from Dead Space (which also had plenty of industrial stuff but it was more sci-fi industrial), but I feel like they missed out on the setting's potential. I wish the final location had been a fully fleshed out level (I bet it was and it got cut).

     

    So despite flaws and genericness, I feel like Callisto does just enough to stand out from the crowd with its overall presentation and a few new ideas. Its certainly enjoyable in a schlock horror kind of way, and I played it through without dipping into any other games, which is testament to its pacing and engagement. It knows what it wants to be and embraces that, its just a shame it doesn't have as many new ideas, variety or fun level design as the original Dead Space. It isn't nearly as good as that gamem but if you need to whet your appetite before or after the remake, I'd definitely recommend giving this a shot.

  5. Holy crap this game's production values are insane! It's like you're watching a big budget animation movie. Superb animation design, voice acting and style. It's such a shame that I don't really dig this kind of music because if it was more to my taste I'd be in love. The rythm gameplay is decent if a bit messy (just did the first boss), the running around/platforming is weak. It looks amazing though and the way everything moves to the beat in the environment is awesome. I'm sure people who like the soundtrack will be enamoured with this, in the boss fight your attacks basically play the lead guitar of a Nine Inch Nails song whilst the rest plays in the background. Great to see another stylish rythm game out there, now just do the same thing but with electronic/hip hop please!

  6. I'm really hoping Powerwash Simulator and Elden Ring combine forces for Elden Powerwash 2. The thought of a massive open world of the incredibly grotty The Lands Between, and your hero armed with his powerwashing tools and trusty steed (van) is a thing of beauty. Wandering into gore-filled dungeons going 'how did they let it get to this state?!', dragons that just need a good hosing down to calm their nerves, final level is of course the classic Fromsoft swamp. Best game of 2026?

  7. The RPG companions episode was brilliant, proper cracked me up (and some good RPG nostalgia). Good Games of the Year lists in the latest episode as well, definitely interested in playing a few I've missed out on thanks to the summaries, and I'm impressed with the time the guys have put in to giving a lot of games a fair shot before the end of the year. 

  8. Finally got round to finishing this today. Generally agree with the comments in here, gameplay was a bit boring (hence why I left it mid-way through for so long), but atmosphere and visuals are incredible. It's also pretty cool to have an environment that makes you think in a cat-like way about how you can get up to that roof. Jumping, whilst a bit fiddly is so smooth and liberating when it flows well. Love the robot and cat design and the funky soundtrack. The amount of detail in all the buildings is crazy, it feels so lived in, and the lighting is some of the best I've seen in games full-stop. The care that's gone into the cat animations and just letting you do catty things that serve no practical purpose puts a smile on your face (and any watching family members!).

     

    I think the price point for this was pretty fair for what it is, its a nice one-and-done experience that's a bit limited gameplaywise but is definitely worth seeing. I do feel it could have been even shorter but the very end was cool.

     

    Spoiler

    Baffled though as to why I have abandoned my cat buddies! Whyyyyyyyyy?!?! 😭

     

  9. Yeah it would have been good as well if they'd had an item quick wheel or something for those kind of items. As it is you assign one to a button slot and end up accidentally using it when you don't need it, or because you only have one or two you use them early in the fight and then have a useless free slot. I only used them a few times in my playthrough, mostly bombs for some bosses and the health refill one.

  10. Keep plugging away, the more you play the more stuff it gives you. One thing to bear in mind that its ok to take a bit of damage as long as it doesn't kill you. And if there's nothing for the opponent to block with you can just plop down something big like a wolf and end the round in victory with some big hits. The items you can get like scissors, bottled squirrel etc are really handy too, don't forget to use them if things are looking bad.

  11. On 28/04/2020 at 21:45, BeeJay said:

    Finally, a plus is that they have adopted the variable distance overwatch model, so if you have a shotgun, you can set the overwatch to only trigger if enemies get really close. This makes it relatively easy to set up proper kill zones with multiple units all trained in on a relatively small area.

     

    This is a really cool feature in this game. Overwatch is very well thought out in Gears Tactics. As you can only have a limited overwatch fire cone for each of your squad, it helps to stop the X-Com overwatch creep, because if no enemies cross your cone then thats it. Also, there are often more enemies crossing your overwatch than you have shots to take, and also most enemies are very beefy and can take a few overwatch shots without dying. Overwatch is often best used as it should be; to kill little threats coming down narrow alleys and around corners, or to interrupt specific threats.

     

    Another cool thing is that the enemy uses overwatch a lot too, and forces you to either interrupt them during your turn, or willingly take damage to your team. It helps to create more interesting decisions than just getting angles of fire on enemies.

     

    One related thing I wasn't a fan of, was that later in the game they introduce tons of enemies who have auras where you can't get into close range without being interrupted. Wretches, shotgun grunts and zealots all will stop your character's action if you get too close and damage you. This makes your bayonet and chainsaw attacks really limited, which makes 2 of the classes much less fun and effective. There are only a few ways to counteract the auras and they are far and few between. I imagine they didn't want you to be able to just instakill everything on the map with melee, but thats not a problem anyway because there are so many enemies and your melee attacks are on cooldowns. Melee is balanced already in that you can't execute insta-killed targets.

     

    The grenade mechanics in this are also well done, with fine control over your throws and the ability to bounce them off walls or plant as proximity mines. Frags are very powerful and have a long cooldown, so it's always an impactful decision when to use them.

     

    So yeah, there are lots of nice little design choices in Gears Tactics that set it apart from X-Com and co, and hopefully future tactics games will embrace some of these concepts.

  12. Finished the main story on Experienced today. As an X-Com veteran I'd heard good things about this and overall I enjoyed it, although it still falls short of the aforementioned greatest tactics games ever made.

     

    The Gears of War wrapping is really well done, with a top notch presentation. Of course that also extends to the sterotypical beefcake characters and subpar 'kill the big-bad' story. What's cool about the setting is how they have incorporated all the enemies, weapons and aggressive playstyle of Gears into tactics format. So you are rewarded for executions with free action points, you can chainsaw or bayonet baddies for insta-kills, emergence holes have to be blown up and so on. The enemy types have a fair bit of variety in their weaponry and abilities, from scurrying melee wretches, to snipers that pin you down, to Boomers who are walking tanks with grenade launchers (popping their heads with my snipers was my favoured tactic against them).

     

    Although there's no base building you can customise your hero classes as you level up your squad, and there's lots of loot in the form of weapon mods and armour to collect and receive as rewards. This adds a nice layer to side missions with optional objectives. The downside is you'll spend ages in the menus between missions choosing between slightly better gear.

     

    As you can customise and modify the upgrade trees of your squad, you do get some level of X-Com style attachment to them which is cool. Unfortunately the game has a few flaws in this regard. First of all, outside of the core story heroes, you rescue and recruit new squaddies as you go along. That's fine, but the problem is that the deeper into the game you get, the new recruits come at a higher level and better equipped than your original squad. So instead of going through the journey with your core team, the game basically encourages you to use the newest members and ditch the old crew. Out of principle I tried to cycle in my lowest level members where I could, but it put me at a disadvantage. They should have just made new recruits level match to your squad, or had some sort of equalising mechanic.

     

    The second problem with the squads is you can only take 4 members into each battle (and in some missions even less). Given that your roster is large and story heroes are locked into core missions, you simply don't get enough time with enough of your roster. Chances are you will have one squaddy for each class that is your 'main' and just stick with them. Unlike X-Com its quite hard to lose squadmates without simply failing the mission and having to reload, so you don't get that gut-wrenching permadeath and having to pick up the pieces and rebuild. This all makes the big roster a bit redundant aside from having different class builds.

     

    I do like the mission variety. There's stuff like capture and hold, there's a type where bombers force you to move forward every turn, bridge crossings and more. The boss fights are a slog but otherwise the missions are pretty good. Difficulty-wise the balance was good on Experienced. Sometimes it seems impossible, but use your abilities wisely and take the right squad and you can eke out victory. I wasn't too bothered about the side-mission bloat as I generally enjoyed the gameplay, although it did get a bit repetative. I don't really feel the need to go back and do the veteran missions as its just more of the same.

     

    Jack the robot drone was apparently added as DLC and is incorporated into the main campaign along with enemy variants. Jack is quite essential in some cases (Shock and enemy takeover is very powerful) but honestly Jack is tedious to manage, he's in every single mission and must be moved in every turn. However the game must have been quite a bit tougher and more limited without him. I would have preffered to just have another squadmate and dished out Jack's abilities to the hero classes or weaponry instead.

     

    A special shout-out must go to the visceral weapons and combat effects. All the usual Gears gore and gibbing is in full effect, and the weapons feel good to fire. Chainsawing a drone or blowing up the head of a powerful enemy is super satisfying.

     

    Overall it's a pretty good tactics game with an admirable spin on the formula, that just lacks in a few areas. I'd love to see a sequel at some point.

  13. My dad let me watch both Aliens and the Terminator films around that time and I loved them, they did feature classic British TV cut scenes so I probably dodged the worst of it, plus my dad told me to leave the room during Terminator. I didn't know why until I was older and of course it was the sex scene he skipped :lol:

     

    However even though I didnt find them super scary to watch, Terminators and Aliens then featured in many nightmares I had for decades! Usually by being an unstoppable force I wws being chased by. So did they scar me at that age subconsciously, or would something else had just featured in my dreams instead? Still love the films though!

     

  14. I saw someone today had liked my final post about the DLC earlier in the thread. I just wanted to add that since then they have patched the DLC a few times, making a few of the puzzles clearer, some level design tweaks and mechanical tweaks to make it a smoother experience. I watched a Youtuber play it and the original game recently (his name is Macocolops, its a really good playthrough), and he didn't get hung up as much thanks to these improvements. There are still flaws in the DLC but its good they listened and overall its an even better experience than it was before. Can't wait to see what this team does next, watching playthroughs is the closest you can come to reliving the discovery experience and the original game plus DLC is still one of my favourite games ever. I might recommend that anyone who really bounced off it might appreciate watching a playthrough like Mapocolops, then you can just enjoy the adventure without worrying about flight controls or frustrations yourself.

  15. Game of the Year

     

    1. Elden Ring

    2. Roadwarden

    3. Immortality (video game)

    4. Tunic (video game)

    5. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (2022)

     

    Biggest disappointment:

     

    1. AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative (a total letdown compared to its predecessor)

    2. The collapse of the Disco Elysium developers

    3. Dying Light 2's characters/story

     

    Best visuals

     

    1. Elden Ring

    2. Stray (video game)

    3. Immortality (video game)

     

    Best audio

     

    1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3

    2. Neon White

    3. Splatoon 3

     

    Best writing

     

    1. Roadwarden

    2. Immortality (video game)

    3. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (2022)

     

    Best not 2022 game:

     

    1. Satisfactory

    2. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen DLC

    3. Gloomhaven

     

    Best developer:

     

    Andrew Shouldice

    (Tunic's Creator)

     

    Best format/console/controller/brain interface:

     

    PC

     

     

    NEW! Full Writeups and Honourable Mentions 

    Spoiler

    Game of the Year:

     

    1. Elden Ring

    The game that keeps on giving, the game that spawned in this forum alone a wealth of discussion, sharing of stories, Ste Pickford's awesome art notebook. I deliberately handicapped myself for the challenge and faced some of the toughest bosses I've fought in gaming, and came out on top. I love the way the true scale of Elden Ring continually surprises you with its ever expanding map and vistas of places you never even knew existed, and the secrets within secrets. A triumph.

     

    2. Roadwarden

    Overlooked this year is this excellent text adventure RPG set in a Witcher 3-like wilderness where as a Roadwarden you have 30 days to find out as much as you can about a remote peninsula. Meet the inhabitants, balance survival mechanics, do quests and uncover whatever mysteries you can in the time available. Hopefully more people discover this gem over time.

     

    3. Immortality (video game)

    To say too much about Immortality is to spoil it completely. Uncover the stories behind the scenes of three films from different eras by viewing short clips from them, whilst figuring out their plots as well. Great production design, great acting and a brilliant premise. It has a few structural issues with its new image-match technology but the longer you play the better it becomes. Don't be put off by the initial slow pace and get involved. 

     

    4. Tunic (video game)

    Another one man indie winner this year is the game with the fox. Whilst I merely thought it was competant and polished during the first half, the second half blew me away with its amazing puzzles and the brilliant use of the in-game manual to dripfeed clues, lore and secrets. Maybe one day I will finally get around to translating the symbol language... Featuring some of the best puzzles in games of all time, period.

     

    5. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (2022)

    This remaster of Stanley Parable was supposed to add a few new bits of content... but creator Davey Wreden got a bit carried away and it ended up taking years because he stuffed it with maybe 5-6 hours of brand new content and endings. The new content is amazing, riffing on game sequels and nostalgia. The Narrator is back with more very funny gags and an amazing performance. Everyone should experience this imaginative and funny game, even if you played the original already the new content is more than worth the asking price. 

     

    Biggest Disappointment:

     

    1. AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative

    What a letdown. The sequel to the acclaimed AI: The Somnium Files visual novel/puzzle game, Nirvana Initiative sees some characters return and a bunch of new ones. Sadly the plot here just doesn't cut it. Most of it hinges on the game's biggest twist that fundamentally doesn't work in practice. The worst impulses of the first game are only only more indulged here, the characters are mostly annoying or cringey and the mystery just isn't as compelling as the intriguing setup for the first game. Oh well!

     

    2. The collapse of the Disco Elysium developers

    Even though I've still not played much of the game, its a real shame to see one of the most creative groups in gaming fall apart. Hopefully some of them will continue in the industry in the future.

     

    3. Dying Light 2's characters/story

    On paper Dying Light 2 sounds great: bigger environments, better parkour, more activities. And yes, it had those things. Unfortunately its all populated by the most unlikable and forgettable characters I've seen in a game for some time. They tried to go Witcher with their side and story quests, but didn't have the writing chops to pull it off. Never have I been so keen to jump off a skyscraper just to get away from my annoying sidekicks (disclaimer - I did have a glider).

     

    Best Visuals:

     

    1. Elden Ring

    I remember complaining a bit about the lo-fi visuals at the start of Elden Ring. Sure, it looked quite nice, but it didn't really blow me away. Oh how wrong I was. Whilst the fidelity might not be fantastic, the art design in this game is next-level. I'll never forget emerging from Stormveil Castles back path to that view. The mood and scale just captures that epic fantasy vibe perhaps better than any game I've seen.

     

    2. Stray (video game)

    What a stunning game. An overgrown underground city of creeping vines, neon and trash. The details in the buildings are insane. At times it looks photo-realistic. And the cat animations are very well done too. Beautiful.

     

    3. Immortality (video game)

    Whilst this might seem like an odd choice considering its an FMV game, what you have to appreciate is how the game emulates 3 films from different eras and totally nails it. From the costumes, sets and and prop designs to camera filters, both on and off the fictional set it feels authentic. They even used the authentic cameras from those eras to film some of the scenes. And add to this the striking extra layers and stands out as a totally unique vision of... vision. Sorry.

     

    Best visual honourable mentions:

    - God of War Ragnarök

    I'm still (only) 20 hours in but whilst initially the game doesn't seem that much of a step up visually from its predecessor, that fallacy is shattered later in the game as you are plunged into vibrant and incredibly beautiful environments. 

    - Cult of the Lamb

    Combining cutesy cartoon animals with Lovecraftian horror like its inspiration Binding of Issac, they really nailed the visuals here. Crisp and colourful graphics and emotive characters make it a very striking game. Just a shame that all the nice battle effects sometimes get in the way of the gameplay.

     

    Best audio

     

    1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3

    Another epic score from the some of the best in the RPG business, for me the soundtrack is even better than Xenoblade 1 or 2. Great mood pieces but also absolutely mindblowing heart-pumping music for the most exciting boss fights and cutscenes. And the lovely injection of flutes into the main score to reflect the story. Rivals only FF7 Remake as my favourite RPG score.

     

    2. Neon White

    Just a load of funky D&B bangers and good beats, perfectly fitting the mad pace of the game.

     

    3. Splatoon 3

    My first Splatoon and I was surprised to find a catchy and hip soundtrack behind all the splatting. The vocoder stuff is really well done too. Made me miss Jet Set Radio!

     

    Best Writing

     

    1. Roadwarden

    As you've probably noticed, I'm a rather long-winded writer. So I really appreciated Roadwarden's tight and snappy descriptions and dialogue, all broken down into easily digestable chunks. The game only gives slightly animated images and SFX to provide ambience so all rest of the world building, characters and atmosphere all fall to the writing, which admirably keeps you hooked for the duration.

     

    2. Immortality (video game)

    Whilst some mock the fake films and themes of the game, I thought the underlying stories were compelling and mysterious. But what stood out to me was how the game portrays what goes on off-stage on a movie production, and the writing totally sold me on that. Also, Barlow and co once again somehow structure a mad jigsaw puzzle of clips into a way that eventually makes sense. Mad.  

     

    3. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (2022)

    As sharp, witty and hilarious as ever, Davey Wreden's script for the new content is just on fire. Its topical, its weird, its funny, its sad. With only the Narrator in your ear to tell the story, it builds on the original game in totally unexpected ways. This guy is so talented, many people don't know he was also the creator and writer of the very different but excellent The Beginner's Guide

     

    Best not 2022 game:

     

    1. Satisfactory

    I've waited to play this game for years but my potato laptop wouldn't let me. Now I have it and its as good as I hoped. With the mechanics of Factorio in a glorious 3D alien world, and a great translation of the factory builder to 3 dimensions, Satisfactory offers new ideas, exploration and ambience in spades. The scale is also insane, when you first build the Space Elevator you won't believe your eyes. Its just a bit of a shame the game is geared towards destroying the beautiful environment that surrounds you. I know that's kind of the point, but I've been trying to be a good boy, steering my conveyor belts around trees and only building multi-storey metal monstrosities on empty land.

     

    2. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen DLC

    The best tactics game of all time gets even better with this DLC. I finally got around to finishing it this year. Like the XCOM 1 DLC, War of the Chosen integrates fully into the main campaign, adding a host of new levels, enemies, mechanics and best of all, the Chosen. These 3 alien warlords are constantly trying to throw a wrench in your plans. They turn up in the middle of missions with their OP abilities. They raid your base, you do special missions to try and track down and eliminate them. They add a load of character to the game and yet another crazy thing to have to deal with, but its so well designed the extra challenge is well worth it. It isn't all doom and gloom though, the DLC adds new tech and build diversity to help in the fight. It's just brilliant. The only downside is the final mission which felt a bit undercooked. Definitely not a DLC to try until after you finish the main game, but for anyone who did that and wants more, don't miss out on War of the Chosen.

     

    3. Gloomhaven

    Finally got the digital version of one of the most beloved board games of all time. It's my first time to the franchise and although it's intimidating, it is also very good. A co-op game that can also be played solo, its a turn based dungeon-crawler where your deck of cards is used to spend actions. Its very hard and very tightly balanced. A huge campaign sees your heroes earn XP, new cards and equipment over time. The game constantly pushes you to make hard decisions and improvise where necessary. Graphically its all very well presented and from what I can tell it is a totally faithful recreation of the board game. Tough but rewarding, with tons and tons of depth. 

     

    Format of the year: PC

    Some great games this year and there are so many amazing Early Access titles on PC at the moment. In addition I got a new latop recently and have been able to take advantage of Gamepass which has been brilliant. For me none of the consoles shone this year on their own merits, there were only a few big exclusives - and PC ended up getting most of the other stuff anyway. Many of my top games of the year were first out on PC, or are PC exclusive, as well as a bunch of my honourable mentions below. The console companies need to step it up in 2023!

     

    2022 Honourable Mentions:


    - The Case of the Golden Idol

    This puzzle game takes big inspiration from Return of the Obra Dinn, where you are presented with snapshots of bizarre crime scenes and must use observation and deduction to fill out info sheets on questions like whodunnit, what character's names are, what order events happened in an so on. There's some good sleuthing to be had here. The Q&A interface limits the scope a bit, and although the art style is unique I hate their ugly potato faces (thanks for the quote Backpage Podcast), but overall its a pretty good detective game and it's cheap too.  


    - Apex Legends

    Why am I woffling about Apex in 2022? Well, its a game I still continually hop back into. They keep adding fun new maps and Legends, and balance-wise the game's in a great place right now. The vast arsenal is well balanced so you can just find a weapon that suits your playstyle. The Legends are well tuned now so none are too OP. Maps continually get tweaked with 5 huge ones now in the mix. The playerbase is healthy and its still as great fun as it ever was, with amazing movement, character abilities, level design, meaty weapons and a lot of personality. I still follow the ALGS esports league and its a good watch too to see how different the Pro games are to us noobz. It's been nice to see Apex get a lot more fans this year as people drift off from Warzone and find out what the best Battle Royale in the market has to offer.


    - Vampire Survivors

    This narrowly missed out on my top 5, but its still an amazing game. Where the real genius of the game lies is in its unlock structure and hidden depths, always giving you a reason to dip back in to unlock a new character, discover a secret or try a new challenge. The 30 minute time limit is also perfect, a game you always know when you have time for.


    - Citizen Sleeper

    A sci-fi game with a lovely atmosphere, as a newly awoken android you land on a space station city and events play out in a visual novel style, as you struggle to earn money to survive and uncover the history and machinations of colourful characters on board. The clever dice mechanics see you roll a number of dice every turn, and the pips on the dice can be spent on certain actions, making for good risk and reward as you decide whether to invest in storylines, survival or long term quests. The game has a melachony but warm vibe and some lovely art. Its pretty short too and definitely worth your time if you like sci-fi or visual novels.


    - Stray

    Although I don't think Stray's gameplay is all that good, I do think its a lovely little mood piece, with its aforementioned wonderful graphics and a great little soundtrack. The cat and robots all have a lot of personality and I love the cool environments of this decaying neon city. I also really like how being a cat opens up new ways to look at a space, planning routes up pipes and along windowsills never gets old. And any game that catches the attention of my non-game playing friends and family is always a good thing for games in general. Be sure to check Youtube for the funny real-life dogs going crazy over this virtual kitty!


    - Dorfromantik

    The ultimate chill-out game of the year. This landscape tile builder gives you a bunch of hex tiles covered in little trees, or houses, or rivers, etc, and then you plonk them on the grid and try to match up the terrain types. There's no time limit so you can relax and plan out your moves. It gives you mini-objectives like 'build a 30 tile forest' and rewards you with more tiles if you do it, run out of tiles and its game over. So there are always multiple goals to work towards. It looks lovely as your landscape ever expands, and it all animates with little running rivers, trains chugging along railways and trees swaying in the wind, all whilst a soothing soundtrack plays in the background. Very compelling and very chill. 5/5 ploughed fields.

     

    - Hardspace: Shipbreaker

    Another sort of chill-out game, you work in a space shipyard, and take apart ships piece by piece using your laser cutter, using your gravity tool to push chunks into the correct giant recyclers. The ship designs become more and more devious as you advance, and extracting the maximum value from them means meticulously taking them apart in the right order, detaching objects from inside. Hazards like depressurisation, reactors that will blow when out of power, hurtling space junk and so on add a bit of panic and careful planning into the mix. For me it outstays its welcome a bit, but its a great concept with a cool Southwestern vibe with country music playing during your shifts, and a wry take on your greedy corporate overlords in the presentation.


    - Card Shark

    I enjoy the concept of this more than I do playing it. Very original, a game where you learn real-life card tricks and do tricky mini-games to enact them in ye olde French countryside as you scam rich nobles out of their gold. Its tough, and it really makes you memorise the tricks, which is why I've fallen off it because its a bitch to come back to after time away. Love the idea and strength of the vision though.

     

    - Marvel Snap

    Boiling competitive collectable card games down to their bare elements, whilst adding some new twists, Snap is a marvelous bit of game design, as you'd expect from the man who ran Hearthstone for years. The small deck sizes and very fast games mean that deck building is quick and easy as well as being fast to test. The best idea though is the 3 zones where you place your cards, each of which is randomised each game. Your mission is to have the highest scoring cards on 2 out 3 zones to win after 6 turns. Each zone has a special effect which wildly change how each game plays, even with the same deck. Maybe a zone doubles the points value of low cost cards if you play them there. Maybe you can only place cards on that zone on the final turn. It's this variation that makes every game diferent and forces every player to adapt. It may go horrible on the monetisation front down the line, but for now its quite generous as card games go and is free to play. A nice surprise.

     

    - Powerwash Simulator

    Is it a game? is it a chore? no... its Super Powerwash Simulator! I can't really decide either, but what I do know is that it's incredibly satisfying to clean up those dirty playgrounds, cars, gardens and skate parks. Do I enjoy it? Sometimes I do, sometimes I get bored. It is so compulsive. Its definitely the best powerwash game out there and its very polished. That much I can say. Its also very chill and has a nice atmosphere. How do these pigs make their stuff so dirty though? Never install this game and Vampire Survivors at the same time, you'll definitely become a drooling vegetable.

     

    - Signalis

    This game is definitely over-hyped in my opinion, I have lengthy thoughts in the rllmuk thread. To summarise, its an isomentric sci-fi survival horror inspired by stuff like Resi and Silent Hill. The gameplay is pretty by the numbers with a few extra twists. But whilst I don't think the gameplay is very good, I do love the ambience and most of all the imagery and the story. I spent days after analysing and discussing the cool classic sci-fi horror plot with the folks on the game's Steam forum page. For me, those aspects made up for the very real flaws in the rest of the game. 

     

    - God of War Ragnarök

    Being only 20 hours in (!) I can't give a fair overall judgement on this. I enjoy it, I like the characters, but I also think its bloated and I've gotten a bit bored of it. Part of the reason is because I'm playing it in a completionist way. Maybe I should stop doing that. But I can appreciate its tight combat, the insane production. the performances and its reams of polish. Will it totally win me over in the end? Only time will tell. 

     

    - Dying Light 2

    Despite this being in my dissapointments list, I have to give it an honourable mention thanks to the best parkour in any game, period. Once you unlock some of the upgrades, movement through the city in Dying Light 2 is a joy. Its exciting, its dynamic, it feels 'crunchy'. The city rooftops are so fun to navigate. Then they added stuff like the grapple hook and the glider, which just lets you chain even more movement. The time trials and chase sequences are great. I also want to shout out the brilliant sections where you climb up massive skyscrapers or towers; great traversal skill tests and puzzles, with an incredible sense of scale and vertigo, and rewarded with amazing views and a dive off with the glider. If only the rest of the game was this good. Its still worth playing for the parkour alone.

     

    Conclusion

    We may not have had a load of huge titles this year, but it was more than made up with a load of great stuff from small studios and a couple of truly epic triple A games. I can't think of a year more diverse than this in terms of its genre variety and originality for the top games. Love it. Some games I missed out on, or have yet to play this year, are: Callisto Protocol, which I got for xmas. Horizon Forbidden West - I couldn't face another massive open world game, only having completed Zero Dawn and its DLC last year. Pentiment, which I've found a bit of a drag after one in-game day. Final Fantasy Crisis Core, which I want to play but when its cheaper. And Norco, which I thought sounded too depressing/artsy but apparently its worth a shot. Next year in gaming should be crazy with the big hitters, can't wait!

     

  16. Cant be bothered with screenshots, but was rewatching Casino Royale last night and the beautiful, very expensive villa on the sea where the film ends, is the same place that some high end negotiating takes place in the latest season of Succession.

     

    Also the actor who plays Mike from Breaking Bad is a much younger cop in Gremlins!

  17. Just wanted to say thanks for the suggestions and advice here. We did get Horrified and have had 3 games so far, one game each session, and its been a good 'un. There's three of us and we started off vs 2 monsters to learn the ropes, and managed to win. Then the next two games were against 3 monsters, which was a lot harder. We lost the first game near the end because of the rampaging wolf man, but the next game we won and it was down to the wire, the last turn in fact! It seems really well balanced in that regard. We learned how important the character abilities are to teleport around, not being afraid to use perk cards, and manipulating monster movement to keep them away. 4 monsters would definitely be too hard with 3 players, you would probably run out of turns to deal with them all. Anyway, its been good fun, and it makes you work together to figure out your plans of action to maximise your turns, protect each other and make progress against the monster quests. The build quality is good too, with lovely colourful art for the board, pieces and cards. Play time has been average 3 hours from start of setup to end which is just right for what we were looking for.

     

    The others were keen to try a new coop game (we will return to Horrified, its just to add some variety) so I gave them a list of suggestions from my earlier research and comments on here, and they've decided on Mansions of Madness, which they're happy to fork out for, so that'll be our Christmas game to play.

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